gavin smith

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Whisky News, February 2008

by Gavin D Smith

Nikka at 70

To celebrate the company's 70th anniversary, Japanese distiller Nikka has produced a limited edition, boxed set of four of its whiskies. The selection comprises bottles of Yoichi 12-year-old, Miyagikyo 12-year-old, Nikka Coffey Grain 12-year-old and Nikka 12-year-old blended whisky, with the blend containing proportions of the three other whiskies in the line up. All are bottled at cask strength, un-chill-filtered, and the set is available from Milroy's of Soho for £275.00 Milroy's is also offers the innovative Nikka 12-year-old Single Coffey Malt, a whisky made by vatting selected malt whiskies that have been matured for more than 12 years. The component whiskies were distilled in a continuous still at Nishinomiya distillery, making it one of
the few malt whiskies in the world that has been produced in this way rather than in pot stills. £85.00 Milroy's of Soho, 3 Greek Street, London, W1D 4NX. Telephone: 020 7437 2385 Email:, see

Skye's the Limit

   Regular readers will know of the affection and respect we have for the Isle of Skye's mighty malt, Talisker. It is therefore particularly pleasing to be able to report the release of a new expression of the 'lava of the Cuillins.' The newcomer is named Talisker 57° North, reflecting the distillery's unusually high latitude, and it is bottled at 57.0%ABV, compared to the whisky's usual strength of 45.8%. It becomes the first 'full-strength' regularly available expression of Talisker, since previous cask-strength offerings have been limited to a handful of 25 and 30-year-olds in the annual Rare Releases programme. Like the well regarded Talisker 175th anniversary
bottling released two years ago, '57° North' does not carry an age statement. It comprises whisky matured exclusively in American oak refill casks. According to the director for the Classic Malts Selection, Nick Morgan, "All over the world there are real Talisker enthusiasts who enjoy its utterly distinctive taste. Aside from limited availability (and often expensive) cask strength bottlings, most of those enthusiasts have up to now not been able to experience a 'full power' Talisker. Making Talisker 57° North gave us the opportunity to offer them, for the first time, a regularly available Talisker in its untamed, natural state." Diageo says that "Tasters describe Talisker 57° North as having all Talisker's full-on vigour - 'a classic intense Talisker' - with a smoky hot attack which, cut with a little water, opens to reveal a sweet-centred smoothness." The new Talisker is available in European duty-free outlets, including international airports and duty-free shops on North Sea and Nordic ferry services. One litre bottles have a recommended retail price of £43.99.

Back to Black

Staying in the Hebrides, the Islay distillery of Bowmore is launching an exclusive, limited edition bottling of the iconic 'Black Bowmore,' distilled on 5th November 1964. Just 827 bottles of the whisky are being released, and despite a price tag of £2,000 each, all are expected to be sold rapidly to collectors around the world, for whom Black Bowmore is an almost legendary whisky. Black Bowmore was originally marketed as a series of limited edition expressions over a period of three years. Two thousand bottles were released in 1993 at 29 years old, followed by a further 2000 bottles in 1994 at 30 years old and 1812 bottles in 1995 at 31 years old. Bottles have sold at auction for 16 times their original
retail price. The name 'Black Bowmore' comes from the deep, dark colour of the whisky, imparted by the rich Oloroso sherry casks used in its maturation. The spirit is described by Bowmore as "Almost ebony in colour, with incredible aromas of exotic fruits, ginger and cinnamon. The palate is rewarded with hints of ripe mango, toffee and dark chocolate with the faintest hint of the smokey Bowmore signature." Glen Moore, Bowmore brand director says, "The release of the new Black Bowmore is very exciting. We've been inundated with enquiries from collectors worldwide for months. The whisky reflects Bowmore's ongoing commitment to traditional hand-crafted quality and rare limited edition releases. It is quite simply an exceptional whisky that reflects the passion, skills and dedication of the craftsmen who have made it." To celebrate the release of 42-year-old Black Bowmore, Bowmore Distillers are offering web users the opportunity to win a bottle in a free, prize draw on their newly refurbished website at According to Ewan Morgan, Online Ecommerce Manager for Bowmore, "The Black Bowmore prize draw is just the first of many exciting campaigns on the Bowmore website. I'm sure this will help raise the online community's awareness of Bowmore as a premium single malt whisky brand. We hope to run many more new and exclusive promotions in the near future."


   Another new online venture is a website which has been launched with the aim of bringing economic benefits to the Scottish hospitality and tourism sectors. has been developed to help the 70 'Scotland Whisky Embassies' promote their Scotch whisky expertise. 'Whisky Embassies' are pubs, hotels and restaurants which employ staff who are educated and knowledgeable in the sales and service of whisky. The website offers maps showing their location in relation to Scotland's distilleries, along with information on events, festivals and bookable tours. The site has been created by the
national tourism initiative ScotlandWhisky, and the organisation's Chris Conway says "Online support is just one of the benefits on offer to tourism and hospitality businesses."

Dram Good Ale

Harviestoun Brewery in Clackmannanshire has produced a new version of its award-winning Old Engine Oil beer, with a distinct whisky influence. A limited edition of the distinctive dark brew, matured in former Dalmore whisky casks, was produced for the US market a couple of years ago, and now Harviestoun is to follow that up with its new Ola Dubh. Ola Dubh - Gaelic for Dark Oil - has been matured in ex-Highland Park casks, and drinkers can choose from batches that have spent time in a 12, 16 or 30-year-old whisky cask. Harviestoun managing director Stephen Crawley says “Few beers can combine with the tastes and flavour characteristics of Highland Park as well as Old Engine Oil. That is because it has plenty of robust character which the whisky complements.” Whisky-pages would be keen to hear via our 'Forum' from any North American readers who get the chance to sample Ola Dubh.

Legendary Laphroaig

   Dutch dentist and Laphroaig collector Marcel van Gils has joined forces with fellow countryman, well known whisky writer and translator Hans Offringa to chronicle the history of Islay's Laphroaig distillery. As one of the most iconic distilleries in the world, Laphroaig has been ripe for a serious and dedicated study for a long time, and Gils and Offringa certainly do their subject justice. In The Legend of Laphroaig, chapters are dedicated to The Myth, The Island, The History, The People and The Dram, with a considerable chunk
of space being devoted to the subject of collecting Laphroaig. However, there is a great deal here for the more general reader, and the mix of archive and contemporary photos provide a visual feast in both colour and black and white. Fans of Islay whiskies can also look forward to the definitive study of Ardbeg, in the shape of a forthcoming book by Gavin D Smith, due to be launched at the Islay Festival of Malt and Music in May. Hans Offringa has clearly been busy of late, since he is also the author of the newly-published A Taste of Whisky. According to its publishers, "A Taste of Whisky is not a traditional cooking book, nor a book only about whisky. First and foremost it is a lifestyle book about taste, how the taste of whisky can be combined with food." Like The Legend of Laphroaig, this is a beautifully illustrated and presented volume, and one that approaches the subject of whisky from a slightly different and wholly absorbing angle. The Legend of Laphroaig, Still Publishing, £30.00, specialist whisky retailers and online at The Taste of Whisky, d'Jonge Hond Publishers, £30.00, available soon in the UK through specialist whisky retailers and websites.

And finally...

Bachelors beware! Those cunning folk at The Famous Grouse have come up with yet another innovative gift idea, this time aimed at the Valentine's Day market. According to the 'Grouse' website, “Come on ladies, what are you waiting for? It's leap year this Valentine's and there's no better time to propose to the special man in your life and how could he resist this Famous Proposal? The label allows for 13 characters on the front and your special message on the back…” Gentlemen, at least if you happen to be the recipient of an unwanted 'Famous Proposal' you will have a bottle of whisky in your hand from which to take a restorative swig…

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