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Whisky News, November 2010

by Gavin D Smith

Diageo Darlings

It's that time of year once again when Diageo unveils its latest selection of Special Releases to tantalise our taste buds and stretch our bank balances. 2011 sees nine new offerings, two from closed distilleries, namely the perennial Special Release favourites Brora (30-year-old) and Port Ellen (31-year-old). Also from
Islay comes a pair of SR old faithfuls, a 12-year-old Lagavulin, now in its ninth incarnation, and matured in refill American oak casks, and an unpeated Caol Ila, this time around aged for 12 years in a first-fill ex-Bourbon cask. No Special Releases portfolio would be complete without a Talisker, and the Skye malt is represented this year by a 30-year-old variant, the fifteenth and equal-oldest limited release to be offered by the distillery. Meanwhile, Speyside provides a rare 20-year-old Auchroisk, matured in a mix of American and European oak casks, an unusual 21-year-old Glen Spey from new American oak casks that had previously held Sherry, and a 21-year-old expression of the Classic Malt Cragganmore, matured in American oak casks. This is a rare chance to experience Cragganmore at more than 12 years of age, and the final release allows drinkers the same sort of opportunity, as it is a 20-year-old version of the Classic Malts Lowlander Glenkinchie. As usual, many of the bottling runs of the rarer offerings are quite short, and Diageo expects stock to sell out quickly. For more details visit

Big John

   Still with Diageo, but in the blends division of its whisky empire, The John Walker has been launched to celebrate the life of the founder of the world's leading blended Scotch brand, Johnnie Walker. The use of the definite article in a whisky name usually guarantees a premium price tag, and this is no exception, with The John Walker retailing for around 2,000, exclusively from Harrods. According to a Diageo spokesperson, "Hand-crafted and made to order in single barrel batches with only 330 bottles available, The John Walker embodies rarity and exclusivity. Presented in a unique, individually numbered Baccarat crystal decanter that is hand blown, polished and engraved by one of only three master-craftsmen in the world; The John Walker contains whisky blended from nine hand-selected casks. Building from the predecessors 'Johnnie Walker Blue Label' and 'King George V,' this blend takes the idea of hand selection of extraordinary casks,
and takes that to new levels of rarity and craft. Every care has been made to recreate the authentic flavours of a 19th century blend in John Walker's original style and the whisky has been taken from a range of distilleries, some of which are now closed; making this whisky quite literally priceless. "The taste of The John Walker whisky starts in sophisticated fashion with the richness of mature fruits slowly following from the more youthful aromas of fresh citrus. The initial burst of flavour is defined by a vanilla oak sweetness, with the older Speyside whiskies contributing to the amazing smoothness. These casks are designed to give wonderful malty flavours, characteristic of classic 19th century whiskies. Cambus grain whisky is the unifying force that binds the great malt whiskies together in 'The John Walker,' combining to make a stunning tasting experience." After all that hyperbole, we will let you know if the liquid lives up to expectations, should Harrods oblige us with a sample via one of its delivery boys...

Dalmore the Merrier

On the subject of paying large sums of money for Scotch whisky, two bottles of Dalmore recently broke the six-figure price barrier for the first time, each selling for a reported 100,000. Just three bottles of Trinitas have been created, with one going to a US buyer and one to a UK collector and investor. Trinitas is believed to contain some of the rarest and oldest stocks of whisky in the world, some of which have been maturing at the distillery, on the shores of the Cromarty Firth, for more than 140 years. The Dalmore's renowned Master Blender Richard Paterson, responsible for creating Trinitas, claims this is not about breaking world records but about making the best whisky money can buy. "The hand of time has been generous and rewarding with the malts I chose to use," he says. "They allowed me to create a taste sensation which will never be repeated again and will only ever be available to those who own these bottles. You cannot put a price on that.
"People recognise that you have to pay a premium for true exclusivity, craftsmanship, quality and heritage. Even in this day and age, when times are tough, those who enjoy the finer things in life want to reward themselves with something very special. And you won't get more special than The Dalmore 64."

Cheery in the Geery

   Glen Garioch is one of those Scottish distillery names just waiting to trip up the unwary imbiber. Unlike Bunnahabhain and Auchroisk, it looks nice and straightforward to pronounce, but beware - the correct pronunciation is 'Glen Geery.' The distillery, founded in 1797, stands in the Aberdeenshire village of Oldmeldrum, and the often under-rated single malt it produces has undergone a re-launch, with radically revised packaging and several new expressions. At the core of the new range is Glen Garioch 1797 Founder's Reserve (see our 'Tasting' section) and Glen Garioch 12 Year Old. Both are non-chill-filtered and offered at 48.0%abv. To complement the core range, Glen Garioch is releasing small-batch vintage expressions, with distillery owner Morrison Bomore Distillers noting that "These releases captures the Glen Garioch old style gently balanced heathery smokiness." The latest is a Glen Garioch 1991,
due for review in next month's Recent Releases. John Mullen, Glen Garioch Brand Manager at Morrison Bowmore Distillers, says that 'Quality and provenance are key to the new positioning. For us, this has to start with the spirit itself. For example, with Founders' Reserve our Senior Blender, Iain McCallum, was determined to craft an expression that could serve as a tribute to our visionary original distillery owners while doing something particularly special with a none-age statement malt. With its fruity, sweet vanilla and spice flavour, we're convinced that we have remained true to our heritage." For further information on the distillery (which boasts good visitor facilities) and its whiskies visit

Yearbook 2011

Just as the arrival of autumn leads us to expect Special Releases from Diageo, so it also yields a crop of new whisky titles. Several are of the 'best of' and 'greatest hits' varieties, with writers seemingly trying to outdo each other on the number of expressions included. So far, Dominic Roskrow looks to hold the record with 700 drams included in his latest volume, while Dave Broom's new title covers a mere 300. Reviews of both will be forthcoming in due course. Meanwhile, our perennial favourite annual (apart from Top Gear and Hannah Montana, of course), The Malt Whisky Yearbook, is now on sale, and again serves as an indispensable reverence work for everyone with an interest in the subject. Each year we say that the Yearbook gets better and better, but the truth is that it simply does. This time around its usual sections on distilleries, production methods, new bottlings, statistics and reviews has been augmented by a series of absorbing 'Meet the Manager' profiles and a comprehensive listing of the world's best
whisky shops. Regular essay contributors Ian Buxton, Charlie MacLean, Hans Offringa, Dominic Roskrow, Gavin D Smith and Ian Wisniewski tackle such topics as brand re-launches, the Indian market, the importance (or otherwise) of age statements, and the role of the cask in maturation. Tasting notes for core expressions have been provided by the aforementioned Dominic Roskrow and Gavin D Smith. Editor Ingvar Ronde has also sourced many new images to accompany the text, and, at risk of repeating ourselves, for 12.95 the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011 represents excellent value and is a must-have purchase. Here at 'whisky-pages,' it is the only reference book to have a permanent home on our desk. Apart from Top Gear and Hannah Montana, of course.

And Finally...

At 'whisky-pages' we like to think the best of people, and fondly entertain the notion that imbibers of rare Scotch single malts are true gentlemen and ladies. Alas, not always so, as demonstrated by the theft of a bottle of Gordon & MacPhail's 70-year-old Mortlach from the tasting stand of importers Symposium at the recent Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. We are reminded of the theft a few years ago of a bottle of 1919 Springbank, theoretically worth 7,500, from London's Fortnum & Mason emporium. When
asked for a comment on the despicable act, Gordon Wright, then of Springbank and later of Murray McDavid and the independent bottler Alchemist, declared that whilst Springbank was an ideal accompaniment to most foods, the thieves would probably be best to opt for fish and chips in this instance. The 1919 Springbank bottle on display actually contained malt vinegar...

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