gavin smith

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Whisky News, December 2006

by Gavin D Smith

Christmas Whisky Gifts

The most welcome whisky gift for most visitors to this site is surely a bottle of something rare, newly released, or unusual, or best of all, rare, newly released and unusual. However, anyone looking for a gift that doesn't come in a bottle would do well to consider Glengoyne distillery's Whisky Blending Course gift vouchers. The vouchers, which cost £25, allow recipients to book on one of the half day blending courses held at the distillery, which is located just 30 minutes drive from Glasgow. The course allows visitors to expand their whisky knowledge and create their own unique blend of whisky to take home with them (Tel: +44 (0) 1360 550 254 or visit Glengoyne also offers personalised bottles of its 10, 17 and 21-year-old expressions, and The Famous Grouse now provides a similar service. According to its owners, the Edrington Group, "Choose who you would like to be Famous. Tell us whose name you
would like to see on this very special bottle. The label allows for a name on the front, but there is plenty of space on back label for a special message from you to that Famous person." The Famous Grouse Special Label, £17.99, tel: +44 (0)1764 656 565, or email For the golfing whisky lover, Old St Andrews has just launched its distinctive 'Clubhouse' blended whisky in the UK, having previously enjoyed notable success in export markets. Old St Andrews is presented in a gift packaged golf ball bottle, complete with dimples, and is available in miniature, 50cl, 70cl and one litre variants. Sometimes such gift offerings are all about presentation, with product quality taking a backseat, but Old St Andrews is an extremely sophisticated and eminently drinkable blended Scotch whisky. Contact distributor Malcolm Cowen on + 44 (0) 89651937 for details of stockists, or buy online at Meanwhile, Chivas Brothers have given their Glenlivet, Chivas Regal and Ballantine's brands a seasonal makeover, designed to make them even more attractive as gift purchases. The Glenlivet appears in a luxurious new case with a finish which gives the effect of textured suede and soft leather, while Chivas Regal 12 Year Old is presented in a handcrafted metal gift tin, with an embossed crest. Ballantine's Finest is packaged in an extremely attractive, contemporary hip flask.

Whisky and Food

   Just in time for the Festive Season, Diageo has added a major new element to its malt whisky website ( focusing on whisky and food pairings. The new Flash-powered section, brought to life with photography by Adrian Burke, features combinations encompassing 12 single malt whiskies from Diageo's Classic Malts Selection. Pairings include calf's liver and sage with Oban, Lanark Blue Cheese with Lagavulin, and Talisker from the Isle of Skye with smoked haddock tart. Dessert combinations include sure-fire winners such as bread and butter pudding served with frozen Dalwhinnie malt from Scotland's highest distillery. Another section of the expanded site gives full printable recipes for some 30 dishes that work well with malt
whiskies, including Thai, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, English and, of course, Scottish dishes. The recipes range from the familiar (such as Cheddar tart and chocolate mousse) to the more detailed (crispy duck spring roll), but all are designed for home cooks rather than professional chefs. A third section challenges wine-lovers to "put their preconceptions to one side and make some sensational taste discoveries" by planning complete meals where dishes are matched sensitively to single malt whiskies. The combinations have been created by food writer, restaurant consultant and former chef Richard Whittington. For the past six years he has spearheaded the Classic Malts Selection whisky and dining initiative that has demonstrated the compatibility of malt whisky with appropriate food. According to Whittington, "Many otherwise discerning people have an irrational and negative feeling about malt whisky. When they actually taste a highly individual malt complemented by a carefully chosen dish of delicious simple food all their prejudices disappear. It is not so much a case of saying you will like this but rather, you tell me if you don't. It is in every sense a hedonistic tasting in which the whisky draws attention to the food and vice versa."

Ichiro's Malts

The Number One Drinks Company is a new venture, established to import previously unavailable whiskies from smaller independent companies in Japan into the UK. It is a joint venture between David Croll, a Tokyo-based whisky importer and distributor, and Marcin Miller, the founding editor of Whisky Magazine. According to Miller, "Whisky enthusiasts are intrigued by Japanese whisky and tend to be very impressed when they get to taste them. The aim of the company is to make these excellent whiskies more readily available." The first shipment is of single cask malts from the Hanyu distillery. The Akuto family have been sake-makers in the town of Chichibu since 1626, and Isouji Akuto, the 19th generation of the Akuto family, built a distillery in Hanyu city, north-west of Tokyo, in 1941. In 1980, serious attempts to produce a Scotch-style whisky began and two pot stills were obtained. The Hanyu distillery was closed in 2000 (and dismantled in 2004) but Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of Isouji, is preparing to establish a new distillery and has also starting re-racking and bottling some of the older stock from Hanyu. This has been released under the name of 'Ichiro's Malt.' See next month's Recent Releases for whisky-pages' verdict on the first four highly impressive imported expressions.

Brave Bowmore

   Braveheart actor James Cosmo was on Islay last month to officially open Bowmore distillery's revamped visitor centre, part of a five year £20 million investment programme in the single malt. The centre features some fascinating Bowmore artefacts, never previously displayed to the public, and offers a notably scenic setting for a post distillery tour dram. According to Iseabail Mactaggart, Bowmore Operations Manager, "We are delighted with the new visitors' centre, which showcases the distillery's rich history
so well and makes the most of our stunning setting by Loch Indaal. This gives us the opportunity to share with our visitors the traditions that we are all so proud of here at Bowmore." The Islay malt also boasts a new bottle and packaging, along with an amended line up of expressions. The Bowmore core domestic range will now comprise Bowmore 12 Years Old, a new Bowmore 15 Years Old Darkest, a new Bowmore 18 Years Old and the Bowmore 25 Years Old. Glen Moore, Bowmore Brand Director, says "We have an excellent new range of Bowmore which will appeal to new single malt drinkers and connoisseurs alike." The new look Bowmore selection will be available in major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Morrisons, as well as specialist retailers, during the next few days. Next month's Recent Releases will include our take on the two new Bowmores.

Veteran Highland Park

The Orcadian distillery of Highland Park has recently announced the release of Single Cask 1967, and this bottling is highly unusual in that half of the cask has already been bottled and the remainder will be bottled on 26th December 2006 for release in early 2007. This will give collectors a unique opportunity to buy bottles of two different ages from the same cask. Each purchaser of a 38-year-old bottle will be entitled to buy its 39-year-old 'brother.' The initial bottles of Highland Park Single Cask 1967 38-year-old were offered at the first ever auction of fine wines held in Israel last month and realised prices of approximately $2,000 per bottle. This expression is now available through Saybrex International, and only 200 bottles will be released from each bottling. Saybrex International is a Californian company specialising in high-end distilled spirits with an
emphasis on rare and limited edition whiskies from both sides of the Atlantic. The 1967 cask has been selected by Highland Park's Global Brand Ambassador Gerry Tosh, who notes, "I taste casks of Highland Park on a regular basis. This one was very obviously special; it has all the trademark flavours of Highland Park and a deliciously sweet smokiness. A great spirit like Highland Park can develop extraordinary character during prolonged maturation, as shown by this expression." For further details, contact Ari Bussel, Saybrex International Inc, 100 N. Crescent Drive, Suite 111, Beverly Hills, California, 90210, US, tel: +1 310 777 3177, fax: +1 310 777 3188, email Highland Park is also producing a 20-year-old single cask 'Rebus 20' bottling to celebrate the 20th anniversary of crime writer Ian Rankin's first Inspector Rebus novel. Rankin visited the distillery last month to select the cask, which will be released in March 2007. According to a Highland Park spokesman, "The money-can't-buy bottles will be available exclusively through activities surrounding the Rebus20 anniversary year of 2007." After his visit Ian Rankin declared "I'm a keen whisky drinker and Highland Park is one of my favourite malts so I was thrilled they were keen to get involved. Rebus has never been to Orkney before so who knows what this might inspire for the next book? In terms of whisky, Rebus would go for something traditional like the Highland Park 12-year-old which he would be more likely to find in the pub."

Muckle Whisky

   The notion of spending several hundred pounds on a blended malt whisky that is not expected to be released until next May seems slightly absurd, to say the least. Nonetheless, an option on a bottle of Muckle Flugga sold last month for $650 at a charity auction in New York, following a previous sale for £150 at a dinner in Lerwick Town Hall on Shetland. Shetland holds the clue to this slightly surreal story, as Muckle Flugga - named after the most northerly rocks in Britain - is the brainchild of Caroline Whitfield and the team at Blackwood Distillers. Blackwood plans to build a distillery on the Shetland island of Unst, and
sales of Muckle Flugga blended malt are designed to help bankroll the project. Apparently, the whisky will be matured on Unst in order to ensure a Shetland connection for marketing purposes, and each bottle of the limited edition will be individually numbered. No potential retail prices have yet been released, but it is a fair bet that $650 will buy you more than one bottle come May 2007, individually numbered or not…


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