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Recent releases, February 2011

Inish Turk Beg, Single Malt Irish Whiskey (Ireland)
An exclusive single malt, named after the island of Inish Turk Beg, which lies off the Atlantic coast of County Mayo in the west of Ireland. The island is owned by Nadim Sadek, who has established what is referred to as a “multi-category brand,” embracing food, music, art and even a Connemara pony stud. The limited edition first bottling of Inish Turk Beg comprises 2,888 one-litre bottles, and is called ‘Maiden Voyage.’ According to its promoters, the new whiskey expression “...is presented in hand-blown ‘mooring buoy bottles’ developed on the island (and with each having some island sand in the glass). They derive their shape from traditional glass mooring buoys and floats. These bottles are a deliberate subversion of traditional whiskey presentations, and speak clearly of the brand’s intention to reposition whiskey as a contemporary and dynamic liquor choice – encapsulated in the whiskey’s tagline, ‘Live Life at a Tilt’ which resonates with the bottles asymmetric shape.” Add to the above the fact that the whiskey in question is ‘finished’ in ex-poitin casks and “reduced from cask strength for bottling with rainwater collected on the island after thousands of miles of being scrubbed clean across the Atlantic,” and this may seem like an exercise in hyperbole and pretension. The positive news, however, is that the whiskey itself is actually very good. Fresh peaches and apricots on the nose, with an initial hint of pepper. Developing caramel, honey and icing sugar as the pepper quickly fades. Very smooth mouth-feel, slightly oily, with citrus fruits, brittle toffee and oak. The fruit note is sharper when water is added. Drying spicy oak in a lengthy, orange wine gum finish. Also in The Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin and Dublin Airport, prior to an international release later in 2011. 44.0% ABV, 100cl, £125.00, Harvey Nichols.
Cooley, Connemara Turf Mor (Ireland)
A limited edition of Cooley's peated Connemara Irish single malt brand. While Connemara is usually peated to around 20ppm, Turf Mor boasts a peating level of some 58ppm, putting it up there with Islay big hitters like Ardbeg. This is the second ‘edition’ in the Connemara ‘Small Batch Collection,’ which started last year with the well-received Sherry Finish expression, and it is fair to assume that much of the component whiskey is relatively youthful. However, the nose is complex, sweet and rounded, with a whiff of new leather; slightly fizzy, with lots of smoky peat, citrus fruits, a vaguely floral note, and mildly medicinal. The palate opens with a big blast of peat and a characteristically Irish oiliness, plus stewed fruits, vanilla, malt and cereal notes. Persistent sweet, oily peat to the end of the lengthy finish. Nuttier and leatherier with the addition of water. 58.2% ABV, 70cl, £55.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Isle of Arran, Machrie Moor (Scotland)
Machrie Moor is the first peated single malt to be released by the Isle of Arran distillery. It comprises spirit made on an annual basis since 2004 using malt peated to 14ppm, and the initial release is limited to just 9,000 bottles. Nutty peat, spicy malt and lemon on the slightly savoury nose. Sweeter, soft fudge and vanilla notes when water is added. Vibrant on the palate, with lots of citrus fruit. A bonfire smokiness develops steadily, with spice, nuts and plain chocolate through to the relatively long finish, which features a persistent, citric note. Spicier and more oaky when water is added. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £38.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Highland Park, Leif Eriksson (Scotland)
Leif Eriksson is a new release from the Orcadian distillery of Highland Park, and commemorates the first European to have reached America, establishing settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador during the early 11th century. This is a highly unusual variant of Highland Park, since it features no spirit matured in European oak ex-Sherry casks, only whisky from former Bourbon barrels and American oak Sherry casks. The result is a nose of mixed spices, vanilla and muted bonbons. Briefly floral with time, before mangoes, figs and a slightly earthy note of smoke and soy sauce appear. The palate offers fresh citrus fruit, malt and gentle peat smoke, while the medium-length finish is relatively sweet, with oak and a little peat. 40.0% ABV, 70, £60.00, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
Caol Ila, 12-year-old Diageo Special Releases 2010 (Scotland)
This Special Release expression of the Islay single malt has been matured in ex-Bourbon barrels and comes from one of the batches of spirit formerly distilled each year using unpeated barley. Such is the demand for ‘Islay-style’ Islays that the practice has now been suspended. Fresh fruits on the clean nose, especially melon, along with cereal, icing sugar and caramel. Fruity and zesty in the mouth, with toffee and oak notes, plus a hint of brine. Sweet oak in the medium-length finish, with just a suggestion of antiseptic. (6,000 bottles). 57.6% ABV, 70cl, £52.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Lagavulin, 12-year-old Diageo special Releases 2010 (Scotland)
12-year-old Lagavulins have become something of a feature of the Special Release programme, as have unpeated Caol Ilas, and the standard never fails to impress. This version has been matured in refill former Bourbon barrels and offers a classic nose of sweet peat, fresh earth, brine and seaweed. Beautifully soft and balanced on the palate, with heathery peat, vanilla, citrus fruit, reticent spices and hospital bandages. Fruity in the medium-length, bonfire smoke finish, with persistent lemon and antiseptic notes to the end. 56.5% ABV, 70cl, £59.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Auchentoshan, 1977 (Scotland)
One of two limited edition vintage releases from the Lowland distillery of Auchentoshan in winter 2010-2011, ‘1977’ has been matured for 32 years in Oloroso Sherry casks. Delicate, sweet and floral on the nose, with old leather, caramel, vanilla and malt. The caramel deepens with time. The palate is initially sweet, smooth and malty, with pear drops, becoming nuttier, with soft oak, in the medium length finish. (240 bottles). 49.0% ABV, 70cl, £370.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Auchentoshan, 1998 (Scotland)
The second recent release of triple-distilled Auchentoshan is 11 years old and has been matured in Fino Sherry casks, a style rarely used for Scotch whisky maturation. The nose presents violets in fresh soil, honey, spice, developing citric fruit notes and almonds. Quite full-bodied, fruity and zesty in the mouth. The finish is lengthy, with spice, nuts and oak, becoming dry and gingery at the last. (6,000 bottles). 54.6% ABV, 70cl, £44.99, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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