Monday, April 30, 2012

New release - Tullamore Dew 12 years old

Tullamore Dew has released its 12 years old expression on to the UK market. Having seen this expression sell well in the USA, the brand's owners William Grant & Sons launched it for St. Patrick's Day in the UK. It is a unique blend of three different types of triple distilled Irish whiskey - Irish pot still, malt and grain - all of which have been aged between 12 and 15 years. It has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and bottled at 40% ABV. A bottle should cost around £30-35.

Tullamore Dew was originally distilled in the village of Tullamore, County Offaly in central Ireland in 1829. The Tullamore distillery was founded by Michael Molloy before passing to Daniel E. Williams in the 1880s. Williams had worked at the distillery as a teenager and had worked his way up to the position of General Manager. He was also a major innovator - he introduced electricity and the telephone to Tullamore village and its distillery, making it one of the most modern whiskey making facilities of the day. Williams also gave his name to his whiskey by combining the town's name with his initials, hence Tullamore DEW.  The distillery closed in 1954 and fell into disrepair.

William Grant & Sons have just announced plans to construct and open a new distillery in the brand's spiritual hometown of Tullamore. Tullamore Dew is currently the second biggest selling Irish whiskey brand behind Jameson, and the new pot still facility is to help maintain the current level of growth and demand for the product. William Grant is investing €35 million in the project which will create 100 temporary and 25 permanent jobs in the town. The building work is estimated to take two years and the facility will incorporate an environmentally efficient pot still distillery and a visitor centre.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a rich golden yellow and the nose is rich and sweet, but with a slightly understated edge to it.  There are pleasant aromas up front which include obviously sweet notes of caramel, honey, vanilla and butterscotch.  These are joined by some very grainy cereals, plus hints of dried grass and nutmeg, which add depth and complexity.

On the palate, the whiskey feels creamy and almost oily.  The sweetness is again the first thing to show and the notes of butterscotch, honey and vanilla are particularly prominent.  The other notes from the nose - bittersweet cereals, dried grass and nutmeg - again add depth and are joined by further elements which give a lovely complexity.  There is a distinct notes of toasted nuts and orange oil, with a hint of waxy furniture polish and some drying woody oak spice.  The combination is delicious.

It is this oaky spiciness that leads the way on the finish.  The oak and baking spices (think of cinnamon and nutmeg) are joined by the toasted nuttiness from the palate.  This combination makes the finish particularly and mouth watering.  The soft, sweet notes return to stop it becoming too dry with the honey and butterscotch prominent

What's the verdict?
The Tullamore Dew 12 years old is exceptionally easy going and easy drinking.  It is a lovely example of an Irish whiskey, being smoother and richer than the extremely popular Original version.  This would be a great choice to introduce a beginner to the world of Irish whiskey, as it is well balanced with a nice level of depth and complexity.  We say if you are thinking of buying the Original, search this one out and spend £10 more - it's worth it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Travel Photographer of the Year Awards, sponsored by Cutty Sark

The Travel Photographer of the Year Awards (TPOTY) for 2012 were launched recently at an event to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and for this we were invited to attend a presentation at the Mayfair Hotel in central London.

Cutty Sark whisky are a major sponsor of the awards, and have created special a prize for the overall winner, the Travel Photographer of the Year 2012. This consists of a cash and commission element (to shoot images for the brand), and more significantly the winner will also have the chance to create 50 bottles of their own whisky under the guidance of Master Blender, Kirsteen Campbell. This process includes the selecting of different whiskies from various casks, and also the designing of their own label.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Inbox - April 27, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.

Ballantine's - Finds a new Ritual
The Ballantine’s 12 year old blended whisky has announced a partnership with critically acclaimed British product and interior designer, Lee Broom. The Ballantine’s 12 Year Old Ritual by Lee Broom was revealed at the designer’s recent show in Milan. At the event, Ballantine’s and Broom showcased the limited edition serving ritual, which has been influenced by vintage crystal whisky decanters with a contemporary twist.

The Ritual looks like a decanter but on closer inspection, breaks into three individual sections for single or shared occasions - the base acts as the whisky glass, the middle section is for ice cubes or can be used as a second whisky glass and the top is to hold water or other ingredients. There is a limited edition run of just 200 serving rituals going to markets including France, Mexico and Brazil.

Bushmills - Superstar DJs, here we go!
The famous Irish whiskey brand has announced that actor Elijah Wood will perform a DJ set at its ‘Bushmills Live’ - the festival of handcrafted whiskey and music taking place at the Old Bushmills Distillery on the 20th and 21st June. The actor, most famously known for his role of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, will take to the decks with friend Zach Cowie.

He joins a bill that already features band Snow Patrol and award winning artists Iain Archer and Foy Vance. Fans of Bushmills Irish Whiskey can win the chance to attend the festival by entering the competition on the Bushmills Facebook page – hurry up though, the closing date is today!

Glengoyne - Auld Enemy returns
The Highland distillery of Glengoyne have launched a special limited Edition ‘Auld Enemy Dram’ in time for this year's Father’s Day on 17th June. The Auld Enemy Dram series recognises and celebrates the great sporting rivalry that exists between the two great nations of Scotland and England in the sport of rugby. This version is a Glengoyne 1990 single cask and is retailing at just £175 per bottle. It is now available to buy online at

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New release - Connemara 12 years old

Connemara is the only peated Irish whiskey that is in regular production and has a peaty/smoky level which is about half of the strength of famous Islay Scotch whiskies such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Other Irish smoky whiskeys are occasionally released but are extremely rare. Connemara is produced at the Cooley distillery, which is located on the County Louth coast roughly half way between Belfast and Dublin.

Cooley was founded in 1987 by John Teeling and his idea was to resurrect some of Ireland's oldest whiskey recipes and traditions that had become extinct. He converted an old vodka distillery and Cooley has since won over 100 awards worldwide. At the end of 2011, the distillery and company were taken over by drinks giant Beam Global. The first expression of the modern Connemara was launched in 1996 - this 12 years old is actually the oldest version of Connemara released to date.

Connemara, which is named after the original site of the Connemara distillery on the west coast of Ireland near Galway, and its old traditional recipe had disappeared into history before being resurrected by John Teeling.  To produce this expression of Connemara, some of their oldest premium casks were used.  There are just 7,000 bottles available, although it is planned for the 12 year old to become a regular annual release.  This version has been bottled at 40% ABV and should cost around £60-65 from specialist liquor retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose has a delicious freshness to it.  There are a number of aromas that help to give it this freshness and these include green pear and apple, honey, vanilla and a hint of lemon zest.  Backing this up are deeper notes of malty cereals and mossy, earthy peat - this peat is not as obvious or vibrant as in younger versions of Connemara, but instead softly drifts around your nostrils.

On the palate this feels soft and creamy, almost a little bit oily in texture.  There are prominent notes of vanilla and honey, which are backed up by malted barley and a hint of yeast - this combination is reminiscent of bread dough.  The fresh green fruitiness from the nose is still there but has taken a bit of a step back, while the zesty lemon has come more to the fore and has a lemon meringue pie feeling.  The earthy peat smoke is never far away and makes you think of damp moss.  It comes across a touch more feisty than on the nose and it has a mild chili-like heat and spice to it.  The combination is sublime and very moreish.

The finish has a decent length, although it is the peat smoke and tingling heat that last longer than anything else.  The sweet vanilla, honey and malty notes, plus the zesty lemon fade quite quickly and leaves a slightly dry feeling in the mouth.

What's the verdict?
This is a good effort from Connemara and shows an increased depth, complexity and class from its very good younger siblings.  Also, the smokiness is less prominent and more integrated than in other expressions. The only slight disappointment is the lack of depth in the finish and this stops it from being a great whiskey in our opinion.  Having said that, it is lovely, easy to drink and very enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New releases - Bowmore 100 Proof & SpringTide

Back in February, the iconic Islay distillery of Bowmore announced the release of three new whiskies exclusive to the travel retail/Duty Free sector. The first is 100 Degrees Proof which is cask strength and will retail at £50. The second is SpringTide which has been predominantly matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and will retail for £120. The final release is a 1983 Vintage - the first of a series of Bowmore single casks from the 1980s which are to be released to the travel retail market - which will retail for £500. All three were released in March around the world and we were delighted to receive samples of two of them, which we have reviewed below.

The Bowmore distillery is located on the famous whisky island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, making it the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on Islay and one of the oldest of all in Scotland. The distillery is located on the shores of Loch Indaal and Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. It is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, and has an annual production capacity of two million litres. Bowmore is one of the world's biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty category.

Our tasting notes - 100 Degrees Proof
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a distinct grainy aroma, which mingles well with toffee and savoury peat smoke.  These initial aromas are joined by others to create something interesting and tempting.  Think of vanilla, honey, golden syrup and a hint of citrus zest especially, as the malty barley note seems to increase.  It seems surprisingly soft for a cask strength whisky.

On the palate, the savoury and slightly ashy smokiness is much more prominent and is the defining characteristic of the whisky.  It lingers and lingers, allowing numerous other notes to appear and disappear, before carrying you through to the dry and slightly salty finish.  Other notes that contribute to the palate include some lovely sweet vanilla and honey, malty cereals, some baking spices (think of cinnamon and nutmeg), plus hints of crumbly brown sugar, salty brine and something vegetal, possibly dried grasses but a little difficult to define.  The combination is delicious and seems to have depth, complexity and good balance.

Our tasting notes - SpringTide
The colour is a coppery amber and the nose has plenty of richness on offer immediately.  A combination of aromas combine to give a promising start - there is prominent toffee and fudge along with some toasted almond, milk chocolate and a hint of spiced orange.  These aromas are complimented by some feisty, spicy and slightly savoury peat smoke.

On the palate, the savoury peat smoke hits first and as this fades, other elements mingle, compliment and begin to take over.  Again, there are plenty of toffee, fudge and caramel-like notes, along with the chocolate and toasted almonds from before.  These are joined by a hint of ground coffee and a top note of palma violet sweets (a classic indicator of older Bowmores).  The finish begins with the sweeter notes but quickly becomes bittersweet, savoury and a little dry.  The peat smoke is never far away and takes an age to fade.

What's the verdict?
Suntory are clearly 'upping their game' when it comes to their travel retail releases.  These two Bowmores, plus the recent additions from Auchentoshan that we recently reviewed, confirm this. It is not to say that previous releases were poor ... quite the contrary - it is just that these recent new releases seem superior and have raised the bar.

Both of these whiskies are very good, but in different ways.  The 100 Degrees Proof somehow mixes the high ABV strength and strong characteristics, with a surprising set of subtler notes.  The SpringTide is richer and heavier with more obvious sweetness and ex-sherry cask influence.  Again this balances well.  The price of the 100 Degrees Proof seems particularly competitive for the whisky that is on offer and gives us something else to save up for on our next holiday ...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Inbox - April 20, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  There is lots of activity this week, so here we go ...

AnCnoc - Something RemARKabLE
No - we haven't hit the caps lock on the keyboard by mistake ... this is how the related press release was sent to us!  The up and coming single malt brand of AnCnoc, which is made at the Highland distillery of Knockdhu, have announced a new project in conjunction with renowned Scottish illustrator Peter Arkle (pictured, below).

Arkle has produced a series of images which will appear on limited editions of AnCnoc throughout 2012.  The first design features elements of the whisky making process - barley, water, heat, yeast, time and magic.  The whisky selected for this first release is also very special, as it is the first AnCnoc single malt to be released that has been wholly matured in ex-sherry casks.  There is also a short film on the AnCnoc website which charts the creation and progress of the designs.

Bowmore - Darkest Nights
The iconic distillery of Bowmore, the oldest on Islay dating back to 1779, has announced an interactive  consumer experience designed at bring their 15 year old Darkest expression to life. The Magic happens on the Darkest nights experience is being held in London on 25 and 26 April at 7.30pm, with a similar event taking place in New York in May.

The London venue, near Liverpool Street station, has been renovated to include a number of sensory rooms to unlock the secrets of Islay and the Bowmore Darkest whisky.  Fellow collaborators in the project include chocolatier Paul A. Young, astronomer Gary Fildes from the Kielder Forest Star Camp Observatory and Gideon Reeling, who specialises in bespoke interactive theatrical experiences.  It sounds great fun and tickets cost £15 from Here's a short video that they have released to whet your appetite ...

Black is back
Black Grouse - Alpha Edition
The Famous Grouse brand is adding a limited edition of its Black Grouse blended whisky to its range.  Named Black Grouse - Alpha Edition, the new whisky is a richer, smokier version of the award winning original Black Grouse.  It has been blended using a higher percentage of peaty single malt than the original.  The black glass bottle is adorned with a grouse feather and shows an alpha male grouse displaying his mating plumage.

The bottling is available exclusively from The Famous Grouse Experience shop at glenturret distillery in Crieff, or via The Famous Grouse website.  A bottle will cost £35.  It will also be available in selected travel retail/Duty Free markets, priced at €33.

It's party time
Chivas Regal -  The Art of Hosting
The popular whisky brand of Chivas Regal has teamed up with the founders of the Le Baron nightclubs to create a new limited pack.  The Chivas & Le Baron is designed around the increasing trend of drinking at home or hosting whisky tastings at home.  The pack contains a bottle of Chivas Regal 12 years old and a members card, allowing access to a new Chivas Art of Hosting website.  The site includes a series of videos by Le Baron's founders about how to throw the perfect party at home. 

The limited edition pack will be available shortly in off-trade retailers in 20 markets around the world and will cost around 10% more than the regular Chivas Regal 12 years old.

Cutty Sark - Celebration cocktails
The Cutty Sark whisky brand is celebrating the forthcoming re-opening of the boat from which it takes its name by mixing up two whisky cocktails.  The Cutty Sark, the world's oldest tea clipper, was devastated by fire in May 2007 and has undergone five years of restoration work.  The state of the art exhibit re-opens on 26 April.

The first cocktail is called Cutty Storm and is made with one shot of Cutty Sark whisky, half a shot of Bols Triple Sec liqueur, a wedge of lime and lemonade, served in a tall glass.  The other is the Cutty Fashion, which is made with two shots of Cutty Sark, two dashes of Angostura bitters, one teaspoon of gomme sugar syrup and a curl of orange peel.  To makes this, add the ingredients in a short glass with some ice and swirl for around a minute before decorating with the orange.

Creating a buzz?
Jim Beam Honey - UK launch
The bourbon based liqueur sees its launch in the UK next week and the brand is celebrating with two days of special events. Jim Beam Honey is made by infusing four year old Jim Beam bourbon with golden honey and is bottled at a strength of 35% ABV.  It will retail around the £23 mark.

The launch event for the brand see them take over Broadgate Circle in the heart of the City of London for a series of events, including the construction of a huge beehive!  Music and entertainment will also be provided, as well as the opportunity to try the new product for the first time.  The events take place on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 April between 6-9pm - entry is free and includes two complimentary drinks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New release - Cutty Sark Tam o' Shanter

The famous whisky brand of Cutty Sark has released a new limited edition version of its blended whisky  The Tam o' Shanter was released to coincide with this year's Burns Night celebrations at the end of January. The liquid is an enhanced and rare version of their current 25 years old and is the first creation of Cutty Sark's new Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell. The new expression is named Tam o' Shanter after Robert Burns' famous poem of the same name.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New releases - Auchentoshan Springwood & Heartwood

Auchentoshan have recently announced the release of a new travel retail range available only international airports and border shops. The range consists of four core expressions with two limited edition releases coming out each year. The whole range is paying tribute to the wood, which plays such a vital part in the whisky’s maturation. Each whisky included in the range is inspired by the phase of a tree’s life cycle and is named to reflect the whisky’s flavour as if it were part of the tree’s life.

The five whiskies that are being released at the beginning are Springwood (the youthful time of growth for the tree), Heartwood (the core of the tree and the older sibling to Springwood), Silveroak (named after the silver rings that appear on the inside of an older tree to describe a whisky with maturity and complexity and higher ABV of 51.5%), Solera (named after the aging system used to make Pedro Ximénez sherry whose casks are used to age this whisky) and the 14 years old Cooper’s Reserve (the wood and the whisky are mature and rounded). We were lucky enough to receive samples to review of two whiskies that are part of the core range – Springwood and Heartwood.

Auchentoshan (which is pronounced ock-en-tosh-an) is the nearest distillery to Glasgow. It sits to the north west of the city near Clydebank and was officially founded in 1823. Auchentoshan translates as ‘corner of the field’ from the local form of Gaelic. Auchentoshan is unique amongst Scottish whisky distilleries as they triple distil every drop of their spirit using three stills. Elsewhere in Scotland the common practice is to distil twice, whereas triple distillation is more commonly associated with Irish whiskies. Triple distillation produces a new make spirit that is lighter and more delicate in flavour and higher in alcohol - 81.5% ABV which is the highest in Scotland.

Our tasting notes – Springwood
 This pale golden straw coloured whisky is matured solely in American Oak bourbon casks and bottled at 40% ABV. On the nose this whisky has notes of white chocolate, vanilla sugar, honey, lemonade, and some grassiness which is fresh vibrant and zesty. It reminded us of homemade lemonade with chocolate chip cookies on the side. To taste this whisky offers lots of vanilla initially plus lots of zesty lemon which then opens up into cereal grains, dried grass and green apples plus some of the honey. The finish is not overly long but continues with the fresh and zesty feel.

Our tasting notes – Heartwood
This whisky is matured in deeply charred American Oak bourbon casks and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks giving it a rich amber colour. At 43% ABV this is slightly higher in alcohol but remains very approachable and fresh.

Proving that it is the Springwood's sibling, on the nose there are citrus notes but this time it is more orange oil rather than lemon zest. There are also notes of brown sugar, green fruit (pear and apple), honeycomb sweets, sweet cocoa, and hazelnuts. This whisky has flavours of distinctive orange plus milk chocolate and raisins, graininess, toasted nuts and honeycomb. The sweetness is tempered with a burnt edge and a zestiness that keeps this whisky mouth watering and moreish. Again the finish is not overly long but it remains mouth watering and fresh.

What’s the verdict?
The Springwood is light, fresh, delicate and subtle – what you would expect from the classical idea of a Scottish lowland whisky. It would be a great whisky for a warm summery day or a warming hot toddy. While not overly complex it is a very drinkable whisky and at around £35 it offers great value for money and something quite unique.

We joked that the Heartwood smells as though it should be poured over rum & raisin icecream, but this may not be as silly as it sounds. Again this whisky is not overly complicated but will most definitively have you reaching for another glass. This will be sold for around £42.

Both whiskies would be welcome additions to many whisky cupboards as they are bother friendly, approachable and characterful. Each with their own distinct personality and mood - very much like the wood styles they are named after.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Have just tried - Lagavulin 12 years old (2011)

The Lagavulin distillery is one of Diageo's flagship single malts and the popular 16 years old forms part of their iconic Classic Malts series - it is well loved for its peaty, smoky style of whisky. This expression is bottled at the natural cask strength of 57.5% ABV and formed part of the collection of whiskies in last year's Special Releases 2011 release by Diageo. It has been matured in re-fill ex-bourbon casks and has a recommended retail price of £63.  You should be able to still find a bottle in most specialist whisky retailers.

Lagavulin (pronounced lagga-voolin) is located on the western Scottish island of Islay. The majority of distilleries on Islay produce rich, smoky and complex single malt whiskies and Lagavulin is renowned as giving some of the best examples of these. The distillery is located on the south eastern coast of the island and was founded in 1816 by John Johnston.  It currently has a production capacity of just under three million litres per year. They have unusual pear shaped stills and they believe that a combination of these stills, the peating level (PPM) in their malted barley and one of the longest spirit distillation times in Scotland, give Lagavulin its own unique character and quality. The distillery is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo.

Our tasting notes
This whisky is pale gold in colour and the nose is fiery, intense and complex.  There is initial chilli spice and heavy peat, which is interlaced with iodine and damp moss aromas.  Underneath is further aromas of coal tar soap and some much needed sweetness in the form of vanilla and honey. The nose softens with time in the glass to reveal a lovely aroma of burnt oats.

The palate is lightly oily and pleasantly salty with some initial chilli heat.  This subsides as the whisky mingles with the saliva in the mouth to give some creamy, buttery vanilla, honey and cereal notes (this note is again particularly grainy and reminiscent of slightly burnt oatcakes).  In addition to the tangy note of salty brine, there is further tang added by a note of lemon zest.  The peatiness is always present and is unavoidable, but now has an interesting marriage of being sweet and earthy plus a little bonfire-like and ashy.  This is a very pleasant element and there are also faint hints of mint and liquorice.

The finish is powerful, smoky and bittersweet.  The sweet, mossy smoke seems to burn away forever and pleasantly sits in your mouth.  The sweetness of the honey and vanilla gives way to a more spicy note, which has a hint of heat reminiscent of red chilli.

What's the verdict?
This single malt is strong, feisty and ultimately, lovely.  Most people may find that they need to add a little water, and this softens some of these characteristics.  Releases from Lagavulin rarely disappoint and this one is no exception - it has everything that you should want from a smoky, peaty whisky.  If you like this style of whisky, then you should hunt down a bottle before it sells out.  You may then have to wait a while until the next one otherwise ...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Inbox - April 13, 2012 (Part 2)

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.

This week is a little different, as Inbox is split in to two parts - the first part appeared on Friday.  This is due to Matt and Karen having been away to Australia and returning to a large amount of emails about all manner of whisky related things.  Here is the second part of what they discovered ...

Balblair - New batch released
The northern Highland distillery of Balblair has won many plaudits for its 1989 Vintage, and it has now released the eagerly awaited third batch of this popular release.  In line with the recent policy change by the brand's owners Inver House Distillers, the Batch 3 is released in the new streamlined packaging, is non chillfiltered and bottled at 46% ABV.

The Balblair 1989 Vintage Batch 3 can be found in specialist whisky retailers now with a recommended retail price of £60.  It is to be available in numerous countries, with key focus on the French, Russian and UK markets. Distillery Manager of Balblair John MacDonald says, “The second release of the 1989 Vintage was many people’s favourite Balblair. I believe this variant – at a higher strength, uncoloured and non-chill-filtered – is even better.”

Ballantine's - Championship Blend
The famous Ballantine's blended whisky brand have announced a new and very limited edition to their range of super-premium whiskies.  The Championship Blend has been created to commemorate the 2012 Ballantine's Championship, which is this year being held at the Blackstone Golf Club in Incheon, Korea between the 26-29 May.

The whisky has been created by the Ballantine's Master Blender Sandy Hyslop, with the help of Lee Westwood who won the tournament in 2011.  They have put together a blend which uses some extremely rare whiskies, the youngest of which is 41 years old.  As a consequence, there are only 10 bottles available and most have already found a home.

Famous Grouse - 10 years on
The pioneering whisky visitor experience that is The Famous Grouse Experience is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  In the decade since opening, the Experience has been visited by almost one million whisky fans.

It is located at Glenturret, which is currently the oldest distillery in operation in Scotland, and holds a prestigious 5* tourist attraction rating from VisitScotland.  To celebrate the anniversary, a number of special events are planned.  The first of these is a new tour named the Celebration Tour - this is priced at £14.95 per person and includes a tasting of five whiskies from the Famous Grouse family at the end.  For more information, visit their website - click here.

Glenlivet - Rare casks released
The Glenlivet, which is the second biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky in the world, has announced the release of a series of rare expressions in its Single Cask Editions range.  Each bottling is released at its natural cask strength.  Two of the whiskies - the Helios which is a 20 year old and the Josie, named after Josie's Well which is the water source for Glenlivet - are available globally.

Another bottling is the Guardians (pictured, above), which has just 631 bottles and is available exclusively to members of the Glenlivet Guardians club.  This has been matured in a second-fill ex-sherry cask and was hand selected by a group of Guardians at an event in London late last year (- Karen was there!).  Others include the Inveravon, which is exclusive to Taiwan, and the Kilimanjaro and Legacy, both exclusive to Germany.

Laphroaig - New travel retail bottling
The biggest selling smoky single malt whisky in the world has announced a new addition to its travel retail range.  The Laphroaig PX Cask replaces the Triple Wood in this sector and is the first Laphroaig whisky to be part-matured in ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry casks.  It has also been matured in ex-bourbon casks and quarter casks. The new whisky will be listed globally in travel retail stores and is available from mod-April.  It has a recommended retail price of £55/€65.

Royal Salute - Diamond Jubilee Edition
A special limited edition of the premium Royal Salute blended whisky is being released for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  The blend, which is produced by Chivas Brothers and first appeared in 1953 to celebrate the Queen's coronation, appears in a Royal blue glazed porcelain flagon.  This is accompanied by a hand made display box. It will be available in 20 markets around the world and has a recommended retail price of £105/$165.

Neil Macdonald, the Global Brand Director for Royal Salute, says “Royal Salute was originally created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We are delighted that this Royal Salute Limited Edition will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, as it is only the second time in history that this milestone has been achieved by a British monarch.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inbox - April 13, 2012 (Part 1)

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.

This week is a little different, as Inbox is split in to two parts - the second part will appear over the weekend.  This is due to Matt and Karen having been away to Australia and returning to a large amount of emails about all manner of whisky related things.  Here is the first part of what they discovered ...

AnCnoc - Something is coming soon ...
One of the more surreal emails that we received was from the guys at AnCnoc. The up-and-coming whisky brand, which is made at the Highland distillery of Knockdhu, has released a short video alluding to a new project which is just around the corner.  It is meant to whet your appetite and we will let you know as soon as we know what it is all about.  For now, the video is below ... any guesses, please leave a comment below.

Bell's - Jubilee Decanter announced
Within this two part edition of Inbox, you will read about a number of whiskies being released to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June. These represent just a few of the plethora of such releases associated with the event.  The Bell's brand has a strong tradition of releasing such limited edition decanters for Royal occasions, as well as  for each Christmas.

The Diamond Jubilee Decanter has been specially designed and shows a change in style and colour from previous decanter releases.  This edition of Bell's has a heavy bias towards the single malts from Blair Athol and Caol Ila in the blend. It is available exclusively to the UK market and will retail for 85.  Numerous specialist whisky retailers in the UK are currently taking pre-orders.

Chivas - Cannes Film Festival
About this time last year, we reported on the third year of sponsorship of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival by the Chivas Regal whisky brand.

To celebrate the continued association, the brand has announced an extension to the sponsorship until at least 2014.  This will also see Chivas Regal continue to support the FilmAid International charity.  The brand will host various events in the French town during the Festival, which runs from 16-27 May. James Slack, Global Brand Director for Chivas Regal says, “We are delighted to continue our support as official partner of the Cannes Film Festival. Like Cannes, Chivas Regal is synonymous with discerning style, luxury and legend, which makes this partnership a perfect one".

Famous Grouse - Jubilee special
The biggest selling blended whisky in the UK is launching a limited edition commemorative version in order to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The Famous Jubilee is a new take on the classic Famous Grouse blend that has been specially constructed by the Master Blender of the Edrington Group (the brand's owners), Gordon Motion. It will be available in the UK only, exclusively to the Waitrose supermarket chain, and will cost £24.99.

The brand is also issuing a revised Jubilee package box for the regular Famous Grouse, which will be available in the supermarket chain of Sainsbury's for the Jubilee period.

Speyburn - New packaging and club
The Speyside distillery of Speyburn have announced a new set of packaging for their single malt range.  The brand, which is owned by Inver House Distillers, has gone for a fresher and more contemporary look with the new packaging, which includes a new bottle, label and tube.  This will initially be applied to the two most popular malts in the range - the Brandan Orach and the 10 years old (pictured, left) - with the aim to increase brand exposure in retail outlets.

The brand has also just opened a new members area, called Clan Speyburn, on its newly refurbished website.  When you sign up you will receive a welcome pack, receive a regular newsletter and be able to enjoy special offers which include limited edition bottlings just for club members.  To sign up - click here.

Tullamore Dew - New distillery
William Grant & Sons, the owners of the Tullamore Dew whiskey brand, have announced plans to construct and open a new distillery in the brand's spiritual hometown of Tullamore, County Offaly. Tullamore Dew is currently the second biggest selling Irish whiskey brand behind Jameson, and the new pot still facility is to help maintain the current level of growth and demand for the product, which is growing by 15% per annum.

The new distillery will bring whiskey production back to the town for the first time since 1954, when the original Tullamore distillery closed.  William Grant is investing €35 million in the project and will created 100 temporary and 25 permanent jobs in the town.  The building work is estimated to take two years and the facility will incorporate an environmentally efficient pot still distillery and a visitor centre.

Whisky Round Table - April 2012
The latest sitting of the newly re-vamped Whisky Round Table is now available for you to read.  The April edition is hosted by one of the original members of the group - Gal Granov of the excellent and informative Whisky Israel blog.

Gal set an interesting question about whether the procedure of maturing casks in two or more locations actually benefited the whisky or whether it was simplay a PR stunt.  Read the answers of the twelve Whisky Knights, including us, by clicking here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Have just tried - Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel

Using the government’s alcohol duty rise as a pathetic excuse to buy some more whisky (I persuaded myself I’d be saving money in the long run if I bought a few bottles before the rise!) I decided to purchase a whisky I’d had my eye on for a while. The Yamazaki Bourbon Barrel represents the latest in a number of limited whiskies Suntory release every now and then that, to date, have included heavily peated and sherry puncheon matured expressions.

Located at the foot of a mountain in a bamboo forest just outside Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto, Yamazaki distillery was founded by Shinjiro Torii in 1923. It was his ambition to make a Japanese whisky along the same lines as the Scottish whiskies that were very popular at the time. To this end he despatched his able assistant Masataka Taketsuru to Scotland to learn everything there is to know about making Scotch whisky.

Taketsuru’s time in Scotland makes for an amazing story. In 1918 he turned up alone in Scotland, determined to learn the art of brewing and distilling. A very brave thing to do at a time when people travelled such shorter distances than they do now. Britain must have seemed like a completely different world to him. He enrolled at Glasgow University and at one point travelled up to Elgin in the hope for learning first hand the skills needed for Suntory to start distilling whisky. It was at Longmorn distillery that he found someone willing to take him on and show him the ropes. His course at Glasgow also enabled him to work at Hazelburn distillery in Campbeltown. During all this he also found time to fall in love and get hitched to his landlady's daughter.

Job done, on returning to Japan with his new wife, Taketsuru’s newfound skills and knowledge were instrumental in founding Yamazaki - Japans first single malt distillery. Soon afterwards, he left Suntory to start Japan’s other major whisky company, Nikka.

This Yamazaki was released in 2011 along side a Bourbon Barrel matured expression from its sister distillery Hakushu and is bottled at a generous 48.5% from first fill bourbon barrels.

Our tasting notes
On first nosing there are lots of cereal notes - shredded wheat, malting floors, Japanese tea, mashed potatoes, Rusks. Along side all this there’s also a nice sweet citrus fruit aroma lending a nice balance, a bit like lime cordial and chocolate limes. After a while it gets fruitier and sweeter with a little breathing with aromas of apples, pears, bananas, cherries, refresher sweets, custard powder and milk chocolate.

On the palate, there’s some lovely big first fill bourbon barrel flavours. Starting with some sweet and fruity flavours - Banoffee pie, white chocolate, bubblegum, Belgian tripel beer. The palate gradually gets a little more bitter, oaky and hot with pepper and cloves. The finish is long and tannic with a nice bittersweet blackberry note. Excellently balanced. Lots of estery flavours of fruits and sweet things balanced by an equally large dollop of drying austerity from the oak.

What’s the verdict?
Well, I wasn’t disappointed with my purchase. It’s nearest to the 12-Year-old expression out of the three standard releases but much more complex and intense. An excellently balanced whisky full of character and flavour. As far as I know it is just available in Europe and Japan. It is limited to just 3000 bottles throughout Europe, 1000 of which are for the U.K. You can get if for around £65.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Release - The Famous Goose

Watch the birdie
I was listening to a radio programme on Britain's disappearing bird species, some of which were very common when I was growing up, and now all but vanished. Was it due to loss of habitat, climate change, migratory bird populations competing for the same food source...? Various twitchers chirped away amongst themselves, and then all of a sudden...kerrr plunk! A large brown package fell heavily on the doormat, and a couple of minutes later The Famous Goose broke free from the wrapping's shell, and fought for my attention.