Saturday 10 April 2010

Distillers Editions Worth Their Weight

Diageo don't have a great reputation here in Scotland. The brutal self-interest which has led them to announce the closure of their Kilmarnock operation is a case in point. But it cannot be denied that they produce some superb whiskies.

It was the 1986/2002 Lagavulin Distillers Edition which made me sit up, pay attention, and start tasting whisky seriously. (A more accurate description would be to say that I fell into the whisky for a minute or so, becoming completely oblivious to the crowd of 1000 jolly, drunk people around me)

At a whisky dinner I hosted at The Bothy back in February the dram of the night was the Clynelish Distillers Edition. It outshone even the Highland Park 18 Year Old, a whisky which has more than once been called the best in the world.

Tonight's example, the Caol Ila Distillers Edition, maintains that standard. It is a profound dram, the nose an intense swirl of sweet bacon wood smoke, with a briney tang like the saltiness when you are swimming in the sea and accidentally swallow some seawater.

The palate is at once sweet and oily and salty and smoky, long lasting, with a hit of pepper in the finish. The flavours persist for more than a minute, and the smokiness for nearly three.

Compared to the twelve year old expression , the Distillers Edition is more intense, longer lasting, bigger, more complex; still the same whisky, but with the intensity turned up to eleven.

I haven't tasted any of the Manager's Choice whiskies, but it is hard to see, at the price being asked, that they can be anything but an exercise in separating collectors from their money, when such gems as the DEs are available for a fifth of the price

Saturday 20 March 2010

Abhainn Dearg Spirit of Lewis

The newest and most remote distillery in Britain, Abhainn Dearg on the Isle of Lewis, has released its first batch of New Make Spirit – as yet it is too young to be legally called whisky.

Around 100 people gathered at McSorley’s Bar in central Glasgow on March 16th to watch Mark Tayburn, founder of Abhainn Dearg, and Bill MacIntosh, chair of Glasgow’s Whisky Club, officially launch the Spirit of Lewis. Although I couldn’t make that evening, I ventured along the next night to taste the liquid and see what all the fuss was about.

Abhainn Dearg Spirit of Lewis is certainly worth trying, for it is lovely. Light and delicate – no oiliness – honey sweet, with a back-and-forth swirl of cigar, milk chocolate – and something briney. And since it’s cask strength, you’ll have a warming glow about you all day long.

The malt proper won’t be available until late 2011 so until then you can take yourself along to McSorley’s, enjoy the original Victorian decor, listen to live music and sample the whisky-to-be straight from the cask it’s maturing in. Or you can watch the launch via the internet, courtesy of that whisky bon viveur, Ralfy.