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Recent releases, June 2007

Barrogill, Blended Malt (Scotland)
As reported in ‘Whisky News’ earlier this year, Barrogill is a blended malt, produced by Inver House Distillers, and endorsed by HRH the Prince of Wales. A percentage of profits made on sales of Barrogill will go to the North Highlands Initiative, which is designed to support remote communities in the far north of Scotland. Prince Charles is known to be an admirer of old Pulteney, and as the Pulteney distillery in Wick and Balblair, further south, are owned by Inver House, it seems reasonable to assume that both are represented in this ‘North Highland Blended Malt,’ along with quantities of Clynelish from Brora in Sutherland. According to Inver House, "This robust, complex whisky balances the various characteristics of the distilleries of the area," and Barrogill is floral and medium-sweet on the nose, with pear drops, wood smoke, and a lingering note of yeast. Medium to full-bodied in the mouth, it is fruity and spicy on the well-balanced palate, malty and slightly smoky. More smoke and some notes of peat develop in the lengthy finish. An interesting exercise in creating a blended malt from a very specific geographical area, and the result is a solid yet sophisticated and eminently drinkable blended malt. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £19.99, specialist whisky merchants, quite widely available.
Arran, Amarone Wine Cask Finish (Scotland)
The Isle of Arran distillery has been at the forefront of experimentation with ‘finishing’ techniques during its decade-long existence, with secondary maturation taking place in the likes of Lepanto PX Spanish Brandy and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ‘Villa Gemma’ casks. One of the latest Arran releases - limited to 3,220 bottles - has spent some eight years in ex-Bourbon casks before being transferred to 225-litre former Amarone wine ‘barrique’ casks for a finishing period of nine months. Amarone is a highly regarded Italian wine produced near Verona, and it has given the Arran whisky a very distinctive red hue that instantly marks it out from the crowd. This expression is presented at cask strength and is not chill-filtered, so be prepared for a cloudy pinkish liquid - not unlike Cherryade - in your glass when water is added! The nose is fragrant, with an obvious red wine influence, plus cinnamon, pepper, plums, raspberries and Oddfellows. Perhaps even Worcester sauce? Behind the big wine ‘front,’ this is actually quite a simplistic whisky on the palate, with grape pulp, oak, fudge and spice. The finish is medium in length, with fruits and spices, especially cloves. One for fans of more arcane finishes, but personally I think the 10-year-old Arran single malt is an excellent whisky, and best not messed around with! 55.0% ABV, 70cl, £38.95, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glengoyne, 21-Year-Old (Scotland)
The latest addition to the ‘core’ range from Glengoyne distillery, north of Glasgow, is a 21-year-old expression, matured in first fill European Oak Sherry casks. Released in April to line up alongside 10 and 21-year-old bottlings, the 21-year-old is said by the Glengoyne team to possess "The optimum balance of flavours and the maximum benefits from the wood." The nose offers immediate and accessible Sherry, spices and black treacle. Mouth-coating, bold and Sherried on the palate, with aromatic spice and nutty notes. Liquorice and Caramac bars dominate the finish. Glengoyne is one of those whiskies that always seems to work well with European oak maturation, and this pleasing version is no exception. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glen Moray, Mountain Oak - The Final Release (Scotland)
Launched at last month’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, this cask strength expression of Glen Moray was selected by distillery manager Graham Coull and is the second and final ‘Mountain Oak’ release, following on from the highly regarded first bottling, which appeared in 2003. The whisky has been matured since filling during 1991 in what Glen Moray calls "A unique selection of toasted and charred mountain oak casks from North America," and just 1,158 bottles are available from the distillery, signed by Graham Coull. The nose offers pleasing soft fruits, orange fruit pastilles and vanilla fudge, along with a hint of nutmeg. Vanilla notes are more pronounced with prolonged exposure to air. Pears, pineapples and soft fudge on the palate, with developing nuts, traces of treacle and lively ginger. Tobacco, ginger and a hint of pepper round off the comparatively lengthy finish. A lovely, appetizing and accomplished Glen Moray. A pity that with litres of the ‘standard’ single malt offering available in some supermarkets for under £15.00 at present, there is an understandable public perception that this is a bargain basement malt in terms of quality 58.6% ABV, 70cl, £70.00, distillery website.
Benromach, Peat Smoke (Scotland)
The latest release from Gordon & MacPhail-owned Benromach distillery, near Forres, on Speyside is a heavily peated single malt, made using the same intensity of peating as Laphroaig. A batch of heavily-peated spirit is made each year at Benromach, and this particular expression was distilled in 2000. It has been matured in first fill ex-Bourbon casks, often used to ‘soften’ a comparatively young whisky. Commenting on the new release, Ian Urquhart, managing director of Gordon & MacPhail Ltd, says, "At Benromach we are always keen to experiment and try different things. Using small batches of malted barley, peated to our specialist requirements, we were keen to explore the impact of peating levels on Benromach." "To produce our Benromach Traditional, we use malted barley with a phenol content of ten to twelve parts per million, while Benromach Peat Smoke uses barley malted to fifty-five parts per million. The resulting single malt delivers a seriously smoky character. It is complex, intense and challenging - yet balanced with the fruity elegance of Speyside." Sweet peat and cigarette smoke over fresh, fruity notes on the nose. Water reveals attractive floral characteristics and then also accentuates the smoke. Big-bodied, smoky, fruity, malty and delightfully balanced on the palate. The finish is long and kippery. Whisky-pages has long regarded the decidedly old-fashioned Benromach Traditional to be one of the best value Speyside malts on the market, and cranking up the peating level has resulted in probably the finest heavily-peated mainland malt around. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £26.99, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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