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Recent releases, June 2008

Ardbeg, Renaissance (Scotland)
Hot off the bottling lines is Renaissance, the latest release from the Islay distillery of Ardbeg. The Glenmorangie Company acquired Ardbeg from Allied Distillers in 1997, and proceeded to rejuvenate both the distillery and the iconic brand. Some of the first spirit distilled under the Glenmorangie regime was bottled in 2004 as Very Young Ardbeg, and this six-year-old ‘work in progress’ was followed by Still Young (2006) and Almost There (2007). Now Renaissance has been produced under the ‘We’ve Arrived!’ banner, and this ten-year-old cask strength expression is a prelude to the appearance of Ardbeg’s core ten-year-old bottling comprising 100 per cent spirit distilled under Glenmorangie’s ownership. Sweet peat, marzipan, bubble gum and floral notes on the extremely attractive nose, with some salt and spice also making a late appearance. The palate is big, full-bodied, sweet and fruity. Ginger and spicy peat develop. Lingering fruit, peat, persistent spice and a slight hint of Germolene comprise the lengthy finish. On the evidence of this confident, well balanced offering in characteristic Ardbeg style, aficionados can look forward to the ‘new’ ten-year-old at 46%abv with happy anticipation. 55.9% ABV, 70cl, £41.99, distillery website.
Balblair, 1975 (Scotland)
Balblair 1975 is the latest addition to the Highland distillery’s line up of vintage expressions, replacing the 1979 edition which has now sold out. Balblair belongs to Inver House Distillers, recent winner of Whisky Magazine’s coveted International Distiller of the Year award. With a release of just 3,000 bottles, Balblair 1975 is the most limited edition offered to date, and it joins the existing1989 and 1997 vintages. Margaret Mary Clarke, Balblair Brand Manager, says “Without a doubt, Balblair 1975 is one of the finest vintages we have discovered to date. We have spent a great deal of time and care in selecting it and I’m confident that whisky lovers throughout the world will not be disappointed. It certainly makes a fantastic and very special dram.” Matured entirely in ex-Sherry casks, Balblair 1975 has a very attractive nose of rich, spicy fruitcake, Sherry and toffee. The palate is surprisingly lively, with Sherried sherbet notes, fondant creams and developing background smoke. The finish is long, with persistent Sherry and figs, drying steadily to oak. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £149.49, specialist whisky merchants.
Jameson, Rarest Vintage Reserve (Ireland)
The Pernod Ricard-owned Jameson brand is the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey, and is produced in the company’s extremely versatile distillery at Midleton in County Cork, which dates from 1974. There an array of pot and column stills produce spirit that is blended together in bewildering and classified combinations and proportions for the various expressions that make up the Jameson range, and many other brands besides. The latest addition to Jameson’s line up of ‘Reserve’ whiskeys, Vintage Reserve, takes to the shelves alongside Jameson 12 Year Old Special, Jameson Gold and Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve. The four Reserve expressions are all matured in a mixture of ex-Bourbon and ex-Oloroso Sherry casks, and combine triple-distilled pot and column still spirit. Vintage Reserve contains some of the rarest whiskeys available from Midleton, and one of the component pot stills whiskeys has been matured in port pipes. The oldest element of Vintage Reserve is the grain, some of which is up to 25 years old, and all of the Bourbon casks used are second-fill. Light, floral honey notes from the aged grain component are present on the early nose, along with fleshy peaches and melons. The port casks contribute rich, fruity characteristics, which are sufficiently subtle not to dominate. Barley lingers in the nostrils. The sweet, mellow palate offers bananas and plums, along with developing cinnamon, toasted oak and dairy fudge notes. The finish is long, with sweet fruits, port, spice and a hint of barley. By no means cheap, but this is a confident, sophisticated and beautifully integrated whiskey that has all the makings of an Irish classic. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £300.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Aberlour, 18-Year-Old (Scotland)
This expression is the latest release from the Speyside distillery of Aberlour, which also produces June’s Whisky of the Month. It joins 10, 12 and 16-year-old bottlings in the UK domestic market, and like many versions of Aberlour, has a strong influence of Sherry wood. The nose offers sweet Sherry, honey and orange creams, becoming richer and more profound with exposure to air. Spices and figs emerge. Full-bodied and medium-sweet in the mouth, with spicy Sherry, apricots and peaches. Water teases out notes of furniture polish, liquorice and smoke. The finish is long, with silky cream, more spices and figs, and a final suggestion of gentle oak. A lovely, confident, satisfying, after-dinner Aberlour. Sherried Speyside at its best. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Caol Ila, 1995 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice (Scotland)
As Diageo increases the availability and promotion of single malt whisky from its Caol Ila distillery on Islay, so the brand is becoming better known internationally. Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay in terms of capacity, with the capability of producing more than 3.6 million litres of spirit per year. This independent bottling of a 1995 Caol Ila is from Elgin-based Gordon & MacPhail Ltd, and the nose offers sweet, fruity peat smoke, with a background of oil and brine. Water releases more floral characteristics. On the palate, sweetness is again to the fore, with spices and developing maritime notes. Water teases out cooked fruits. Fresh pears and Germolene characterise the finish, with water highlighting dry oak. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £27.50, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenburgie, 1964 Gordon & MacPhail bottling (Scotland)
The Speyside distillery of Glenburgie is located near Forres, and the current production plant dates from 2004, when a total rebuild took place. The following year the distillery passed from Allied Distillers Ltd to Chivas Brothers, who proceeded to increase the number of stills from four to six in 2006, giving an annual capacity of 4.2 million litres of spirit. From Gordon & MacPhail's Rare Vintage Range, this veteran expression of Glenburgie has a lovely nose, rich and Sherried, with marzipan and heather. Water brings out chocolate orange. In contrast to expectations from the nose, the palate is initially quite dry and citric. Vanilla subsequently develop to counter the oaky dryness, along with spices and a hint of smoke. The finish comprises figs, smoke and slightly bitter oak. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £120.00, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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