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Recent releases, November 2008

Isle of Arran, Robert Burns 250th Anniversary Malt (Scotland)
To commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns on 25th January 2009, Isle of Arran Distillers has just released a limited edition bottling. Fifteen ex-Sherry casks were selected from the 1998 distillation by distillery manager James MacTaggart to produce 6,000 bottles of the new expression, 1,800 of which will be available in the UK. According to company managing director Euan Mitchell, “With 2009 set to be such a significant anniversary for Burns’ Night, there will be strong opportunities for retailers and on-trade establishments to up-sell on their normal blends and malts to whisky connoisseurs, collectors and those who enjoy celebrating Burns’ Night with a dram of something really special.” Fresh and fruity on the nose in classic Arran style, with toffee apples. Well-rounded and pleasing. Cinnamon and ginger notes develop in time. Sweet and honeyed on the palate, medium-bodied, with well-mannered background Sherry lingering into the medium, spicy finish. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Isle of Arran, 12 Year Old (Scotland)
In addition to the limited edition Robert Burns’ release, Isle of Arran Distillers has also recently added a new expression to its permanent range, and again, Sherry influence plays a significant part in this bottling. Distillery manager James MacTaggart says that “The 12 Year Old was initially matured in refill-Sherry casks and then married for nine months in first-fill ex-Oloroso Sherry hogsheads. The use of Spanish oak has added a new depth of flavour to the Arran Malt and the next chapter in the Arran story is sure to be appreciated by connoisseurs around the world.” Powerful, floral, sweet and spicy on the nose, with a hint of worn leather. Sweet and honeyed in the mouth, with caramel, nuts and malt merging nicely with more citric fruit notes. The addition of water draws out apricots and cloves. Medium to long in the finish, with Sherry and spices and a final hint of leather, carrying through from the nose. Additional age and judicious use of Sherry wood gives this Arran a greater profundity and polish than its nonetheless attractive, younger siblings. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £32.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Yamazaki, Single Cask 1993 (Japan)
Yamazaki was the first malt whisky distillery to be built in Japan, and dates from the 1920s. Today it is part of the Suntory empire, and distils malt spirit for blending purposes, as well as a core range of single malts, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years. Since a radical 2005 reconstruction programme, the distillery has been equipped with six pairs of stills, which are direct-fired and vary in size, shape, design, lyne arm configuration and even cooling methods, with some using worm tubs while others are equipped with shell and tube condensers. Not surprisingly, this allows for a great deal of flexibility and variation in the styles of whisky produced. The latest release from Yamazaki is a single cask expression, notable for its heavy peating level, and on the nose vibrant fruit salad meshes with up-front peat smoke, but backed by fresh, brown wrapping paper or even old-fashioned medicated toilet tissue! Full-bodied, smoky and fruity in the mouth; redolent of some expressions of Ardbeg. Complex and nicely integrated. Water elicits bubble gum notes and gentle spice. The spice runs through a lengthy and soft-fruit finish, with the addition of water giving an attractive, slightly sooty edge. Yet again, Japanese distillers have proved they can take on the Scots at their own game and match their skill. Not even Islay is sacred! 62.0% ABV, 70cl, £70.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Blue Hangar, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
This is the fourth limited edition release of Blue Hanger by Berry Bros & Rudd, and it differs from its predecessors in that a wider range of aged whiskies have been included, varying from 16 to 34-year-old spirit. According to Berry’s Spirits Buyer, Doug McIvor, who is responsible for creating this blended malt, “We aim very high and with each release I have learned more about the integrity of the whisky and what each distillate and type of cask will bring to the party. There has always been a strong influence from Sherry casks but I try to rein this in to offer balance and complexity from the other casks.” A company spokesman notes that “Every release is unique, although there is continuity in overall style to retain the rich, smooth, fruity complexity that makes this whisky stand out from the crowd.” The Blue Hanger whiskies are named after William Hanger, the third Lord Coleraine, who was a loyal customer of Berry’s during the late 18th century. He was renowned for wearing striking blue clothes, and therefore gained the sobriquet ‘Blue Hanger.’ Rich and luxurious on the nose. A complex blend of Sherry, spice, almonds, stewed frits and malt. Full-bodied, robust yet elegant on the palate, with sweet Sherry, hazelnuts, and a hint of smoke. More leathery with the addition of water. A charming fruitiness develops in the mouth and lingers through the long, slightly smoky and nutty finish. A truly classic blended malt. 45.6% ABV, 70cl, £59.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Bell's, Original (Scotland)
Britain’s leading blended Scotch whisky underwent a major makeover earlier this year, with the existing 8-year-old age statement being dropped. Owners Diageo claim the revamped recipe was closer to that originally formulated by founder Arthur Bell, though the cynics amongst us may consider that the change could also have something to do with the increasingly precious nature of aged whiskies in international markets! The 8-year-old age statement was introduced by Diageo’s forerunners United Distillers in a successful attempt to rehabilitate the blend, which had become known for its perceived harshness during the 1970s, when the enthusiasm and success of Arthur Bell & Co Ltd’s sales and marketing teams outstripped whisky supplies, and the firm’s distilleries produced spirit which was made with great rapidity and only a perfunctory concern for quality. The nose of Original is appreciably more youthful than that of its predecessor, offering cereal, yeast and slightly ‘mashy’ notes, with a floral background and fresh fruits. The addition of water produces a distinct impression of spent matches. Smooth, malty, nutty on the palate, eminently drinkable, though lacking some of the ‘presence’ of the previous 8-year-old. The finish is fairly short, with lingering fruit, spice, a hint of peat and liquorice, especially when water is added. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £11.95, widely available.
  

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