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Recent releases, December 2008

Deanston, 12-Year-Old (Scotland)
Deanston is one of Scotland’s most intriguing yet little known distilleries. Created during the 1960s whisky boom in an 18th century former cotton mill close to the Perthshire town of Doune, Deanston is one of three distilleries owned by Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd. Around 75 per cent of the Deanston make has traditionally been sold in the USA, meaning that the whisky was quite elusive in European markets, but the launch last month of two new 12-year-old expressions should see that situation change in the near future. According to Ian MacMillan, Master Distiller, “We want to highlight the simplicity of the whisky-making process at Deanston so we do not add colour or use over-elaborate finishing techniques - we believe this is whisky at its most natural and we’re very proud of it. “For our 46.3% ‘house’ version we ‘marry’ the component casks of whisky in new oak for a few weeks prior to bottling, as this gives us more sweetness. You’ve already got a sweeter whisky with more oak anyway, due to the lack of chill-filtration.” The 46.3% expression offers a fresh, fruity nose with malt and honey, while the palate displays cloves, ginger, honey and malt. The finish is long, quite dry and pleasantly herbal. 46.3% ABV, 70cl, £28.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Deanston, 12-Year-Old (M&S) (Scotland)
This expression has been created exclusively for Marks & Spencer, whose whisky expert Sue Daniels says “We are delighted to have worked with Ian and his team to offer M&S customers this exclusive 12-year-old Deanston single malt whisky. As we head towards Christmas, it’s the perfect time for our customers to discover this refined and elegant drink.” As with the 46.3% bottling, the ‘M&S’ Deanston has been ‘married’ for some weeks, in this instance in casks which had previously held new Deanston spirit for a short time. New-mown hay, barley, toffee, honey and fresh oak on the nose, while the palate is sweet with vanilla, honey and spices. The finish is medium in length, spicy, with attractive oak and a hint of cloves. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £25.99, Marks & Spencer.
Ben Nevis, Single Cask 11-Years-Old (Milroy’s) (Scotland)
Ben Nevis distillery in Fort William is often neglected by connoisseurs, yet at its best the West Highland single malt it produces is a delightful, robust whisky. This recent offering from Milroy’s of Soho is out of a single refill Sherry butt, which has yielded just 204 bottles. Fragrant on the nose, with sweet Sherry and marzipan, freshly-baked Christmas cake. Rich and initially sweet on the palate, with medium Sherry, malt, honey and spices, plus background peat smoke. It dries confidently in the finish, with liquorice, dark chocolate and some smoke. An extremely drinkable winter night’s dram, offered at a very reasonable price. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £35.00, Milroy's of Soho.
Longmorn, Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling 7.48, 1968 (Scotland)
Another big, Sherried whisky which is perfect for the winter months is this veteran offering from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. A little detective work with the Society’s tasting notes leads to the conclusion that this is actually a Longmorn, from the Chivas-owned distillery situated south of Elgin. It has spent 40 years in a Sherry butt, from which 381 bottles have been filled. The nose is rich and refined, mature, with Sherry, figs and bananas. The addition of water teases out molasses and smoking house chimneys. The palate carries on where the nose leaves off, with sweet, spicy, Christmas pudding character. The finish dries quite rapidly, which can surely be forgiven in such a venerable dram. When reduced with water it is initially fruitier, with a final, not unpleasant, note of soot. 53.5% ABV, 70cl, £180, SMWS.

DIAGEO SPECIAL RELEASES 2008

As reported in Whisky News last month, Diageo has just unveiled its latest annual line up of Special Releases. Here we put a brace of Taliskers from the Isle of Skye and a Glen Elgin from Speyside under the 'whisky-pages' microscope. Look out for more expressions from this highly impressive range next month.

Talisker, 25-year-old, Diageo Special Releases 2008 (Scotland)
This is the 11th 25-year-old bottling of the Skye single malt, and it has been matured in a mix of American oak and European oak refill casks. Sweet and rich on the nose, with lots of smoky notes, heather and soft toffee, backed up by characteristic Talisker pepperiness and a faint whiff of the sea. The palate is big and slightly oily, with malt, milk chocolate, spice and lots of peat. The finish is lengthy and drying, with chilli and peat smoke. (6,708 bottles). 54.2% ABV, 70cl, £129.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Talisker, 30-year-old, Diageo Special Releases 2008 (Scotland)
As with the 25-year-old, above, this bottling has been matured in American oak and European oak refill casks. The nose is surprisingly fresh and lively, considering the age of the whisky, with beguiling floral notes, lots of fruit and less overt peat than its younger sibling. Leather and heather! Big and sweet in the mouth, with Sherry and spices, plus developing peat smoke and a slight tang of salt. The finish is long, honeyed, and less dry than the 25-year-old. Persistently spicy, with delicate herbs and gentle wood. Sophisticated and exquisitely drinkable. (less than 3,000 bottles). 49.5% ABV, 70cl, £204.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Glen Elgin, 16-year-old, Diageo Special Releases 2008 (Scotland)
Glen Elgin is an elusive malt at the best of times, and is very rare at this age. Thisexpression has been matured in ex-bodega European oak casks. Sweet Sherry and luscious fruit – principally oranges – on the nose, with vanilla fudge and almonds. Quite viscous in the mouth, fruity and spicy with cedar wood notes. The finish is medium in length, nutty and gingery, with developing oak and just a faint hint of sulphur, which does nothing to spoil the overall effect. Another treat for lovers of Sherry wood-matured whiskies. 58.5% ABV, 70cl, £52.00, specialist whisky merchants.

  

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