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Recent releases, February 2009

Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 17-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon (2008 edition) (USA)
The Eagle Rare brand was introduced in 1975 by Canadian distilling giant Joseph E Seagram & Sons Inc, and in 1989 it was acquired by the Sazerac company of New Orleans. In its present incarnation, Eagle Rare is part of Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, which is updated annually. The latest variant of Eagle Rare, launched last autumn, comprises barrels that were distilled in the spring of 1991. Big and bold on the nose, with vanilla, wood adhesive and almonds, plus a whiff of leather. Very smooth on the palate, full-bodied and fruity, with rye and a hint of mint. The finish comprises vanilla fudge and a final kick of spice. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, 65.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Buffalo Trace, Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old (2008 edition) (USA)
Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old (2008 edition) Like Eagle Rare, this 18-year-old expression of Sazerac Rye is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and is the oldest rye whiskey currently on the market. Rye was once the quintessential American whiskey, but fell out of favour with the rise of Bourbon in the years after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. However, the style is now enjoying a deserved revival. According to Buffalo Trace, “Sazerac 18-Year-Old is a two time winner of the ‘American Whiskey of the Year’ award, the 2008 release is comprised of whiskey that has been aging in Warehouse K on the first floor. The first floor enables the barrels to age slowly and gracefully.’ Rich on the nose, with maple syrup and a hint of menthol, this expression is oily on the palate, fresh and lively, with fruit, pepper and pleasing oak notes. The finish boasts lingering pepper, with returning fruit and a final flavour of molasses. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, 63.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Glen Scotia, Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling 93:33 (Scotland)
Glen Scotia has long lived in the shadow of its more iconic Campbeltown neighbour Springbank, but at its best this is an underrated and characterful single malt deserving of greater appreciation. This SMWS bottling has a complex nose of ripe pears, caramel and brine, while the slightly oily palate features eating apples and wood smoke. The addition of water emphasises smoke and even gunpowder characteristics. The finish is long, nutty and gingery. A really good example of a whisky that can sometimes exhibit all the variability of West Coast weather. Exclusive to SMWS members. 64.3% ABV, 70cl, 49.00, SMWS.
Ardbeg, Blasda (Scotland)
Ardbeg Blasda may be considered by some connoisseurs of the great Islay whisky to be ‘Ardbeg Lite.’ It is bottled at the low strength (for this single malt) of 40%, and according to the distillers “By taming our usual mighty peating levels we have created Blasda, peated to an average of just 8 parts per million phenol (8ppm) compared to the more usual 24ppm.” This comparatively youthful expression carries no age statement and offers a light and gently peated nose with a hint of lemon juice. The body is less oily and rounded than many Ardbegs, and the palate boasts sweet peat and tinned peaches, moving to ripe eating apples. The finish is relatively short, initially fresh, with developing and intensifying spicy peat. An interesting offering, and a very well made whisky, but unlikely to satisfy the hardcore Ardbegophiles! 40.0% ABV, 70cl, 39.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Ardbeg, Corryvreckan (Scotland)
This Ardbeg Committee bottling is limited to just 5,000 bottles, and by contrast with Blasda, it provides everything a true Ardbeg veteran could desire. It is named after a famous whirlpool located to the north of the Isle of Jura. Bottled at high strength, it has a classic Ardbeg nose of peat smoke, tar, freshly-dug soil and medicine cabinets, a full and viscous body, and a mouth-coating, silky palate, with rich, sweet peat notes, plus lemon and salt. The finish is long, with peppery peat. As with Blasda, this expression is presumably quite young, as it has no age statement, but there the comparison ends. A really ballsy whisky. Worth seeking out, despite the hefty price tag. 57.1% ABV, 70cl, 189.99, thewhiskybarrel.com.
Glen Grant, 1992 Cellar Reserve (Scotland)
Under the ownership of the Campari Group we are seeing some welcome new expressions of this famous Speyside single malt, which has long been a best-seller in the Italian market. The vintage 1992 Cellar Reserve follows on the heels of a well-regarded Cask Strength 15-year-old: the first ever official, single cask, cask strength Glen Grant. The nose of ‘1992’ is medium-sweet, with ripening pears and a slightly heathery note, while the palate presents fresh fruit and malt, with developing nuttiness. The finish is medium in length, with hazelnuts and ginger. Available from specialist outlets in European markets, Sweden and the Glen Grant visitor centre shop in Rothes. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, 44.00, distillery visitor centre.
  

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