Recent releases, November 2010
|Suntory, Hakushu Heavily Peated Single Malt (Japan) |
Drinkers of Japanese whisky are more familiar with Suntory’s Yamazaki range than malts from its sister distillery of Hakushu. Hakushu is located on the edge of the Southern Japan Alps, west of Mount Fuji, and was established in 1973. It is an extremely flexible distillery, with stills of varying shapes, sizes, configurations and heating methods.
The latest Hakushu release is of heavily-peated spirit, which carries no age statement and is not chill-filtered prior to bottling. It has been matured in American white oak hogsheads. The nose offers sweet peat, iodine, new leather, apricots, vanilla and a whiff of coal tar soap. Fruitier with the addition of water. Peat, plus tinned peaches in syrup on the palate. More ashy with water. Lingering in the finish, with ginger and sweet oak.
48.0% ABV, 70cl, £75.00, specialist whisky merchants.
|Isle of Arran, 14-year-old (Scotland) |
This new expression (2010) from the Isle of Arran distillery is intended to replace the well-regarded 12-year-old, and is part of the ultimate core range, which will consist of 10, 14 and 18-year-olds, though we will have to wait a while for the 18-year-old, as the distillery only came on stream in 1995!
This variant was re-racked into fresh Bourbon barrels and Sherry hogsheads two years ago, and one-third of the component whisky comes from European oak and two-thirds from American oak. The result is a classically fruity Arran, with the Sherry wood providing depth and resonance.
Very fragrant and perfumed on the nose, with peaches, brandy and ginger snaps, plus vanilla and mild oak. Smooth and creamy on the palate, with spicy summer fruits, apricots and hazelnuts. The lingering finish is spicy, biscuity and slowly drying, with just a hint of salt.
46.0% ABV, 70cl, £38.95, specialist whisky merchants.
|Bowmore, 1981 Vintage (Scotland) |
This new expression from Islay’s oldest distillery is the first in a projected series of vintage releases, with just 402 bottles available worldwide. Matured in an ex-Bourbon cask, it is presented in a wooden gift box with a leather strap and copper buckle. Each bottle is also accompanied by a certificate, hand-signed and numbered by the distillery manager, Eddie McAffer.
Ozone, rock salt and mildly medicinal on the nose, with light, fresh fruit notes and caramel. Becoming smokier and with accentuated caramel over time. Lively and fruity on the palate, with mild smoke and salt through the slightly effervescent finish. 49.6% ABV, 70cl, £270.00, specialist whisky merchants.
|Bowmore, 40 Years Old (Scotland) |
A mere 53 bottles of this veteran Bowmore variant are on sale, with the whisky in question being distilled on 29th March 1969 and filled into American ex-Bourbon cask number 2161. Each bottle has been hand-blown and is sculpted with molten glass and stones collected from the Islay shore. Additionally, hand-engraved silver collars have been fitted to the bottles, which are presented on polished slabs of natural slate.
More medicinal, maritime and smoky than the 1981 Vintage, backed up by vanilla and oranges in syrup. Much fruiter that the Vintage, too. Rich stewed fruits on the palate, becoming progressively peatier. Long and consistent in the firm finish, with no negative wood impact. A superb survivor!
44.8% ABV, 70cl, £6,500.00, specialist whisky merchants.
|Balvenie, Peated Cask 17-year-old (Scotland) |
William Grant & Sons’ Balvenie single malt has seen a significant number of what the marketing folk call ‘range extensions’ during the past few years, and the latest is Peated Cask. It comprises a mixture of 17-year-old Balvenie matured in new wood and 17-year-old Balvenie that has been finished in casks which previously contained a batch of heavily-peated Balvenie, distilled in 2001 and not so far released.
According to Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart, “There is peatiness in the expression, but you still get the honey and other essential Balvenie characteristics coming through when you sample it.”
Vanilla, fresh fruit and floral notes on the nose, with some leaf mulch and just a hint of sweet wood smoke. The palate is initially spicy, with fresh oak, toffee and cloves. Developing spicy mango, soot and peat notes. Medium length in the finish, with lots of ginger and black pepper at the very end.
43.0% ABV, 70cl, £71.99, specialist whisky merchants.
|Balvenie, Forty (Scotland) |
In addition to Peated Cask, The Balvenie has also released a 40-year-old expression, aged in a mixture of seven ex-Sherry casks and refill hogsheads. Just 150 hand-numbered bottles are available, and are exclusive to travel retail outlets at selected international airports.
According to Malt Master David Stewart, “The Balvenie’s enduring commitment to quality and craftsmanship ensured any casks with the potential to mature beautifully for many decades are allowed to continue doing so. This has also meant we’re fortunate enough to have some highly aged casks at The Balvenie distillery which we’re proud to be able to offer to single malt enthusiasts the world over. The rich flavour and unique characteristics of The Balvenie Forty are the result of this careful preparation and craftsmanship.”
Rich, mellow and beautifully balanced on the nose. Sweet, with oak, sultanas, peaches, honey, vanilla and a whiff of worn leather. The palate is vibrant and luscious, with ginger, stewed fruits and developing bitter chocolate. Slowly and elegantly drying in the finish, with aniseed and liquorice sticks.
48.5% ABV, 70cl, £2,500.00, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
|Glendullan, Managers’ Choice Release 4 (Cask #12718) (Scotland) |
Although Glendullan is available in the USA under the Singleton of Glendullan banner, this single malt from Dufftown on Speyside is not easy to find in Europe. This 13-year-old expression has been matured in a rejuvenated European oak cask, which was filled on 13th December 1995.
Slightly perfumed on the nose, with spicy malt, toasted cereal and vanilla. Full-bodied, with fresh fruit, cooked oranges, cloves and oak on the palate. The finish is medium in length and nicely balanced, with aniseed a final hint of ginger.
58.7% ABV, 70cl, £175.00, specialist whisky merchants.
|Auchroisk, Managers’ Choice Release 4 (Cask #11323) (Scotland) |
If Glendullan is relatively hard to find, then Auchroisk, distilled near the Speyside town of Keith, is even more elusive. Since the days of the Singleton of Auchroisk expression in the 1980s and ’90s, only a Flora & Fauna bottling and a 1974 Rare Malt variant have been released by Diageo. This 9-year-old example has been matured in an ex-Sherry hogshead, which was filled on 8th October 1999.
The nose is a little spirity and offers orange and vanilla, with a slightly dirty malt backdrop. On the palate gingery oak and caramel blend with tropical fruit notes. Drying in the relatively short finish, with nutty oak.
60.6% ABV, 70cl, £175.00, specialist whisky merchants.