gavin smith




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Recent releases, May 2011

Whyte & Mackay, Mackinlay’s Shackleton Whisky Blend Replica (Scotland)
47.3%ABV Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Richard Paterson has painstakingly recreated the Mackinlay blended Scotch whisky as it would have been a century ago, based on analysis of a sample taken from one of the bottles recovered from beneath the Antarctic ice, where it had been left during Ernest Shackleton’s abortive 1907-09 attempt to reach the South Pole. At the heart of the blend is malt whisky from the now demolished Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness. Paterson notes that “It was a real privilege getting to handle, nose and taste such a rare and beautiful bottle of whisky. The quality, purity and taste of this 100-year-old spirit were amazing. The biggest surprise was the light flavour and the clear, almost vibrant colour of the liquid. I hope I have done our forefathers and Ernest Shackleton proud with the replica.” Five per cent of the proceeds from every sale are being donated back to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the New Zealand charity responsible for finding and uncovering the original whisky. If all 50,000 bottles produced sell out, the Trust will receive £250,000. Melons and printer’s ink on the relatively subtle nose, with salted popcorn and paper gum. Later a hint of plums, soy sauce, and a wisp of smoke. Soft, rounded and fruity on the palate, with nuts and brittle toffee, drying subtly with a hint of smoke. The finish is medium in length and mildly spicy. 47.3% ABV, 70cl, £100.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Jim Beam, Red Stag (USA)
Although marketed by producer Jim Beam as “...the first ever flavoured Bourbon for the UK market,” the word ‘Bourbon’ is conspicuous by its absence on labelling relating to this innovative new drink. This is presumably due to the sensitivity of the Bourbon industry, like the Scotch whisky industry, regarding the rigid definitions relating to their product. Introduced in the USA during 2009, Red Stag is aimed predominantly at 18-24-year-old professional males. According to Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc, “Made with four-year-old Jim Beam Bourbon, Red Stag by Jim Beam has been slowly infused with natural black cherry using a unique artisanal process, to create a sophisticated drink that retains the Jim Beam quality standard and 40% ABV. Red Stag is best served as a chilled shot, guaranteed to get the party started for those who like to enjoy life in the fast lane. Alternatively, its smooth, well-rounded taste makes for an equally enjoyable and refreshing long drink when mixed with Cola or ginger.” Marzipan, almonds and Morello cherries on the nose, which is relatively one-dimensional. Served ‘on the rocks,’ the nose becomes closer to strawberries and fresh cream. Easy-drinking, with little sense of alcohol, and little sense of Bourbon, either. Sweet and cloying, with an artificially-sweetened cherry flavour dominating. A suggestion of oak and slight spice, plus a rumour of Bourbon in the finish. Neither water nor ice makes any discernible difference to the palate. Improved by the addition of cola, and definitely one for the mixologists! 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £21.75, Asda.
Balblair, 10-year-old, Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Labels range (Scotland)
While ‘house’ bottlings of the Northern Highland malt Balblair are now issued as vintages, Gordon & MacPhail offer a 10-year-old expression in their Distillery Labels series. The latest variant, matured in American hogsheads, has recently been released. Meadows in springtime, silage and tinned peaches on the nose, with a herbal note developing in time. Slightly viscous, substantial in the mouth, sweet and creamy, with summer fruits and gentle spices. The finish is relatively long, with hints of dark chocolate. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £32.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Isle of Arran, Westie (Scotland)
This is the third edition in the ‘Icons of Arran’ series, and is named after Master Distiller James Mactaggart’s dog, Ruaraidh – a West Highland Terrier. Six thousand bottles of the expression have been released, and it comprises whisky distilled in 1998 and matured in 22 ex-Sherry hogsheads. Initially lemon sherbet on the nose, followed by American cream soda. Richer fruits, notably peaches, then emerge, accompanied by sweet Sherry. Warming and rounded on the palate, with toffee, malt, Sherry, nutmeg, milky coffee and hazelnuts. Spicy and smooth in the medium-length finish. 46.0% ABV, 70, £39.99, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Caol Ila, 1998, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection (Scotland)
The latest Caol Ila release in Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection line up was distilled in 1998 and has been finished in ex-Madeira casks. The result is a whisky which displays intense, rich, fruity peat aromas, with ginger, salt and white pepper. Full-bodied, with plums, apricots, raisins and a hint of vanilla, then emerging notes of peat and mulled wine. Spicy and peaty, with discreet dark chocolate in the rounded finish. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, £48.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Macallan, Royal Marriage Single Malt (Scotland)
To commemorate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, The Macallan has released a limited edition of 1,000 bottles, made from a vatting of one cask filled on 29th April 1996 and one filled on 29th April 1999. This follows a now highly sought-after bottling produced in 1981 in celebration of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Well-polished oak furniture and worn leather upholstery on the nose, with toffee, ginger, a whiff of ripe oranges and vanilla. Fresher fruits and more floral notes emerge with the addition of water. Caramel turning to treacle toffee on the palate; quite dry, with spice, barley and oak tannins. Finally, strong black coffee and liquorice in the lengthy finish. The liquorice element is accentuated by the addition of water. 46.8% ABV, 70cl, £150.00, distillery website.
Ledaig, 1990, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice range (Scotland)
Ledaig now comprises half the annual output of Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull, and peating levels have been increased during recent years. However, this example from Gordon & Macphail, matured in refill Sherry casks, predates the progressive cranking up of Ledaig peatiness and was distilled a year after the distillery re-opened, following several years of silence. The nose is initially very sweet, with nougat, malt and new leather. Quite waxy. Brine develops and the sweetness fades a little. Becoming nuttier and earthier. Medium-bodied, spicy and peppery, with grassy notes, roasted malt, and finally a hint of liquorice in the dry, mildly peaty finish. 43.0% ABV, 70cl, £37.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Kilchoman, Spring 2011 Release (Scotland)
This is the sixth single malt to be released by the Islay distillery of Kilchoman, and it a vatting of 70 per cent three-year-old spirit and 30 per cent four-year-old spirit, peated to 50ppm and matured in fresh Bourbon barrels. The four-year-old component was ‘finished’ in 20-year-old oloroso Sherry butts for five weeks prior to bottling. According to Kilchoman managing director Anthony Wills, “2011 is a very exciting year for everyone involved with Kilchoman as we launch some wonderful new expressions. In June we will launch our ‘100 per cent Islay’ single malt, from barley grown, malted, distilled, matured and bottled on Islay, and in November our first five- year-old will be bottled.” The Spring 2011 Release offers a vibrant nose; classically medicinal, with Germolene, smoked haddock, stem ginger, vanilla and orange wine gums. New leather when water is added. Big and leathery in the mouth, with sweet peat and bonfire smoke, plus vanilla pods. Slowly drying with persistent spice in the lengthy finish. Kilchoman continues to show great promise and a maturity well beyond its years. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £40.00, specialist whisky merchants.
  

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