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Recent releases, December 2012

Johnnie Walker, The Spice Road (Scotland)
The Spice Road is the first release in the ‘Trade Routes’ series of Johnnie Walker whiskies which will take their inspiration from the travelling heritage of the famous brand and are to be offered exclusively in travel retail outlets. Steve White, Marketing Director of Diageo Global Travel and Middle East, says that “Travel is in the DNA of Johnnie Walker, and it is these credentials that we feel will resonate with today’s travellers, who are undertaking bold journeys of their own.” In terms of the actual blend, Master Blender Jim Beveridge notes that “To create the intense spicy flavour profile of Johnnie Walker The Spice Road we used well-matured single malts and grains, presenting all their fresh vibrant distillery characters, aged in carefully selected, high quality American oak casks; and of course there is a trace of west coast smoke in the background - revealing the classic Johnnie Walker signature.” Vanilla, cream soda, hints of pine, herbs and nutmeg on the nose. A smooth mouth-feel, with immediate cloves , ginger and honey. Freshly sawn timber and enduring lively spices in the smoky finish, with a suggestion of chili. 40.0% ABV, 100cl, €36.90, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
Bunnahabhain, 40-year-old (Scotland)
Bunnahabhain has released 750 numbered and signed bottles of 40-year-old single malt, after Master Distiller Ian Macmillan discovered a number of ‘forgotten’ casks, originally filled for Glasgow wine merchants JG Turney. “It was an exhilarating moment to stumble on such a special find,” says Macmillan. “There are very few 40-year-old Islays, and unlike any other, Bunnahabhain’s taste is considered unique because the distillery does not heavily peat the fine malted barley.” An inviting nose of apple pie with cinnamon, vanilla ice cream and milk chocolate. Salted popcorn. Molasses and a suggestion of sweet bonfire smoke with time. The palate is very sweet and fruity, then dries slowly. The finish is long and mildly tannic, with black pepper, musty oak, and a hint of smoke. 41.7% ABV, 70cl, £1,999, specialist whisky merchants.
Lidl, 33 Year Old Maxwell Highland Single Malt (Scotland)
This time last year Aldi launched high-profile, bargain-priced 24-year-old Glen Marnoch (29.99) and 40-year-old Glenbridge (£49.99) single malts, and now rival supermarket chain Lidl is offering a 33-year-old single malt in the run up to Christmas. ‘Maxwell’ comes from an unspecified Highland distillery and offers a nose that is initially peppery, before a musty resin note develops, followed by spicy orange and hints of vanilla. Violets emerge with time. More fruit and a suggestion of chill on the slightly smoky palate, while oakiness soon comes through. The finish is medium in length and slightly tannic. Fruitier and spicier with the addition of water. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £39.99, Lidl.
Glen Orrin, 30 Year Old (Scotland)
Aldi’s pre-Christmas answer to Lidl’s Maxwell Highland single malt is this 30-year-old blended Scotch whisky, with 3,000 bottles available in Aldi’s 44 Scottish stores. Aldi claims that it is “less than a third of the average price for a premium, aged whisky.” Cocoa powder, vanilla, spices and white pepper on the nose, with sultanas and ripe peaches in time. Water releases fragrant, tropical fruits. Fruity and gently spicy on the palate, with walnuts and soft oak notes. A hint of old leather when diluted. Dries slowly, with aniseed and oak in a medium length finish. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £49.99, Aldi.
Caol Ila, 14 years old (Diageo Special Releases 2012) (Scotland)
The Special Releases series has seen bottlings of unpeated Caol Ila being very well received, though the Islay distillery no longer makes seasonal batches of ‘Highland style’ spirit, such is the demand for peated Islays. This is the oldest release of unpeated Caol Ila to date, and the first to have undergone maturation in ex-sherry casks. Zesty lemon and wet grass on the nose, becoming salted popcorn and ultimately caramel. Initially, fresh fruits – notably peaches and apricots on the palate – on the palate, with malt and honey, followed by drier, saltier notes. Drying in a lengthy, briny finish, with fruitiness always present. 59.3% ABV, 70cl, £66.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Lagavulin, 12 years old (Diageo Special Releases 2012) (Scotland)
Just as unpeated Caol Ilas have become an anticipated part of the annual Special Releases programme, so have cask strength 12-year-old Lagavulins. The 2012 version has been matured in ex-Bourbon casks, and what Diageo only refers to as “limited numbers” are available. Brine, hand-rolling tobacco, developing cocoa powder and ultimately bonfire smoke on the nose. Big and spicy on the tarry palate, slightly mashy, with vanilla and Granny Smith apples, but drying quite rapidly. Water releases nuttier notes. The finish is quite dry and briny, with a squeeze of lemon. 56.1% ABV, 70cl, £71.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Lagavulin, 21 years old (Diageo Special Releases 2012) (Scotland)
Lagavulin was previously bottled as a 21-year-old in 2007, and rapidly achieved cult status. The second bottling at that age has similarly been matured in first-fill European oak ex-sherry casks, and 2,772 bottles have been released. The nose is mellow and oily, with melon, avocado, brine and finally figs and fondant, with a wisp of peat smoke. Luscious mouth-feel, spicy and fruity, with milk chocolate-coated raisins, then antiseptic arriving in time. The finish is long and slowly drying, with smouldering peat, ginger and faint Germolene. 52.0% ABV, 70cl, £350.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Speyburn, 25 Year Old (Scotland)
The 25-year-old expression of single malt from Inver House Distillers’ plant on the outskirts of the Speyside distilling centre of Rothes has undergone a dramatic makeover, now being presented in a wooden box which is signed by distillery manager Bobby Anderson, while a pair of engraved tasting cups accompanies the bottle. The whisky itself is matured in a mixture of American white oak Fino sherry and Bourbon casks. Lemon curd, root ginger, a hint of ripe banana, vanilla and orange blossom on the nose. The palate is very fruity, with peaches and mangoes, brittle toffee and more vanilla and ginger. The finish dries slowly, with mild tannins and persistent dark orange notes. 46.0% ABV, 70, £195.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Port Ellen, 35-year-old (Douglas Laing Old & Rare series) (Scotland)
Glasgow-based independent bottlers Douglas Laing & Co reputedly have the most comprehensive inventory of Port Ellen single malt in Scotland, and their association with the whisky dates back to the company founder, Fred Laing, whose favourite dram it was. This recent ‘Old & Rare’ release was distilled at the now lost Islay distillery in 1977. Buttery sweetness and wood fire embers on the nose, with developing pepper, pine needles and mild antiseptic, plus a hint of leather. Sparkling citrus fruits on the supple palate, notably orange zest, plus black coffee and soft peat. The finish is medium to long, with chili peppers and coal soot, but no adverse oakiness, despite the whisky’s advanced age. 49.3% ABV, 70cl, £660, specialist whisky merchants.
Mortlach, Scotch Malt Whisky Society ‘Harmonious instruments play on the tongue,’76.96 (Scotland)
This single cask expression was distilled at Mortlach distillery in Dufftown on 4th March 1987 and matured in a refill ex-Bourbon hogshead before being bottled at 25 years of age. The outturn was 246 bottles. The nose is initially shy if fragrant, with celery, melon and Maltesers developing, followed in time by overt nougat, contrasting with a subtle pipe tobacco note. The palate starts out with candied sweetness, then salt and black pepper and citrus fruit. The finish is medium in length, with attractive notes of oak. 55.2% ABV, 70cl, £79.50, SMWS.
  

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