Death’s Door White Whisky

This story was recently published (in German) in the latest issue of Mixology Magazine.

Let’s say I placed two glasses in front of you. In one glass I poured some vodka, and into the other, some newly distilled whisky.

Could you, without tasting, tell me which was which?

Of course you couldn’t – as all newly distilled spirits are colourless – a fact that surprises some. There are those who do not realize that whiskies (unless artificially coloured) gain all of their colour from the oak casks in which they are aged.

And interestingly, while the oak maturation is the main factor in creating the flavours of aged whiskies, newly distilled whisky (called “New Make Spirit” and often referred to as “White Dog” by American whiskey distillers) have flavours which are distinctive to the ingredients with which and process by which they were distilled.

New make spirits are often floral, fruity, slightly sweet and show a distinct graininess. Many are pleasantly surprised to find that new make spirits (when properly constructed) can be quite enjoyable – while often bearing little resemblance to the whiskies they will become.

In the UK, where whisky must be aged a minimum of 3 years before it is eligible to be sold as whisky, start-up distilleries often turn to bottling and selling new make spirit as a short term solution to bridge the gap between start-up costs and profitability.

These new make spirits are something of an oddity – rarely achieving wide distribution – often only available at the distillery.

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Some secrets are meant for sharing.

A mysterious box showed up  this past week. I finally got the courage (and time) to open it up this morning.

Inside was a dossier, 2 tasting glasses, a very cool memory card and best of all…a bottle of the newly released Benromach 10 year old whisky.

More on the package in a bit, but first a little history on the Benromach distillery:

Purchased by Gordon & MacPhail in 1993,  the Benromach distillery was not immediately ready to move into production:

An opportunity to buy Benromach Distillery presented itself and we grabbed it with both hands!” says Ian Urquhart.

But when we purchased Benromach there wasn’t a great deal left behind by the previous owners,” adds David Urquhart, Ian’s younger brother. “Indeed the buildings, spirit receiver, wood from the larch wash backs and the distilleries distinctive near 100-foot chimney, were virtually the only things remaining.”

Before beginning the project of re-equipping the distillery we carefully considered the amount and indeed style of single malt we wished to produce. This involved a great deal of planning and research before we started,” continues Ian.

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It’s Back. But Legal.

Months ago I alluded that John would be resurrecting his Spice Tree Whisky. That time is now.

If you are new to the world of Whisky you may be saying “The Spice Tree“? What the hell is that?

Read my original Story on The Spice Tree: The Spice of Life (October 2005)

The original Spice Tree created quite a following due to its flavour profile, so after the Scotch Whisky Association forced us to stop making it, I was determined to find a more “acceptable” way to achieve the same style,” explains whiskymaker John Glaser. “It’s taken almost four years, but we’ve done it.

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The Dalmore Launches First Ever 18 Year Old

The Dalmore has launched a new 18 year old expression for the first time in its illustrious 170 year history.

Only 3000 bottles worldwide will be available in this first release, they are expected to sell for approximately £85 per 70cl bottle.

The 18 year old version of the iconic luxury brand comes in a regal and rich deep blue carton, a colour chosen because it’s the official royal colour for King Alexander III whose life was saved from a charging stag by the Clan Mackenzie back in 1263.

The clan, long owners of The Dalmore distillery North of Inverness, were gifted the right to use the 12 pointer stag – called a “royal” stag – which has now become synonymous with the quality and luxury associated with the The Dalmore brand.

To this end, the hand crafted and iconic metal stag’s head, normally reserved for the more prestigious expressions in The Dalmore range, is being introduced to the 18 year old as standard.

Head of brand for The Dalmore, David Robertson, said: “So many people love the solid metal stag’s head that we decided to make it more widely available as it’s a true badge of quality, and justifiably adorns this highly revered and sought after single malt. The new 18 year old seemed the perfect place to start this wider roll out offering discerning consumers a stunning trophy for their drinks collection.

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Malt Whisky Yearbook – ‘10 edition

Jesus Christ. Is it almost 2010?

Weren’t we supposed to have flying cars and a female American president by now?

Well those predictions were wrong.

But I AM predicting that the 2010 version of the Malt Whisky Yearbook will be published on October 1st.

And THAT is a prediction that you can count on.

Ingvar Ronde tells me “I think I can safely say it will be the best edition ever!”

Considering how good all the previous years editions have been, Ingvar has set himself up with some high  standards.

I believe him.

Published by MagDig Media Ltd.

Publication date; 1 October 2009

Number of pages; 276

ISBN 978-0-9552607-6-6

Recommended retail price in UK; £12.95

Dewar’s Discovery Gift Set

Hey kids, It’s a early Scotchmas idea….

The specially designed gift set consists of three 200-millileter bottles of Dewar’s top scotches, including the Dewar’s 18 Founder’s Reserve, currently being released for the first time in the United States in limited quantities. Dewar’s 18 is flanked by Dewar’s 12 and Signature, the top-shelf luxury scotch.

The custom- sized bottles come in a genuine leather case that can later be used to hold small items and even cigars.

The Dewar’s Discovery Gift Set retails for $100 and is available nationwide at local spirits outlets.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Launches Today

The iconic whisky distillery Ardbeg – which has won the coveted World Whisky of the Year title two years running – announces today (Tuesday 1 September) the launch of Ardbeg Corryvreckan, a whisky inspired by the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Corryvreckan is Europe’s largest, and the world’s second largest whirlpool. It lies near Jura and Islay, Ardbeg’s island home.

Considered by the Royal Navy as one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the British Isles, the Corryvreckan whirlpool can be heard from a distance of 10 miles. The whirlpool’s raw, magnetic power exactly mirrors Ardbeg – the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay whiskies.

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You gotta have Hjarta. I do.

I am WOEFULLY behind on my tasting notes. Not just whiskies but spirits of all sorts.
And when companies go out of their way to send you a review sample (or a bottle) they expect that you’ll review it.

Rest assured Spirits friends…I have lots and lots of unopened bottles laying around.

Today, a sample of Hjarta showed up, so I thought I’d try to get back on the review horse with this new limited edition (and limited availability) whisky.

First the bad news. It’s not going to show up in most liquor stores. It’s only available from the distillery; via the Highland Park online shop (which does not ship outside of the UK, I believe); or in Scandanavia.

OK, there’s more bad news. There’s only 3,900 bottles. So even in those limited outlets, it might be hard to get some.

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Now that’s a looker

If it tastes half as good as it looks…Bruichladdich has another winner on their hands.

Octomore  is now 7%  more peaty than the inaugural 2008 record-breaker.

The peatiness, at 140 ppm (parts per million) in the original malted barley, gives this whopper a huge peat smoke punch, almost 30% more than its nearest rival to the title.

It is referred to as ‘the iron fist in a velvet glove’ owing to the whisky’s surprisingly subtle charms, and is distilled at Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery by head distiller Jim McEwan:

“It’s a great equation: massive peat + Bruichladdich elegance = awesome spirit. We dialed up the peating level of this 2nd bottling of Octomore because it seemed churlish not to. But Octomore is not for the feint-hearted. At this peating level it is for savouring; a little goes an awful long way. Taste with minimal water to appreciate and share in its evolution. Dr Riffkin, Tatlock & Thompson’s analyst that certified the whisky, told me: “this is the highest peating level we have ever seen – by miles.”

Kilchoman to Release Whisky in September

Back in January 2007 I wrote a story about my visit to Kilchoman (the visit had actually happened in September of 2006).

At that time I wrote:

When can I buy it?
While you cannot yet purchase Kilchoman whisky (and won’t be able to until 2009 when approximately 3,000 bottles will be offered) you can purchase (in the gift shop) miniature bottles of Kilchoman new make spirit.

I tried the undiluted 50 ppm new make (around 68% abv) and found it to be quite good – very clean and crisp, sweet but with very strong peat and smoke.

Like so many other new distilleries, Kilchoman plans to do releases
every year starting with the three-year old in 2009 and continuing with yearly releases until the whisky reaches 10 years. They also plan to hold back stock for very limited older bottlings.

Well, guess what? It’s 2009 and Kilchoman is finally ready to release their whisky… But they are waiting until the (possibly significant) 9th of September (09-09-09, get it?)

Back when I tried the new make spirit, I found it to be one of the most pleasant NMS I had ever tried. I have no doubt the final product will be a great addition to the tradition of interesting and varied Islay whiskies.

Kilchoman Distillery, the first built on Islay for nearly 100 years, will release its eagerly anticipated inaugural single malt whisky on the 9th September 2009. Initially bottles will be allocated to 14 key malt markets worldwide as well being available from the distillery shop and via the on-line shop.

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