Whisky Intelligence has reproduced (with permission) The Gauntleys Whisky Newsletter for April 2007; a look back in time. The author, Chris Goodrum, has some excellent insights into the whiskies being commented on which makes for excellent reading on a Sunday. Enjoy!
Dear Whisky Customers
Bottling it young ? Is this the future for the Industry?
So the future of whisky in general is looking pretty peachy. The far east insatiable appetite for a wee dram seems to be on an explanation upward curve. Diageo has announced a £80 billion investment in boosting it malt and grain production along with plans for a new distillery, with the preferred location being Roseisle on Speyside, while the Cameronbridge grain distillery in Fife will be expanded. Planning consents for the Roseisle site are being sought, with construction expected to begin this year. It is hoped the distillery will open in 2009 with the first mature spirit available from 2012.
Even Bruichladdich has announced plans for expansion. Now the company is to apply for planning permission to recreate Port Charlotte Distillery, at a cost of £3-4million, inside the shell of the original warehouse buildings, which are still intact. The new full-sized distillery, which will benefit from a separate visitor centre, will have a maximum capacity of 1.2million litres and will be producing Port Charlotte brand whisky. The distilling equipment for the Port Charlotte project has already been acquired from the now closed Inverleven Distillery, Dumbarton. The entire single malt plant was dismantled by a team from Bruichladdich and the machinery was then shipped to the island on barges where it has been in storage, with some parts used for spares. So as Port Charlotte has been distilled at the Bruichladdich since 2001, the new distillery will be in an unenviable position of having an eight-year-old stock on its first day of production.
So why isn’t everyone happy? Well it’s like this. Speaking to a few of the Independents in the industry I asked the usual ‘What’s new?’ question, and the answer was less than enthusiastic. It would appear that the industry as a whole is a bit jittery and worried about not having enough stock of aged spirits to supply a rising demand, thus for the Independents there is very little whisky of age available on the market. This leaves them with a bit of a problem. Do they: a) Bottle whatever they can get their hands on, irrespective of the quality, b) Bottle good quality younger malt that is available but nowhere near ready for bottling – and we all know that both of those things happen. So as Gordon Wright said? We’ll all be drinking wood finished Vodka before long!?
But being serious for a moment, this is bad news for the Independent bottling companies that do not have extensive warehousing facilities like say Gordon & MacPhail or for younger companies that do not have the contacts within the industry. Will we soon start to see and end of the reasonably priced, esoteric bottlings that these companies release, and will be held to ransom by the big boys like Diageo and LVMH who will be content to ‘whoops happen find’ another few casks of ancient whatever and slap a ludicrous price tag on it, putting it way out of the reach of us ordinary mortals. Mentioning no names but do you ever get the feeling you’ve being fleeced??, surely I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I may not be the only one in the industry to feel this way, but how many others are saying it? I wonder why?
So while I’m on my soap box, time to have a dig at the whisky magazine, why you ask. Well it awards time once again and who took the prize for single retailer of the year, Berry Bro’s with Gordon & MacPhail, Loch Fine Whiskies and The Wine shop at Leek getting a nomination. Now I’ve absolutely no problem with Berry’s winning at all, it’s not a case of sour grapes, but this is what they wrote about them ? Personal service is paramount when you walk through the doors and the helpful and knowledgeable staff are on hand to guide you through the dazzling array of whiskies? No, no problem with that, but what makes them better than us? Is it because they all bottle their own range of single malts, or is it because I’m just a tad too outspoken?
Well Rob Allanson (Mr Editor) if you are reading this then maybe you can enlighten me. I mean it’s not like I haven’t invited them to take a look at what we are doing. Now I can hear what you are thinking ?You just want a gong, or to get your face in the magazine, can’t you just be satisfied with knowing that you are doing a good job and just sell me some whisky!?. Well yes I can take a certain amount of satisfaction that I believe that I’m doing a good job and that my views and opinions are regard within the industry, but let’s be honest, we all like to stand on the podium clutching a gong, blubbing conspicuously and thanking all and sundry for their support!
But being serious for a minute, if I don’t make a noise about what we are doing here then who will? Anyway enough of this and onto the reviews.
NEW ALCHEMIST BOTTLINGS
Gordon Wright has been raiding his pension fund. If the truth be told he would have preferred to hang on to the Port Charlotte for a few more years, but like many independents the commercial concerns out weighed this desire. In saying that the Port Charlotte is an exceptionally good spirit, and the reason that it is approachable so young is because he believes that distillers are now concentrating more on the quality of the spirit rather than in terms of quantity of pure alcohol distilled. I think this is very evident from the rash of young bottlings like this, the Ardbeg very young and the Laphraoig quarter cask. I asked him if he had managed to stash some Octomore in his fund, but he replied that the distillery have sold no casks to private individuals, so not even he could get hold of one!
Gordon only bottled two casks of the Port Charlotte, so there isn’t very many bottles of it available, so if you missed out on the PC5 I would grab one whilst you can. In saying that he has a further two casks which may or may not be bottled later this year.
Port Charlotte 5 year old 46% £37.95
Clean, smoky aromas. Very fruity with loads of iodine and Laphroaig-esque peat. Lovely sweet fruit and a touch of cereal. Very much the equal of the Ardbeg still young ? possibly better. Lovely sweet entry, with soft apricot and honeysuckle, a touch of ‘off the still’ cereal with surprisingly gentle Laphroaig-esque peat building to a tangy finish. This is incredibly sweet, not cloying sweet, just fruit sweet with a late salt and coal dust note drifting in. Unlike the distillery bottling this is 100% Bourbon cask and is far closer to the almost new make sample I tried awhile ago.
Springbank 10 year old 46% £37.95
This is a vatting of one third Bourbon cask and two thirds Port cask aged malt. A deep, rich and extremely fruity nose. Candied orange fruit, port notes, spice, sweet bourbon oak and costal notes. Lovely balance with a slight perfumed note, A lot less girly than the Murray McDavid bottling, it develops an earthy/ bog myrtle/ medicinal peat note over time. On the palate it is quiet sweet with creamy red winey fruit (berries), bourbon oak and buckets of salt on the middle. Youthful and intense with coal dust and earthy peat coating the palate. Perfectly integrated, one of the best wine cask matured malts I’ve tasted in a long time.
NEW JOHN McDOUGAL BOTTLINGS
I received three new samples from John, two of which were Macallans. Now John has bottled some very good Macallans over the years, mainly bourbon matured, and these were no exception. The 1991 (15 year old) 57% had all the classic John McDougall signature vanilla oak, but there was just too much of it, it swamped any distillery character and really lacked the finesse of some of his earlier bottlings. The second sample of the same age, but bottled at 50% had a better balance, with lovely sooty, coal dust notes but was incredibly short. I know John will hate me for saying this but these were not his best selection. However all was redeemed by the Linkwood which was a classic, but in my opinion only if drunk neat. Tasting notes follow.
Linkwood 1990 (16 year old) 52.6% £TBC
Clean, crisp grass, citrus lemon, lime and apricot fruit with a touch of menthol. Very rounded, big and fruity with lashings of balanced oak, plus a delicious floral top note. On the palate it is very creamy, a lovely mouth feel with the oak and fruit in perfect harmony. With delicious creamy apricot and white fruits and gentle sweet spices. Yum, this is damn good. Finishes with a slight juniper/ botanical note. A drop of water brings about a dramatic change bringing out lanolin/ wool fat flavours and emphasizing the spices, hence my suggestion to drink neat.
A ROUND UP OF TASTINGS
According to the label this has spent 3 months in sherry cask, not that you would know it. Basically it is new make spirit and it is always interesting to taste new make spirit. If you are interested it is available via their website www.kilchomandistillery.com priced at £4.99 each. It has a strongly peated nose with lots of manure and ‘off the still’ cereal, yet there is a pleasant sweetness to the spirit. On the palate, not surprisingly the ‘off the still’ cereal dominates, and it is not as peaty as the nose would suggest, sweet-ish, slightly oily, at the moment, not surprisingly it is a bit one-dimensional, but it will be interesting to see what a bit of cask influence will do as on first tasting it is quiet unlike any of the other Islay distilleries malts.
Amrut Indian Single Malt 40%
The sales rep was trying to convince me that their 3 year old malt tasted a lot older. ‘A lot of people think it is an aged Spey when tasted blind’ he told me. Now the main reason for bottling it at this young age is a necessity due to the hot weather, which accelerates the maturation time but also robs it of a huge ‘angels share’, so if they left in the cask for longer there would be practically a teaspoon left. So does it taste like an aged Spey? Well on the nose I can see why many would think so, it is very sweet with an almost Bourbon-esque aroma of oily vanillins, old honey, banana custard, toffee and loads of wood. On the palate it is sweet, sweet, sweet! A bit straightforward with soft fruit, vanilla, butter and toffee, along with a late pepper and spice note, yet there is no escaping its sweetness.
Mackmyra Preludium:03 Swedish Single Malt 52%
Another 3 year old. Big, rich and fruity. Banana fritters coated in honey and toffee. Lots of sherry cask evident with manure, marzipan, old lanolin, demerara sugar and banoffi pie! Dry, soft yet intense on the palate, lightly honied, demerara sugar coated sherry fruit. A bit simple, oily with malt, cereal and a slight butter note on the middle. The nose displays a great deal more complexity than the palate, although on this evidence it should be amazing in a few years time.
And finally something with a bit of age!
Ardbeg Arigh Nam Beist 1990 (16 year old) 43% £52.95
Initially slightly soapy aromas of vanilla, linseed oil and mature, crisp smoky citrus fruit, light vegetation and a floral note, followed by a touch of kippers and charred wood. Oily on the palate with soft, gentle peat, seaweed and blood oranges. Lovely depth with an intense, tangy middle of coastal bomfires, roasted meat and a touch of coal tar and soft peat. A long, mellow finale with a touch of liquorice, coffee and a dry, salty finish. A lovely old Ardbeg with a peppery bite!
Dewar Rattray Miltonduff 1980 (26 year old) 48% £67.95
A lovely nose, full of rich orange fruit, tea, vanilla, old honey, floor polish, herbs and sweet oak. Very herbal with leafy fauna and a good maturity. Very dry on the palate, obviously mature with herbal infused fruit, heather, wood and tea, light oil, old honey and floor polish. Surprisingly salty on the finish. It reminds me a of a Guyana rum. A drop of water emphasizes the coffee, orange fruit and floor polish bringing out a floral top note. On the palate it lengthens and softens the dry/ stalky wood tannins and brings out the old honey and maturity. Bottled just at the right time.
Right that’s it for now, apart from wishing you all a Happy Easter.
Orders and comments to the usual place.