Glenfiddich Fire & Cane, Aberlour Casg Annamh & More New Whisky

It’s a big week for whisky lovers with a host of new bottles to look out for—including some from Westeros. Although the Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection won’t be launching until later this year, we have information on the full lineup, which ranges from Lagavulin to Dalwhinnie to Talisker—and we’ll let you know when those whiskies are hitting shelves.

Meanwhile, Glenfiddich’s newest release is out, and it shows off a whole different side of the Speyside single malt. Fire & Cane is a peated whisky, finished in South American rum barrels, and it’s hitting shelves now. It will be widely available at $50 a bottle.

Another new, widely available Speyside single malt is coming your way this fall: Aberlour has announced a new whisky in its core lineup, Casg Annamh. Aged in first- and second-fill bourbon casks and finished in sherry casks, the whisky will hit the U.S. later this year at $65 a bottle. Like Aberlour A’bunadh, Casg Annam is a batched product, but will be consistently available, and according to Aberlour master distiller Graeme Cruickshank, more innovations from the distillery are coming. Watch this space!

Also coming soon: Johnnie Walker’s newest Blue Label special edition, Ghost and Rare Port Ellen. A follow-up to last year’s Ghost and Rare, which featured whiskies from three silent (“ghost”) distilleries, this blend includes some single malt from the fabled Port Ellen distillery. It closed in 1983, although in 2017 Diageo announced they would reopen the Islay distillery and restart whisky operations there. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen will hit shelves this October for $350 a bottle.

Diageo also owns the Mortlach brand, which it’s relaunching with a trio of age-statement single malts at 12, 16, and 20 years old. Happily for fans of the meaty, sulfury whisky, the prices are more reasonable than the previous Mortlach range: $50 for the 12 year old, $100 for the 16 year old, and $200 for the 20 year old. The whiskies will be in stores this fall.

Finally, Bulleit (also a Diageo brand, incidentally) is rolling out limited-edition packaging designed by tattoo artists. Available in New York, California, Texas, and Oregon, as well as in limited amounts nationwide, Bulleit Tattoo Edition is the same bourbon as in regular bottles of Bulleit, and costs the same as well—$25.

Read on for full details.

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: Not stated
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $50
Release: July 2018
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

The fourth release in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, Fire & Cane combines peated and unpeated whiskies (Glenfiddich started distilling small amounts of heavily peated whisky in 2003). The whisky is then finished in rum casks, sourced from a number of South American countries, for three months.

Whisky Advocate says:

Fire & Cane represents quite a change for Glenfiddich, which typically has a lightly fruity, soft Speyside style. A peated expression has previously been available only through the distillery’s Vintage Cask Collection, which is sold at duty-free stores, but Fire & Cane will be widely available and a permanent part of the lineup. Having tasted it last week, I can confidently say that it highlights both the familiar fruit flavors of the distillery as well as a whole new side—and it’s likely to find a lot of fans, especially for the price.

Aberlour Casg Annamh (Batch 001)

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: Not stated
Proof: 48% ABV
Price: $65
Release: Fall 2018
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

A new permanent addition to Aberlour’s core line, Casg Annamh (“rare cask” in Gaelic) is aged in both first- and second-fill bourbon casks, then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Like Aberlour A’bunadh, Casg Annamh will be released in batches; there will be about 6,000 bottles available in the first batch. Casg Annamh will be hitting the U.S. market this fall.

Whisky Advocate says:

Master distiller Graeme Cruickshank recently gave us a preview of Casg Annamh, noting what makes it different from the rest of the lineup: “The core range is a double-cask maturation, which is the sherry and American oak casks, traditionally first fills. But for the Casg Annamh we’ve mixed it up a little bit with first and second filled American oak, and sherry casks. The sherry’s still predominantly the main influence, but the combination of the two American oaks casks is keeping that through-DNA, that Aberlour spirit in there.” Cruickshank also noted that Aberlour has more innovations coming down the pike—so stay tuned.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

Style: Blended whisky
Origin: Scotland
Age: Not stated
Proof: 43.8% ABV
Price: $350
Release: Fall 2018
Availability: Limited edition

Need to know:

A follow up to the 2017 release of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare, which included whiskies from Brora, Pittyvaich, and Cambus, among others, this blend features single malt from Port Ellen on Islay. The distillery closed in 1983 but will soon reopen. In addition, this blend includes grain whiskies from Caledonian and Carsebridge (both closed), and single malts from Mortlach, Dailuaine, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban.

Whisky Advocate says:

Few scotch distilleries have managed to capture the mystique of Port Ellen, one of the most collectible names in the whisky world. Diageo holds a fair amount of old Port Ellen stocks, typically releasing some as part of its Special Releases every year—but not this year, perhaps because the company is using some of the whisky in this Johnnie Walker. Port Ellen diehards will likely want to try this expression to see if they can pick out the distillery’s influence in the blend. If you do this, let us know what you think in the comments.

Mortlach 12 year old Wee Witchie

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 12 years old
Proof: 43.4% ABV
Price: $50
Release: Fall 2018
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

This is a 12 year old single malt, made at Mortlach Distillery using its unique almost-triple distillation system, and named for the pot still called the “Wee Witchie.” It was matured in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks.

Mortlach 16 year old Distiller's Dram

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 16 years old
Proof: 43.4% ABV
Price: $100
Release: Fall 2018
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

Echoing the long-popular (and now-discontinued) Mortlach Flora and Fauna 16 year old, this single malt was aged in ex-sherry casks.

Mortlach 20 year old Cowie's Blue Seal

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 20 years old
Proof: 43.4% ABV
Price: $200
Release: Fall 2018
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

Aged 20 years in both ex-sherry and refill bourbon casks, this whisky is named after a private label produced for Alexander Cowie, who invented Mortlach’s unique 2.81 distillation method.

Whisky Advocate says:

For a long time, Mortlach was used mainly in blended whiskies and was only bottled as a 16 year old, part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. In 2014, the company decided to do away with that single expression and relaunch Mortlach as a luxury single malt. The lineup included Rare Old, 18 year old, and 25 year old, and the whiskies were quite pricy (and, outside the U.S., came only in 500-ml. bottles). Longtime Mortlach fans were dismayed that the highly regarded whisky was out of reach for many wallets.

Clearly, the strategy did not work, and Diageo has decided to once again relaunch Mortlach—this time with more sensible pricing in line with other whiskies of a similar age and provenance. It’s a good move, and I’m looking forward to tasting the new expressions.

Note that each of these whiskies is distilled using Mortlach’s truly unique 2.81 process, which the company describes thusly:

The Mortlach distilling process is known as ‘The Way,’ an approach which has remained unchanged since it was invented by George Cowie Sr.’s son, Dr. Alexander Cowie, in 1896. The process is executed through six unique copper pot stills encompassing three wash stills and three spirit stills. The result delivers almost triple distillation—hence the name 2.81. It is similar to having three distilleries in one still house. The multiple rounds of distillation of each spirit and the final, precise blending of all three result in the whisky’s thick, robust and rich distillery character.”

Bulleit Tattoo Edition

Style: Bourbon
Origin: Kentucky
Age: Not stated
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $25
Release: August 2018
Availability: Limited edition

Need to know:

This is regular Bulleit bourbon, packaged in a special bottle for a limited time. Bulleit Tattoo Edition features four unique tattoo designs, each created by a tattoo artist:

  • Jess Mascetti—New York
  • Shawn Barber—Los Angeles
  • Thomas Hooper—Austin, Texas
  • Jason Kundell—Portland, Oregon

The artists’ respective bottles will be sold in their home states, and some bottles will be available nationwide.

Whisky Advocate says:

Although the whiskey inside isn’t new, if you’re a Bulleit fan, or into cool-looking bottles, this might be worth picking up. The price is the same as regular Bulleit, and it’s sure to stand out on your shelf.

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