Archive for the ‘Travel Retail’ Category

Beyond Solera Reserve: 3 new Glenfiddich solera vat whiskies

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Dave BroomDave Broom follows up his investigation of Glenfiddich’s solera vats from the current issue of Whisky Advocate.

Could it be that solera marrying* might be about to gain momentum? If the scenes earlier this year at Glenfiddich are an indication, then it could well be true. Three new solera vats, built by local coopers Joseph Brown of Dufftown, were installed at the distillery. The first two whiskies married in them were released last week, with a third planned for April next year.

Select Cask, Reserve Cask and Vintage Cask are all no age statement bottlings, and will be exclusive to Global Travel Retail, offering three different perspectives on the distillery’s personality; one of which will take many by surprise.

Glenfiddich_Brian KinsmanLR

Brian Kinsman, Wm. Grant & Sons master blender

“What happens inside a solera vat has been of interest to me for years,” Brian Kinsman, master blender at William Grant & Sons told Whisky Advocate. “It is a way to get consistency, but the way in which the process is also a way to create depth and complexity fascinates me. I’ve used the same principle as behind the 15 year old Solera Reserve to create these new brands, but in order to create three distinct flavor profiles.”

As with the original, the new solera vats will only ever be half-emptied and it is believed that it is this residual liquid which adds new elements to the final product.

The first two to be released are Select Cask, from a solera vat of 27,000 liters; a melding of American oak, sherry, and some red wine cask-matured Glenfiddich. Reserve Cask comes from a 13,000 liter solera vat and is composed of 100% Spanish oak refill and first fill butts.

Select Cask promotes Glenfiddich’s more light and fruity side with an overwhelming aroma of fresh William pear, florals, and raspberry. It will retail at £39 for a 1-liter bottle.

The Reserve Cask, not surprisingly given its wood makeup, goes deeper, showing dried fruits, candied peels, leather, spice, and sultana. A 1-liter bottle will be £49.

The last member of the triumvirate, Vintage Cask, also comes from a 13,000 liter vat and is a mixing of first and refill bourbon, and a little sherry butt, “for mouthfeel”.  The surprise is how peaty it is.

“This is going back to the style of Glenfiddich 100 years ago,” explains Kinsman, “when we had a touch of peat in the whisky. We’ve been making a small amount of peated whisky for over 12 years now and this element forms a small part of the overall vatting.” The peat shows itself as bonfire smoke on the nose with ferns, citrus, and a little malt, but this smokiness becomes more restrained on the palate, where it’s joined by with ripe fruits and pepper.”

It will be launched in April 2014 and retail for £79. Full tasting notes will appear in the next issue of Whisky Advocate.

* For more on the solera process, see the current issue of Whisky Advocate

Irish whiskey lovers: two rare Midleton single casks

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

 Over the many years, I’ve often asked my friends at the Midleton Distillery (makers of the annual vintage release of Midleton Very Rare, Jameson, Redbreast, Power’s, Paddy, etc.) if they could bottle the Midleton Very Rare at a higher strength than 40% ABV. Well, they’re doing it now, but you are going to have work at getting a bottle. (Especially considering I’m a little late getting this information to you. Sorry about that.)

They have introduced two new single cask Midleton Very Rare whiskeys. One is available in Terminal 2 at the Dublin airport, while the other is available at Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop.

A producer always takes a risk when introducing single cask whiskies (Highland Park and Glenfarclas come to mind), because each cask varies in flavor and might alienate  some enthusiasts. I think, in the long run,  we are all the better for it.

I hope we see more interesting releases from the Midleton Distillery–and with broader distribution. They have the potential to make so many great whiskeys (with so much variety). The more the merrier.

I don’t normally post up press releases, but I”ll do it here (along with a photo).

Post update: One thing I forgot to emphasize initially–and this is important: these two new Midleton whiskeys are Pure Pot Still whiskeys. They are not a blend of PPS whiskeys and grain whiskeys, like the standard annual Midleton release. So, in this regard, these new Midleton releases are a kin to Redbreast and Greenspot.

New Exclusive Single Pot Still Whiskey Releases from Midleton

Midleton is synonymous with its annual vintage releases of the exquisite Midleton Very Rare blend but the renowned Co. Cork Distillery has now added to its limited releases of Single Pot Still whiskeys under the Midleton brand name with two new expressions which have been launched this month.

Both whiskeys are Single Cask bottlings destined for two individual retailers – the new Irish Whiskey Collection shop at the recently opened Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport and for the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dublin’s Dawson St.   The two casks were personally selected by Master Distiller, Barry Crockett, as outstanding expressions of the Midleton pot still style.

The Terminal 2 release is a 19 year old pot still whiskey which was laid down in November, 1991 in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has, in a new departure for the Midleton brand, been bottled at cask strength (53.7%).  The cask strength affords the whiskey connoisseur the rare opportunity to experience a Midleton pot still whiskey as it emerges directly from the cask.  The tasting notes for the whiskey reveal a dark, fleshy fruit character in perfect balance with the underlying pot still spiciness.   The impressive presentation box includes a portion of stave from the barrel in which the whiskey spent its life maturing so that on opening the box, one can literally smell the whiskey.  Only 200 bottles were yielded from this Single Cask.

The Celtic Whiskey Shop release was laid down in December, 1996, also in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has been bottled at 46%.  This is a slightly lighter style pot still distillate with green apples and banana to the fore.  270 bottles were realised from this particular cask. 

Each bottle is individually numbered with the Terminal 2 expression retailing at €260 and the Celtic Whiskey Shop expression retailing at €225.

Review: Laphroaig Triple Wood

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Dominic Roskrow reviewed this whisky already on WDJK here. Some of you have been asking for comparative reviews, so here’s my take on it. (He liked it a little more than I did.)

Laphroaig Triple Wood, 48%, $100
Similar to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, but also finished in oloroso sherry casks. Fruit and smoke: fleshy red berries, red licorice, toffee, ripe barley, coal tar, sun-baked seaweed, peat smoke, and a hint of coffee grounds. Tarry finish. I rated the Quarter Cask a 91, and I think this whisky is in the same ballpark. If you like sherry-influenced whiskies, then go for the Triple Wood. If not, then consider the Quarter Cask. (Currently Exclusive to Travel Retail and European specialist retailers.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Review: Glenmorangie “Finealta”

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

This one is available only in Travel Retail for now, but I expect it to be imported to the U.S. early in 2011. (My review bottle was 750 ml, so the 750 ml U.S. release size Finealta has already been bottled. That’s a good sign.)

It’s not super- peated. I wouldn’t expect it to be. They don’t want to mask all of Glenmorangie’s suble complexities.

Glenmorangie Finealta, 46%, $80
Glenmorangie enters the world of peated whiskies (like everyone else these days—not that I’m complaining). Richly textured layers of sweetness (vanilla, toffee, milk chocolate), fruit (tangerine, orchard fruit—especially ripe cherry), roasted nuts, mushrooms, hint of menthol, and gentle smoke. Certainly entertaining, even if the whisky doesn’t always seem to know what it wants to be. The soft sweetness mid-palate is balanced nicely by dried spice and smoke on the finish. Curiously enjoyable.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

New Glenmorangie “Finealta”

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I assume this is the follow-up to Sonnalta PX, which I liked.

This one sounds very exciting. It is available only in Travel Retail (for now). Details below.


Glenmorangie reveals the newest addition to its Private Edition range with GLENMORANGIE FINEALTA

The Glenmorangie Company announces the release of Glenmorangie Finealta, the latest addition to the Private Editionrange of limited edition expressions by Glenmorangie’s award-winning Whisky Creators. Finealta, pronounced ‘Finalta’, is Scottish Gaelic for ‘elegant’. It is an exquisite recreation of Glenmorangie based on a recipe dating back to 1903.

The century-old recipe was uncovered in the Distillery’s archives. Dr Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation, comments, ‘Glenmorangie decided to recreate this recipe so that we, and whisky connoisseurs, could have a taste of this historic Glenmorangie expression. We followed the recipe meticulously, which included marrying whiskies of different ages and different cask types. The final result is a whisky of such depth and distinction that we selected it as the second release in Glenmorangie’s exclusive Private Edition.’

Whisky aficionados will delight in Glenmorangie Finealta’s distinctive vanilla and citrus notes that one expects in a Glenmorangie expression, while enjoying Finealta’s unique rich taste of mandarin segments, lime and hints of cherry brandy combined with a spicy palate of nutmeg and ginger. The final touch is a surprising one – a hint of peat creating a subtle smokiness with layers of gentle floral scents and depth to discover. The light touch of peatiness originates in an era when the Glenmorangie Distillery dried its malted barley in a peat-fired kiln.

Distillery archives show that during the early 1900’s this Glenmorangie dram was served in the American Bar of The Savoy, London’s most prestigious hotel, during La Belle Époque and at the height of Art Nouveau, the first modern art movement of the 20thcentury. The packaging design for Glenmorangie Finealta is inspired by Art Nouveau, which had a style for incorporating elements of nature such as floral and plant motifs into artwork, architecture and home furnishings.

Daniel Baerntuther, Manager of the American Bar at The Savoy, says, ‘We are very excited with the creation of Glenmorangie Finealta, which was first enjoyed by The Savoy’s guests at the turn of the 20thcentury. It is wonderful that the introduction coincides with The Savoy’s reopening on 10.10.10 as this will allow our new guests to also experience this special Glenmorangie expression. In restoring The Savoy, we have been careful to preserve the atmosphere, elegance and unashamedly old-fashioned glamour of the hotel and Glenmorangie Finealta fits perfectly.”

The popularity of Glenmorangie single malt whisky grew beyond Scotland during the early 1900’s when it was shipped around the world to whisky enthusiasts spanning America to Asia.

Bottled at a strength of 46% ABV, and non chill-filtered to impart a full body and texture, Glenmorangie Finealta will be made available to global travel retail in early September.

Guest Review: Ardmore, 25 year old, 51.4%, $195

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Ardmore is a rising star in the world of single malt. Until four years ago it was little known in its own right, its main purpose being as a key malt in Teacher’s. Then Ardmore Traditional was released, and it’s been winning over drinkers ever since. That malt is a delicatessen whisky: smoky, oily, and savory, a unique Highland malt with much to recommend it. This is a different proposition altogether. It’s clean and sweet, with pineapple candy, dusty and almost incense-like spices, and a liberal dose of sweet peat. Some citrus notes, too. The peat holds out until the end with impressive effect. There’s talk of this becoming a permanent part of the Ardmore portfolio. Let’s hope so: it’s further proof that Ardmore is a very interesting distillery indeed. (Travel Retail and selected specialist whisky shops.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 83

Guest Review: Laphroaig Triple Wood, 48%, $100

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

This is the first time I’ve been up for reviews here so I had a game plan: play it cool, mark tightly, let everyone know I’m hard to please. Then they gave me this, the whisky equivalent to front row tickets to Neil Young on his current Twisted Road tour: not just a chance to get up close and personal with an old favorite, but to do so with an old favorite who’s on fire. Laphroaig’s owners are intent on ensuring a big peaty engine for any new release, but this is a monster by anyone’s standards. It’s essentially Quarter Cask finished in oloroso sherry casks, so in addition to the intense charcoal smoke attack there are rich fruity notes; blackcurrant and berries. It’s an evening barbecue whisky. Grill that fish until it’s blackened and crispy, drizzle on lemon, and as the smoke rears up in protest, sip this. Big, moody, broody, fruity, and rich: what’s not to love? (Travel Retail and some European specialist retailers.) – Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 94

Reviews: Jim Beam “Signature” Six Grain and Jim Beam Black

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I received a review sample of the new Jim Beam “Signature” Six Grain bourbon, so I thought it would be fun (and informative) to compare it to it’s sibling, Jim Beam Black.

You can only find the Signature in Travel Retail outlets, but the Black is readily available. (I purchased my bottle at a local retailer.)

The Black is nice, pleasantly sweet, and fairly straight-forward, while the Signature is spicy, relatively dry, and more complex.

Jim Beam “Signature” Six Grain, 44.5%, €30

Caramel and vanilla notes, with a peppering of spice (primarily cinnamon, but also evergreen, cocoa, teaberry and nutmeg) and subtle roasted walnut, finishing dry, gritty and spicy (from the grains and also the oak). Spicier and not as sweet (when compared to its sibling Jim Beam Black, an eight year old). There’s certainly a lot going on here. A very “busy” whiskey. Intriguing too! A whiskey for exploring and discussing. (Exclusive to Travel Retail.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88





Jim Beam Black, 8 year old, 43%, $22

Moderately rich, with layered caramel, vanilla, fig cake and subtle sweet corn. Date, raisin, and a dusting of spice (cinnamon, cocoa, hint of ginger) round out the palate, leading to a gently sweet, soothing finish. A very versatile bourbon—certainly enjoyable enough to drink neat, but you won’t feel guilty if you make a cocktail with it or drink it on the rocks.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

Jim Beam introduces “Signature” bourbon with six grains!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Yes, you heard right.  Six grains. And to think that we got all excited when Brown-Forman released their “Master’s Collection Four Grain” several years ago. Welcome to the new whiskey environment, where even the big boys are showing off their new experiments.

The six grains: corn, rye, barley, wheat, triticale and brown rice. According to my contact at Beam Global:

This product is a result of us mingling different Bourbons together. Each were made from a standard Bourbon recipe (high percentage of single grains). For instance, we distilled a high wheat, small grain Bourbon; a high triticale, small grain Bourbon; and a high brown rice, small grain Bourbon. Each were barreled separately and then mingled together prior to bottling.

I suspected this, given that there was no mention of the bourbon being made from a six-grain mashbill. Here are some more details from my source at Beam Global:

  • SRP in Europe is 29.99 Euros
  • These bottles are currently only available at travel retail in Europe. We may release additional bottles in the future but will most likely keep these at Duty Free retail locations.
  • We produced 13,800 bottles (2,300 cases) in total

It’s six years old and bottled at 89 proof. Interestingly, the press kit I received also mentioned that this is “the first in a series of super-premium, small-batch bourbons.”

I’ll be getting a review sample of this new whiskey this week and will let you know my thoughts after I taste it.

Highland Park to release Global Travel Retail range of whiskies

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I have review samples and hope to taste these whiskies soon and let you know my thoughts. Press release is below.


The Best Spirit in the World* has simultaneously released four new whiskies exclusive to Global Travel Retail. Every new expression of Highland Park is eagerly anticipated by trade and consumer alike but the launch of an entire range is unprecedented for the Orcadian distillery. The Vintage Editions range consists initially of four Highland Park single malt whiskies distilled in 1998, 1994, 1990 and 1973.

According to Max McFarlane, Whisky Maker: “The starting point for this range was to look into our maturing stocks to find sherry seasoned casks which would showcase different dimensions of the classic Highland Park profile of honey sweetness and aromatic peat. I am delighted to have identified specific vintage years with exceptional casks.” 

The differences between the expressions lie in the extent to which first-fill or refill European and American Sherry oak casks have been used. The 1998 and the 1990 Vintages emphasise the smokier notes whilst the 1994 and the 1973 highlight the sweeter characteristics.

Jason Craig, Global Controller of Highland Park, adds: “Global Travel Retail has been nothing short of phenomenal for us with 88% growth over the last five years; I am confident this stunning new range will allow us to maintain our dynamic performance in this channel and maintain our position as the world’s most respected single malt.”

Highland Park 1998 Vintage 40%

With an emphasis on first-fill American oak Sherry casks in its maturation, this vintage reveals the smoky side of Highland Park, attributable to the distinctively aromatic peat from Hobbister Moor. The yellow accent of the packaging is inspired by the Orkney sun which, at midsummer, never sets.

Colour:          Rich, golden, clear and bright.

Aroma:         Opaque honey, dried grass with ginger spicy notes. Dried apricot emerges late.

Palate:          The vanilla and honey sweetness developed from a dozen years in American oak is perfectly balanced with the emergence of the aromatic heather peat smoke. Sweet notes of cinnamon and cashew nuts emerge.

Finish:           Sweet with medium lingering spice and smoke.    

Highland Park 1994 Vintage 40%

This vintage has luxuriated in the most expensive casks; a higher proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks have imbued the whisky with a rich, dark colour which is mirrored by sweetness on the palate. The crisp blue of the label reflects the deep sea and big sky of Orkney.

 Colour:          Rich, warm, amber hue.

Aroma:         Warm caramel to the fore coupled with hints of almonds. Dark fruit, including cherries and figs, are slowly revealed as the whisky opens up.

Palate:          Caramel and soft smoky notes intertwine with cinnamon and rich dried fruits.  

Finish:           Beautifully mature with a lingering, warming smoky finish.

Highland Park 1990 Vintage 40%

A slight increase in the proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks underlines the balance between sweetness and smoke for which Highland Park is renowned by whisky enthusiasts the world over. In essence, this expression is a bridge between 18 year old (The Best Spirit in the World*) and 21 year old (World’s Best Single Malt, World Whisky Awards 2009). The light green tones on the packaging represent Orkney’s fertile farmland.

Colour:          Golden, glowing coppery tones.

Aroma:         Orange peel, honeycomb with cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes; nutmeg with a hint of cloves coming through.      

Palate:          Mouth-watering citrus in the form of lemons and oranges, sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end.

Finish:           Medium sweet with lingering smoky spiciness.     

Highland Park 1973 Vintage 50.6%

When laying down a whisky for extended maturation, as with this Vintage, there is a danger the cask may dominate the spirit. Every time a cask is used, its ability to impart an influence on the spirit is diminished, which is why at Highland Park refill casks are used for the older whiskies. The refill casks specially selected for this Vintage allow the natural characteristics of Highland Park to come through; there is no over-dominance of cask. This Vintage is un-chill-filtered and completely natural colour (as are all Highland Park whiskies).

Tasting notes

Colour:          Rich, warm and naturally golden.

Aroma:         Complex aromatic layers emerge as this whisky reveals itself. Vanilla and toffee sweetness are evident; enticing floral notes and hints of heather are followed by dried citrus fruits, nutmeg and coconut.       

Palate:          The assertive citrus notes are balanced by the layers of caramel, cinnamon and soft floral flavours. The slight oak tones are first balanced and then swept aside by the late arrival of classic Highland Park spicy smokiness.     

Finish:           This whisky lingers, a clear reminder of the complexity that Highland Park is able to deliver. It is medium sweet, with a long smoky finish.

The stunning packaging draws on Orkney’s Norse heritage; the design on the front of the oak box takes the form of the complex woodcarvings in the characteristic ‘gripping beast’ style seen on the Oseberg ship, the oldest and most beautiful vessel of the Viking age. The outstanding craftsmanship has provided inspiration for the design of the packaging of this exceptional whisky for today’s intrepid travellers.