Glen Grant whisky has an ever growing and strengthening reputation and this is largely due to the independent releases seen over the last few years. 1972 has become a vintage associated with extremely high quality for a number of distilleries and Glen Grant is one such example, owing much of its recent praise to outstanding casks from just that year. Bottlings such as the Duncan Taylor Whisky Fair release which found favour in the Malt Maniacs Awards in 2010 have helped to define the deeply fruity, vibrant and honeyed character associated with these great old casks.
This new bottling from Berry Bros and Rudd is from the lesser known, and prized, vintage of 1974. My previous experience of these casks has borne out the generally held belief that they often fail to reach the heights of those distilled just two years previously. That said, there are always exceptions to a general rule and hopes are high when a quality bottler, with a proved record of excellent cask selection, is involved.
Ardmore distillery is one of the many under-rated producers in Scotland and is unusual in being a peated highlander. This medium peated style is quite distinctive and well removed from the often medicinal/coastal smoke you might find from the better know, big hitters, on Islay. A large proportion of the distillery’s output provides Teacher’s Highland Cream with its characteristic suggestions of earthy peat, indeed this large distillery was built in 1898 specifically to fulfil this role in Adam Teacher’s blends.
The distillery’s current official releases as well worth trying and can certainly offer good value for money, while the independent bottlers continue to issue a number of interesting, if variable, casks to interest those of us wishing to dig a bit deeper. This 19 year old, under the Single Malts of Scotland label, is one of a number of recent 1992 casks and has received favourable reviews from several trusted sources, so I’m delighted to get an opportunity to taste it and see what’s what.
It’s time for another round-up of some Whisky Marketplace favourites, and it seems that after February’s leaning towards world whisky, we are now firmly back in the wilds of Scotland. Our staff picks this month are still a diverse selection of single malts, each being of a different region and a strikingly different character.
Our four selected whiskies trace a path the length of the country, taking us from an old-school smoky Campbeltown malt, upwards through the Highlands for a splash of something relaxed and honeyed, then crossing Loch Alsh to the Isle of Skye for a peppery classic and finally on up to distant Orkney to finish our little journey with a whisky of many charms.
The name Glenfiddich is perhaps the most widely recognised of all single malt brands around the world and while it is seen in the vast majority of bars, it is also widely overlooked and disregarded by many whisky lovers. This is a real shame considering that all distilleries offer at least a few gems to discover and equally there is always something to be learnt from revisiting the big names, regardless of their price, availability and past experiences.
This revamped Glenfiddich 21 year old “Gran Reserva” has been finished in Caribbean Rum casks for a short period of only four months, which could be a good thing for those previously stung by, or perpetually dubious about, the benefits of extra maturation. That being said, it appears Rum finishes don’t quite induce the rolling of eyes or recoiling of noses that several other casks choices tend to, and are often regarded as being rather successful.
BenRiach whiskies from the mid 70′s is deservedly held is high regard within whisky circles. The official single casks from 1976 first attracted people’s attention in 2004 and subsequent bottlings have only gone on to solidify their reputation. They regularly show delicious tropical fruit driven profiles but, on the whole, those released have managed to avoid intrusive oakiness.
This 1975 example was bottled for Bert Bruyneel’s label “Asta Morris” in 2011 and was, unsurprisingly, greeted with considerable praise on release. You will struggle to find a bottle of this one, but the quality is indicative of similar casks that are continuing to hit the market, not least Bert’s own releases from the late 70s.
It is no secret that opening a new distillery is a hugely demanding and expensive project and with this in mind, it should come as no great surprise that some distillers are choosing to release their output as soon as possible. The current, almost unprecedented interest in whisky is making this a viable way of generating revenue from young spirit, which can only be a good thing for those interested parties who wish to follow a distillery’s product as it matures.
While this all seems fairly win-win on the surface, it must be said that these young releases are not always much more than a curiosity. On one had they can sometimes be spirity and rough with obvious signs of immaturity and on the other, they can feel hurried along by very active oak, adding a veneer of maturity but at the expense of individuality. Obviously, personal taste is always key and the vibrancy of even the more suspect bottlings can charm, fitting the mood on certain occasions. Sometimes though, when the spirit character is right and the maturation is well handled, they can be truly excellent.
Caol Ila is often regarded as a safe bet amongst whisky lovers. The spirit distilled at this, Islay’s largest distillery, is perhaps some of the most consistent in overall quality of any currently produced. Berry Bros and Rudd have a similarly reliable track record as an independent bottler and continue to release casks which even at their worst are highly interesting curiosities, and when at their best are simply superb.
There are many Caol Ila whiskies available, especially single casks bottlings, and in recent times those from the early 80s have received much praise, indeed Berry Bros and Rudd have released a number of excellent examples themselves. With that in mind, each new encounter with a bottling such as this 1983 is cause for interest and I must confess a degree of heightened expectation.
Since being purchased by Billy Walker’s BenRiach distillery company, GlenDronach distillery has gone from strength to strength. The single cask releases we have seen over the last few years have shown just how stunning some of the stock resting in the distillery’s warehouses really is. Many awards have been won and praise has been heaped upon Glendronach from just about every respected whisky commentator and reviewer.
The name of the distillery alone instantly evokes images of rich, heavily sherried whisky abounding in both complexity and character, with single casks from 1972 being particularly spectacular examples of just this style. The Glendronach 31 year old Grandeur shares this maturation but is a vatting of several sherry casks, bottled in 2010 and at a natural cask strength of 45.8%.