Malt Messenger No. 50
Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,
I am not a poet, a novelist, or in any way a professional writer, but I do make use of the written word (perfectly or not) to share my enthusiasm for single malt whisky and occasionally parallel adventures. Over the years readers of this humble newsletter have often kindly remarked on how much time and effort they feel must have been put into creating Malt Messengers. It does take both time and effort, but the amount of time and the degree of effort involved are directly related to inspiration. When moved, the words flow and almost seem to write themselves, when they don’t…
For the last couple of weeks the words of this the 50th full Malt Messenger could not find their way to the keys, and curiously, inspiration was not in short supply. I had just spent a week touring Islay, Arran and Campbeltown with a cadre of whisky enthusiast and had previously spent three lovely days in Edinburgh being properly introduced to the traditions and culture of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (much more on that below). I have new brands here and others coming, tales of whisky tourism to tell and excellent new whiskies to write about and yet somehow I still couldn’t find my words.
Which brings me to where I find myself right now, sitting through another long haul flight trying to bend time and effort into the desired end result.
A little background is required before I proceed. As I write I am hurtling out over the Pacific Ocean at 528mp and 37,954 feet. I am flying with the airline most of us, at least in Western Canada, do when faced with choosing between it and that other larger airline which as a nation we love to hate. I’m sitting in a sweaty leather seat, in a row which is lacking the extra legroom I paid for, but not the larger individuals who require it. Further, I am bored to tears because I can’t seem to write, I don’t feel like reading and the Satellite TV looses its signal when not directly over the North America’s landmass. I’m not a NASA Scientist, so I hope you’ll forgive my innocent ignorance in assuming that the advantage of satellite technology is that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world!
It’s also important to know that I keep little sample bottles at the store for whiskies I want to write up. This is in part to keep them fresh until I taste them (which can be a while as I am want to procrastinate) but also so that I can take them with me wherever I go. I like to write my tasting notes on my own terms when I am in the mood to sample and have the time required. So, when I go away on trips, especially on vacation, I will generally take a few vials and a good whisky glass because, and let’s be honest, a good whisky in a tumbler or coffee mug just isn’t the same. About half way through the flight one of the attendants, a particularly officious one, (you can tell she was the tattler in elementary school) came by and offered all the people in my row—who were all under the same misapprehension as I—a free beer to compensate us for our lack of space and extra fees. I graciously accepted, though it was one of the pricier beers I’ve ever had, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had something much tastier in my briefcase, two in fact, and a proper glass!
If this is starting to sound like a Vinyl Cafe story or the plot from a Mr. Bean skit, you’re not that far off. Proudly I pulled out my glass, my notebook, a pen and a sample of Tullibardine distilled in 1976 which was dropped off at the store earlier in the day along with another by James Robertson of the distillery and Andy Dunn. I poured the amber gold liquid into my Glencairn and was immediately transfixed by how thick it looked as it curled into the glass. I hadn’t intended to taste the whisky on the plane, but I had five hours to kill and a good idea is a good idea. As I nosed it I jotted down my initial impressions: soft, rich and sugary working my way into more specific descriptors like poached pear, cooked apples and Turtles with sticky toffee pudding in cream. I’m hooked and I must admit, a little self satisfied. I feel sophisticated and relaxed. I start into the palate, lovely, rich and fruity with great body. I’m really enjoying myself and about to take a second sip when an arm touches my shoulder. “May I ask where you got that?” Earnestly, and a little naively, I respond: “oh, it’s a sample from work, I need to write it up.” The reply, “You can’t have that on here. I’m going to have to take it.” And without a further word my glass and whisky are gone and I’m gutted, I’ve only had one sip but what an impression it’s already made and such a nice finish.
As it turns out W— J—ers do care… in this case about following the rules. This isn’t my first time flying. I’ve enjoyed a few malts smuggled on board in miniature form before, and I’ve even been offered a glass. That said, I’ve never before been so bold as to empty the contents into a proper whisky glass and take out a note pad. It never occurred to me that I was doing something wrong, though in retrospect it does make perfect sense. How can you possibly moderate your passengers’ consumption if they are allowed to BYOB. I can’t fault the flight attendant for doing her job, even if the manner in which she carried it out seems more in tune with writing up parking infractions than making people feel welcome. I erred, was rightly scolded, and was feeling a little sheepish for my naiveté until it dawned on me! I have a story to tell and the inspiration to put words on paper (or screen in this case). There is some unfinished business between the Tullibardine 1976 and me, and though I’ll spend the next week wondering just how many more layers it has, thank God she didn’t ask if I had any others samples. I still have the 1962 sample in my bag, and I have a feeling we’ll be getting acquainted real soon!
In the last Malt Messenger I gave you a taste of this fall’s new whisky releases. One of the most exciting of these is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the World’s foremost whisky club and the 2011 Whisky Magazine Independent Bottler of the Year. We successfully launched the brand on the 17th of October at a by invitation only event, and have since sold close to 70 memberships and much of the initial release of whiskies. You’ll find plenty on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society below. Kensington Wine Market is also hosting a special Glenfarclas tasting at the Petroleum Club on Monday night (October 31) with special guest George Grant. We will sample 5 vintages, including: 1960,1967, 1970, 1980 and 1991 as well as the 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve. The latter, which is exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada, is a marriage of 4 casks from the 1960’s, all over 42 years of age which collectively add up to 175 years of maturation in oak! There is more on these whiskies, the tasting, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and much more below in this the 50th Malt Messenger!
I hope you enjoy it!
PS – Congratulations to my counterpart Dave Michiels at Willow Park who was made a Keeper of the Quaich a few weeks back. It is a much deserved honour, welcome to the club!
IN THIS EDITION
1. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Comes to Canada
2. SMWS Canada Events
3. SMWS Canada’s Inaugural Single Cask Offering
4. Distillery in Focus Glenfarclas – 175 Years
5. Glenfarclas Family Casks Tasting with George Grant at the Petroleum Club
6. The Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve
7. The Arran Sleeping Warrior
8. Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release
9. Two New Springbanks: Longrow 18 Year and Hazelburn Sauternes Finish
10. Two New Older Tullibardines Coming Soon
11. Malt Whisky Yearbook 2012
12. Kensington Wine Market Whisky Week 2011
13. MacKinlay’s (Shackelton Replica) Rare Old Highland Malt Update
THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY COMES TO CANADA
Rob and Kelly Carpenter, who have been friends of the Kensington Wine Market for years, were unofficial ambassadors for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society long before they were awarded the opportunity to launch the Canadian branch. They were introduced to the brand while living in Edinburgh. Over the years they have kept up their UK membership, brought Society bottles back to Canada to share with friends and even convinced the likes of me to join. I now finish all my whisky tours in Scotland with a dinner at one of The Society’s two Edinburgh venues.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, or The Society for short, is the world’s foremost whisky club and a whisky authority. The Society has 26,000 members worldwide with branches in 15 countries including now Canada. It all began with a man by the name of Pip Hills in the 1970’s. While working for a farmer in the Highlands he was offered a dram unlike any other he had previously tasted. It was straight from a cask the farmer had bought from Glenfarclas distillery. The whisky was served to Pip from a random bottle with chunks of charred oak in it: “where did you get this?” he is reputed to have asked.
On his return to Edinburgh Pip convinced a group of friends at his home on Scotland Street to part with some coin for the purchase of a cask. He drove up to Glenfarclas distillery, selected a barrel, rolled it into the boot of his car and drove home. The investors in the cask were invited over to pick up their share which they all filled into their own assortment of random bottles. It was a huge hit, so they bought another cask, then another and eventually the organization grew into a club requiring a dedicated venue. The Society has grown significantly from these early days, but has stayed true to the early principles which made it so unique.
The Society has had many notable members over the years, including Sean Connery and Scotland’s current First Minister, Alex Salmond. More than just an Independent Bottler, The Society has venues for members, staff, its own award winning magazine (Unfiltered) and tries to create a sense of belonging with its members. The Society bottles 300 different casks a year, always at cask strength from a single cask without colouring or chill filtering. To date it has bottled whiskies from more than 127 distilleries, with the 128th coming early next year! Casks are selected by committee in Tasting Panels. I have had the pleasure to sit in on one of these, as have Rob and Kelly, and it is a really cool experience. To be accepted for bottling samples must receive on average a passing grade from the entire panel. On an individual level a passing grade is achieved by asking oneself the question: would I buy this? Each Tasting Panel has a Chairman whose job it is to moderate the tasting, record each panellist’s tasting notes and summarize them for accepted casks. The unique name and tasting note given to each Society whisky are created at this time.
The Society takes a different approach to whisky than most distilleries or independent bottlers. Age is not a concern, only quality. Region is not expected to correlate with style. And every whisky is unique, a one off, which will never come again. The Society assigns each distillery a number, in the case of Glenfarclas, the first distillery they bottled this is number 1. In the case of Bowmore it is 3, as they were the third distillery bottled by the Society and 33 in the case of Ardbeg. A second number is assigned to each whisky, corresponding to the number of casks the distillery has bottled from that particular distillery. Canada currently has access to the 159th barrel of Glenfarclas bottled, and as such this whisky is numbered 1.159. Similarly Canada has the 111th cask of Ardbeg (33.111) and 175th cask of Bowmore (3.175). The distillery of origin, though often hinted at in the tasting note, is never explicitly mentioned. Because The Society does not advertise the distillery of origin, or rely on the distillery name to help move product, it gets access to casks from distilleries which don’t sell to any other company. Consequently, as independent bottlers go The Society has a more comprehensive range of distillery offerings than any other company. It is for this reason and more that Whisky Magazine awarded it 2011 Independent Bottler of the Year.
Of course you have to be a member to buy the whiskies, so what does that entail, and what are the benefits? Some of you are already members through either the US or UK branches of The Society. You will be contacted over the next few months with the opportunity to transfer your membership to the Canadian branch should you choose to do so. New membership in the Canadian branch costs $230 + GST and includes the Membership Pack. The Membership Packs include a welcome letter, 2 books (Society Members Handbook and a wee Tasting Notebook) as well as 4 x 100ml sample bottles reflecting the range of whiskies offered by The Society. Membership, which can be renewed annually for $120 + GST, also includes the quarterly award winning magazine “Unfiltered”, a list of the monthly new bottlings and tasting notes called “Outturn” as well as access to the members’ venues in the UK (2 in Edinburgh, 1 in London and the Hotel du Vin chain), Tokyo, Switzerland and Paris. Members also receive a discounted price for the monthly tastings (First Fridays).
You have to be a member to buy The Society’s whiskies, but membership does have its privileges!
For more information on Society membership, or to purchase, go to www.smws.ca..
SMWS CANADA EVENTS
1. Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (November 2011) – The first of our monthly SMWS tastings… $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5-7 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit www.smws.ca or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday November 4th 7pm – $35.00 – SOLD OUT
2. Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Kensington Wine Market Fall Single Malt Festival – SOLD OUT!
3. Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (December 2011) – This is the second of our monthly SMWS tastings. $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight at least 5 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit www.smws.ca or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday December 2nd 7pm – $35.00 – SOLD OUT
4. Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Calgary MS Whisky Festival – The First Annual Calgary MS Whisky Festival – 6-9PM at the Art Gallery of Calgary – Thursday January 19th 2012.
5. Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Victoria Whisky Festival – For the first time the Canadian branch will be making an appearance at Canada’s Best Whisky Festival with an appearance in the festival tasting as well as two Master Classes. – www.victoriawhiskyfestival.com..
6. Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (January 2012) – The third of our monthly SMWS tastings… $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5-7 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit www.smws.ca or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday January 6th 7pm – $35.00 – NOT YET OPEN FOR REGISTRATION
7. Much More to Come in the New Year!
SMWS CANADA’S INAUGURAL SINGLE CASK OFFERING
1. 1.159: Lively and Explosive – 1st Fill Barrel – 56.2% – Colour: Sparkling Mica Gold – 11 Years – Outturn 211 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “An unusual and intriguing wee dram on the nose – hard peaches, wood sap, nutty notes, quince, juniper, flint, Evo-Stik and green ginger – quite clean but was it floral or soapy? The palate was fizzy, lively and tooth-stripping, with explosive ginger heat, granny smith apples, vanilla and mint humbugs. The nose seemed smoother and sweeter with water – cocoa butter, sherbet fountains (with liquorice), ginger beer and lime – quite summery in character. The reduced palate became well-rounded and easy-drinking with some of the deeper botanical ingredients of gin coming through – liquorice, aniseed, angelica and cassia. The distillery sits north of Ben Rinnes.” Drinking Tip: Could be a summery drink, maybe even with ginger ale. – $111.99 – Only 4 Left!
2. 3.175: On the Dunes Watching a Puffer – Refill Butt – 56% – Colour: Beady Ginger Gold – 16 Years – Outturn: 572 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “We found spicy Bombay mix on the nose – also Trail mix (dried pineapple, coconut and papaya) – sharp exotic fruits wrestling with smoke – like limes squeezed over barbeque meats. The palate’s lip-smacking fruitiness (melon, lemon) and mint suggested jugs of Pimm’s; but always with heat and smoke – ‘lime water on a sauna heater’, someone said. The reduced nose, with pineapple and menthol, seemed like sea breezes over the machair on warm spring days (with maybe a puffer on the horizon). The reduced palate balanced sherbet and ice tea against smoke, while retaining its intensity. Loch Indaal laps against the distillery wall.” Drinking Tip: A feel good dram – when heading off on holiday or celebrating an achievement. – $128.99 – 6 Left!
3. 4.155: Blackpool Rock with Threads of Chilli – 1st Fill Barrel – 58.6% – Colour: Pale Shiny Gold – 11 Years – Outturn: 239 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose was fresh (freesias, grass, wood-sap, hay fields, laundry, grapes, apples, refreshers) also biscuits, hard candies, café au lait, light tobacco and sea breezes. The unreduced palate was a ‘wow’ hit of bitter and sweet with dryness and heat – dark chocolate and Blackpool rock with threads of chilli and wasabi. Water improved it – the nose had lemon and lime-flavoured boiled sweets and flower shop freshness but also now some smoke. The reduced palate became more rounded and toothsome – floral, perfumed, lemon zest and ‘men’s shower gel’; liquorice and Dutch tobacco tethered it to the ground. From Orkney’s oldest distillery.” Drinking Tip: An aperitif or with a good lunch. – $112.49 – ONLY 4 LEFT!
4. 7.70: Naughty Nectar – Refill Hogshead – 51.1% – Colour: Golden Syrup in the Tin – 19 Years – Outturn: 161 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose conveyed elegance and maturity – perfumed honey, dried coconut and exotic fruits (lychees, star-fruit, water melon, Keith Floyd’s flambéed barbequed bananas). These impressions carried through to the palate, with vanilla giving overall impressions of tutti frutti or Neapolitan ice cream – ‘Nectar!’, ‘Absolutely fabulous!’ and ‘Decadent and naughty!’ were some of our responses. The reduced nose, still sweetly enticing, also had intimations of worn leather, canvas, cigarette packets and celery salt. The reduced palate seemed like a heavenly garden – beehives, flowers, washing on the line and canvas chairs in the sun, with sherbet fountains! From the distillery next-door to Benriach.” Drinking Tip: A dram for celebrating, or as a special reward. – $155.49 – ONLY 4 LEFT!
5. 24.117: Mostarda di Frutta di Cremona – 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead – 55.4% – Colour: Profound Polished Mahogany – 20 Years – Outturn: 196 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “This malt used to pride itself on sherrywood maturation; now there is a parallel range of ‘Fine Oak’ bottlings. Fans of the traditional style will not be disappointed by this superb example! Aged PX and ripe figs; toffee sauce and maple cured gammon; pecan nuts and creamy Thai curry…Big and sweet in the mouth with creamy coffee, then dark chocolate truffles and stem ginger. It drinks very well straight, and with water the sweet, fruity flavours merge into ‘mostarda di frutta’, that wonderful glacé fruit condiment, with traces of Fentiman’s Cola. Syrupy sweet to taste, with treacle toffee and chocolate in the aftertaste.” Drinking Tip: Reminiscing at a reunion of old friends. $153.49 – SOLD OUT!
6. 26.82: Soft Light at Sunset – Refill Fill Sherry Butt – 57.9% – Colour: Winter Sunlight – 15 Years – Outturn: 571 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Light and fresh with a hint of parma violets, recently pressed nutty oils, and the scent of hedgerows on a warm day in a breeze. Neat on the palate there was heat, a hint of vanilla and freshly milled very dry sea salt. On the nose water reveals open pine cones, flint and light chalky soil reminiscent of a fine Chablis. The reduced palate was creamy, soft and light with a hint of slightly chewy meringue. A whisky evocative of a camp-fire in the watery sunlight of a late summer evening shared with friends.” Drinking Tip: After a long day… – $130.49 – 8 Left!
7. 29.105: Massive and Volcanic – Refill Sherry Butt – 59.6% – Colour: Deep Ginger Gold – 12 Years – Outturn: 619 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose leapt out with smoke, tar and smouldering embers (waking up the ‘danger’ zone of the cortex); it was also briny, with minty humbugs, some kind of green leaf and vanilla. The palate was described as “Massive!” and “Volcanic” – ash, liquorice, tar and salt, with wild boar sausages and something lovely and sweet hiding away, like a ballerina in a group of miners. Water hardly dented the nose – sweet-cured bacon, diesel exhaust and molasses. The palate seemed sweeter – chocolate in among the smoke and a lavender after-taste. One of the founders, Donald Johnston drowned after falling into ‘burnt ale’.” Drinking Tip: A late night dram. – $116.99 – ONLY 3 LEFT!
8. 33.111: Gentle Giant – 1st Fill Barrel – 57.6% – Colour: 9 Carat Gold – 9 Years – Outturn: 229 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Although this was an initial blast of peat smoke, smoked bacon, vegetable oil, brine (from hot dogs) it was sweet and delicate. There was toffee dust (the stuff you find at the bottom of a big jar from the sweet shop), white bonbons, all interlaced with a mineral character. Big, salty, smoky, and earthy to taste but a delicate perfumed herbal note gave the impression of lightness. Water stabilised this gentle impression; now it was nutty, grassy, herbal and more perfumed although the smoky bacon was still there. Liquorice, walnuts, pine resin and salty ash were added to the palate.” Drinking Tip: On your way to Islay or for an education in the art of smoky whiskies. – $102.99 – 6 Left!
9. 35.58: A Caravanserai on the Silk Road – Refill Butt – 41% – Colour: Saraha Sand Reverie – 26 Years – Outturn: 294 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose was exotic and intriguing; ‘like a Marrakesh spice market!’ someone said; we also got sherbet, vanilla, golden syrup, banoffee pie, crème brûlée and traces of leather. The unreduced taste had Turkish Delight, baclava, coffee, perfumed sweets and sherbet lemons – a theme was emerging – we imagined a caravanserai on the Silk Road. The reduced nose seemed lighter, more floral, with elusive perfumes – as the belly dancers departed the stage?! Adding a drop of water (though it surely needed none) we found spicy Oddfellows sweets, dry perfume and a nutty, woody, lip-sucking after-taste. The distillery is named after the county.” Drinking Tip: When dusk deepens and the promise of the night tingles the senses. – $178.99 – 6 LEFT!
10. 38.21: Manuka Honey on a Razor Strop – 2nd Fill Hogshead – 58% – Colour: Auspicious Gold – 17 Years – Outturn: 234 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “This rare offering, from the distillery originally built as Glen Grant Number Two, had a subtle, unusual nose – initially yeasty (sourdough bread, Hefeweizen beer), then developing leather, plasticine and peeled twigs, fruit skins (especially orange) and eventually, chocolate. The taste combined the dark sweetness of Demerara, toffee and Bourneville, with orange, black pepper and leather (someone suggested ‘manuka honey on a razor strop’). The reduced nose had herbal notes (coriander, nettles) wood polish and sweet perfumes (jelly beans, dolly mixtures, gummy bears, rose hip tea). The palate balanced that jelly bean sweetness with slightly bitter lemons and mild pepper heat.” Drinking Tip: Whenever you have a craving for jelly beans! – $139.99 – 7
11. 53.154: A Surfer’s Sundown Dram – Refill Sherry Butt – 59.8% – Colour: Dried Pasta in Glass Jar – 17 Years – Outturn: 462 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Unreduced the nose was like the soft smoke of burning driftwood on a distant dune. Damp coarse sand, seaweed and brine fill the nostrils as if one were laying prostrate on a wet beach after an energetic swim across the bay. On the palate it sets the tongue ablaze with hot smoke and black peppercorns cracked between the teeth. With water the nose softens as if a mist has fallen; pleasant, cooler with a hint of eucalyptus. Citrus, tar and swirling smoke cover and console the palate. The narrows of the Sound of Islay remain visible through the mist.” Drinking Tip: Outside on a cool autumn evening. – $139.99 – 7 Left!
12. 73.44: Old Friends Remembered – Refill Sherry Butt – 53.7% – Colour: Golden Syrup – 29 Years – Outturn: 207 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Without water this warm and comfortable malt delivered rich dark chocolate and raisins on the nose. There was a hint of freshly planed wood shavings; echoes of the boat builders’ art in times past. The unreduced palate was hot and urgent, smoky and mouth watering, while the after taste revealed dried fruits and just a whiff of tobacco. The addition of water freed more sweetness on the palate; sticky toffee pudding with a rich homemade vanilla custard and heather honey straight from the jar. On the nose a new confection; sweet tobacco and oil of orange wrapped in velvet coat of dark chocolate.” Drinking Tip: After the party in the big comfy chair. – $194.99 – ONLY 2 LEFT!
13. 76.85: The Antagonist – 1st Fill Sherry Butt – 55.2% – Colour: Honey Gold – 15 Years – Outturn: 548 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The intriguing nose had candied fruit pieces, lemon, brown sugar and crushed mint leaves; also figs and dates, sultana cake. Lime and pickles, curry leaves and oxo cubes brought savoury contrasts. The neat palate was hot and sweet – treacle toffee and heather honey; Granny Smith apples brought freshness. With water, the nose became more floral; poppies, elderflower and plum, blackberry jam and maple syrup, banana and walnut oil. Also truffle oil and squash. The reduced palate brought thoughts of the vineyard – grape skins and must, Poire William eau de vie and black tea tannins drying out on the tongue. The distilling water comes from the Conval hills and cooling water from the river Dullan.” – Drinking Tip: Enjoying with good friends – preferably at a Society venue. – $130.49 – ONLY 5 LEFT!
14. 125.50: Heavenly Beauty – De-Char Toasted Hogshead – 50.5% – Colour: Rich Gold – 12 Years – 251 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose started out quite lively – paint turning to William’s pear schnapps, then sherbet, vanilla ice-cream, toasted peaches, plum jam, chocolate and chestnut purée. The unreduced palate seemed quaintly curious – quite floral, but with caramel, Ice Magic toffee sauce, cocoa butters, marzipan and spicy heat in the finish. The reduced nose delighted us with fruity toffee, white chocolate, guava and almond; someone described it as ‘Heavenly’. The reduced palate had luscious pecan pie, and almond cake with pear liqueur – an unusual dram from the sixteen men of Tain. ‘No twinkle-toed, shy maiden, but a mature, busty beauty!’ one panellist opined.” Drinking Tip: With dessert or at least something sweet. – $115.99 – ONLY 2 LEFT!
15. 127.14: Right Up My Street – Refill Barrel – 65.7% – Colour: Mellow Yellow Buttercup Gold – 9 Years – 243 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose delivered suggestions of Germolene, coal, trainers, Dutch liquorice, mint humbugs, roasted chestnuts, bananas and ham ribs – but mainly freshly tarred roads and new telegraph poles (‘right up MY street’ someone said). The palate was huge, tongue-roasting and crying out for water – but we identified roasted parsnips, liquorice, sweet cinnamon, cherries and coal-dust. Water freshened the nose – maple cured bacon, Thai coconut satay, banana, peanut, cranberries and cherries. The palate was still challenging and took plenty of water, but the panel remained positive – finding ever-lasting heat, sweet smoked pecans and other lip-smacking flavours. The medium-peated version of distillery 23.” Drinking Tip: Could stiffen you up before setting out to do battle – or just a nice winter fireside dram. – $108.99 – ONLY 5 LEFT!
DISTILLERY IN FOCUS GLENFARCLAS – 175 YEARS OF HISTORY
Robert Hay, the leaseholder at Reichlerich Farm, took out a license for Glenfarclas distillery in 1836, though there is evidence that a distillery existed on the site in 1797 and possibly before. On Robert’s death in 1865 John Grant and his son George bought the distillery for £511 and change leasing it to John Smith of Glenlivet fame. John Smith’s tenure at Glenfarclas was just 5 years after which he left to start the nearby Cragganmore. This is when the Grant family’s interest in the distillery begins in earnest, with J & G Grant taking control.
The first two Grants, John and his son George saw the distillery through its next twenty years until John passes away in 1889 and his son George the next year in 1890. George’s son, appropriately John and George were too young to take on the license which is taken over by their mother Barbara with the sons managing operations. The late 1800’s saw a significant whisky boom with blenders driving demand for stocks of young and mature whiskies. In 1895 the brother’s go into business with the infamous Pattison Bros. forming Glenfarclas-Glenlivet Distillery Co. It was not unusual for distilleries in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to add “Glenlivet” to their name as an indication of quality. The Pattison brothers had through the 1890’s built a business on credit which they used to finance their extravagant lifestyles. This house of cards came tumbling down, the Enron scandal of its day in Scotland, and it brought the industry to its knees. Many distilleries closed, some never to reopen, and others like Glenfarclas had to make difficult decisions. They survived by selling and mortgaging maturing stocks to a whisky broker in Elgin, and the family vowed it would never do business outside the family again, and it hasn’t!
John left the business in 1914 due to ill health, but his brother George stayed at the reigns until his death in 1949. It then passed to George’s sons George Scott and John Peter Grant. The brother’s increased the distilleries volume by adding two stills in 1960 and then launched the world’s first cask strength single malt whisky, the Glenfarclas 105 in 1968. Glenfarclas malted its own barley until the early 1970’s around the same time it opened a distillery visitor center, which would have been one of the first. In 1976 the number of stills was increased again by 2 to 6. George S Grant chaired the distillery until 2002, when after his death the distillery passed to his son John. John L S Grant continues in his role as distillery chairman to the present, with his son George the distillery’s brand ambassador.
Glenfarclas is unique among the more than 100 single malt distilleries in Scotland, first in that it is the second oldest family owned distillery, but more crucially, that it is sitting on a more comprehensive stock of older whiskies than any other distillery in Scotland. In 2005 the distillery launched a 50 year old whisky the mark the bicentenary of the first John Grant’s birth. In 2007 the distillery launched the Family Casks, a series of 43 single cask, cask strength vintage whiskies representing every year from 1952-1994. Many of the initial offering of casks has sold out with these being replaced with additional casks. The distillery has since gone on to release 1995 and 1996 vintages. This is a range of whiskies not rivalled by any other distillery for its completeness or depth. In 2010 Glenfarclas stunned the world by releasing a regularly available 40 year old whisky for less than $500.00CDN.
The Kensington Wine Market stocks the following Glenfarclas distillery bottled whiskies, tasting notes courtesy of the distillery:
1. Glenfarclas 10 Year – 40% – Delicately light, with a mouth-watering combination of maltiness, smokiness and sherry sweetness. Hints of dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves tempt the taste buds further. – $65.49
2. Glenfarclas 12 Year – 43% – Full bodied, delightful sherried fruit, with oak, a hint of peat and delicious sweet sensations. – $67.99
3. Glenfarclas 15 Year – 46% – Full bodied with super balance of sherried sweetness, malty tones and peaty flavours. – $88.99
4. Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength – 60% – Dry and assertive, develops quickly to reveal a rich spiciness, combined with a hint of oak and sherried fruit. – $88.99
5. Glenfarclas 17 Year – 43% – Big, full-flavoured, with excellent balance, develops slowly, full of sherry sweet malty tones, and a touch peat smoke. – $96.99
6. Glenfarclas 21 Year – 43% – Full bodied rich and rounded develops slowly into fruity, smoky and spicy flavours. – $116.49
7. Glenfarclas 25 Year – 43% – Full-bodied and robust, the sherry and the oak fight for your attention yet neither is overpowering. A powerful nutty smokiness. – $152.99
8. Glenfarclas 30 Year – 43% – With Sherry, cognac, brandy, fruit, nuts, marzipan (and even icing), this is a wonderfully indulgent Christmas cake, in a glass! – $337.49
9. Glenfarclas 40 Year – 46% – A sweet initial taste, orange segments, chocolate. Then a lovely flavour of burnt brown sugar. – $499.99
10. Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve – 46% – A dry whisky initially letting way for bitter dark chocolate, the taste of chocolate goes on for some time then a lovely cream brulée finish. Some light vanilla and burnt Demerara sugar. Then just when you think it’s all gone a lovely burst of caramel toffee. – $703.99 *Exclusive to KWM!
11. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1960 – $1702.99
12. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1967 – $918.99
13. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1970 – $876.99
14. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1978 – $788.99
15. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1979 – $564.99
16. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1980 – $576.99
17. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1988 – $477.99
18. Glenfarclas Family Cask 1991 – $401.99
Kensington Wine Market also stocks the following independently bottled Glenfarclas whiskies:
1. Scotch Malt Whisky Society 1.159 Lively and Explosive: “The palate is lively, with explosive ginger heat, green apples, vanilla, mint humbugs and various gin botanicals.” Bottled after 11 years in a First Fill Barrel at 56.2%. – $111.99 *You must be a Society member to buy this whisky.
2. O&R Probably Speyside’s Finest 45 Year – “Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery” is Douglas Laing’s euphemism for Glenfarclas Distillery. Unable to refer to the distillery by name they’ve come up with a clever and appropriate tip of the hat! – $499.99
GLENFARCLAS FAMILY CASKS TASTING WITH GEORGE GRANT – $160
The Glenfarclas Family Casks are the most comprehensive offering of single cask vintage whiskies from a single distillery ever released. Initially launched in 2007 with 43 vintages spanning every year from 1952-1994 the distillery has expanded the range to 1995 and 1996 bottlings, as well as releasing new casks for vintages which have sold out.
This is Kensington Wine Market’s 4th Annual Glenfarclas Family Casks tasting, and it will feature 5 vintages (1960, 1967, 1970, 1980 and 1991) and a new very limited bottling released to celebrate the distillery’s 175th Anniversary. The Glenfarclas Chairman’s Reserve 175th Anniversary bottling was created by marrying 4 casks; all matured no less than 42 years, whose collective age adds up to 175. Only 60 bottles are coming to Canada, all of them to the Kensington Wine Market, and this will be your first opportunity to sample this amazing whisky in Canada!
Monday October 31st at 7PM at the Petroleum Club!
GLENFARCLAS 175TH ANNIVERSARY CHAIRMAN’S RESERVE – $703.99
GLENFARCLAS 175th ANNIVERSARY CHAIRMAN’S RESERVE – 46% – A combination of 4 of their best Sherry Casks with a combined age of 175 years, the youngest of which was 42 years of age. – 1296 bottles have been released worldwide complete with glass, water jug and certificate. – Only 60 bottles to Canada, exclusively for Kensington Wine Market – My Tasting Note: Nose: brown sugar and beer nuts; espresso roast, rich buttery sherry notes; roasted marshmallow with musty/earthy dunnage floor notes and dark aged rum; spices aplenty with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and other sweet spices; there is a tropical fruit backdrop to the whole thing but they are hidden behind the burnt sugar and other caramelized notes; burnt butter and coffee cream; Palate: rich, bold and yet very soft with silky buttery sherry notes; sweet spices with mocha and espresso; burnt fruits, melons, and then the tropical fruits start to emerge, and fruits aplenty though they remain tempered by the burnt sugar and sherry notes; there is a chocolaty element to the whisky too, including cocoa nibs, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Cadbury milk chocolate with fruit and nuts; Finish: more sweet spices with dried tropical fruits, burnt brown sugar and fading tones of chocolate; long and oily the oak spices and fruit linger; Comments: needs a little time to open up, but once it does its full of layers, depth and complexity. As rich as the 40 year old, but perhaps a little darker! – $703.99 *Exclusive to KWM!
THE ARRAN SLEEPING WARRIOR
Arran is one of the most beautiful islands in Scotland with a very diverse landscape from south to north and west to east. It contains a taste of most of Scotland’s distinct geographic zones and is even crossed by the famous Highland-Lowland boundary fault which bisects the rest of the country north of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The island is often referred to as Scotland in miniature with rolling hills in the south and rugged mountains in the north. It is at the north end of the island where Arran distillery can be found at Lochranza bay. One of these mountains at the north end of the island as viewed from the Ayrshite coast has the profile of a person lying on their side and is known as the Sleeping Warrior.
The Arran Sleeping Warrior is a vatting of 6000 bottles from the 2000 vintage which have been produced from American and European oak casks selected by Master Distillery James MacTaggart. The whisky has been released with some of the proceeds going toward the National Trust for Scotland to help maintain the footpaths on the Goatfel. The Goatfel is Arran’s tallest peak at just under 2900ft. The whisky has been bottled at a cask strength of 54.9%. I wrote the following tasting note while at the distillery in October.
Arran Sleeping Warrior – 54.9% – Only 180 bottles coming to Alberta. – KWM is getting 90 bottles. – My Tasting Note: Nose: very unusual, blue cheese with honey and truffle oil, browning green apples and poached pear; old books and worn leather with prosciutto wrapped dates and Sunrype fruit bars; Palate: very fruity, caramelized fruits, cornsyrup and drying leathery spices; very earthy with dark chocolate damp tobacco leaf; more prosciutto wrapped dates with blue cheese filling; Finish: warming and leathery (soft ladies glove leather) with loads of soft fruits and jujubes. – $97.99
KILCHOMAN 100% ISLAY INAUGURAL RELEASE
A couple of weeks back I had the privilege of touring Kilchoman distillery again with distillery manager John MacLellan on the very same day that the distillery’s founder and managing director Anthony Wills was in our store to lead a Kilchoman tasting. Anthony lead those present through a tasting of several whiskies from his distillery, including a new cask bottled for our store (more on that next month) and the Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release. Even before founding the distillery Anthony had a vision to make a whisky which was 100% local. All of Kilchoman’s production is matured and bottled on Islay making Kilchoman one of only two distilleries which can make that claim (the other is Bruichladdich). Kilchoman’s new 100% Islay line is made from barley grown on Islay at Kilchoman’s own farm, malted on the distillery’s own malting floor, then distilled, matured and bottled by hand all on site. No other whisky in Scotland can claim such a micro-provenance. The new line from Kilchoman will be bottled a sold separately from its regular line at 50%. It is matured in ex-Buffalo Trace casks and was distilled from malt peated to between 10-20ppm, much lower than the regular Kilchoman.
Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release – 50% – Matured in American Ex-Bourbon – 3 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: cheese-wiz and beach fires, Japadog (Vancouverites will know), creamy with soft vanilla and very grassy-floral notes; Palate: much softer and sweeter than expected; barley sugar, creamy rich vanilla and grassy fragrant smoke with floral minty notes; Finish: creamy and soft with vanilla and clean-salty-citric smoke. – $105.99
TWO NEW SPRINGBANKS: LONGROW 18 YEAR AND HAZELBURN SAUTERNES FINISH
Springbank is Scotland’s oldest family owned distillery as well as one of Scotland’s most traditional. They are the only distillery to continue to malt 100% of their own barley and as my tour participants saw a couple of weeks back visiting the distillery is like stepping back in time. There is no automation and most of the equipment is from the early 20th century if not older. One of the other things which makes Springbank distillery unique is that they produce three distinct styles of whisky: the regular Springbank which is 2 ½ distilled and lightly peated, Longrow (named for a now closed distillery) a double distilled heavily peated whisky and Hazelburn (also named for another closed Campbeltown distillery) which is unpeated and triple distilled. Alberta has just received two new expressions, one each of Longrow and Hazelburn.
1. Hazelburn 8 Year Sauternes Finish – 55.9% – 5 Years in American Oak – Finished 3 Years in Sauternes Casks – 9180 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: honey, spices, candied and blood oranges with black liquorice, graham wafers and sweet toasted oak; fruit flan and stir fried vegetables in soy sauce; Palate: very light and soft with sweet toasted oak and spice; delicate; black liquorice, clove, all spice and even some peppery notes; new leather jacket with more fruit flan and some honey-citrus but the spices dominate; Finish: drying and spicy with toasted creamy oak; Comments: the highlight of my visit to Springbank, that is with the exception of getting to sample the new 21 year old with Frank and Ranald which is still in cask! We were the first non-employees to have such a privilege and boy was it good! – $83.49
2. Longrown 18 Year – 46% – Only 60 Bottles have come to Canada, 30 to KWM! – Official Tasting Note: “Nose: This whisky has an incredibly sweet nose with some savory notes peeking through. Marshmallows in abundance – the vanilla variety, with icing sugar and foam bananas adding to the sweetness. Upon further nosing the fruit makes an appearance, brambles, mandarines and over ripe damson fruits. Some savory notes pushing through such as linseed oil – do we smell cricket bats? Palate: This dram coats your palate in a waxy fashion with its continuing sweet flavours as described on the nose. But there is also the familiar, well balanced trace of smoke which makes this a brilliantly complex wee dram that will make you feel right at home no matter where you are. Finish: The creaminess of this whisky means it doesn’t go away – you feel the warmth of this Longrow all the way down to your boots, creamy, sweet with a gentle smoke finish.” Comments: I haven’t tasted this one yet, but I can’t wait, the last release of Longrow 18 was in 2008 and it was terrific!
TWO NEW TULLIBARDINES AND TWO MORE OLDER ONES ON THE WAY
Tullibardine is one of the most accessible distilleries in the whole of Scotland, located just off the A9 between Perth and Stirling. Any trip north along this road should warrant a pit-stop tour and tasting at was is one of less than a dozen independent distilleries in Scotland. Many bloggers and critics wrote Tullibardine off years ago but the little distillery keeps putting out great whiskies, of which I have four to tell you about. The first two are in stock and the latter two will be here in short order.
1. Tullibardine Port Finish – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger. – $61.99
2. Tullibardine Sherry Finish – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger. – $61.99
3. Tullibardine 1976 – 50.2% – Cask 3161 – 2nd Fill Hogshead – 226 Total Bottles – 94.5pts Jim Murray 2012 Bible – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger – $TBA
4. Tullibardine 1962 – 41.8% – 48 Years – Cask 3185 – Refill Hogshead – 223 Bottles – 95.5pts Jim Murray 2012: ”Exquisite’, ‘faultless’ and ‘Simply timeless” – My Tasting Note: Nose: soft fruits enticing me to come in, a Parisian bakery at about 8 AM, canned peaches and apricots; melons: cantaloupe and honey dew with mango and papaya chutney; the nose feels silky and soft, though while the aromas a light they have great depth; Palate: silky soft with smooth oaky threads and a thick mouth coating body which leave my mouth feeling moisturized with tingling light spice; more melons with ripe peaches and canned fruits; the whisky shows a firm backbone of earthy oak with cloves and black pepper; honeyed and very fruity throughout; vanilla and honey notes from the oak back up against the peppery notes; I also find notes of brown sugar, Demerara and dried cranberries; Finish: at once coating and drying with some spice and soft vanilla/honey oils; a creaminess develops with the finish showing firm toasted oak. – $TBA
MALT WHISKY YEARBOOK 2012
As another year draws near to a close and the latest editions of the Malt Whisky Yearbook and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible start to trickle out. We are still waiting on the Bible, but the new Malt Whisky Yearbook, 2012 edition, is in. This is my favourite whisky resource with a background and history on all Scottish, Irish, Japanese and most world malt distilleries. The book features articles from some of the most respected writers on the whisky industry and is a great guide for those looking to increase their knowledge about the industry and keep on top of new bottlings. The 2012 edition is the most comprehensive yet and finally, after some persistent pressure, contains a listing of some non-European whisky specialists including the first Canadian specialist. Any guesses which Canadian whisky specialist is the only one listed therein?
KENSINGTON WINE MARKET WHISKY WEEK(S) 2011
1. Jura Distillery with Willie Tait – Jura’s brand ambassador and employee of nearly 37 years, Willie Tait, will be in town to shed some light on the distillery, its whiskies and the mysterious island they come from. This tasting will feature some incredible whiskies including: 10 Year, Superstition, Prophecy, 16 Year and 1974. Tuesday November 8th at 7pm $40.00
2. Glendronach 1972 Launch Dinner – Our exceptional new cask will be launched this night during a special whisky dinner with Alistair Walker at Buchanan’s Chop House, 738 3 Avenue, SW. Wednesday November 9th at 7pm at Buchanan’s Chophouse$135.00
3. Fall Single Malt Festival – Our iconic whisky festival is back for another year with a lineup of up to 100 premium whiskies from some of Scotland’s finest distilleries. Don’t hesitate, it sells out every year, and there are only 100 tickets! – Thursday November 10th at 7pm !!SOLD OUT!!
4. Rare Malts – Rare Malts is one of our more special tastings. In order to qualify for this tasting whiskies must meet one of three criteria: they must be especially rare; from a closed distillery; or more than 20 years of age. This rare malts tasting is going to set a new bar, admittedly one which will be hard to equal. We have two whiskies of more than 37 years of age, two whiskies from closed distilleries (one of which is a new bottling of Port Ellen) and another whisky which is part way between 40 and 50 years of age! This will truly be a tasting not to be missed! Tuesday November 15th at 7PM $75.00
5. Laphroaig with Simon Brooking – Details to be announced – Wednesday November 16th
MACKINLAY’S (SHACKLETON REPLICA) RARE OLD HIGHLAND MALTS UPDATE
If you’ve been paying attention to the Malt Messenger over the last few months you’ll know that one of the biggest pieces of news this fall was the Canadian launch of the MacKinlay’s Shackleton replica, which is exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Alberta. It has been a massive success, with the first 150 bottles of this curious malt having sold out even before the official launch.
On Friday September 30th an assortment of whisky enthusiasts, Shackleton aficionados and other interested parties gathered at the Kensington Wine Market to sample the whisky while enjoying Dr. Jane Cameron’s photos and a presentation by Susan Eaton who has followed in Shackleton’s footsteps. Well the launch of the MacKinlay’s in Canada on September 30th was a massive success and orders for the second 150 bottles were brisk and quickly started pilling up. Fearing we wouldn’t have enough to meet demand I reached out to the importer and pressed them to find more for us, and it’s a good thing I did because things went from hot to boiling when participant Susan Eaton’s article made the front page of the Calgary Herald last Sunday. All of the 156 bottles due in December are long spoken for as are most of the 300 bottles due later in the spring.
If you haven’t seen Susan’s article in the Herald here is a link to it: http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/spirit+exploration/5593782/story.html as well as the modified version carried in the Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Antarctic+expeditions+revisited+through+reproduced+whisky/5593511/story.html.
If you have any whisky questions or comments concerning The Malt Messenger please contact me by e-mail, phone, or drop by the store. Feel free to forward me any whisky news you feel should be included in a future issue of The Malt Messenger; it might just get included.
All of the products mentioned in THE MALT MESSENGER can be purchased in store, over the phone or from our website at www.kensingtonwinemarket.com.. All prices quoted in the Malt Messenger are subject to change!
Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!