Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada Outturn for January 2018

Happy New Year!

We have turned the page on 2017 and we now start another year of great tastings here at Kensington Wine Market. As has been the case for the past five (!) years we ring in the new year with a fresh Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn. Nothing can get you excited for another spin around the sun like SEVEN brand new cask strength offerings!

The septet features quite a few familiar distillery numbers though some are shown in a different light when compared to other recent bottlings – much of this due to a total of three cask finishes in the lineup. It also seemed to carry a theme of ‘out with the old – in with the new’: only one of the old-look bottles was on hand. The other six were all showing off the new look for SMWS bottles with the light accents of colour that are not necessarily all SMWS GREEN(TM). I am sure we will see more old look bottles this year but this is surely a sign of things to come.

Another feature of the January Outturn is the inclusion of a bottle some may already be familiar with: SMWS 10.117 – SMOKY, SALTY, SWEET PORRIDGE. Though this Outturn is its regular-sized debut, the is also a 100mL version was included in our sold-out 2017 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar. As we have done over the past few years – we featured a special 100mL SMWS bottle on the 25th day of the Calendar and this time around it was the above mentioned smoky, salty and sweet Bunnahabhain. We have a few extra bottles of the 100mL version for Society Members who would like to add another mini to their collection.

Curious about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society? More information can be found on our website here. Past releases and other available bottles can found on our website as well.

A big thanks as always goes to our neighbor’s Peasant Cheese for supplying the food compliment for the tastings.

Cheers,
Evan

Here is the January 2018 SMWS Canada Lineup:

35.157 – REWARD FOR A BRASS BAND
This 14-year-old Speysider is 58.2% after maturing in a 1st fill barrel
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 228 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The initial nose was clean, fresh and alluring, offering chocolate, nougat and honeycomb toffee; gradually balanced by dried grass and flowers – we could imagine honeyed apricot flan and corn dollies laid out on a polished boardroom table – classy. The palate had two complementary levels – a lively bugle blast of juicy, succulent sweetness (fudge, cinnamon biscuits, currants, orange zest) underpinned by a very dry, deep tuba-like reverberation of toasted oak. The reduced nose became slightly more perfumed – fresh marigolds and nasturtiums instead of dried. The palate discovered a compromise note of putty, oiled cricket bats and waxed wood. A rewarding dram.”
Drinking tip: “Might be too mouth-watering for playing brass instruments – but could make listening to them more bearable”
$154.99

G9.3 – FRUIT, SPICE AND ALL THINGS NICE
This 16-year-old single grain whisky from the Southern Highlands comes in at 62.6% after maturing in a 2nd fill barrel
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 245 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “First impressions swung heavily towards creamy vanilla and fine powdery sawdust with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg spice. After a few deep breaths light citrus, milk chocolate and oily walnuts announced their arrival before developing into intriguing peppermint freshness. The palate delivered a punch of intense sweetness as it danced across brown sugar, mango and chocolate orange with the definite shadow of Caribbean rum. Water accentuated the citrus side with a lemon sherbet zing and a much softer and delicate approach on the palate that lead to a satisfying finish of dark chocolate, apple pie and candied orange.”
Drinking tip: “A general purpose dram for all occasions and celebrations”
$141.99

73.84 – TUG OF WAR IN A MEADOW
From a refill butt, this 15-year-old Speysider is 57.4%
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Outturn: 572 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose had us frolicking in flowery Spring meadows; then we were rewarded with apple strudel, strawberry jam donuts and mulled cider. Spice dominated the neat palate – spiced oranges in mulled wine, cinnamon apple pie and intense dark fruits; the finish contained drying white pepper and chili powder. The reduced nose was a tug of war – spiced wood, old bookshops and black bun* pitted against tinned pears, crème Anglaise and apple and elderflower. The palate found its resolution with water – playful nutmeg spice and sherbet, lemon meringue pie, vanilla and Belgian caramel wafer; strangely mouth-watering and drying at the same time. (*a very dark, spicy fruit cake enclosed in pastry, traditionally served in Scotland on New Year’s Eve).”
Drinking tip: “Perhaps with an apple dessert”
$146.99

37.89 – A COZY SLIPPER SIPPER
This 17-year-old Speysider is 53.9% and after spending 17 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead it was transferred to a 1st fill French oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Outturn: 227 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “It was time to sit back and relax in a world of gloriously comforting aromas. Muscovado sugar and melted butter combined with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg whilst on an open fire we roasted sweet chestnuts. Then figs, dates and porcini mushrooms came to the fore with a fruit zing of blood oranges, blackcurrant sweets and spiced rhubarb and ginger tart. The sweetness turned towards toffee and fudge with a suggestion of heather honey and sweet Malaga wine before finishing with old wood and dark chocolate. After spending 17 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead it was transferred to a 1st fill French oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.”
Drinking tip: “Whilst relaxing by an open fire in a robe and fluffy slippers”
$181.99

7.167 – CHOCOLATE PRALINES IN AN OAK BOX
This 26-year-old Speysider is 54% and after spending 25 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead it was transferred into a 1st fill American oak Pedro Ximenez hogshead for the remainder of its maturation
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 234 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The distinctive woody whiff of old dunnage warehouse opened the doors for suggestions of soft fudge, nougat, toffee and dark chocolate pralines. Fruit followed with roasted peach and demerara sugar, overripe strawberries, gooseberries and rum soaked cherries before rich notes evolved of bitter chili chocolate, freshly ground coffee, tobacco and spiced orange chocolate covered marzipan. The extended finish combined perfumed talcum powder with Chantilly cream and a varnished cricket bat. After spending 25 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, this was transferred into a 1st fill American oak Pedro Ximenez hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.”
Drinking tip: “With a box of pralines and a bunch of flowers”
$239.99

10.117 – SMOKY, SALTY, SWEET PORRIDGE
This 9-year-old from Islay comes in at 61.2% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Peated
Outturn: 150 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Plenty of peat smoke, chimney soot and tar right at the beginning, but it did not stop there as we discovered an underlying sweetness which needed to be unearthed. In time we discovered aromas of brown sugar glazed parsnips, honey roasted chocolate peanuts and black currant wine gums. The taste was like a sweet golden syrup, but at the same time, smoky salty austere, steaming hot creamy porridge – most unusual. Water calmed tempers somewhat, on the nose now sweet potatoes and honey glazed carrots whilst on the palate grilled hot dogs with mango chutney and red onion relish.”
Drinking tip:  “Experience the difference between neat and diluted”
$131.99
$32.99 for the 100mL version

66.99 – PINE-SMOKED SALMON AND BURNING HEATHER
This 8-year-old Highlander comes in at 60% and after 7 years in an ex-bourbon barrel it was transferred into a custom new oak barrel with a #4 char and heavily toasted heads
Flavour profile: Peated
Outturn: 216 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “On first nosing we were surrounded by “new age shop” fragrance (incense), and very intense smoke. With time, we imagined an old desk with lining paper. Upon it sat a bottle of rose water, some potpourri, a bowl of dried raspberries and a sprig of scorched heather. A final hint of peppery pine-smoked salmon invited us to delve deeper. Plumes of burning heather to taste, toasty and nutty. The smoke grew, and finished with smoked bacon crisps and aniseed. Water brought pencil shavings, herbal notes of rosemary and lemon thyme, and hot smoked salmon. The taste was still more savoury, like creamy whisky sauce poured on chicken stuffed with haggis. After 7 years in an ex-bourbon barrel, we transferred this to a custom new oak barrel with a #4 char and heavily toasted heads.”
Drinking tip: “A post-meditation dram”
$114.99

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 25 – The Grand Finale – Scotch Malt Whisky Society 10.117

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 25 – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 10.117: Smoky, salty, sweet porridge

Words by Andrew and Evan

As has become a tradition, we are capping off the Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Calendar with a special 100mL bottle from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Why a 100mL? Because you made it through the first 24 days and you deserve it… actually, it is because the Society doesn’t bottle 50mls, but they do bottle 100ml whiskies, and we redesigned our Whisky Advent Calendar box a few years back to accommodate it.

About the Scotch Malt Whisky Society: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the world’s largest whisky club, and also an independent bottler. As a club it has close to 30,000 members all over the world, and branches in close to 20 different countries. It is an independent bottler that has been thrice accorded the honour of Independent Bottler of the Year by Whisky Magazine. It bottles as broad a range of single cask, single malt Scotch whiskies as any other firm, and it doesn’t stop there. It has also bottle Japanese whiskies, Bourbon, Grain whisky, Cognac, Armagnac and Gin. Whether it is a whisky, or another spirit, the Society always bottles the spirit from a single cask, straight from the cask, Unfiltered. Undiluted. Unrivaled.

Kensington Wine Market is proud to be the original home of the Society in Canada, and its exclusive retailer in Southern Alberta and all parts east. Over the last six years we have introduced more than 500 whiskies to more than a thousand Canadian members. Every month we launch at least 6, and usually 7 new whiskies. Membership is easy and gives you exclusive access to the widest selection of single cask single malt whiskies anywhere in the world. We also hold month outturn tastings at the shop. Only Scotch Malt Whisky Society members can buy our exclusive single cask single malt whiskies, but anyone can try them. We’re confident once you’ve had a taste you will want to join the club. For more information on the SMWS you can visit our web page or www.smws.ca .

For the second year in a row, this year’s Scotch Malt Whisky Society whisky is a cask selected especially for the Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Calendar. Cask 10.117 is not yet available for sale, and will be launched early in 2018. We can’t tell you what distillery #10 is, but there isn’t much you can’t find on the internet anymore. This is the 117th cask of Distillery #10 bottled by the Society. It is from a refill Ex-Bourbon Barrel, bottled at 61.2%. Its name, is “Smoky, salty, sweet porridge”, a named inspired by the Tasting Panel’s tasting note.

SMWS 10.117 – Smoky, salty, sweet porridge -  61.2% ABV

This Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottle hails from a northern Islay distillery. It is 9 Years Old from a refill ex-bourbon barrel.

SMWS Tasting Notes: “Plenty of peat smoke, chimney soot and tar right at the beginning, but it did not stop there as we discovered an underlying sweetness which needed to be unearthed. In time we discovered aromas of brown-sugar glazed parsnips, honey roasted chocolate peanuts and black currant wine gums. The taste was like a sweet golden syrup, but at the same time, smoky salty austere, steaming hot creamy porridge – most unusual. Water calmed tempers somewhat, on the nose now sweet potatoes and honey glazed carrots whilst on the palate; grilled hot dogs with mango chutney and red onion relish.”

Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: peanut brittle and chicken satay on egg noodle; glazed pork, grilled bbq unagi, dried orange and mango salsa; sugary and floral with willow branches. Palate: more bbq unagi, chicken satay and glazed pork belly; fatty, oily and smoky; fresh orange and lime citrus; a shade of dark chocolate and sooty-oil-soaked mechanics rags; becomes tarry and more medicinal with each passing sip, but also more tropical and fruity. Finish: warming, smoky and fruity; the engine-oils coat the mouth with flashes of citrus and more tropical fruits; long, very long. Comment: this is going to be a very popular malt… Society members will be clambering for a bottle; thankfully we have the whole cask!”

 

Evan’s Tasting Note: “Nose: Oily smoke, earthy peat. Salt, brine, and iodine. Light citrus, bell pepper, laundry fresh out of the dryer, lavender and the slight hint of parma violet. Butter on toast. Chocolate fudge, fennel, sunflower seeds, malted barley, and a squeeze of lemon. Palate: Salt, black pepper and smoke. Spicy up front before it settles in and switches to creamy. Starchy plantains dipped in chocolate, fresh roasted peanuts, oatmeal with blackberries and cinnamon, lemon pepper seasoning, vanilla yogurt plus a dash of honey. Finish: Warming. Smokey and creamy with a dash of salt and a light touch of sweetness all the way down. Comment: Your kids may have gotten up far too early on Christmas morning but feel free to forgo the coffee – this is a delicious way to wake up. Let the kids open their gifts. For you perhaps the presence of this is present enough.”

Merry Christmas and a Peaty New Year from all of us at Kensington Wine Market!

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Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Day 24 – Kilchoman 2007 KWM 25th Anniversary 10 Year

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 24 – Kilchoman 2007 KWM 10 Year

The Isle of Islay is the home to some of the most iconic distilleries in Scotland: Bowmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich and more. It is a Mecca for whisky lovers the world over, and when Anthony Wills had a dream to open his own distillery Islay was the only place to do it. He didn’t want to build a large modern distillery when the barley is trucked in and the spirit trucked away. The industry has changed a lot over the last century, and some of the charm and tradition has been lost along the way. With Kilchoman (pronounced Kil-ho-man) Anthony wanted to build a farm distillery, returning Islay’s whisky industry to its roots.

Kilchoman not only malts some of its barley on site, but it grows it in the fields surrounding the distillery. The distillery was founded at Rockside Farm on the Western side of Islay. For a few short years it was the westernmost distillery in Scotland. An even smaller distillery on the Isle of Lewis bares this honour today. Rockside farm is located a mile inland from the beautiful white sands of Machir Bay, and beyond that lies thousands of miles of open ocean until you hit the east coast of Canada. For most of the 11+ years it has now been producing whisky there was a bit of an uneasy relationship between Kilchoman and the farm, that came to an end a couple years ago, when the distillery literally bought the farm.

In addition to producing the whisky on site, Kilchoman is also one of the few distilleries in Scotland to bottle on site. Would it disappoint you to learn that some of the best know whisky brands in Scotland are reduced to bottling strength with de-ionized city tap water? Both Kilchoman and Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay bottle their whiskies with the same water they use to produce them.

With more than a decade of distilling behind it, and demand that seemingly outstrips supply each and every year, Kilchoman has a lot of wind in its sails. The distillery is in the midst of a big expansion, at least by Kilchoman’s standards, with production set to more than double from 200,000L a year, to more than 450,000L a year. This might sound like a lot, but it is still less than 1/8th of Laphroaig’s production and not even 7% of Caol Ila’s. But still fans of this bold but smooth Islay malt, can expect to see a lot more of it in the decades ahead.

And more importantly, this year we have a special treat. To help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary, Founder and Owner Anthony Wills was kind enough to let us select and bottle one of Kilchoman’s oldest casks. Our 2007 Kilchoman is the oldest whisky from the distillery to be sold in Canada, and it doesn’t disappoint. A sign of even greater things to come!

Kilchoman 2007 KWM 25th Anniversary 10 Year

– 56.6% – Ex-Bourbon Barrel – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: creamy, decadent and briny with a whiff of smoke from the coals of a smouldering beach fire; classic Kilchoman fresh lemon, goat cheese and Old English Butterscotch; smoked mussels and pan seared scallops. Palate: big, sweet, oily and malty; sweet vanilla and butterscotch morph into tendrils of vanilla, chewy malt and tarry-medicinal-peat; more lemon and goat cheese, firm toasted oak, fennel and Dutch licorice; underneath it all a thick layer of ripe orchard fruits. Finish: bold, long and rich yet smooth and so so salty: more Dutch licorice, juicy malt and tarry-peat; the smouldering beach fire returns with some sweet vanilla, lemon and orchard fruit. Comment: we are honoured that Anthony Wills was willing to share one of these precious early vintage Kilchomans will us; bottled just days past its 10th birthday!” $200 for 700ml – or – $30 of 50ml

Stay tuned for the last day of Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 23 –

KWM Whisky Advent Day 23 – Gordon Macphail Highland Park 8 Year

Highland Park was until recently Scotland’s northernmost distillery. Officially established in 1798 it was also one of the first to be licensed. But the distillery’s actual origins are shrouded in the mists of time, and the fog which frequently blankets the Orkney archipelago. The distillery was either founded by the legendary and larger than life priest Magnus Eunson, or a farmer named David Robertson. There is also some indication the distillery may have originally been called Rosebank, and later Kirkwall. But for today lets work on the assumption the distillery was established as Highland Park by Magnus Eunson.

Before he took his distillery legit, he was said to have been a prolific illicit distiller and smuggler. In one tale he caught forewarning of a raid by the exciseman, or gauger…  Legends suggest he hid his barrels in a church and covered them with a white cloth. When the guagers arrived they found the men kneeling in prayer. Eunson is said to have whispered “small pox”, and that was all the taxmen needed to hear!

Highland Park is one of the most beautiful distilleries in Scotland, tucked into the hills on the outskirts of the Orkney capital of Kirkwall. The buildings are built from an assortment of dark stones, which if memory serves, would have originally served as ballast in the many ships that visited the island. The island was the final stop most British ships traveling to Hudson Bay would have made. They would have taken on provisions including fresh water and whisky. One of the earliest purchasers of whisky from the island would have been British traders sailing for Hudson’s Bay. By the 1850s Highland Park had a reputation for good quality single malt, and was also supplying the biggest blended whisky brands: Ballantines, Dewars and Chivas with stock.

Highland Park is one of less than a dozen distilleries to retain its tradition floor maltings. This malting accounts for about 20% of Highland Park’s production, and is heavily peated with Orkney peat. Orkney peat is famous for having a lighter more delicate impact than other Scottish peats, owing to the archipelago’s geography and climate. The Orkneys are so far north, and exposed to such power winds, that few trees can take root. As a result the islands peat does not contain any wood or crucially pine needles, which give a more acidic, medicinal profile. The 20% of heavily peated malt is blended with unpeated malt from the mainland before mashing.

Gordon Macphail Highland Park 8 Year 43% – Refill Sherry Hogshead & Ex-Bourbon Barrels – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: honeyed and waxy; very herbal and floral with heather honey, the whiff of a distant sea breeze and kippers in a pan; diced pineapple and dried apricots. Palate: creamy, waxy and subtly smoky; floral, heather honey, very maritime and savoury with more kippers; more dried apricots and pineapple cubes; still floral and herbal. Finish: a touch nutty with cigar ash, fading fruits, honey and cream. Comment: this is young but a maturity beyond its years; very pleasant, layered and approachable; a gateway whisky for those afraid of peat. ” - $75 for 700ml

Stay tuned for Whisky Advent Day 25 Tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 22 –

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 22 – Glenfiddich 18 Year

For the second time in the 2017 Whisky Advent Calendar we are featuring a distillery bottled Glenfiddich, and we are excited to do so, because revisiting the Glenfiddich 18 Year is a little like reconnecting with an old friend. While some things changes, others standfast and hold true. The family owned firm of William Grant & Sons, parent company of Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries is a good example of this, as their 6th generation starts to get involved in the business.

In some ways, it is remarkable that the firm is still family owned and going strong. In 1953 William Grant Gordon, the 3rd generation of owners, passed away, bequeathing the firm to his sons. Charles and Sandy were young, 26 and 22 years of age at the time. Many a business might have suffered from such a loss, but William Grants was in safe hands. Charles continued to grow the Blended Scotch whisky side of the business and built the firms grain distillery, Girvan in 1963. A malt distillery was run at the facility from 1968 to 1965, called Ladyburn. In 2007 William Grants opened a new malt distillery on the site called Ailsa Bay.

The other son, Sandy, is the one credited with taking Glenfiddich single malt global. The firm heavily promoted their product in print and on television. They sold an impressive 4,000 cases in their first year, a figure that grew to 174,000 cases in just a decade. Glenfiddich has been the World’s bestselling single malt whisky, with the exception of 2014, when for a year Glenlivet took that honour. Demand for the distillery’s single malt is continuing to grow today. The distillery currently produces a little over $13 million litres of spirit a year, but this figure is set to sky rocket with a whole new production site set to open!

Glenfiddich 18 Year- 40% – Oloroso Sherry & Ex-Bourbon – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: creamy and tropical, treacle sauce and maple butter; melons, mango and papaya; chocolate shavings and cinnamon dusted on top of a foamy cappuccino. Palate: still creamy, tropical and fruity with maple syrup and more subtle treacle notes; more mango, papaya and flambéed banana; more dark chocolate shavings and cinnamon, soft leather and some salted caramel. Finish: long, coating and fruity. Comment: it is nice to revisit the old standbys and remind yourself how pleasant they can be.” $153 for 750ml – or – $13for 50ml

Stay tuned for KWM Whisky Advent Day 23 Tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 21 – Glengoyne 15 Year

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 21 – Glengoyne 15 Year

Glengoyne was officially founded in 1833, as Burntfoot Distillery by the Edmondson family, who were the areas major landowner. There was distilling taking place on the site for decades before the 1830s. The distillery sits on the edge of the Highlands, its warehouses technically in the Lowlands. A great hill rises behind the distillery, shorn of trees by Scotlands tempestuous climate. It would have provided an excellent vantage point from which to spot the taxman approaching.

The distillery was acquired by the McLelland family in the 1850s and passed on to the Lang brothers of Glasgow in 1876. The changed the distillery’s name to Glen Guin, which was anglicised to Glengoyne in 1905. The distillery was acquired by Robertson & Baxter in 1965. This firm would later become part of the Edrington Group (A Trust) who own Macallan, Highland Park, Glenrothes and Glenturret). It was an important component in their blends.

The distillery’s single malts slowly started to gain a following in the mid-2000s, after it was acquired by Ian Macloed Distillers in 2003. Ian Macleod had and eye to increasing Glengoyne’s exposure as a single malt. The Glengoyne 15 Year, the whisky we are sampling tonight, was introduced in 2012 and has been a staple in our shop ever since. Glengoyne, like Macallan, Glenfarclas and Glendronach, is a whisky predominantly matured in European oak Ex-Sherry.

The distillery’s production, a little over 1 million litres, is small. It’s focus is on quality over quantity, and it is not afraid to take its time. It has very long fermentations and distillations in comparison with other distilleries. The consistency of its spirit profile the most important consideration.

Glengoyne 15 Year – 43% – Cask Specifications: 30% 1st Fill American Oak Bourbon. 20% 1st Fill European Oak Sherry, 50% Hand-selected quality Oak Refill casks. – My Tasting Note: “Nose: English marmalade on burnt toast, firm leather and milk chocolate; creamy and fruity; citrus fruits and new rubber boots in the rain. Palate: big, rich and smooth; loads of caramel, toffee and milk chocolate; Toffifee; more marmalade on burnt toast before heading out in the drizzle in a new pair of rubber boots; the silky fruits follow with tropical tones and dried apricot. Finish: medium, it tapers off but gently lingers. Comment: very easy drinking, complex but not a thinker; the kind of dram you want after a long and exhausting day!” - $90 for 750ml – or – $11 for 50ml!

Stay tuned for KWM Whisky Advent Day 22 tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 20 – Gordon Macphail Connoisseurs Choice Inchgower 2005

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 20 – G&M Auchroisk 2005

We have our second Connoisseurs Choice whisky of KWM Whisky Advent 2017 tonight, for Day 20 we are featuring the Gordon Macphail Auchroisk 2005. We’ll get into the whisky, but first a little about Gordon Macphail. The firm opened its doors for the first time on the 24th May 1895 as reported in the Elgin Courant: “in New, Centrical, and Commodious Premises, No’s 38 and 40 South Street… a Family Grocers, Tea, Wine & Spirit Merchants”. The firm was founded by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail, and one of their first employees was a 15 year old John Urquhart. One of his jobs was to help select and purchase casks of malt whisky for the shop. John also helped create house blends for the firm’s many customers in the north of Scotland.

When Mr. MacPhail retired in March of 1915 John Urquhart was made a partner. Two weeks later he became the senior partner when James Gordon suddenly passed away. The business has been in the Urquhart family ever since, currently in its 4th generation. John continued to grow the whisky brokering side of the business begun by James Gordon and began filling his own casks of whisky from distilleries across Scotland. This is a practice the firm continues to this day, setting them apart from other independent bottlers. Most of the casks were Ex-Sherry casks acquired by the firm through their wine business. John Urquhart also began the practice of laying down stocks of whisky for extended periods of time, an uncommon practice.

"Auchroisk Distillery" by Anne Burgess. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Auchroisk_Distillery.jpg#/media/File:Auchroisk_Distillery.jpg

 

John’s three children joined him in his business beginning in the 1930s with George and Betty in 1933 and Gordon in 1950. By the 1950′s Gordon & MacPhail had the largest range of bottled whisky held by any firm in the world. Few distilleries bottled their own whiskies as single malts in that day. In the 1960s distilleries like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenmorangie and Bowmore began bottling their own single malts and promoting them globally. During the same period George Urquhart released a new line of single malts under the Connoisseurs Choice range which caught on very quickly in markets across Western Europe and the US.

About the Connoisseurs Choice line (Courtesy Gordon Macphail): “In the 1960s George Urquhart, one of the first of four generations of the Urquhart family to shape the future of Gordon & MacPhail, pioneered a range of single malt Scotch whiskies, which he selected, matured, and bottled. In doing so, he effectively invented a category in a market previously focused entirely on blended whiskies. The ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range broke innovative new ground, giving a platform to many of Scotland’s single malt distilleries from across all regions, some of which had never before been bottled as a single malt. Over the past five decades, we have maintained our belief that every distillery has a personality of its own. The collection of whiskies in the ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ range is constantly evolving, aiming always to highlight the unique characteristics of the individual distilleries.”

https://www.gordonandmacphail.com/about-us/our-story/

 

Auchroisk distillery was built in 1974 by J&B (Justerini & Brooks), located in the heart of the Speyside, in the hills between Rothes & Keith. Auchroisk is a whisky almost never seen, save from independent bottlers like Gordon & MacPhail. Its pronunciation, “oth-rusk”, is also a bit challenging for many. The distillery is owned today by Diageo and is primarily produced for blends.

Gordon Macphail Connoisseurs Choice Auchroisk 2005 – 46% – Refill American Oak Hogsheads – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: very honeyed, vanilla cream liqueur, sandalwood, woodshop dust and a bag full of assorted Jelly Bellys; fresh cut wet grass and chocolate Jell-O pudding cups. Palate: round, creamy, malty and toasty; loads of wood: freshly sanded maple, singed oak and sandalwood incense;  still honeyed, fruit candies and Jell-O pudding. Finish: light, fresh, floral and malty. Comment: Auchroisk does well in Ex-Bourbon, more so than Sherry IMHO; sadly this is not a whisky we will have for sale in minis or full size bottles; it is a WAC exclusive!” - $N/A

 

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 19 – Arran 14 Year

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 19 – Isle of Arran 14 Year

Evan is on the keyboard again today, but the photos are Andrew’s. He climbed Goatfel Mountain on the Isle of Arran in May of this year, and enjoyed a dram of Arran 14 while at the top! 

The Isle of Arran Distillery is located – unsurprisingly – on the Isle of Arran. The island lies just east of Campbeltown and well east of Islay and the distillery itself resides on the north of the island at Lochranza. Arran distillery is relatively young by Scottish standards. Having started production in 1995 this is relatively true in the grand scheme of things and given the history boasted by many of Scotland’s other distilleries.

Arran Distillery has been in operation for 21 years and has been successful enough for its private ownership group to work on building a second distillery on the same Island – this one in the south overlooking the cliffs at Lagg. A ground-breaking ceremony at the new site took place on February 16th of this year. The plan is to focus on peated whisky at the new distillery once it is up and running.

Kensington Wine Market has been lucky enough to have a very good relationship with Arran and its representatives for a long time. We just bottled our 9th and 10th single casks with them. Joining our peated 7-year-old single casks are two 20-year-old unpeated malts both aged in separate sherry hogsheads and showing different facets of the Arran house style.

The core range of Arran consists of the 10, the 14 and 18-year-old and a few regular cask finish bottlings such as Port and Amarone. They also release the moderately peated Machrie Moor line and the Robert Burns line of Single Malt and Blended Scotch. Today’s Advent bottle is the Arran 14 year bottled at 46% ABV.

Arran 14 Year - 46% – Matured in Ex-Bourbon & Sherry – Evan’s Tasting Note: “Nose: Ginger and lime, pineapple, green mango, pear – such a plethora of orchard and tropical fruit. Vanilla, Elderflower, chamomile, buttercream and almonds, Fruit Loops cereal in milk. Everything is bright and fresh. Palate: Creamy entry with ginger heat before fruit and nut notes join the fray. Chili and lime coated almonds, grapefruit, pineapple, chamomile again, pistachios, walnuts, light toasty oak, passion fruit and more mango. Finish: Both creamy and tangy all the way down. The texture is lovely and the green notes and acidity make the front of your tongue tingle. Comments: As a long time fan of Arran I feel like this is where the rubber meets the road in the regular lineup. The 10 year old is solid notes but this 14 year exhibits my favorite style from the distillery with it’s burst of tropical fruit and ginger notes plus the amazing creamy texture.” – $80 for 700ml or $10 for 50ml

Stay tuned for KWM Whisky Advent Day 20 tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 18 – Ardbeg Corryvreckan

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 18 – Ardbeg Corryvreckan

The Ardbeg Corryvreckan has been my favourite whisky in the Ardbeg core range for the last decade since it was introduced. That was until the Ardbeg An Oa was introduced just a few months ago. Now I’m torn, so here I sit, tasting the Ardbeg Corryvreckan again, to see if it is still my favourite whisky in the core range.

Ardbeg is one of a trio of Islay distilleries to mark their 200th birthdays over the last few years. The iconic Hebridean Island distillery has been on a tear for the last 17 years, and of all the Islay distilleries it has one of the strongest and most loyal cult followings of any distillery in Scotland. Look at the popularity of its annual Ardbeg Day releases (Kelpie, Dark Cove, Perpetuum and so on) if you need proof of this point. Or the sums people are willing to pay for older vintages like the 1974s, recently released Ardbeg 1815 or 17 year old expression. This makes it all the more striking when you consider that the distillery only operated intermittently from from 1981 through 1997, and it could easily have been demolished and lost forever!

Between 1885 and 1887 Alfred Barnard, a beer and whisky historian working for Harper’s Weekly Gazette, travelled across the United Kingdom visiting 162 distilleries (129 in Scotland, 29 in Ireland and 4 in England). He wrote about his experiences and each of the distilleries he visited in his still referenced work, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom. At the time of Alfred Barnard’s visit Ardbeg was the largest distillery on Islay, producing 1.2 million liters of spirit a year, only slightly less than its annual production today. The distillery first started as most of Scotland’s 18th and 19th century distilleries did as a farm. Although 1812 is the official founding date of the distillery there is some evidence it was operating as far back as 1794.

In 1888 the distillery was acquired by the Hay family in whose hands it would remain for nearly 100 years. In 1973 Hiram Walker acquired the distillery, and Ardbeg’s fortunes turned. The new owners started moving away from barley peated in their own maltings in favour of relying on commercial maltings like the nearby Port Ellen maltings. This shift was most notable in 1974, which is regarded as the benchmark vintage from the distillery. Sadly whiskies from this year are now rarer than hens teeth and commanding huge prices. The onsite maltings closed for good in 1977.

In 1981 Ardbeg was closed. Hiram Walker had a problem, the industry was in crisis, the various whisky companies had vastly overestimated future demand for whisky and there was a glut. Hiram Walker had two Islay disilleries, but they only needed one. That year Ardbeg was closed, while Laphroaig is kept open. In 1989 increasing demand prompted the firm to reopen Ardbeg, but it would only operate intermittently for the next 16 years. In 1996 the distillery is closed again and put up for sale. The next year Ardbeg’s fortunes finally turned for the better. The distillery was bought by Glenmorangie PLC and its iconic 17 Year and Provenance (1974) whiskies are released for the first time. Within a year of reopening the distillery has a visitor center and a new path forward opens up before it. Over the last decade Ardbeg fans have been patiently awaiting the release of older whiskies. It will likely be a few more years before we start seeing expressions like the Ardbeg 17 again, but the future is bright, with a touch of oily peat smoke!

The Ardbeg Corryvreckan is named for the dangerous natural whirlpool between the northern tip of the island of Jura and its neighbour Scarba. The whisky is bottled at a natural cask strength of 57.1% and has been matured predominantly in American oak for at least 10 years. The rest of the recipe is malt that has been matured in Virgin French Oak Limousin casks. This is what gives the Ardbeg Corryvreckan its spicy profile.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 57.1% - Bottled August 21, 2017 – Matured in Ex-Bourbon & Virgin French Oak – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: thick with honey and cream, Irish soda bread, dried fruits and salted caramel; a touch of powdered sugar, juicy malt, apricot and ashy smoke; sweet marmalade, candied ginger, cardamom and ginger. Palate: big, rich, spicy, sweet and fruity; decadent, earthy and peated; massive spices: fennel, hot ginger, cinnamon and cardamom; juicy malt, firm earthy-oily peat and tar; sea salt, clean beach smoke and layers of fruit: oranges, melon and apricot. Finish: long, savoury, oily and coating; tarry peat and juicy malt linger long with sugars, spice and everything nice. Comment: this is a big peaty, maritime malt; a fine winter warmer, and still my favourite core Ardbeg.” - $120 for 700ml – or – $15 for 50ml

Stay tuned for KWM Whisky Advent Day 19 Tomorrow!

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Kensington Wine Market 2017 Whisky Advent Day 17 – Bunnahabhain 12 Year

KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 17 – Bunnahabhain 12 Year

Evan is blogging again today:

Bunnahabhain Distillery is the northernmost distillery on Islay – it lays off the beaten path and is somewhat remote even when compared to the rest of the island. Until the 1960s when they finally built a road to the distillery it was only reachable by boat. Bunnahabhain is one of a trio of Scottish Single Malt Distilleries owned by Burn Stewart (Distell Group), who also own Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull and Deanston Distillery in Perthshire. Like it’s siblings, most of the flagship single malts from Bunnahabhain are bottled unchill-filtered and with no added colouring at the the curious but commendable strength of 46.3% ABV.

This Islay distillery was founded in 1881 and started its life making the heavily peated whisky that the region is famous for. For most of its history its whisky was exclusively used in blends, and even today only a fraction of its production is bottled as a single malt. In 1963 production was increased and at the same time the distillery’s style was changed to the lighter, unpeated single malt whisky it is known for today. Since 1997 there have been small amounts heavily peated (35 PPM malt spec) single malt made each year but it is not what the distillery is known for.

The core of Bunnahabhain’s production and lineup is still not all that peaty as they use a malt spec with a maximum phenolic level of 2ppm. This makes it one of the more gently peated Islay single malts available. The distillery and its whisky are sometimes referred to as the “Gentle Giant of Islay!” What it lacks in smoke and peat it typically makes up for in nuanced and complex character and plenty of sherry cask influence. Older Bunnahabhain tends to be a treat if you can track it down but today let’s partake an introduction to the distillery’s finesse with the Bunnahabhain 12 year old. Bottled at 46.3% ABV.

Bunnahabhain 12 Year - 46.3% – Evan’s Tasting Note: “Nose: Christmas cake. Big sherry cask with dried fruits, salted caramels, and new leather coming through. Black pepper, raisins, dates, dark, dark italian panforte with plenty nuts and fruit in the mix, dark chocolate, well-stocked humidor and even hints of coffee grounds and liquorice. Palate: Rich and mouth coating with some spices and saltiness. Dried blueberries, fruit leather, christmas cake, chocolate covered berries and raisins, hints of nutmeg, salty black liquorice, ground black pepper, heavily steeped black tea, and hints of bitter coffee. Finish: It ends how it begins – with christmas cake, black liquorice, salt and mild spice notes. Comment: It has been a while since I have sampled the Bunna 12 year. I love the 18 year but it is good to be reminded of how well put-together this 12 year is – especially given the price.” - $75 for a 700ml – or – $10 for a 50ml

Stay tuned for KWM Whisky Advent 2017 Day 18 Tomorrow!

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