Talisker 57° North

Talisker 57 North Review 01Distillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 57%

Having launched in 2008, Talisker 57° North is the longest serving member of the many NAS bottlings that now make up Talisker’s range. Of course this says something about the popularity of the 57° North, since unsuccessful whiskies don’t get to stick around for long. This expression is named for the geographical coordinates of the Talisker distillery, which finds itself at a latitude of 57 degrees North. To stay true to the theme, 57° North has been bottled at a strength of… you’ve guessed it: 57% abv. This marks a departure from the standard Talisker bottling strength of 45.8%, providing the 57° North with plenty of oomph on top of an already feisty distillery profile. This one’s going to be fun!

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Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

Arran Sauternes Cask 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

Arran distillery seems to be on a quest to finish their whisky in every cask type imaginable, and have produced some quality drams along the way. There’s something about Arran whisky that makes it suit cask finishes particularly well, which is why I’m excited to try the Arran Sauternes Cask. As the name implies, this dram has received an additional maturation in oak that previously held Sauternes, a sweet, white dessert wine from the Bordeaux region. While I’ve not been overly impressed with the likes of Tullibardine 225 or Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or, I have a feeling that a Sauternes finish may complement Arran’s fresh, fruity character rather well. Let’s find out!

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Strathisla 12 year old

Strathisla 12 year oldDistillery: Strathisla
Region: Speyside
Age: 12 years old
abv: 40%

As the oldest and arguably most picturesque distillery in the north of Scotland, Strathisla can be considered the showpiece in Chivas’s whisky emporium. This is not surprising, since Strathisla is the sole single malt in the company’s portfolio and forms the heart of many a Chivas Regal blend.

Strathisla began its life as a farmhouse distillery under the name Milltown. It was destroyed in a fire in 1876, after which the distillery was rebuilt in its current form. The business changed hands several times, until it was acquired by Chivas Brothers in 1950. Since then, both Strathisla distillery and Chivas have gone from strength to strength, with Chivas becoming the world’s best selling premium blend. As a single malt, Strathisla is often overlooked in favour of its larger Speyside neighbours, and this is wholly unjustified. Sure, Strathisla doesn’t have as extensive a range as some of their competitors, with Strathisla 12 year old being the only malt in the Chivas line-up. But it so happens that this 12 year old is a quality drop of whisky, meaning Strathisla is a distillery that should be noted for more than just the beauty of its stillhouse or for being the home of Chivas Regal. If you like Speyside drams, do give this whisky a try.

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Alfred Barnard - Whisky Writer

Alfred Barnard: The Wandering Whisky Writer

How envious we are sometimes of people like Anthony Bourdain, Ian Wright or Michael Palin. Offered a chance to travel the world, explore new places and try new cuisines. And getting paid to boot! Amazing, right? But now imagine the same job, all the while being able to sample the finest of whiskies at some of the most scenic distilleries. Such was the luck of legendary whisky writer Alfred Barnard. Sure, the geographical spread of distilleries at the time wasn’t very global, and indeed Barnard’s assignment was limited to the UK. But for someone who likes whisky and writing, it still seems like a dream job! Sent out on an epic assignment to chronicle every known whisky distillery in the United Kingdom, Barnard’s grand tour took over two years to complete. The result is considered by many as the most important book about whisky ever written. Despite this, relatively little remains known about Barnard beyond his epic journey.

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Arran Port Cask Finish

Arran Port Cask Finish 01Distillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

It seems natural to compare the Arran Port Cask with the Madeira Cask, given the similarities between these two types of fortified wine. I tend to contrast it with the different effects that an Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez sherry finish can have on a whisky, but since I’m by no means a wine expert, I will quickly move to safer (whisky) ground. Because despite their similar maturation, it’s striking how different the Arran Port Cask and Madeira Cask actually are. Sure, they share the same Arran characteristics, but underneath this there’s a completely distinct flavour profile for each.

The Arran Port Cask was aged in American oak for about 8 years, before being transferred to ex-port casks. This extra maturation has enhanced Arran’s fruity flavours even further, but has also mellowed some of the freshness usually found in Arran whiskies, substituting it for an enigmatic finesse.  Many other cask finishes have come and gone from Arran’s core range, but the Port Cask remains. While this may have something to do with the availability of casks, it’s certainly also an indication that Arran Port Cask has been a big hit. I for one am thankful that this whisky is still on the shelves, as it’s a dram I love to come back to!

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Ardbeg An Oa

Ardbeg An Oa whisky review 01

Distillery: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46.6%

With LVMH’s PR machine grinding at full gear, much has already been written about Ardbeg An Oa since its unveiling in August 2017. This new whisky is named after the Mull of Oa, a rocky peninsula in the southwest of Islay that shelters Ardbeg distillery from the Atlantic Ocean’s often stormy conditions. An Oa is meant to reflect these calmer waters by offering a mellower version of Ardbeg, in what amounts to a nice bit of meteorological marketing. The whisky comes in some stylish packaging, and is a vatting of several different casks, including new charred oak, PX sherry casks and first-fill bourbon barrels. I have been eagerly awaiting this release, but have also taken care to manage my expectations. The other members of the Ultimate Range are an extremely hard act to follow, so let’s hope Ardbeg An Oa doesn’t disappoint.

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Caol Ila Moch

Caol Ila Moch 01Distillery: Caol Ila
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Gaelic for ‘dawn’, Moch is supposedly Caol Ila’s first ever whisky selected purely on the basis of taste, rather than age, bottling strength or cask type. Arguably this is just marketing fluff, since Caol Ila’s master distiller will have evaluated the taste of each of the distillery’s whiskies prior to bottling. Even so, there’s no denying that Caol Ila Moch is a very tasty dram. It provides a bit of a lighter version of Caol Ila, without compromising on flavour and complexity. The result is a dram that juggles a softer side with the bold profile we’ve come to expect from Caol Ila. Enjoy the balance of this elegant Islay whisky!

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Arran 10 year old

Arran 10 Year OldDistillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: 10 years old
abv: 46%

Although the Isle of Arran distillery has heartily experimented with all sorts of weird and wonderful cask finishes, the company does also maintain a range of whiskies with an age statement. Of these, Arran 10 year old is the most youthful expression. It showcases the fresh, fruity distillery character in its purest form, unburdened by the extra flavours that additional cask finishes provide. As an unpeated malt, this Arran doesn’t have an obvious Island character, but does provide a refined charm that belies its relatively tender age . The 10 year old is a nice introduction to the Arran range, and well worth a try if you like smooth whiskies and want to set your sights beyond Highland or Speyside distilleries.

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Glen Scotia Double Cask

Glen Scotia Double Cask 01

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Region: Campbeltown
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

Glen Scotia Double Cask forms part of the distillery’s rebranded range of whiskies. Gone are the Highland cows of yore, replaced now by a set of stylish bottlings. Despite the modern new look, Glen Scotia continues to reference its turbulent past, claiming Double Cask is “a fine example of the original, historic Campbeltown whisky style”. This is reflected in the packaging too, which displays the Glen Scotia distillery at the height of Campbeltown’s glory. And while Campbeltown’s fabled past is indeed remarkable, Glen Scotia ought to be even more proud that they survived to the present day at all. Where so many other distilleries have fallen, Glen Scotia continues to stand proudly near the shores of the Campbeltown Loch. And though good fortune may have had something to do with it, one cannot deny that Glen Scotia produces a very fine drop of whisky. Fortunately, Double Cask is no different, exhibiting all the spicy, energetic characteristics that Glen Scotia is known for. On top of this, an extra maturation in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks provides this whisky with some extra depth and a more fruity, nutty profile. The result is a fine dram and an excellent example of why Campbeltown has firmly earned its place on the whisky map.

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Brexit Scotch Whisky

Brexit: Woes Ahead for the Whisky World?

Brexit. Who hasn’t heard of it by now? Britain’s attempt to rid itself of restrictive and overbearing EU regulations that have allegedly put a big dent in its budget. But while topics such as freedom of movement, a divorce bill and the Single Market regularly make headlines, Brexit also has many smaller implications that have escaped national attention. But that doesn’t mean there are no local concerns. One issue that Scottish people are certainly aware of, is the impact that Brexit might have on their whisky industry.

And this is hardly surprising, given the importance that whisky plays in the Scottish economy. Exports total around £4.25 billion per year, making up a quarter of the entire UK’s food and drink revenues. The industry supports around 35.000 jobs, with many more added indirectly through tourism. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) proudly states that “Scotch whisky is the single biggest net contributor to the UK’s balance of trade in goods, with the EU taking around a third of Scotch whisky exports.” While the first statement isn’t surprising (Scotland can’t actually import any Scotch whisky), the latter part is important. Because it is exactly this relationship with the EU that has fuelled concerns about the fate of Scotch whisky in a post-Brexit scenario.

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