Oban Distillers Edition

Oban Distillers Edition ReviewDistillery: Oban
Region: Highland
Age: Distilled in 1997, bottled in 2012
abv: 43%

When legendary whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited Oban in 1887, he described the distillery as “a quaint old-fashioned work”. On the face of it, not much has changed, with Oban distillery employing the same traditional production methods. In the meanwhile though, owners Diageo have invested significantly in both hardware and marketing, and Oban has become one of their flagship Classic Malts.

As a town, Oban is known as the Gateway to the Isles, and indeed many a ferry departs from here to the Hebrides. Perhaps it’s unsurprising therefore that Oban’s distillery character holds the middle between a Highland and an Island whisky. Fresh and fruity but with plenty of briny notes and a whiff of smoke, Oban is the quintessential coastal malt. I count Oban amongst my favourite distilleries, but somehow never end up drinking much of their whisky. Perhaps it’s the fact that there aren’t many expressions on offer. Or perhaps it’s the fact that Oban is never truly outstanding, but never lets you down either, like that dependable old friend you really ought to pay a visit more often. This particular expression has received a second maturation in Montilla Fino sherry casks, providing a nutty richness on top of Oban’s sweet, coastal profile.

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Talisker Distillers Edition

Talisker Distillers Edition ReviewDistillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: Distilled in 2001, bottled in 2012
abv: 45.8%

There have been quite a few changes to Talisker’s range over the past years, but its status as a Classic Malt means that Talisker Distillers Edition is here to stay. Similar to other Distillers Editions in the range, Talisker has taken its standard expression and treated it to an additional maturation in casks that previously held Amaroso sherry. This extra finish has tempered the traditional Talisker character somewhat, but also imbued the whisky with sweet, nutty flavours, resulting in a Talisker with a twist. The packaging is different too, with the usual transparent bottle replaced by brown glass, giving Talisker Distillers Edition a dark, classy look. And given that dark and classy is precisely how you would best describe this whisky, it’s about as much introduction as this Talisker needs.

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Lagavulin Distillers Edition

Lagavulin Distillers Edition 01Distillery: Lagavulin
Region: Islay
Age: Distilled in 2000, bottled in 2016
abv: 43%

Lagavulin is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range. This of course means that its standard expression is treated to a finish in something sweet and juicy, and bottled as a Distillers Edition. For other Diageo stalwarts such as Oban (Montilla Fino) and Cragganmore (Port), these periods of extra maturation have been hugely successful. To me Lagavulin is undeniably the best whisky in the Classic Malts series, and the Distillers Edition does not disappoint. Finished in casks that previously held Pedro Ximénez sherry, this Lagavulin is both mellower and richer than its 16 year old sibling, which already provides a complexity rarely seen in other Islay distilleries.

This particular release was distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2016, the year in which Lagavulin celebrated its 200th anniversary. The Distillers Edition was not the official anniversary bottling though, with that honour being shared by Lagavulin’s 8 and 25 year old limited editions. Even so, this year’s Distillers Edition is as good as any the distillery has produced, so be sure to give it a try.

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Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold

Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold 01Distillery: Dalwhinnie
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Someone once told me that if you need to freeze a drink before you consume it, it’s probably not very good. Yet here we have Dalwhinnie telling us that we should drink their precious spirit straight from the freezer. Being Scotland’s highest and coldest distillery, you may expect the folks at Dalwhinnie to know a little something about subzero temperatures. Indeed, the spirit for Winter’s Gold is distilled exclusively during the winter months, when the cold temperature of the water and the stills results in an extra smooth drop of whisky. Although I doubt whether the impact on the flavour really is noticeable, there’s no denying that Winter’s Gold is beautifully marketed by Diageo.

The idea of serving a dram chilled and having it slowly warm up as you’re drinking it is quite enticing. Adding warmth is like adding water, it changes the flavour of the whisky. I’m eager to try this dram, yet somewhat daunted by having to review a whisky that’s constantly changing. I drank Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold straight from the freezer, with an extra dram at room temperature for comparison.

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Glen Elgin 12 year old

Glen Elgin 12 year old reviewDistillery: Glen Elgin
Region: Speyside
Age: 12 years old
abv: 43%

Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, Glen Elgin distillery was initially off to an ignominious start. Although plans for the distillery were drawn up when confidence was still high, by the time construction finished, the whisky bubble had burst and the industry was in a death spiral. Glen Elgin distillery opened in May 1900, and filed bankruptcy just six months later, selling at a fraction of the price it had cost to construct the distillery. It would remain closed for much of the next three decades, until Glen Elgin passed into the ownership of DCL, the forerunner of Diageo. The distillery continued to limp on in relative obscurity, until in 1964, the number of stills was tripled to six, and Glen Elgin began distilling the raw materials for the White Horse blend. Until this day, Glen Elgin’s fate has remained largely the same, with most of the distillery’s production disappearing into Diageo’s blends. However, Diageo does bottle a widely available 12 year old malt whisky, as well as several other releases that are a lot harder to come by (including an excellent 16 year old). The 12 year old happens to be the first malt whisky I ever drank, so I’ve always had a soft spot for Glen Elgin and I make sure to always have a bottle on my shelf. Lucky then that Glen Elgin 12 happens to be so affordable, this dram represents great value for money!

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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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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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Talisker Dark Storm

Talisker Dark StormDistillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 45.8%

These days it seems almost customary to release a new bottling for the travel retail market first, see if it catches on, and if so, make it more widely available. If this is what’s needed for distilleries to be able to experiment a bit more, that’s all for the best, because it gives us drams such as Talisker Dark Storm.

Part of the range of Talisker NAS whiskies, Dark Storm is the more raucous sibling to Talisker Storm. After all, if you have a Storm that’s relatively successful, why not make it a bit Darker and more mysterious? The darkness in this case is provided by the heavily charred oak that Dark Storm has been matured in. These casks add some extra spice and smokiness to the already pungent distillery character. Think of this as a Talisker on steroids, an extra fierce offering from the Isle of Skye. If you like other Taliskers, Dark Storm will not disappoint.

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Lagavulin 8 year old

Lagavulin 8 year old reviewDistillery: Lagavulin
Region: Islay
Age: 8 years old
abv: 48%

Released to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary, Lagavulin 8 year old is a nod to the great whisky writer Alfred Barnard, who visited the distillery in 1886. While doing so, he made mention of an 8 year old Lagavulin he tasted, which he described as “exceptionally fine”. Reflecting on their proud heritage, Lagavulin has decided to recreate this 8 year old malt to mark their bicentenary. Lagavulin has a very limited range and does not usually release limited editions, so this one really is something special. It is available for one year only, and although more expensive than its older brother, the 8 year old is still quite affordable. In this sense, Lagavulin has certainly one-upped Ardbeg and Laphroaig, which chose to release exclusive, expensive bottlings to mark their respective 200th birthdays in 2015. Even the packaging is a clear departure from Lagavulin’s usual darker shades, hinting that this whisky really is something quite different from the core range. With a maturation of just 8 years, this bottling is an exuberant, smoky and utterly breathtaking celebration of one of my favourite distilleries. Many happy returns, Lagavulin!

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Talisker Port Ruighe

Talisker Port Ruighe ReviewDistillery: Talisker
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 45.8%

In the face of overwhelming demand, it seems that many distilleries are making changes to their range. Faced with finite stocks, it becomes harder for whisky makers to guarantee a continuous supply of aged whisky. Enter the No Age Statement (NAS) expression: often a vatting of whiskies of different ages, allowing distillers more flexibility to meet fluctuations in demand. Talisker is no different: while the 10 year old is fortunately still widely available, the 18 year old has increased in price dramatically. Instead, consumers can now choose from NAS bottlings such as Skye, (Dark) Storm and Neist Point. While in my opinion this new range is quite a mixed bag, Talisker Port Ruighe clearly stands out as one of the highlights, and an example that the negative publicity NAS whiskies receive is not always justified.

Port Ruighe is the Gaelic translation for Portree, the largest town on Skye, and once a centre of maritime commerce. This Talisker has received a double maturation in port casks, and is billed as “a toast to the Scottish traders who braved the high seas and were instrumental in the foundation of the port wine trade”. Marketing aside, with a whisky this enjoyable I am willing to raise a glass to whatever, whenever. Slàinte!

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