The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2017

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2017 SCOTCH REPORT T he Scotch whisky industry normally pauses for breath after the holidays, perhaps gathering its strength for Burns Night, and the pace of releases slows somewhat. This year is no exception, but there are still some interesting and exciting new whiskies to review—except that the first six bottles are actually very old. This is the Speyside Collection from Gordon & MacPhail, the long- established independent bottlers who were one of the pioneers of single malt. The collection comprises rare and old expressions drawn from their own stocks and, with just 75 sets available worldwide, there will be only a few fortunate drinkers able to sample these highly desirable drams. Mind you, only a few will have the £10,500 (U.K. SRP) required to step up, but those privileged to try will be able to experience stellar whiskies from the storied Speyside region. The collection comprises Gordon & MacPhail's own bottlings of Smith's Glenlivet 1948, Glen Grant 1949, Strathisla 1953, Mortlach 1954, Longmorn 1967 and the baby of the set, a 1972 Linkwood (all 43%, except Glen Grant 40%). It's an almost unrepeatable chance to savor 329 years of knowledge, expertise and whisky maturation. For $620, connoisseurs of slightly younger whisky can enjoy the Grand Vintage Malt 1990 from Glenmorangie, stocks of which are expected from the end of February. This unusually mature and rich expression has been matured in a mix of casks, ex-Sherry casks adding depth and power to the refined delicacy of ex-bourbon–matured spirit that is the Glenmorangie signature. This will be the first of a series of limited releases from the distillery's oldest stocks, each distilled in a single year and reflecting the seasonal nature of the barley crop and the resulting distillation. Packed with fruity and floral notes, the 1990 vintage will surprise and engage Glenmorangie loyalists and perhaps open a few sceptical eyes to the range of flavors that emerge from the tallest stills in Scotland. Finally, over to Islay. Beam Suntory has announced the U.S. release of the final bottles of Bowmore 1961 50 Year Old. Only 200 bottles of this bespoke whisky were ever produced and have been released globally, 50 bottles annually. This December marks the release of the final 50, only a small portion of which will reach U.S. shores—though at an SRP of $23,000, demand may be primarily from collectors. However, this release has double significance—not only is it the last of the 1961 batch, but it is also the first of a new six-part Bowmore 50 Years Old collection, so if you missed the Black Bowmore I featured last issue, be patient—it seems another ancient dram will be along momentarily! Directly across from the Bowmore still house you can look straight at little Bruichladdich, where there has been considerable investment since the distillery was acquired by Rémy Cointreau. On a recent visit, I was able to confirm that most of the original team that re-started the distillery remain in their roles and morale is high. No wonder, now that they are able to launch not one but three ten-year-old whiskies that date back to the excitement of the early days of the distillery's renaissance. They refer to the group as the Troika—second editions of The Laddie Ten (SRP $65.99), the more highly-peated Port Charlotte 10 (SRP $69.99) and the mighty Octomore 10 (SRP $235). For my money, The Laddie was the best- balanced—but balance is not necessarily the quality the enthusiasts of peated whisky first look for, and "smoke- heads" will find plenty to excite them with Octomore's 167 ppm phenol levels and 57.3% bottling strength. These are not whiskies to be trifled with, but it is heart- ening to see Bruichladdich back in top form as Scotch looks forward to another year of challenge. Welcoming the Old in the New Year by Ian Buxton

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