The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2017

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2017 SCOTCH REPORT S ome pricy releases this month from Scotland's malt masters, some among the oldest Scotch whisky that you will find anywhere. So let's start at the top, with the $20,000 Tamdhu 50 Years Old. Since acquiring the distillery in 2011, new owners Ian Macleod Distillers have been looking for an outstanding whisky with which to celebrate the distillery's 120th anniversary. With this stunning bottle it looks as if they may have found it. Distilled in 1963 (three weeks prior to JFK's assassination), it's a first fill European oak Sherry butt that has yielded just 100 decanters at a remarkable 55.6% ABV strength. The first thing that impresses is the extraordinary dark color, followed by a heady and rich aroma of balsamic vinegar, dark fruit preserves and burnt orange, but this is a whisky to take carefully, adding water drop by steady drop. At first quite confrontational, the spirit slowly opens to give up the secrets of its great age. This is definitely one for a con- noisseur of the unhurried dram who appreciates a very fully matured whisky with a pronounced cask influence. The presentation is suitably dramatic, with understated, hand-crafted details to savor in every aspect of the packaging; learn more at the dedicated website or contact Impex Beverages of San Francisco. Glenmorangie is not generally known for really old whiskies, so the release of Glenmorangie Pride 1974 is something anticipated with great interest by followers of this iconic brand. According to the distillery's Dr. Bill Lumsden, "Glenmorangie Pride 1974 is the oldest and deepest Glenmorangie ever to be released." Distilled in October 1974, the flavors are drawn from a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex–oloroso Sherry butts then left to mature until he deemed the whisky had reached its very peak more than four decades later. Like the Tamdhu, this has been bottled at cask strength, here 52% ABV. With a SRP of $9,000, there are just 503 decanters available worldwide. More from Glenmorangie's parent, Moët Hennessy USA. Glenmorangie's sister distillery Ardbeg is gearing up for the annual Feis Ile (Islay Whisky Festival), which this year will run from May 26 to June 3. If you haven't made travel plans and booked accommodations, it might be best to skip a year and hold the dates for 2018, because the island gets very, very busy. Advance reservations are essential. None more than at Ardbeg, which will release its Kelpie edition for general sale on June 3. Always a distillery to spring the unexpected on its loyal fans, the whisky has been matured in virgin Black Sea oak casks. So far as I'm aware, this is a first in modern whisky making, and these casks certainly bring a distinct intensity to the world's smokiest, peatiest Islay malt whisky. This expression is named for the Kelpie, a water demon from Gaelic myth said to lurk in the forests of seaweed off Islay's shores. Distillery Manager Mickey Heads explains it this way: "With a heart matured in Black Sea casks, this whisky's extraordinary depth and its waves of salty seaweed and tarry rope hint at what might be hiding under the sea . . ." Described as a "limited edition" and bottled at Ardbeg's signature 46% strength, the non-aged Kelpie should see a SRP of around $125. Demand will be high, so snag one of these wee Celtic beasties soon if interested. Up on Speyside, The Glenrothes distillery is owned by storied London wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, who have now released the first four expressions in their Wine Merchant's Collection ($300; various cask strengths). Distilled in 1992 and matured for more than two decades in hogshead casks, the range of whiskies were then "finished" in casks formerly holding wines from the Lustau, Ridge Vineyards and noted port house Graham's as well as ex-rum casks from the St. Lucia Distillery. Golden Age MATURE SCOTCHES TO SEEK OUT AND ENJOY by Ian Buxton

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