The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2017

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28  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2017 SCOTCH REPORT P erhaps it's the arrival of summer, or perhaps it's a lethargy induced by Britain's recent snap general election (to say nothing of the confus- ing result), but the Scotch whisky indus- try has been unusually quiet for the past few weeks. That permits me space to take a look back into history. In 1891, the Scottish- born American industrialist Andrew Carnegie famously requested that a "small keg" of whisky from Dewar's be sent to Benjamin Harrison, then President of the United States. Something of a stir resulted in the U.S. press, greatly to Dewar's benefit. As Tommy Dewar later observed, "There was hardly a newspaper in America which had not contained details of the offending cask, the result being that inquiries and orders flowed to us from all parts of the States." Those orders continued to flow, and Dewar's has long been a force in the U.S. whisky market. Bacardi acquired the brand and five distilleries in March 1998. Since then there have been a number of repackaging and relaunch exercises, enjoying mixed success. But, until recently, I never felt that Bacardi really understood the single-malt Scotch market, despite its fine portfolio of distilleries. At last, that seems to be changing. Dewar's Perthshire Aberfeldy distillery is one that I know well. The 12-year-old expression is deservedly popular and, though available only in limited quantities, its 21-year- old brother enjoys a high reputation. Now a 16-year-old style has been released (43% ABV; typically $89 in gift-pack format), and at last, a more complete range is available. While the claim that water from the distillery's Pitilie Burn picks up alluvial gold that is incorporated into the whisky seems far-fetched, it is a rich and sherried dram with masses of chocolate, dark fruits and sweet honey notes to sip and savor. But there's more. Dewar's also owns the Craigellachie distillery, which sits high above the storied River Spey and was long revered by the blending industry. We're finally seeing some of its distinctively flavored whiskies available as single malts. The range now encompasses expressions at 13, 17, 23 and even 31 years old, all with the meaty character that comes from the use of old-fashioned worm tub con- densers. Look for additional sweetness in the most recent release, the 17-year-old style, which opens seductively but follows with a meaty sucker punch and hints of liquorice (46% ABV, SRP $150 and up). Well done, Dewar's. Now let's have these beauties at cask strength, please! Speaking of cask strength, I'm reminded that ImpEx Beverages offer some unusual drams in their Exclusive Malts range. Batch 13 has recently landed and includes such rarities as a 25-year-old Highland Park (SRP $345); a 21-year-old Clynelish ($265) that I'd be keen to try; an unusual 33-year-old single grain from Cameronbridge, a real rarity ($225); and the comparative bargain of a 9-year-old Glen Moray—just $85 for the mighty 55.7% ABV spirit, a lot of whisky for less than $100. ImpEx is also handling the Kilchoman range from Islay. This little farmhouse distillery, the smallest on this iconic island, is really getting into its stride now and can offer the 2017 release of its Loch Gorm expression, now an energetic and boisterous 8-year-old (46%, SRP $99). That may sound a little on the young side, but why wait? Kilchoman is a whisky that matures rela- tively quickly, so you may be surprised by this upstart. But perhaps you want more. In which case, look no further than Kilchoman ImpEx Cask Evolution— Kilchoman 100% Islay finished in a Sherry cask (46%, SRP $145). And, on that note, I shall leave you to enjoy the summer with the promise of more releases next issue—including a first sighting of some exciting new expressions from Bruichladdich. A Brief History by Ian Buxton

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