The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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Page 22 of 112

22  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 Signs of a Shake-Up by Ian Buxton W hisky's 800-pound gorilla has been stirring as of late. According to recent media reports from The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, industry giant Diageo has formed a confidential project team that's exploring ways to alter industry rules surrounding Scotch production. One idea that's been broached is the establishment of a new category called "Scotch whisky infusion." This would encompass flavoured or low- alcohol blends sold under existing Scotch brands, though how that would impact existing labels such as Diageo's own J&B Urban Honey spirit drink isn't entirely clear. Another proposal involves employing former tequila barrels to age new-make Scotch; currently, that would run afoul of regulations requiring "traditional" casks to be used. The reaction within the industry has been lukewarm at best, but with pressure from investors and all those old Casamigos barrels lying around, the incen- tive for Diageo to stretch the boundar- ies governing Scotch is considerable. One new whisky making use of vari- ous casks—though quite within regula- tion—is the new BenRiach Aged 21 Years, a Speyside single malt matured in a combination of bourbon barrels and virgin oak, Pedro Ximenez, and red wine casks. While all four have traditionally been used to age Scotch, combining them is an unconventional choice—one that's enabled Master Blender Rachel Barrie to build on BenRiach's signature sweet barley and fruit-laden style (46% ABV; SRP $265). Meanwhile, the U.S. release of Tamdhu Batch Strength marks the third time this cask-strength, Sherry-soaked Speysider has been seen in this style. At a hefty 58.3% ABV, this uncomplicated and uncompromising whisky (SRP $90, ImpEx Beverages Inc.) gives enthusiasts the opportunity to cus- tomise their dram with the precise amount of dilution they desire. Since its revival by the independent and family-owned Ian Macleod Distillers, Tamdhu and its old warehouses have unveiled one treat after another for whisky lovers. Also available through Impex Beverages at cask strength are two new releases in the Chapter 7 Collection from Swiss entrepreneur Selim Evin, who has made it a personal mission to find and bottle remarkable single cask whiskies. Launching this month are two Speyside whiskies (something of a theme this issue) both nine years old and from relatively obscure distill- eries: Allt-A-Bhainne ($65, 60.7% ABV) and Aultmore ($70, 62.2% ABV). These are hard to find in official releases, so they probably appeal most to enthusiasts. In the Irish whiskey realm, Jameson has released its seventh annual limited-edition bottle design (40% ABV, SRP $27) produced in collabo- ration with a group of artists. Just one of a number of recent releases for the U.S. from parent company Irish Distillers, it's said to represent "the bravery, unity, and opportunities that are possible when friends come together." With an introduction like that, the whiskey seems well deserv- ing of a place setting at your St. Patrick's Day festivities this year. POTENTIAL REGULATION CHANGES AND BOLD NEW RELEASES MARK AN EXCITING SPRING FOR SCOTCH

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