The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2018

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Page 24 of 100

24  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2018 by Ian Buxton I sometimes find myself wondering if too much coverage is given to single malts. After all, blended Scotch still outsells its celebrated cousin by nearly four to one in terms of case volume. New single malt releases are newsworthy, but blended Scotch continues to dominate world markets, albeit in a less showy manner. So, with that thought in mind, I was delighted to hear from Buchanan's with details of its latest blend of pure malt whisky from multiple distilleries: Buchanan's Select 15 Year Old (40% ABV; $50). It's an immensely sippable dram that's as bold and complex as it is well- mannered, smooth, and slightly sweet. Buchanan's is somewhat coy about the distilleries that have contributed to this "malt perfection," saying only that they're from "the heart of Scotland." That—and the taste itself—suggests Speyside, where brand owner Diageo has a number of operations we don't hear from often, as the output is reserved for its blenders. Well done, then, for this release, as any connois- seur would find this more than accept- able (that's British for "excellent") with considerable value. In dramatic contrast, Diageo is more than keen to emphasise the very special single malts in the new Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen (40% ABV; $350) blend, boasting that it contains "'Ghost' whiskies from Caledonian and Carsebridge . . . [and] rare malts from Mortlach, Dailuaine, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban." It's the second in the Ghost and Rare series, but of course the real interest is in the use of the highly valued Port Ellen malt. Considering it's been previously reserved for the annual Special Releases, where it commands super-premium prices, it's therefore a surprise to see the malt featured here. There's little doubt both Johnnie Walker enthusiasts and collectors of this cult Islay whisky will be keen to add this to their shelves. There's more yet from Diageo, which informed me of three new bottlings from its renowned Mortlach distill- ery— 12 Year Old "Wee Witchie," 16 Year Old Distiller's Dram, and 20 Year Old Cowie's Blue Seal—which the company claims "are set to bring the dark side of Speyside to life." All are bottled at Mortlach's distinctive 43.4% ABV and will be available in U.S. markets this fall. Expect SRPs around $50 for the 12 Year Old, with the 16 Year Old at $100 and the venerable Cowie's Blue Seal touching $200. These are robust, full-bodied whis- kies from a distillery long hailed for its meaty character and unusual distilling regime, but they represent something of a rethink by Diageo, which withdrew the current range—launched only in 2014—following criticism of the small (50-centiliter) bottle size and lofty prices. Also from Speyside comes the latest premium single malt from Chivas Brothers: Aberlour Casg Annamh (that's "Rare Cask" in Gaelic), a small-batch production with 48% ABV and a $70 price tag. Lovers of rich, Sherry cask–influ- enced whiskies won't want to miss this one. Fall Releases to Look Forward To

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