The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2015

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2015 SCOTCH REPORT I s the whisky industry innovative enough? I was asked to speak recently on that very topic at a debate in London organized by the Worshipful Company of Distillers. There was much talk of today's incredible range of vodka flavors and varieties and the explosion of craft gins, but I was able to use my speech to remind delegates that the great whisky brands have been around since "brands" first appeared, and show little sign of fading away. In a category that rotates inventory five times a century or less (for a 20-year-old whisky—just think about those 50-year-olds!) it makes little sense to chase every passing trend, even if that were possible. In the end, delegates were won over and agreed that whisk(e)y was a surprisingly enterpris- ing and innovative category, but to understand it, a long-term view was needed. Not easy in a world driven by 140 characters! Two great examples spring to mind from two of my favorite whiskies. First up, Dewar's White Label. It's a long-time best- seller in the U.S., but not necessarily where you would first go to look for fresh thinking. So their Dewar's Scratched Cask ($25.99)—a limited release of a special blend that, in their words, allows consumers "to enjoy the prestige and tradition of Scotch with the accessibility of bourbon"—is a pleasant surprise. The secret lies in an unorthodox (for Scotch) treatment of the barrels used for aging and marrying the blend. In a technique borrowed from bourbon, the interior of the casks are heav- ily charred and then lightly scratched at the char layer to alter the flavor of the whisky. The liquid is then left to blend and breathe for an additional period. According to Dewar's Master Blender Stephanie Macleod, "This is a Scotch produced in a bourbon style. We always age our whisky, but in this case, the process of scratching the barrels creates a truly excep- tional Scotch whisky with distinctive and accessible notes of sweet vanilla, toasted oak and a hint of spice with a smooth, satisfying finish." My next exhibit is a robust, cask-strength single malt from Tamdhu, a lesser-known Speyside distillery recently re-opened by Ian MacLeod Distillers. Available from Impex Beverages, Tamdhu Batch Strength ($95) arrives with a great award on its shoul- ders: The San Francisco Worlds Spirits Competition crowned it with their Gold Medal. Today, Tamdhu is matured exclusively in former Sherry casks, accounting for the deep color and rich flavors. The 58% ABV strength means this is a dram that keeps on giving; though it's another non-aged release, I expect it to find favor with connoisseurs. In other good news and also on Speyside, Chivas Brothers will open their new Dalmunach Distillery later this month on the site of the former Imperial distillery. It will be produc- ing at first to support the Chivas blends, but expect a single malt release in a few years. It's a further sign of the long-term confi- dence that still pervades the whisky industry ,despite some recent economic storms. Finally, a little bird brings me news of a new Green Spot pot still expression from across the Irish Sea, with links to a very special French winery. I'm tasting it soon, and will report next time. Now Trending . . . FOR SCOTCH WHISKY, INNOVATION MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT INDEED by Ian Buxton

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