The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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Page 26 of 148

SCOTCH REPORT by Ian Buxton S ingle malt whisky launches—they're just like cabs in the rain. You wait for ages then two arrive at once. I left you last time with the new expression from anCnoc – blas, with its strange Gaelic name. Perhaps the distillers took note, for they have followed right up with the anCnoc 2001 Vintage (46%, $120). I liked it every bit as much as the blas but was especially struck by the extra complexity and maturity of this latest release. There's been much criticism on social media on the steady rise of whisky prices. Well, distill- eries like anCnoc have been rather overlooked in the past but these latest releases prove that there is still quality and value to be found in Scotch—you just have to know where to look. And around 25 miles away from anCnoc you can find the BenRiach distillery, home to another single malt that has been hiding its light under a bushel. Their latest release is the snappily named Cask Strength Batch 1 (which has the great merit of being in English and telling you exactly what's in the bottle). It's described by the distillery as "the first cask strength expression to be added to our core range, allowing us to showcase the true BenRiach style in its most natural state— straight from the cask to the bottle, non-chill-filtered and at its natural color, allowing the distillery's unique spirit to shine through." Expect a retail ticket of around $80 for this 57.2% gentle giant—no age statement, but great value all the same. I've always had a soft spot for whiskies from the Highland Park distillery on Orkney, and the new 17 Year Old Ice Edition is no disap- pointment, though the packaging may divide opinion. While it is certainly eye-catching, I can't help wondering how much it contributed to the $270 price tag. However, you can't argue with success and with Highland Park's previous Nordic Gods collection selling out rapidly the worldwide release of 30,000 bottles—it will no doubt be snapped up quickly enough. The whisky itself has been bottled at a healthy 53.9% ABV so packs quite a punch. The signature Highland Park peat smoke is evident but well balanced with tropical fruit notes and hints of ginger. Talk of island whiskies and peat takes me naturally to Islay and the latest Laphroaig release. Named simply Lore, the story here is of a roaring, peat-soaked whisky as bold as it is deep. Distillery Manager John Campbell describes it as "the richest of the rich" and, once you get past the opening blast of peaty smoke, it is certainly a complex and layered spirit, fully reflecting its 48% strength. A wide selection of cask types have gone into the final vatting and for lovers of the classic, forceful Islay style it's not to be missed, though the $125 retail price point made me blink at first. Supplies should be available this month through Beam Suntory, which is targeting the limited quantities to what they style "fine retail locations." Staying on Islay we move to Kilchoman and their latest release Sanaig, a deliberate counterpoint to the earlier Machir Bay. Where that was matured mainly in ex-bourbon casks, Sanaig has a predominantly Sherry cask influence owing to the significant time spent aging in oloroso Sherry hogs- heads. Find it through Impex Beverages with a typical $74.99 retail price point (46%). As a permanent addition to the Kilchoman line, it should prove easier to find than earlier limited releases. It's also a fitting memorial to Kilchoman's late General Manager John MacLellan, who died last month, aged just 60. He was a fine gentleman and a great character who will be sadly missed by his many friends in the world of Scotch. Raining Cats and Single Malts 26  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2016

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