The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2017

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26  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2017 T he Scotch whisky industry seems in good heart currently, perhaps as a result of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union having depressed the value of sterling, thus making exports priced in pounds a somewhat better value. Along with the confidence comes some interesting new releases. The tiny Tobermory distillery on the Hebridean island of Mull is one of my long-time favorites, but it doesn't get the publicity of the more fashionable Islay malts. I was briefly alarmed to hear that the distillery is shortly to close—but only for a major upgrade, which is good news. In the meantime, two expressions have been released to maintain supplies. Their peated style is known as Ledaig, now available in a 19 Year Old style (51% ABV; SRP $189.99). The younger Ledaigs often strike me as a little too robust in style, but age and a Marsala wine cask finish has tempered this, and it might be the best Ledaig yet. It's partnered with the non-peated Tobermory 21 Year Old (cask strength 53.8% ABV; SRP $249.99; both imported by Terlato Wines) with a Manzanilla cask finish. Un-chill-filtered, it is amber gold in color with notes of citrus, dried fruits, rich oak and orange spice. I was a great fan of the previous 15 Year Old release, now sold out, but this elder statesman proves that whiskies from this little distillery can age remarkably well. I look forward to the re-opening party! I mentioned Glenmorangie last time and also in March 2016 when they released the seventh edition of their Private Collection. Well, it's that time again to welcome the Private Collection eighth edition, known as Bacalta (Gaelic for "baked"). Aged in sun- baked ex-Malmsey wine casks—the sweetest and most prized of the Madeira wines—which were shipped to Scotland and filled with specially selected spirit, which lends complex layers of sweetness to Glenmorangie Bacalta. Dr Bill Lumsden, the distillery's Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks, describes it as "a burst of sunshine in a glass"—I would add ripe melons, white chocolate and marzipan to the many exciting flavors to be found here. (46% ABV; around $100 typical retail; Moët Hennessy USA). The Irish whiskey sector is, if any- thing, even more buoyant than Scotch. Irish Distillers recently announced yet another major expansion at their Midleton facility, and Diageo, which exited the category as recently as November 2014 when it sold Bushmills to Jose Cuervo, has now developed its own Roe & Company brand (a nod to a historic Dublin distiller) and plans to build a small whiskey distillery at the Guinness facility in the capital city. Bushmills disappeared from the radar for a while, doubtless re-grouping under the new owners, but have now released two aged single malts through Proximo Spirits. First up is the complex and fruity Bushmills 16 Year Old, aged in a combination of bourbon casks and oloroso Sherry butts, before being vatted and married for nine months in large old Port pipes to create a smooth and sweet single malt that tastes mature beyond its years. It's partnered by limited stocks of a 21 Year Old single malt, said to be "the jewel in the crown of the Old Bushmills Distillery." Rather like the Glenmorangie Bacalta, the Master Distiller has chosen to finish and marry the whiskey in Madeira wine casks to craft a single malt of incred- ible depth, richness and complexity. Both are both limited editions aimed at specialist independent retailers and on- trade outlets (16 Year Old SRP $69.99; 21 Year Old SRP $120.99). Finally, welcome The Dubliner and The Dubliner 10 Year Old, two whiskies from The Dublin Liberties Distillery, part of the Quintessential Brands Group who are also constructing their own new distillery. U.S. importation is by Prestige Beverage, and SRPs are $27.99 and $49.99 respectively. SCOTCH REPORT Ramping Up by Ian Buxton SCOTCH DISTILLERS TRY TO KEEP UP WITH DEMANDS

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