The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2017 SCOTCH REPORT A fter last issue's high-end pricing of some very rare and old Scotch whiskies, we return to reality with a slew of more accessible drams. But there are still some very tasty releases to behold. An old favorite of mine, Highland Park, has a refreshed look and line-up of expressions. The brand has delved deep into Orkney's history and heritage for its new presenta- tion, based on the Viking myths and legends that form such a large part of the islands' appeal. There will be new whiskies and new packaging, the first example of which is Valkyrie, a 45.9% no-age-statement whisky likely to retail around $90. Meanwhile the well-loved 12- and 18-year-old iterations of Highland Park will respectively gain the sub-brand name Viking Honour and Viking Pride in a nod to the distillery's efforts to "put the soul back in the brand," according to Brand Director Jason Craig. I'll be watching closely in the hope that some of the recent, rather glitzy packaging is dropped in favor of a more honest approach that concentrates on the great whiskies that this distillery consistently produces time after time. From another island, this time Jura in the Inner Hebrides, comes a 10-year-old (40% ABV; SRP $54.99), which is said to be new and permanent extension of its single malt brand that marks "the first release in Jura's new core line for the U.S." As keen students of Scotch will know, the distillery has passed through many hands in recent years, not always to its advantage. However, re-racking of much of the stock has seen a sharp improvement in the quality and appeal of this now under-rated brand. I expect great things from the older whiskies that presumably are in the pipeline for later this year. The whiskies from Compass Box are another favorite of mine. Over time, we've learned that their name is a guarantee of interesting, innovative and high-qual- ity blending, so the latest release of their Compass Box Double Single has a lot to live up to. Though the Compass Box team can appear over-earnest at times, they never stray to the pretentious and, importantly, this latest effort doesn't disappoint despite its extreme simplicity. "How many components are required to create true complexity in a blended Scotch whisky?" asks their Founder and Whisky Maker, John Glaser. Well, for Double Single, instead of using many tens of component whiskies they have used just two—one single grain whisky and one single malt whisky, hence the name. "This is what blending is all about, whether in Scotch whisky, in wine, in perfume . . ." says Glaser. Yes, all we have here is two whiskies: Glen Elgin single malt aged in re-charred bourbon hogsheads (72% of the recipe) combined with single grain from Girvan, also aged in re-charred bourbon barrels. The resulting whisky is an elevation above the mere sum of the parts: hauntingly complex, spirit-forward and versatile. Bottled at 46% ABV, a total of 5,838 bottles of The Double Single will be released worldwide—launching in the U.S. from June 1 at an SRP of $175. Two words: Get some! For broadly the same money, consumers will be able to pick up two bottles of anCnoc 2002 Vintage, a 14-year-old, non-chill-filtered, naturally coloured 46% ABV single malt from a little- known distillery in Scotland's Eastern Highlands. The SRP is a modest, if eccentric, $84 (surely $79 would have had greater shelf appeal?). Look for notes of spicy Christmas fruitcake, licorice, toffee and sweet orange chocolate closely followed by the spiced vanilla aroma and the citrusy finish anCnoc is known for. Finally, every year Diageo attempts an embargo on their Special Releases series—and every year, someone breaks ranks on social media and the secret is out. So, they've given up and announced in advance all but one of the expressions that will be available this fall. Look out for very special whiskies from Blair Athol, Brora, Caol Ila, Convalmore, Glen Elgin, Lagavulin, Port Dundas, Port Ellen, Teaninich— and one yet to be revealed. It's a mouthwatering prospect: I will taste and report in due course! Packing a Punch PALATE- AND WALLET-PLEASING SCOTCH RELEASES by Ian Buxton

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