The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Page 46 of 116

SPECIAL REPORT: WHisk(e)y Free Running TWO INDEPENDENT SCOTCH HOUSES FORGE THEIR OWN PATHS by ian Buxton Wild and Woolly The distinctively-named Sheep Dip took off when M.D. Alex Nicol, then at Whyte & Mackay but with a long industry career, fell out with his bosses and left. Nothing unusual there, but in place of the usual severance package he took the rights to the unloved Sheep Dip brand, which was then languishing in the corporate cellars, and signed a supply agreement for whisky. Then he convinced W&M’s Master Blender, the ebul- lient Richard Paterson, to work with him; together they created a new blended malt recipe for Sheep Dip. Back in the day, Sheep Dip had been a cult success, but relied on independent ownership to give the brand and its customers the necessary time and attention. In corporate hands it just wasn’t a priority, and it slowly faded away. Alex, his wife Jane and Richard have changed all that. Slowly but surely, it’s gathering a new following, and once people try a bottle they want more. Bottle by bottle, Sheep Dip is steadily getting back on its feet. Also shown at Whiskies of the World, Pig’s Nose is the company’s irreverent take on a blend, but don’t miss Sheep Dip’s “Old Hebridean” 1990 Vintage—a true one-off and another Paterson masterpiece. Admiral Imports The Sheep Dip mascot checks stock ready for delivery. thinking Out of the Box Compass Box is a rather different whisky company—a specialist blending house rather than a distillery—driven by the messianic John Glaser, an anglophile American who started his whisky career with Diageo but opened his own “house” in 2000, literally blending his fi rst offerings in his own house. As a stack of awards will testify, Compass Box is revered by whisky’s chattering classes, something they achieved by making very, very good whisky indeed. But they don’t in fact, make anything; what they do is blend superb small batch whiskies from carefully selected casks, most of them, ironically, from Glaser’s former employer. At Whiskies of the World look out for Asyla, a sweet and delicate John Glaser. aperitif blend; Hedonism, a striking 100% grain Scotch that’s unusually old and very fi ne; and the Peat Monster, which does exactly what you’d imagine. The remarkable Orangerie, a “whisky infusion” delicately fl avored with oranges will also be available; it’s like a whisky liqueur, but without the cloying sweetness. To add to the pleasure, these products are superbly packaged, with elegant typogra- phy on witty and distinctive labels. Not cheap, but immensely satisfying, any Compass Box whisky will mark your customer out as a drinker of taste and discernment. Charmer Sunbelt Group 46 / the tasting panel / april 2010

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