The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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Page 32 of 140

SCOTCH REPORT Blast Off! S cotland's longest-serving Malt Master, David Stewart, who cele- brates his 50th anniversary with The Balvenie this year, created the recently- released The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130). This, I suggested last issue, was "a fitting culmination to a distinguished career." Malt Master David Stewart with The Balvenie 50 Year Old. I should have known better! Naturally, he had something rather more exclusive up his sleeve. As the great and the good of the Scotch whisky industry (and some writers as well, I'm happy to say) gathered at The Balvenie for a celebratory dinner, David revealed The Balvenie 50 Year Old, a single cask bottling first distilled in 1962, the year he joined the company. I could go into raptures about the whisky or lavish praise on the packaging, which is both restrained and elegant. Suffice it to say that just one of the 88 bottles worldwide will set you back more than $32,000 (from William Grant & Sons). That's more than my first house cost! Elsewhere the news from the industry continues to be positive, with Diageo applying for planning permission on three sites to build another substantial single malt distillery, and Chivas Brothers confirming that they too may require a significant increase in capacity to meet projected worldwide demand. On Islay, Ardbeg will move to full pro- duction early next year to satisfy the thirst of their growing legions of smokehead fans, who seemingly cannot get enough of the distillery's recent releases. The latest expression is Ardbeg Galileo, launched to celebrate a two-year experiment with U.S. space research company NanoRacks LLC, who invited Ardbeg to take part in a maturation experiment contrasting normal gravity on Earth with the micro- 32 / the tasting panel / october 2012 NEW WHISKIES ARE LAUNCHED . . . LITERALLY, IN ONE CASE by Ian Buxton gravity of the International Space Station. Even by PR standards that seems a pretty high-flying link, but single malt enthusiasts didn't seem to care. "Several thousand" cases were produced, but bottles were soon changing hands for out-of-this-world prices on a well-known internet auction site. To be fair the whisky, which has enjoyed extra maturation in ex- marsala wine casks, is pretty spectacular combining Ardbeg's signature complex smokiness with additional layers of fruit. Available through Moët-Hennessy USA at an SRP of $99.99. Also eagerly sought after are the annual Diageo Special Releases, which will be heading to U.S. shores imminently. As usual, the series embraces some exceed- ingly rare—and therefore increasingly expensive malts—from the dwindling stocks of long-silent distilleries, alongside expressions from familiar and less familiar working distilleries, but at unusual ages. Featured this year are: Brora 35 Year Old, Caol Ila 14 Year Old, Lagavulin 12 and 21 Year Old, Talisker 35 Year Old, Port Ellen 32 Year Old, Auchroisk 30 Year Old and Dalwhinnie 25 Year Old. All are at natural cask strength and all should be available in the U.S., though quantities of the Port Ellen and Brora releases are extremely limited. Diageo has come in for some criticism in blogging circles for what are seen as high prices. Presumably observing the premiums paid in the secondary market the distiller astutely decided to retain most of this windfall profit. Finally, Bowmore has announced its 54 Year Old single malt—just eight bottles with an opening auction reserve of $150,000 each. Whisky really does seem to be in orbit! PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLIAM GRANT & SONS

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