The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2018

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22  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2018 The Year in Scotch by Ian Buxton T he final few months of 2017 saw more than the usual flurry of new releases from Scotland's distill- eries, due to a recovery in export sales and welcome news of the re-opening of three iconic distilleries thought to be lost forever. With that in mind, welcome to Johnnie Walker's new expression: the Blue Label Ghost and Rare (SRP $399, 46% ABV). It's the first in a series of special releases crafted by blending irreplaceable whiskies from "ghost" distilleries that have long since closed— among them Cambus and Pittyvaich— with other sought-after Scotches. Each edition will be crafted with one incredible whisky at its heart. Having finished my all-too-small press sample, this will have to be a New Year purchase if my Christmas wish list has been ignored! Considering that the rush of new releases has slowed somewhat, I now have the opportunity to mention some whiskies I simply didn't have room to include in recent issues. One that stood out came from the independent boutique blenders at Compass Box. Bottled at 46% ABV, Phenomenology ($180 SRP) was released with an invita- tion for drinkers to share their own tasting notes with the company before any official description was available. Speyburn is a longstanding U.S. favourite thanks to its combination of excellent quality and value-for- money pricing, so the announce- ment of a limited release of Speyburn 15 Years Old was a welcome one. Bottled at 46% ABV, the single malt is available through importer 375 Park Avenue Spirits with a very reasonable suggested retail price of $65. The handsome new packaging sets off this classic Speysider's notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, orange, raisins, and spice. The rich taste and long-lasting finish is perfect for cold winter days. Another well-loved American favou- rite is Dewar's, which has elected to replace its no-age-statement Signature blend with Dewar's 25 Years Old ($225, 40% ABV)—a decision that goes against the market trend. Remarkably, Dewar's Master Blender Stephanie MacLeod has been able to identify supplies of aged whisky to blend together; the blends are then sent for an additional period of maturation, or double-ageing, to add more depth and smoothness. As part of an additional step unique to the new 25-year-old expression, the whisky was then filled into a set of freshly-disgorged casks from Dewar's Royal Brackla single malt distillery for an extra period of finishing. Look for layers of rich fruit, floral notes, and delicate honey with a hint of smoke. Speaking of limited releases, just 74 bottles of the Bowmore 1966 from Islay survived the long wait in the famed No. 1 Vaults. This $25,500 whisky is pack- aged in a handmade crystal decanter featuring sterling silver adornments and housed in a handcrafted cabinet made from Scottish oak. My tasting sample appears to have been mislaid in the mail, however. Until next issue! A REFLECTION ON SOME OF 2017'S MOST MEMORABLE RELEASES

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