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February 29, 2012

Morrison Bowmore at the Quaich Society

The broad range of Morrison Bowmore whiskies.

We on the Quaich Society committee have worked out by now that our members, while impressed by a five-dram verticle tasting encompassing the most senior reaches of a distillery’s range, especially love ‘horizontal’ tastings. Hopes were high, therefore, for Morrison Bowmore. A company that can boast the most balanced or Islay malts, with sea spray, peat and fruity toffee, the only exclusively triple-distilled single malt in Scotland and the only distillery that has let me strip off in its still room was sure to go down well with the Quaich Society. The only pity was that, due to a change of date, more people couldn’t attend.

When Paul Goodwin needed a second trip to the car to bring in the last of the expressions he hoped to present before us, we interpretted it as a good sign. In the end, we hadn’t the glassware to sneak in the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve, too.

Paul Goodwin, modelling jacket and waistcoat in Bowmore Tweed.

Debonair in Bowmore Tweed (‘I thought St Andrews was the right place to try it out,’ he replied wittily), Paul guided us through the dizzying range of styles on offer, starting with the Auchentoshan. The jump from the dried apple and biscuit scents of the Classic to the punchy crushed red fruits and almost earthiness of the Three Wood was startling. Gratifying was how both recalled my 18th birthday and the VIP tour of the distillery. With the Classic there was a delicacy of sweetness, balanced by a burly dryness. On the palate, the first fill Bourbon barrels made their presence felt with a charred quality and creaminess.

The Three Wood was to be many peoples’ favourite dram of the night, including an ever-curious Doug Clement who kept Paul busy fielding questions. Despite having announced pre-tasting that he was more heavily involved in the sales side of the business, Paul’s whisky knowledge was exceptional and our resident industry insider and glass patron returned to his drams, satisfied with the information received. A little snippet I hadn’t been privy to was the cost to whisky of the Second World War. Due to its proximity to Glasgow, wee Auchentoshan must have looked to the Luftwaffe like a weapons-grade storage facility (a mistake the British government repeated in the last decade in Iraq, funnily enough) and bombed the place. 300,000 litres of maturing spirit were lost.

To Islay now, however, and the peat heads in the room started to get excited. The Bowmore 12yo is a great whisky to start with period, but as in introduction to Islay’s delights it works very well. Ferny, heathery peat on the nose developed into sea shore aromas with sharp, crunchy malt. The palate was balanced and rich, with a sweet sootiness and honey. Paul recommended it with seafood.

The Bowmore Darkest chocolate.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t bring along any oysters,’ Paul continued as we turned to the 15yo Darkest, but he handed out some dark chocolate instead. The Lindt was felt to compliment the heavy Sherry tones the whisky picks up from its three-year finish in European oak. The potent result gained a rum-like quality when paired with the chocolate. Separately, I got a very strong chorizo aroma at first with a lot of paprika. This became salty with an undertow of gooey-ness. Red apple, too. On the palate the saltiness and chorizo continued with brown, almost dirty peat and burning straw. I wasn’t sure about this one, although others were won over by its distinctive personality. The Tempest releases for me still hold greater interest than the Sherry-accented Bowmores.

When selecting the Glen Garioch component, Paul had been in a very generous mood. Despite being a spirit many had not come across – and many more could not pronounce – the core range had been overlooked in favour of one of the latest vintages. The 53.9% 1994, all Bourbon-matured was the final dram of the evening and was it different. Very creamy on the nose at first, there was oak grip and alcohol depth. Apricot and wholemeal bread appeared. With water the delivery was sweeter with orange as well as a creaminess. Pepper, lime and shortbread came later. The palate provided barley sugar, banana, charred cask, biscuit and gentle smoke, vanilla emerging with the addition of water.

In his delivery for the distillery, Paul mentioned the ’craft’ word more than once. With a capacity of 1,000,000 litres, it is actually producing below this so certainly isn’t a behemoth of a plant. While not in the Kilchoman league – as Paul admitted when challenged by Mr Clement - there is greater scope for doing something different with the brand as the 48% bottling strength of the Founder’s Reserve and 12yo, together with the vintage releases, confirm.

What I wanted to know more about was the consequence to these brands of the highly-publicised transfer of Rachel Barrie to Morrison Bowmore. ‘Would she,’ I asked, ‘have the same scope to create different expressions like she did with the Glenmorangie Signet etc.?’ Paul’s answer was the measured, but promising, ‘watch this space’.

Masses of Morrison Bowmore merchandise was very kindly donated by Paul for our raffle, and Quaich Society members dug in their pockets to be in with a chance of walking away with a whole bottle of Glen Garioch 12yo or a Bowmore polo shirt as well as other prizes. Our thanks go to Paul for a superb tasting, and we hope to see him back again with more expressions from these diverse stables – perhaps bearing the Barrie signature.

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February 19, 2012

A Mighty Bonny Balblair

If I can put a positive spin on the well-documented delay and the yearning of those connected with Balblair for a facility in which to welcome visitors, it is that a couple of decades were necessary to allow cask no. 2990 to realise its full potential before making it exclusively available to Balblair pilgrims.

In November, I was one such pilgrim to the dinky, delightful distillery on the Wick-Inverness railway line and I discovered said ex-Bourbon hogshead in the new brand home, pride of place. After the blockage in the valve had been cleared, the not so orderly queue of whisky bloggers and journalists could set about disgorging its contents with gay abandon. I defy anyone to hand-fill their own bottle of 19yo single cask Highland whisky with a scowl on their face.

Bottle number 10 bore my signature and joined the phalanx of other dumpy bottles on the bench beside the cask – like puppies plucked from their mother and placed close by. My pedigree pup arrived on my doorstep having received its kennel cough injections (a duty stamp) just before Christmas and I finally got around to opening it as a toast for completing semester 1 of year 2 at university. Here are my (extensive) tasting notes for this gorgeous specimen.

The Balblair distillery-exclusive.

Balblair 1992 DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE SINGLE CASK, 60.9% abv., #2990

Colour – Clean, fresh gold.

Nose – Firm, sharp and gristy with nose above the glass. Thin pale oak lends a daffodil-like floral edge. Cumin, turmeric and a touch of runny peach. Closer to, I get butteriness, seeds and perfume all at the same time. Lemon and lime marmalade. An intriguing note of creme anglaise. The power starts to build: pure pear drops and apple peel. Tropical fruit bon-bons: pineapple and papaya. The lemon and malt are rapier-like. There is quite a masculine scent, like aftershave. With a bit of air and time, there is a flash of coastal aromas then hay and ripe pear, with rich and swet biscuit.

      Water ratchets up the sweetness that little bit more: jellied apple and pear with lime drizzle cake. Biscuity again. The body of the whisky is so Balblair: firm and crisp simultaneously. Almond and yoghurt-coated pinenut. It becomes exceedingly creamy. A hint of banana also confirms its heritage. Intensely fresh with a repeat of that aftershave note. With more time it becomes a true delight: pineapple, toffee tablet and liquorice.

Palate – Full with more of the buttery, toffeed oak. Then there is an astonishing surge of citrussy sweet fruits: apple, passion fruit, pineapple and then more ex-Bourbon cask notes of biscuit and vanilla.

      Water places the sweet malt to the fore, with the fruits surging round and over. Impressions of the mash tun: chunky and aromatic. Vanilla and ‘golden’ cask flavours and these come to direct the occasion. Plenty of guts.

Finish – Fixing, with a building spongecake maltiness and spoonfuls of mascarpone and vanilla cream. Tropical fruits again. Sugar crystals melt on the tongue. Very late spice adds superb balance: the turmeric from the nose.

Water accents the spongecake quality further although there is added complex richness. Lemon mousse, shortbread biscuit maltiness. More of the cask, as on the reduced palate, with creamy sweetness and flecks of toasted spice.

So…?      I adore the breadth of this malt, which if anything has a larger scope than the impeccable 1990 I had at the distillery. This holds the fruit and firm spiciness in balance with the rich creaminess of the oak magnificently. That being said, I had the impression when nosing and tasting it that water might unleash the promising tension of the unreduced spirit. I anticipated still softer fruits and an added richness. It didn’t quite happen. The nose came on a fraction but the Balblair body would not yield and the oak, as good a job as it has done, nudged its way into the picture more than I would have wanted. On the other hand, it is in no way the oak massacre that ensues when water is added to my 1995 Aberlour single cask. When savouring this whisky, it succeeds in exciting me, making me revel in the power of a personable malt. I see again that strking distillery and I allow the spirit to lead me into its obscure, fragrant corners.

The extreme indigenousness of this whisky means that it works in reverse to most other malts. Rather than coming across it and being duly inspired to visit Edderton, Ross-shire, this 1992 expression constitutes your reward for having made the journey. The glorious quality of this whisky, however, means that you will be certain to return.

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February 14, 2012

Highland Park at the Quaich Society

A treat for the Quaich Society: two bottles of Highland Park Earl Magnus.

The art of pillaging has moved on somewhat since the last time an insatiable horde sought the treasures of Orkney. Quaich Society guests were in fact deeply well-mannered as they queued for a welcoming and welcome dram of the Highland Park 12yo to begin the first tasting of the new year. They sensed that riches would come their way without the need for axes or blood-curdling yells, and they were right.

Patsy Christie and David Howe of Maxxium Brands ventured north to St Andrews to introduce the most northerly of Scotland’s single malts. Aided by some multimedia projection, we could appreciate what implications this might have for the whiskies in our Glencairns. Predominating images were of movement: sea and air principally. It is some challenge not to get blown away on Orkney, but Highland Park’s stature has swelled over the years and today it poses dismissively against the gale.

In my tenure at the Society, we have not welcomed a brand which malts a proportion of its own barley. With Highland Park, this affected the style of our tasting profoundly. ‘Orkney is a big part of Highland park,’ David had said, and Patsy produced a bit of the islands themselves forthwith to demonstrate what he meant. With some good-natured flouting of the health and safety laws, this slab of Hobbister Moor peat was ignited and passed around the congregation, a cloud of wraith-like smoke circulating. As it came in my direction, I detected a spent birthday cake candle smell, and a deeper aroma of incence. Placed beneath Highland Park barley for a few hours and this will generate the delicate heathery quality which I found enlivened all of the whiskies on show.

First up was the new make, and one I was desperate to try. I have said elsewhere how much I love this bolshy, raw product and I’m pleased to report that as new makes go, this is up there with Glencadam’s and Glen Garioch’s. It is stunning. On the nose there is orange and lemon, then fabulous buxom barley which blends a creaminess with a lovely, earthy crispness. This leads into a light prickle of sweet smoke.

Full-bodied on the palate, it displays clean and crisp qualities again. Barley sweetness and some honeydew melon. Shortbread and coconut - gently earthy. It really is magically complex.

A revelatory peat moment. My favourite kind of revelatory moments, if I'm honest.

‘When David and I were planning this tasting,’ said Patsy, ‘he asked me whether I wanted to talk about maturation. Of course! I love wood!’ Her impish grin set the Quaich Society a-sniggering but there was more to Patsy’s cask policy lecture than innuendo. With such premium, classically sherried brands as The Macallan and our guest for the evening, Highland Park, owners the Edrington Group had to source the best oak they could. I heard the following detail on Orkney and it was reiterated: the Edrington Group spends more on wood than the rest of the Scotch whisky industry combined. From the Missouri forests, American oak is shipped to Spain, converted into casks, filled with sherry, emptied and returned – whole – to Scotland. They care about what will contain these fine spirits for years to come and have done for sometime, as the recent launch of the 50yo attests.

We could see the results of that excellent new make after a few Orkney summers in these casks with the 18yo. F. Paul Pacult’s opinions may mean nothing to you – and they certainly mean nothing to me – but to his esteemed palate the 18yo is ‘the best spirit in the world’. Fair enough, but I don’t think it is a sufficient basis on which to anchor sales patter. Or maybe I would say that, having always preferred the 12yo. I’m sorry, but it has far more variety and balance than this specimen, which in the past has poured toffee into my nostrils and not much else. It performed admirably on the night, though, and is undoubtedly an impressive dram.

Patsy Christie and a tiny tot of the new Thor. Great things, small packages and whatnot.

A genuine privilege came in the form of the Earl Magnus of which, we were told, none now exist for sale. The character of this 15yo, cask strength individual was nuttier than the 18yo with more vanilla, apple and pear. A dab of water released far more orange and lemon, which, though a fraction peatier, mirrored the profile of the new make closely. The palate delivered with smoke and spice in addition to caramel, red apple and other red fruits.

The final venerable malt was the 21yo which launched itself out of the glass with robust, warm sherry tones. I detected embers in tbe grate, too, continuing the lovely delicacy of peat that the range had supplied hitherto. Red fruits appeared on the palate with a bit of phenolic smoke.

We almost forgot about the 21yo, however, because the normally docile and genial Quaich Society got a bee in its bonnet. The way issues such as ‘chillfiltration’ and ‘artificial colouring’ were hurled back and forth put me in mind of the Houses of Parliament during the Blair years and the words ‘weapons of mass destruction’. They would not give an inch. HP is chillfiltered, but only a little bit, it would appear. They don’t colour at all. Patsy, a whisky nerd up there with the most obsessive, cited research conducted by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute which said that chillfiltration had no effect – zero, nada – on the flavour profile of a whisky. I don’t know what to believe anymore, as I struggle to credit that the residue left on the edges of the glass after a single cask Glenfarclas has no impact on mouthfeel or the behaviour of the malt in your mouth. Never having had the opportunity of tasting the same malt chillfiltered and not, I cannot compare. If regulations are so strict about what you put into whisky, however, I think we need a little more guidance on what is taken out.

Patsy and David evaded the jabs and thrusts of the Quaich Soc’ers with composed, honest answers. Even a loaded comment about the calibre of cask selection and what might make its way into Famous Grouse would not provoke them. They received a raucous round of applause for their efforts, and I would like to thank both of them for bringing their expertise and excellent whiskies along to us. Maybe a few more minis of Thor for next time, though?

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February 8, 2012

The (Really) Good Spirits Co., Glasgow

When plans were first afoot to drop by a few more of Scotland’s excellent whisky shops, I could have had no idea that by the time it came to write about them on the Scotch Odyssey Blog the mood of optimistic malty materialism would have soured to one of grudging destitution.

Whisk(e)y – and this is the honest truth - constitutes my only financial weakness. I don’t own a games console, I don’t buy clothes, I don’t go to concerts more than twice a year or sporting events at all. Yet here I sit, gently shivering in my student flat, more acutely aware than ever before of the dwindling loan money, incredulous at what it costs to be in a position to pour yourself a dram once in a while. Electricity, rent, internet, food, phone: all must take precedence.

Inside the Good Spirits Co.

It was under a cloud of such dark thoughts, on an otherwise spotless Glasgow day, that I ducked into the Good Spirits Co. in the city centre. A few weeks previously I had sent an excited message to Mark Connelly, co-founder of the independent spirits shop, asking for Bourbon or Rye recommendations. His pick was a Noah’s Mill, a brand I had never heard of but which receives rave reviews from what I could glean from a quick traipse across the internet. The batch Mark was so keen on was bottled at 57.15% and would come in at £49. My eyes struggled to ignore the handsome black wax-sealed bottle, but I would have to scan other shelves.

On a single level, just beneath the street, a flight of stone stairs conveys you from the battle royal of Glasgow buses pulling up and roaring off again into the soothing company of fine spirits. I was impressed with its size, a large and long cuboid extending from the door to the far wall, where the only Spanish cedar wood, walk-in humidor in Scotland lurks fragrantly. In whisky shops now, my gaze flicks to particular areas, expecting to see the same brands. Not here. There are some of the usual suspects, but the packaging of independent bottlers enlivens the displays with A. D. Rattray, Hart Brothers and Duncan Taylor well-represented. However, I get the feeling that were I to go back in next month Adelphi, Douglas Laing and Signatory may well have taken their places. Mark told me that his customers are increasingly interested in ‘good spirits’, not ‘the same stuff I have always drank’. This, he says, is especially true with his gins and allowed him to stock different brands of rare or small batch products which would always sell. Gin nudges Scotch for the top seller in the shop.

The impressive selection of world whiskeys section.

The world whisky section is particular impressive also, with two separate offerings from South Africa in the shapes of Bains and Three Ships. From different parts, there is Lark, Mackmyra and a healthy showing from Ireland: Cooley in particular.

As I mentioned before Christmas, my promise to myself and my palate was that no more Scotch would be bought until I had explored one other region first. The Noah’s Mill may have been off-limits, but I was delighted to see a solitary bottle of Four Roses and a legion of Buffalo Trace, both for £26. It would have to be between these two, and Mark made the decision still harder but informing me that the Buffalo Trace was now bottled at 40% abv, but what he had was a consignment of some of the last 45% ers.

It was the Four Roses I ultimately handed over the exquisite counter: a design based around the staves of three Sherry butts with more straightened staves for the counter top. ‘We looked at getting it for the whole floor,’ Mark mused, but then quoted me a three-figure price per square metre and the decision to go with standard wooden flooring looked a sound one.

The Good Spirits Co.'s Living Cask. What Dr Frankenstein was really after, I think.

I was not allowed to leave before having tried their ‘living cask’, a tiny Sherry wood cask which originally held Highland Park and Bunnahabhain but always receives a top-up of something else when the level in the barrel reaches the tap. Batch 4 dribbled into my Glencairn glass and it was rather excellent: coastal with plenty of Sherry fruit and spice on the nose, there were also notes of rich honey and earth – possibly the Ardmore and the Aberfeldy fighting for supremacy. The palate was sublime with red fruits and pale creamy oak leading into plenty of toffee. A second sip revealed an aggressive saltiness and a fizzing sweet cereal quality. £15 will buy you a 20cl bottle and it is certainly worth a look.

With directions to the Chinaski’s Bourbon bar and the Bon Accord lodged in our brains, my friends and I reascended to street level in very good spirits.

 

The Good Spirits Co., 23 Bath Street, Glasgow

0141 258 8427

http://thegoodspiritsco.com

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February 4, 2012

Undercover Beginners

Karen and Matt at The Glenlivet, one of my picks for a good distillery tour.

If proof were needed that whisky is a convivial drink elevated by the enlightened and considered folk with whom one savours and discusses it, I present to you Karen and Matt of Whisky For Everyone. Since beginning their democratic investigation into whiskies of the world in 2008, they have become my go-to blog for incredibly in-depth reviews, the latest news and always informed comment. With the same zeal today to discover more about the spirit, Karen and Matt are a credit to the industry and those who endeavour to write about it.

Following on from a guest blog I wrote for them earlier in the week, here is the Whisky For Everyone lowdown on distillery touring in Scotland. I was eager to source their perspective on this matter because I must often concede that while the Scotch Odyssey sought to present a picture of Scotland-wide whisky tourism in the recent past, my encounters can be no more helpful than the restaurant critic who only witnesses one service. Tours vary throughout the day according to a myriad of factors, let alone across the country, at different times of the year with different compositions of tour parties.

I find Karen and Matt’s experiences fascinating as testimonies to the diversity of approaches deployed by distilleries throughout Scotland for welcoming visitors. I hope you will, too.

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Through writing our blog, we are in the lucky position of getting the occasional invite to a distillery.  This may be for a number of reasons – they
want to raise awareness of their brand, to launch a new whisky, to open a new visitor centre or any combination of the three. This is great for us and is one of the perks of something that we do not get paid for and write in our spare time. Invariably these visits are a lot of fun and you get to meet some of the people that work there, while getting the ‘access all areas’ treatment.

However, these VIP tours are not what most people will experience when they turn up at adistillery.  This is why we enjoy joining
a general tour – it is by doing this that you truly experience what makes a distillery tick, what it is like when the spotlight is turned away and everyone is not on their best behaviour, trying to get you to write about their whisky brand.  On these occasions we very rarely ‘reveal our hand’ and try to find out as much information as we can by being ‘whisky beginners’.

From our experience, there seems to be two types of distillery tour available to the whisky tourist in Scotland – the ‘sanitised, see what they want you to see’ tour and the ‘warts and all, see how it really is’ tour.  We have been on a number of both types during our occasional holidays to Scotland. The format of the tours are basically the same – arrive, pay, be shown around, have the whisky making process explained, finish off with a dram or two in the visitor centre/shop.  But, this is where the similarities normally end.

The ‘sanitised, see what they want you to see’ tour is normally found at the larger distilleries or those that are the home to well known brands.
These places can cope with large numbers of fans and visitors that their brand generates. This tour will begin with a brand video showing barley swaying in the breeze, water babbling in a stream, an old chap from the distillery pushing a barrel, or scenes of a similar nature.

Coaches at Cardhu, home of Johnnie Walker. Not a bad tour by any means, but a distillery and approach catered towards the larger parties.

You will then be whisked around the distillery, or part of the distillery (normally not in operation), while the whisky making process basics are explained by the tour guide.  Questions of a more advanced level seem to be discouraged and you are also usually asked not to take any photos or video for ‘safety reasons’.  You will then get a dram of whisky, possibly two if lucky, to send you on your way (usually the basic expression/s from their core range), while they deal with the next coach-load of tourists.

The ‘warts and all, see how it really is’ tour is usually found at the smaller or cult distilleries, or those of smaller and less well-known brands.  There will be no corporate video here, just an informative ‘down to earth’ tour that takes you through the sights and sounds of a working distillery and the whisky making process. It will also not be clean and pristine with lots of shiny new metal on show. The tour guides always seem to be more engaging and open to any questioning, be it at a beginner or connoisseur level.  You may even have the chance to speak with a member of distillery staff who always seem happy to have a chat or answer any questions.

You will invariably get to try more than just the most basic whisky from their core range. You will also be allowed to take photos, including putting your camera lens in to mash tuns, fermentation tanks etc.  This leads you to think – either these places care much less about ‘safety’ than the distilleries in the first group, or there are no real ‘safety reasons’ to worry about.  Maybe those that use that as a reason for no photography, just don’t want you to take any …

Naturally, there are exceptions to both types of tour and ultimately, many visitors will leave both types happy.  However, we always look at them with our slightly critical eyes and guess that it depends what you want from the experience – do you just want to tick off a ‘distillery tour’ on your Scotland must-do list or do you want to really learn something about a place, brand or the whisky production process?

One of my favourite distillery tours, too. You see absolutely everything at Glen Moray.

Our favourite distillery tour to date was found at Glen Moray in Elgin.  Here, we rushed to try and make one of the advertised tour times and were late. Despite this, our soon-to-be tour guide (Emma) stopped what she was doing and offered to show us around anyway. After a tour, which involved seeing almost every nook and cranny of the distillery, we felt like we had an affinity with the place.

We were allowed to walk around freely, ask Emma anything we wanted and get in depth replies, speak to the distillery workers about what they were doing and take as many photos as we wanted.  After that sort of experience, the whisky was always going to taste good. We were given a tutored tasting of three whiskies from the core range, plus a couple of special editions (one of which we ended up buying).

A few months ago, we were invited back to Glen Moray as their guests for a product launch and dinner.  As part of this, we were invited on a VIP tour of the distillery.  This tour proved to be exactly the same and as in depth as the regular tour that we had experienced previously.  That tells
you plenty about how Glen Moray value their visitors and some other distilleries can learn a lesson from that. After all, it could be someone’s first ever distillery tour …

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A massive thank you again to Karen and Matt, and I would urge you to follow their discoveries within the whisky world at Whisky For Everyone.

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February 1, 2012

Glenmorangie Artein

‘You’d like to visit the Glenmorangie Distillery, Long John Silver, up in Tain?’

‘Arrrrr – Tain!’

Excuse the pun. I’m quite sure it is not how Dr Bill Lumsden would like his latest creation in the Private Editions range to be introduced but I’d much rather fool around with a piratical play on words than go through the Scots Gaelic derivation.

‘Stone’ follows on from Sonnalta and Finealta in the Highland distillery’s more experimental annual releases. The whisky is a vatting of two thirds 15yo spirit to one third 21yo spirit, matured in ex-Bourbon hogsheads and finished in Super Tuscan wine casks. The distillery’s water source is famously hard. I tried to clamber up to the Tarlogie Spring while I was up in the area during the summer, but pulled out of the attempt before I became too sodden. The limestone surroundings are said to ‘contribute to the whisky’s complex fruity aromas’.

The wood finish is one Lumsden is especially interested in. ‘I was fascinated by the role stony ground played in cultivating the vines – therefore influencing the flavour profile of the famed Super Tuscan wines,’ he said. ’I was inspired to experiment with extra maturing Glenmorangie in these wine casks and was thrilled with the result – a rich, outstandingly fragrant whisky – born of stone.’

I sampled the Sonnalta at the distillery, and whilst I admired its citrussy richness, I felt the malt only wore the Pedro Ximenez finish like a sumptuous Parka, without absorbing its characters. Here are my thoughts on the Artein.

Glenmorangie Artein 46% vol. £69.99

Colour – Stunning: rich orange with pinkish depths.

Nose – Hovering around the rim of the glass is a wall of matte, moist barley sweetness, sandiness (like I find with the LaSanta) and veins of oak. There is also a clean, buttery toffee aroma and a warm, rich grapiness halfway between the robust Quinta Ruban and the sweet, crystallised Nectar d’Or. With the nose in the glass, the red grape, winey notes build but what really interests is the silky Bourbon presence: corny and sweet with sugary plums. Clean peach tones in addition to rich vanilla cupcakes. After a sip and some time, mandarin and nectarine emerge along with ever-so-sweet cereals. Iced cinnamon buns.

Water sweetens the experience still further with delicate citrus mousse tones. Perfumed and chunky – yet smooth – maltiness. Bourbon oak returns: heavy, oily corn and eucalyptus. Oozing rich toffee. Mandarin again and milk chocolate. More time reveals orange and marzipan as well as fudge. The whole arrangement boasts a remarkable clarity.

Palate – Fruits come to the fore, although at first they are definitely cask-driven: orange, date and apricot. The cling and sugars all come from the Bourbon casks, but they are lovely examples; so creamy but, yes, corny.

Water does not detract from the clinging quality. It is still sweet with citrus fruits and honey. A rich earthiness builds, before dark oak rolls into view. Chocolate biscuit.

Finish - Much of the Bourbon influence here – in fact, if more of the Bourbons I drank finished as gently and sublty as this I would be a happier man. Long with jammy notes (strawberry and plum). Creamy vanilla suggesting French pastries, although the concluding flavours are cake-like.

Water renders the effect more gentle still with soft, leathery malt and fig rolls. Icing sugar and apple puree. The oak returns and they are fine, rounded casks. Plums and corny Bourbon at the death.

So…?      This is a strange whisky: rich and involving, but not exactly Glenmorangie. Indeed, with such a hefty proportion of well-matured stock I had expected a little more finesse, perhaps with more of that ethereal sweetness which the Nectar d’Or has in spades. A common thread in the tasting notes was the strong Bourbon character and this I found very enjoyable indeed. It reminded me a lot of a more well-mannered version of the Wild Turkey 101 I’ve been drinking in St Andrews: rich, full, creamy and fruity. Of course, the Wild Turkey is about a third of the price.

The Glenmorangie Artein is a very assured – even charming – whisky, but there is far more to be had at a more competitive price from the Quinta Ruban.

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