Yesterday, I began my serialised guide to Irish Whiskey with a rundown of its turbulent history through some difficult times, becoming the most popular spirit in the world before nearly disappearing altogether in the 20th century! Fortunately, it has been on a road to recovery in the last few decades and is now thriving.
Despite this resurgence, which has made Irish Whisky the fastest growing drinks category in the world, Scotch whisky still comfortably sells 15 times more cases worldwide, and has about as many times more active distilleries too. With Scotch whisky's dominance since the 1930s, there's perhaps understandably still some confusion, even amongst whisk(e)y enthusiasts, surrounding the styles of Irish whiskey available.
Fret not, however! In this second instalment I'll be looking at each style in turn, complete with a number of yummy examples of each!
The sun is starting to peek through the clouds once more and there’s that glorious feeling of love in the air. Is that because Valentine’s Day is creeping closer and closer? It actually has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day at all (but you can still address all heart-shaped boxes of chocolate to Sam Smith, MoM Towers, Tunbridge Wells). No, that lovely feeling is coming from the parcel that has found its way to my desk.
Hidden beneath a shock of shredded black paper sits a fancy looking black box tied up with quite a fancy leather string bow. It's the kind of box that people can only hold really awesome or really scary stuff. You're not going to get a box that looks like this with a stapler or a bike lock or a bank statement in it. It's either amazing or devastating. A gold ring or a ring finger. A puppy or too many scorpions. Cake or death. I'm quite partial to cake, to be perfectly honest.
For the longest time, I've had a suspicion about That Boutique-y Whisky Company being full of powerful wizards, what with the lightning-bolt shaped scars on their heads, their ability to talk to snakes (they’re very boring, all they want to do is sing songs about falling asleep) and how they’re very good at conjuring up delicious drinks. Sha-zam and abracadara!
Seeing as a number of their independently bottled marvels have just won Wizards of Whisky 2014 Awards, we think it’s pretty safe to say that they’re definitely sorcerers of the highest order, up there with Dumbledore, Gandalf and Emperor Palpatine (he shoots lightning from his hands, he totally counts as a wizard).
Glenmorangie’s Private Edition range really took the spotlight this year when Jim Murray named the 19 year old, Ealanta, World Whisky of the Year 2014. Jim claimed Ealanta stole the show “because it went out and did something very different: not only did it blow [him] away with its deftness, beauty and elegance, but it gave an aroma and taste profile completely new to [him] in over 30 years of tasting whisky”. High praise indeed.
Soon after, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling, Dr Bill Lumsden, faced the unenviable challenge of creating a follow-up. After such a coveted title, any successor malt would surely pale in comparison, or at least one might think. We were expecting intensity of flavour, perhaps a big dose of sherry this time? Well, rather that playing it safe, Bill took the somewhat risky decision of releasing a red wine finish – something we’ve seen a lot of over the years, but very rarely done well. In fact, put bluntly, most of the time red wine ruins whisky. I won’t name names*, but we’ve all had an “experimental” whisky buggered up by overdosing with wine casks that have perhaps unnecessary pedigree (aside from marketing purposes, why anyone feels the need to finish in First Growth casks is beyond my understanding!). So – how would Bill’s latest fare?
Well that was quite a Christmas.
In fact it’s been so busy that 4 new releases have passed us by with nary a mention. Changing that, now I am here with the writing about things. Yes.
Without further ado, onto the explanations behind the crazy stuff that’s fallen out of my head and onto paper.
First up this time, we’ve got an absolute belter of an Islay Whisky, from Kilchoman.
More or less every time I write a blog post, I ask management for permission to use the phrase "hells-a-poppin'"...
I get shot down mercilessly every time.
Well, the renowned whiskym'n at The Macallan have only gone and released part five in their legendary Lalique Six Pillars Collection. Each single malt in the ultra-super-deluxe-premium range is made from exceedingly rare old stock, and bottled in decanters designed and created by the famous French crystal house, Lalique. If ever there was a time for the term hells-a-poppin', surely now is it.
When asked if I fancied a trip to Southwold I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. A chance to visit a lovely coastal town, get some fresh, sea air in my lungs, escape the madness of the festive season AND visit the fantastic Adnams distillery to taste two brand new English whiskies?!
Um, yes. I think I can probably manage that, at a push. So off I went to Waveney to meet up with Jonathan Adnams, Chairman and fourth-generation brewer, and Head Distiller John McCarthy for a bit of a shimmy around the distillery and to taste two new, unique whiskies prior to their release.
The first ever Adnams whiskies. Ever.
Hello, my name’s Mike.
If you remember me at all, you’ll probably know me as the chap who wrote tasting notes and things, and used the word “soupcon” too much. If you work at Master of Malt, you may know me as “the bloke that did that thing at the Christmas Party” or “the terrible man who did that other thing in Sales Director Ben’s office which Ben still hasn’t found out about”.
Regardless of whether or not you know me, you better learn something, punk: I’m back from Africa, I’ve just tasted a £16,000 bottle of whisky and now I’m going to tell you all about it.
42. I’ll save you the trouble of counting.
Turns out that it’s not only the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, but is also the number of releases from That Boutique-y Whisky Company to date.
I’m pleased to say that numbers 39-42 are as fabulous as those that preceded them, and am delighted to reveal that we’ve got yet another 4 releases to come before the end of the year (including time-travelling barmen, and an absolute belter of an Islay that’s something of an exclusive).
The 11th November 2013 will forever go down in the annals of history as 3D-Day, the day when the chaps off that there Caskstrength.net officially launched their fourth whisky bottling as well as a piece of cinema that may well prove to be the most significant televisual event since Quantum Leap, and I don't say that lightly.
‘A’ was for Arran, ‘B’ was for BenRiach and ‘C’ was for Cutty Sark. That leads us to ‘D’ in Neil and Joel’s epic A-Z series, and why have one ‘D’ when you can have 3? A tremendous blended malt constructed from the Diageo trio of Dailuaine, Dalwhinnie and Dufftown single malts was the result. It’s quite literally 3'D' malt whisky, and who doesn’t love a bit of 3D?