It’s that time of year again - the weather has given up the pretence of caring, the trees are shedding their leaves like a sinking ship sheds ballast, and the sun can’t summon the energy to stay in the sky for longer than is absolutely necessary. Thankfully all is not lost as Diageo are about to release their much anticipated Special Releases Range.
Diageo is a multi-national drinks company that owns twenty-eight working distilleries and the remaining stock of a number of closed ones, and every year they release a selection of limited releases from some of these distilleries.
With such a large portfolio to draw from these whiskies tend to be the cream of the crop and get us whisky geeks slathering at their merest mention [go on, find a whisky geek and mention it, watch it slather…].
So this evening we all trooped to London to taste these high-demand whiskies in the warm and, more importantly, dry confines of The Deck at the National Theatre. Last time I was in this theatre I watched Benedict Cumberbatch (that guy off of Sherlock) prance around the stage as Frankenstein’s monster with nothing but his self-esteem to cover his modesty. This time I came armed with a notebook and pen - ready to record my experience of facing this enormous tackle of whisky.
It’s been a while coming, this one.
Since the launch of our original Bathtub Gin almost exactly one year ago, we’ve sold a huge number of bottles worldwide, and it’s fair to say that the critical reception has been pretty darned fantastic.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, Bathtub Gin is a compounded gin made from botanicals, as opposed to essences, meaning that the flavour is derived from soaking the botanicals in the spirit (and not then re-distilling it). As far as we know, this is the only gin in the world to employ this slightly curious method of manufacture – the result of which is a clean, fresh-tasting gin with a very slight natural tint to it. As those of you who’ve tried ‘normal’ Bathtub will know, the image below (of the Navy Strength Gin) is substantially darker in hue, due to its production method. More on this below.
Pretty awesome huh?
I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked - either by bar owners, or just experiment-loving whisky-geeks - whether we can get hold of little diddy casks for them to mature stuff in.
So – ladies and gents – here we are: 4 different cask sizes from 1 litre to 50 litres, all provided with a diddy little bung to go in the top of the cask, and all with a nice little tap from which to dispense your very own cask-aged products.
They’re made from 100% Fresh Kentucky Oak, and have been toasted to a medium level (maybe medium-heavy). As with ‘normal’ casks, the ends are un-toasted. In the name of science, I took the hoops off one of the 5 litre ones and bashed it to bits for you to see the way they’re charred for yourselves.
Those of you who’ve been paying attention may remember that back in February of this year, we ran a little competition – the purpose of which was to get you lot to guess the ingredients in a yummy new cocktail we’d invented. The winner of this competition then went on to name the cocktail (I won’t reveal it, as it’s going to be launched in full 70cl glory at some time in the next month or so).
In order to facilitate this competition, we made samples of the cocktail available in cute little 20cl versions of the standard bottle used for The Handmade Cocktail Company’s wares.
The more observant amongst you may remember that the little 20cl bottle was labelled as part of the ‘experimental series’? Well – today we’re revealing the purpose behind that ‘experimental’ moniker.
Today Bowmore made a monumental announcement that they are releasing the oldest Islay Single Malt ever produced, ever…
Bowmore is the oldest distillery on Islay and is famous for producing extraordinary bottlings such as the Black Bowmore and the White Bowmore, as well as their better known (and more affordable) Bowmore 12 Year Old and Bowmore 18 Year Old. In addition to these they have also produced the tasty sherry cask Bowmore Darkest and the stormy cask strength bottling of the Bowmore Tempest.
This, however, is the Bowmore 1957, which was bottled in 2011 after 54 years of cask ageing. In 1995 a number of casks of Bowmore were bottled, but one cask was kept in the legendary Bowmore No. 1 Vaults, the oldest maturation warehouse on the island. This cask has been monitored every six months until it was deemed to have reached perfection.
The bottles have been beautifully hand-blown and sculpted into the shape of the waves that pound the walls of No. 1 Vault by renowned glass artists Brodie Nairn and Nichola Burns. The glass has also been flecked with platinum to create a shimmering sea-like effect.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company's first four releases
Those of you who inhabit the twittersphere may have noticed that we’ve copped a bit of flak recently from the hardcore whisky community out there. The reason? Well – we keep releasing products (steady yourself dear reader) other than whisky.
Gin, Absinthe, Summer Fruit Cups and the like are all well and good, but, well, they’re not whisky. So – in a twin-pronged attack designed to 1) make my life easier whenever I meet ‘whisky people’, and 2) do something almost unspeakably cool – we’re launching a whole brand-spanking new independent bottling label.
Ask most people what their first experience of whisky was and you will be greeted with a shudder, the questionee’s face will turn a charming tinge of green and they’ll reply, “A cheap blend out of my dad’s drinks cabinet, frankly it tasted vile and it made me do things I’d really rather not talk about here.” Fair enough. We all have to start somewhere.
However, this common experience of blended whisky —plus the ready availability of the stuff on the shelf at the supermarket—has led to blends getting a reputation on a par with that of Hollywood diva Lindsay Lohan, some say worse... This has propagated the fallacy that ‘single malt is good, blended whisky is bad’ which is repeated like Animal Farm’s ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ mantra until everyone is bored and has moved on to the Tequila and lime. However, I am here to put the case forward for blended whisky and then, through bravely/foolishly attempting it myself, I will try and give you some tips on how to create your very own blend!
So. Our in-house genius / inventor / mentalist – Professor Cornelius Ampleforth – has once again found time to ‘dick about’ with botanicals, and the new and exciting rotary evaporation still he was bought for Christmas.
This time – he’s set his sights on Absinthe – perhaps one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned spirits in the world. Sit down children, and I shall tell you a story about times past.
Absinthe takes its name from the plant which forms the core of its botanical ingredients – Artemisia Absinthium (‘Wormwood’ to you and me). In the early part of the 20th Century, many countries around the world banned Absinthe as it was thought that the Wormwood contained therein caused a frankly marvellous range of symptoms and disorders. From Epilepsy to Tuberculosis, but most prominently and famously – ‘Madness’. More...
You remember our friends from Caskstrength.net? Bespectacled, dapper sort of chaps? They’re into whisky and Alan Partridge, do some events…?
Anyway, they’ve gone and teamed up with BenRiach to put together one of them there special bottlings, they have. And between you and me, it is a delight. Not just because it comes with a rockin’ cotton tote bag (well, only the first 50 bottles, mind you), not just because it has a pink label (I am a sucker for pink) [ed: don't you mean red?], and not just because it spent four years in a PX cask (I am a major sucker for PX). It is delightful because it was hand-selected by Joel and Neil themselves, only 296 bottles are to be released, and you can only buy it from us. What an expression of a beautiful friendship…or, marriage? More...
So – Summer’s here. Sort of. From time-to-time. When it’s not flooding or what-have-you.
With this in mind, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth has turned his attention to perhaps the most quintessentially British drink that there is – the Summer Fruit Cup.
Now – it’s worth noting that there are several other cups on the market, from the Ubiquitous Pimm’s, through several distillers’ own recipes (Chase is rather good – coming soon – watch this space) to the really rather excellent Sipsmith. There was one thing that the Professor had deemed to be missing from all of these concoctions though – pure, distilled Madness*. More...