With a market seemingly bursting at it’s seems, you could be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the amount of whisky expressions you can now chose from. Over the past few years, new entrants to the market from places such as India, Sweden and Japan are gaining plaudits and winning new fans, but the more ‘traditional’ distilleries have pulled up their marketing socks and are fighting their corners too. (Some, it must be said, are successful in doing what they’ve always done. If it ain’t broke…)
But for the discerning whisky drinker, is this just too much to contend with? Where do you go next with your next purchase?
For me, this whisky corner of the premium spirits market is more interesting than others. As true Scotch whisky is a product with a minimum of three years in storage, it’s not something that is rushed. And this is it’s USP.
Over decades the process gives us different age expressions and importantly – change. The mass market may demand consistency, but this is a particularly difficult thing to achieve. Whisky depends on too many natural elements and human judgment to be exact each time. This appeals to me.
So, what does this give us in the market place?
There’s plenty of new entrants right now, but look beyond the hype. Mackmyra are an interesting Swedish distillery whose passion is infectious. Not so easily found outside of specialists, this pleasant dram is easy on the palate, and not at all offensive on the wallet either, their Brukswhisky starting at around £38.99.
Annual releases, for example Lagavulin’s 12 yo cask strength – which gives the best of their ‘young’ casks in a yearly bottling which surpasses their standard 16 yo expression, and due to it’s nature, is slightly different each year. At £70, it’s not ‘everyday’, but it can find a place on most drinker’s whisky shelf.
Changes to, or focus on production or maturation processes sometimes delivers some niche expressions into the market. A marketer’s dream, yes, but for the whisky drinker, perhaps something to test the palate or nose. Ben Nevis’ 21 yo Ruby Port Cask Finish was finished in ruby Port bodega butts for eight years (after an initial 13 in sherry hogsheads) giving it a delicious taste and fantastic colour. When it was available, it was asking £129.95 at retail.
Independent bottlers are still bringing us spirit from distilleries long lost in time, or perhaps those we lost in the cull of the 1980’s. A great example here is The Old Bothwell’s bottlings of Port Ellen, Islay’s much-mourned icon. This is astride the line of a collectors’ bottle and one for the connoisseur. A real piece of distilling history to keep, or at £400+, something for aficionado’s to buy and taste as a collective.
At the higher end of the spectrum, we go into pure collector’s territory – The Macallan’s Coronation bottling. The final set of a triptych of royal bottlings, these contain two bottles of whisky celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. As one of only 1,953 produced, these can sell for around £1,250.
Opening and drinking this however, is only for the brave!
I wrote this blog and supplied it to Get Real Luxury where it was first published in Feb 2015. http://getrealluxury.com/whisky-passion-infectious/