Greetings whisky lovers.
This month is one of my all-time favorite styles of whisky – the sherry cask. Sherry Cash whiskies are whisky that have been mature or finished for a period of time an an ex-sherry cask.
This provides the whisky with a nice sweet and spicy finish, rich golden color and a very different scent.
Anyway – enough waffle – let’s get started!
In early 1892 work began to convert an 18th century mansion - Balvenie New House - into a distillery. The Balvenie New House had been purchased by William Grant in March of the same year. Uninhabitable and austere, it was a building of some grandeur with the coat of arms of the Duffs carved into the pediment of its second story. William Grant was a clever businessman and saw this as another venture. He had the land, the rights to use the water and a strong business compulsion to extend his options. The basement was to become a bonded store for maturing whisky, the first story a malt floor, whilst the upper two floors were to be used as grain lofts. The building took fifteen months to complete and on 1st May 1893, the first distillation took place at The Balvenie Distillery.
The Balvenie distillery has now been owned and managed by an independent family for over five generations. Nowhere else will you find a distillery that still grows its own barley, still malts in its own traditional floor maltings and still employs coopers to tend the casks and a coppersmith to maintain the stills. Successive generations of skill on the malting floor, in the tun room and the still house, in the cooperage and the warehouses have preserved the consistency and remarkably high quality of The Balvenie down the years.
It's been over a decade since we've revisited the Balvenie range. From the 12 Year Old, right up to the venerable 30 year old expression, the house style emerges as one of the lightest and most delicate to be found from Speyside with almost no peat evident. The Doublewood gains its character from maturation in two woods, transferred from a traditional American oak cask to an original Sherry oak cask for its final maturation.
Tasting note: Pale gold appearance. Quite lifted on the nose with vanilla, dilute honey and dried fruits featuring. A featherweight entry leads into a medium weight dram with moderate flavours of dried fruit and a warm, slightly raw mouthfeel. Aftertaste of dried grass and drying oak. The warm spicy spirit lingers. Pleasant, though rather one dimensional. 40% Alc./Vol.
The Balvenie DoubleWood is a 12 year old single malt which gains its distinctive character from being matured in two wood types. Over the period of maturation it is transferred from a traditional oak whisky cask to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Each stage lends different qualities to the resulting single malt ~ the traditional casks soften and add character, whilst the sherry wood brings depth and fullness of flavour.
Nose: Sweet fruit and Oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla.
Taste: Smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavours ~ nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry.
Finish: Long and Warming
Like most Scottish Distilleries, Glendronach has had a chequered history and has been opened and closed more times than the kitchen door. Founded by James Allardice in 1826, the Duke of Gordon liked the whisky so much that he took Allardice with him to London, to present him to London's gentry. But the success went to Allardice’s head. He neglected his distillery until 1837, when it was destroyed by a fire. The licence and the ruins of the distillery were sold to Walter Scott, who worked at the Teaninich distillery. The distillery closed in 1916 and was bought in 1920 by Charles Grant, one of the sons of William Grant. Glendronach remained in the Grant family until 1960 when it was sold to William Teacher & Sons by George Grant. Teacher's has since been acquired by Allied Breweries, currently under control of Allied Distillers Ltd. The Glendronach distillery was mothballed since 1995, but production resumed in 2004. The malt is used in the Ballantine and Teachers blends.
When Glendronach first opened its doors in 1826 many Scottish single malts were matured in Spanish sherry casks. However over the years the ever-increasing rarity and price (they are over 10 times as expensive as ‘standard’ barrels!) has seen a major switch to American Bourbon barrels by the whisky industry. Indeed today there are perhaps only two distilleries that can truly be classified as ‘sherry maturation’ houses and only one where 100% of the single malt sold still enjoys its primary maturation exclusively in sherry casks. Glendronach is proud to be that distillery.
A dense, heavily-sherried dram from a distillery now producing again after a six-year layoff. A malt best suited to after-dinner sipping.
Nose: Sweet, rich and spicy fruit, with sugared lemons and limes, granny smith apples, honey and caramel.
Palate: Toffee sweetness, apples, a hint of vanilla and a rich dark fruit background. Water lightens things with more orchard fruit, but without diminishing the richness of the dark fruit hiding underneath.
Finish: Dusty wood, raisins and sweet fruit leaves
Located in the ‘Heart of Speyside’, in the North-East region of Morayshire, BenRiach displays all the traditional charm of a Speyside distillery. Built by John Duff in 1898, BenRiach draws its water from the Burnside springs located underground, deep below the distillery.
Although BenRiach started producing malt whisky back in 1898, the distillery was a victim of unfortunate timing; BenRiach was operational for just two years before the ‘Pattison crash’, in 1900, resulted in a period of hardship for the entire whisky industry, and the resultant closure of many distilleries. So, after just a couple of years of distillation, the stills at BenRiach fell silent, and remained so for sixty five long years… Under normal circumstances, this would have spelled the end for the distillery, as the buildings would surely have been demolished. However, next to BenRiach lay its sister distillery, Longmorn, which had enjoyed sporadic periods of production during BenRiach’s lengthy hiatus. The whisky makers at Longmorn continued to source some of their malted barley from the floor maltings at BenRiach, which had remained operational, and it was this alone that kept BenRiach alive during those ‘mothballed’ years. Then, in 1965, the Scotch whisky industry entered a golden era, and suddenly new distilleries were being commissioned and mothballed distilleries re-opened, including BenRiach. Production re-commenced immediately. Fast-forward to 2004, and the beginning of the most exciting period in BenRiach’s history. It was in April of that year that BenRiach became independent, having been purchased by three entrepreneurs – Billy Walker, Wayne Kieswetter and Geoff Bell.
Upon acquiring the distillery, the new owners inherited an inventory of almost uninterrupted stock, with the oldest casks dating back till 1965. The vision was to establish The BenRiach as a premium, high-quality Speyside malt. The independent ownership allows the distillery to experiment with several interesting wood finishes and it continues to produce whisky from both peated and non-peated malted barley. The BenRiach portrays its own uniqueness through the particular methods and skills of the men who craft the whisky, the ingredients used, the distinctive copper stills and the high quality casks selected for maturation.
Aged for 12 years in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry butts, this is a creamy, rich and sweet release from the revived Benriach distillery.
Since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. On the 8th of June 1865 John Grant acquired the tenancy for the Rechlerich Farm and as part of the transaction purchased the Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19S.0d.
To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed. Now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generation of the family, the Grants remain committed to the vision of creating the best quality Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, in the traditional Speyside style
Glenfarclas 10yo is a straw-gold , delicately light, sweet and malty dram leaving a long slightly spicy finish. Always impeccably well-made, this is a whisky that always delivers in quality.
The producers recommend this as an aperitif whisky. It certainly offers more complexity than you'd expect from a 10 year old dram. A lovely, delicate whisky from Glenfarclas.
Nose: Lots of sherry, juicy. Honey, touch of toffee, creamy. Malty, barley.
Palate: Winter spice. Fruitcake, toffee, hint of smoke.
Finish: Long, spicy, fruity, oak.
You hear of music being played to plants or cows. But not to barrels, like the Aberlour distillery manager who used to serenade the casks of maturing spirit with his bagpipes.
Aberlour breeds strong characters – people with a long view. The current Whisky Maker and his team are the same men who originally laid down the casks of what is bottled today as 18 year-old. That’s continuity. There are still those who remember the brewer touring the distillery with a jug of new made whisky to give each worker a dram. Three times a day.
At the distillery, the sounds of the chattering burn were many and various. From the cooperage came the wheezing of bellows, the clanging of hammers and the thud of new casks. From the mash room, the clatter of clogs on stone floors and the scrape of steel shovels. From everywhere, the slapping and whirring of belts driven by the continually revolving waterwheel.
Today it’s quieter. Although the distillers use modern technology, they take pride in this rich past. When new stills were installed in 1975, for example, a time capsule was discovered with an 1898 bottle of Aberlour. They recreated it without adding water or using modern methods, by maturing the spirit in handpicked Oloroso sherry butts. Hence the spicy, full-bodied fruitiness and dark amber colour of each numbered batch of Aberlour A’bunadh – ‘the original’ in Gaelic.
The stories of Aberlour are of knowledge and experience. Nature. Ambition. Skill. Community. And in the town itself just as throughout the rest of the world, it’s in the telling that the generosity of Aberlour shines through.
With the depth and complexity that comes from being matured for 16 years in a combination of first fill oak Bourbon casks and the finest Sherry butts, this expression’s warm fruity notes are enriched by an engagingly spicy sweetness.
Colour: A warm, golden amber.
Nose: Creamy with sweet raisin aromas and a spicy nuttiness.
Palate: A smooth blend of floral and spicy flavours, paired with a sweet plum fruitiness and gentle oakiness.
Finish: Gloriously long, with a warm, honeyed spiciness.