Kicking It Old Skool

Taste Review #52 – Macallan 10 (Old Style)

No. I am not trying to get down with the kids. I am definitely not a cool person. But today’s review will be a refreshing piece of nostalgia, and we are going to be looking at whisky that many being produced today need to learn from. There may be a bit of Macallan bashing, but this is purely incidental, certainly not intentional and could be equally aimed at many other distilleries.


1990’s Macallan

How many of us remember a time when whisky was good? Hasn’t it always been good? Can it get any better? With Single Malt Whisky having exploded over the past couple of decades, the choice has never been better. However with this taste review, I want to put a concept to you. I want each of you who reads this to think about it to yourselves. And if you can be bothered, I’d appreciate feed back, either in the form of a comment below the article, through facebook, instagram, e-mail or even twitter. If your only means of communicating with me is carrier pigeon, then by all means send it, however I can’t promise that my dog won’t eat it. So if you are General Melchitt and your pigeon is called Speckled George, definitely don’t send it. (Fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will get the reference!)

I’m going to put to you the concept that some whisky is not better than it used to be. I would say it is demonstrably not worse per se, but definitely not as good as it used to be. I would say this has happened and continues to happen due to the large amounts of different editions through different age statements, non-age statements, cask finishing and the lack of decent aged stock available. This is something that all distilleries will suffer from. Each one is trying to obtain, keep or improve its market share.

For a while, I have felt that this applied to Macallan. This is not because I want to rebel against Macallan, as everybody seems to like them and I don’t want to rebel like a stroppy teenager. It’sbecause I feel the focus has moved. While I still believe that they do still make quality whisky, I feel that quality is definitely subdued. This was highlighted to me during a visit to their distillery in October last year.

The building itself is a marvel. You will have never seen a distillery like it, and I doubt if we will ever see one again, certainly not in the near future. Outside it looks more like an extension of Tellytubby land, but inside you can see the architectural masterpiece it is. The tour is good value too, albeit it seems very corporate, although now thinking about it, this is not a mistake. This is deliberate.

The Macallan archive is a wonderful masterpiece, with hundreds of bottles on the soaring shelves. But it is here we start to make our comparisons. One of my bugbears with Macallan is the amount of NAS they are releasing. To look across the way, we see the shop, where many of the products there have no age statements. But as I said before, some of what I am saying about Macallan can be applied to many distilleries, as aged stocks run low.

Macallan has been known as a distillery that exclusively used sherry casks, and one of the six pillars of Macallan is the quality of their casks. However, since 2004, they have been releasing whisky that has been made not just in sherry casks, but now uses Bourbon casks. Not that I have a problem with this as such, as this doesn’t make a bad whisky. However, it just isn’t as good as what has gone before from Macallan in my opinion.


one of my old style Macallan bottles

The tour I took at Macallan also gave us a sample of 12 year old Double Cask which is matured in American and European Oak, and the 15 year old Triple Cask which is also matured in a Bourbon cask. This, as far as I know isn’t the result of re-racking but a mixture of casks in the vatting prior to bottling. I never got a chance to try them at the distillery, as I was driving – and of course we all know drinking and driving is definitely not cool. So I got them to take home.

This fact was something that excited me, as I had a sample of a 10 year old Macallan from the 80’s or 90’s which I had been given by Matteo at the Speyside Whisky Shop, and I really wanted to write a review that compared all three, but the samples from the whisky tour just didn’t give me enough to write an objective review. However, although both drams were quite pleasant there was something that was very obvious to my palate. The old style whisky blasted the other two into outer space. Just no comparison.

Here are my tasting notes for the older whisky.


12 Year old 1990’s Macallan

Region

Speyside

Age

10 years

Strength

40 % abv

Colour

Deep gold

Nose

Proper sherry nose. Dates, plums, raisins, tobacco note, hot chocolate powder. More of a toffee note appears when water added. 

Palate

Instant, intense sweet hit on the arrival, with pretty much every note in the nose also on the palate. 

Finish

Medium to long, gently fades away. Slightly drying in the finish, toffee, dried fruits and a hint of spicy wood.


The dram

Conclusions

What I write now may be paraphrased from another article that I have written elsewhere about Macallan, but I’ll try and keep to the appropriate portions here.

I am indebted to Sorren at ocdwhisky.com for an article he wrote about whisky blogging. One of the things he said was that no whisky manufacturer deliberately makes a bad whisky. I know I might have had a bit of a rant over Jura Journey and Glen Keith, but Sorren is right. It’s just tastes are different, and you can’t like everything. However, that doesn’t mean that distilleries can get away with reduced quality whisky.

Of course, with a shortage of aged stocks, plus a decline in sherry drinkers has probably meant that sourcing quality casks has become harder and certainly more expensive for Scotch whisky producers. I would contend that Macallan has safeguarded the premium casks for their more expensive whiskies, which can cost thousand of pounds. However, they aren’t going to be doing that exclusive for whisky that is in the sub £100 bracket if they can get away with it. Use of Bourbon casks reduces the demand for sherry casks. This is something Macallan has been releasing since 2004. So, my concept I am trying to get you to think about is that have Macallan (or other producers) slowly weaned us off the premium whisky and onto something that is still good, but not as good?

I certainly feel this way, as the old-skool sample that I had was absolutely fantastic, and I almost regret giving my brother-in-law a small sample of the small sample I received. In a normal state of mind I wouldn’t have shared, but my brother in law is a good bloke and he very much appreciated his share. Is it a case of what we used to get as a standard 10 year old is now the quality standard for the 18 year old or above? I may have to take the plunge and buy a more expensive bottle to find out, or chum up my more generous Macallan drinking friends.

This is why I feel that with Scotty’s drams it is good to use the samples of older whisky, in particular my bargain basement miniature buying at auction is actually a valid exercise. The ten year old Macallan in the picture above is auctioning for around £300. The 12 year old I’ve seen as high as £450. A smaller sample is good for reminding us what has gone before and gives us a point of reference.

What is your take on this subject?

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

Sorry for the double publishing – there was an error generated that caused the link to display incorrect information. It won’t happen again. Actually it probably will, but I will still be sorry.


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All Photographs author’s own.

The C-Word

I don’t know what one is worse!

Whisky enthusiasts (and anybody else for that matter) cannot fail to miss the fact that the C-word is now on the lips of nearly everybody. Coronavirus is here, and not the other C word that is used regularly as a quite colourful yet descriptive noun in Scotland. We cannot escape it, so we have to look beyond the times that we currently find ourselves. The new plague has inspired me to actually say a few words on video posted on the Scotty’s Drams Facebook page. This is something that I vowed I would never do on account of having a face that can sour cream instantly, but more to the point I try to keep the blog as ‘lo-fi’ as possible, so I can still write and publish while at work, and so less is spent concentrating on internet geekery and more on the whisky and opinions.

Getting back on track, the whisky industry has not escaped Corona Virus at all. As is sensible, distillery visitor centres have closed, whisky festivals have been cancelled. Even one or two distilleries have completely shut down – Glenfarclas and Teeling being the only ones I definitely know to have ended production. This may not have much of an effect on supply at all, as warehouses are creaking of maturing spirit, and still most distilleries are still producing for now. There is not likely to be a shortage in the longterm, but will there be consequences in the further down the line if the best part of a year’s production is missing? Who knows?


Closed for now: Glenfarclas Distillery Visitor Centre. Production also temporarily ceased

We also have to think of the impact this will have on specialist Whisky Retailers, most of whom rely a good part on footfall into their shops, which has all disappeared. That is why I started my little video infomercials, as I felt this is a very important resource we have to keep. Yes, you can buy your whisky from Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange or Amazon, but lets look at it this way – that isn’t personal service. It may be that some of the Whisky Shops use Amazon as a market place, but shop direct with them, so they get the maximum benefit.


Whisky Shops – physical shop closed, online shop alive and kicking

The bad thing about the Corona virus is that there is likely to be an economic slowdown across the world. Usually the first thing to go in an economic crisis are luxuries, and it could be argued that whisky is not a necessity but is indeed a luxury. Could this lead into a reduction in prices on the shelves? For instance, I remember not too long ago, you could pick up a GlenDronach 18 for under £80. Nowadays most places seem to have the price hitting off £100 in the space of less than a couple of years. I am having a wry smile to myself, as it was a dram that I used to evangelise to people about if asked for a recommendation. I doubt they bought it in enough numbers to increase demand. I’d wet myself laughing if I could be described as an industry ‘influencer’. I’m far more likely simply to be just under the influence……


It’s not just shops and distilleries that could be affected. Cooperages and other parts of the supply chain may suffer.

Carrying on from the thought of a global slowdown, this could mean mixed fortunes for us as consumers, but more to the good. I predict auction prices will be falling. I have seen certain bottles have definitely peaked and are on the way back down. Some of the 1993 Glenmorange cask finishes have seen a drop for instance. Mind you it could be that some people are also putting too high a reserve on it and they are not selling. I am getting more and more suspicious of the motives of some auctioneers to be honest, but that is an article I am writing with great caution, as the potential for libel and destroying of industry relationships is high.


Will auction prices be affected soon?

Moving on to the newer distilleries; tough times will definitely test the business model of many of these distilleries. Are they adequately insured against pandemic? If people do not have money to spend, then the demand falls. Those who have yet to produce spirit and are relying on also producing new make, gin or cask sales could especially be in trouble – they have nothing to sell to an international market as whisky has to be bottled in Scotland to be called Scottish, and if the domestic market collapses, there could be a cull of spirit producers in what seems to be a slowly saturating market place. Distilleries who don’t have a large global share or an effective overseas distribution may struggle, unless they are the type that have enough capital behind them to weather the storm.

Bear in mind my friends, I am only an amateur, and all of this is opinion of somebody who does not have a degree in economics, no whisky industry background and is certainly not a rocket scientist. However, the basic facts are there – the size of a market the industry has to sell to is finite. You can only sell so much, which becomes difficult if tastes change (imagine only filling sherry casks to find 8 years later public taste has swung in favour of bourbon cask whisky), or if people have no money.


Not just Scotland. Teeling distillery in Dublin also shut down.

Whatever happens in the end, we have to remain positive in all circumstances. What may come to pass is anybodies guess and it is completely out of our hands. Let me advise you that the best thing you can do now is keep indoors as much as possible. Take time to enjoy the things you couldn’t before when things like work got in the way. If you are one of the ones that are providing essential services to keep the country going, I salute you – especially those on the front lines in the health services world wide, often working under difficult conditions. At the other side may we all be able to raise a glass to celebrate that we have survived. The whisky industry will too, but in what shape it will be is yet to be seen.


Lastly, while we think of staying inside to dodge the Corona Virus, one thing that went through my head now I’ve shown my face on screen (1400+ views) that if we are to celebrate together getting through these hard times, how would people feel about a Scotty’s Drams meet at some point in the quiet season next year? We need to look forward to something, and this could just be the ticket. Let me think on it. Perhaps I’ll do a poll later on…

Keep safe – Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

Auction Gavel – Shutterstock

All other photos – Authors own

Prepare to Lose Your Bottle

Why sometimes you just have to let go….

At the present moment as I write this, I’m in the middle of auction fever. I currently have 5 lots at auction and by time I publish this it will be 6. Of these, 5 are miniatures and one is my Macallan Folio 5. Unfortunately when browsing the auctions something came up that is part of a collection that I have and is rare. So rare I’ve only seen one at auction in 6 years, and I doubted if it actually existed, but when it came up it was plainly obvious that I had to have it. The bottle in question was a Dailuaine Flora and Fauna bottle with the white cap.


The bottle in question. No box though (SWA)

For days it sat at just over £100. Then just before the end of the auction, it went up to £380. That was about the amount I thought it was worth despite the rarity, but even after the end timer for the auction started it continued to rise. And rise. And rise. And yours truly continued to chase it.

It was once it breached the £500 barrier that I questioned myself, how badly do I need this? I had convinced myself I did need this, but doubts crawled up into my mind. There is hardly any of these bottles around – anybody can replace a capsule on a bottle to make something look rarer. Whilst it looked like a genuine capsule, there were crinkles on it which made me doubt. Indeed, a look on the same auctioneers website from the previous auction revealed a Mortlach 16 Flora and Fauna with a completely incorrect capsule which means that bottle was definitely suspect.


A first edition Flora and Fauna Balmenach. Not as rare but going up in value.

Don’t believe fakes make it to auction? Well just last week I was speaking to somebody who worked at a very reputable online auctioneer who assured me they used to see tons of fakes being brought in to attempt to enter the auction. And it’s a sad fact that some of them sneak through – and that isn’t limited to online auctions either.

We come to the bitter truth. I have paid more than a Flora and Fauna bottle but that is because I was chasing it, and I ended up slightly overpaying. The trouble with online auctions is that you never see who you are bidding against. I’d worked out there was probably at least 2 other people interested in that bottle, and the price could have skyrocketed had I continued. I pulled out at £600, with my tail between my legs. The bottle eventually sold at £750, which confirmed my suspicion that there was at least 2 other bidders.

I was disappointed. Gutted. But remember my advice that I have given to you in the past – auction prices do not include fees. So at £750 hammer price, if the person was a UK buyer, the true cost was £840 before shipping costs. Even writing this the morning after, I still don’t feel I dodged a bullet. It has to be looked at in the cold light of day – that would be £840 I would never drink. It would sit in my locker and probably not make any money. And would I get joy out of it? Certainly not 840 quids worth.

So, I placed a cheeky bid on a 24 year old Invergordon and retreated upstairs leaving my phone downstairs so I couldn’t do any consolation buying. I did some ironing instead and watched some programmes about Scotland I had saved on my Sky box. Unfortunately I couldn’t have a dram as drink-ironing could have disastrous consequences, and having some shortbread to complete the Scottish feeling? My clothes need to be crease and crumb free so that was ruled out too.


Here’s one I chased earlier. Didn’t overpay though.

No matter how much you want a bottle, you have to know its true worth. Even if it’s worth more to you than its actual value as a commodity, sometimes you just have to walk away and remember – if one has shown up then another one will. In both cases when I bought a rarer white cap Flora and Fauna, another one turned up at the next months auction as perhaps people see how much these are selling for and decide to cash in. So fingers crossed.

Being a bottle chaser is a blessing and a curse. You can achieve a fantastic collection, but at what cost? In the cold light of the day, if you are not drinking it but collecting as you hope it to be worth something, you have to keep the emotions in check. Out of the 17 white cap Flora and Fauna collection, I have 15. That’s better than probably 99.9% than others who have the same set.

By all means, if this is what you want to achieve, you have to hold your nerve, but be careful you don’t ridiculously overpay. There is no shame in losing your bottle at all if it prevents you being ripped off.

That leaves me with a closing thought. That do you think my wife would be more shocked at? The fact I was prepared to pay so much for a Dailuaine or that I actually did some ironing?

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

A visit to Inver-G by the sea

Taste Review #48 – TBWC Invergordon Single Grain 42

For those of you who know me personally, you’ll realise that due to my job I spend quite a lot of time visiting the Cromarty Firth, just to the north of Inverness. This stretch of water is most famous for being the place where oil rigs go to get refurbished or scrapped, and was once a base for the Royal Navy Home Fleet. But not many people realise that within site of this stretch of water there were 6 distilleries. There are 4 still producing – Dalmore and Teaninich at Alness, Glen Wyvis at Dingwall, Invergordon Distillery and two separate incarnations of the Ben Wyvis Distillery. Only the Ben Wyvis distillery is no longer producing.

The Cromarty Firth has to be one of the most awful places I have worked and I have worked in some dumps in my time. Truly the weather is like four seasons in one day. Apart from drinking, there is precious little else to do there. I’m probably being a bit unfair I suppose as the people I have met there have always been friendly. Indeed when a barmaid at the Caledonian Bar in Invergordon knows your drink, you’re in trouble.



Invergordon is one of the four sizeable towns on the Cromarty Firth, the others being Dingwall and Alness on the north side, plus Cromarty on the south side. It has an unofficial nickname of Inver-G By The Sea and was also the site of a large aluminium smelter that shut down in the 1980’s. Now apart from the oil industry related work, the only other industry in the town is the Invergordon Distillery. It’s unusual to see a grain distillery so far north – the other Scottish grain distilleries are all in the central belt. Invergordon was established in 1961 and has operated continually ever since.

A grain distillery uses a different distilling process to malt whisky, and Invergordon uses 3 Coffey stills, which are continuously running rather than the malt whisky pot still method. They also do not solely use malted barley, but a mixture of wheat and maize to make their spirit.

One advantage of the continuous still distillation method is that is is highly efficient at getting a purer, smoother alcohol, and the output of the Invergordon stills is around 94%, with the barrel fill strength being 71%. As it is owned by Whyte and Mackay, most of the output will be destined for their blended whiskies, but you do see the odd official bottling (I have an 10 year old Invergordon somewhere) but you are more likely to see it as an independent bottling, such as the sample I have to try today.

Before we move onto the tasting, let me tell you some more important information about the Invergordon Distillery. Malt whisky was actually produced here between 1965 and 1977, and was the second incarnation of the Ben Wyvis distillery name. After the cessation of malt whisky production, the pot stills were eventually sold to the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown.


The Dram. TBWC Invergordon 42 y.o Batch 15

And onto our tasting. This is a bit different for me as I don’t generally go for grain whiskies, independent bottlers or old age statements. This is from ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company”, and I’m sure it is going to be lovely. Let’s see.

Region

Highland

Age

42 years

Strength

48% abv

Colour

Dirty Gold

Nose

Sweet cereal; quite heavy, Floor varnish to start with, but opens up to a biscuity smell and a hint of vanilla. Corrugated cardboard, Apple peel and toffee.

Palate

Quite an odd one – I felt as though I was sucking on some heavily polished wood to start. Quite solvent tasting, but in a curiously addictive and pleasant way. PVA glue and old leather was in there too. Fried banana – maybe plantain, as it’s not that sweet, cloves, cinnamon.

Finish

Medium in length finish. Still got that polished wood taste in my mouth, but it has developed into something very pleasant. I’m also getting a dark chocolate, and a hint of pepper.


The dram

Conclusion

Invergordon isn’t as bad as I have made out. There is still a thriving community there, a couple of decent restaurants and pubs (stay out of the Silver Dollar, and if you do go in, remember to wipe your feet on the way out!). If you are in the area there is some spectacular scenery over the Black Isle and looking down the Cromarty Firth towards Ben Wyvis, the local Munro (hill over 3000ft).

Similarly, the tasting notes that I have given you on my impression are probably not the most attractive, but you need to give this whisky a bit of time. I am not in the habit of drinking whisky over 25 years old, and this the oldest whisky that I have reviewed so far and it is likely to remain that way for some time. Nor am I in the habit of drinking single grain whisky so this is another aspect of the whisky landscape that I am not that familiar with. However this was a great one to delve into, and while the cost of the sample is a little bit dear, it was a fantastic experience. I started the tasting not enjoying it, but once I could place the solvent like taste, it hit me between the eyes and I was converted quicker than Paul on the road to Damascus. Now, if you offer me a dram if this, I’m going to have your arm off.

My 3cl sample cost 11.70 from Master Of Malt. Unfortunately the full size bottle is sold out, but was £106.95. A bit pricey perhaps but remember it is a 42 year old whisky, and some much younger and poorer quality malts can cost more. It sometimes comes up on auction sites which if you want to add one to your cabinet would be the method I recommend.

The latest Invergordon batch of a similar age from TBWC is batch 19 and is 45 years old. Bottled at 44.5%, a 50CL bottle will set you back about £177. Good luck on finding it, as they sell out quick.


Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo credits

All photosauthors own.

My dirty secret

Confession is good for the soul…. supposedly.

This week is going to be much better than last week. Because I am writing my Saturday article on Monday, this will mean that I have no confession on Friday that I have nothing prepared. In fact, the way I feel now, that confession would be much better. Indeed I’d rather just not give you all a Saturday article and admit failure than give up the source of my shame.

For this, it grinds my insides even more than telling you that since my wee accident with the garage door, to this point not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips. It’s kind of ironic that a chap who writes a whisky blog and collects bottles has become temporarily tee-total. I have to confide that my whisky sin is worse than that.

Much worse.

It is an old proverb that says that confession is good for the soul, but this time I have my doubts, for the evidence of my shame will be on the internet, not just here but on another site for all to see, only you won’t know which one as there are some details that you just don’t need to know.

I’ve become a hypocrite.

Now that the truth is out, I can continue along the same theme as my article from last week in which my Macallan Folio 5 arrived. With the news so much more had been released than the 2000 per edition previously, it wasn’t going to meet my expectations. As I said last week, my intention had been to swap for a Folio 4, and maybe sell in the long run, but with Macallan reportedly releasing 18,000 more Folio 5 than Folio 4, the price of the former will never achieve the price of the latter.

Of course, I could always sell it on without a profit, but just cover my costs, but I do have a small amount of morality left, and I couldn’t sell my bottle to somebody knowing that even though they were just paying essentially what I paid, the price of the bottle is likely to fall below even that. That’s just taking advantage of people.

Lastly, I could always drink it. But I’m sorry, no Macallan NAS at £250 is worth that. Plus, when we take in consideration the excessive packaging, that alone must take up at least £20 from the RRP, and once drunk, what do I do with it? I’m not a Macallan collector in that way at all.

Even if I sell it to another punter who will drink it, I’m not sure my conscience will let me sleep at night knowing that I’ve met somebody face to face, or even a follower of my blog to sell them a whisky which in a couple of months will be a lot cheaper. That’s not how I roll.

So, with morals securely stored in a dark place, I made contact with an auctioneer to arrange pick up of my box. We had a nice chat about Macallan (Whisky Geek Scotty was in check this time!) which in my opinion could summarise the conversation by saying Macallan have definitely made an impact to the secondary prices of a few of their recent releases.

Indeed, the auctioneer made a very good point about how Macallan really should look into their application of the ballot system and how it really should be for known amount of limited bottles, something buyers of Edition 5 and Easter Elchies 2019 are probably thinking too. I’ve an article about that written, but will give it a break with the Macallan writing after today. Just to give your senses a rest if nothing else.

In all fairness, I should have seen the warning signs and not just blindly entered the ballot. No evidence of the likely age and no numbers of Folio 5 released. Plus there was a commitment to buy if you won the ballot, unlike the Easter Elchies 2018, which gladly at £750 they did give you a little breathing space.

The conclusion? I’m glad it’s going but I do hope that I recover most of my money from it, if not make a small profit. As from the comments from last weeks article, take the money and spend it on something you’d really enjoy drinking. That’s a great point, and already something has already popped up. Not telling you what it is, as you may outbid me.

As an aside to this article, my dealings with the auctioneer revealed that I could not set a reserve higher than the RRP. This is a great move as it helps limit the rip off profiteering that some online auctioneers facilitate. Of course, the price may go higher, but that is because of what people are willing to pay rather than people being taken advantage of through limited availability and the crazy prices some of the greedy, impatient or ill-informed are prepared to pay.

And these people all do exist. A quick look at an online auction reveals just under 120 bottles of Folio 5 available. Some ill-informed person has already bid £560, yet still hasn’t met the reserve, which means the auctioneer is essentially helping the greedy.

On the other side, there is bottles there still for sale under RRP but there is just over a day to go as I publish this and these may well make a profit yet. But seeing this gives me squeaky bum time, though it reinforces my belief that the price will plummet. Indeed, out of 118 bottles, 42 will still fail to make a profit going by current bids and not including the cost of getting them to the auction house.

Perhaps Macallan planned this mass release deliberately to ensure more whisky gets drunk, and I have to grudgingly doff my cap to them, but given the demand for the brand world wide, I am still sure if they were open about the amount produced it would sell out. Either way, do they care about the secondary market? They sell their product anyway, and surely that is all that matters? This is part of the Macallan article I am attempting to write, but my keyboard just defaults to ‘rant lock’ and I don’t fancy libelling anybody.

With that, it’s now time to go and think about what dram for later on. After all it’s Saturday night!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Slainte Mhath!

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link

Ice Ice Baby!

To add ice or not? That is the question.

For another Saturday article in a row I find myself on a Friday afternoon with nothing written to give to you the next day. With all the big splutter that I have decent articles in hand (and some controversial opinions too!) I find myself like a damp squib. Not to worry, such is the world of whisky that there is always something to write about. While I cannot guarantee a long article, I can guarantee points to think about and mull over

Today was boiler service day. I have an old oil boiler that is spluttering along and I keep saying to myself it’s on its last legs, but my local plumber comes and waves his magic and boom! It’s like new again. However it was my plumbers turn to be subjected to whisky geek Scotty, but we had a very interesting conversation. You see, my plumber likes ice in his whisky.

Yes. I know. I’m quite aware that many of you may have given a sharp intake of breath, but as they say in much of Scotland – “Haud yer wheesht!” That’s Scots for shut your mouth.

Everybody is an expert on how a whisky should be drunk. But in many of the cases they are wrong. Let me put my expert hat on and explain why you should or shouldn’t put ice in your whisky.

Why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky

Whisky is an alcoholic spirt that contains many different flavour and aroma compounds. Without going into any science at all as that is boring and geeky, these aromas are formed by the evaporation of the spirit in the glass. A curved glass such as a Glencairn, sherry copita or even a wine glass will concentrate these aromas so that when you put your nose to the glass, you’ll get a smell of the spirit within and this will be a precursor to the taste. Even if you are not going to be doing an evaluative tasting of the whisky, getting a smell of it before it hits your lips is important. This is because as the smell goes up your nose and down the back of your throat, parts of the aroma will be coating the back end of your tongue. This is prepping your mouth for the delight that is to follow. Unless you have chosen your whisky poorly or your host is a cheapskate.

If you put ice into whisky, or any other alcoholic spirit, this hinders the taste, as the spirit will not evaporate as efficiently and the aromas will be locked into the liquid. Therefore you are missing that little bit of taste. Furthermore, the taste components will also be that little less mobile and the temperature of the liquid is going to stun some of your tastebuds, so you just aren’t going to be able to taste the fullness of what is in your glass.

You don’t need to knife anybody who likes ice in their dram.

Why you should put ice in your whisky

Well, if we are all the same the world would be a boring place. Irregardless of why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky, if that is the way you like it then why not? If you want to put soda water, lemonade or coke in your drink, that is entirely up to you. I’ll contend that it isn’t right, and that it would be a waste to do that to an expensive whisky, but if that is how you will enjoy it more then that is entirely up to you. And you get the kudos of being the guy who doesn’t give two hoots if you are seen to be putting ice into a 72 year old Macallan. Or mixing it with Irn Bru.

So what about these whiskies that should be put in the freezer?

Let me tell you under no circumstances put any whisky in the freezer. It is just a gimmick. The ones I know of that recommend this are Dalwhinnie Winter Gold and Johnny Walker “White Walker” (part of the Game of Thrones package). You know why they recommend you do this? It’s because you aren’t drinking the best whisky that Diageo have to offer. Winter Gold isn’t that bad if drunk normally, but you’ll get a far better dram out of the 15 yr old.

Winter’s Gold got its name as it is made from spirit distilled in the winter months. As Dalwhinnie is one of the highest distilleries in Scotland and uses traditional worm tubs, when the winter weather is at its harshest this has an effect on the condensing rate of the spirit vapour in the tub as the cooling water is a lot colder than normal. Therefore it has an effect on the taste. Putting the bottle in the freezer will just obliterate any taste that is there.

As for Johnny Walker? I’m not a fan. Especially the Game of Thrones series, as it is just a way of separating people from their money.

Remember – gimmicks get you to drink more sub-premium whisky in my opinion. And GoT contained very little premium whisky.

Conclusion

So, whether you like ice in your whisky or not, it is important just to chill out about it. While I will always recommend tasting a whisky neat first or with a few drops of water, I’ve often thought how some whiskies may taste nicer with a bit of ginger and ice. Remember in your quest for taste experiences, whether you take ice or not isn’t really important if you want to. It’s more important to think outside the box and not be stuck inside one.

Anyway, with that in the bag, and written before the clock passes midnight, I hope that my plumber enjoyed the drams that I sent him away with so much that he forgets to post his invoice although chance will be a fine thing!

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo credits

photos – Shutterstock

To Infinity and Beyond!

The Rise Of The Infinity Bottle

One of the ideas that I have seen (or should I say ‘fads’) become more prevalent in the whisky community is the concept of the Infinity Bottle. This is the bottle of whisky that just doesn’t stop giving, quite literally.

The problem if you have a large selection of open bottles but yet aren’t having a high enough finishing rate is that you may be falling prey to oxidisation of your whisky, as well as evaporation. As the bottle empties and is exposed to more and more air, this process accelerates. The only way you can really get around this is by using a wine preserving gas, but there is another, fun way to be creative and maybe make the remnants of those bottles work for you.

The infinity bottle is an empty whisky bottle, preferably over 500ml in which you can pour the last couple of drams of another bottle in. You then add to it, and eventually you have your very own personal bottle of blended whisky, which is a mixture of what you have drunk. As you drink from it, you are making room for the next addition.

Even if you take notes, what has gone into the bottle it will be an unknown as to when each component will cease to have influence. It is a living, organic thing.

I’d written it off as a fad, but when my wife gave me two 20cl stoppered bottles, my curiosity got the better of me. Struggling to work out what to do with them, and having a few half finished miniature bottles, I decided to have a go at an infinity bottle. It’s my intention to have one for peated whisky and one for non peated whisky, and we’ll see how we go.


The start of an infinity bottle


I give the bottles a good shake first, and will let it sit a couple of days to allow the whiskies to marry. I have only two rules – no blended whisky and no non-Scotch.

Have you tried having an infinity bottle? This could be a worthwhile experiment, and we can compare notes (or samples) later.

Keep your eyes peeled for my progress.

Of course, the alternative is to give your last dregs away, but I’m far too Aberdonian for that!

Slainte

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All photos authors own.

Apart from Buzz Lightyear. That was pinched from Google.

Aye aye Captain!

Taste Review #41 – Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve

It has been one of those days when I think it is time I reviewed another full size bottle rather than just the miniatures, plus I do have a few full size bottles that need to be be cleared. This week I added another two, possibly three into my drinking collection and another 3 into my investment collection. Going to have to get a move on in clearing the back log.


The bottle and some incidental Scotty’s Drams merchandise.


The bottle on test for this review is a Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve, which has no age statement and is only 40% abv which as you know I’m generally not a fan of. However, what got me was the fact it had an unusual finishing, having been finished in Cognac casks. Generally speaking, whisky is usually only finished in wine, port, sherry or rum casks. However recent changes to what the Scottish Whisky Association will now allow have seen many distillers experiment. Glen Moray have made a whisky this year that was matured in whisky casks that had also held cider. This Glenlivet bottle however has used a Cognac cask. Shouldn’t be an issue, after all, Cognac is just distilled wine.

Glenlivet is the valley that carries the River Livet, which rises in the hills between Tomintoul in Morayshire and Lumsden in Aberdeenshire. To the northern edge of this area lies the Cabrach, which is an area of limited farming and hilly moorland. Prior to the 1823 Excise Act, the area of Cabrach and Glenlivet was a hotbed of illicit distilling, and it is somewhat ironic that the land owner, the 4th Duke of Gordon was the one who petitioned the House of Lords to pass an act to make the taxes on whisky distilling fairer, especially when on his lands some of Scotland’s finest hooch was being made.

George Smith started his distillery in Glenlivet in 1824, and such was his reputation that many other distilleries in the area appended the word ‘Glenlivet’ to their names. Partly this was because they were in the Glenlivet area, but at one time Glenlivet was used pretty much in the same way as Speyside is used now. However, after the death of George Smith, his son took legal action to stop other distilleries riding on their coat tails. This was only partially successful; Smith was the only distillery allowed to use The Glenlivet name, but other distilleries were allowed to hyphenate their name with the word Glenlivet being used as a geographical marker.

The other distilleries in Glenlivet are the Tamnavoulin distillery which was opened in the 1960’s, and the highest distillery in Scotland, Braes of Glenlivet Distillery opened in 1973, but has changed its name to Braeval in order to avoid confusion with its much bigger and more famous neighbour


Glenlivet Distillery


The distillery has only been fully silent once during World War 2 due to a lack of barley, and once reopened, it didn’t take too long to get up to pre-war production levels.

The Glenlivet distillery currently has the largest capacity of any single malt producer in Scotland. This is massive 21 million litres a year of spirit, which will make a good few bottles. It’s nearest competitor is Macallan at 15 million litres a year. Mass production always concerns me, as it often feels quantity is more important than quality but let’s see…


Region

Speyside

Age

Glenlivet Captain Reserve has NAS

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Rich gold

Nose

Honey, Malt, Apricot, cinnamon buns, rich, dried raisins, grapes

Palate

Sweet. Stewed berries, red grapes, raisins, citrus. Quite creamy and smooth. Slightly waxy mouthfeel.

Finish

Opened up with a short to medium finish. A great explosion of warmth going down your throat but not harsh. Milk chocolate note towards the end of the event.


Captain’s Reserve dram


Conclusion

My initial curiosity about this bottle was the fact it was finished in a cognac cask. I’m going to have to confess with the lack of an age statement, 40% abv, I wasn’t expecting too much. I knew it would be a decent dram, but I was not prepared for how good it is.

As much as I comment about lack of ABV and age statements, as well as the fact it is probably chill filtered and coloured, I am not a whisky snob, and I have to say that this one is a cracker. Indeed, before I finished my review, the dram was gone and I really could use another. Maybe there’s crack cocaine in it. Quite more-ish.

This is a surprise indeed, and despite there not being much complexity, this is a very easy drinker, and would be good for a beginner, or those who like just a whisky that isn’t challenging, but has enough engagement to keep you interested.

This was bought for my Christmas last year, and I’ve only just opened it. It was a present from my wife, and I don’t know how much it cost her. I’m just glad that I thought this might not be a core release forever more, and have a couple in store.

Even the packaging suggests quality, with a very eye catching purple box and the same colour contained on the bottle label

You can buy this for around £45, and it is good value. I’d make a guess that there isn’t a lot of young whisky in there, which further gives an impression of value. Would I buy another? Yes I would.

A recommended try and would be a worthy addition to your drinking stock.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Distillery photo – Iggy-x. Used under GNU license version 2

Other photos authors own.

Don’t Forget the E’s!

Whisky Selection – Easy as A, B, C and D!

Over the past four weeks, I have been going over the checklist of how to make your selections whilst wondering what bottle on the shelf is going to float your boat. This has been based on a concept from a fellow whisky blogger Aqvavitae which he did a video blog which you can see here. It’s a brilliant presentation and I’d encourage you to watch it, if only to see that although I’ve used Roy’s concept, I have not plagiarised him. The points he makes are universal, and I feel I’ve added some more points. Look through his stuff on YouTube, perhaps subscribe. I enjoy his stuff, and he’s a thoroughly decent bloke.

Right, now I’ve established the bona fides of my content, let’s look towards a summary of the past four weeks. I’m going to have short, sharp easy to remember points that don’t go into too much detail that will help you avoid picking a dud.

A is for Age is there an age statement on the bottle? If not, you have no idea of the baseline quality you are getting for your money.


Age Statements Give a Quality Benchmark

B is for Bottling Strength low ABV means it’s been diluted already. Aim for higher ABV where you can lower it yourself to find where you enjoy it!

C is for Chill Filtering look to see if it states non chill filtering. If it has been, something is missing. Whisky above 46% doesn’t need it, but not to say it hasn’t been chill filtered to some point.


Age Statement, High ABV, Non Chill Filtered and no E150a. The Octomore X4+10 scores full marks


D is for Dye Whisky is a natural product and it shouldn’t have colouring. Something that isn’t dyed can tell you a bit more about the cask.

There is one caveat however………

Just because you follow my advice, it doesn’t mean you will hit the jackpot every time. Whisky is a personal taste where everybody will have a different experience with aroma, palate, finish and appearance. My advice will only steer you away from the banana skins or the mass produced whisky that might not be the finest. 

What you really need to do is sometimes take a chance. As you will have seen or will see in the near future, that had I applied the ABCD to some of the whiskies I have reviewed, I’d have missed out on some pleasant drams. Dalmore’s King Alexander is NAS, 40% and coloured. We’ll also take a guess it’s chill filtered to a degree, yet still very pleasant. I’ll not mention the other malts yet as they have still to be published – I like to keep you guys guessing what’s next.

Don’t Drop the E’s

Nothing to do with drugs, our ABCD needs some E’s.

Education. A wee bit of research

Experience. Don’t be afraid to try.

Evaluate. Does the whisky appeal to you? What pulls you into the dram? What puts you off?

Enjoy. Needs no explanation. Remember your experience of the dram may change as you go down the bottle. It may get a lot better.

One tip I’ll give you all is to consider buying miniatures online. It may be an expensive way of working out of you’d enjoy a full bottle, but will save your hard earned for going towards something a bit more to your taste. Both Master Of Malt and The Whisky Exchange sell samples of many full size bottles of all varieties and ages. It’s worth doing this to Or keep a lookout at auction.


Flora & Fauna 3cl miniatures from The Whisky Exchange. Allows me to try before committing to a full size purchase. Or experience what I can’t afford.


Tasting at a bar can be a wee bit hit or miss, as you aren’t generally taking your time to savour, and your palate won’t necessarily be as clear to taste all the nuances.

Anyway, after writing four epic articles over the holiday season, I’m keeping this one short.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All photos authors own.

A Coat of Many Colours

Why Artificial Colouring Is Used In Whisky And Shouldn’t Be

Whisky is a drink of the senses. And while it is predominantly a matter for the sense of smell and taste, there is one highly important sense that cannot be discounted, and many do, and that is our sense of sight.

While the consumer may think that ultimately sight isn’t important, it is my firm opinion that it is, and we may pick a whisky consciously or unconsciously partly based on the colour of the spirit. We shop with our eyes and seeing a nice darker colour in our whisky is like a visual Pavlov’s dog experiment. I’m salivating just thinking of a darker whisky now, and if I was to taste such a coloured whisky, there is a chance that I’d probably taste sherry notes, even if none were there, but that was a different scientific experiment.

So where does the natural colour come from?

The new make spirit that comes out of the stills is clear – it looks like a glass of water, but take a swig of it, and you’ll soon wish it was water! Sitting at potentially just below 70% alcohol, it’s not the most pleasant thing to have in big mouthfuls. The spirit actually gets its colour from the cask.


Clearic – spirit straight from the still


The new make spirit is gauged and taken down to around 63.5% abv. This is so it doesn’t destroy the barrel or evaporate too quickly. What colour the barrel gives will depend on different factors – namely

– the type of wood (European or American oak normally)

– how the barrel was charred

– what the barrel held previously.

– the size of the barrel

– how long the spirit stays in the barrel

– the age of the barrel

Before I go any further, I’ll just remind you all that I am no expert, and I may have missed a couple of factors but I definitely have the main ones. If you see I’ve missed one, let me know.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

1/ The type of oak. All Scotch whisky has to be matured in an oak barrel. No ifs or buts. If it hasn’t, it cannot be called Scotch whisky. American oak is often used due to the availability of bourbon casks. The wood is denser, and therefore interacts with the spirit less. European oak is used, often as the result of using ex-sherry, port or wine casks.

2/ How the barrel is charred. All whisky barrels get toasted. This is done to help shape the barrels, and will also start breaking down the chemical components of the wood. Wine and Sherry casks are only toasted when they are made for the original fill. This will prevent the liquid tasting sappy. By law, bourbon casks have to have a char applied, which means subjecting the inside of the barrel to a flame to char the wood. This further alters the chemical components of the wood but also opens up the wood to have a greater surface area. This has a big impact on flavour, but with more wood interaction will also have an effect on colour. For an interesting article on char please look at this article at Difford’s guide. This will give you more information.

A virgin oak cask means it has not held any other liquid prior to being filled with new make spirit, but will still have been toasted at least.

3/ What the barrel held previously. Bourbon whisky barrels tend to give a lighter colour, where sherry and port casks give a much darker, richer colour. Other spirits like cognac casks also give a nice deep amber.

4/ The size of the barrel. The smaller the barrel, the more wood contact there is. This is a technique for maturing whisky that little bit faster. It will also help develop colour too


Different cask sizes at Glenfarclas. Note the small quarter cask.


5/ How long the whisky stays in the barrel. The longer a spirit is in the barrel, the more interaction with the wood, therefore more opportunity to develop colour.

6/ The age of the barrel. A barrel can’t be used infinitely. Eventually all the goodness in the wood will be gone, and all it will be good for is converting into fire wood (and boy does it burn!) or something artsy-fartsy like furniture, tea light holders or a whisky glass stand. When I was at Glenfarclas distillery, they said they only fill casks a maximum of 4 times, with the final fill having a deep char. Of course, this will depend on the age of the barrel, but I was informed a barrel rarely sees more than 60 years use.

While sticking on the subject of barrels, it is worth pointing out a couple of further conditions that will affect your whisky colour


Natural colour, sherry butt matured. Both from same cask. One 26 year old, one 27 years old. Hand filled on its (and my) birthday


7/ The finishing. The spirit may be transferred from the barrel used for the bulk of the maturation into another barrel for finishing. For example, a whisky may spend 10 years in a bourbon barrel, but get finished for a final period in a different cask to give colour and a different flavour profile. Finishing can be used to correct casks of whisky that haven’t made the expected quality.

8/ Cask Marriage. Unless it is a single cask whisky (one cask only), all other whisky is blended. Single Malt is the produce of one distillery only, but may contain several different ages of whisky and barrel types to achieve a flavour profile. This is called the marrying of the casks. If you mix cask types, this could also affect colour. Because each cask is unique, to achieve a flavour profile, the recipe between bottling batches may vary, and therefore the colour may also differ between batches.


The youngest one is on the right @ 9 y.o. The 17 y.o is still lighter than the 15 y.o. Caramel perhaps or just the cask type?


For Blends (product of more than one distillery and often containing grain whisky) this will be the same issue, as you will be tweaking the recipe to achieve a consistent product across thousands of bottles.

So what is colouring?

Batch variation does mean there could be slight differences in colour. This is corrected by the addition of spirit Caramel colouring, which is known as E150a. Spirit Caramel colouring is made through heating carbohydrates in the presence of acids, alkalis and salts. This is really some type of sugar and other agents being reduced in a pan. The result is a water soluble solution, which will be used to influence the colour of the whisky.

75% of all caramel colouring is used in the soft drink industry for Cola style drinks.

So why is colouring added?

To be honest, in my opinion I really don’t know why. There is no need, as it is simply a cosmetic issue, and like chill filtration, those adding colour see it as no problem, but that’s not strictly the truth.

Colouring is added to ensure a consistent product across multiple batches. Producers want to eliminate the chance of people thinking there is a defective batch due to differing colour, and the impression of inconsistent whisky.

There is also a more sinister reason colour maybe added. Remember that whisky is a drink for the senses? Well, a three year old whisky that has been put into a second fill cask may not develop much colour and will be what Scottish people describe pale items as “peelie-wallie”. With increasing number of Non Age Statements using younger whiskies, caramel can be deployed to make the whisky look older. To me this is a total deception. I’m not that worried about young whisky looking pale, but I’d rather know rather than caramel being added. I would expect young whisky to look paler, but by adding colouring it’s hiding something.


Wolfburn Morven. Young whisky but not disguised. Natural colour and non chill filtered. 46%. NAS means a score of 3/4


It may also be added to give the impression of a certain type of cask, such as a red wine or sherry cask. This is also misleading and therefore a bit naughty.

One instance where it is quite obvious colouring has been added is black whiskies – the two that spring to mind are Loch Dubh from the Mannochmore distillery or the Beinn Dubh from the Speyside distillery. Both can be termed gimmick whiskies, and Loch Dubh does not have a good reputation. Beinn Dubh isn’t too bad; certainly I enjoy it, but I am under no illusions that there isn’t caramel in there.

How can you tell if colouring has been added?

By eyes alone, you can’t. You can tell by looking at the label – if it says that the spirit is at natural colour, then it is additive free. If the label has the German words ‘mit farbstoff’ or the Danish ‘justeret med karamel’ (with colorant / adjusted with Caramel) then you know colouring is present. There is no way a company will add E150a just for exports to these two countries. If the label says nothing about colouring, it’s probably got E150a in it.

Single cask products shouldn’t be coloured, as there is no need for them to have batch consistency.

Apart from the obvious visual effect, caramel colouring is reported to have a smell of burnt sugar and a bitter aftertaste. I am thinking that the cask influences and the alcohol will go a long way to masking that. However some palates are more sensitive than others and I guess not everybody will taste it. However in the case of the Beinn Dubh, I definitely initially tasted a sour, almost vinegar note for a split second. This is most likely the colouring.

Only a year between them. The younger one is darker. Guess it had the dye applied.


In a limited defence of colouring, it can be said that the concentration of colouring they put in does not alter the taste, but that might not be true for everybody. Plus I’ve had a few coloured and chill filtered whiskies that were still very good, but you wonder what could have been without tampering.

So we have to ask again, why are we adding something that can alter the taste and smell?

Personally, I don’t think we should. In this day and age, where the consumer is starting to question more about provenance of their food and drink, is it right that we add things to a whisky to colour it, and in some cases remove taste by chill filtering, just in the name of visual appearance? Do people really worry that each glass just looks the same?

What really gets on my nerve is a quote from Dr Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach for Diageo in an article on scotchwhisky.com, published 8 Feb 2016. He says –

‘A tiny and unrepresentative and self-consciously elitist group of vocal critics are apt to signal their “expert” credentials by claiming obsessively that spirit caramel affects the taste of the final whisky in the bottle.

I’m not surprised with that comment, but rather more dismayed. For somebody in charge of outreach, he’s obviously not savvy to marketing, as that is one way of alienating people more likely to be loyal to a brand than people who change their brands because the colour isn’t right or consistent. While I am no expert, I am a consumer, and Diageo are fairly well guilty of adding colour to their whiskies. Yes, maybe the E150a may not always be tasted, but does it really need to be there? Only the whisky enthusiast is going to be analysing the colour in his Glencairn – they will understand why the colour varies. The average Joe is just going to be putting it down his neck as fast as he can or will be putting it in a cocktail. Haven’t they realised you can only assess a dram by your eyes when looking at it on a shelf – coloured whiskies maybe fooling us into thinking we are getting an older whisky. Plus the discerning buyer is going to be looking for evidence of colouring and chill filtration. Lastly, Dr. Morgan’s quote shows in 2016 where Diageo’s focus will be, and it isn’t for geeks. It’s for mass production, the meeting a market demand and by adding colouring, bottlers are ringing that visual Pavlov’s bell.

Can we negate the need for colouring?

There is a simple way of getting around the colour issue – if you are that bothered about colour, just sell the whisky in coloured glass bottles. I’m quite sure Glenfarclas mentioned this during my tour for their older releases, as the vatting before bottling can have many different cask ages in them, meaning an inconsistent colour for their higher end whiskies.


Green Glass. Colour disguised. Job done.


The other simple way is education. Tell people that due to whisky being a natural product, there will be variation in colour. Print it on the rear label, do whatever it takes to reduce the need to colour your spirit.

Conclusion

So you now know what colour is, why it is used and how it can be misused. Personally I think it has no place in the whisky industry, as it is essentially a deception. Consumers should be looking for transparency in their purchases, not some idea of what some guy in a massive corporation thinks your drink should look like. There is no guide as to what whiskies will have colour in them, but I’d suggest the cheaper ones, ones under 46% or those with a massive market are all likely to have some colour in them unless otherwise stated.

If not in a hurry, do a bit of research. While it may be true younger whiskies may not have a lot of colour in them, older whiskies can be the same. It depends on the cask, and how the spirit has interacted with it. I’ve heard of a 40 year old Cameronbridge whisky being quite pale, yet the flavour being outstanding. This can show colour can be an influence on what we expect to taste, therefore colouring could influence buying choices. Sometimes you need to be brave and take a chance.

In summary- Remember although colouring doesn’t have to mean bad whisky, we know taste is where it counts. Ditch the dye and seek out the labels that say natural colour. Move forward into the broad, sunlight uplands of whisky enlightenment and know you are not falling into the abyss of the dark(er whisky) age of colourants, made more sinister by the lights of the perverted science that is artificially presented whisky. For this will be our finest hour.

(Goodness knows how long I’ve waited to paraphrase my favourite Churchill speech!)

Next week – we summarise the points of the past 4 articles and reach our definite conclusions on how not to pick a dud whisky.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

All Photos – Authors own