The Importance of 1916
Are we losing our patience in the whisky industry – no longer content to wait for years of maturation before we shout about what we’re proud of? We’re including ourselves in this, our famous impatience is seeing us handcrafting representations of our future whisky while we wait, but in general bottlings of newmake are becoming more prevalent. The most recent being Kingsbarns who have just announced their 20cl spirit drink.
Is this really so unusual though that distilleries are beginning to do this? Before 1916 when Scotch whisky regulations came in to state that spirit must be held in bond for a minimum of 3 years, the famous Scottish spirit was drunk in its original state that we now call newmake. At R&B we always remember this date for a very special reason. In our all-important cellar book, Richard Day only recorded the odd year of distillation here and there, until 1916 when the ages of each whisky used in his blends suddenly became a constant record.
Like many of the best things in life (think coffee) the state of whisky as we enjoy it today – matured in oak casks – came about entirely by accident…
Even when whisky was consumed soon after the distillation process it still needed to be stored in some sort of vessel, although for much shorter periods of time. Some of those wooden casks however, were inevitably left for much longer than others and when the liquid was extracted something remarkable had happened. The wood had lent colour and flavour to the freshly distilled spirit. And it was better.
The old line on newmake was that you can drink it but you wouldn’t want to. That all seems to be changing though with the release of more and more newmake samples from various distilleries seeing the value in this as an evolutionary marker for the final product. Perhaps it’s less of a decrease in patience and more an opening up of the industry to include whisky lovers in the process. After all, it’s the process itself that really makes this drink so unique.
Speaking of newmake, the company Newmake Limited have submitted a bid to open a distillery on the former Engine Shed site in Edinburgh. If successful, this would be the first malt whisky distillery in Scotland’s capital city since 1925 (differentiated from North British, a single grain distillery).
The company are up against two other community bids for the space to go before the Council, so time will tell if malt will once again call Edinburgh home…
Rare and Expensive
If there’s another trend in whisky news lately it’s rare, expensive releases. Our last Best of the Rest blog featured the Balvenie 50 year old valued at more than £22,000. Now, Tasmanian distillery Sullivans Cove is selling two exclusive bottles valued at $10,000 AUD (approximately £4,500), while Bowmore have unveiled the Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish – 2000 bottles from £650. The Bowmore release is tagged #EastMeetsWest as the distillery’s whisky matured in ex-sherry and ex-Bourbon casks was then finished for 3 years in handmade virgin Japanese mizunara oak.
Sullivans Cove Manifesto comes from top awarded rare French oak casks, including French Oak HH0509 scored by Jim Murray in his 2013 Whisky Bible at an impressive 96.5 – that’s a “superstar whisk[y] that give[s] us a reason to live.” The packaging is almost as impressive as the liquid within it. Decanters hand-blown by Taiwanese glass sculptors, which are then placed in handmade Huon pine cases that are lined with doeskin.
Andy Murray’s Name to Something Better than Wimbledon
To finish off this week’s delve into the best of the rest, we’ve found a couple of whisky gems on the lighter side. The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery has been naming its bottle-your-own casks after famous Perthshire locals. Their latest, third, cask means there’s something Roger Federer can never take from Andy Murray, as the cask has become the beloved Scottish Tennis player’s namesake.
Here at R&B HQ in Edinburgh we’re surrounded by the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. So, it seems only fitting this week to enjoy the sight of comedian and actor Eddie Izzard in his 1940’s costume for the remake of Whisky Galore. Spotted here in the Daily Mail.