Announcing our second exclusive whisky for Sydney Whisky Fair 2017… and it’s actually two whiskies.
Our Scottish offering this year has big shoes to fill – in the past we’ve bottled single casks from GlenDronach, Glenfarclas and even a stunning Adelphi-bottled Longmorn. (You can see the full history of our Fair bottlings here…)
We’ve done something a bit different for our Scottish pick this year. Unable to choose between a delectable sherry cask from Glenrothes and a complex, industrious expression from Ben Nevis, we skimmed the top of both casks and have taken 60 bottles worth of each.
These are two whiskies that come from different parts of Scotland, from two completely different distilleries and matured in two very different types of oak.
Both are 1997 vintages bottled in 2017. The Ben Nevis has been matured in an ex-bourbon cask and showcases intriguing – and sometimes challenging – layers of coal dust, burnt grass, sweet fudge and exotic spice. The Glenrothes can’t escape its time in a sherry cask, revelling in polished, deep fruits and sweet confectionary finish.
Both of these casks were chosen out of a line-up of samples that had nothing more than the distillery name and vintage on them. So that’s how we’ve decided to offer them to you.
These are whiskies without pretence, without expectation, chosen solely by flavour, designed to be drunk.
Beyond that, the details and minimal. Both are natural colour, un-chill filtered and cask strength (48.6% for the Ben Nevis, 51.7% for the Glenrothes).
There are just 60 hand-numbered bottles of each of these, which will be available to taste at Sydney Whisky Fair 2017 and purchase through The Oak Barrel.
Keeping with tradition, we’re offering a very small amount of the outturn in a pre-sale offering to Oak Barrel members who’d like to secure a bottle or who can’t make it to this year’s Fair.
Bottled 2017. 48.6%. 60 bottles.
Ben Nevis is one of the more traditional distilleries in Scotland and is often regarded as a “whisky drinkers’ whisky”.
The distillery was built in Fort William in 1825 by ‘Long’ John Macdonald. An early success in the hands of his son Peter, Long John’s Dew Of Ben Nevis became a sought after blend (which is still available under the name Nevis Dew). A second distillery – Nevis – was built to keep up with supply and with its own cottages for workers employed around 200 people at its peak. Nevis was closed in 1908 when the whisky boom crashed, but the original Ben Nevis survived.
After a period of intermittent production during the ‘70s and ‘80s, a tough period for whisky distilleries in general across Scotland, the distillery was bought by the Japanese company Nikka in 1989. Fifty percent of the distillery’s new make is shipped to Japan for maturation and eventual use in Nikka’s blends.
Pleasingly, the Japanese ownership has left Ben Nevis to their own techniques and the distillery continues in its own traditional methods. Ben Nevis still uses wooden washbacks and brewers yeast. They’re understood to be the last distillery in Scotland to still use the latter, distillers yeasts have been developed for higher yield and stainless steel washbacks are the norm.
They employ a slow distillation to coax out plenty of fruit whilst keeping structure and five of their six warehouses are the traditional dunnage style. The 50 percent of spirit that remains in Scotland is used for the Nevis Dew and Macdolands Of Glencoe blends and their own single malts.
Our 1997 carries some hallmarks of the distillery, with an enticing and intriguing nose of coal dust and cut herbs. The longer its open the more it showcases, melted toffee, machine oil, turned earth – you probably wouldn’t call it pretty, but there’s more than a few stories here. The palate is sweet, with sharp little jumps of oak and mineral. Granite pulls through on the finish with more of that oil, sweaty fudge and some spirity malt to round it off and give length. Tastes like whisky, not by design but by character.
Picture by May Lawrence of The Gastronimcal
Bottled 2017. 51.7%. 60 bottles.
A spirit of the highest quality, Glenrothes’ history is defined by its use by blenders. A key element of Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark throughout its history, the spirit has been in wide demand by blenders across Scotland.
Since the turn of the millennium, however, Glenrothes has become a powerful force in the single malt world with their grenade-shaped bottles and vintages-over-age statements approach and a proliferation of independent bottlings has followed.
Built in 1878 in the heart of Speyside, the inspiration for Glenrothes came from a consortium of businessmen who had recently acquired the thriving Macallan distillery. A time of economic downturn, the distillery was nonetheless built and with a few management restructures came to life. In 1887, when it was known as Glen Rothes-Glenlivet, merged with Islay’s Bunnahabhain to form the historic Highland Distilleries Company.
Glenrothes has enjoyed a relatively charmed life (apart from the odd fire) since and it underwent significant expansion through the 1960s to late 1980s. The distillery’s late arrival to the single malt game can be put down, in part, for it being a victim of its own success, the blenders were demanding everything they produced.
The modern spirit from Glenrothes is sweet, but quite rich and the weight is evident in lengthy maturations, whereby a creamy mouthfeel is often the house style. The spirit sings in sherry casks, the richness balancing out fruits and drawing out elegance from the oak.
There’s no second guessing where our 1997 grew up – if the colour doesn’t give the sherry cask away, the nose will. Plum fruits and floral blossoms, it’s polished but with a bit of a mean streak. The mean streak grows quickly, it’s dirty and brash. A run of gun smoke, a flourish of preserved jam. The palate is cleaner, with ground nutmeg spice and a bit of oak influence. Finish shows its age, not as jumpy as it once was but not quite ready to enter old age yet. The burnt matches subside with time and that fruit returns to the fore. Fruit at the start, fruit at the end, pure grit in the middle.
Picture by May Lawrence of The Gastronimcal