Whisky Connosr

WWR News: November 2011

By Dominic Roskrow

Masters of the World

The first World Whisky Masters organized by me for The Spirits Business attracted an impressive 30 entrants - one of the biggest fields of world whisky for an internationally recognized whisky awards event.

And seven whiskies were awarded Masters status - three of them to one distillery. The seven Masters went to Amrut Fusion, Lark, Hammerhead, Mackmyra Drivved, St George's Chapter 9. St George's Chapter 11 Standard and St George's Chapter 11 Cask Strength.

The other big winner was Tasmanian distiller Sullivan's Cove, which didn't pick up a Master but achieved gold medals for all three of its entries. Belgian Owl (Belgium) and Penderyn (Wales) were also among the medal winners. All whiskies were tasted blind by a specially selected judging panel. Judge Pat Barrow of The Whisky Tasting Club said that the judges had been impressed by the high standard.

"We knew that the big hitters of world whisky had been invited to enter but we had no idea who had accepted and we didn't expect such a strong field," he said. "We were spoilt for choice but delighted for the winners. For more on the winning distillers go to their respective regions.

The Aussies are coming!

Australia's leading distillers are set for a major assault on Europe this Autumn with wider distribution than ever before.

Until now finding good Australian whisky has been nigh on impossible, with only some early and not particularly good bottles from Sullivan's Cove and the occasional offering from Lark and Bakery Hill making it in small quantities to Europe.

But now with interest higher than ever, the three biggest Australian distillers are all set to significantly raise their European profile. Lark has teamed up with Doug Clement, the Scottish entrepreneur behind the planned Kingsbarns distillery project in Fife, who is now the United Kingdom distributor, and bottles of standard and cask strength Lark are finding their way in to independent whisky shops. They're not cheap, though - about £75-£80 bottle.

Meanwhile fellow Tasmanian distillers Sullivan's Cove has bottled an 11 year malt for the first time and has signed a distribution deal with a company in Sheffield. And the two Tasmanian distillers could be joined by mainland distiller Bakery Hill. Founder David Baker says he has enough stock to start proper European distribution and he's currently talking to distributors.

New Australians distilleries just keep on coming!

Australia is well on the way to having the third biggest number of whisky makers in the world, with the country's total number of distilleries nudging towards the 20 mark.

Last month The Old Hobart Distillery will add to the growing number of Tasmanian whiskies bottling whisky when it launches it's first two four years.

Meanwhile Belgrove Distillery, owned by Peter Bignell, has produced a white new make rye spirit, made with 100 per cent rye grown, malted distilled and bottled in Kempton, Tasmania.

Finally, in Victoria, Australia, VictoriaValley has started distilling. The new make is rich, full, fruity and very vibrant. One to watch!

Seventh heaven

Swedish distiller Mackmyra launched its seventh whisky in its Special series at the end of October. World Whisky Review hopes to review it in the next issue.

We are the champions!!

It’s a double whammy for me this month – the launch of the World Whisky Review and the crowning of the New Zealand All Blacks as world rugby union champions after 24 years of sporting pain.

And after five years of constant and unqualified support for Australian whisky – see the feature in this issue – I am delighted to announce that to celebrate the sporting success of my adopted homeland, a new bottle of New Zealand malt is to be released. Ironically, though, it’s taken an Australian to bring it out.

Vindication is old malt from what was the Willowbank distillery in Dunedin, which was, before it was demolished a few years back, the world’s most southerly distillery. The remaining stock has been bought up by Greg Ramsay, a Hobart golf entrepreneur with links to Kingsbarns golf course in Fife, and who is part of the partnership attempting to bring a Hobart-style boutique distillery in the Kingdom.

Some of the stock was sold to South Island businessman Matthew Thomson and is being bottled as Thomson New Zealand whisky. But without doubt the most exciting whisky I’ve ever tasted from the country is Pause, Touch Engage, New Zealand 1987 24 year old, bottled this year for the rugby world cup to mark the 24 years without a victory.

Now the whisky has been followed up with the 16 year old Vindication, and there are plans for more bottling from the country. Happy days. Don’t miss my New Zealand feature in the next issue of World Whisky Review, when we look at all things Lammerlaw, Wilson, Wilson and Milford.

Tasting notes

New Zealand’s 1987, Touch Pause Engage 24year old 48.3% Incredibly soft banana and vanilla ice cream heart, apple turnover and freshly baked sweet bread. Only a hint of oak but enough pepper to hold the malt in check. Doesn’t taste 24 years old but it’s a creamy, honeyed delight.

New Zealand Whisky Collection Doublewood 10 year old 40% This has spent six years in American oak and four years in New Zealand red wine casks. This tastes older than 10 years old and has burnt toffee, dark chocolate, hazelnut, orange liqueur, caramelised peach and apricot.

The South Island Single Malt 21 year old, New Zealand Whisky Collection 40% Distilled in 1990 and bottled this year, this is a malt from Willowbank distillery. Lots of honey, lots of citrus, peach, kiwi fruits and enough oak and pepper to close it out.

South island Single Malt Collection Willowbank 18 year old 40% Wow! Lots of sweet vanilla and honey, enough spice and oak to keep it all honest. Touches of freshly baked apple and cinnamon Danish. Soft and rounded. Falls apart with water though.

The New Zealand Whisky Collection Barrel No 72 1988 23 year old 52.3% Needs water but this has a nice menthol and mint under-note, a big lemon and lime centre and a whopping of chilli spice. It’s a big and impressive whisky.

Rumours

Mackmyra is close to signing up to a major export drive complete with major distribution and a marketing budget. The Swedish distillers has been enjoying a buoyant trading spell and there has been considerable interest in the launch of Bruckswhisky, the most commercially accessible Mackmyra expression so far.

New Zealand is set to get at least one and possibly three new distilleries in the very new future. The country has a checkered whisky history and at present much of what is being released is old stock from closed distilleries such as Milford. But a new wave of kiwi distillers arrest to put the country back on the whisky producing map, and two hush hush projects are in the pipeline.