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As if they need to advertise

I just spent a week in London with my wife and I was fortunate that The Whisky Exchange was right in the heart of the one of the areas we hung out in. Near Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tate Modern Art Gallery is an elegant and modern wine and spirit exchange called Vinopolis. The Whisky Exchange, a mecca for single malt enthusiasts and a great place to source UK-only or hard to find bottlings, is situated right at the heart of Vinopolis. But, just in case you need reminding they keep this sandwich board advertisement out on the street.

Here I am doing my level best to look the part of a single malt aficionado. This is just one corner of the store. There are at least two glass cases of rare bottlings, one of which you see in this photo. The store is smart and open and you are surrounded by beautiful bottlings. It took me a good while to peruse the store and my wife was very patient throughout and helped me locate certain bottlings.

The shelf full of Talisker was of particular interest; showcasing a number of UK-only Taliskers (the first 2 listed were released in spring 2013) along with the discontinued 175th Anniversary bottling. “Storm” is their 10 kicked up a notch (or two). “Port Ruighe” (pronounced Portree) is their port finish. “57° North” is a limited cask strength bottling. “175th anniversary” we tasted in 2009 which as I remember is a rare beauty. I probably should have snagged some of these as the first three are only currently available in the UK; but I found out after I returned :(

I ended up buying three bottles. I wanted to complete Brother Brass’s “Distiller’s Edition” tasting lineup he is designing so I bought the Clynelish “D”. I noticed right away “The Spirit of Lewis” expression which is the first release from the new Abhainn Dearg distillery on the Isle of Lewis which I know you cannot find in the States. I love island distilleries and I was excited to be able to pick this one up. Finally, Fettercairn is a difficult distillery to source in the US so when I saw the Fasque I just had to have it.

One corner of The Whisky Exchange in London

The Talisker shelf at TWE


Just a heads up to KOTQ. I don’t have a good source yet, but it is heavily rumoured that Bruichladdich is discontinuing the entire “Laddie” line. The 10, 16, and 22 year may all be replaced. I just saw this on a tweet, but it seems authentic. In any case, if you enjoyed the Laddie (I did) at the last meeting that I hosted, now would be a good time to stock up.



Update 9/13/13 :  Saw this on /r/scotch today.  I’m attaching it as an image. Notice that they do not say that they are discontinuing the line, they simply say that they are not doing it because of pressure from the new owners.

I had the wisdom to order 3 oz of Springbank 1965, 39 year and share it with 5 other people at our last meeting. For those who weren’t able to make it this is one time where I wouldn’t be able to describe the experience. I might be able to say that the 39 supplements the wonderfully oily palate of its kid brother, the 21, with a vibrant lemon zest. I might try to describe the romance inside the glass. However, it would all be to no avail. This experience transcended the ability of the woefully limited English language to convey.

Very often very aged expressions bear no resemblance to their heritage and don’t match the hype. At least in this case you can believe the hype and the price tag.

Full lineup of 13Q2 Meeting

Full lineup of 13Q2 Meeting

At our 13Q2 meeting last night at Delilah’s in Chicago Brother B Funk designed a terrific Speyside themed lineup. We started with the classic: Glen Grant 16. The star of the show, Glendronach 15 “Revival” was next. Benromach Peat Smoke was a big favorite as well. The fourth malt was Strathisla 12 which was followed by the surprise of the evening which was a private bottling by the very bar we were in: Delilah’s.

Delilah’s 14 was the celebration of Delilah’s 14 anniversary in operation. Mike, the proprietor, creates a private whiskey bottling for the bar’s customers to enjoy. 2006 was the 14th year and Mike chose single malt for that year’s private bottle expression. The identity of the source malt is a closely kept secret but the malt had strong Speyside characteristics and likely came from either Macallan, Glenfarclas, or Aberlour or similar. Mike is of Scottish descent and the bottle label features his family’s tartan.

Delilah's (Chicago's rock & roll whisky emporium) bar's single malt private bottling

Delilah’s (Chicago’s rock & roll whisky emporium) bar’s single malt private bottling

Back label - Chicago's rock & roll whisky emporium in a bottle.

Back label – Chicago’s rock & roll whisky emporium in a bottle.

While B – Funk, Hoopie and I anxiously awaited the arrival of our brethren at last night’s fantastic tasting, I perused the impressive whisky menu at Delilah’s.  To my shock and awe, there it was on the page, Springbank 21.  I immediately thought of my bachelor party back in 2002 when we last had Springbank 21 due to a major production gap.

Springbank 21

Springbank 21

Despite the $30.00 per dram price point, I didn’t hesitate and dialed one up while B-Funk and Hoopie respectably ordered the new Ardbog from Ardbeg.

My dram of Springbank 21 was worth every bit of the $30.00, albeit I was a bit nostalgic as I dialed it up.  The night only got better from there as the lineup was terrific and our new initiates brought strong presentations to the group.

There was a good debate later in the night though between me and one of our esteemed guests on the relative price to value ratio of some of these spirits.  This is one of those classic discussions we’ve had as a group over the last 13 years, and to which I believe led Brother Bop to come up with Bop’s Select list.  Last night’s debate was Springbank 21 @ $30 per dram vs. Highland Park 18 @ $18 per dram.  Is Springbank 21 really 66% better than HP 18?  Of course this all assumes that price is a measure of quality when it comes to scotch…..


Brother Brass went to our EMEA offices to conduct some training and while in London found his way to The Whisky Exchange’s brick and mortar store. Our distillery pages at our KOTQ web-site are linked with TWE’s on-line store which is so incredibly complete and up to date that I hadn’t even considered a physical store was behind it. Brass spent considerable time simultaneously being tempted and overwhelmed and netted out on a special bottling of Lagavulin. It was special for a number of reasons.

The Whisky Exchange bottled Lagavulin

Firstly, because it was actually bottled by the The Whisky Exchange itself. Secondly, for us North Americans, it was available only in Europe. And, thirdly, it was a cool bottle size and style we’re not accustomed to and was not age expressioned. Our European colleague at work, Klaus, informed us that non age-expressions usually mean a youngish whisky and we pegged this one as a 6-8 year. The bottling was cask strength yet some of the group enjoyed it uncut. I cut mine and discovered a large fruitiness to the palate including pineapple, plum, and peach. Depending on where you cut it you could have a smoky, smooth or very spicy experience. Definitely fun, new ground for a Lagavulin.

Thanks to Brass for his diligence in providing a remarkable experience for the Friday afternoon single malt club.

Mrs. Hoopie thought out of the box for fathers day this year and bought me a product from the Copper Fox Distillery provides a 100% barley single malt spirit and a charred barrel to allow you to age at home.  The product sheet and faq are below.  It recommends the first fill be aged 4-7 months.  I put it in in June, and was planning to crack it around Christmas time to see what comes out.  Being a habitual tinkerer, the best part will be the subsequent fills where I can experiment with how the output changes after the barrel has been used a few times.

Exciting off-line tasting from Ardbeg Committeeman Brother Bluff on Ardbeg’s new release: Galileo.

The bottle is a limited edition bottling but not hidden in the back room for committee members only. I pulled it off the shelf for $90 without having to give a special wink or super secret handshake.

I just cracked it open and my initial impressions are positive. Bottled at 49%, I only added a little bit of water to open it up. It has all the usual smoke that you’d expect from Ardbeg, but I get sweetness on the nose and reminds me of BBQ Ribs—charred and caramelized.

The palate has all the salt you’ve come to expect, plus some surprising sweet notes that come from the ex-Marsala casks. It’s aged 12 years, so unlike the recent committee bottlings, this release has an age statement…1999, bottled 2012.

Forget about the gimmick celebrating Ardbeg in Space….the whisky is pretty delicious without the hype, and sadly will not be available for long.

When I saw this come across my email, I had to see more…. the following is from their website –

“Thor is the first release in the Highland Park Valhalla Collection and like its namesake, shares many of the legendary Norse god’s larger-than-life characteristics.

The most renowned of all the Norse gods, Thor was the protector of Asgard and was feared by his enemies and other gods alike. His powerful hammer, Mjolnir, which we have depicted on the bottle, was said to create a thunderous and terrifying sound when used in battle; legend has it that Thor’s handiwork can be witnessed first hand on Orkney.

Distilled where sea turns to ocean, Highland Park Thor is a meeting point of nature’s forces, resulting in a perfect marriage of classic fragrant Highland Park smoke, balanced with a beguiling inner complexity and natural strength. Aged for 16 years and bottled at 52.1% abv, Thor is limited to 23,000 bottles worldwide.”

Bop and I wondered if they were trying to capitalize on The Avengers but I think Orkney’s proximity to the Norwegian countries and its heritage may actually be what has led the distillers to honor it.  Thoughts?  Regardless, I cannot wait to try it….  Gold Eagle Liquors in Libertyville may have one bottle left…. $200 on sale this month for $175…
APPEARANCE:Rich amber, with an iron ore glow.

NOSE:Concentrated and forceful, with an explosion of aromatic smoke, pungent fresh ginger, antique copper, stewed plums, and golden syrup. With water, earthy notes emerge, like a garden after a heavy rain shower.

PALATE:Thor’s high strength grabs the palate and refuses to let go. Initially dry, with fiery gingerbread then vanilla, blackberries, fresh mango, peach and hints of cinnamon. As its big flavours swirl around the mouth, some softer, sweeter notes develop, giving Thor and unexpected layer of complexity and depth.

FINISH:The finish thunders on, leaving behind lingering notes of sweet vanilla and an intense spiciness.

Interesting reddit forum thread here. Some good insight here I think and something we should all be considering at our tastings – particularly new members and guests I’d say. –Bop

[–]ambiguo42Campfire Aficionado
I also tend to get a longer finish and better flavor if I hold the whisky on my tongue for a few seconds before swallowing.

I’ll try that right now, thanks!

A guy who was running a whisky tasting one said that we should honor the craftsmanship of scotch by holding it on the tongue for 1 second for every year. :) Have fun. I usually do this now for my second sip.

I’ll say this, it really allows you to pick up a lot more of what’s going on. So much more depth and complexity from just a few extra seconds. Learning something new every day.

[–]texpeareModeration in moderation
I usually have to hold the Scotch on my tongue for at least a few seconds before I feel like I can taste everything that’s going on. Older whiskies take longer to “open up” for me & sherry cask usually takes longer than Bourbon cask. If you hold it for a while, the finish will probably last longer too.