Friday 30 October 2020

Tasting The Last Drop Distillers 56 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky [Tasted #494]

The Last Drop is not a bottler who could be accused of rushing bottles to market. Since their inception, they've only released 18 spirits (and two Ports...including this one at a spritely 148 years old), all of them seriously old. I've been lucky enough to taste a few of their previous releases, including a 50yo Blend and 70yo Cognac, and they've all been fantastic.

That theme continued recently, when a sample of their latest Blended Scotch Whisky, a 56 Year Old (release XVI) landed on the doorstep at TimeforWhisky HQ - along with 7(!) samples of 1960s Glenrothes casks, to be covered in a future post.

Only four barrels make up the blend, containing over 60% malt content. After nearly 20 years in sherry butts, the casks saw a long "finish" in ex-Bourbon casks. Talk about doing things in reverse - a Bourbon "finish" which goes for longer than the initial maturation?!

It works, though. 

732 bottles were released (along with the customary 50mL sample bottles that accompany most Last Drop releases), at £3,750.

The Last Drop 56 Year Old Blended Scotch (47.2% ABV, 56yo, Scotch Blend, £3,750
Colour: Golden amber.

Nose: An initial fruity, floral bouquet (oranges, pears, raspberry, followed by pot pourri) gives way to hints of paprika, pineapple, and ultimately rich, deep cigar / cedar notes from an old cigar box. Fantastic.

Palate: Big and zesty, flamed orange peel first, then a slight meatiness followed by a vanilla sweetness. There's oak throughout, but it's muted. Honey-drizzled oat cakes round things out nicely.

Finish: Oak tannins start to emerge (but again, well-balanced) along with orange blossom water and a slightly spiced vanilla note at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Not quite reaching the dizzying heights of the brand's 50 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (tasted here, rated 95) which, still to this day, is the best blended Scotch I've tried, but excellent nonetheless. We're talking about blends that count few others as peers, here. Top stuff indeed.

That makes 3 blends we've tried from The Last Drop now - all of them absolutely stunning. With Colin Scott recently joining the company as Master Blender, we can't wait to see what the future holds...

...but actually, we know what the immediate future holds, as The Last Drop have just announced threw new limited editions:

  • Release no 19: The 1980 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey. 240 bottles worldwide, £3,500 ex-VAT
  • Release no 20: The 1976 “Overproof” Jamaica Rum. 183 bottles worldwide, £2,600 ex-VAT
  • Release no 21: The 1959 Vintage Grande Champagne Cognac. 21(!) bottles worldwide, POA.

Rebecca Jago, Managing Director of The Last Drop Distillers notes: “This is a very special autumn for us: it is an opportunity to showcase a trilogy of superb releases that demonstrate our unique cross category approach. We are particularly excited to present our first ever Rum: this is a spirit we have long hoped to find, but we have been disappointed until now. Each of these spirits is a small marvel of its kind, just waiting to be savoured by those seeking the truly remarkable."

An exciting time for the brand, and a no-doubt even more exciting future with Colin on-board.


Wednesday 21 October 2020

A very personal experience with the new Rosebank 30 Year Old "Release 1" [Tasted #493]

The launch of a new 30yo Scotch whisky would generally be exciting enough on its own. An OB from a closed distillery, even more so. The launch of the new Rosebank 30 Year Old 1990 however was a particular special experience for me, as I was fortunate enough to be one of only 6 people around the world chosen to be part of the launch video, sharing the screen with noted spirits journalists such as Alice Lascelles (FT)Felipe Schrieberg (Forbes) and Mamoru Tsuchiya (Head of the Japan Whisky Research Centre).

Joining some of the world's most authoritative sources on whisky and spirits was pretty special, as was the whole experience of filming the video (eagle-eyed Hong Kong readers might recognise the setting as Tiffany's New York Bar, a favourite of mine), but the real treat was being able to taste the whisky months before the official release. The hard part, of course, was not being able to talk about it until today!

The first in a series of annual, limited releases, Rosebank 30 Year Old 1990 Vintage has been bottled un-chill filtered at 48.6% ABV, from casks laid down in 1990 (62% refill sherry butts, 38% refill Bourbon hogsheads) - just a few years before the distillery closed in 1993. These bottles will be marked "Release One", with each year seeing a new release leading up to the first "new" Rosebank spirit to run from the stills, now that Ian Macleod Distillers has taken over Rosebank and plan to re-open the distillery.

4,350 bottles are available, with a retail price of £1,600. As a fun way to engage buyers, Rosebank is also giving the first 200 people to scan the QR code on the neck collar of their Release One bottle the the opportunity to enjoy a dram of Release Two, and the chance to receive an early link to purchase Release Two before the general release. does it taste?

Rosebank 30 Year Old "Release One" (48.6% ABV, 30yo, Lowlands, £1,600) 
Colour: Bright yellow gold.

Nose: Big, rich, and lively. Orchard fruits, green apple, slight hints of mango and peach (baked peach pie), almonds, vanilla, and nectarine.

Palate: The fruit really dominates - it's not tropical, more orchard, with peach, apricot, pear, and undertones of vanilla. My mum used to make a fruit compote for Christmas, with sherry-soaked pears, apricots, nectarines etc.. and this 100% took me back to those Christmases. Has some slight oak undertones, but very balanced.

Finish: Long, lingering orange peel and a slight hint of oak at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Delicious. A whisky that really brought back some memories.

A huge thanks to Ian Macleod Distillers and Wire (and especially Vicky) for the chance to be part of this awesome launch.


Wednesday 7 October 2020

Tasting the new Double Cask range at The Macallan Room Hong Kong [Tasted #490 - 492]

If you make your way to Level 5 of the incredible K11 Musea shopping centre, you might find a small piece of Speyside, in the form of the new "Macallan Room" - a permanent space next to Liquid Gold which serves as a showcase for the brand, and event space for product launches.

A relatively cosy space (ideal for holding COVID-compliant gatherings at the moment), the space boasts a marble bar overshadowed by a wall (or perhaps wave) of Macallan bottles, with rare Macallans lining most walls, including a Macallan 72yo Genesis Decanter, Exceptional Single Casks (available for purchase from Liquid Gold next door, albeit not at original retail pricing) and Fine & Rare releases

Outside the room sits a more temporary exhibit currently, hosting "The Macallan Extraordinary Wood Journey Exhibition", using photography from Steve McCurry to tell the story of oak (and subsequent casks) that make up the new Double Cask range.

Double Cask is a whisky we first met back in 2016, although at the time the range comprised a single 12yo expression. Fast forward to 2020 however, and the range has been expanded with the addition of both 15 and 18 year old expressions. Both still 100% sherry maturation, but (like the 12 year old), from a 50:50 mixture of American and European Oak sherry casks (the better-known "Sherry Oak" Macallan range uses European Oak exclusively).

As nice as the new Macallan Room was, we weren't there just to see the space, with Edrington kindly arranging a tasting of the new Double Cask Range - 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 18 Year Old, expertly led by The Macallan Brand Ambassador Patricia Byott.

The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask (40% ABV, 12yo, Speyside, Scotland, $500HKD$105AUD / £51.95)
Colour: Yellow-honey gold.

Nose: Vanilla, honey and dried orange peel. It's clearly from sherry, and has trademark Macallan notes, but (as I found back in 2016), a bit more fruity and less intense than the Sherry Oak 12yo.

Palate: Still more honey and vanilla, with some oak spice and ginger tea.

Finish: Medium in length with a warming ginger note.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

The Macallan 15 Year Old Double Cask (43% ABV, 15yo, Speyside, Scotland, $1,150HKD / $199AUD / £90.95)
Colour: Maple gold.

Nose: The European Oak has started to work some of its magic here. There's still orange, but the honey has become toffee, and there are some sultana and demerara notes too.

Palate: From the same family as the 12yo, but with more wood spice and dried fruits - sultanas, sweet raisins and pot pourri.

Finish: Long, with lingering dried fruit mix and woodspice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. The "sweet spot" in the range, if you ask me.

The Macallan 18 Year Old Double Cask (43% ABV, 18yo, Speyside, Scotland, $2,200HKD / $499AUD / £249.95)
Colour: Copper gold.

Nose: Toffee and sultanas, but the orange has become grapefruit, and there's a noticeable Brazil nut quality coming through.

Palate: Less sweet than the 15, with more dried fruit mix, almonds and Brazil nutes, but also bitter dark chocolate (yum) and more grapefruit.

Finish: The longest of the three, with some oak tannins starting to show at the very end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100

The Macallan Double Cask range is available in Hong Kong now (with pretty keen pricing from Dram Good Stuff I've noticed - certainly better than Watsons and the like). Those wanting to visit The Macallan Room or the exhibit can find the details below:

The Macallan Room
To immerse, discover and savour The Macallan 
Address: Shop 507, Level 5, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am – 10pm 
Contact No: (852) 5988 0777
Steven McCurry - The Macallan Extraordinary Wood Journey Exhibition
Address: Level 5, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui
Exhibition period: 22 September 2020 to 10 October 2020
Time: 10am – 10pm.