Well it has been a wee while since I put pen to paper (so to speak) so I have a bit of making up and catching up to do.
First things first… Humble apologies for being absent from the blogging scene for a while but at times there aren’t enough hours in the day (he says making a poor excuse for himself!), however I will try to fill in some of the gaps and highlights of the tail end of last year and then move on to 2015.
So 2014 was an interesting year for so many reasons.
We had The Commonwealth Games, Homecoming, The Independence referendum (I’m still hurting from that little episode) and most important of the lot… I got married, so as you can see, even without a single mention of a half, we have some ground to cover.
Whisky first however…….
The first half of 2014 saw a fall in exports for The Scotch Whisky Industry for the first time in many years however this was easily explained as not only were we still in the midst of a worldwide recession with the massive North American market still trying desperately to drag itself back to it’s feet but the industry also had to cope with a fall in sales to China as governmental anti extravagance laws took hold.
This legislation has forced the hand of the more affluent Chinese to seriously curb their expenditure although the market is still incredibly strong.
This was always going to happen at some stage. After all, once you have enjoyed the massive rise in popularity that Scotch whisky enjoyed in China there can only be one way to go but fortunately the slow down has been well managed and nowhere near the “burst” that follows so many booms.
There has also been a slow down in sales in Mexico and Brazil however the same can be said here as with China so there are no dramas being made of sales dips from this part of the globe.
To temper these fails we can point to great sales growth in Countries as divers as France, Australia, The UAE and India with the later two seeing growth of 26% and 31% over the year.
All things said there was a fall of 11% exports over the first half of 2014 but that still left a return of £1.77 Billion in exports.
So that’s the world put to rights. Lets have a wee look at what has been going on at home in the last year.
There were some wonderful new arrivals in 2014 with some great new releases and some new distilleries throwing their doors open for the first time.
There were many new expressions to hit the shelves last year but I have picked out a few that hit my switch.
My pals at Glengoyne brought us a beautiful Glengoyne 25 Year Old that has to be tried to be believed!
It has all the wonderful smoothness that we have come to expect from the Drumgoyne distillery but the sumptuous sherry tones that are found once the cork is pulled will transport you straight to a crackling fire on Christmas Eve.
Delicious plum pudding with spicy gingers and nutmeg finishing with a warm oakiness that is a tell tale sign of it’s maturity.
Moving away from Scotland’s most southerly Highland distillery and heading out to sea, I would like to take a virtual visit to The beautiful Island of Islay and more directly to Kilchoman Distillery.
I have to be honest here and say that some of the earlier Kilchoman’s didn’t quite hit my switch. Just a bit too young for my liking I guess however their Kilchoman 2011 Port Cask Matured is an absolute delight!
This is Kilchoman’s first Port wood expression and believe you me, they have hit it on the head with this one.
I was first introduce to this great wee half late in the year when I was at the Glasgow whisky festival in The Arches.
This whisky has a mix of peat smokiness, raspberry jam and spicy cinnamon flavours which couldn’t complement each other better with a finish that just goes on and on and on.
An absolute treat and not one to pass on. If you get the chance, Kilchoman Port Cask Matured is literally a must try!
Moving away from one of our younger and smaller distilleries and on to the Giants of the whisky world, Diageo.
2014 saw the release of their Cask strength range featuring 11 cask strength expressions from the following distilleries.
Singleton, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Port Ellen, Rosebank, Benrinnes, Brora and Strathmill.
A fantastic range however not to be found in the budget section any time soon with the easiest on the pocket being Caol Ila unpeated 1998 with an abv of 60.39% and a price tag of £75.
If you are feeling a little more extravagant then you might want to venture to the top of the tree and plump for a cheeky wee Port Ellen 1978 with an abv of 56.5% and a painful £2,200 cost so if anyone fancies spoiling me? Just saying ☺
For me, the best buy in the range has to be the Rosebank 21 Year Old with an abv of 55.3% and a cost of £300, this lost distillery whisky is a joy and if it’s one that you have not tried before then I suggest that you bend over backwards to get your hands on one, even if it’s a one off half.
With production ending one the rose covered banks of the canal in Falkirk in 1993 and plans to restart production with the original equipment scuppered in 2002 when the stills were stolen by footpads who could see only the value in the copper, you need to grab Rosebank when you can!
So these were a few of my highlights of 2014 as far as a dram goes.
New boys on the scene.
In July of 2014 Adelphi pushed whisky production on the mainland as far west as they could when they opened there Ardnamurchan Distillery which will initially be producing a peated and an unpeated expression and will be matured in both American and European oak.
Located on a peninsular, north of the Isle of Mull, Ardnamurchan might not be right on the door step but for those of you who like to bag a few distilleries each year, this is most probably fresh territory and if you are keen and have a few quid to spare you could invest in your very own American Oak ex-bourbon or Tennessee barrel which will hold between 190-200 litres for a very decent price of £1750 or European Oak ex-sherry Hogshead holding a whopping 250-260 litres for £2800 (not bad at all!)
In Fife, just outside St.Andrews, the dream of founder and former golf caddie, Douglas Clement came to fruition with no small help from Wymess Whiskies who have taken the step to add their own distillation to their successful Independent bottlings.
Obviously we are going to have to wait for a wee while before we can sample the wares of Kingsbarns Distillery however the visitors centre that has been an integral part of this project looks well worth a visit and it will most definitely be on my “to do” list for early 2015.
Last but not least may we welcome whisky production back to Glasgow!
In December of 2014 The Glasgow Distillery Company, who have made an incredible impact with Makar Gin, welcomed into the fold the beautiful Tara.
Now, being a newly married man I need to be careful in how stunning I find Tara however as she is the brand spanking new still which now sits comfortably in place and ready to roll, I have a feeling that the Mrs won’t be to jealous!
Named after the CEO’s daughter, Tara will start Glasgow’s first whisky production in many generations.
If it’s as good as Makar Gin then it is bound to be a winner all the way!
So that has been the a taste of the world of whisky since I last wrote and the rest I shall leave for part two of my catch up blog.
Slàinte for now folks.