Tag Archives: Prestige Magazine

The world’s first truly unique whisky…?

In my previous post I indicated that my next post (i.e. this post) would explore the subject of chillfiltration.  I’ve subsequently decided to hijack the topic for my whisky column in the May edition of Prestige Magazine.  It’ll be re-published here in a few months’ time.  Apologies.

You may remember from this post that a friend and I import an artisanal, boutique whisky into the country.  Be warned then that the information that follows is not critical or independent – in fact it’s a rehashed press release for the latest offering from French whisky guru Michel Couvreur.  You should find it interesting nonetheless.  The guys from GlenDronach did something loosely similar at last year’s Whisky Festival, but I think I’m right in saying that this is highly unusual.  Let me know if you’ve heard of any other instances.

What is a unique whisky?

A single malt is unique.  This style of whisky can only be produced at one distillery.  And yet year-on-year each bottling is pretty much the same.  A vintage whisky is unique.  It can only be made from liquid distilled and put in wood at the same time.  However there is no effective limit to how much of it can be churned out.  A single cask is unique.  All of this whisky must come out of a single cask.  Typically though a cask can produce up to 800 odd bottles of the same whisky.

Clearly then “unique” – in conjunction with whisky – is a word to be used with some circumspection.

Michel Couvreur has launched one of world’s only truly unique whiskies:  the 1983 vintage single cask…which is individually bottled on request.  Every bottle of the 1983 will be inscribed with the name of the purchaser and with the date and time of bottling.  This individual bottling process means that each and every bottle will spend a different period of time in wood, and consequently therefore will be a different and unique whisky!

Unique, uniquer, uniquest.

This 29 year-old malt is the ideal gift for the discriminating person who has it all, especially with Father’s Day approaching. The unique and personalized 1983 would without a doubt amplify any celebration, and enhance even the most eminent collection.

Michel Couvreur’s range of rare whiskies was officially launched in South Africa last year to critical acclaim.  Couvreur is a whisky artisan of long-standing, based in Burgundy in France, and he enjoys a stellar reputation for his highly cultivated maturation process, in which he employs individually selected Solera sherry casks.  He and his small team are the remnants of an almost-forgotten golden age, when craftsmanship trumped mass production.  He has been honoured in the press with the moniker “Last of the Mohicans”.

Only 20 bottles of the exclusive 1983 have been allotted to South Africa, and they are available at a unit cost of R4999.  Should you be interested in securing a bottle please contact us at info@whisky.co.za

And if you have this type of money to spend on whisky…I can only salute you.  It’s inspirational.  May the dram be with you!

Whesskey anyone?

The world’s new whisky frontiers

First published in Prestige Magazine (February 2012 edition).

As it appeared

Five years ago I happened upon a bottle of Armorik, a Breton whisky, whilst travelling about in France.  My paternal line hails from Brittany so I bought it for my father on a lark.  It was a bit young, but very promising.  Three years later acting on a cue from whisky reviewer Jim Murray I bought the delicious Amrut Fusion.  I’d always regarded Indian ‘whisky’ as a bit of joke, but this gave me cause for pause.  I’ve since meandered my way (I feel compelled to add: at a responsible pace) through half-a-dozen Japanese, a Tasmanian, a few Swedish, and, of course, some of the local fare, and in the process it has gradually become apparent to me that whisky – or more specifically good whisky – is no longer an exclusive preserve.

Whisky was created by the Irish, who called it “uisgebeatha”, meaning ‘the water of life’ in the Gaelic of that era.  From there it migrated to Scotland first, and then to North America.  These places to me represent the ‘big three’ of whisky, the areas from whence it became known to and loved by the world.  The Irish and Americans (with a few exceptions) called their product whiskey whilst the Scots and Canadians stayed with the original spelling.  This is just semantics but it is nonetheless symbolic; as the craft evolved in its various homes, each place added its own expression to contribute to the evolution of a spirit that is in my opinion unparalleled in variety and complexity.

Today this conclusion holds true on a multitude of new frontiers.    Whisky has captivated the world’s imagination – exports of Scotch whisky alone have increased almost six fold in volume since 1969 – and this in part has inspired the new genesis.  As Mark Twain once said “too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough”.  It’s a popular consensus in which consumption is only part of the story.  Increasingly whisky is being produced in territories with which it has little or no traditional connections.  Brittany and Wales might claim a common Celtic heritage and England, India, South Africa and Australia retain the loose bonds of a shared colonial past, but the phenomenon is bigger and wider.  Whisky is being distilled to acclaim in Japan, in Taiwan, and all over Europe.

In Germany the Höhler distillery, which makes whisky in various styles, has added to whisky’s etymological individualism, labelling its product “whesskey” as a nod to Hesse, the region in which it is located.  I see it as something of a standard bearer for these emerging producers, but then again I’m a nit-picking fanatic when it comes to the details of language.  More importantly, along with new spelling, the new territories have also introduced exciting new flavours and interesting new customs to the world of whisky.  Japan, which is at the forefront of the charge, and which has made an enormous impact, is a striking example.  Whilst the climate, the types of barley and yeast, the water, and the nuances of their crafting process all support the uniqueness of Japanese whisky, it is the employment of Japanese oak, imparting an intense aromatic influence, which is their most tangible contribution to the lexicon.  Culturally they also ushered in the mizuwari, a drink in which ice and water is mixed with a very precise thirteen and half stirs – simple but the bastion upon which their whisky-drinking ethos is built.  I recently had the privilege of enjoying a Nikka from the Barrel mizuwari with ice-balls…perhaps a subject for another time.

A decade or so ago any whisky that wasn’t Scotch, Irish or North American was a novelty, a peculiarity, even a bit of an aberration.  The entrenched whisky drinker of my parents’ generation wouldn’t give it any serious consideration.  But these perceptions are changing exponentially.  The quality of these new whiskies is being universally acknowledged.  The names Yamazaki, Yoichi (both Japanese) and Kavalan (Taiwanese) to name but a few are being spoken with the same respect as the most premium of the traditional marques, and are winning awards and topping blind tastings with metronomic regularity.  Distribution in South Africa is sketchy but, for motivated whisky lovers, many of these brands are already intermittently available, and there’s no doubt that they’ll become ever more readily available in the future.  This may be the first time you’ve heard about whesskey but I’ll wager it won’t be the last.  May the dram be with you!

2012 ahoy!

Greetings fellow whisky lovers, and compliments of the season!  A new year has dawned which promises to be exciting indeed (if you don’t agree just fake some enthusiasm anyhow).  2012, or, more specifically, most of 2012, is also the Year of the Dragon.  In fact people born during this period will be known as Water Dragons, and since whisky is the water of life, this should be a prolific year for recruitment to our ranks.  I myself am a Water Ox so clearly the logic is airtight.

2012 Year of the Dragon

My personal whisky calendar begins with a satellite tasting next week with the highly reputed and regarded Dr Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie.  The depths of his whisky knowledge and experience must be staggering, so I look forward to plumbing them for a few nuggets.  I hope too that we get to taste something interesting but whatever the case I have no doubt that the event will set a great tone for the year ahead.  Thereafter, early next month, I’ll be participating in my first “twasting” – a whisky tasting conducted on Twitter.  This particular twasting is courtesy of Mackmyra, a Swedish whisky that’s been taking the industry by storm.   I received my samples a few days ago and despite the not inconsiderable temptation to crack them open I’ve shown remarkable restraint…so far.

From the land that brought us Volvos, great massages and dragon tattoos...

So it’s looking like a year that’s sure to be packed with all sorts of interesting experiences and occasions.  I’ll be giving some special focus to a new venture – my own monthly magazine column.  The good folk at Prestige Magazine have offered me the opportunity to take my whisky musings into print.  My first piece – about the “new” whisky producing countries – will feature in the February issue.  Let me know what you think if you happen to read it.

Don't deny it - you know you want to subscribe.

I wish you all an inspiring, rewarding and gratifying year.  May the dram be with you!