On the 20th of May I was one of the lucky people who were selected to participate to another Tweet Tasting. Hinch Distillery was the centre of the attention for that evening. Hinch is a very young distillery (so young that their own liquid doesn’t flow off the stills yet) from Northern Ireland, south of Belfast, in the town of Ballynahinch. The distillery obviously takes its name from the city’s name, which translates in Irish as “town of the island”. The distillery is in fact still on construction (a project of a mere £15 million!) and they plan to start distilling in 3 months’ time.
So, in order to have cash flow while waiting for their spirit to 1, flow, and 2, be old and mature enough to be called whisky, they do what many new Irish (and Scottish) distilleries do: they bought casks elsewhere. They sourced malt and grain whiskies from another distilleries : Great Northern Distillery, aka GND, or Cooley for the older stock (before it was sold to Beam Suntory) and blended and finished them, playing around with different casks for the finish.
A few days ago was my birthday, so I wanted to mark it with a celebratory dram. I thought it was the perfect occasion to taste and enjoy a dram from a lost distillery (not for long though). My choice went to a Port Ellen 1982 Old Malt Cask from the independent bottler Douglas Laing, a dram being 26 years old. But before talking about the dram, let’s talk about the famous Islay distillery.
We’re already reaching the end of December and the year after it, and all the doors of the 2019 Boutique-y Advent Calendar are open and long gone. It’s been a fun ride for Ainulindalë and me. And it was a roller coaster, with highs and lows in several directions, whether it be age or rating. Time to do a 2019 Advent Calendar recap.
It’s already Christmas Eve, and behind the twenty-fourth and last window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we reviewed each day since the 1st of December was hidden a Cambus 28yo batch 11 single grain, bottled at 47% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Cambus was among the first distilleries in Scotland to convert to grain whisky production. In 1806, John Moubray converted a old derelict mill to a pot still distillery. He began production in 1823 after he gained title to the ground, with possibly an early Coffee still or something similar. John’s son, James took over, and when James’s son Robert succeeded to his father, he installed a bigger grain still in 1851 and eventually made Cambus one of the largest grain distilleries in Scotland. Under his management, Cambus became a founder member of DCL in 1877. Cambus expended, and thanks to its size and strong position in DCL, survived most of the storms that beset the industry in the early 20th century, until a disaster stuck on the 24 September 1914, a fire broke out in the maltings and grain stored and engulfed most of the distillery. Only the bonded warehouses survived, but the distillery closed until 1938. Despite extensions and new apparatus, the distillery closed in 1993 as grain production was concentrated at Cameron Bridge. Cambus still stands though, and is used as a cask-filling centre and for bonded warehousing. The outturn of this 28yo batch 11 was 435 bottles, and it’s still available on Master of Malt for £114.95.
Behind the twenty-third window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a second dram from a distillery covered earlier in the calendar, a Ben Nevis 21yo batch 8, bottled at 48.9% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. The distillery, as said in the review of the 23yo dram hidden behind the 13th window of the advent calendar, has been built near and named after Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles, standing at 1,345m (4,411 ft) above sea level. Its Scottish Gaelic name, Beinn Nibheis, means “Venomous mountain” or “mountain with its head in the clouds” depending on which etymology you consider for the word Nibheis. First ascended in 1771, Ben Nevis now attracts 100,000 ascends a year. The summit, the collapsed dome of an ancient volcano, hosts the ruins of an ancient observatory which was continuously staffed between 1883 and 1904. The outturn of this 21yo batch 8 was 931 bottles, and it’s still available on Master of Malt for £147.95.
Behind what is already the twenty-second window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a Heaven Hill 9yo batch 1 American Whiskey, bottled at 48.4% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Heaven Hill distillery is the biggest independent and family-owned American distillery, with brands like Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Rittenhouse Rye, Old Fitzgerald and many others. In 1935, just two years after the end of prohibition in the United States, five sons of a Lithuanian store owner, the Shapira brothers, invested in a fledging distillery and soon became the sole owners. Nowadays, the second and third generations are managing the distillery which is one of the biggest barrel holders, with 58 rickhouses hosting 1.6 million barrels! Though on the 7th of November 1996, a disastrous fire ravaged Heaven Hill’s Bardstown plant, with flames 300 to 400 feet high and that could be seen up to 20 miles around, burning 90 000 barrels in a mere 4 hours but amazingly without nobody hurt. This batch 1 had an outturn of 1 177 bottles and can still be found on Master of Malt for £44.95 at the time of writing.
Behind the twenty-first window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a Clynelish 21yo batch 7 single malt, bottled at 47.8% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. The story of Clynelish is a little bit complicated. The First Duke of Sutherlands created the first Clynelish distillery in the Highlands, in the town of Brora, in 1819. After a few bankruptcies, John Walker & Sons bought a stake of the stocks in 1916. However, they mothballed Clynelish in 1931, but started production again in 1939. 1967 saw the construction of a new distillery, also named Clynelish, adjacent to the existing one. Soon after that, the “Old” Clynelish was mothballed in August 1968, and reopened the next year, renamed as the famous Brora, to be unfortunately mothballed again in 1983 (they will reopen soon as the distillery is being rebuilt). The current Clynelish is a vital part of several Johnnie Walker expressions and especially the Gold Label one. The outturn of this 21yo batch 7 was 1174 bottles, and is unfortunately sold out. It seems it was sold for around £130.
Behind what is already the twentieth window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a Linkwood 10yo batch 8 single malt, bottled at 48.2% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Linkwood is a distillery located at Elgin, in Speyside. It was created in 1821, changed hands several times, and in 1971 a second distillery, called Linkwood B (the original one being Linkwood… A) opened with 4 new stills in addition to the existing two of Linkwood A. However, in 1985 Linkwood A closed down (with its original stills) until 1990 where it came back in production for a few months each year. Owned by Diageo, Linkwood is mostly used for its Johnnie Walker blend and there’s almost no single malt except for the 12yo Flora & Fauna, a couple very old ones, and mostly independent bottling. This batch 8 had an outturn of only 417 bottles and can still be found on the German website whiskytaste.de for a mere 37.90€ (around £32.30 at current exchange rate).
Behind the nineteenth window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a Tomatin 11yo batch 4 single malt, bottled at 51% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Tomatin is a Highland distillery created in 1897 near Inverness. The 50s to 70s saw a huge growth on Tomatin’s production capacity, going from two to four stills in 1956, then 6 in 1958, going up to 11 in ’61 and a massive 23 stills total in 1974. Of course it couldn’t last as in 1974 they were already signs of a downturn in Scotch. Tomatin never run at full capacity and closed in 1986. However, two of its Japanese customers bought it, and Tomatin became the first Japanese-owned Scotch distillery. I couldn’t find the price of this Tomatin batch 4 nor the outturn. However, batch 2 which was a 16yo had a RRP of £59.95 so I don’t expect batch 4 to be expensive.
Behind the eighteenth window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a James E. Pepper 3yo batch 2 Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish, bottled at 50% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Colonel James E. Pepper created his whiskey brank in Lexington, Kentucky back in 1800. The distillery, first known as Henry Clay distillery, then Old Pepper distillery and eventually James E. Pepper distillery, closed down in 1958, and was abandonned for more than 50 years before an entrepreneur named Amir Peay bought it and relaunched the brand name in 2008. Distillation resumed in December 2017 on the distillery site, so it means this rye whiskey has been sourced, probably from MGP. This release is part of a 3 finishes series, with batch 1 being an Oloroso finish, this batch 2 a PX finish, and batch 3 an Ale finish. Batch 2 had an outturn of 1077 bottles and can be bought for £46.95 on Master of Malt.