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Sourcing casks is an important part of my role as an independent bottler. By judging the spirit I have and assessing it based on its body, sweetness and character I’ll decide what casks I feel will either enhance the flavour traits, provide greater balance or take the spirit into a different flavour profile which I find more desirable.
Our previous outruns have seen us using casks sourced from a Bodega in Portugal. This time, my search for new casks took me to France where I enjoyed 30-degree weather in the lovely surroundings of Bordeaux. Set within a context of 17th-century architecture, Bordeaux is a beautiful city located on the banks of Garonne. The city is renowned as the hub for wines and fortified spirit, which is produced in the region and was historically exported worldwide from Bordeaux’s dockside. Nowadays, the majority of these food and drinks are taken much further along the Garonne to be exported directly. It was through Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry II of England that the export of wine transformed Bordeaux into an export hub since then the US is now the largest market for Bordeaux wine.
As a hub, Bordeaux has access to a vast array of incredible sweet wines, fortified wines not just from Bordeaux in France but right across Europe. It was with that in mind that I visited a barrel warehouse near Cognac to learn more about the casks that I will be sourcing for Lady of the Glen.
Very much like a sweet shop, the warehouse was filled with an array of incredible casks which contained everything from vintage Armagnac to varieties of casks used for the full maturation of Calvados, Cognac, Moscatel and fortified sweet wines from various Mediterranean islands. Nosing all these casks was incredible and speaking with the owners about the flavours I was looking for based on the spirit that I have was great fun as this is the creative part of this process where we can try to anticipate what flavours we can produce. It’s not an exact science but the whole point of this process is to source authentic casks to create unique flavours and make the whisky I have the best it can possibly be.
Meeting the owners of a bodega or barrel warehouse is crucial to the way I do business now. I like to have a degree of familiarity with who I’m dealing with and I like them to buy into what I’m trying to achieve so they can provide genuine guidance or instruction as to how the cask should be used. It is also essential I visit the warehouse to make sure the casks are good because they are expensive and it will be years before I see the final results.
The final results of the acquisitions made from this trip will not be seen for at least 3 years although I’ll monitor the casks and send samples to the warehouse to ensure everyone is aware of how the casks are performing each year.
To see all the whiskies in our latest outrun, check out our online shop. The latest outrun includes the following bottles:
Caol Ila - Bourbon cask matured for 8 years and finished in an Amarone wine cask from Veneta Botti, Veneto. Tasting notes revealed, Mossy, pineapple and brown sugar.
Strathmill - Matured in a Bourbon cask for 11 years and finished in an ex-Tawny Port cask from Tanoaria Josafer, Portugal. Tasting notes revealed, crème caramel, ginger and walnut.
Glenallachie - Matured in a Bourbon cask for 13 years and finished in a Marsala wine cask from Marsal Botti in Siciliy. Tasting notes Stewed apricot, vanilla and butter.
2005 Blair Athol with a Pedro Ximenez Octave finish. This first-fill octave contained Blair Athol for over 3 months so the cask character has been highly influential, the strong PX influence provides flavours such as cloves, star anise and ginger.
In QTR 3 Gregor bottled 8 casks to produce 1,699 bottles. Perhaps what makes this outrun particularly special are the wine casks which were sourced last year directly from vineyards in Italy, whereas the Port and Sherry releases are from our go-to bodega in Portugal.
Caol Ila - Bourbon cask matured for 8 years and finished in an Amarone wine cask from Veneta Botti, Veneto. Tasting notes revealed, Mossy, pineapple and brown sugar
Amarone wine is a rich Italian wine produced in Northern Italy. Gregor managed to get these casks from Veneta Botti in Veneto. He chose this wine because of its rich and full-bodied flavour which he felt would work well with a spirit that is similarly full-bodied like Caol Ila.
At our launch tasting, this was by far the most popular dram so I’m very happy with the result.
Strathmill - Matured in a Bourbon cask for 11 years and finished in an ex-Tawny Port cask from Tanoaria Josafer, Portugal. Tasting notes revealed, crème caramel, ginger and walnut.
The Strathmill follows a similar style to the incredibly popular Glenlossie and Glen Elgin Port finishes that sold out so quickly in the last outrun. These casks were all re-racked at roughly the same time and with sister ex-Tawny Port casks.
Glenallachie, matured in a Bourbon cask for 13 years and finished in a Marsala wine cask from Marsal Botti in Siciliy. Tasting notes Stewed apricot, vanilla and butter.
Sweet white wines finishes had always intrigued Gregor and it was a goal of his to produce a classic example of this. Marsala wine is produced in Sicily and is typically reserved for cooking but it produces characteristics of apricot, vanilla, brown sugar and tobacco. Getting the parcel of casks of out Sicily was a nightmare but the results were far from it! At the launch tasting this whisky was the second most popular and despite its strong ABV, 65?V, it didn’t show much, if any, of the signs of this strength and was described as a pre-dinner Whisky.
Blair Athol - Two Pedro Ximenez Octave finishes – A 2005 Blair Athol and 2010 Blair Athol. These first-fill octaves contained Blair Athol for over 3 months so the cask character has been highly influential, particularly for the 2010 release.
Gregor’s use of PX Octaves continues with these two releases. Similar in style to the batch 1 releases for Glen Moray, Deanston, Linkwood and Tamdhu released at the beginning of the year; illustrating strong PX influence with flavours such as cloves, star anise and ginger. The PX releases are not for the faint-hearted as they are as heavily sherried as it can get and the 50 litre Octave only yields about 50 bottles. However, in this instance, we actually only got 40 bottles of the Blair Athol 2010, which as a result has already been allocated and is sold out.
In addition to these releases we have a few sold-out releases and exclusive releases that will not be available in the UK, these include a 1999 Glendullan Hogshead, 1992 Linkwood Hogshead and 1991 Cambus Sherry Butt. Should you have specific interest in any of these releases please email Gregor.email@example.com and he can put you in touch with the relevant distributor.
We are delighted to launch our miniatures sets in this quarter.
Each miniature sets includes 5 drams of single cask Whisky at 5cl measures. Each box contains a random assortment of drams which at the moment will be the below but this will change going forward. The price for the set will be £29.00 which includes delivery.
4yo Strathmill 802139A/2014
7yo Strathmill 805875A/201
5yo Glen Elgin 800982A/2014
5yo Blair Athol 303402A/2014
5yo Linkwood 311288A/2014
The purpose of the sets is to showcase single Cask whisky and to give people the opportunity to try Lady of the Glen whisky. For the complete range of all our whiskies, check out our online shop.
Going forward Lady of the Glen will be releasing many whiskies that are finished. Admittedly, this is not innovative by any stretch as finishing has taken place within the industry for many years. However, Scotch itself is a wonderfully diverse product, with different flavours appearing within different regions, from over 130 different distilleries that produce different vintages of whisky in uniquely different casks. There is so much variety in Scotch compared to other spirits and the industry could do better to celebrate this diversity compared to our competitor spirit categories.
My goal is for Lady of the Glen to be releasing the finest quality whisky consistently but with a view to release diverse flavours from authentic cask sources. I want to produce whisky for drinking which is not standard. Every cask is unique and has a story and by building relationships with the bodegas in Europe, I’ll be able to release casks that have a traceable and high-quality authenticity.
Finishing is the approach of re-racking a cask into another cask, which means pouring the contents of one cask into another. The aim of the process is to allow the spirit to take on the flavour characteristics of a different cask from that which the spirit was originally matured in. Lady of the Glen is looking to conduct long term finishing projects so that each cask of spirit is getting adequate exposure to the oak although this will be dependent on the cask size and type of spirit/wine that the cask previously contained.
Around 90% of the whisky industry is matured in Bourbon hogsheads and yet Sherry single malt releases tend to be the most popular. The solution to this is to re-rack a bourbon cask into a Sherry cask in order to let the spirit absorb some of that Sherry flavour and colour from the oak. However, finishing has developed a bad reputation because it has been used to mask poor flavour notes by covering them up with the more intense flavours from the re-racked cask and it is generally looked down up by parts of the industry because it can be construed as passing off a whisky as something that it’s not i.e. a whisky matured in a bourbon cask for 12 years then re-racked into a Sherry cask for a very short time will be identified as a Sherry release but have very little of a sherry matured whisky characteristics.
The SWA places a number of restrictions on the process, for instance, a re-racked cask can no longer be called ‘a single cask’ that is despite the re-racked cask being a single cask and no vatting or blending of other casks at any stage. The finished whisky must still possess the character and traits of a whisky. The re-racked cask must also have a history of being used in the Scotch whisky industry.
The SWA’s strict requirements ensure whisky from Scotland is always of high quality. The main criteria are that:
Through this Lady of the Glen aspires to be a reliable source of authentic Scotch providing quality examples of European oak married with the finest in Scottish distillate.
Our releases include:
Glenlossie Vintage 2010 with Tawny Port finish
Glen Elgin Vintage 2008 ex-Tawny Port cask finish
Glenlossie Vintage 2010 with ex-Ruby Port finish
Deanston Vintage 2000 with PX finish batch 2
Tamdhu Vintage 2007 with PX finish batch 2
Glen Moray Bourbon Barrel with PX Sherry octave finish batch 2
Linkwood Vintage 2006 PX finish batch 2
To find out more about all the Lady of Glen whiskies check out our online shop.
The answer - to personally select the very best casks to finish the rare spirit I source in Scotland.
For over a year now I have sourced casks from the Josafer bodega near Porto. They provide the Pedro Ximenez (PX) Octaves that have been sold and some of the Tawny and Ruby Port releases too.
I asked the bodega if they could share a bit more information about the PX sherry variety and explain why it is so special.
Pedro Ximénez wine is obtained from grapes of the same name which then undergoes a traditional process known as "sunning", whereby the fruit turns to raisins.
The region where the Protected Designation of Origin "Jerez-Xérès-Sherry" and "Manzanilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda" wines are produced is located in the southernmost area of the Iberian Peninsula. Only the vines of the Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Trebujena, Chipiona, Rota, Puerto Real, Chiclana de la Frontera, and Lebrija planted on land deemed suitable by the industry's "Consejo Regulador" are permitted to grow grapes for production of "Jerez" and "Manzanilla" wines. This region is divided among 3,511 vineyards owned by 2,720 proprietors.
Musts are obtained after pressing which have an extraordinarily high concentration of sugars and a certain degree of colouring, whose fermentation is stopped by adding wine alcohol. Ageing is exclusively oxidative in nature, facilitating a progressive aromatic concentration and increasing complexity, though always ensuring not to lose the fresh, fruity characteristics of the grape variety. A dark, ebony coloured wine with pronounced tearing and a thickness to the eye. In the nose its bouquet is extremely rich with predominantly sweet notes of dried fruits such as raisins, figs and dates, accompanied by the aromas of honey, grape syrup, jam and candied fruit, at the same time reminiscent of toasted coffee, dark chocolate, cocoa and liquorice. Velvety and syrupy in the mouth and yet with enough acidity to mitigate the extreme sweetness and warmth of the alcohol leading to a lingering, tasty finish.
The PX variety tends to be the most expensive compared to Oloroso, Fino and Amontillado.
Lady of the Glen has produced the second batch of PX finishes:
DEANSTON VINTAGE 2000 WITH PX FINISH BATCH 2
TAMDHU VINTAGE 2007 WITH PX FINISH BATCH 2
GLEN MORAY BOURBON BARREL WITH PX SHERRY OCTAVE FINISH BATCH 2
These are batch 2 and the Octaves are on their second fill so the intensity of flavour is more balanced compared to batch 1. Our octaves are small, around 50-litre casks which yield about 60 bottles per release. The smaller casks allow for a more intense maturation between the spirit and the oak due to the greater oak spirit contact so our whisky is usually ready after 3 months although the spirit has been previously matured in Bourbon casks for a much longer time.
To view our full range of whiskies, check out our online shop.
Whisky regions are very interesting because on the one hand they help to categorise an industry by whisky type, and an industry so diverse requires some level organisation to manage, whilst on the other hand they are almost irrelevant.
Most whisky shops will categorise their stock by region and the valuation of whisky at wholesale is done with the region, among other factors. Visit our shop to take a look at some examples.
Here is a brief description of the whisky regions.
Floral with honey and heather. The Highland region is made from an ‘imaginary’ line drawn from Greenock in the West of Scotland to Dundee on the East. However, the Speyside region is captured in a separate net within the Highland region. There are approximately 40 distilleries within the Highland region.
Lush with fruits of apple and pear and providing honey, nuts and spice. Usually included within the Highland region, Speyside is reputed for producing highly sought-after sweet whiskies. There 50 distilleries in Speyside all sharing similar water sources, predominately the River Spey.
Lighter bodied with more sweetness from grassy notes. South of the ‘imaginary’ line, for decades there was a decline in distilleries, in 1980 there were only 2 within the Lowlands. However, there has been a revival with likes of Daftmill, Borders Distillery, Annandale and Ailsa Bay. There are now 17 Lowland distilleries.
Salty with similarities to Islay’s peat and depth. In the Victorian age, there were 34 malt distilleries in Campbelltown but as recently as 1998 there was only 1 which was Springbank. Paul McCartney can now enjoy 3 distilleries on his annual visits.
Coastal, salty and that famous peated smoke. Due to the prevalence of peat on the Island, Islay has historically been associated with producing peaty whisky. There are 9 distilleries operational on Islay now and this is set to grow.
More coastal and salty flavour profile Includes distilleries from the Western Islands and Orkney such as Scapa, Highland Park, Arran and Jura among others. A very diverse region!
There are a number of reasons why whisky regions are irrelevant:
1. A key trait of the Islay region is the production of peaty and smoky whisky. However, not all distilleries on Islay produce peaty Whisky (i.e. Bunnahabhain is unpeated as standard), some of them will also produce non-peated runs. Any distillery in Scotland can produce peaty whisky and this is not a right reserved to distilleries on Islay. For example, some distilleries will produce runs of peated spirit such as Ben Nevis, Balvenie, Glenturret, the list is very long. Other distilleries, such as Ardmore distillery, were built to produce a smoky spirit for blending but are not located on Islay.
2. It has been argued the Highland whiskies have an advantage over Lowland whiskies purely because of the region name. In the customers' view, it has been suggested that selling Lowland whisky against Highland is an ‘upward battle’…this is just purely to do with the terminology in the customers head.
3. Most distilleries prize their water source such as those in Speyside that use the River Spey. It has been suggested that water sources and rivers would give a more accurate reflection of the flavours expected rather than the region. However, certain rivers pass through multiple regions and distilleries which share the same water source are split into two different regions. The overall impact of water on the final spirit quality is debatable with the still shape and production techniques manipulating the flavour regardless.
4. The Speyside/Highland category is so large that it dwarfs the other categories and makes it harder for individual and smaller Speyside distilleries to stand out. From personal experience, selling Speyside whisky can be hard despite the region being known for producing lots of good whiskies.
5. It is worth noting that there is slight confusion within categorisation, some parties include Speyside within the Highland categorisation as this was historically the case. However, Speyside as a region was signalled out as its own region due to the density of high-quality distilleries – of the 90 distilleries in the Highlands, 50 are in Speyside. Similarly, Islay and Island can sometimes be grouped together so distilleries on Orkney and the Outer Hebrides would be placed in the same category as that of Islay despite them being great distances from each other.
The benefits of categorisation by region are that it provides a structure or style that distilleries within that region can aspire or meet which can make blending easier, it can make valuations easier and it can help consumers explore flavours that they enjoy based on past experience, i.e. ‘I like this Speyside whisky so I’ll try that Speyside whisky’. Without categorization, you would have over 100 distilleries all possibly doing their own thing and with no discernible way to approach it.
Alternative forms of classification have been explored such as by typical aroma characteristics. Through this approach, whisky is categorised by malt characteristics, sweetness. The industry is split into about a dozen aroma characteristic groups.