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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Yamazaki Whisky: Wood You Believe It?

Not so much 'Norwegian Wood' as 'Japanese Wood'


When you walk in to a room, there is a lot to take in. The furniture, the carpet, the colours on the walls. Is there any art hanging up and if so, what does it add to the room; what does it say about the owners? How is the room laid out, and for what purpose?

However, when we walk in to a room, we don't usually run through this check-list of points. Not consciously, anyway.

But a room is given life, personality and character by the items in it and the way it has been dressed and arranged.

Unless you go out and buy a single cask, every bottle of whisky you buy has been blended, be it from a mixture of grain and malts from different distilleries into what we would traditionally define as a 'blended whisky', or those which carry the moniker of 'single malt' which are also blended together, just using malts from one distillery.

Every so often as drinks writers, we are invited to try 'deconstructions' of both blends and single malts. Fascinating to write about, these occasions give a real insight in to the make up of certain whiskies.

Conversations with the Master Blender reveal interesting nuggets as to the flavour profile of the overall mix (percentages of first fill sherry, to refill bourbon, etc.) but these geeky facts may not excite everyone. Personally, I don't want an explanation of how an aeroplane works before getting on it; I just want to have a great customer experience with my flight. In the same way, most people don't give two hoots as to the make-up of their blended or single malt whisky; they just want it to taste good.

However, some of the whiskies which go in to making up a standard release of a single malt are pretty bloody good. So much so, that the Japanese distillers Suntory have decided to release a series of whiskies which, we are told, make up the constituent parts of their Yamazaki 12 Year Old.

This series will be made up of four release, two already on the market. These editions showcase the whisky matured in individual styles of casks: a puncheon, a bourbon barrel and a heavy sherry barrel (all named, cunningly, 'Bourbon', 'Puncheon' and 'Sherry') will be available for around £70. The jewel in the crown is the Mizunara release, an edition matured in casks made from the famous Japanese variety of oak. This will weigh in around the £250 price point.

These four release are all markedly different, with the puncheon and bourbon barrel showing off light and delicate whisky, the sherry barrel giving excellent, heavily sherried hooch which, for the money, seems absurdly good. The wild-card player in the squad is the Japanese oak release:




Yamazaki - Mizunara (480 litre barrel) - NAS - 48% abv

Nose: a big hit of dried apricots, figs, toasted almonds (almond croissant), marzipan, light and aromatic spices.

Palate: the initial hit is of toasted tobacco leaf, over-ripe banana, which develops into banana bread and ever such a delicate hint of smoke.

Finish: heavy butterscotch, tropical fruits of mango and passion fruit, all finished nicely with delicate pear drops.

Overall: This is a whisky full of wonderful character and bold statements. Delicious and intriguing, this is well worth a try.

These individual bottlings may well be excellent in their own right (and there isn't a ringer in the flight), but the really interesting conclusion was trying the Yamazaki 12.

A whisky which we feel is underrated, the flavours of cooking apples, cinnamon, vanilla and flapjacks left us in no doubt that, once again, the quality of whisky coming out of Japan is of the highest order.

These whiskies have not just been put together, they have been expertly constructed by masters of liquid Feng Shui to create a room with personality, character and flavour.

Kampai!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lagavulin and the Smooth Moves. Islay's tremendous Jazz Festival


Before I start this piece, I will just point out, that I do like Jazz -  well... some bits of it, being that it is a wildly diverse canon of music.  From the classic Columbia records released by Miles Davis, to the big band-be-bop experimentalism of the late Don Ellis, Jazz has entered many facets of my life in the past.  For a short time, I worked closely on a number of film and theatre soundtracks, and being heavily influenced by the likes of Lalo Schifrin, John Barry and Ennio Morricone the dynamic, jet age styling that these composers often took was like a whole new world of music for a young guy in his early 20's.

Since then, I've built up a tasty collection of records. However, something still chills me a little when I think of seeing Jazz in a live context.  Most modern Jazz bands, whilst superbly proficient, are pretty bloody boring at the end of the day.   When the purpose of a Jazz concert is to service the egos of the band members rather than the enjoyment of the audience, something has gone very wrong indeed.

And to be fair, I was kind of expecting a bit of this when I attended the recent Islay Jazz Festival.  Endless noodling saxophone solos do nothing for me and for that matter, I would imagine, a large proportion of music fans.  So I was pleasantly surprised when looking at the bill for the festival, sponsored for a second year by Lagavulin.

After catching up with the renovations to Caol Ila distillery and a look round the Port Ellen Malting we found ourselves on a wonderfully bracing trip to the Lagavulin peat bogs for a cutting session with Mr Lagavulin himself, Iain McArthur. When Iain says 'run for the car!' you know that there's one hell of a storm about to break-  so with extremely soggy trouserings, it was time for a warming dram of 16yo at the old Malt Mill hall and the first Jazz gig of the weekend- the Neil Cowley Trio.

Described as 'Jazz music for Radiohead fans', I wasn't sure what to expect -  more endless, tuneless noodling? (i'm not really a fan of the modern uptheirownarse Radiohead) Fortunately the trio kicked off with some excellent syncopated riffs, a blast of humour and above all else, a little bit of soul-rather like the Radiohead of old, before Thom Yorke decided to get all sulky and grow a ponytail.

Perhaps the biggest revelation of the day though was the the Malt Mill itself.  Having been lucky enough to attend a few events at the hall over the past few years, I was taken back at just how good the acoustics of the room are.  The grand piano sounded absolutely sublime and it would be wonderful to see this building used for the purposes of recording a proper session at some point in the future, especially given the reverence of its namesake whisky.


As one would expect, with Lagavulin sponsoring the event, for the second year running, the distillery had prepared a special bottling for the event.  This year's single cask comes from 1997 and is a refill sherry cask (1894) selected by the aforementioned Iain McArthur. Last year's bottling performed better than an impassioned Ella Fitzgerald at Montreux so the sequel had a lot to live up to.


Lagavulin - Jazz Festival Edition- Single Cask Bottling - 54.5% - Distilled 1997

Nose: Initial perfumed notes nestle alongside classic Lagavulin peat smoke, with spicy liquorice, fresh lime, Lockets throat sweets, a touch of menthol and some sweet fruits.  With a dash of water, that familiar Laga carbolic note develops.  Unmistakable and superb.  Are there any ropey casks at all at  this distillery?

Palate: Light acacia honey, citrus notes, sweet malt, carbolic notes and green bananas.  With water, the bananas start to ripen up and the smoke begins to swirl.  This dram is probably not as heavily sherry- influenced as last year's bottling, but the classic Laga notes are just rubber stamped all over this.  More of a short burst of inspired brilliance from Miles Davis than a three hour snooze fest from Courtney Pine. 

Finish: Fresh, with citrus notes, some lengthy smoke and a stab of medicinal peat at the very end. 

Overall: Yet again, another masterstroke of a bottling.  Lagavulin falls into that category of being able to turn out inspired whiskies, alongside their solid, core releases seemingly without having to try too hard.  You'll never see a Lagavulin dressed in Sauternes, saddled with the remnants of an tired old rum cask or something equally un-Lagavulin -  there's just no need to experiment when you have a spirit as good as this. 

So back to the Jazz then.  Ah yes, our next act -Swedish sensations, the Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet.  Dressed in the uniform of the modern day jazzer -  flat cap, soul patch chin beard and a vaguely hip-hop'esque jeans and trainers combo, Kronkvist is undoubtedly ridiculously talented (he also played some sensational Jazz flute the day after.... did I really just type sensational Jazz flute?) The problem is that in my book, talent can only get you part of the way there.  The gig, whilst technically proficient, was a little like watching Dr Gunther von Hagens painstakingly dissecting a plasticised cadaver.  You wondered how deep his Jazz scalpel would slice with extended solos cutting right to the bone, full of dissonant notes, awkward phrasings and time signatures that left me trying to nod along looking cool and part of the scene - but feeling like I was sitting an A-Level in pure maths. Kronkvist's saving grace was his astonishing drummer.  Every bit a mind-numbingly talented musician, but effortlessly precise and in possession of some of the best dynamics i've ever seen.   He built up his solos with the panache of a seasoned performer, thrilling the audience seemingly without even breaking a sweat.  A joy to watch and worth the ticket price alone.  
This is what happened to the man who listened
to too many extended sax solos

After some much needed contemplation time down at the Cross of Kildalton (which, whatever the weather is hands down the most peaceful place I have ever visited) our group transferred to the final Jazz show of the day -  a double header at Ardbeg with ragtime pianist Keith Nichols followed by Swedish singer Miriam Aida (accompanied by Fredrik Kronkvist and his pianist) 

Despite having an all-too-short set, Nichols transported the audience back to the golden age of the Jazz piano - Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington et al with the showmanship and energy of a man a third of his age. Although this style of swing jazz is so often overlooked in favour of a more modern style, the brilliance of performers like Keith Nichols and his contemporary, Brian Kellock, will no doubt keep it kicking and screaming, far from being put out to pasture just yet.  

To close, the sultry sounds of Miriam Aida, undoubtedly the most glamourously dressed woman ever to visit Islay with a voice to match.  Paying homage to Nina Simone throughout the set, an understated accompaniment from Kronkvist and his pianist gave the Old Kiln Cafe a smoky, misty eyed authenticity - close your eyes for a second and you could be sat in the comfy leather-bound booths at the Green Mill Lounge in Chicago, stubbing out a Chesterfield and sucking back a bone dry Martini.   






And that's the beauty if the Islay Jazz Festival -  despite my fear of when Jazz tries to outdo itself and sounds like its falling backwards down the stairs,  this festival offers a well balanced outlook on the Jazz loved by many music fans today -  with reflections from almost a century ago to the most cutting edge chops of today.  

In the words of the famous Jazz critic, Louis Balfour -  'Grrrrreat'. 







Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Return Of The Glenlivet 70 Year Old Whisky... Win A Taste On Us.


Well well well... The prodigal grandfather has returned.  18 months after its initial release, Gordon and MacPhail have unveiled the sequel release to the monumental Glenlivet 70 year old.

And yes, folks, it's another Glenlivet 70 year old!!

The final 100 bottles of this now legendary liquid have been put into their decanters and will be officially released later today at the opening of the new World Duty Free shop at Vancouver International Airport. It will be there exclusively until November 1st, when it will officially become available to the rest of the world.

According to the press release from G & M, Cask 339 was filled at The Glenlivet distillery on the 3rd February 1940, under the instruction of John Urquhart, great grandfather of G&M's current owners.

This second batch is exactly the same strength as the initial one (45.9%), so one would assume that it was bottled at the same time as the first release or has been in a demijohn for the past 18 months -  either that or it is a wonderfully airtight cask.

For more details visit: http://www.gordonandmacphail.com/

This morning, the following package arrived by post, much to our excitement.





As you can see, there is a small sample of the whisky.   Now whilst it would be an experience to taste what is likely to be one of the oldest whiskies to ever cross our palates, it seems wholly unacceptable for us to do this, purely for a 'notch on the bedpost'.

So we're not going to open it.  But one of you lot is.  

We've decided to give this whole package away, including the accompanying book etc and of course, the phial of the whisky.


Now, the plan here is simple.

At midday GMT on Friday 28th September, we will choose one lucky winner from our Twitter followers at random. There's no catch -  all you have to do is be an @WeHeartWhisky Twitter follower... and of course be over the legal drinking age in your country of residence.

Simple eh.  So if you don't already follow us, make sure you sign up to our Twitter feed here: 

Good luck folks.  Joel & Neil x


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Japaneasy Rider - Karuizawa and Chichibu whisky hits the UK again






For some reason I still get excited at foreign crisps.

"What on earth are you on about, Harrison?" I hear you cry. 

Well, whenever I'm abroad I like to try out the unusual crisp brands and flavours which are often unique to that part of the world. Returning from a recent road trip to Maltstock in the Netherlands, both our car and its passengers were in need of refuelling so we stopped at a petrol station on the French / Belgium boarder to load up on carbs. Us, not the car. That had petrol put in to it. Obviously.

The forecourt shop was like an adventure playground of snacks; sweets with weird names, packets of crisps with odd cartoon characters on them and, best of all for a motorway petrol station... discount beer! Who sells beer to drivers? Or passengers even. Anyway, needless to say the car was overflowing with wonderful and unusual items for our drive back to Calais.

The crisp, along with the sweet and the chocolate bar, is product which is made all over the world, so it shouldn't be as exciting as it is, when we see versions from other countries when travelling. But somehow, it really is exciting.

The same rings true for me and Japanese whisky. The Japanese have every right to make single malts and blends. They have an excellent back story with the almost soap opera style tales of Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru, a wonderfully rich environment in which to mature their spirit and an attention to detail which would leave Professor Brian Cox dumbfounded. But yet, whenever I see a new product from a Japanese producer, I'm as excited as a my childhood-self in a foreign sweetshop (Hollywood chewing gum anyone?).

And so it was that with great joy we learnt that those wonderful people at Number One Drinks were to be releasing some new Japanese whiskies in to the UK (and wider) markets.

First up was a new release from Chichibu, their 'The Floor Malted' edition which will have around 8,800 bottles with somewhere in the region of 3,500 for export. This whisky is wonderfully light and delicate (even at 50.5% abv) and comes with aromas of toasted pine nuts, clear apple juice and lemon meringue pie while the palate gives excellent lemon and lime zest underpinned with an earthy tone. Very well constructed and worth a look if you like a lighter style of whisky.

Not usually known for being subtle, the now dearly departed distillery of Karuizawa was up next with four, yes four, interesting releases on of which is a single cask from 1960, but more on that at a later date.
The three main releases which are going to be hitting your local stores soon (if you're in the UK) are a 1984 single cask, a 1983 single cask and a no age statement malt. As you would expect from Karuizawa, the two single casks are heavily sherried monsters of undoubted quality. Our pick was the 1983, which will see just 120 bottles make their way to The Whisky Exchange in the UK.



Karuizawa - 1983 - Cask #7576 - Noh Edition - 564 bottles worldwide - 57.2% abv

Nose: Coffee and dark chocolate rise with energy from the glass, backed quickly by black cherry, a hint of mint and some meaty tones. Well brewed black tea provides some spices and dryness to the aroma and pecan pie gives nutty sweetness.

Palate: The palate has a huge hit of highly reduced red summer fruits, with autumnal bonfire elements and some treacle toffee.

Finish: The finish is hints of pulled pork and BBQ beef brisket but with some sweetness to boot.

Overall: Just simply super. To the point where I have a bottle on order. Gets my vote and, more importantly, my money!

Interestingly, there will be a new entery level price whisky from Karuizawa in the very near future. The Spirit of Asama is a new vatting of Karuizawa that will be availiable in different markets, at different strengths and with slightly different falvour profiles. Already availiable in France and Sweden, the UK version (which looks stunning) will be sold via The Whisky Exchange and will set you back around £40 or so. We have tried the French version (Raspberry jam with hints of kiwi and gooseberry fool) and can attest that it is a much lighter style of Karuizawa than one would normally be used to, but we will wait for provide full tasting notes on the UK version when that hits the shops.

Monday, 3 September 2012

#Unravel. Can You Get To The Bottom Of It?

Last week, we received this rather peculiar looking bottle from our friends at Aberfeldy.   The label was unlike anything we've seen on a whisky bottle - simply labelled #UNRAVEL, backdropped by some equally mysterious musical instruments - which immediately got us reaching for our laptops.

And hey presto -  here's a short video giving you a little bit of background on the inspiration behind the bottling:



Still confused?  Yes, us too. 

The project is a collaboration with Scottish arts collective, Found and Aidan Moffat, frontman with the now seminal Post-Rock project, Arab Strap.  It explores the link between storytelling, memory and how we are influenced by the dynamics of the audience listening to the story and our actual memory of the events - think of it as the classic 'the fish was THIS big' situation -  but soundtracked by an animatronic band comprised of an organ, percussion kit and chimes, all controlled by a series of 7" vinyl records. Vinyl was chosen I guess because it has a certain truth about it like a storyteller-  you put a needle into the etched groove on a piece of vinyl and what comes out of the end is an accurate 'truthful' representation of the recording... or is it?  

Record players, by there very nature, are NOT a perfect representation of what the musician intended their music to sound like.  They skip, they are prone to variable tempo changes from the particular playback machine, they warp dependent on their temperature and the sonic representation is all dependent on who cuts the vinyl and its thickness/quality. Having worked on the releases of scores of vinyl albums in the past, a lot comes down to the mood of the guy at the cutting lathe on the day -  trust me when I say this, but I used to reject cuts all the time, simply because whoever was working at the record plant that day probably had a hangover, a pair of shaky hands and had cut the vinyl too 'hot' (or loud) resulting in a distorted playback. 

But that is the beauty of vinyl.  They have a personality all of their own and that is why we love them - sort of where the theme behind #UNRAVEL comes into play.   The installation has built in sensors to monitor the environment of the playback - taking into account the opinions of the audience.   

I must confess that I have watched the above video several times now and I still don't fully understand the relationship between how the playbacks are altered by the audience intervention, but the idea is cool.  

Now where does the whisky fit in?

Well that has left us equally confused, as there was little by way of an explanation from Aberfeldy, but in reality, you don't need one.  This whisky (from a single cask, we think yielding 204 bottles) was released as a counterpoint to the installation.  Whisky, by its very nature is the vinyl equivalent of the spirit world -  it evolves as the drinker enjoys it, changing with the environment and the state of mind of the person consuming it.  

We've asked this question several times before, but how would you soundtrack your drinking experience? Do certain whiskies really taste better, or, to apply the #UNRAVEL analogy, tell a different story dependant on how a piece of music alters your mood??  

Hard to quantify, but sure as s**t, when I pull the dust jacket off a piece of vinyl, cue it up on the turntable and wait for that distinct, satisfying moment when the needle hits its surface, my senses start to open up like pores and there's definitely a moment of alchemy as you listen to the first few bars and take in the first tentative aromas, followed by that all revealing first sip.  

By the looks of things the chance to go and see #UNRAVEL for yourself has sadly passed (how come    we've only just heard about this now, when the exhibition it featured in finished in May!?) But, putting this aside, i'm just going to stick on a record  (The Big Come Up, by The Black Keys) and crack this open. Here's hoping that its profile fully #unravels...

Aberfeldy -  #UNRAVEL Bottling  - single cask - 56.5% - NAS

Nose: Dusty books, white pepper and dried ginger, with a hint of winey oakiness. Some brazil nut/walnut dryness emerges further in. Water opens up the spiciness, with Indian five spice notes and a dusting of chilli.  

Palate: Big hitting notes of Oloroso, some rich dates, caramelised orange peel, a dusting of cocoa and some fresh fruit notes too, including a little wild raspberry and green apple peel. 

Finish:  An abundance of dried fruit stays on the palate, with a tiny hint of candied sweetness and golden syrup on the death.

Overall:  A really fine, bold whisky, which, like a great record, starts off with a bang, gets more introspective during the middle and then comes back in epic fashion at the end.  




Saturday, 1 September 2012

How I Love My Coat of Many Colours : The Macallan Whisky 1824 Series



When you look at a bottle of scotch whisky, which key elements on the label draw your interest? Is it the word 'single malt'? Is it the age statement? Maybe it's the brand name? All of these touch points we, as whisky drinkers, have become familiar with over time and each is protected by a trade organisation called the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in legal guidelines.

These guidelines are there to protect you, the consumer, so what's written about on the label reflects accurately what's in the bottle.

There is one area which the SWA does not have any guidelines on and that is the use of E150a, caramel colouring (other than to allow its use).

The addition to whisky of a colouring agent is nothing new. Companies have been doing it for a long time and those who do claim it has no taste side effects to the liquid and that its use is purely to create consistency in the look of the liquid for the consumer.

However, aside from some local laws in certain countries, when E150a is used the whisky producer is not obliged to state on the label its inclusion, thus you have no way of knowing if it has been used or not. Well, that is unless the producer chooses to tell you and, in this age of traceability and authenticity, it's more likely that a whisky company will tell you when they HAVEN'T used it and some whisky producers actively state that they do not use any colouring agents in their products.

One such whisky house to leave their liquid 'au naturale' is The Macallan, who are releasing a new range of whiskies created by The Macallan Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno (left) which focus on colour, as opposed to age under the banner of The 1824 Series.

The four new offerings are all 'No Age Statements' and named roughly after their own colours; Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby. These are to be released in slightly different markets (Gold in the UK and Canada, Amber in Europe and the other two pretty much everywhere) replacing the 10 - 17 year old Sherry and Fine Oak offerings. This means that if you want to buy a bottle of The Macallan with an age statement on the front, the youngest will now be 18 Years Old (currently sitting at around £100 a bottle).

The new expressions will increase in price as you go up through the range, with Gold starting at about £35 in the UK (Amber being similarly price in Europe), Sienna being around £75 and Ruby weighing in somewhere near the £125 price point. So, the darker the liquid, the more expensive the whisky. But why?

Well, the justification for this is that all casks act differently. So, The Macallan are saying that age is NOT a great indicator of the flavour of the whisky; a fair point to make. I've had 40 year old whisky that could pass for 12 years old, and 4 year old whisky that could pass for 40 year old whisky. It really DOES just depend on that individual cask.

However, an age statement will give some idea as to what the liquid in the bottles tastes like, so if you remove the age statement (and the whys-and-wherefores of that argument is a post in itself) there still must be some way for you, the whisky consumer, to have an indication of the flavours you'll get from the whisky you're buying. In this case The Macallan believe that you'll be able to tell from the colour. The reason for the price hike between colours is that, according to The Macallan, the more active casks which give greater colour and greater intensity of flavour, are much more scarce. Therefore, when creating an expression that is much darker / intense, the liquid is harder to find.

No doubt this bold move of creating 'wysiwyg' no age statement whisky will spin off long debates across both the digital whisky community and the printed press on the matter. (Engage us on twitter about it if you like @WeHeartWhisky, or on our facebook wall www.facebook.com/caskstrength) But the real key is the liquid. Is it any good?



The Macallan - Gold - 1824 Series - NAS - 40% abv - £35-ish on release.

Nose: Honey and lemons, hints of candied oranges and orange cream chocolates, all underpinned with freshly baked flapjack.

Palate: Orange blossom, juicy fruit chewing gum, lemon sherbet and some pineapple juice tones. There is also an appley note to the palate. Really very easy drinking and quite delicious.

Finish: Hints of cinnamon spiced cooking apple with vanilla ice cream.

Overall: This is a super 'entry level' whisky which is just so easy to drink. I don't know if it is psychosomatic but it reminds me of the old Johnnie Walker Gold label. I can see this whisky, at this price point, being a stable in my cabinet and is a really great example of a classic Speyside whisky.



The Macallan - Amber - 1824 Series - NAS - 40% abv - around 45 Euro on release.

Nose: Ginger, melted butter, freshly cut pine underpinned with warm lemon and sugar pancakes.

Palate: The palate on this expression is far more oily than the gold, giving off apricots and maple syrup, plums and damsons.

Finish: Some juniper hints, lemon peel and cinnamon. The flavours in this are almost Negroni-like.

Overall: With its Negroni flavours, this whisky would make a great aperitif and should find real favour in places like France as a pre-dinner perk.



The Macallan - Sienna - 1824 Series - NAS - 43% abv - around £70.00 on release.

Nose: Strong and robust, the nose gives burnt sugar, some blackcurrants and a hint of marmite of hot toast as well as a freshly opened tin of floor polish.

Palate: Allspice, blackcurrants and a huge hit of cherry and dark chocolate. Big and oily, this palate is full of late summer fruits.

Finish: Lots of ginger, more blackcurrant and even more black cherry juice.  

Overall: Excellent, full bodied whisky packed with flavour.




The Macallan - Ruby - 1824 Series - NAS - 43% abv - around £120.00 on release.

Nose: The aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans is followed by cardamom, fennel and dark chocolate mousse.
Palate: Even more oily and mouth-filling than the previous whiskies, this has red grapes, fresh figs and some hints of strawberry jam.
Finish: The red cherry won't give up on this expression either, but this is much more reduced (in a cooking sense) and gives a more intense, richer flavour than the Sienna.
Overall: Same as above, this is an excellent, full bodied whisky packed with flavour.


Well, tasting the range in full, one can certainly see a clear linage in the intensity of flavour from the Gold though to the Ruby. Our pick was the Gold which we thought was just a down-right excellent dram, whatever the (no) age or the colour. The Macallan seem confident that this new way of talking about whisky, through the medium of colour, is the right direction for their whiskies and that the consumer will understand the concept of colour relating to flavour and scarcity.

However, re-educating the consumer away from age to colour isn't going to be easy. We all know that older whisky is rarer whisky ("angels' share" and all that) but will anyone grasp the concept that darker whisky is rarer and thus more expensive. Take the Aberlour a'Bunadh: a no age statement, non-chill filtered, non coloured Speyside single malt whisky that is traditionally a very dark liquid. This currently retails at £35. But, if we're equating colour to cost and quality, this should be a £125 whisky (if not more). If colour rules and the a'Bunadh is side by side on the shelf with The Macallan Gold, which does the newly educated consumer choose? Same price point, same region, both NAS... the perceived value of the brand notwithstanding, it's a draw on all categories except one: colour. And if you're asking the consumer to choose on colour, then in that fight there is only going to be one winner.

At the end of the day, it's the liquid that matters and our feeling is that the price points for these new Macallan whiskies are actually pretty fair; I just hope the back story being told to justify those prices isn't overly complex. Sometimes a nice plain three piece suit is far more classy than a coat of many colours...