In the music business, there is almost an honour system of wanting to see artist before they become famous, in small, dark, damp venues dotted around the UK, Europe or America. This is not just the domain of the fabled A&R person (we should know, that’s exactly what we used to do), but also for the hard working radio plugger, journalist or artist manager.
And when it comes to fans, there are always people who will be looking to hear artists who no one else is listening to. These ‘early adopters’ are the social butterflies of the music world, moving on to the next hot act as soon as numbers swell beyond fifty at a gig. Be seen in a crowd? No chance.
It is very much a journey for an artist, who needs these early fans to be vocal in their support to climb their way up the ladder, in order to carve themselves out a niche in the music industry and, crucially, to make a living for themselves. You often find that it is the artists who aspire to use the system to become millionaires, who fail. However, those who just have a simple desire to make music tend to be the ones who, mixed in with a shovel-load of hard work, become successful recording artist and the money, fame and wealth are simply a by-product of their talent and work ethic.
Ronnie ‘Red Socks’ Cox, the brilliant brand ambassador for the Glenrothes single malt quipped to me recently that the best distilleries were the biggest, as their malt is so much in demand. Yet so often single malt fan(atic)s are drawn to discussing distilleries whose output is so limited, they’re a fly on the cake of that is the global whisky business, a raisin in the scone of Scotch.
Here at Caskstrength HQ, we get slightly riled by people who believe that smaller = better, craft is class or that artisanal is the answer. In reality, this party is an open house and you should leave your perceptions at the door. Just because a distillery produces over ten million litres of spirit a year, does not make it bad. In fact, as per Mr Red Socks, it probably makes it ‘better’. Whatever ‘better’ means.
But here on this blog, there is no ‘better’. There is different. There is unusual. There is overpriced. There is, occasionally, bad... and that is why we don’t score whisky. We give fairly agnostic tasting notes and some direction as to let you decide if this is the dram of your dreams, a hipflask standard or simply one you think you should avoid altogether.
So ask yourself this question: when it comes to single malts, when was the last time you had a Glenfiddich? Or a dram of The Glenlivet? Or a measure Glenmorangie? And I’m not talking indie bottlings here, either. I’m talking the proper, core range releases.
These brands have sat comfortably for decades on backbars and supermarkets shelves, which makes them easy to walk past, simple to ignore.
But don’t! For there is a reason that these brands have such staying power, a reason for their ubiquity: because they’re bloody good.
And it doesn’t cost a lot to try these whiskies. You don’t have to go to the Highlands to experience them, nor do you need a full bottle. A mini of any of the above, at 10 or 12 years old, will set you back about £3. Less than a single on the tube or a pint of beer, or similar to the price of a big marker pen...
Beyond the core range, there are wild and crazy expressions which draw on the DNA of these big distilleries. Each have their own limited edition ranges and, as we have discussed before on here, play with creative liquid in the travel retail realm.
Glenfiddich are the latest to launch a set of new expressions in this arena, with three new bottles hitting the shelves of your local airport in the not too distant future.
Glenfiddich Select Cask, matured in hand-selected aged Bourbon, European oak and red wine casks, Reserve Cask, matured in distinctive Spanish sherry casks and Vintage Cask, matured in European oak and American Bourbon (a smoky, peaty version of ‘fiddich) are all married in their own Solera tuns, tadtionally used on Glenfiddich’s 15 year old edition.
Glenfiddich - Reserve Cask – Travel Retail Exclusive – 40% abv
Nose: A big hit of allspice backed with vanilla and mossy oak give way to some bergamot and dried orange peel give almost a mince pie aroma to this dram.
Taste: Sweet builders tea, this has a relaxing and easy going palate giving more vanilla, hints of roasted chestnuts and some more fruitcake.
Finish: A hint of spice with sweet undertones.
Overall: A very drinkable whisky which shows exactly why big brands have big love with consumers.
Weighing in at with an ABV of 40% each the Select Cask and Reserve Cask will be available from the 1st September with Vintage Cask hitting early 2014.
Due to the competitive nature of travel retail, you’re less likely to find small, craft distilleries on the shelves, so it is a good opportunity to reacquaint yourselves with the big brands. Go over, apologise for not calling and strike up the relationship once more. You won’t regret it.