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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

If You Like A Lot Of Chocolate On Your Biscuit, Join Our Club: Talisker and Royal Lochnagar Friends of the Classic Malts 2014 Single Malt Whisky Editions



Before you start asking us even more questions, the answer is: yes. The question: did we get to try the 2013 batch of Diageo’s Special Release whiskies. And very good they were to. As usual, there was the regular releases from Lagavulin (the always grand 12 Years Old), Caol Ila, Port Ellen (now on to number 13) and Brora.

Unusually, however there were some extra old offerings from Talisker (1985 vintage), along with a 37 Years Old Lagavulin, a 21 Years Old Oban and, the pick of the bunch for us, a 36 Years Old Convalmore. Not something you see a lot of these days.  

Now, there is no denying that this lot are excellent whiskies... but anyone who has tried to buy a bottle of the most sought-after of the collection will know quite how quickly they disappear. Trying to bag one is about as easy as finding rocking horse poop.

Couple this with the new pricing structure where a bottle of Port Ellen, previously sold for ‘just’ three figures, will now set you back £1500, and you'll see how many of these top end offerings are out of reach for a lot of consumers. 

(As an aside, unlike a lot of other people, I don’t see an issue with these prices. Diageo are just following the residual market in what it feels these bottles are worth; I wouldn’t sell you my house for 50% of its market value, so why should Diageo sell you their whisky for half the price the residual market deems it is worth?)    

However, these limited edition high value bottles do create an air of exclusivity, which is where Diageo have balanced out, to some degree, their portfolio of interesting single malts with a series of new expressions for their Friends of the Classic Malts club.
  
On offer, initially, are two highly interesting, triple matured single malts: one from Talisker and one from Royal Lochnagar which will be available in the UK, Germany and Switzerland. In total, across five expressions, there will be 24,000 bottles released.  



Talisker – Friends of the Class Malts 2014 Release – NAS - Triple Matured – 9,000 bottles only – 48% abv

Triple matured in: “refill casks, charred American oak hogsheads, European oak refill casks”

Nose: Big and strong, with some smoke, salt and a hint of toffee. It takes a while to open up, but once fully in bloom, the Talisker sea-salt notes are clearly there, with the triple wood maturation giving more body, with some light honey and heather notes coming through at the death.

Palate: Lemon and lime mix with peat smoke and salted caramel toffee. White pepper and some coal dust appear to give a full flavoured dram which just seems a little out of sorts. It’s like smoked lime pickle in a glass.  

Finish: Sour cherries, unripe kiwi fruit and a hint of peat smoke.

Overall: Well, we love Talisker 10, Talisker 18, Talisker Storm and Darkest Storm. This, however, goes into the same file as Talisker Port Ruighe... lots of flavour but, like a child whose family has moved around a lot, this seems to be a bit unsettled, a bit misdirected. NB: it did settle with time (and we mean a few hours here) in the glass, but was still running around the palate with a little too much enthusiasm...)




Royal Lochnagar - Talisker – Friends of the Class Malts 2014 Release – NAS - Triple Matured - 3,000 bottles – 48% abv

Triple matured in: “refill casks, charred American oak hogsheads, European oak refill casks”

Nose: A vibrant nose of granola drizzled with honey, milk chocolate and honeycomb. Some linseed oil, blackcurrant bush leaves and malted milk biscuits.

Plate: Rich and rounded, this whisky has taken well to its three different homes, picking up something interesting in each environment. There is honey, spices (cinnamon and cardamom), toffee again and a hint of red apples.

Finish: A really lovely dram whose spirit has been enhanced by the triple maturation and given a rounded balance of sweet and spicy.

Overall: A great example of how triple maturation can really enhance a tipple.


Friends of the Classic Malts can purchase these offerings for £80 per bottle at a friendly local retailer in the aforementioned countries, or you can pick up a bottle at Alexander and James, here.

Continuing in their theme of unusual bottlings for the FotCM club, which has seen an excellent Talisker 12 Years Old and an utterly brilliant Lagavulin 12 Years Old too, this Royal Lochnagar is one to add to your collection. Let’s hope the other three releases live up to this one and, at £80, it is a very fair price for an unusual limited edition. A very fair price indeed.

Talisker, Royal Lochnagar... you guess the rest, but I’m just hoping that Lagavulin features, especially at this price point! Sadly, we’ll have to wait to find out...