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Thursday 28 March 2013

This Ship Has Sailed. Our Limited Edition Cutty Sark Is Released

Ahoy there, mateys! After much to-ing and fro'ing from Port to Starboard we are delighted to let you know that our very own Cutty Sark blended whisky has set sail and is released TODAY!!!
Ship-shaped and bristol fashion... it's the
Caskstrength Cutty Sark

For those of you who don't know about our endeavours,  this special limited edition of Cutty Sark is bottling 'C' in our quest to release the A-Z of Whisky (after sell out releases from Arran and BenRiach)
The Cutty Sark we've blended under the watchful eye of Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell is the official release to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the blend, which started life in the Mayfair offices of Berry Bros & Rudd on the 21st March 1923.

We've blended just 500 bottles of this whisky, adhering to the classic Cutty house style of an easy drinking-yet-flavoursome blend. However, we've snuck in a little light smoke, alongside keeping the strength way up there - so much so that it is bottled at 51.4% or 90 UK proof in homage to the 90th anniversary. All bottles are hand signed by our good selves and the lovely Kirsteen.

The first 100 bottles sold will include a fantastic double sided screen printed tote bag (in Cutty yellow of course!) and a very special limited edition newspaper that we've had printed especially, with exclusive interviews, page three stunnas, cocktail recipes and all the usual chitter chatter you'd expect in a tabloid called The Daily Cargo.

The whisky will be available exclusively from Master Of Malt priced at £34.95...  Click here to buy or follow the link:

Happy sailing folks and happy birthday Cutty Sark...

Monday 18 March 2013

Flask Me A Question: Win The Limited Edition Flask From The Macallan Worth £600

The great American comedian, Ernie Kovacs once quipped that “Television is a medium, for it is neither rare nor well done.

This truism lives on today, with a plethora of dross gumming up your TV channels, making it harder and harder to find something to watch of value and substance on a  Saturday night.

As much as television is a neutral medium, being only as good or as bad as the programs it shows, we still hanker after TV’s of sheer quality, build and technological advancement. Thinner, brighter, higher definition and 3D... all of these are in our mind when we come to replace the goggle-box, upgraded from hiding in the corner of our livingroom, to pride of place on the main wall.

The same could be said for the humble hipflask: a neutral device which is only as good as the liquid inside it, previously hidden away in a dark drawer, only to see daylight when being filled, or swigged from.

Until now, that is... this has all changed, thanks to the chaps over at The Macallan who, in partnership with the top designers at Oakley, have created the ultimate ‘putting-the-hip-into-hipflask’ product.

Almost indestructible, this tough little number is limited to just 550 units with 400 of the US version coming with its own liquid, in the form of a 22 year old single cask known simply as The Flask, matured in Sherry seasoned American oak.

The Macallan – The Flask Edition – 400 bottles only - Single Cask – 43% abv

Nose: A rich nose of vanilla fudge, butterscotch, milk chocolate and runny honey jump from the glass, backed with some heather notes and cracked black pepper.

Palate: Honeycomb, royal jelly and quince jam are backed with fresh ginger, brown sugar and tinned apricots. A hint of peaches on the back of the palate.

Finish: Dry vermouth. Soft and smooth, this gives great tropical fruits and earthy moss on the finish, with a touch of pineapple / upside down cake.

Overall: vanilla and tropical fruit are the dominant flavours here. A very good expression of The Macallan.

As lovely as this whisky is, its partner-in-crime, its bouncer, the Commader-in-Chef of whisky is what comes with it: The Flask. Many of you will have seen the video which Oakley Inc, the architects of Flask, shot to show off the robust nature of this item (if you’ve not seen it, click here) and we have one to give away.

Yes! Another competition! Hot off the back of our last giveaway, we are offering one of these Macallan Flasks which retails at £600 (sadly without the whisky) to one lucky winner who can answer the following question:

"In which Oscar-winning 2012 action film was The Macallan featured?"

Answers on an email to: by 31st March. As usual, T&C’s apply and, despite there being no liquid involved, you must be over the legal drinking age in your country to enter.

Best of luck. If you win, this could be you... if you have a supercar, friends with supercars, a helicopter and a day at a race track. Well, one out of the five isn't a bad start.

Friday 15 March 2013

Caskstrength & Carry On 'C'... REVEALED!

Here it is folks... Caskstrength & Carry On 'C'
Hello tender folk.  Two years ago, Caskstrength embarked on a fairly ambitious adventure.  Looking at the landscape of the whisky business, we set a long term plan to try and bottle something whisk(e)y-related from every letter of the alphabet.  We began with Arran and the reaction to the whisky was certainly overwhelming.  So we moved on to BenRiach, which was equally well received.  Yippee we thought.

Next up and our search for a suitable 'C' was a little bit tougher.  Whilst there are no shortage of distilleries beginning with the letter C, none of them felt quite right and we decided to focus our attention on the world of blends.  Let's not forget folks that blended whisky is FAR more important in the grand scheme of things than the humble single malt. In fact, without the buoyancy of blended whisky internationally, many of our favourite distilleries would simply cease to exist.  As a result we feel that it's hugely important to take a sledgehammer and smash the snobbery against blended whisky squarely in the face, banishing it to the world of the beard (ok, not all beards), the sock/sandal combo and the anally retentive whisky bore, who won't drink anything else save for the most obscure single casks.

So with all that in mind, we decided to approach one of the most popular and enduring names in blended whisky to see if they'd be up for letting us have a tinker with our own version.  Amazingly, they said yes and thus began our fantastically educational journey into how to put together a limited edition Cutty Sark Blended Whisky. Below is a short film giving some background into how much fun we had putting this together.

**for those of you reading this via our mailing list, you can lick here for the video**

Our Caskstrength & Carry On Cutty Sark will be officially unveiled on the 25th March and on sale from the 27th March, once again through our dear friends at Master Of Malt.  Bottled at 51.4% (UK 90 Proof) the release ties in with the 90th anniversary of the blend, which was officially born on the 23rd March 1923.  Just 500 bottles have been blended by Caskstrength alongside the totally brilliant Cutty Master Blender, Kirsteen Campbell.

The price for this limited edition, high strength blend will be around £35 RRP and the first 100 bottles sold will come with this attractive-yet-functional-Cutty-coloured-double sided-tote-bag AND a special commemorative newspaper we've had printed to mark the release!  Can't say fairer than that, can we!!

As this is a relatively robust whisky (cask strength, in a sense) it works well with a dash of water, in a cocktail, as a highball or just on its own, hopefully proving that the blend is the all-round superstar of the whisky world.

We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we have putting it together.

Cheerio, Neil & Joel

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Emerald Gold - The Whisky Exchange's Midleton Single Cask

With the weather turning a little colder this week, I've opted to stay in, reorganise a few things in our office drinks cabinet and nail down a few of the excellent samples that have recently turned up here.

And what better way than to shift any persistent chills than with a brace of new Port Askaigs from our friends at Speciality Drinks.

We first featured this bespoke Islay brand a few years back and the 17yo really got our clappers rattling. Classic blasts of salty, sooty peat smoke and a sweet creamy undertone seem to characterise where these bottlings are heading, despite the absence of any mention of the actual contents (we'd hazard a guess at Caol Ila, but could be wildly out)

But before these, (stay tuned for later this week) a special treat is in order. The chaps also included a sample of a very special Irish whiskey, exclusive to Speciality Drinks...and it's an absolute triumph.

The Midleton distillery is perhaps the largest distillery i've ever seen, providing whiskey for not only Jameson, but Red Breast, Green Spot, Powers and a plethora of other well known Irish whiskey brands - as well as a fine line in exclusive bottlings under the Midleton banner.  Speciality have secured a single cask, distilled in 1991 and are releasing it a 54.1%.  Are we excited by what we've just poured into the glass? Tobesuretobesuretobesure!!!

Nose: Quite simply, an absolute symphony of tropical aromas: Fresh mango, passion fruit, white peach, papaya, kiwi fruit and dried apricot lead first, then it's off into white chocolate, freshly picked mint leaves, swathes of vanilla, a hint of redcurrant and some woody, cedar/cigarbox notes.  About as perfect a nose as i've ever experienced in an Irish whiskey. 

Palate: The strength is there at first, but it doesn't get in the way of a continuation of the fresh fruit:  more ripe peaches, a touch of pineapple, creamy vanilla, stewed apple with a dusting of anise and cinnamon.  The flavours hit in waves; first very fresh, then juicy, then creamy. One criticism unfairly levelled at Irish whiskey is that it perhaps lacks a certain amount of complexity or richness when compared to a similarly aged single malt from Scotland. After a few sips of this all I can say is bollocks to that.  It's simply sensational. 

Finish: As the fruits die away, a distinct pepperiness develops, alongside the creamy notes and perhaps even a touch of dried ginger.  

Overall:  Contender for the best Irish whiskey i've ever tasted?  Without a doubt.  The slight downside here is that it costs a considerable sum - £235. But for a 20 year old whisk(e)y of this calibre, I can think of a number of similarly priced alternatives (Scotch, Japanese or American) that wouldn't even start to scrape the surface of how unique this is.  

If this is too rich for you, fret not.  Midleton's Barry Crockett Legacy will set you back £100 less than this and a bottle of RedBreast 15 year old delivers similar flavours in spades and will cost you £67. 

According to the bean counters and statisticians, Irish whiskey is the fastest growing dark spirit in the world right now.  Hard to argue with that when you have flavours as triumphant as these. 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Independently Minded: Glenfarclas 1981 31 Year Old Port Cask

I always admire an independent spirit. Coming from a music business background, there are examples upon examples of people having a passion, starting a business and watching it grow and flourish, mainly through taking risks which major companies simply could not take.

Examples abound in the world of recorded music, from Berry Gordy’s post-Tamla project of Motown (whose logo I had the distinct pleasure of having on the back of my business cards for a while, opposite) through to Richard Branson’s signing of a young group called the Sex Pistols, who had been thrown on the scrapheap not once, but twice by both EMI and A&M. Onwards into the 1990’s, would Britpop have ever happened if Creation hadn’t taken a punt on a band from Manchester that no one else wanted to sign...?

Today, indie labels still do a fantastic job of bringing us albums from the likes of the Arctic Monkeys (Domino) and Adele (XL Records), to name but a few.

This isn’t to say that being a ‘major’ is a bad thing. Heck, I worked for a major record company for a long time and, contrary to popular belief, we signed a lot of acts which wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise, with varying degrees of success, it has to be said!

Taking a risk was what it was all about for me and sometimes you have to wear the scars of failure with pride. In fact, scars just show experience and experience shows learning. And we should never stop learning. So get used to having scars.

But as for Scotch, one of the greatest ‘indies’ of all time is Glenfarclas. Forget Dufftown, this is Motown with Glenfarclas’ production values more a ‘wall of flavour’ than a ‘wall of sound’.

Throwing out releases as they please, from ancient Family Casks, to small quarter-cask release (tbc), these guys have been at it for years, gaining respect from every quarter for their ‘because we can’ approach. 

And the latest release from these little giants is a port cask offering, just for the UK and France. Only 480 bottles were taken from a cask laid down in 1981 and bottled in July 2012 and it is about to hit the shops now, with an RRP of £280.

Glenfarclas – Port Cask - 31 Years Old – 480 bottles – 42.8% ABV

Nose: Treacle toffee and hazelnuts are mixed in with the aroma of toasted pine nuts and olive oil. Over time in the glass (and this needs time) it opens up to reveal ginger ale, ginger snaps and sultanas.

Palate: Rich at first, with crème brulee topping of caramelised sugars, which finds its feet quickly, settling down to a creamy yet robust palate of ginger and lemon grass, with hints of red apples, summer fruits and, latterly, figs.

Finish: Spices abound with cinnamon and nutmeg the most prominent. White pepper springs forward to give a long and lingering finish to this warming dram.

Overall: Spices crash all around you in this dram, with ginger on the mid-tones and a creamy top end. A whisky which is at the same time both rich in flavour but not big and oily; more relaxed than that. A real drinker, not a sipper. Think Glenfarclas, but with added spice.

It’s great to see a distillery in the heart of Speyside (despite correctly having ‘Highland’ on their label) producing whisky of excellent quality yet at a price point which, quite frankly, puts others to shame. With a 30 year old at £123 here (yes, really) and a 40 year old at £274, here (honestly!) why would you not consider Glenfarclas to be the quintessential independent spirit.

Friday 1 March 2013

I Am The News! Quick Friday Round Up of Fun

News team.... Assemble!!

As the late Tommy Cooper said, 'I'm on a whisky diet. I've lost three days already.' This pretty much sums up the average Caskstrength week and there's so much to tell you about, gawd dang, but never enough days in the week to do it justice.

So here's a little round up of the week's most interesting news and reviews.

On Wednesday, The Macallan launched their next intrepid project, simply entitled The Flask -  a collaboration with Californian designers Oakley (well known for their outdoor apparel and sunglasses.) The Flask is a modern day look at the fragility of the humble hip flask.  Put it this way, if you're popping something exceptional inside your hip flask, the last thing you want to happen is for it to disintegrate in your suit pocket, or leak all over the insides of your handsome Bill Amberg luggage.  So together, constructed with materials that resemble a bullet proof vest, the team have put together what is probably the toughest hip flask in the world.  

And not known to faff about, The Macallan chaps have shot this fun video to show the hip flask in action.  Clearly just another every day in Speyside, by the looks of things.  More to come on this one in due course, so watch this space....

Next up and today, Highland giants Glenmorangie have announced their brand new programme allowing the consumer to effectively choose the next whisky the company will bottle.  Cask Masters is an innovative scheme whereby from an initial choice of three samples, one whisky will eventually be chosen, labelled and named all from within the forum of the general public.  Camel by committee, or something extremely revealing about how powerful the consumer has now become in terms of dictating flavour profile? You decide, but we're looking forward to seeing the results.  Having tasted the three samples we can vouch that they are all highly different expressions of Glenmo - one Burgundy cask, one Bordeaux and one Manzanilla, with our leaning towards the Bordeaux cask.  
For more details on the programme, visit

On a similar tip, The Singleton have announced a foray into the unknown with a look at the way we perceive whisky through the senses. Professor Charles Spence and Condiment Junkie (man, do all these 'experiential'/ 'immersive' agencies focus group their frankly absurd names?) are recruiting 300 participants for a science experiment into the effect of environment on the taste of whisky. The Singleton Sensorium will run on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st March at 79 Beak Street in Soho.  
Email if you're interested in signing up.  

And Finally... We have another whisk(e)y tasting coming up.  Wednesday the 6th March at the Southbank Centre, this time covering the truly exciting world of Irish Whiskey.  Some great whiskeys will be served including Redbreast 15yo and Green Spot, alongside a host of other goodies.  If you fancy coming, drop us a line and we'll sort you out tickets.  The tastings are usually only for members of the Southbank Centre, but we've opened it up to readers of this website too...  or click here:  Irish Whiskey Tasting

That was the news.  TTFN x