March 2014 Archives
Inspired by the success of the original Collingwood Canadian Whisky, produced by the Canadian Mist distillery in Collingwood, Ontario, This new 21 Year Old expression is distilled from 100% malted rye. Matured in oak, and finished in a wooden vat built with toasted maplewood staves, this whisky is much richer and darker than its younger sibling.
Collingwood 21 Year old is the result of an experiment by an intrepid master distiller. Back in 1991, the Canadian Mist distillery was producing no 100% rye whiskies, yet master distiller Harold Ferguson decided to squirrel away 50 barrels of pure rye spirit. This experiment had no plan, no decided outcome, and yet 21 years later it has produced a whisky of remarkable richness and complexity.
In the galaxy of Scotch whisky distilleries there are many stars, but few burn as brightly as Glenfiddich. Nestled in a valley bordering the small village of Dufftown, its 1,200 acre estate sprawls out over rolling hills under endless skies in such a way that at times it feels like there is no need to venture anywhere else ever again. Arresting in its beauty, nearly flawless in its construction, and operating with an attention to detail that goes beyond obsessive; it leaves one with little wonder as to why its whisky has gone on to win more awards than any other.
From the moment of arrival it becomes clear that this is one slick operation. Pulling into a proper car park with well manicured grounds and a glorious visitor centre is not something one is likely to encounter at too many of Scotland's distilleries, then again there really isn't much that is like this distillery anywhere. The cafe in the visitor centre is offers some of the best food that we had on our trip, and is likely only rivaled by Ardbeg's cafe for honours of the best distillery to grab a bite at. But what really matters is what goes on in the buildings surrounding the public entry point. Those buildings have been producing some of the finest malt whisky to ever come out of Scotland's vaunted stills, and for over 125 years have done so with such consistency that most whisky fans take it for granted, some even considering it boring.
But consistency in execution is no accident. It is what separates superstars from all the other players in the league, and it was with this thought in mind that we set out to discover just what sets this distillery apart from the rest.
Matured in heavily charred virgin American oak casks for 19 years, this expression essentially answers a "what if" scenario whereby a Scotch distiller has subjected their raw spirit to a bourbon-style maturation rather than using an ex-bourbon cask. The key difference being that instead of ageing in the warmer climate of Kentucky in a racked warehouse, this whisky spent its slumber in the cool environs of the Northern Scottish Highlands allowing for slower activity inside the casks thus preventing the wood from overpowering the spirit after so many years.
Since 2009 Glenmorangie has been issuing an annual release under their Private Edition banner, and the Ealanta is 2013's edition. Finally arriving at the LCBO last week, and available through its Vintages Online system for the time being, there has been considerable anticipation from many awaiting its release.
Isn't the point of life to live it through one's own actions and experiences rather than trudging along blindly behind those that have gone before? Surely there is some merit in using the findings of others as sign posts to avoid the worst potential pitfalls, but a life without individualized experience is hardly a life worth living. With its etymological origins rooted in the notion of the "water of life", whisky is inexorably tied to the notion of experience; either as a vehicle for it, or as an experience in and of itself.
So why are people allowing others to limit their experiences in life and in whisky?
The Black Grouse Alpha Edition contains a higher proportion of aged malts from The Macallan and Highland Park to the aged grain whiskies than what's found in the standard Black Grouse. Male Tetrao tetrix, (Black Grouse) engage in a mating ritual known as a Lek to determine the alpha position or dominancy in the flock by presenting the best display for females. Festooned with a black feather, the bottle and packaging of the Alpha Edition serves as a nod to the company's interest in positioning this version of the Grouse as a premium offering in the product line and was originally launched exclusively for the travel retail market in 2011 before becoming more widely available in 2012. We love the original Black Grouse, in fact it won our Battle of the Blends series, so we had no hesitation in sampling a new spin on an old favourite even if we were a tad disappointed to see it bottled at 40% ABV despite the higher malt content.