10 new Scotch whiskies coming to the U.S.

Just returned from a trip to Scotland to visit distilleries. Though I’m still processing it all, one thing that struck me is how many new Scotch bottlings are poised to come to the U.S. in the next few months. Here’s a quick overview of what’s newly-released and coming soon down the line, arranged by approximate order of release.

AuriverdesArdbeg Auriverdes. This was a new release for “Ardbeg Day” (May 31) so it’s already here – and in some cases already sold out. This limited edition was aged in first-fill American oak barrels, with the ends of the barrels taken off and heat-treated “for more vanilla, coffee notes.” abv: 49.9%.

Tasting notes: light maple aroma, Very spicy finish. Light smoke on front, then vanilla, then spice; lots of black pepper and cayenne on the tip of the tongue. I didn’t detect coffee, but I liked what I did detect.
Coming: Ardbeg Day 2014 – so it already arrived on May 31

 

Auchentoshan American Oak. Made with 100% bourbon barrels. It’s been launched in press previews over the past couple of months and it’s already available in some U.S. outlets. It will be a permanent part of the Auchentoshan portfolio, so it may be hard to get right away, but eventually it should be relatively easy to acquire a bottle.
Tasting notes: Caramel, creme brulee, oak. Light and smooth.
Coming: Newly available in U.S. – recently launched.

 

MortlachMortlach – Rare Old. Visiting this non-airbrushed distillery was a treat – it’s owned by Diageo and historically Mortlach has been used as a blend (in Johnnie Walker primarily but not exclusively) rather than broken out as a single malt. They’re planning to release four different Mortlach bottlings, and this one should be out of the gate first. It has no age statement, and it’s made with a mix of whiskies aged in new and old casks. It’s an homage to an early 1900s private client bottling that sold at Macy’s Department Store. 43.4% abv.

Tasting Notes: Pineapple and vanilla aroma. Notes of banana, creme brulee, oily feel. It was described to us as “meaty,” with a flavor resembling “venison.” I didn’t quite agree with the venison tasting note. But this is surely robust and something different that Scotch-lovers will get excited about.
Coming: July/Aug 2014

Mortlach 18. This bottling probably will be released around the same time. It’s 18 years old, made with “moderate first-fill sherry casks” to avoid overpowering and refill whiskey casks. They describe it as an “after dinner dram.” 43.4% abv.
Tasting notes: Sherried spice cake aroma, chocolate note, mouth-coating. It’s very bold and explosive in the mouth – it expands on the finish in a way I haven’t experienced before.
Coming: August 2014

 

BracklaCraigellachie 23-year-old: This is from the Royal Brackla distillery, which is owned by Bacardi/Dewars and is one of the “secret ingredient” single malts inside the Dewar’s and other blended Scotches. Piers Adam is bottling it – he owns Mahiki, an exclusive London nightclub, and I assume it’s already available there. Two more Royal Brackla single malts also will be released around the same time, Deveron 12-year-old and Aultmore 12-year-old. But this was the one that made me stop and take note. 46% abv.

Tasting Notes: Craigellachie means “fiery crag,” and it’s indeed fiery. I detected baked apple and a rubbery note that they described as “meaty.” (Note: Some of my other tasting notes for this bottling, jotted down about 10 minutes and two samples later, also say things like “sherry” and “mint-chocolate” and “smoky finish.” I may have had a dram or so too many at this point, so my tasting notes mayyyy not be the most reliable.)
Coming: Bottling in July, coming in August.

 

NadurraThe Glenlivet Nadurra. Nadurra means “natural.” No age statement. This is an umbrella name for small parcels of whiskies, so the flavor profile may change from batch to batch.

Tasting notes: The flavor may change slightly from bottle to bottle, but the one we tried was light, with tons of vanilla, lemon cream pie, spice finish. It was described to us as a “Christmas cake smoothie.”
Coming: Sept/Oct 2014. It’s already available in duty-free shops, in a 1-liter size bottled at 48% abv. When it comes to the U.S., it will be 750ml, and bottled at cask strength (57-58% abv).

 

 

HaigHaig Club (Diageo). It’s a blended Scotch, and is a partnership with soccer player and British celebrity David Beckham.

Tasting notes: I didn’t get to try it. We all know perfectly well it’s going to fly off the shelves based on Becks and what I think of it isn’t going to matter anyway.
Coming: Autumn 2014

 

 

CardeasLaphroaig Cardeas 2014 bottling.  It’s the 3rd bottling tested through Friends of Laphroaig (the previous two were QuarterCask and Select). Cardeas means “Friendship.” The whisky is “double-matured,” meaning it’s first aged in bourbon (Jim Beam) casks, then finished in amontillado sherry cask-finished. Pricing: $120, approx. 52.4% abv.

Tasting notes: Maple up front, smoke in back. Long finish reminded me of long cigarette exhalation, which sounds awful, I know, yet this was one of the few drams I finished.
Coming: mid-year 2015

 

Naked GrouseThe Naked Grouse (Famous Grouse). Intended for a craft niche. Bottle has no label (“we dialed up the naked,” we were told, meaning that they stripped back the packaging.) When the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge visited the distillery, this was Kate Middleton’s favorite of the line-up. It was mine too. It’s The Famous Grouse blend, aged in first-fill sherry casks.
Tasting notes: lots of sherry-like dried fruit notes, warm & rounded.
Coming: “in a couple of years.”

The MaCallan Sienna (Famous Grouse): 100% ex-sherry casks, first fill. Part of range that emphasizes natural colors (Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby).
Tasting notes: dried raisins, spice. An easy pairing with chocolate.
Coming: “soon.”

“When a woman orders whiskey, it’s an aggressive act.” WHAT?!?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been invited to an increasing number of “Women & Whiskey” themed events. 

Some of these are transparently marketing-driven posturing, where chocolates and cupcakes accompany whiskey, as if all the spirit needs is the right accessory.  

But lately, I feel an earnest wind blowing in, from the direction of the Scottish Isles.

Ardbeg Flip

In mid-August, I attended a “Single Malt & Seafood” pairing intended “for women only,” with no chocolate in sight. Instead, the menu ran to well-made Rob Roy cocktails (Glenmorangie LaSanta, Carpano Antica, orange bitters) paired with scallops, and smoky Ardbeg Flips paired with Warm Bread Pudding.

And last night, at the Food Network kitchens, whisky specialist and Glenfiddich ambassador Heather Greene hosted a kickoff event for a “Women & Whisky” series – a whisky dinner, hold the cupcakes. Again, the focus was on Single Malt Scotches.  What surprised me most wasn’t that it’s possible to pair seared duck breast with Scotch, but rather the attitude struck by a couple of dinner-mates. 

When a woman orders whiskey, it’s totally an aggressive act,” said one woman (who later chuckled over the fact that her 30-year-old dram was older than she). Another woman, in a separate conversation, described the same act as “shocking.”

I was floored, and promptly sent that “aggressive act” comment out on Facebook and Twitter. The responses flew back (I’m sparing the names, but noting the genders):

 If that’s the case, then I’ve been witness to a lot of aggression over the years…  (Male)

Sounds like bullshit to me! And my wife, big whiskey fan. (Male)

 That statement drove a switchblade into my liver! (Female)

False. Capital F.  (Female)

Aggressively hot!  (Male)

How narrow minded. I’ve been a Scotch drinker since I was in my 20s. I’m pretty sure no one who knows me would call me aggressive. (Female)

Good heavens! By that judgment I’d be Ms. Bitch on wheels. (Female)

Telling, don’t you think?

Label - rare 15yo Scotch

By the end of the evening, clearly some whisky walls had broken down, as the woman sitting to my right plopped a dollop of vanilla ice cream into her snifter of rare 15-year-old Glenfiddich, a bottling that Heather had carried back from Scotland the previous week. Of course, I tweeted that too. I tried a little of the combination together, ice cream and Scotch — and it was a surprisingly lovely combination, not unlike the creamy Ardbeg Flip I’d tried a few weeks earlier, minus the smoke.

But when I checked Twitter, clearly some people were scandalized.

Quipped one pithy tweet:   I would classify ice cream in 15 yr old whiskey as an aggressive act.