New Classics

New Classics

The autumn is always an exciting time for whisky collectors and connoisseurs. There are generally a number of exciting limited edition releases,targeted at the gift market,and this year is no exception.

News | 10 Nov 2006 | Issue 60 | By Ian Buxton

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In this article we are going to look at the some of the very latest and most attractive limited edition releases – but you will have to be quick as demand will be high. One of the most highly demanded is the Ardbeg 1965.Renowned distillery manager Stuart Thomson is moving on, but his swansong is this dramatically packaged and, some would say, hugely hyped, 40 year old Ardbeg. The influence of parent company LVMH is certainly evident in the packaging: a hand-blown bottle containing grains of Islay sand; micro-particles encoded in the glass so that every bottled can be traced (more importantly, the whisky can never be forged) and all presented in a museum quality presentation case with white gloves to wear if you want to handle it!Only 261 bottles are being offered for sale, and demand is already reported to be brisk. Unusually, even celebrities and VIP’s are required to pay the full £2,000 that Ardbeg are asking for a bottle.Ferrari’s Technical Director Ross Brawn and an Admiral from the Russian nuclear submarine fleet are rumoured to be among the privileged few to get their hands on this rarity.Most folk probably can’t afford this particular luxury, but the website is fun.Visit www.ardbeg1965.com to see their spoof of a French art-house movie celebrating this remarkable offering.More realistically for most of us, a 30 year old Islay whisky is being offered by the renowned Bowmore distillery at around £300 in travel retail, in an edition limited to 1,800 bottles.Previous editions of Bowmore 30 have sold out quickly and proved to be good investments. To get one, you will have to fly – it’s only available in the luxury environment of airport duty free shops or direct from the distillery.Diageo have recently revised their policy on malt whiskies. The Rare Malts bottlings ceased in 2005 to allow all future premium and rare malt whisky bottlings to be made available in the annual Special Releases series, as part of the Classic Malts Selection, linked to their standard Classic Malts range.This of course makes the Rare Malts series collectable in its own right, especially those bottlings from silent or mothballed distilleries. Collectors have also been helped by the publication of Rare Malts: Facts, Figures and Taste by whisky enthusiast Ulf Buxrud.The 2006 Special Releases range from a 8 year old Caol Ila at £32 to a 30 year old Lagavulin at £210. Just 2,340 bottles will be released.Still on Islay, Diageo have brought out the 6th Release of Port Ellen, this time 5,610 bottles of a 27 year old at around £125. The Port Ellen series have been keenly collected since they were first released and this distillery, now closed for all time, has attained near-legendary status. This is one of the smaller bottlings so is sure to be swiftly snapped up.Moving off Islay at last Diageo has also brought out Special Releases from Talisker, Brora, Dalwhinnie and Cragganmore.There should be something for everyone.“We have been able to release some rare and venerable single malt Scotch whiskies this year.“At 27 years old, the Port Ellen, for instance is the oldest bottling we have ever done from this famous closed distillery,” says Dr Nick Morgan, Diageo’s malt whiskies marketing director Most interesting to investors will be the 30 year old Brora. With just 2,130 bottles available, the price of £175 seems to have plenty of upward potential, especially as bottles are drunk.One of the most unusual new limited editions is Highland Park’s Lunar Bottling.Why Lunar? The Moon has two cycles apparently; the regular, monthly one and a more significant full cycle of 18.6 years, known as the Lunar Nutation.This is the first 21st century Nutation and the Moon will not return to this point until 2025 – presumably the next time we’ll see a Highland Park Lunar.If you are fond of the 18 year old, the distillery claims you will be “bowled over” by the limited edition Lunar Bottling; like Highland Park 18 Years Old only more so, aged for 18.6 years, it is even more voluptuous and full-bodied, matured using a greater proportion of sherry oak casks and bottled at a healthy 45.1%.There are just 500 bottles available, priced at approx £70 and available only from the distillery itself on Orkney, or from the website at www.highlandpark.co.uk We have previously reviewed the changes at the Glengoyne distillery, near Glasgow.Their 28 year old single malt is worth looking out for - it has been specially selected by the Master Blender from some of the distillery’s finest and oldest casks, in a unique limited edition of 1,500 bottles only.Another small independent Scottish firm, Inver House, is distributing their Old Pulteney 17 & 21 year old, Balblair 26 and 38 year old; anCnoc 30 year old and Speyburn 25 Solera in what they describe as “pretty limited quantities”.The Speyburn 25 year old Solera edition is a greatly enjoyable dram. The distillery isn’t well known but this whisky should have a bigger reputation.Finally, if you like Glen Grant Gordon & MacPhail has added a number of new expressions to their existing portfolio.Glen Grant vintages from 1948, 1953, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1968 have been added to the Rare Vintage range at between £80 and £400. They are liquid history.Hopefully you’ve found something here of interest – all you have to do now is go and find a bottle.Some of these releases are very limited indeed and international demand is high for this type of whisky.You will need to try some of the better-known specialist retailers, scour the web and be prepared to search long and hard for bottles.
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