The Overlooked

The Overlooked

Neglected distilleries coming to the fore
Joe Bates

20 March 2015

Publication: Issue 126

I have noticed that the selection of whisky brands in some major airport stores is getting narrower just at the same time as the craft distilling boom propels the wider whisky business to ever greater depth and diversity. It's a sad fact that the economics of such a high cost shopping environment as travel retail makes it difficult if nigh impossible for smaller whisky distilleries to get their foot in the door and still make money.

Consequently, the interest in travel retail for the travelling whisky fan is often reduced to checking out the increasing number of exclusive releases being launched by the big players. Now this swelling tide of younger, invariably non age statement drams can be variable in quality so it's pleasing to see that some of the larger distillers are rummaging around in their portfolios to showcase some of their more neglected distilleries.

A case in point is Aultmore, undoubtedly one of Scotland's most overlooked distilleries. Opened back in 1896, this Speyside distillery was virtually unknown as a single malt, but was long valued by blenders for adding great depth and character to their creations. Owner John Dewar & Sons has now decided the time is right to polish up this little-known gem as one of its five 'Last Great Malts.' Three beautifully packaged new expressions have been launched: Aultmore 12 Years Old, Aultmore 25 Years Old and the travel retail exclusive Aultmore 21 Years Old.

Expect the 46% ABV exclusive 21 Years Old to be widely available at major international airports throughout 2015. Tasting notes often refer to Aultmore's fresh grassy character, which is said to come from the gorse and heather growing near its water source (the wonderfully named 'Foggie Moss') filters through. The new 21 Years Old also packs in some olive oil and herby rosemary notes. The other forgotten distillery in line to be 'rediscovered' is Mortlach, described as the 'Beast of Dufftown' for its powerful flavour profile and the lucky recipient of an £18m makeover by owner Diageo to double its production capacity. The first new travel retail exclusive expression from the Speyside distillery, Mortlach Special Strength, is now on shelf at Heathrow and Dubai airports and will land at other airports worldwide later in the year.

As the name suggests, the £75 non age statement Mortlach Special Strength comes in at a decidedly warming 49% ABV, and is blended from a complex combination of first fill, refill and re-charred American and European oak casks. It's undeniably a complex dram, a powerful mix of vanilla, mature oak and tropical spice, and a bit of a departure from the three other Mortlach expressions being released into the domestic market.

Red Breast

21 Years Old

Any Irish whiskey lover passing through Dubai airport should make a beeline to Le Clos stores in Terminal 3 to snap up this new arrival. The 46% ABV Red Breast 21 Years Old packs in fresh tropical fruits, nuts and dried fruit on what is a complex nose while rich creamy, oak notes jostle on the palate giving way to a long, lingering barley spice finish. Presented in a 70cl bottle, Red Breast 21 Years Old is priced at AED1,050 (£185).


Port Charlotte


This eighth release in the highly popular Port Charlotte series is a welcome travel retail exclusive from Bruichladdich, which is definitely upping its game in duty free. Port Charlotte PC12 is a rich walnut-coloured, cask strength 12 Years Old Islay malt, bottled at a macho 58.7% ABV. It offers up a pleasing mix of citrus zest, heather smokiness and sea salt. A worthy addition to the Port Charlotte range, PC12 comes packaged in a clear 70cl bottle and a striking black gift tin with white, orange and grey lettering.

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