The Whisky Show rolled around for another year this week, and the malt geeks and snobs descended on Billingsgate Market to sip and swirl their way round the stands.
We were there with tasting glass, notepad and sharp elbows to uncover some of the most interesting drams set to hit the UK in the coming months, all for your delectation…
Ailsa Bay Release 1.2
William Grant may only have launched Ailsa Bay in 2016, but it’s already switching up the recipe for its ‘sweet smoke’ whisky that’s made at the Girvan distillery, dialling up the sweetness to ‘make it more approachable for consumers’. The new recipe consists of 22ppm peat and 19ppm sweet, in comparison to 21 and 11 respectively in the original.
Still initially aged in Hudson Bay 50l barrels before spending more time in ex-bourbon cask, it’s all lemony citrus up front, with a drying wood and oat cake character, topped with the dying embers of a fire, vanilla sponge pudding and a touch of TCP.
The original recipe is to be discontinued, so if you’re a fan, you’d better stock up now.
48.9% abv, £55/70cl, William Grant UK, 01698 843843
The Japanese craft distiller has rapidly been gathering fans and gaining cult status in recent years. There were two whiskies on the stand this year worth talking about…
Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu London Edition 2018
A special edition whisky created especially for London, with the majority of the 929 bottles earmarked for the on-trade, this is a mix of six-, seven- and eight-year-old liquid aged in first-fill bourbon barrels.
A juicy, fruity whisky full of pomelo, nectarine, peach, prunes and orange; and sweeter maple syrup, rice pudding and crème brulee, topped off with some dried apricots. Fabulous.
56.5% abv, £175/70cl, Speciality Drinks, 020 8838 9444
Chichibu Imperial Stout Cask
Coming in 2019, there’s only 239 bottles of this 2011 vintage whisky which was bottled in 2018. Chichibu lent the cask to a Japanese craft brewer, which then seasoned the cask with a stout.
The whisky wears the stout influence with pride: it’s a rich and warming dram, full of plum pudding, Christmas spices, sour orange, cardamom and marmite. Definitely a post-dinner sipper.
56.5% abv, £POA/70cl, Speciality Drinks, 020 8838 9444
The Kentucky-based distiller had a delectable duo to share that will be hitting the UK in the early part of 2019.
A decade ago, Jimmy Russell released a 10-year-old whiskey called Sherry Signature that was finished in a sherry butt, and this whiskey is a ‘revival’ of that. A 12- to 15-year-old bourbon that’s been finished in oloroso sherry butts for between six and nine months, it’s the fourth edition in the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep collection.
It’s a heady liquid, choc-full of cocoa nibs, sandalwood and sweet spice, toasted coconut, leather, sour cherries and raspberry. It walks a fabulous line between vanilla sweetness from the American oak, and the nutty/fruity sherry aspect.
50.5% abv, £POA/70cl, Campari UK, 020 3100 9600
Texan actor Matthew McConaughey has partnered with Eddie Russell to create this eight-year-old whiskey that underwent two filtrations, one through American oak, and the other through mesquite, the wood synonymous with Texas.
It’s an easier sipper than Revival, with cooling vanilla ice cream covered in toffee sauce and dark chocolate sprinkles, with a side of charred orange segments. Sappy pine, just-baked scones and nutmeg finish the picture.
40% abv, £POA/70cl, Campari UK, 020 3100 9600