By Rob Allanson

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Star letter - Islay character? On a recent visit to the Lagavulin distillery on Islay I was devastated to learn that the raw spirit is now being tankered off the island and filled into casks somewhere in Stirlingshire. And there it will be stored for the next 16 years or so! Will this still be marketed as an Islay malt?Is it a complete myth that the character of a single malt is influenced by the location of where it matures in the cask? Surely not.Indeed the Classic Malts official tasting notes for Lagavulin refer to "sea and salt" tastes. The marketing blurb claims that Lagavulin "spends 16 years breathing the sea-salt air of Islay and is kept in casks by the seashore".I can therefore only assume that the Diageo cost accountants have been at it again. The new trainee must have worked out that it is cheaper to transport one tanker of spirit off the island versus two truck loads of casks. Well chaps, here are a few more money saving ideas: (1) Chuck 12 sacks of sugar into each wash back. That should increase the alcohol yield.(2) Shrink wrap the filled casks in polythene. That should deny the angels their share.(3) Put half a dozen partially burnt sticks in each cask. That should speed up maturation.(4) Store the casks in a green house. That will speed up maturation even faster.In fact, why not just outsource production to China. However don't forget to market the finished product as "Scotch style Whisky". Bottling issues It hurt me not to see more discussion of bourbon in your recent article on whiskey packaging. Just as a heavy tumbler gives gravitas to the drinking experience, the right packaging molds the experience to our emotions.Bourbon bottles shout the philosophical underpinnings of the American psyche more than any other product. The American myth has no greater symbol than the Western frontier, with its rambling models of justice and business that brighten and sometimes stain our folklore and culture.Think of all the great fonts - Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Sazerac Rye - they all remind us of saloon signage and "Wanted: Dead or Alive posters." The medicinal Bulleit bottle is a reminder of traveling elixir salesman roaming the upstart frontier. Buffalo Trace even names its product after the glorious beast that once roamed our endless prairies, while Wild Turkey pays homage to the native bird that feeds us at Thanksgiving. The frontier stories hold both heartache and fond nostalgia. But while the western settlers never dwelled on the past as they went forward, our bourbon bottles do. Western expansion is over and the world watches the US finds its new path. Hopefully those bottles will remind us to learn from the past so that we can toast the future. ENTRY OF THE MONTH The best letter in each issue wins a bottle of Berrys'Blue Hanger 30 Years Old. It offers soft citrus aromas that are intermingled with leather, custard and pears, which lead onto an elegant butterscotch and orange peel palate with a dry smoky finish.The bottle will be mailed to the winner if their address is within the EU.Given regulations, winners from outside the EU may collect their prize from Berry Bros. & Rudd in London at a convenient time to the recipient.