A warm welcome to 2017 and best wishes for the New Year. With a new year comes some tweaks to the magazine. Subtle, but with the input of our creative director, we have adjusted the cover, revamped the contents page and tweaked the overall page design. However, what I think you will notice immediately, is that we are starting 2017 with an inbound 20 page free supplement… this time on Irish whiskey. On doing the research for this, I was staggered by the number of operating distilleries, 21, but even more surprised at the number under construction, 9. Neil Ridley comments on this huge expansion of Irish whiskey in his column and I can honestly say that some of the Irish whiskey I tasted last year was superb, and I look forward to tasting more.
Finishing is a process that many Irish distilleries are employing to make their whiskeys stand out from the crowd, including Irish Distillers. Late last year, I was able to attend the press launch in Jerez of Redbreast's Lustau edition. This whiskey was the result of a collaboration between Midleton Distillery and Bodegas Lustau. The whiskey is initially matured in traditional ex-Bourbon and sherry casks for a period of 9-12 years. It is then finished for one additional year in first-fill hand selected sherry butts that have been seasoned with Oloroso sherry. Seaneen Sullivan, our Ireland contributing editor, explains further in what we are calling our first Irish Whiskey Magazine.
In every issue this year there will be a free supplement and we intend to cover Speyside, American whiskey, specific regions of Scotland and Japanese whisky, with others in the planning stages.
As detailed in the last issue we are replacing our books page with a puzzle page. We will still continue to review books but these will be included on our website and possibly within our digital edition. The puzzles can be found on page 77 and I would encourage you to enter the 'unlock the label competition' as the lucky winner will win a very good bottle of Scotch whisky.
Our Battle of the Blends competition is now out with the judges and the winner will be announced on 31 March at Whisky Live London. Make sure you don't miss out on this event and book your tickets now.
On the other side of the pond there has been a change in our coverage from Canada. Davin has 'retired' but will still write for us on a regular basis and our new Canada contributing editor will be Blair Phillips. Blair has been writing for the magazine for many a year and has regularly submitted features that have involved him and Davin on a 'whisky adventure'. I look forward to working with Blair over the coming months.
Ireland is not the only country expanding its whisky production. Scotland has a large number of distilleries under development and many of these new distilleries will be going to Forsyths of Rothes for their stills, including the massive Macallan venture at Craigellachie requiring no fewer than 12 wash and 24 spirit stills, all being made at Forysths. Gavin D Smith made a visit and you can read more on page 14.
In early December we had our annual Icons of Whisky awards in Edinburgh. I always enjoy this event and even more so this year as Charlie MacLean was co-presenting. Charlie is a great raconteur and whisky expert but what was most enjoyable, was to witness his total surprise when we announced that he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Ian Millar from William Grant & Sons. This year, I had the opportunity to talk to and meet many more people in the Scottish whisky industry and, as a massive fan of the Orkneys, I was delighted that the visitor attraction award went to Highland Park, a distillery I have visited several times. I also noted that Orcadian councellors have been discussing the possibility of the islands becoming independent from Scotland. Now that's an interesting interpretation of Brexit.
And finally, I will be on our Whisky Live stand in London on 31 March-1 April. There will be some great whiskies to taste along with 12 bottles to be won in our Whisky Treasure Island competition. I look forward to seeing you there.