Stocks of very old whisky are so rare these days that it's not often I am lucky enough to be invited along to the launch of a 40 year-old dram. Happy was I then to get the nod one balmy July lunchtime to attend the grand unveiling of the oldest ever Famous Grouse whisky at London's small, but wonderfully well-stocked Soho Whisky Club.
Master blender Gordon Motion was on hand to give us fortunate guests a tasting of what was actually the handiwork of his predecessor John Ramsay: The Famous Grouse 40 Years Old. As befits a whisky with a hefty £2,000 price tag The Famous Grouse 40 Years Old is packaged in a 70cl crystal decanter engraved with a Red Grouse designed by Scottish textile firm Timorous Beasties. Topped with a Scottish silver stopper the whisky sits handsomely in a luxury wooden gift box. As for the whisky itself it's a blended 47.3% ABV malt drawn from just four clearly exceptional ex-sherry refill casks.
The finished whisky is a joy to taste: rich, sweet full-bodied and long-lasting on the palate, but not overly woody despite have slept so long in the cask. There were lots of dark chocolate orange and rich stewed fruit notes, which culminated in a lingering, almost chewy finish. The initial idea for The Famous Grouse 40 Years Old came as a suggestion from Schiphol Airport Retail, the duty-free operator of Amsterdam airport. The new whisky will be an exclusive for them from mid-August until the end of September when around 40 decanters will then be distributed to other key international hub airports.
A further 235 decanters or so will be rolled out to Sweden, the UK, Taiwan and Australia from November. If you are flying from Amsterdam airport and The Famous Grouse 40 Years Old is a little out of your price league, there are currently plenty of other wonderful drams to choose from. The sweet, full-bodied The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old is priced at €46.25 ($61.75); the highly-rated travel-retail exclusive The Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve is €43.25 ($57.75), and the Glengoyne 17 Years Old is €58.25 (£50).
On a final note I also wanted to let anyone who's travelling through Stockholm Arlanda Terminal 5 soon to check out The Nuance Group's new store at Pier B. Swedish drinks are very much to the fore in the new shop and amidst the aquavits and liqueurs passengers will find a range of Mäckmyra whiskies. There's also a reasonable range of Scotch whiskies on offer too although sadly Swedish laws prohibit tastings. High-end drams listed include Glenfiddich 40 Years Old and The Balvenie 30 Years Old. Happy hunting.BEST BUY
I've always been a great fan of Talisker so it's great to see this rugged single malt finally getting a higher profile in travel-retail thanks to this new exclusive. Billed as the smokiest ever whisky to be released by the Skye distillery, Talisker Dark Storm comes in at a breezy 45.8% ABV and is packaged in suitably black-hued, stormy packaging. Matured in charred oak casks and bearing no age statement, this modestly priced £42 whisky delivers plenty of smoke on the nose along with notes of blackcurrant and liquorice on the palate. Talisker Dark Storm is available widely at major European, Middle Eastern and Asian airports. RECOMMENDED
The Teeling Whiskey CompanyThe Gathering
The Irish Whiskey Collection shops at Dublin and Cork airports are getting a growing reputation for stocking some cracking exclusives. This latest release comes from The Teeling Whiskey Company, which is run by the former owners of Cooley Distillery. The Gathering is an 11 year old single-malt whiskey released to mark The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Irish culture at home and abroad. Limited to 1,000 70cl bottles, The Gathering has been matured in ex-Bourbon barrels. Priced at €69.95 (£;60), The Gathering can be pre-ordered online at www.theloop.ie
and then collected in person at either Cork airport or Terminal 2 at Dublin airport.