Over the years I have been very lucky to visit some fascinating places chosen as venues for Scotch whisky launches, but few have been quite so intriguing as a recent trip to John Lobb Bootmaker of St James's St. London. This family-run company has been making bespoke shoes in the exactly the same painstaking way since 1866 and past customers have included famous names such as Duke Ellington, Mahatma Gandhi, Guglielmo Marconi, Laurence Olivier and Frank Sinatra.
Why did The Glenlivet choose this dusty, box-filled shop as the place to launch the first whisky in a new three-product travel-retail exclusive collection? Well, I guess the idea was to stress the Speyside distillery's attachment to craftsmanship , as well as to link the world of shoes and whisky to Spain, famed worldwide of course for its leather and sherry.
However, it turned out John Lobb gets most of its leather from England but hey ho, the idea was good as was, I am pleased to say, the whisky.
After all that preamble it will come as no surprise then to learn that the new The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso is aged solely in ex-sherry casks (the first major bottling from the distillery to be so). For anybody used to the classically delicate, almost floral style of The Glenlivet this powerful 48% abv whisky comes as a bit of a surprise. The sherry maturation gives the whisky extra sweetness and spice and delicious marmalade and dark chocolate flavours.
The 1-litre Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso will initially be available at London Heathrow Terminal 5 with World Duty Free and at Heinemann Duty Free at Frankfurt airport (priced at €55/£45) before a wider roll out later in the year. Two more travel-retail exclusive The Glenlivet Nàdurra expressions are to be released shortly.
From one of the world's best-known single-malts to one few are ever likely to have tried: Royal Brackla. It's one of five whisky distilleries run by Bacardi, the owner of Dewar's, and the lion's share of what it has produced over the years has gone into that hugely popular blend.
The rise and rise of single malts cannot be ignored, however, and Bacardi has widely decided to resurrect Royal Brackla in fine style in the shape of Royal Brackla 35 Year Old: a limited edition $15,000 (£8,890) whisky, which has just gone on sale exclusively at Singapore Changi airport.
Housed in an impressive orb-shaped 70cl decanter topped with a crown-shaped crystal stopper, this 49% cask-strength whisky commemorates the 200th anniversary of the distillery, which was the first to be given a royal warrant, bestowed by King William IV in 1833. The Royal Brackla crest, inspired by King William IV's monogram, is displayed on the bottle and the presentation case.
40 Year Old
The first release of Hankey Bannister 40 Year Old back in 2007 took the whisky world by storm. Master blender Stuart Harvey's creation sold out in a flash and won a clutch of awards, including 'World's Best Blended Whisky' at the World Whisky Awards and 'Supreme Champion Spirit' at the ISC. Now Harvey has worked his magic a second time around and produced a new 40 Year Old blend limited to just 500 decanters. Bottled at a natural cask strength of 44.3% abv and non chill-filtered, includes whiskies matured in a rare 1970 Spanish sherry hogshead and a 1967 Spanish sherry cask. A dark copper-gold after all those years asleep in the casks, the whisky offers up sweet vanilla on the nose along with butterscotch, candied apricot and baked apples and the rich, complex flavour is spicy Priced at around £800 each.
The Famous Grouse
16 Year Old Double Matured Blended Scotch Whisky
This new travel-retail exclusive expression of The Famous Grouse comes in a beautifully designed outer gift carton and bottle designed by award-winning London-based artist Vic Lee, whose highly imaginative and detailed pen work makes this new launch stand out on the shelf. As the name suggests the whisky itself is double matured in first-fill Spanish sherry casks and first-fill American bourbon casks, resulting in a smooth whisky full of spicy nutmeg, cinnamon bark and vanilla notes. It is modestly priced at around $99 (£59) for a 70cl bottle.