The Lakes Distillery just opened recently, in the Lake District – an absolutely beautiful region of England – my favourite area in the world. This winter, I had the chance to drop by and try their blended whisky, which is a blend of whiskies from all over the British Isles – rather than simply a Scottish or Irish Blend, though most of the components come from Scotland. The distillery itself is quite spectacular and care was certainly taken in planning and building it. They will be making a single malt but it is still maturing and will be ready in 2017; they also make an absolutely fantastic toffee vodka.
Campbeltown, a small whisky region in Scotland, used to be a buzzing whisky producing area with many distilleries but now is home to only three, of which Springbank is one and the same family which owns Springbank owns Glengyle, another. The distillery malts, distills, ages, and bottles all of their whisky on site – the only Scottish distillery which does so. It is privately owned by a family, and was founded in 1828, though it was closed from 1979 to 1987 and 08-09. The family has retained good practices, and the whiskies are presented very well – without added colouring or filtration, and at a good proof to allow the flavours to come through. Springbank is distilled “2 and a half times” – by that meaning that some of the new make has been distilled twice, and some three times, with long fermentations which bring out more fruity characters. The same distillery also makes other single malts – a more heavily peated Longrow (distilled twice) and an unpeated Hazelburn (distilled three times).
Macallan recently replaced their core range of products, which had age statements on them with a number of new whiskies focused on the “natural colour” of the whiskies, of which this whisky is the cheapest. Lots of stir has been created with these, as less information about the whisky is now presented on the label, and it allows the distillers to use casks that may not be quite old enough due to supply issues. With that said, some barrels mature faster than others, so it also enables the distilleries to take advantage of that. Generally, I don’t mind No-Age-Statement (NAS) releases, provided they are quality product – it keeps people away from the general age-is-better (not always) mentality, and enables more creativity. However, sadly, many of these NAS whiskies provide very little information about what actually goes into them, which is very unfortunate, and it gives distilleries license to provide even less information about their product. I find difficult in finding what is actually good rather than just a nicely marketed with all these releases everywhere.
Bulleit is a bourbon producer, not a distillery. For a long time production was out of Four Roses as originally the two brands were both owned by Seagrams, but now Diageo is building a new distillery in Kentucky which will produce Bulleit products, among other things. It is a popular brand and demand certainly could necessitate a full distillery for production. The bourbon also has a fairly high percentage of rye, and is widely renowned for its performance in cocktails.
This product is a blend of three different bourbons – an 18 year old “OBSV” recipe (high rye mashbill, with a yeast with “delicate fruitiness”), a 13 year old “OBSK” (high rye, with a full body and spiciness), and a 13 year old “OESK” (low rye mashbill, with a spicy yeast). It is also bottled at barrel strength, non chill-filtered (none of the fatty compounds are filtered out, as typical with whisky), and came out at a very reasonable price. Four Roses could have charged twice what they did and they would have had no difficulty at all selling every bottle…whisky is that popular right now. I am very glad to both have gotten a bottle and not had to pay an absurd amount to get it.
Four Roses distillery uses 5 proprietary yeast strains, and two mashbills (recipes), to produce 10 different bourbons which it produces and ages separately and then blends into their bourbons. This whiskey, Small Batch, is created from 4 of these recipes. These are the OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK. The first two -“OB” recipes – utilize a high-rye mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. The second two – “OE” recipes – utilize a lower-rye mashbill: 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.
This product is bottled as a single barrel – that is, each bottle is bottled from spirit which was only contained in one single barrel over the course of its againg (bottled by hand, in accordance with single barrel regulations), from the OBSV recipe of Four Roses (Four Roses utilizes a total of 10 different recipes). OBSV is made with their “B” high rye mashbill – 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5 % malted barley combined with their “V” yeast, which is supposed to contribute “delicate fruitiness” to the bourbon. As the bourbon is from a single barrel, each barrel will be a little different – but distilleries work hard to keep the quality and profile consistent.