Filed under: Spirits
Exploring uncharted territory can be fun – breaking a trail, building a fire, pitching a tent – but the best part usually comes at the end when you sit down and pour yourself something special. Why not just cut straight to the drinks? With the newly-founded Whisky Explorers Club you can do just that. Designed to be a year-long adventure in tasting and exploring sensational Scotch whiskies usually only accessible to an intrepid few, membership gets you a shipment of four hard-to-come-by whisky samples six times a year, selected by a panel of malt experts who roam Scotland seeking out rare and sensational spirits. That adds up to 24 different whiskies a year. There are different levels of membership starting at $120 per year, with higher grades getting additional shipments; only a limited number of memberships are being offered.
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The rare whisky, a bottling of three barrels distilled between 1926 and 1928, was one of more than 700 lots in the McTear's Rare and Collectible whisky sale. Macallan whiskies routinely top the list of most highly prized vintage whiskies. Others that usually draw high prices include Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Springbank, Glenmorangie, Highland Park and Ardbeg. A 73-year old bottle of Glenfiddich, one of the rarest single-malt whiskies in the world, is expected to fetch £20,000 when it is auctioned next month. There were only 61 bottles of this vintage produced. The sale will be held at Bonhams of Edinburgh, Scotland on June 16.
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When it comes to scotch we are always-eager drinkers, yet we know our palate for the ochre-hued beverage has a few years of finesse left to develop before we can lay claim to a scotch maturity. Yet if we are known for anything, it is our willingness to do what it takes to hone those finer points of our humanity. It was the brand's parent, Whyte & Mackay, who flew us to Edinburgh to take the next step in our whiskey learning, and that is how we found ourselves seated in a table at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, set before Benjamin West's 12-foot-wide, 17-foot-tall painting from 1786, Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag by the Intrepidity of Colin Fitzgerald, about to taste The Dalmore Mackenzie. Our hosts provided us a powerful and delicious education.
Gallery: Luxist Tastes The Dalmore Mackenzie
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The effect, as one would expect, is higher vanilla notes than is found normally in Glenfiddich, the number-one single-malt Scotch whiskey in the world. The notes of dried fruit and walnuts shine through as is the case with any Glenfiddich pour.
More than 200 years ago one of the greatest open boat voyages in maritime history took place when Fletcher Christian cast William Bligh and 18 of his men adrift on the ocean in a 23ft open boat. The 19 men sailed more than 3700 miles over 7 weeks in a crowded boat and with no charts and little food or water. Now this year the adventure will take place again, as Australian adventurer Don McIntyre and three other men will attempt to recreate the "Mutiny on the Bounty" by sailing the same route under similar circumstances -- without enough food or water, no charts, and nothing but an 18th century timber whale boat between them and the sea.
The Talisker Bounty Boat Expedition is being sponsored by none other than Talisker single malt Scotch whisky, and despite their obvious hunger for adventure McIntyre and his crew are also hoping to raise more than $250,000 for The Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease to build the world's first research Institute for Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Donate to the cause and follow the boat's progress at bountyboat.com.
On the day I arrived in Hobart, Tasmania's harbor-side capital, I was not expecting to hear much about Scotland and whisky.
After all, I'd just traveled about 10,000 miles from New York to Australia, and Scotland is just about the same distance in the other direction; if anything, I was prepared to hear about France because Tasmania has vineyards, and as every luxury traveler knows, wherever grapes grow, conversations about France flourish. But that evening, I gamely battled jet-lag to visit Lark Distillery's cozy downtown bar, and had a chat with owner Bill Lark, it was Scotland that we discussed the most.
Lark, a former land surveyor who bears an eerie resemblance to Kris Kringle, is Australia's patron saint of whisky. A decade or so ago, he realized that Tasmania had what it needed for whisky -- pure water, barley, even its own peat bogs. (If you're Australian, you'd giggle at this, since "bog" is slang for a toilet.) Anyway, the only trouble Lark faced was the law: a 1901 distillery law mandated very large stills, and he didn't want to run a giant whisky operation. So he successfully lobbied the Australian legislature to change its 1901 distillery law, and when he opened in 1996, became the first to open a licensed whisky distillery in 153 years. After that, Lark traveled to Scotland to learn the craft, returned to Tasmania, found a still-maker who could make one small enough for his purposes, and got cranking.
It all worked: the whisky's award-winning (more on that in a moment), Lark now runs a distillery school and is a distillery consultant. There are now five other whisky makers who have opened in Lark's wake, and another two getting started in Tasmania, which would very much like to be known as "Australia's Whisky Isle".
In an example of things going full circle, Lark's now a consultant to and an investor in a Kingsbarns Farm Distillery in Scotland, in the beginning phases of start up, just a few miles from St. Andrew's . "I can't teach the Scots how to make whisky, they taught me," Lark says. But Scotch tends to be brewed on a large scale, and Lark's developed expertise in distilling on a smaller scale. In fact, Kingsbarns is buying its stills from Lark's Tasmanian supplier. More on Lark and Scotland here.
Want to taste Lark's whisky for yourself?
Famed Speyside distillery The Macallan and legendary crystal artisan Lalique have produced a one-of-a-kind decanter, created by the ancient "cire perdue" or "lost wax" method, holding the oldest and rarest Macallan ever bottled. The Macallan in Lalique Cire Perdue decanter, created to celebrate the 150th René Lalique's birth and containing a 64 years old Macallan single malt whisky, will be auctioned off by Sotheby's on November 15, 2010 in New York. All proceeds from the sale, which is expected to top $75,000, will be donated to charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. For the next eight months, The Macallan in Lalique: Cire Perdue decanter will travel around the world from Paris to New York via Madrid, London, Moscow, Seoul, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Taipei, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo. The Cire Perdue decanter was designed and painstakingly hand crafted by Lalique exclusively for The Macallan, inspired by the beauty of The Macallan's 150 hectare estate in north-eastern Scotland.
The decanter is based upon a ship's decanter of the 1820s, the decade in which The Macallan was founded, and features a beautifully engraved panorama of The Macallan estate by the river Spey. The 64 years old Macallan has been vatted together from three casks, all built from sherry seasoned Spanish oak. The first was filled in 1942, the second in 1945 and the third in January 1946, from which the age of this great Macallan has been taken. Prior to the release of this 64 years old Macallan in the Cire Perdue decanter, the previous oldest Macallan released by the distillery was the 60 years old, distilled in 1926 and bottled in 1986, of which only forty bottles were ever produced. The lost wax process is an ancient practice originally developed to cast large pieces in bronze. After first modeling a piece in wax, it is covered with plaster and then sent to the oven to bake the clay while the wax melts. Finally, molten crystal is poured in the emptied shape.
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Famed Speyside distillery The Macallan and the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club at Aspen Highlands (above) have teamed up on a tantalizing Scotch and ski package combining the ultimate in single malt whisky, luxe accommodations, and winter sports - The Macallan Winter Escape. Eden Algie, The Macallan's Brand Ambassador, is inviting fellow enthusiasts to enjoy one last ultra-premium adventure both on and off the slopes before the snow melts, from March 20-26. The Winter Escape Package Includes: a private one-on-one Macallan tasting experience with Algie; luxurious accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton Club, Aspen Highlands; ski in / ski out access to Aspen Highlands; personal 24-hour concierge service; unlimited use of all the Ritz-Carlton Club, Aspen Highlands amenities; a decadent progressive dinner experience featuring limited-edition expressions paired with The Macallan-infused food pairings from Executive Chef Jami Flatt; and more. A four night package including one complimentary night is available for $3,036 and a seven night package including two complimentary nights is available for $4,585; both get you a two-bedroom Club residence. Click here for more info.
Talk about "Scotch on ice" - with the excitement of the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, Laphroaig single malt Scotch is kicking off a year-long celebration of Scottish heritage with its official sponsorship of the United States Curling Association (USCA). At an event to kick off the partnership, bringing together two of the greatest traditions from Scotland – Laphroaig and curling – Scotch Malt Master Simon Brook (right) engaged guests in a Laphroaig tasting while Jessica Schultz (left), 2006 Winter Olympics Curling Team Member, led a hands-on curling demonstration.
Rich, smoky Laphroaig, established in 1815 on Islay, holds a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales and bears his heraldic three-feather badge on its label. "There are few brands out there that have as deep a Scottish history as Laphroaig," notes USCA President Leland Rich. "We are honored to have such a respected brand sponsor the United States Curling Association. This truly brings the spirit of the winter games to new heights." Often referred to as "chess on ice" or "winter golf," curling originated in Scotland in the 16th century.
An extremely rare $11,000 bottle of over 50 year old Glenfiddich single malt Scotch headlines the uncommon offerings in Bonhams' Whisky sale set for Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3. The coveted Glenfiddich was bottled in 1991 from rare casks filled in 1937 and 1939 distilled by William Grant & Sons Ltd., and comes in a wooden presentation cabinet. Also sure to draw fierce bidding are two rare bottles of The Macallan in special decanters, a 55 year old expected to fetch up to $10,000 and a 50 year old that could go as high as $6,500. Other highly-prized Macallans on offer include a Select Reserve 52 year old ($4,000) and two bottles of the 1938 vintage ($2,500). In addition a collection of six very special Springbank single malts (above) - 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 year old - is being sold as one lot carrying an estimate of up to $6,500.
Cawdor Castle, one of Scotland's greatest estates which dates back to 1380, is the centerpiece of a beautiful new book focusing on the very best of Scottish style. Highland Living: Landscape, Style, and Traditions of Scotland (Flammarion, $39.95) by Stéphane Bern and Franck Ferrand with photographs by Guillaume de Laubier opens with a foreword by the castle's formidable mistress, Angelika, the Dowager Countess Cawdor (above). Born in Bohemia and raised in Africa, the exotic beauty was a fashion editor at Vogue and directed a marketing company in Paris before marrying the late Hugh, 6th Earl Cawdor and 24th Thane, and falling in love with the Scottish Highlands. In 30 years at Cawdor she has given new life to the legendary estate while preserving its historic heritage and way of Highland living.
At the heart of Scotland lies the legendary Cawdor Castle, best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, the title character of which was made Thane of Cawdor. With its rich history, vibrant grounds and deep lochs, ancient, stony ruins, stewardship of revered traditions, and completely sustainable existence, the Cawdor estate, occupying over 49,000 acres, exemplifies the essence of the Highlands. Its magnificent interiors are filled with glorious antiques and handcrafted furniture, tartan accessories, hunting trophies and painted landscapes. Kilts and bagpipes, salmon and fly fishing, grouse shooting, hunting dogs, Land Rovers, shotguns and Barbour jackets, the shady realm of the Big Wood, thematic gardens, windswept moors, haggis and Scotch whisky are all part of life at the storied Castle.
Gallery: Highland Living at Cawdor
A one-of-a-kind bespoke cabinet designed by Viscount David Linley containing six extremely rare bottles of vintage single malt whisky from famed Speyside distillery The Macallan is on offer at Harrods in London for about $90,000. Macallan commissioned the royal cabinetmaker to produce the exquisite piece solely for Harrods, designed to be ultra luxurious and unique in every way. The six precious bottles are Macallan's prized 1937, 1940, 1948, 1955, 1966 and 1970 vintages. Handcrafted in Linley's workshop from solid English Burr Oak with mirrored interior panels the cabinet also includes six bespoke Linley-designed crystal whisky tumblers as well as a cigar humidor in the fold-out side compartments.
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It is bottled in a light brown bottle with a historically inspired label that depicts Earl Magnus in a stained glass window. It comes in a wooden gift box etched with Highland Park branding and the tale of Earl Magnus – the story of his life, his murder at the hands of a cousin, his canonization and the building of St Magnus cathedral. The whisky is meant to celebrate the history of Orkney and will be available from late December in the UK selling for £85.