The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

The Whisky Tasting Club is a company set up by four friends because we love whisky. It has grown larger than we ever thought it would, but it is never going to make us rich. We all have proper jobs and run the club as a hobby. We stay enthused for exactly the same reason why we think the business works. It gives us a mechanism for tasting new whisky. We now have over twenty standard packs on the website and do monthly special tastings for our regulars. But we want more! So we are now branching out into premium packs. Our standard packs use whiskies in the price range £30-£60. Premium packs allow us to try whiskies in the range £50-£100, sometimes even higher.

Iíve chosen this pack to reflect my whisky journey, which really began in 2008. Prior to that, whisky was something I had consumed too much of at a party in 1986 and not touched since. For 20 years I never touched the stuff. I thank WTC directors Dom and Pat for opening my eyes. Now I part own a whisky company, own over a hundred bottle personally, wear whisky branded merchandise and holiday in Islay. Converts are always the most radical.

Iíve always gone for extreme flavours, and it was peaty whisky that really set me on the whisky path. I love Islay and Islay whisky, and like many I canít decide which of the holy trinity of Lagavulin, Laphroaig or Ardbeg is my favourite. Lagavulin are a model of consistency and quality, but reek of middle age. After a golden age, Laphroaig seem to have gone off the boil with some average recent releases, although their annual cask strength release is still excellent. Ardbeg are a cult whisky that innovate, but are also often criticised for gimmicky marketing of pretty average special releases. If pushed, Iíd choose Lagavulin, and I have picked my favorite Lagavulin standard expression, the 12 year old. This is released in large batches every year, and is consistently excellent. High alcohol strength goes well with very peaty whisky, so I have also chosen the Ardbeg Corryvreckan. The only reason Iíve not chosen the Laphroaig cask strength is that we already have it in another pack!

Its not all about peat. Iíve chosen the Nikka blend Taketsuru 21year old because it is a complex, subtle whisky that captures many of the great flavours common to Japanese whisky. Japanese whisky is in the perfect storm of surging demand, particularly across Asia, and limited supply. Distilleries have abandoned all age statements and prices have sky rocketed. Even entry level Japanese whisky is shockingly expensive. Oh well, the great thing about whisky is there are always other ones to try. Whisky in America is going through a renaissance, and it has become hugely popular in the UK too. We did our first Bourbon pack in 2011. For three years, it hardly sold at all. Over Christmas 2014, it was one of our best selling packs. I now always have a bottle of Bourbon or Rye open. Iíve picked one of my favourites that you donít see too often, Noahís Mill.

Finally, a Scotch I like and is a fairly recent release, the Craigellachie 17 year old. I hope you enjoy drinking them as much as I did picking them.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Corryvreckan was first released as a Committee bottling in 2008 and became part of the core range the following year. It is named after a whirlpool just north of Jura and the crazy cascade of flavours it gives make the name seem apposite. Most Ardbeg fans rave over sherried expressions like Uigeadail, but for me the Corryvreckan is a great example of the Ardbegs I like: young, strong and matured only in bourbon casks.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: peat, and lots of it.
Palate: Starts of smooth, soft and sweet put then a wave of smoky, earthy peat dominates for a while. Ardbegís clean, grassy lightness is always there, nothing of the farmyard here.

Retails for around £70

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Craigellachie 17 year old

Craigellachie is a Speyside distillery owned by Bacardi. The vast majority of the maximum 4 million litres production goes into Dewars blends and single malt bottlings have always been rare. This changed in 2014 when Bicardi launched a range of elegantly packaged bottlings at the unusual ages of 13, 17 and 21 years. This is no bland Speysider. There is a complexity in all three drams. I think the 17 is the best of them.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Not the most complex nose, gentle fruit and vanilla.
Palate: †A very savoury, quirky dram. It starts with a familiar Speyside smoothness, but a deep woody note soon takes charge, feeding a certain fieriness and filling the mouth with warmth. In the end, gentle fruitiness wins out over wood and earth.

Retails for around £85

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Lagavulin 12 year old, 2014 Edition

The Lagavulin 12 year old is part of the Diageo annual release of special editions that always elicits excitement about the whisky and outrage at the pricing in equal measure. The Lagavulin 12 year old is the highest volume release. People claim there is huge variation year on year, but I have tried every single one and think it is remarkably consistently excellent year on year. The extra strength and the fact it is only matured in bourbon casks really brings out the Lagavulin character.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Palate:

Retails for around £80

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Noah's Mill

Noahís Mill is a small batch bourbon produced in Bardstown by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillery (KBD). Until recently, KBD were independent bottlers rather than distillers, taking spirit from Heaven Hill to make brands such as Willet, Rowanís Creek, Johnny Drum and Noahís Mill. My favourite of these is Noahís Mill, which is bottled at cask strength from whisky aged between 4 and 20 years with a wide range of rye based mash bills, along with some wheated bourbon. This makes it complex and delicious.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: †A spicy, rye like nose that makes you think of cigars and gambling dens. It is deep and rich.
Palate: a little thin at the start, then a slightly alarming huge alcohol rush. This fades to be replaced by a deep, musty bourbon finish. Less vanilla and bananas. It is an intense experience and you might want to water it, but I like it as is.

Retails for around £55

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Compass Box Lost Blend

Secreted in a corner of West London is one of the most innovative whisky makers in the business. Compass Box, formed in 2000, produces artisanal, handcrafted whiskies using some of the finest Scotch malt and grains available. Compass Box Released in 2014, Compass Box's The Lost Blend is a limited edition vatted malt comprised 80% unpeated Highland malts (Clynelish and Allt-a-Bhainne) and 20% peated Islay from Caol Ila.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Gentle fruit lingers in the nose.
Palate: A little peat at first, blending with the fruity highlanders before a surprising little alcohol kick at the end.

Retails for around £80

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