The Whisky Bottle

What will you find in the bottle? If you are like me, you want a liquor to excite, warm, stimulate, enrich, chill out to and generally savour for its taste and throat-caressing quality. Some of us like that peaty taste, perhaps preceded by a smokey aroma, whilst others just want something a little easier and slightly less challenging. A short while ago, I was given a just-opened bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin by someone who told me he thought it had gone off. “It smells like a farmyard,” he said. “Thanks,” I replied; gratefully received. So, when we buy a new whisky, what will lead to us to the bottle of our choice?

Having spent time recently in the company of whisky makers, sellers and drinkers at London’s Whisky Live celebration, I was continually amazed by the extent the producers go to, to sell their wares. Seeing so many whiskies together, I was struck by the range of packaging styles. So for this, my second story from the festival, I will concentrate on presentation.

Wandering from stand to stand at the Royal Horticultural Hall, a wonderfully imposing Art Deco exhibition venue in Victoria, at first with friends Peter, Paul and Gordon, I made a note of what attracted each of us to the various exhibits. Peter looked for his favourite tipples; Gordon was intent on sharing his chosen drams with a young German woman he had just met; and Paul, a whisky novice, followed me at first until he found his whisky feet and confidence – then I lost him.

So for me, I just allowed my eyes to lead me towards colourful stands, photographs, bottle shapes, tins and boxes or even kilts. I became a free spirit and was led by the visual experience Whisky Live offered.

The Glenrothes stand caught my attention. Between the tastings of their fine Speyside malts, I talked to Lucy Drake the Assistant Brand Manager about their display, which is a backlit stand made up of dozens of full bottles. Apparently, it takes time to load the display, but it is worth it; many people were drawn by the visual experience and shared in their wares. The 1994 Vintage in particular excited me; a light, fruity bouquet with a wonderful citrus flavour which went down easily as I found out more about the presentation. Glenrothes whiskies are sold in short dumpy bottles that feel comfortable in the hand and are very tactile. Their shape is based on the distillery sample bottles and have “hand written” labels to maintain a friendly appearance. In the distillery, the distiller labels the sample bottles in this manner with the tasting notes. It was my first experience of being turned on to a whisky by its presentation.

I guess for me, the converse can be said about the Alchemist range. Whilst being aware that a visual experience is completely subjective, I found this modern appearance that offered four fine malts alongside an armagnac and a calvados somewhat off-putting. As discussion raged around the stand about the exterior form, there was nevertheless no question about the quality of the liquor inside.

Old Pulteney, the most northerly mainland distillery, based in Wick, have a story that was told to me. When a new still was ordered and shipped from Rothes on Speyside, it arrived at the distillery but was too tall for the building. So, was it to be returned, the roof of the distillery raised or the top of the still removed? With true Scottish pragmatism the last option was chosen, which created a unique shape of still. Not satisfied with having a one-of-a-kind copper still, someone had the very bright idea of incorporating the shape into the top of every bottle.So if you have ever wondered about the shape of a whisky still, just buy a bottle of Old Pulteney, enjoy the visual experience and savour the rugged taste of this great northern dram. I found the 21-year-old really special. The Old Pulteney website www.oldpulteney.com is excellent, full of stories, whisky folklore and other interest, definitely worth a visit.

During my last article, I said I would announce my whisky of the show. So here goes. It was a very tough call between two: from Milroys’ own bottling I loved the Highland Park 17, but for me the Ben Riach 25 was truly sublime. Alistair Walker, the Ben Riach Regional Sales Director, gave loads of time as I went through a full flight of his whiskies.

Re: The Whisky Bottle

Did you see or try any Belgium Whisky?

Re: The Whisky Bottle

The simple answer here is no. But I am not satisfied with simple answers. Have you tried any, if so what is it called and would you recommend it?

I have heard of a Belgian whisky in development that will be available in the near future, The Belgian Owl. This whisky will fulfil one of the criteria I believe is part of fine malt production across the world. It has been borne out of the love and passion for the wonderful liquor.

The passion for The Belgian Owl comes from one man; Etienne Bouillon is the owner of the distillery. He is also the only employee, therefore the master distiller, the buyer, also the administrative and sales managers.

I look forward to trying this in the future. This page will give you more information.

Any more international stories?

Keep drinking.

Re: The Whisky Bottle