This past week I was fortunate enough to, once again, be able to attend Shelter Point Whisky Club’s monthly tasting. Hosted by Master Distiller, Leon Webb, at the stunning Shelter Point Distillery, we tasted 4 drams from distilleries that, at one point is history, had closed its doors and then been re-opened or “resurrected.” This tasting event was done blind, which means the bottles are not revealed until after everyone has tried them all, made notes, rated and ranked them and taken a guess as to which distillery they came from. I really enjoy this type of tasting because it allows one to explore the whisky without any preconceived ideas or opinions based on the label or manufacturer.
The first whiskey I sampled was Kilbeggan from Ireland. This was my least favourite of the group, however, was probably one of the best Irish Whiskies I have tried. Kilbeggan Distillery is the oldest licenced distillery in Ireland dating back to 1757. One of the pot stills still in use is over 186 years old. The distillery closed in 1957 and 25 years later the community of Kilbeggan restored the distillery and opened it as a whiskey distillery museum. Cooley Distillery then took over and started producing Kilbeggan and Lockes Whiskey.
Next up was Bruichladdich “The Classic Laddie.” I ranked this #3 of the 4 and enjoyed the sweet toffee finish. Bruichladdich Distillery was originally founded in 1881 by the Harvey Brothers on the isle of Islay. It was closed down in 1994 and the re-vamped and re-opened in May of 2000. This Non Age Statement whisky is made with 100% Scottish Barley and is “trickle” distilled and matured in American Oak. I am not sure of the exact science behind it but they control heat during the distillation process to slow the run to a gurgle or “trickle.”
Runner up, for me, was another Bruichladdich but this was a special one of the old guard. We were told that we would be sampling the most expensive whisky the club has ever tried and this one did not disappoint. Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 23 Year old. This is a very strong, dark whisky with complex flavours and aromas. The composition of this expression is a secret but it has been aged in American and French Oak. It definitely left me wanting to explore it more!
The top dram of the evening for me, and the majority of the club, was Glendronach 12 year Old. Glendronach distillery was founded in 1826 as the second distillery to apply for a licence to legally produce whisky under the Excise Act of 1823. The distillery was mothballed in 1996 and reopened again in 2001. This whisky was an amazingly sweet sherry bomb that, because of the 6 year layoff, drinks like an 18 year old whisky in my humble opinion. I will most definitely be adding this one to my collection. The trick will be, as usual, keeping it there for any length of time!