Checking out June's Pour & Sip box!
June is here! The sun is finally shining, and this month we’ve got an intriguing trio of Scotch whiskies, as well as two rye expressions that couldn’t be more different – we can’t wait to get stuck in.
Sagamore Spirit Signature Rye
Ever heard of Maryland rye whiskey? You’d be forgiven if the answer is no – though if you travelled back in time before World War II, you’d find that Maryland was synonymous with rye whiskey. At its peak pre-Prohibition, the state was producing 14.1 million gallons of it in a year! It’s not rye as you likely know it, as Maryland rye whiskey puts more emphasis on the sweeter side of the grain, rather than the dry, burley spiciness often associated with the grain. Though the style of whiskey was nearly lost to history, Sagamore Spirit is bringing the tradition back, opening its distillery in 2017 on the banks of the Patapsco River. So, how does Sagamore achieve this sweeter style? The distillers make two batches of whiskey – one made with a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, and the other with just 52% rye and the rest mostly corn, which is sweeter – and blend them together. Then it’s all brought down to bottling strength with limestone-filtered water from Sagamore Farm. It’s sweet and approachable without becoming cloying – we bet you haven’t tried rye whiskey like this before!
Stauning El Clásico
Our second rye whisky couldn’t be more different, coming to us from the Stauning distillery in Denmark! The experimental El Clásico is said to be the world's first rye whisky matured in ex-vermouth casks, so this is pretty special. The idea behind the expression was that rye whisky and vermouth go so wonderfully together in a Manhattan cocktail, why not take out the middleman and simply mature rye whisky in ex-vermouth casks? The whisky itself is made with 51% malted rye and 49% malted barley, both harvested in the village of Stauning. While there’s a generous dose of spice, malting the rye softens it a little – that, along with the high proportion of malted barley, really mellows things out. After an initial maturation in virgin American oak, it’s finished in ex-Spanish vermouth casks. The sweetness of the grains coupled with the herbaceous bitterness of the cask finish makes for a well-rounded, thoroughly enjoyable sipper. I’m pretty sure it would be right at home in an actual Manhattan, too…
Lowland Scotch whisky here, Vinaya is a shiny new release from the Bladnoch Distillery! Since its origins in 1817 the distillery has had something of a rocky time, changing hands and being mothballed several times throughout its history. With this release, the team are looking back on that history, and wanted to pay homage to the original founders of the distillery. ‘Vinaya’ is a Sanskrit word meaning respect and gratitude, and that’s exactly what this expression shows to the original team. A duo of first-fill ex-bourbon and first-fill ex-sherry casks have been used to showcase the hallmark style of Bladnoch whisky – the former highlights those classic Lowland florals and adds bright citrus fruit, while the latter brings richer, chocolatey notes. It’s then brought down to bottling strength with water sourced from the River Bladnoch, from which the distillery takes its name. Rather interestingly, bourbon and sherry is a cask combination that hasn’t been seen before from Bladnoch, so this is something of a first!
Balblair 15 Year Old
Balblair is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, founded all the way back in 1790 in the Scottish Highlands. The idyllic distillery is surrounded by rolling hills, with its water source, the Allt Dearg, flowing nearby. In 2019, Balblair said goodbye to vintages and hello to age statements, which is when this 15 Year Old was released! The distillery’s new make spirit boasts a bright balance of estery ripe fruit and florals, along with the heavier, oilier flavours of nuts and tobacco – and the duo of cask types used to mature this expression emphasises all those flavours wonderfully. It was initially matured in vanilla-forward, tropical American oak ex-bourbon casks, before it was moved to first-fill Spanish oak butts, which impart spicier, warmer nuances.
Glenfarclas 15 Year Old
The well-known Glenfarclas Distillery was founded in 1836, and came into the hands of the Grant family in 1865 – and remains family-run to this day! Glenfarclas and sherry casks are pretty much synonymous; while the Speyside distillery doesn’t exclusively age its whisky in them, it does use them for a very high proportion of its maturation. It’s easy to see why, with the casks resulting in a warming medley of juicy, festive flavours – all of which you’ll find in this sherry-matured 15 Year Old! This particular release is bottled at 46% ABV, for the simple reason that it’s the strength that George Grant’s (sixth generation of the family) grandfather preferred it at.
This month on Pour & Sip Digest I’ll be delving into the history of Maryland rye, and we’ll have Episode 2 of our Aber Fall Diary of a Cask video series landing. We’ll also be shining a spotlight on one of the fabulous Scotch distilleries, and we’ve got a special interview in the pipeline, too – but you’ll have to wait and see who that’s with!