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It’s whisky week
Published:  29 November, 2017

Last week, Distell announced that its Bain's Cape Mountain single grain whisky (40% abv), has gone global. So now we have a whisky form South Africa to join the slew of whisky alternatives to good old scotch.

Last night (November 28) it was Diageo’s turn with a tasting/briefing of its major scotch whisky blends along with its #LoveScotch and International Scotch Day (February 8) initiatives.

But back to Bain’s first. Crafted by ex-Derbyshire cricketer, Andy Watts, it is made in Wellington, at Distell’s James Sedgwick distillery, said to be the only commercial whisky distillery in Africa. First released in 2009, Bain’s is a double matured whisky made from 100% South African yellow maize.

The whisky is aged for three years in first fill medium-charred ex-bourbon casks. It is then re-vatted into a fresh set of first-fill bourbon casks for an additional 18 to 36 months. The double extraction is said to ensure the maximum from the casks.

Who is Bain?  It is named after Andrew Geddes Bain, who built the Bainskloof Pass that connects the town of Wellington, to the interior of the country, back in 1853.

The whisky is described as: a combination of toffee, floral and vanilla aromas on the nose. On the palate: A hint of spice softened by the sweet undertones of oak. Its finish: A warm and extended mouth-feel with an exceptionally smooth finish.

In Dominic Roskrow’s feature on single malt whisky in December’s Drinks International, he warns of complacency in scotch whisky as the likes of American (bourbon), Irish and all the newcomers from the likes of Sweden, Netherlands, England to name but three, come into the category.

As if they had heard, Diageo held a briefing and tasting or their huge portfolio of blended scotch whiskies, which account of circa 90% of all scotch whisky bought and drunk.

Led by global scotch whisky master, Ewan Gunn, and master blender, Maureen Robinson, the message is very much blends are alive and kicking and every bit as interesting as single malt whiskies. They are more difficult to make, as each has its own character, which requires many constituent parts, that are themselves are variable. Above all, consistency to house style is paramount.

We tasted David Beckham’s Haig Club Clubman, a couple of singles malts Knockando and Coal Ila, then J&B, White Horse, Bell’s, VAT 69, Buchanan’s 12 YO and Buchanan’s Red Seal and Johnnie Walker Black Label.

My personal favourites were: White Horse, VAT 69, Buchanan’s 12YO and Black Label.

As to what Bain’s and scotch whisky is up against in recent weeks DI has received news of: a new Glern Garioch expression in its Renaissance Collection; Irish Distillers’ Green Spot Chateau Montelena finish; Sullivans Cove’s Limited Edition Double Cask DC095 from Tasmania, not forgetting Laphroaig Cairdeas 15 Year Old.

Whisky on the move...