We’ve been extraordinarily lucky over the past few weeks with the weather. For me that means two things – firstly, indulgent wines to sip in the sun and as the orange sky begins paint a picture in the sky in the late afternoon. Secondly, some exceptional spirits that nod to incredible craftmanship over time. In this issue, expect pure finesse across the board and don’t be surprised if you fall in love with something new.
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask Finish 500ML, 40% ABV
Kavalan has been producing a plethora of award-winning Taiwanese whiskies for years and the Concertmaster edition is an example of just one of the gleaming gems coming out of its distillery in Yilan. This single malt starts off its life by maturing in specially selected American oak casks before being finished across Portuguese ruby, tawny and vintage port wine casks. The result is a distinct smoothness alongside a creamy and uplifting complexity. The nose screams tropical fruits with honey and coconut, while a sip brings forward rich candied fruits and vanilla.
£55 from The Whisky Shop.
Port Ellen 40-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 700ML, 50.9% ABV
Quite possibly the most exciting release of the year. This super collector’s item was produced in celebration of the return of one of the most legendary distilleries the world has ever seen, Port Ellen. Each precious drop within the 1,380 bottles has been taken from nine rogue casks and is one of the oldest and rarest releases in Islay’s history. The nine casks, four American oak hogsheads and five European oak butts were specifically chosen for their flavour profiles and blended to create a Port Ellen unlike anything seen from the distillery before. Herbal grassy notes meet burnt orange, milk smoke and crème caramel. The palate giving you bonfire smoke, leather and wood spice. I was very happy to try this.
£6,400 from The Whisky World.
Louis XIII Cognac 700ML, 40% ABV
Since 1874, Louis XIII has been creating arguably one of the purest and finest Cognacs on the market. Up to 1,200 eaux-de-vie, made using grapes grown in the grand cru Grande Champagne region of Cognac are carefully blended over the years to create a true expression of history and time. In fact, no Cellar Master ever sees out the final product – they exist to hand it over to the next generation. Each decanter is hand-crafted, no two the same – making each bottle an intricately designed personal experience. Don’t even get me started on the taste… a burst of floral, spice and fruit aromas with dried roses, honey, cigar box, plum, leather and passion fruit on the palate. This wonder only continues to open up over time, unravelling each decade as minutes go by.
£2,800 from The Whisky Exchange.
Maestro Dobel Humito Smoked Blanco Tequila 750ML, 40% ABV
Having now read this column in a couple of issues, you’ll realise it’s no secret I have a love affair with Tequila. My chosen delight this time has been named the world’s first modern-day smoked tequila. Something you don’t hear every day. This uses mesquite wood to replicate flavours from tequilas in the 1600’s, resulting in a delicate and satisfying bouquet of sweet caramel flavours with maple and honey top notes, layered with the essence of fresh-cut mesquite wood. The finish is long on the palette with hints of roasted nuts and vanilla. Utterly stunning and a must-have for those who like to explore the lesser-known side of the spirit world.
£44 at Master of Malt.
Belvedere Single Estate – Smogóry Forest 700ML 40% ABV
Our next treat takes us to a tiny village in the far west stretches of Poland which Belvedere’s Smogóry Forest estate calls home. Mild winters and long summers result in bakers-grade Diamond Dańkowskie rye – the perfect base product for this award-winning vodka. Purposely left unfiltered to allow the flavour to continue to elevate over time, this is a vodka for those who like true craft. This single-estate gem oozes with salted caramel, cereal and a touch of honey which evolves to reveal toasted bread and a hint of white pepper
£49 from Clos19.
Waterford Distillery Single Origin Series Irish Whiskey 700ML, 50% ABV
The world has patiently waited for over half a decade to taste the nectar of Ireland’s brand-new Waterford Distillery. Two expressions, each based on the precision of place and using winemaking philosophies were produced to showcase the best of Irish terroir. The first release, Bannow Island: Edition 1.1 is distilled from barley grown on the extreme southern coast of Co. Wexford, where salt-laden Atlantic winds and sandy soils create a unique terroir. Expect red roses, milk chocolate and warm vanilla custard with white pepper, salted caramel and sherry. The second simultaneous release, Ballykilcavan: Edition 1.1 is distilled from barley west of the Barrow in Co. Laois in the barley heartlands, where fertile fields are sheltered by ancient woodland. Redcurrants, grapes and freshly cut grass meet cooked bananas, brown sugar and milled wine. Only 8,000 bottles of each exist and will sell out pretty quickly.
£70 from Master of Malt.
Capensis Chardonnay 2015 750ML, 13.5% ABV
If you ever come across a wine produced by Jackson Family Wines, take notice. It will be mouth-wateringly good. This is from its first estate in South Africa, a super-high-end Chardonnay which showcases the very best of what SA’s Western Cape can produce. Creamy tropical notes intertwine with custard tart, fresh apricots, nectarines and white truffle. On the palate there’s a lively balance of acidity and creaminess from the gentle oak ageing. A fresh lemon zest evolves, before culminating in an electric zesty zing on the finish. Phwoar.
£92 from Hedonism Wines.
Arrendell Pinot Noir (Hartford Court) 2016 750ML, 14.4% ABV
Only 217 cases of this stunning Pinot Noir are produced each year from the coldest spot of Green Valley in the Russian River AVA. Planted in 1975, this old vine vineyard struggles to ripen, creating super low yields that preserve purity and a unique expression. I fall in love every time I drink a bottle, as soon as the blackcurrant, black cherry and herb-cured violets hit my nose. The palate is even juicer – black cherries, kirsch and a milk chocolate with so much texture across silky tannins and a stunning finish.
£406.25 (case of 6) from Christopher Keiller Fine Wine.
The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 750ML, 13.8% ABV
Don’t let the screwcap fool you, this is a truly stunning Cab Sauv produced by Wakefield Estate, a family-owned winery now on its third generation. They source the grapes from some of their best parcels (including the famous A70 from St. Andrews Vineyard), which then undergo 13 months of barrel ageing before being assessed once more to identify the very best parcels. These lucky barrels wait another 12 months before being bottled. Cassis, dark stewed fruits, dark chocolate and classic savoury tannins highlight what top Cab Sauv tastes like. Bravo.
£85 from Wine Direct.
Orin Swift Mannequin 2017 750ML, 15% ABV
The perfect combination of oak and true Chardonnay grape. For anyone who says they don’t like Chardonnay challenge them to try this and have the same opinion. The Californians know how to work with this grape variety and the guy who makes the stuff, Dave Phinney, seems to turn everything he touches into gold. Ripe peaches, apricots and nectarines with glazed pineapple and honey grace the nose from the get-go. This Chardonnay is packed FULL of flavour – toffee, jasmine, green apple and crème brûlée on the finish. Seriously. Just wow.
£40 from 8Wines.
Domaine Ott Clos Mireille Blanc De Blancs 2018 750ML, 12% ABV
Domaine Ott is famous for its Provence-style rosé, but a little secret I like to let people in on is that they also produce an outstanding white wine. Located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and deriving from vines with an average age of 16 years, this Semillon (81%) and Rolle (19%) blend screams flavour. Nectarine and hazelnut sit alongside peach, pear and a zestiness. Flawless texture and character. (Then, use the bottle as a vase.) One of the best whites out there.
£26 from Vinatis.
Changyu Moser XV Blanc De Noir 2018 750ML, 13.5% ABV
Allow me to introduce you to the first Cabernet Sauvignon from China – and my god is it beautiful. Firstly, the vines are around 15 years old – which is pretty unheard of when it comes to rosé. The vines themselves are located in the Ningxia province with Lenz M. Moser continuing to establish his name as a pioneering force of nature for Chinese wines. Estate bottled for that final seal of quality, you can expect grapefruit peel, exotic fruits and an array of crushed raspberries and apple. Zippy and refreshing with texture – and as you know, for me, texture is everything.
£18 from Ocado.