Book Review: Malt Whisky Yearbook 2021

The Malt Whisky Yearbook is an annual “field guide” to the world of malt whisky and the malt whisky industry. Author/Editor and Keeper of the Quaich Ingvar Ronde started in 2005 – and every year thereafter – compiling 12 months of news, facts, and figures from the industry while also managing to capture the overall trend and feel of the marketplace. In a way, it’s like a whole year of whisky magazine issues compressed into one compact and concise guidebook.

Starward Nova Single Malt

Starward is a small upstart Melbourne distillery with a single pair of copper pot stills. They source all of the ingredients for their whisky from local Australian products (“within a day’s drive”), ferment the local malted barley with brewer’s yeast and then double-distill and age it on-site. Starward takes advantage of the availability of local Australian red wine casks (still wet with cabernet, pinot noir, and shiraz…

Sagamore Spirit Cask Strength Rye

This is a blend of MGP-distilled straight rye whiskies from two different mash bills at 4 years old. Because these are contract distillations they aren’t just blending tanks of already-aged standard MGP rye, but rather specifying the mash bill and barrel entry proof and waiting for the rye to hit target ages before blending them. … The result is bottled at cask strength, or close to it (they add a “splash” of Maryland spring water to bring the batch to 56.1% ABV, presumably for consistency).

Bruichladdich: The Octomore Eleven

The Octomore 11 Insider’s Guide: A whisky enthusiast’s companion for exploring the depths of Bruichladdich Distillery’s 11th series of Octomore. For 30 days, a group of 11 whisky aficionados spent time with the team at Bruichladdich to experience a deep dive into the history, processes, complexities and evolutions of the world’s most peated whisky. This one-of-a-kind collaboration reflects the union between the passionate team behind Octomore and the 11 enthusiasts who were given the opportunity to appreciate it first-hand. What unfolded was this compendium, crafted for your enjoyment, to accompany and complement your experience with this remarkable spirit.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 year (4th edition)

The idea behind the 10 year-old editions of Octomore is for Bruichladdich to examine the effects of longer aging on the somewhat-well-understood young (typically 5 year-old) Octomore. As Head Distiller Adam Hannett said in our interview session for the Octomore 11 campaign, “we just don’t know everything,” and “there are so many infinite variables in the creation of single malt whisky, so we try to isolate one variable at a time to see how it improves the whisky, or doesn’t.”

Bruichladdich Octomore 11.3

The Octomore .3 releases are always made from 100% Islay-grown barley from Octomore farm by “The Godfather of Soil” James Brown. This year’s 11.3 release is 5 years old and was aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks from a variety of bourbon distilleries … Jim McEwan talks about the soil of Islay and why he goes to such cost-inefficient lengths to get 100% Islay barley. He talks about how mainland Scottish farms can pull 3 or 3.5 tons of barley per acre in yield while Islay’s difficult climate maxes out around 2 tons. Moreover…

Bruichladdich Octomore 11.1

Octomore, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of shelling out $150+ for a bottle of one of the past ten editions, is the most heavily-peated whisky in the world. It’s bottled at cask strength and comes out every year in either 3 or 4 varieties. In brief, 11.1 is 5 years old and was aged only in ex-bourbon American oak. … this year was distilled in 2014 from the 2013 harvest of Scottish-grown (not on Islay) Concerto and Propino barley. The barley was malted by Bairds in Inverness to 139.6 ppm and the final 30,000 bottles were bottled at 59.4% ABV. The release was aged for…

Sagamore Spirit Rye

A little searching online reveals that Sagamore is blending two MGP products; a high-rye (95% rye, 5% malted barley) and a low-rye (unspecified mash bill). They are also cask-finishing a number of casks in everything from Cognac to Calvados, so they aren’t just resting on MGP’s laurels. If nothing else, at least they are revealing the source of their whiskey instead of trying to hide it.

Craigellachie (13 year)

This official bottling (one of three from the distillery including a 17-year and a 23-year, all new in 2014 after Bacardi assumed ownership) comes from a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and is bottled at 46% ABV without added coloring and without chill filtration. … Upon further reading, I wonder if the famous sulphur note that everyone says is a hallmark of Craigellachie might be hitting my jaded senses as banana. That will require more investigation.