Have you ever wanted to travel to Scotland with a likeminded group of whisky lovers? This summer, September 2-9, we’re co-sponsoring our first-ever whisky-themed trip with Customized Journeys, a boutique travel agency specializing in memorable vacations. Interested in coming along? Check out the trip page here. Of the many distilleries we’ll visit on our upcoming trip to Scotland, Glenkinchie is the only Lowland member of the bunch. Located in East Lothian, a district of bucolic rural landscapes and gently rolling fields, it’s a quick trip from the brooding city of Edinburgh, yet a world apart. Glenkinchie Distillery is owned by Diageo. Its malt goes into blends like Haig’s and Dewars, and its flagship 12-year-old single malt (sometimes referred to as the “Edinburgh Malt” for its proximity to the city) is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts of Scotland collection. The Glenkinchie Distillery in its current form was founded in 1880, although Diageo traces its lineage back to 1825, the year the Milton Distillery commenced production on the same site. It’s fantastic over ice and has a drink-ability that’s almost dangerous. This will always be on my shelf. JD is good but this is far more interesting – the complexity of the flavors and how they fit well together is quite impressive. Delicious, smooth. Not too firey, vanilla and blackcurrant, easy to drink straight. Sweet, easy drinking, well priced. Does it get any better? I really do like Bulleit Bourbon, mainly because of it’s high rye content (I do love my rye whiskeys). It’s reasonably priced and very good value for money, and makes a great Old Fashioned. Obviously it’s no W L Weller, Bookers or Pappy, but for a utility Bourbon I think it’s great. Buffalo Trace is possibly my favourite utility Bourbon, but I love the peppery start (it’s that rye again) and smooth finish of the Bulleit. Tried this bourbon for the first time and was very pleased with it.

The pie isn’t overly sweet but is rich in baking spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. As for The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old it gives light sweetness which brings out a similar sweetness in the pie. The ginger in the pie works well with the pineapple notes found in the Caribbean Rum cask finish, which also adds a peppery spiciness that compliments the abundance of baking spices found in the pie. This is a classic pie (remember American Pie movie?) with classic whisky, pairing the fruit pie and DoubleWood 12 perfectly. The rich stewed fruit notes from the DoubleWood 12 whisky, the apples in pie and the cinnamon in both play nicely together. The sherry cask finish brings the baking spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) and the rich stone fruit flavours (plum, cherry, date) of the DoubleWood 12 to the forefront. These pair with the sweetness of the apples. The room itself is large, but it is home to only a single pair of stills. Having said that, at 30,963 litres, Glenkinchie’s wash still is the largest in Scotland. The spirit safe is given pride of place towards one end of the still room, and if production is under way it is possible to see the clear spirit pouring through the safe. When we visited Glenkinchie it was not possible to visit the bonded warehouse, but plans were in place to add this atmospheric and memorable element of the process to the distillery tours. Either way, you finish your tour in the very nicely done tasting area, where you can sample Glenkinchie or a number of other single malt whiskies from distilleries owned by Diageo. Glenkinchie Distillery has origins dating back at least as far as 1837, when local farmers John and George Rate are recorded as holding a licence to distill whisky at what was known at the time as Glen Kinchie. As has already been mentioned the floor maltings closed in 1968, which gave the space needed for the very early distillery visitor centre that opened the following year. Today Glenkinchie receives some 25,000 visitors each year, and is a great half day out for anyone visiting the Edinburgh area.

Bottled at 41.6% abv, The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962 is made from four American oak casks aged 50 years or over, selected by malt master David Stewart. The expression is a result of Stewart’s “ongoing commitment to experimentation and innovation”. The numbers ‘0962’ relate to the month and year that Stewart joined William Grant & Sons. On the nose, the expression has hints of brown sugar, toffee and spiced ground ginger. The palate has “delicate notes of oak, layered with maple syrup, tangy citrus and a trace of nutmeg, developing into a delicious honeyed sweetness”, and leads to a “long and lingering” finish. Stewart said: “Marrying aged whisky stocks is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, yet enjoyable facets of my role as The Balvenie malt master. “This was a chance to explore the furthest reaches of our precious aged stocks and see how their extremes could be controlled and combined. Despite enjoying more than 55 years in the business, I’m still discovering and learning new things about the science and art of whisky making. “The creation of Marriage 0962 took months of patience to complete, as we’re dealing with liquids with extremes in abv, taste and age. Marriage 0962 is presented in a wooden tube comprised of 50 layers, 48 of walnut and two of brass, created by Scottish wood craftsman Sam Chinnery. It also comes with an etched brass certificate and bottle glorifier, inscribed with the tasting notes of each cask. The design of the glass decanter is a “sleek reinterpretation” of the classic Balvenie bottle shape, which mirrors the distillery’s copper stills. The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962 will launch in the UK in August. Twelve bottles will be available at specialist whisky retailers including Harrods, Hedonism and Selfridges.

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