The Lusso Spirit Guide
Nothing to do with mediums. Everything to do with great drinks.
Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery The Glenturret has launched new, to-be-annual edition called the Manager’s Dram. Created by Distillery Manager Ian Renwick, it’s a hand-numbered, limited release of 500 bottles, matured in three American and European Sherry casks. The result, according to Ian, is “sweet peated, delicate spirit full of citrus, orange and toffee apple notes.” Manager’s Dram is available exclusively from The Glenturret’s gift shop and online store for £145.
Further north, and over to the west, lies the Isle of Raasay, whose Raasay Distillery have also launched a sherry-finished whisky for the festive season. The isle – which has a population of just 161 people – has a history of illicit distilling, apparently, so it’s grand that they’ve “gone straight”, producing a whisky that’s been matured in ex-rye whiskey casks and finished in a combination of ex-Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry quarter casks. The results are a whisky of “peppery spice, roasted nuts, sweet dark fruits, and floral notes along with nutmeg and cinnamon”. It’s priced at £85 a bottle, and is available to purchase from their website.
We’ll come back to whisky shortly, but for now, let’s head to sunnier climes and Mijenta Tequila. Made from 100% Blue Weber Agave in the highlands of Jalisco in Mexico, Mijenta is an environmentally-conscious spirit that is carefully crafted with a commitment to sustainability and support for the local community, from making all paper-related components from agave waste, to supporting local jobs and producers. Most of all though, it’s a fine, smooth spirit that’s around £55 from masterofmalt.com and the Mijenta website.
While we’re in Mexico, The Lost Explorer Mezcal is a hand-crafted artisanal spirit from Oaxaca. In March 2021, they partnered with global charity, Voice for Nature Foundation and purchases of their Mezcal will benefit three excellent local causes, such as Isla Urbana – where the partnership will support four rainwater harvesting systems – and SiKanda, whose WEAVE programme (Women in Entrepreneurship) provides seed capital to women-led businesses. You can drink with a clear conscience then, if not a clear head. There are three expressions of The Last Explorer – Espadin (RRP £62.50), Tobalá (RRP: £110) and Salmiana (RRP: £140) – and they’re available via their website and Master of Malt.
Having been a confirmed whisky – and whiskey – drinker for years, lockdown revived in me a love of other spirits, particularly rum. Every collection needs a couple of aged rums, frankly: as Ron Zacapa call it, the good stuff is “liquid magic”. Produced in Guatemala, the country’s lowland volcanic soil – it says here – allows for ultra-high grade sugar cane honey to be used as the base. Zacapa’s rum is then aged 2,300m above sea level, at ‘The House Above the Clouds’, their mountain-based ageing facility where cool air slows the process, and develops the flavour and where Master Blender Lorena Vasquez combines rums aged between six and 23 years to smooth, delicious effect. Expect hints of vanilla, cacao, butterscotch, toasted hazelnuts… The Ron Zacapa is priced around £55 and can be found on Amazon.
Meanwhile in Panama… Ron Abuelo – “grandfather” in Spanish – is named for José Varela Blanco, who came to Panama from Spain, created the country’s first sugar cane mill, and whose family subsequently produced Ron Abuelo rum, still made using their own sugar cane, hand harvested in the fields established by José. There are four expressions. The 12 Años (c. £36) is aged for 12 years – unsurprisingly – in hand-selected American oak barrels. The Two Oaks (c. £49) is matured in selected bourbon barrels and finished in an extra-charred virgin American Oak barrel. Expect a delicate smoky sweetness with notes of spices, caramel, roasted coffee beans with light hints of coconut. The Finish Collection (£72.50) is made up of three rums that have been aged for fourteen years, and then a further year in regional casks: Napoleon is expertly finished in Cognac casks, Tawny in Port casks, and Oloroso in sherry casks. Ron Abuelo Centuria (£123) is a celebration of a century of the rum, a rich blend of their oldest reserves. The rums are available from the Master of Malt website.
And back to Scotland… and yes, it’s sherry cask aged. Tobermory 23 (£320) is the distillery’s revered 15-year old rested in Oloroso casks, to create something smooth, rose gold, with notes of vanilla, ripe oranges, toasted barley and fruitcake on the nose, and salted toffee, candied citrus and floral honey on the palate. It’s available from the distillery.
Also Scottish but neither whisky nor sherry cask aged is Barra Atlantic Gin, from the Isle of Barra Distillers. Flavour-wise it’s a celebration of the island – the most westerly island in Scotland – and its weather, where the storms, sun and sea all influence the natural surroundings and the 17 handpicked botanicals, including carrageen seaweed, collected wild, and sustainably, from the shores surrounding the island. Sustainability is at the heart of Isle of Barra Distillers’ ethos, from how they produce the liquid to how they bottle, pack and shop it, via their employee wage structure. Barra Atlantic Gin is available from their website (RRP £37).
On the subject of gin, and sustainability… Ramsbury is a 19,000 acre estate in Wiltshire. With that much space, it’s almost inevitable these days that they’d build a distillery and make spirits using water from their own well, Horatio wheat from their fields, fruit from their own orchard, fallen trees to heat the bio-mass boiler… well, you get the point. Ramsbury make an award-winning gin with quince from their orchards and a smooth, rich vodka. Both are excellent, both are available from their website.
French cider house Maison Sassy have teamed up with London’s Coupette to create a Calvados. Well, two in fact, based on a family recipe dating back to 1852, a recipe closely guarded by co-founder Xavier d’Audiffret Pasquier and his family, that reflects their love for the surrounding terroir. The Calvados Fine is a fresh, young and vibrant Calvados with aromas of fresh green apple, that has spent at least two years in oak barrels. The aged Calvados XO, which has spent at least six years on oak, has aromas of stewed apple and nutmeg with notes of cocoa. The spirits are available from Coupette or from Maison Sassy.
And as we started, so shall we end. With whisky. Lifestyle brand Mr Porter have ventured into the world of liquid gold in association with Glenfiddich, to launch a limited edition, 20 year old whisky, curated by their Creative Director Ben Palmer, under the expert guidance of Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman. Rich and complex on the nose, with creamy, vanilla toffee and crystallised ginger, this exceptionally smooth whisky has layers of fudge, spiced oak and caramelised Demerara sugar on the palate. There are only 1500 bottles available from Glenfiddich’s online store, and the whisky has a RRP of £300.