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Saturday the 1st of June will see Glasgow retailer the Good Spirits Co. mark 8 years of trading with one of their ever-popular whisky tastings. The shop was created in 2011 by three like-minded individuals who correctly recognised the need for a specialist spirits retailer in the city.
I first visited them in early 2013 after being invited to a whisky tasting by my brother-in-law. The session in question featured a lineup of drams supplied by Berry Bros & Rudd and I was completely blown away by the quality of spirit on offer, most of which came from distilleries I’d never even heard of. Up until that point, my world had been limited to whatever single malts were available at the local supermarket and though I discovered many a tasty dram in that fashion, a single evening at the Good Spirits Co. exposed me to the benefits of cask strength whisky, the downside of chill filtering and the perils of caramel colouring. A whole new world of possibilities had opened up in front of me.
Looking back now, that Berry’s tasting was in all probability the turning point in my whisky interest. From that night forward I was no longer a casual sipper satisfied with bottling strengths of 40%. I trawled the internet for every shred of information I could find and bought every book I could get my hands on. I tried as many different drams as possible and rarely bought the same bottle twice. I discovered Ralfy on YouTube and devoured his videos. I went to Islay. Within the year I had enrolled on John Lamond‘s Whisky Certificate Course and by the end of 2015 I had started this blog.
So thanks Good Spirits Co, thanks for inspiring this obsession (and thanks to my brother-in-law Sandy for inviting me in the first place – I hold you personally responsible for this entire affair).
Not content with selling other people’s whisky, the Good Spirits Co. have worked with some of the best independent bottlers in the country to release a series of single cask bottlings under their own label. Their latest releases come from a pair of island distilleries, Tobermory on Mull and Caol Ila on Islay…
Tobermory 10 Year Old
Tobermory is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, founded by one John Sinclair in 1797. Its long life has been beset with problems however, with many a stint in mothballs and a few near death experiences. As recently as 2017 the distillery halted production, though fortunately this time it was to allow for an upgrade to the visitor centre and the replacement of washbacks and pot stills. The work is now nearing completion and to celebrate the reopening of the site, a new 12 year old single malt has been released and will become the flagship bottling going forward.
Here however, is a single malt matured in a single refill bourbon barrel for 10 years. One of just 245 bottlings, it comes in at a strength of 57.7% abv.
Smell: Youthful blast of Salt and Brine, Chocolate Orange, Apple Pastries, Vanilla and Lemon, Heather Honey, Marzipan and cracked Black Pepper.
Taste: Slick, Oily texture. That brine again, Sea Salt and Black Pepper, lots of Citrus and a touch of Chocolate. Bitter Oak and Ashy Wood Smoke finish.
Thoughts: A price of £57 on a 10 year old cask strength dram is always going to be appealing but this really rewards the buyer with a big mouthful of flavour – so long as they appreciate a seriously coastal profile.
I’m enjoying this one, it reminds me a little of the young, feisty NAS Ledaig that used to be sold at ridiculously low prices in UK supermarkets – only here the experience is greatly enhanced by increased bottling strength and un-chill-filtered liquid, creating a much weightier and altogether more satisfying proposition. Such a distinctive flavour profile won’t be for everyone, but those who enjoy the powerful whisky of Scotland’s blustery Atlantic coast should find this a great success.
You can buy the Good Spirits Co. Tobermory here.
Caol Ila 8 Year Old
Caol Ila is the largest distillery on Islay by some margin. It has long been said that it can produce in a single week the same quantity of spirit as can be achieved in an entire year at Kilchoman (though recent expansion at Kilchoman has inconsiderately ruined that handy little comparison). Caol Ila dates from 1846, though the distillery was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1960’s using an identical design to the one used at Clynelish in Brora. Despite its somewhat ‘functional’ appearance, the distillery boasts some of the best views of any plant in Scotland and the glass walls of the still-house overlook the sound of Islay and, across the water, the famed Paps of Jura. Like Tobermory, Caol Ila is about to undergo some modernisation, with the construction of a new visitor centre that will tie in with the opening of Diageo’s Johnnie Walker attraction in Edinburgh.
Bottled at 60.6% from a refill hogshead, there are 315 bottles of this peated Islay dram, each available at a cost of £55.50 a bottle.
Smell: Vanilla, Liquorice and Sweet Bonfire Smoke with Pastry, fresh Apples, Lemon and Fudge.
Taste: Ash and Liquorice, Dark Chocolate and Oak, Pepper and fiery Smoke. Dry Woody finish with waves of Smoke that keep rolling in for some time after the dram slips down the hatch.
Thoughts: Again, I am quite content to pay £55 for a bottle of cask strength Caol Ila – especially in the current climate of ever spiraling prices where Islay whisky is concerned.
Possibly one of the most smoke-forward Caol Ila’s I’ve come across, the dram barges its way in and firmly plants the Islay flag on the palate with little resistance. It’s big and powerful and it leaves the sipper in no illusion as to what they’re drinking. Great stuff.
You can buy the Good Spirits Co. Caol Ila here.
Another pair of excellent drams from the Good Spirits Co. and the perfect warm up to the 8th birthday tasting which I am very much looking forward to attending. Be sure to check out my social media accounts in the days following June 1st for a full report on the drams poured on the day.
In the meantime, I’d just like to wish all at the Good Spirits Co. a very happy birthday! Here’s to the next 8 years. Cheers.