All-Female Independent Whisky Bottler Releases First Collection
Traditionally, whisky has been seen as a man’s drink, and a man’s industry. However, the truth is that women are and have been instrumental in keeping the whisky industry alive and kicking over the years. Women have been a crucial part of the history of whisky.
Next year, Toulvaddie will become the first distillery to be founded entirely by a woman. And with Golden Decanters, you have the first independent whisky bottler to my knowledge to have an all-female team.
Co-founders Julia Hall Mackzenzie-Gilanders and Ann Medlock have jumped on board a new luxury whisky trend: selling high-end "collections" of bottles where multiple bottles are bought as part of a curated set of which there's only a limited number available.
The first Golden Decanters collection features four first fill bourbon casks, each sourced from different distilleries. Julia and Ann spent two years sourcing the right casks for their first collection on offer, of which there are only 180 available (the whiskies are also bottled at full cask strength).
It’s also an expensive purchase. While it won’t set you back like the £988,000 ($1.2 million) for The Paterson Collection, still £7,250 ($9,060) for the four bottles is a significant amount.
So what do you get for your money? I had the luxury of being provided with samples by the company to try, and to review.
‘The Highlander’ – Ben Nevis 19 year old
I start with the youngest whisky in the collection, a 19-year-old Ben Nevis from the Scottish highlands.
On the nose, the usual creamy vanilla typical of a good bourbon cask is immediately apparent, and then descends into a rich, spicy and sweet mix almost like a cinnamon bun. Fruity elements are also present; strawberries, blueberries, and peaches. To taste, the first thing that becomes apparent is the thick milky texture, which I always enjoy. That doughy malty bakery feel is still there, like a donut filled with fruit jam.
There’s no surprises to this one. It’s a great example of what an excellent bourbon cask can do.
The Golf Widow – Auchentoshan 22 year old
You may be starting to notice that the whisky names in the GD collection have some kind of Scottish element to them.Golf began in Scotland, after all. Auchentoshan is one of the best-known distilleries in the Scottish lowlands, located in the southwest near Glasgow. It's also the only Scottish distillery to use triple distillation for its spirit (every other Scotch whisky distillery, with very few exceptions, distills twice), which is how the Irish do it, too.
The first thing to hit me on the nose: This is the first time I’ve smelled peanut butter in a whisky. After that, there’s chocolate and even a hint of lavender floweriness. But it’s overwhelmingly peanut butter to me, which is very pleasing to my American nose.
I’m also pleased that the peanut butter is also present on the taste. This is one of the nuttiest tipples I’ve tried, actually. Also elements of vanilla, chocolate and butter. Lovely.
The Tight Line – Glenlivet 34 year old
I’m always happy to have Glenlivet, one of the Speyside region’s flagship whiskies, and I haven’t encountered one yet that I don’t like.
No exception here. It’s a total candy wonderland, with an excellent artificial sugariness and nippy tartness in both smell and taste that reminds me of Nerds candy. Break that down and it would be an excellent mix of citrus and zingy fruit, like a ripe strawberry and pineapple. On tasting, this candy element is wonderfully underscored by both the buttery/vanilla mouthfeel, the classic indicator of a great bourbon cask.
This is my favorite of the four.
The High Drive – Bowmore 26 year old
Bowmore is the oldest distillery on Islay, one of the world capitals of malt whisky. It's also a great peated whisky, and this one is the black smoky sheep of the GD collection.
Bowmore’s usual smoky meatiness happily makes its presence known here. It’s oily, it’s got caramel, there’s a coffee richness and bitterness, and that bitterness contributes to a meat element that’s not unlike a bhuna curry.
The taste is much smoother than the smell: primarily sweet and herbal, like green peas, but then gives way to a gritty, smoky, earthy finish. It’s an unexpected contrast that's well managed.
Overall, these are some of the best bourbon cask whiskies I’ve ever tried. However, that's what I would expect for their price.
What’s also fun about this collection is the way it showcases how radically different flavors can come through from a similar kind of cask. These bourbon whiskies go through an enormous spectrum of smell and taste, and that’s very fun to experience.
I should also note that Julia and Ann are eager to keep up a relationship with all of their customers, and have issued an invitation to those buying their Golden Decanters collection:
‘'We want anyone who buys our carefully prepared collection, with a combined 101 years of maturation, to feel as if they are part of an exclusive club. We invite any of them to make their way to Scotland where we'll take them on a distillery tour of their choice from the collection. And if they buy more than one, we'll take them on a road trip to all four!"
Not a bad way to get to know Scotland.