For those of you hitherto unfamiliar with them, our ‘Secret Bottlings’ series of Single Malts have long been a staple of our core range of Master of Malt branded whiskies. They provide exceptionally well-aged whiskies at a price that seems utterly unthinkable in today’s world of 5-figure 50 year olds, and six figure 54 year olds.
The secret with these whiskies has always been that we’ve released them without the name of the distillery present on the label, hence preserving the distillery in question’s brand equity, and allowing us to buy them at a fraction of the price that would be possible if the distillery’s own name was on it.
A bit more on that, because I’ve just read it back, and it sounds suspiciously like marketing bullshit. I’ll expand:
If a distillery (let’s call it Glenyummy) has a certain number of customers (X) for its standard 12yo whisky, the chances are they’ll have a customer-base of about 0.05X for their 18yo expression, 0.0005X for their 30yo expression, and 0.0000005X by the time they hit anything over a few hundred quid. This is a hideous generalisation of course, and paints whisky consumers as sheep who slavishly follow a single brand, but we are dealing with broad strokes here (if you’re reading this blog post, it definitely doesn’t include you).
Now – If I was a pragmatic distillery manager, I think I’d probably be quite loathe to allow any of my very old stock to walk out of my warehouse wearing anything other than my own brand name, and possibly a nicely carved box that cost a third of the overall asking price. I’d probably commission some kind of master engraver too, and put a picture of him hunched over the neck of my bottle engraving something important into the sterling silver pouring spout in a press release... I’ll shut up before I dig any deeper.
A master craftsman, doing something terribly expensive, yesterday.
What I categorically wouldn’t do - as a pragmatic distillery manager - is allow any of my stock to go to anybody who was going to sell it using my carefully cultivated distillery name, as I’ve worked hard for those customers, building them up from my 12, to the 18, to the 30, then on to the ‘uber-expression’ as their share options mature, or their company floats.
What I might do – as a pragmatic distillery manager – is allow some of the stock to go out to a trusted bottler, on the strict understanding that my distillery name wouldn’t appear anywhere on the packaging, in the marketing material, or even in hint or jest down the pub. This way I get to earn a reasonable little stream of income, but without ever endangering those hard-earned sales from my carefully cultivated ‘super-customers’ either directly (by them buying the independent bottler’s product as opposed to my own) or indirectly (by the independent bottler selling my old stock at a budget price and impacting the customer’s price perception of my brand’s better aged expressions).
There. Much less bullshitty (adjective?).
So – what we’ve got here then are three brand spanking new editions of our 30, 40 and 50 year old single malts – all at a new, higher ABV of 43% - and all presented in a beautiful new bottles with shiny new, individually numbered labels. This redesign, incidentally, is very much a road-map for the rest of our range, which will in turn be re-vamped and re-released over the course of the next few months.
The prices on these new editions are higher than the previous ones – and we have to put our hands up here – we’ve been a little bit lazy with passing on price increases over the last few years (in fact, the prices of the old editions hadn’t changed for over 5 years - eek) – so what you’re seeing here is a more realistic level of pricing for a product of this quality and age, whilst still being well within the realms of affordability for landmark birthdays and anniversaries.
So – without further ado, onto the tasting notes for these new, and in our humble opinion, pretty bloody good whiskies:
Master of Malt 30 year Old Speyside - £129.95
Nose: The nose opens in an explosion of toffee and stewing Brambley apples leading to warming notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa powder.
Palate: The mouth-feel is gloriously syrupy with a velvety texture and sweet flavours of acacia honey and butterscotch leading to tingling mixed spice and stem ginger.
Finish: The finish is long with notes of mead, nectar and melted 85% cocoa dark chocolate with the vaguest hint of cumin on the tail.
Overall: This thirty year old remains fresh whilst possessing all the complexity you could want from a malt of this age, delicious.
Master of Malt 40 year Old Speyside - £229.95
Nose: The nose opens with a bowl of dried fruits gently macerating in golden rum which leads to subtle notes of winter spice and red berry fruits.
Palate: The palate is nutty with a sweet Horchata undercurrent building into bolder notes of Christmas cake and stewing passion fruit.
Finish: Forty years old with a finish to match - incredibly long with notes of raisins and sultanas. then, finally, a lick of cinnamon.
Overall: This is a stunning example of how a whisky can still flourish after sitting in an oak cask for forty years, simply incredible.
Master of Malt 50 year Old Speyside - £369.95
Nose: The powerful aroma of a Moroccan spice market becoming more defined with time in the glass, then comes freshly dried grapes of all kinds then a pick-me-up of ground coffee and soft calve's leather.
Palate: The texture is immensely thick and sensuous with a plethora of different flavours from wood spice through to sherried dried fruits. With water, sweeter notes of manuka honey and butterscotch emerge.
Finish: The finish is beyond silky with immense length and gentle notes of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon with a hint of icing sugar on the tail.
Overall: Half a century old and still going - this fine whisky has aged well, developing a profound complexity whilst not becoming tired or confused. Just sublime!
There we are then. Enjoy, people – and do please let us know what you think of the new labels and bottles. It’s the only way we’ll learn.