Highfern Portfolio

Highfern Portfolio

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Just landed: Smögen Barrique!

At 7 Years Old, Smögen Barrique is the oldest Smögen Svensk Single Malt Whisky release to date. Distilled from heavily peated Optic barley in 2010 and matured in four 225 litre French Oak barriques, which have given 1685 500ml bottles at 60.3% Vol. 
Described by distiller/proprietor Pär Caldenby as ’This is a Big whisky. From the intensity of our malty and peaty distillate, to a full-on cask influence from four classical barriques that previously held a Bordeaux red wine, with toasted oak, ground coffee, dark cocoa, mulled berries and apricots. Not for the faint hearted - just as should be!’. 
For some reviews please see Samuel Whisky, The Ladies Share and Whisky Saga
Initially released in Sweden on the 1st of March it will soon be available from Hedonism Wines, Master of Malt, Nickolls & Perks, Shop4Whisky and The Whisky Exchange.  

Smögen Barrique!

Friday, 30 March 2018

Angels' Nectar Whisky Caching returns

After a successful launch last year, Angels’ Nectar Whisky Caching returns for the 19th Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.
Similar to geo-caching, but with whisky, we are preparing a trail of three Angels’ Nectar Whisky Caches which will be hidden across Speyside during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Guests will be able to find the whisky filled caches via a series of clues after registering for the event via the Spirit of Speyside website. The first to find each Angels’ Nectar Whisky Cache will be rewarded with one of our 200ml bottles of Angels’ Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, perfect for sharing.
Whilst there is no charge to take part, we ask that whisky cachers leave a whisky miniature (or better!) in place of the dram they find. Thus everyone who finds an Angels’ Nectar Whisky Cache will be a winner.    
Geo-caching is a worldwide treasure-hunting phenomenon, which started in 2000 and has grown to encompass more than three million caches across 190 countries. Our Angels’ Nectar version does not require GPS, but as the search for the caches will involve some light walking, outdoor clothing and footwear are recommended. The caches will also contain a logbook for participants to record their visit, and guests are asked to share their experience and tasting notes of the dram they find on social media, with #angelsnectarwhiskycache
We hope Angels’ Nectar Whisky Caching will encourage festival goers to explore Speyside’s beautiful countryside and discover new drams. Whilst there is no need to have been geo-caching before, for the whisky loving geo-cacher, what could be better than a trail of Angel inspired whisky filled caches. Angels’ Nectar Whisky Caching is one of more than 500 events due to take place across Speyside as part of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which this year runs from the 3rd to the 7th of May. We will also be offering a chance to try Angels' Nectar at Elephants in the Pantry, Grantown-on-Spey, on the 4th of May, Whisky Castle, Tomintoul, on the 5th of May, and Brodie Countryfare, Forres, on the 6th of May. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Strane congratulates Twin Rivers

News has reached us over the weekend of the release Twin Rivers Naked Uncut Gin, bottled at 77%. Whilst I am yet to try this new gin, I congratulate Twin Rivers on the launch, and concede that Strane Uncut London Dry Gin 76% is no longer the strongest gin on the UK market.
Strane Uncut London Dry Gin was first bottled back in 2014, and came about as a consequence of the unusual way Strane is produced, not a deliberate attempt to try to produce the strongest gin. Looking to preserve the intensity of the flavours in gin distillation, Pär Caldenby, distiller/ proprietor of the Smögen Distillery, developed a methodology in which three base gins; citrus, herbal, and juniper are distilled with the same 12 botanicals but in different ratios. The bases are then blended before the addition of water to create Strane Merchant Strength London Dry Gin 47.4% and Strane Navy Strength London Dry Gin 57.1%. As Pär Caldenby blends the base gins straight from the still, he became accustomed to sampling Strane ‘uncut’, and decided to create an ‘Uncut’ addition to the Strane family. For Pär, ‘Uncut’ refers not just to the consequential high strength, but also to the intensity of flavour.
We first imported Strane Uncut London Dry Gin, at that time 75.3%, to the UK in the spring of 2015. Initially we were careful not to claim that it was the strongest gin, but as we received feedback from gin journalists and gin bars, it became clear that the next strongest gin in the UK market at the time was less than 70% vol.. 
It was always inevitable that at some point Strane Uncut would be knocked off the ‘strongest gin’ podium. We are simultaneously flattered that Strane Uncut has been copied, and surprised that with the current interest in gin, that Strane Uncut was the strongest gin available in the UK for so long, for three years from 2015 to 2018. 
Strongest gin or not, Strane Uncut 76% remains the original Uncut gin, and delivers a wonderfully powerful juniper burst, which we believe gin enthusiasts will continue to enjoy. 
Robert Ransom, UK Importer. 

The Strane Gin family

Monday, 22 January 2018

Just Landed: Smögen 6/6 Svensk Single Malt Whisky

We've just received a small allocation of Smögen 6/6, a 6 Year Old Single Malt of 59.2 %, 50ppm, matured in two large barrels of new Swedish Oak. Named 6/6 as the casks were filled appropriately  on Sweden’s national day, the 6th of June, in 2011. 

It is powerful, heavy and mature with base notes of peated malt and toasted, spicy European oak, which make this a special experience. 

Swedish whisky, filled into Swedish Casks, on Sweden's national day, this, as you can image, has been a popular dram back in Sweden. 660 of the 840 bottles released in the Systembolaget in November sold out in seconds.

For an independent review (Tone is an unbiased Norwegian after all), head over to the Ladies Share. Available now from Master of Malt, amongst others. 


Smögen 6/6 Svensk Single Malt Whisky

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Introducing our 2008 Angels' Nectar Single Cask for Germany

So far with Angels' Nectar we have focused on releasing Blended Malts in small batches. Blended Malt is an all too often overlooked and misunderstood category of Scotch whisky. The production process is the same as per Single Malt, until the casks arrive at the bottling hall. However Blended Malt is a young category (its only been legally defined since 2009) so its less traditional. There is more freedom to innovate, be that in the blender’s lab, or in the bar. 

We have however had requests to bottle Angels' Nectar Single Casks, and I am just back from launching our second Angels’ Nectar Single Cask bottling. In partnership with our German importer Haromex we have selected a 2008 cask of Tullibardine as an exclusive release for Germany, which we launched at the recent Inter Whisky festival in Frankfurt. After nine years maturation this bourbon cask has given 228 bottles at cask strength of 56.6%.  Like our other whiskies, this has been bottled at natural colour and without chill-filtration. It’s a lovely sweet intensely fruity no nonsense dram.

Tullibardine is one of the more southerly Highland distilleries, located on the A9 between Stirling and Perth near Gleneagles. When they opened a new visitor centre about fifteen years ago, a couple of colleagues from Glenfarclas and I thought we would go and do their new distillery tour.  On arriving the guide, recognising me, announced loudly  ‘I’m teaching your parents to ballroom dance.’ I was taken aback, until then I was not aware that my folks had taken up ballroom dancing! But sure enough the guide was right. Scotland is a small country.

Finally, I must confess that not all 228 bottles have gone to Germany. We were married in 2008, so we’ve had to keep some back for an annual toast!

PS -  Amongst others the Angels’ Nectar 2008 Single Cask is available from Whisky World and Drinkology. 

Angels' Nectar 2008 Single Cask for Germany

Angels' Nectar at Inter Whisky with Haromex

Monday, 23 October 2017

Langatun Tasting at Hedonism Wines

Do join us for a Langatun Tasting with Christoph Nyfeler, joint owner of the distillery, at Hedonism Wines in the 15th of November. For more and to book, please click here (and scroll down).

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A visit to Langatun

Since we started importing Langatun I’ve been meaning to head over to Switzerland and visit the distillery. A recent changing of the guard at the distillery was a final trigger for my trip. Now I wanted to see not just the stills, but meet the new team.

Hans Baumberger, who founded the distillery after a career in brewing and the glass industry is the experienced side of 70. He’s been looking for a way to step back from the general running of the business side of things, pass on ownership to a new generation of Langatun custodians, whilst still overseeing distilling and maturation. In Christian Lauper and Christoph Nyfeler, he has found worthy successors who share his passion for Swiss drams. Christian’s whisky CV includes establishing the whisky retailer WhiskyUniverse, and organising the Whiskyschiff festivals. His new role at Langatan sees him focused on operations, but includes sales in western Switzerland. Christoph got a taste for whisky whilst working at the Art Cigar whisky bar in Lenzburg during his banking apprenticeship. His banking career took him to Singapore, but he later went on to buy the Art Cigar bar ten or so years later after he first worked in it. Intriguingly he is still on the rota for the same Thursday night shift he had as a student, but more often than not his Mum fills in for him. It’s a bit like me buying Aberdeen’s Blue Lamp pub, but I doubt my Mum would be so keen to spend her Thursday evenings pulling pints. I digress banking took Christoph to Singapore where he evolved into a whisky importer, a business he’s since sold. So now he’s back in Switzerland, and amongst other things has taken over responsibility for the export sales for Langatun.

Langatun has a heritage dating back to the 1850s when Han’s grandfather started distilling whisky as a sideline to the Baumberger family brewing business. Distilling was however a casualty of war time rationing during the First World War. The ban on the distillation of barley for alcohol remained in place up until 1999. There doesn’t seem to have been a long campaign to repeal it, more as a consequence of the streamlining of various Swiss alcohol laws in the late 90s, the ban on the distillation of whisky dropped of the statute book. Move into the new millennium and friends asked recently retired Hans to help them establish the Hasli Brewery in Langathal. As a sideline to that project he thought he’d have a go at distilling. So the brewery housed Hans’s Holstein still (only one then). In 2014 a permanent home was found for the distillery, in the Kornhaus, and a second still was added. The Kornhaus is a four hundred year old building built to store crops supplied by local farmers as payment of their taxes.  Despite the building’s age, and historic value, in recent decades the local council did not really know what to do with it, so this historic building has lain unused. Today the distillery is housed in a room in the basement. It is small in scale. We used to say Edradour would fit in the Glenfarclas mashtun. With a little bit of exaggeration, Langatun could fit in the Edradour mashtun. But the Holstein stills, with their labyrinth of pipes, valves and gauges look hi-tech compared to what I’m used to.  This is symbolised by Han’s electronic hydrometer. No floats in glass tubes, nor studying tables to declare the strength of the new make here. A quick dip and click, and the strength of the new make is confirmed at a mighty 87%.

So what else is different? The mashing is still done at the brewery, but the fermentation at the distillery. It’s a long fermentation though, six days. The first distillation gives a middle cut at circa 26%, and the second distillation up in the 80s, so smaller in scale but at higher strength. Before the casks can be filled, all production is inspected by the local customs officer, so the new make dripping into a stainless steel bucket is transferred to aluminium beer kegs to await the customs inspection (there is no spirit safe).  The still house doubles as the bottling hall, with Suzanne filling and labelling bottles, Old Deer on the day I visited, when not tending to the stills.

Whilst the distillery door is always open, guests are encouraged to visit on specific open days when there is more going on. My visit coincided with the Langatun Pipe Band gathering, so the place was alive with the sound of the pipes. The first and the second floor of this old building, which are reminiscent of old malting floors, have been converted into an event space for whisky tastings, dinners, jazz concerts and private functions. The arrival of Langatun is a perfect fit for the old Kornhaus, and has breathed new life into the building.

Lucky Hans has also found the perfect place to mature his whisky. Hidden behind the door of a building that looks like a large garage are four underground cellars built by what was one of Switzerland’s leading wine merchants in the 1950s and 1960s. As we wandered the cellars what struck me was we only saw two bourbon barrels, the vast majority of the stock is resting in wine or sherry casks. Hans doesn’t seem to have a problem finding good wood.

Back to the party at the distillery and I delivered a bottle of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Langatun bottling, for their archive. It’s a 2011 Sherry Fino cask with a lovely sweet sherried nose, which delivers hearty sherried fruit, with hints of figs and cognac on the taste (available here). The team were delighted with the presentation of bottle, the first independent bottling of Langatun, so a rite of passage for the distillery. Its also we believe the first Swiss Whisky ever bottled in Scotland.

The Kornhaus, home to the Langatun Distillery

The Holstein Stills

Hans Baumberger and his hydrometer. (Available here!)
A corner of the cellars. The strength and volume of every cask is recorded annually and noted on a log attached to the cask for customs purposes. 

The logo for the former Baumberger Brewery which inspired the naming of the Old Bear series. 
That Boutique-y Whisky Company's bottling of Langatun.