*All pictures in this post are made by our talented friend Joanne Olivieri
Whisky Isn’t Music, But It Is…
Let’s say you love music, all kinds of music – jazz and soul and classical and punk, funk and opera, every genre, old and new, high and low brow… Though your taste is unusually broad, you know what you like: Maria Callas in the morning, say, and Sun Ra all day, Prince, Funkadelic and J-Pop all night – and that was just today. Tomorrow will be different.
Still, you find it frustrating that there’s no one label you can turn to that records and publishes this whole menagerie of music you love – you can never find it all in one place – and there’s no one radio station you can trust to play it all.
And Some Liquid Music Is Better Than Others: Exclusive Malts
Fortunately, with regard to good single malt Scotch whisky, there is a tradition of “labels” that do just that – put it all in one place for you. They’re called independent bottlers, as you surely know, and one of the best, in my opinion, one of fewer than a few I trust to the point of buying bottles from distilleries I’d never tried before and, in some cases, never even heard of, is Exclusive Malts.
Personal Music: Exclusive Malts and Me, The Maltfreak
The first dram I ever drank from a bottle in the Creative Whisky Co.’s Exclusive Malts range was the best: Glenlivet 1976 36yo, 44.6% ABV. Refinement, layered subtleties and deep, rich complexities to a higher degree than I had ever encountered previously in any drink. I couldn’t afford a bottle at the time, so I traded a very rare bourbon I had been saving for one. And while I do not care to provoke my fellow bourbonophiles to sudden fury, it is a simple fact that a truckload of old and rare bourbons will never approach the complexities and refinement of one well-made, well-aged single cask bottling of single malt Scotch whisky. That’s just the way it is.
Soon after that, I picked up a bottle of Exclusive Malts’ Tormore 29yo, 51.4% ABV. Tormore? I’d never heard of the distillery, but I had come to trust this independent and the store where I found the bottle had only one. I brought it home, poured a dram and let it sit for an hour before taking a serious sniff. It showed all the character of a good oak cask but was surprisingly vibrant and even radiant considering its age. By the time I finished the bottle, it was one of my favorites from the range; when I happened upon another bottle a few months ago, I bought it – and I’m so glad to have it here on my shelf, waiting…
Moving forward many bottles and several years, the most recent dram I savored from the Exclusive Malts range was their 2001 Bowmore 12yo, 58.4% ABV. No, it’s level of refinement and complexity does not rival that of the elegant Glenlivet 36 and it was very different from the exquisite Tormore 29, but it’s level of interest equaled them both. Aged “more than 4,500 days” in a refill sherry cask, this elixir mixes subtle aromas of tar and ocean spray with waves of cut fruit and burnt sugar in a big, satisfying, mouthwatering dram.
The True Value of Independent Bottlers
Three bottles, one bottler and three very different experiences – all of them memorable and good – over several years. This broad variety of experience is something one cannot achieve through devotion to a single distillery, no matter how many finishing casks it employs. In fact, this is one of the primary reasons I devote so much of my reviewing and purchasing of single malts to independent bottlers.
Find an independent bottler you can trust to offer consistently high level whiskeys year after year and you can follow it all over Scotland, from the Orkneys to the southern islands and from the cliffs of Skye to the Firth of Forth.
Esse Quam Videri: Exclusive Malts is the ‘Real Thing’
A great independent is like a great deejay: His choices may range all over the place, but they are dependably solid and captivating. That has been my experience with the Creative Whisky Co.’s Exclusive Malts range, for which the motto is Esse Quam Videri, “to be rather than to seem to be” – in other words, unlike the blusterings of certain soft drink makers, this really IS the real thing!