Norwegian News: September

The Norwegian state monopoly, Vinmonopolet, releases new items every second month. The month of September brings with it a total 16 different whiskies, 15 single malts and one bourbon. All items are released in the Order-assortment (can be ordered in any store or on the web). Prices of the news range from 399 NOK (£40.37) to 10.000 NOK (£1011.74). Start of sale is on Saturday 6th. September, consumers can not order any of the following items before this date. Note that prices given in Pound Sterling (£) are calculated using the today’s (28th Aug) rates of exchange (£1=9,84 NOK).

Tomintoul Peaty Tang (399 NOK/£40.37) is an unusual Speysider, made using peated barley. The official tasting notes mention heathery smoke balanced with subtle floral tones on the nose with gentle ‘Peat-reek’ flavours with a hint of malty nuttiness on the palate. the finish offers lingering smoke and peat with a touch of sweetness. Internationally speaking a bit of a steep price, as it retails for between £20 and £28 in Britain, but for Norway this is quite a decent price. Being bottled at 40% is somewhat of a drawback at a time when more and more distillers and bottlers are preferring 43 or 46%.

Tomintoul 10 Years Old (429 NOK/£43.40) is the standard offering from Tomintoul Distillery. This is a light and classic Speysider with a nose dominated by soft, gentle and delicate aromas with some sweetness and toffee. The palate is simply light, gentle and soft with a lasting finish. Also bottled at 40%, as with all OB Tomintoul’s, and a decent priced whisky for those who doesn’t want anything heavy or intense.

Dalmore Gran Reserva (590 NOK/£59.69) is the new edition from Dalmore replacing the discontinued Cigar Malt. Just like the Cigar Malt it’s matured in 60% ex-Oloroso Sherry casks and 40% ex-bourbon, giving it an aroma of dried fruits with soft sherry tones on the nose. Strong malt and christmas cake dominate the palate with some roasted coffee, chocolate, ripe oranges and rich citrus of lemon peel. A nice partner to a good cigar or just as a dram for pudding. If it’s even remotely similar to the old Cigar Malt it’s worryingly quaffable. Decently priced, specially when compared to the RMW-price tag of £49.

Ardbeg Renaissance (599,90 NOK/£60.69) has finally arrived in Norway, and thanks to it being bottled at cask strength quite a hefty price tag (RRP is £41.95). Norway is one of the last markets to receive this fantastic bottling (due to the importer believing Norwegians don’t buy whisky during the summer months). Around 660 bottles was allocated to Norway, and many have already been sold to bars and pubs – but since many Norwegian whisky nuts have already gotten a bottle or two from abroad (people mainly popped over to Sweden, who got several thousand bottles), I don’t believe it will run out very fast. For tasting notes I’ll just quote the chaps over at RMW: “it’s abso-bloomin-lutely fan-bloody-tastic.

Ardbeg Blasda (607,30 NOK/£61.44) is the experimental lightly peated, chill filtered whisky sold in a clear bottle, bottled at 40%! Unbelievable! Very different from anything from this distillery, ever. But supposedly smashing, and while being so unlike other Ardbegs it retains the Ardbeg-style. To my knowledge this is a world-premier, with Norway being the first market receiving it – very nice for us, please come visit. As with a great many Glenmorangie Plc-bottlings as of late they’ve hit the Gaelic dictionary to come up with the name, Blasda can be translated as “savoury, tasty or delicious”. Note: Replace the “d” with a “t” and your dangerously close to a Swedish word that translates as “screwed, cheated, swindled”.

Dalmore 15 Years Old (630 NOK/£63.74) is purely ex-Sherry matured (matusalem, apostoles and amoroso) and is a brand new expression from one of my (many) favourite distilleries. But as with Tomintoul it’s bottled at 40% – please Dalmore, the whisky can handle a few extra abv’s. The official tasting notes describe it as having “a fine structure of sweet vanilla with aromatic cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Seville oranges, lemons and limes.” Nice price, considering the considerable price increase Dalmore had when introducing these new bottlings in November last year.

Glenmorangie Astar (659 NOK/£66.67) is replacing the now discontinued (but still available – around 180 bottles in Norway) Glenmorangie Artisan Cask. The idea is the same, with specially selected “designer” casks (white oak, picked with this whisky in mind), but it’s gone cask strength and increased in bottle size (from 50cl to 70cl). Bigger, bolder, better – a grand bottling from our gallic-gaelic friends. And yes, Astar has a Gaelic meaning as well – “Journey”…

Arran 1998 Bourbon Cask #672 (749 NOK/£75.78) is the newest in Arran’s continuing series of single cask bottlings selected by the distillers themselves, so unlike most previous available Arran SC-bottlings here in Norway, the number of bottles is very restricted (60 bottles). Arran SC-bottlings tend to be smashing stuff, but I must confess that it’s priced a bit high. The distillers themselves charge only £45 for this, with other retailers pricing it even lower. OK, it’s a combination of low volumes and high abv (equals very high taxes), but still a bit rich for my blood. But for Arran-fans this is a must, and the bottles will most likely be sold out rather quickly.

Tomintoul 27 Years Old (799 NOK/£80.84) is a gentle dram of an great age. £80 isn’t all too bad for a 27 year old malt – but the British price of around £50 is remarkable. A very nice bottling with vanilla, chocolate and hint of oak, caramel and spicyness – all wrapped into a nice and gentle package. I almost feel like meditating when writing about Tomintoul, it’s all just so…gentle.[sic]

Highland Park 12 Years Old Single Cask (#1556) for Dr Jekyll’s Pub, Norway (900 NOK/£91.06) is a very rare bottling of Highland Park from a cask sold to a pub in Oslo, Norway. The cask was lined with steel to prevent evaporation and any further maturation. The whisky that couldn’t fit into the cask again was bottled and put up for sale by special order, and is now being made available for normal order. A whisky that has been given high marks by those who’ve sampled it – but a bit to influenced by the wood for my tastes. But great that something special like this is made available in Norway.

Longrow 14 Years Old (1.299 NOK/£131.42) is the latest release of Longrow 14 from Springbank Distillery. It replaces the last edition (still 11 bottles left in Norway) and has a huge increase in price (the previous one is 979,10 NOK/£99.06). Hopefully it’s a typing glitch (as the next whisky on list has the same price), but even so it’s a bit over the top, price wise. If you compare the price to the £44 you have to fork over for a bottle at Royal Mile Whiskies – it’s utter madness. Still it’s a rich, peaty, complex and savoury dram, but it’s not for me – not in Norway, not at that price. I’d rather pick up a bottle while in Britain when there’s atleast £55 to be saved (it’s only(!) £18 to declare it into Norway on the return). Just for fun I checked the Danish price, and they’ve also used the same calculator, with a price of 785 DKK or £84.16 for a bottle – madness. Update: The Norwegian importer has made a mistake with the pricing and will try to rectify it. The price should be under 1000 NOK (£101.63), so still more than twice the British price…

Glenmorangie Signet (1.299 NOK/£131.42) is the newest creation from Master Distiller Bill Lumsden & Co in Tain. Not much known about this expression, apart from my earlier posting. No age statement, 46% abv. matured mainly in ex-Oloroso and Ozark ex-bourbon casks, but a few others have also been added to the mix. Roasted malt is used together with some Chocolate Malt to get a toasty, chocolaty flavour to the spirit. As with the Ardbeg Blasda this seems to be a world premier, so Norway might be overrun with people trying to be the first ones to sell it on eBay. A very nice price, specially since it’s not that different from the expected prices elsewhere in Europe (Germany report a price of around €150/£120). Around the same time it’s released in Norway it will also be available at Oslo Airport Gardermoen (international travellers only, most likely just in the departure shop) – at a price of 1200 NOK (£121.41).

Ardbeg TEN (3.999 NOK/£404.59) isn’t just any old Ardbeg TEN-bottling. It’s what’s been referred to as the Ardbeg Mór II – a great big 4.5 litre bottle containing whisky made purely after Glenmorangie Plc bought the distillery in 1997. Will look smashing in any bar, though I rather think it’d be difficult to just have “a small one” with this heap of a bottle. The price carries a premium compared to the normal bottles, in Norway this premium is approx. 24%. Is to be a part of the Ardbeg line-up, so luckily of no interest to most non-drinkers. Yet another Glenmorangie Plc-bottling that makes it’s world entry in Norway – what is going on here?

Highland Park Single Malt 40 Years Old (10.000 NOK/£1,011.74) is the newest and oldest member of the Highland Park family. HP are among the few distillers that actually have a decent stock of old whisky resting in their warehouses, so it probably won’t go away anytime soon. Intense, rich, delicate, woody, smoky but with the spirit character intact. Probably very nice, even though I’m not a big fan of very old whiskies, but I personally will give this bottling a miss, as it’s just a tad out of my financial reach at the time (unless the Lottery calls any time soon).

Mackmyra First Edition (599,90 NOK/£60.69) is the first “proper” whisky from the first Scandinavian whisky distillers in modern times. After having to endure the six Preludium-bottlings (and for those with more money than sense, a range of six Privus-bottlings), ranging from disgusting to not very pleasant, I haven’t got very high hopes for this one either. It’s a strange mix of casks vatted together to make this expression: 200 litre ex-bourbon, 100 litre ex-bourbon and small, new Swedish oak casks (5,2% of the total come from these). It’s based on their unpeated spirit and the casks have been maturing in their minng-warehouse – 50 meters below ground. Bottled at the preferred strength of 46.1% abv. Will probably test it at some point, but I won’t be first in line to order one. Any Swede who hasn’t got a bottle is welcome across the border.

Maker’s Mark (449,90 NOK/£45.52) makes a comeback to Norway, after being off the market for a number of years. This bourbon will be known, at least, by name by visitors to Laphroaig – as Laphroaig is almost purely matured in ex-Maker’s Mark casks. A decent enough bourbon, increasing the availability of bourbon in Norway by almost 10% (we’re now up to 12 different brands).

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