September Scotch: Highlights for 2020

Glen Grant's victories, Glenmo's cake-inspired spirit and more liquid developments

Throughout every September since 2016, we typically dedicate one story each week to a Scotch whisky brand (though, once we profiled a bourbon brand, for good reason). We call this series September Scotch as palates tend to change with the weather, and it’s cooling down in the Northern Hemisphere and New York (where we are headquartered). On several occasions in years passed, we were even in Scotland at this time to get hands-on at distilleries. This year isn’t like others. And yet, for those of us who love Scotch whisky, there are so many stories out there to share. Rather than hone in on one—say, the release of the stunning new The Macallan Edition No 6 or Glenmorangie’s sweet-toothed A Tale of Cake single malt whisky (finished in Tokaji dessert wine casks), the latter of which finds the liquor brand partnering with acclaimed pastry chef Dominique Ansel—we thought we’d present a few of importance.

Courtesy of Compass Box

Compass Box’s 20th Anniversary

In the midst of the single malt whisky boom (which we are arguably still in, as sales of the tipple rose 9.6% in the US in 2019), Compass Box launched with the mission to prove that blended whiskies can be just as valuable and flavorful as their coveted siblings. That was 20 years ago and, to celebrate their debut product, Hedonism, they’ve released a limited edition 20th Anniversary Hedonism Felicitas. This particular 106-proof liquor—composed of three grain whiskies, each distilled in a different decade—represents more than Compass Box’s ingenuity; it’s truly anchored in the long-standing debate over the merit of blends. And that’s one conversation that’s not going to quiet down any time soon—especially as Hedonism Felicitas certainly makes its case.

Courtesy of Hunter Laing & Co

New Distilleries

While so many consumers are on the quest for heritage, new distilleries continue to spring up in Scotland and their whiskies warrant attention, too. With a decrease in the importance of age statements and an increase in Scotch cocktail consumptions, new distilleries can put out flavor-first products. Of course, all Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years—so distilleries born from 2017 through today won’t have a liquid for several more years (even if the brand is a revitalization of one long dead)—but those that popped up earlier (like Eden Mill, who launched their whisky division in 2014 or Pernod Ricard’s Speyside brand Dalmunach, founded in 2015) now have liquid on the market. It’s also worth noting that prior to COVID-19, Scotch tourism was also on the rise.

Courtesy of Bowmore

At The Highest End, Age Statements Still Matter

Although many brands have demonstrated that Scotch doesn’t need an age statement to taste great (we agree), others double-down on the importance of age with stratospheric releases. Bowmore‘s collaboration with Aston Martin, the £50,000 Black Bowmore DB5 1964 liquid, comes in a bottle that features a genuine piston from the auto brand. The latest in their 50-year series, there are only 25 of those bottles total. The Balvenie has unveiled their third and final installment of The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage Series (number 0614). This ultra-rare liquid comes with a $40,499.99 price tag, and although there’s no collaborative packaging, the bottle is housed in a container of 50 bands. 48 of those bands are from elm that’s been sourced from the grounds of The Balvenie Distillery. Two band are brass, and brought together by Scottish wood craftsman, Sam Chinnery.

Glen Grant’s Big Year

This year, Glen Grant‘s 15 YO Batch Strength 1st Edition snagged several top awards in the single malt category. This isn’t the first time Glen Grant has landed in a pinnacle position—and it’s also not the only tipple in its roster to do so, as the brand also landed no-age statement accolades with their Rothes Chronicles Cask Haven and the single cask honors for the Glen Grant 1956 Mr. George Centenary Edition, 62 YO. Glen Grant appeals to the tastebuds of many—and one won’t regret trying any of their entry-level products, either.

Hero image courtesy of Glenmorangie