Highfern Portfolio

Highfern Portfolio

Sunday 18 November 2018

What is the Angels' Share?

We say Angels’ Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Whisky is inspired by the Angels’ share, but what exactly is the Angels’ share? My preferred definition is ‘the traditional name given to the whisky lost to evaporation, during maturation’. 
Expanding on that, by law Scotch whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks in Scotland. The casks are full when they are rolled into the maturation warehouses. Three years later, probably the earliest time they are checked, they are not full, some of the whisky is missing. Due to the porous nature of the oak, some of the spirit has evaporated, the cask losing both bulk volume and alcoholic strength. Traditionally the missing part has been termed the Angels’ share. It’s a wonderful description and at the heart of Scotch whisky folklore. One wonders who first termed the phrase, but that is lost in the mists of time. 
Lovely story, but the impact of the Angels’ share on the Scotch whisky production and the trade is real. The loss will vary between casks from the same parcel filled on the same day, but as a rough guide assume a loss of 2% volume per year, and a drop in alcoholic strength from 63.5% to approximately 60% over ten years. The rate of evaporation is affected by various factors, including the age of the whisky (the Angels prefer a younger dram), the size of the cask (in a smaller cask proportionally more of the spirit is in contact with the oak, so faster), and the climate (hot and dry faster than cold and damp), so it could be more or less than the frequently quoted 2%. More is un-lucky, less probably means the whisky is maturing more slowly. The Angels’ share is an inevitable part of maturation, so it stands to reason that trying to reduce the rate of evaporation, for example wrapping the cask in shrink wrap, would lengthen the maturation time required.  
The Angels’ share is a variable, or risk, the Scotch whisky trade works with. It is a numbers game though, the more casks you have the less significant the impact of a cask loosing more than 2%. If you only have one cask and it looses 5% a year, that’s a disaster, have 50000 casks and one cask looses 5% per year, that’s not part of the plan, but insignificant in the greater scheme of things. 
Casks are commonly traded based on their OLA, that’s Original Litres of Alcohol. With a price quoted in OLA the buyer pays an agreed price per litre of alcohol originally filled into the cask. The volume they receive won’t be the OLA, thus the buyer has to estimate what the Angels’ share on the cask has been since it was filled, and judge if the price quoted is fair for what they expect to receive. It is possible to have the cask ‘re-guaged’, but the buyer pays a higher price for this privilege. This is to cover the cost of the warehouse staff moving casks to gain access to the cask in question, dipping the cask, and then estimating the current litres of alcohol involved. So part of the fun, particularly with a single cask, is that you never know exactly how many bottles the cask will deliver, until the cask is bottled.
The Angels of course never pay for their share. Hence part of the reason for the four figure plus prices for bottles of 50 year old whisky, is that for every bottle enjoyed by the whisky lover, the Angels have devoured the equivalent of at least two bottles. 
It should be noted that the Angels’ share is not unique to Scotch. Angels appreciate all maturing spirits. In France the Interprofession du Cognac host an annual charity auction of rare cognac, appropriately called ‘La Part des Anges’. The Angels also have a taste for Bourbon. Curiously, whilst in Scotland the strength of the spirit declines during maturation, due to the Angels’ share and the hotter and drier climate, the strength of the barrels in Kentucky can go up. For more on this check out Malt Maniac Nabil Mailloux’s excellent e-pistle. This macro scale difference between Scotch and Bourbon reminds us that at the micro scale the impact of the Angels’ share will be different in different areas of the same warehouse.
In 2012 the Angels’ share was introduced to cinema audiences around the world with the release of Ken Loach’s ‘The Angels’ Share’ film. If you have not already seen it, do check out this entertaining tale of a group of young Glaswegians escaping a life of petty crime via the unlikely medium of malt whisky. And whilst we are in plugging mode, do also check out our friends at Angels’ Share Glass and their wonderful Angel themed handmade glassware. 
To some new to whisky it must seem extraordinary that the industry accepts that 2% of the stock will disappear each year.  Out with spirits, what other industry would put up with that? I was once told that the spirit lost to the Angels’ share each year is worth more than the value of the gold in the Bank of England. Whether or not that’s true, one thing is for sure, the Angels’ thirst is relentless. The Angels must love Scotland. 

Angels enjoying the Angels' Share

Sunday 11 November 2018

Just Landed: New releases from Langatun

Langatun 10 Years Old 49.12% - Chardonnay Single Cask
Langatun distillery’s first 10 Year Old bottling.  For this important milestone, led by Hans Baumberger, Master Distiller, the senior members of the Langatun team have selected cask number 4, a former Chardonnay cask which was filled on the 4th of March 2008, with new make distilled from un-smoked barley. Click here to watch Hans and Christoph sampling the cask! As always, this has been bottled at natural colour. The 10 Years Old has a lovely intense sweet nose, is rich and complex, and is reminiscent of a Sauternes first fill.  
Not unsurprisingly demand for this release has been intense in Switzerland, so we only have a small allocation for the UK, the only bottles available out with Switzerland. 

Langatun Port Cask Finish 49.12%
Six year old single cask distilled in 2012 from un-smoked barley. Initially matured in former Chardonnay cask 57, then finished for 7 months in a Port Cask. Natural colour, berries, stewed plums, figs, wine notes, rum and raisin chocolate, subtly sweet.

Langatun Cardeira Cask Finish 49.12%
Distilled in 2012 from un-smoked barley, and initially matured in a former Chardonnay cask, before being finished for seven months in a Cardeira red wine cask.  The Cardeira vineyard is in the Alentejo region in Southern Portugal, and is owned by Swiss winemakers Thomas and Erika Meier, who specialise in growing Touriga Nacional grapes. 
The fruitiness of chardonnay cask comes through, wine notes balanced with malt sweetness.  If you enjoyed the Quinta release, you will like the Cardeira. 

Amongst others these new Langatun releases are available from Master of Malt and Shop4Whisky.

Friday 3 August 2018

Angels' Nectar Rich Peat wins two stars in the Great Taste awards

Great Taste, the world’s most coveted food awards, which celebrates the very best in food and drink, has announced the Great Taste stars of 2018. Out of over 12,600 products to be judged, our Angels’ Nectar Rich Peat Edition has been awarded a 2-star Great Taste award, which means the judges categorised the Rich Peat Edition as 'above and beyond delicious'.  

Judged by over 500 of the most demanding palates, belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs and producers, as well as a whole host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected accreditation scheme for food and drink producers. As well as a badge of honour, the unmistakeable black and gold Great Taste label is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product, which has been discovered through hours and hours of blind-tasting by hundreds of judges. In a nutshell, the Great Taste awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, is the benchmark for the speciality food and drink sector, so this award is fantastic recognition for Angels’ Nectar.

Great Taste values taste above all else, with no regard for branding and packaging. Whether it is cheese, granola, bacon or whisky being judged, the judges do not see the packaging. The judging panel then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a 1-, 2- or 3-star award.

One of the judges described the Rich Peat Edition; 'Lovely natural colour, with a clean smokey aroma and hints of spice giving it appeal. The taste is really lovely, with plenty of the anticipated peaty, smokey flavours, but quite nicely balanced with the sweetness and more of the spice. Very rounded, lingering spicy, fruity finish with good depth of flavour and really easy to drink'.

Across all categories there were 12,634 entries into Great Taste this year. Of those 1,207 products received a 2-star award. The panel of judges this year included; MasterChef 2018 champion, Kenny Tutt, chef and food writer, Elly Curshen, eco chef and food writer, Tom Hunt, author and chef, Zoe Adjonyoh, baker Tom Herbert, author and blogger, Izy Hossack, and baker and recipe writer, Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Harrods, Selfridges and Sourced Market. 

Worthy winner - Angels' Nectar Rich Peat awarded two Great Taste stars

Monday 23 July 2018

Introducing Strane Ultra Uncut Gin 82.5% - the world's new strongest gin?

As readers of our blog will no doubt be aware, Strane Uncut at 76% previously held the record for the strongest commercially available gin. Uncut's high strength was not a deliberate attempt to create the strongest gin, more a consequence of Pär Caldenby's pursuit of flavour intensity by introducing a blending stage in the creation of Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% and Strane Navy Strength 57.1%. With Strane Uncut 76% you could say Pär took the concept of cask strength whisky to gin, i.e. if we don't add water there will be more flavour. As it was, when we launched Strane Uncut 76% we assumed someone somewhere would have a similar gin on the market of similar strength or higher, but as we spoke to gin bars and gin gurus it became clear that Strane Uncut 76% was a new concept and was certainly the strongest gin in Sweden and the UK, if not further afield. Unwittingly Pär had created a new category of gin. 
Having eventually claimed that Strane Uncut 76% to be the strongest available, it was inevitable that someone at some point would try to create a stronger gin, and thus after three years we saw three contenders at the start of this year unseat Strane Uncut 76% from the strongest gin podium. 
Whilst Pär never set out to create the strongest gin, nor start a strength race, having been challenged, he could not resist responding, which leads us to our new release: Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5%. This is a deliberate attempt to push the boundaries of gin distilling to the extreme, as far as intensity of flavour and strength goes, using a traditional copper pot still. With Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5%, Pär has tweaked the production process to take the intensity and strength to a new level. This was done with a much stronger charge of the still than usual and also by doubling the volume of botanicals, to maximise flavour. 
Given the high strength Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% is only to be enjoyed in the smallest of measures, hence it will only be available in 200ml bottles. Exercising due care, it can be savoured neat, ideally chilled, in very small sips (with a glass of water on the side). This delivers an intensive juniper-led flavour impact, with great complexity from the other botanicals, including coriander seeds, almonds, liquorice root, lime and fresh herbs. In Pär’s words, 'This leaves the palate clean as a whistle'. For a longer serve do try one part Ultra Uncut 82.5% to two parts of Fentiman's tonic water, on plenty of large ice cubes. Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% also makes an interesting base for creating your own cocktails, fruit liqueurs and infusions. Commenting on the new release Pär said 'Strongest gin or not, we believe gin enthusiasts will enjoy and cherish the incredible intensity of flavour that our Strane Ultra Uncut delivers'. Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% certainly gives a new meaning to flavour-led. 
For the first chance to try, I will present a Strane masterclass, to include Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5%, at the Just Gin Show on the 28th of July 2018. Amongst others Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% is now available from Nickolls & Perks and Master of Malt with an RRP of £33.00 per 200ml. 
Strane Ultra Uncut Gin 82.5%

Monday 4 June 2018

Be an Angel this Father's Day

With Father's Day in a couple of weeks, may we suggest spoiling your Dad with Angels' Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Whisky? 
Inspired by the Angels' share (that's the colourful name given to the whisky lost to evaporation during maturation), our whiskies are vibrant and fresh, and bottled at natural colour. 
Our First Edition of Angels' Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, has been carefully created from a selection of Speyside and Highland malt whiskies and bottled at 40% Vol.. It is smooth and sweet with hints of apple pie on the nose, followed by heather honey and lemon on the taste.  
Our Rich Peat Edition of Angels' Nectar Blended Malt Scotch Whisky has been bottled at the higher strength of 46%, and as the name suggests is heavily peated. Composed of two highland malts, the Rich Peat oozes a welcoming smoke like the chimney of an old Highland farm house, which is followed by a subtle sweetness akin to toffee apples and dark chocolate.
Amongst others Angels' Nectar is available from Amazon, Angels' Share Glass, Nickolls & Perks and The Whisky Shop Dufftown.
All being well, Dad will 'share' his bottle of Angels' Nectar with you!

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Angels' Nectar Whisky Caching round up!

The sweep team have been out this morning to collect the Angels' Nectar Whisky Caches, and bring them back to Angel HQ. Many congratulations to all that found our caches. 

A special thank you to Brenda and Denis, who not only found every cache, but despite finding one cache empty, left something for those following in their footsteps. The Angels will remember you!


Saturday 5 May 2018

Angels' Nectar Whisky Caching - Tomintoul Spoiler

Tomintoul Spoiler: The cache is located at the 'Still', one of the Snowroad installations, on the Tomintoul to Grantown road. There is a photo post, look over the wall from that, and you should find the cache under a small pile of stones.

Friday 4 May 2018

Angels' Nectar Whisky Caching - Grantown spoiler

#Grantown Spoiler: Take the Viewpoint walk from near the caravan park.  Find Carn a Chille Chearr on the viewpoint (more or less due east). The Angels’ Nectar Whisky Cache is hidden behind a rock in that direction, approx 16 paces.

Thursday 3 May 2018

Angels' Nectar Whisky Caching - Dufftown spoiler

Dufftown Spoiler: Take the Speyside way from Dufftown along the old railway line towards Craigellachie. On your right you’ll pass the former Convalmore distillery. A short distance after the last whisky warehouse there is a bench overlooking the River Fiddich. From there continue for approx 100 paces until the old railway line goes over a culvert. On your left there is a distinctive tree with numerous tree trunks, and nestling between them you should find the cache.  
The Ordnance Survey grid reference is 318433 on sheet 28. 

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