Following on from Day 2, Part 1/2, here’s the final instalment.
Halewood wines and spirits
You may have not heard of Halewood Wines & Spirits [HW&S] nor their seven whisky & gin distilleries and two craft breweries, but you’ll have most likely bought and drunk one or more of their 100+ products/brands. It all started in 1978 when John Halewood begun selling Bulgarian wines from his garage as well as launching his first product, Club Royal sherry. When John Halewood passed away in 2011, HW&S had become the largest independent producer and distributor of alcoholic products [by volume] in the UK.
- As a result of the popularity of Lambrusco Italian wine in the 1990’s, Halewood begun producing Lambrini sparkling perry in Liverpool. Launched in 1994, It quickly became the company’s largest selling product. Lambrini currently enjoys a 53.6% market share of the perry market in the UK.
- Halewood purchased Crabbie’s ginger wine brand from Glenmorangie in 2002, before creating the now well-known alcoholic ginger beer under the Crabbie’s badge in 2009.
- Also in 2009, Halewood purchased Whitley Neill Gin from Johnny Neill, followed by Willow Water (Lake District spring water] in 2011.
- In 2015, HW&S gained a 50% stake in Pogues Irish Whiskey. Aimed at 25-35 year olds, the whiskey from West Cork distillers is said to contain the highest malt-content for a blended whiskey in Ireland, with a 50/50 malt/grain ratio.
- Other brand names Halewood own include: JJ Whitley vodkas, J.W. Spicer rum and Caribbean Twist. They also distribute Lamb’s Navy Rum and Tsingtao beer amongst others.
Along with its existing line, Halewood is currently reviving old whisk[e]y brands that hold history/provenance dating back to the 1800’s. In relation to Irish whiskey, Serge says ‘Pretty much like what’s happening in the US with sourced whiskies launched as pseudo-own distillates under legendary old brands’.
Let’s try some of Halewood’s sourced Irish whiskey now, but not before we try their single malt Scotch under the Crabbie’s badge. You can be sure that quality in the bottle will be high whilst they are establishing these old brand names for a new generation.
Crabbie 8yo  Single Malt Scotch Whisky 46% WB82
- C: Close to a Glen Moray perhaps? A decent and easy, light sipper.
Scores 83 points
Gelston’s 15yo  ‘Old Irish Whiskey’ [btl #337/408] 43%
- C: Lovely decanter-like bottle with straight-ahead, sweet bourbon-y light juice inside.
Scores 82 points
Gelston’s 26yo  Single Malt Irish Whiskey [btl #69/144] 54.2%
- C: Where richness and youthfulness are abound in equal measure. Very decent juice bottled at an awesome age.
Scores 87 points
Further reading: Halewood are currently building a new whisky distillery – Aber Falls in Snowdonia [link]. A visitors centre is due to open some time this year .
Benriach isn’t a malt I visit that often. Depending on your views & experience, they are either one of the most innovative or one of the more controversial distilleries with regard to their progressive finishes. I forget which specific whiskysponge.com article it was now, but it included the line “as I was running out of inventive ways to spoil perfectly good casks of 1970s Glenglassaugh and Benriach,…”.
Benriach 21yo  Ob. 46% WB89
This is Rachel Barrie’s first ‘outing’ since acquiring the post of master blender for The Benriach Distillery Company in 2017. This 21yo involves a four-cask maturation including a red wine finish – Rioja I have heard. More scant notes:
- N: Refined barley sponge, sweet lemon cake,..
- T: [No notes]
- F: [No notes]
- C: Comes across as a malt with no obvious silly business, despite the Rioja & PX cask usage. Really decent session whisky, presented with the dullest bottle livery.
Scores 86 points
Benriach 30yo  Ob. Authenticus 46% WB91
100% bourbon cask maturation.
- N: An age-d nose that has produced plenty of foosty layers during those 30+ oaky years.
- T: There’s a fair wedge of vibrant peat to this. With dense & bulky flavours, it moves along sluggishly.
- F: Ashy sour cream/lactose, an apple core and peppery liquorice.
- C: Certainly it has its moments though overall it feels ever so cumbersome. Deserves a retry in more desirable settings however.
Scores 86 points
This has just won the ‘Best Scotch Highland Single Malt’ award at the World Whisky Awards 2018.
- N: Vinegary sherry malt, one rather lighter and more shallow than I remembered it being only a few years ago when it was a mere £66 a bottle.
- T: The casks are humble enough to allow the barley juice to ride above the previous sherry contents.
- F: Signs of a youthful 21yo. PX>oloroso.
- C: A totally different beast to bottles released only a few years ago. Those old Parliament’s were creaking at the seams and I miss that, not that they were necessarily any better.
Scores 85 points
Glen Moray  Un-Ob. Cider cask finish 46.2%
Also with a World Whiskies 2018 award was ‘that’ Glen Moray sherry cask that I’ve previously documented in some detail [Blog90]. Passing by the core range this year, we try this cider cask finish out of curiosity – [un-officially] bottled especially for the show.
- C: With a 2 year cider finish, it’s a raw vanilla-y number. I wouldn’t have picked out the cider influence.
Scores 80 points
With time ticking away, I went back to TBWC stand for the remaining expressions I missed yesterday.
Mortlach 22yo  TBWC Batch #4 [200 bts] 52.6% [50cl] WB85.33
Another repeat however, this time from TWE show 2017 [Blog88].
- N: With orange honey blossom and sweet lemon besides a plethora of other descriptors, could this beat the previous day’s SMoS Benrinnes [Blog89]?
- T: It’s all here, save for a little sharpness, but water counteracts that greatly.
- F: It’s a bit edgy either way.
- C: The Benrinnes remains on top but there are some noteworthy Brora/Clynelish-esque moments here.
Scores 87 points
[Yamazakura] TBWC 21yo  Japanese Blended whisky Batch #1 [btl #157/940] 47.9% [50cl] WB88.40
- N: Pancake and biscuit sugars, [oloroso] sherry surely, toasted corn, honeyed shreddies,.. is it Macallan? Last year’s TBWC Macallan, batch 6 was very decent [Blog]. A little water sees this old timer more revived, leaping to a youthful savoury freshness and some onion-y peatiness.
- T: Oaky-oily, more biscuit-y sherry action and what seems like a grain lurking underneath – like a Port Dundas say. There’s no doubt in my mind it’s old juice, but is this malt or a blend? More PX-y now, though it was firmly oloroso on the nose.
- F: A fairly quiet, creamy old & dry finish.
- C: A treat, but these pushy finishes,… will it ever end? Sometimes it feels they are doing more harm than good. A clever person in the know reckons this is a blend from Yamazakura.
Scores 86 points
There’s always a strange tension in the air, in the last 20 minutes of a whisky festival. On one side of the stands, ambassadors along with their props, begin to withdraw – and who can blame them after two days and hours & hours of it. Punters on the other hand, fuelled by malt, look for that elusive last pour. One last attempt to find the whisky of the show, to complete a personal quest, perhaps to re-evaluate a whisky before purchasing or simply grabbing yet another one for the road – possibly en route to the pub. Whilst I was watching this all play out and contemplating my long night ahead on the piano, I found myself standing next to Zoe who, still enthusiastic and keen to the last, offered me Cotswolds’ latest batch for 2018. Perfect.
A reminder of their cask policy: a cask ratio of 70% red wine casks with an 8mm shave, toast & re-char [STR], and 30% bourbon. The late Jim Swan’s recommendation no less.
- N: Possibly more wine funk than in the inaugural batch, but that’s only from memory. It’s still fatty with an unusual sweetness coming from funky fruits, banana sour cream and vanilla.
- T: I get malty pineapple, apple and banana fruits first off. From memory again, I perceive it’s increasingly more full-bodied compared to the initial release, as it works its way through towards a soft dryness & some Irishness later.
- F: Only the oily mouthfeel has diminished somewhat from the inaugural release. Clean and short but that’s fine, the length will no doubt develop in time.
- C: Their recipe is working a treat. This batch suggests flavour consistency so far is good, and overall I think the whisky has improved significantly in terms of body, form and relative complexity.
Scores 83 points
Many thanks to all the organisers, reps, ambassadors, enthusiasts and geeks. Great to see you all. See you next year!