Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Pilgrim's Atonement. Putting the 'Special' in Special Releases

Drams have now been snapped up. Big thanks to all who helped me stick a middle finger up to flippers and remember what makes whisky truly special. Those who bagged a dram - I'll send it when the sample bottles arrive next week. Cheers folks. WP 

Forgive me brethren, for I have sinned.

My feelings on flagship whiskies – affordable drams that offer real quality and are widely available – have been well documented in this blog. I bloody love them. They’re what I buy by the bottle.

On the flipside, whilst we all love a good special release, they’re almost invariably done in tiny quantities (particularly if they’re a single cask, for obvious reasons) and if you don’t hit the ‘buy now’ button within seconds you’re going to miss out. Partially for that reason they also often cost an arm and a leg. Which is why I tend to overlook them when it comes to my purchases.

However in the last month I have made three - THREE!!! - exceptions to this rule.

The first two came when I attended the Springbank Open Day, and to mark the occasion they had released a Cask Strength 9yo Springbank and a Cask Strength 8yo Sherry matured Kilkerran both at the fantastically reasonable price of £50. (Massive credit to Springbank and Glengyle incidentally.) I wasn’t quick enough to get the Springbank, but I did nab a bottle of the Kilkerran. I also picked up a bottle of the Cadenheads Shop exclusive 10yo Springbank bottled at marrying strength. (Again, just £42. I cannot express my love for the Springbank guys and their associates deeply enough.)

Today an opportunity to pick up a Highland Park exclusive presented itself. It was the 11yo Cask Strength Single Barrel bottled to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. At £70 per bottle it was more than I usually splash out, but the Highland Park distillery is so dear to me that I decided to make an exception, and I was lucky enough to nip in before they vanished. Unfortunately only 582 bottles were filled, meaning that I was very much in the minority of people who successfully managed to take advantage.

So here I am, sat on 3 Special Releases, and isn’t that good for me,
and I imagine most of you are thinking ‘Fuck you, what’s your point?’

Well, dear reader, my point is that I’m feeling guilty. I firmly believe that what whisky should be is something accessible, affordable and available to all. A drink to celebrate, to get excited about and to share. If you’ll forgive a spot of sentimental romanticism, a spirit of community.

I will of course be sharing these bottles with nearest and dearest, but I also want in a small way to reach out to the wonderful whiskyfabric; the community of whisky lovers online, many of whom, to judge by the Highland Park twitter feed this afternoon, will be disappointed to have missed out on today’s release. Many more of whom I am sure would love a taste of the Springbank and the Kilkerran.

So what to do?

Well here’s my proposition. I’m going to bottle 10 single measures (25ml) of each of the Springbank, Kilkerran and Highland Park. Each of these I am going to give away ABSOLUTELY FREE. I'll even personally pay for the postage and packaging. Can’t say fairer than that.

But, before you all start shouting ‘me, me’ and getting your elbows out for a place at the front of the queue, THERE’S A CATCH!!!

Don’t worry, it’s nothing weird. What I want, in exchange for your sample of special edition malt, are three things, none of which will cost you a penny.

1. I want to know your favourite distillery, and why it's your favourite. (Doesn’t have to be one of the three on offer here. Doesn't have to be Scottish.)

2. I want to know your favourite whisky for under £40 per bottle, and I want to know why it’s your favourite.

3. I want to know what got you into whisky, and what the best ‘whisky moment’ of your life has been, and why.

If you e-mail all of these to thewhiskypilgrim@outlook.com,
along with a request for your preferred sample (only one per person. Not one of each!) and the address to post it to I will have your whisky in the mail as quickly as ever I can. (Bearing in mind that the Highland Park won’t reach me for a few days yet, and nor will the 30 sample bottles I have just ordered.) For obvious reasons I’m afraid I’ll only be able to post to addresses within the UK – apologies to friends and readers in the US and elsewhere.

I also want your permission to use your answers to the questions listed above as part of a blog post celebrating a love of whisky, and a love of affordable expressions. And if, once that post is written, you could retweet/share it with as many people as possible, that’d be just fantastic.

Because as special as these special releases unquestionably are, what’s really special about whisky is the community it fosters; the ability to have a wonderful whisky moment, and to share that moment with others. Just imagine that Special Releases weren't just an opportunity for flippers to make a quick buck on the secondary market. Just imagine if 10 people got to try every bottle of that Highland Park. If it was tasted by 5820 people instead of just 582. 

How special would that be?


Whiskies Available:

Highland Park 11yo Battle of Jutland 100th Anniversary Edition. 64%ABV

Springbank 10yo Cadenhead’s Shop Exclusive. Marrying Strength. 49.5%ABV

Kilkerran 8yo Open Day Bottling. Single Cask. First Fill Sherry. 56.4%ABV 

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