an eight year old whisky blend finished in rum casks – as the first in a new series of ‘innovative’ blends set for release over the next few years.  The whisky has been finished in rum casks for ‘around six months’ before being bottled at 40% abv. Priced at US$21.99, Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth is available exclusively in the US and Canada from 1 October. MY QUESTION IS how can a rum cask flavour this dram in under six months? Casks were sourced straight from the Caribbean and brought to Glasgow to be filled with an 8 year old blend. SECOND QUESTION as the new laws on whisky came out in June, June to September is only 3 months or so, when did Dewar’s obtain the casks? Did they know in advance the changes about to come into force? What if it hadnee happened? How long does it take to formulate a blend, then re cask and bottle, then have it available the other side of the world?  All since June and mid September? Come on, somebody is pulling the wool here! How did Glenfiddich Distillery get away with it? Like many industries, it seems to me that whisky has many hidden, hidden/underhand deals going on behind the scenes, far too much money is at stake to just take chances. What did Glen Moray  do with those cider casks? It seems to me that the big boys in the whisky industry get away with things, that wee distillers cannee. Why did they decide to only launch in North America? Are the rules different? Are the drinkers less knowledgeable? Like JW did with their ill-fated Jane Walker, use that region as a guinea pig? If all goes horribly wrong, just dinnae mention it again and forget it. The amendment to the Scotch whisky technical file, made in June 2019, allowed Scotch whisky producers to use a wider variety of casks for maturation, including ex-Tequila and Calvados casks. However, rum casks were already permitted for the maturation of Scotch before the rule change, with recent examples including Glenfiddich Fire & Cane and Ardbeg Drum. The amendment to the Scotch Whisky Technical File, gives specific guidance on which casks can be used to mature or ‘finish’ Scotch whisky, with new text as follows:

The full detailed guff;  ‘The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of: wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits – beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation – spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits. Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky.’ In practice, the new rules mean that distillers can now mature Scotch whisky in a much wider variety of casks, including those previously used to age agave spirits (including Tequila and mezcal), Calvados, barrel-aged cachaça, shochu and baijiu, as well as some other fruit spirits. The rules also do not allow the use of ex-cider casks, despite the launch of a cider cask-finished single malt by Speyside single malt Glen Moray in October last year. In January 2018, a report by The Wall Street Journal claimed that Diageo, the world’s biggest Scotch whisky producer, had formed a ‘secret task force’ to explore possible changes to Scotch’s strict production rules, including ‘finishing’ Scotch whisky in casks previously used to mature Don Julio Tequila, which the company owns. At the time, the plans were said to have been rebuffed by the SWA. There is more of this than meets the eye, have Diageo been “up to dealings”? Most distillers have been supportive of Scotch whisky’s strict production regulations, but some have privately expressed concerns recently that the tight rules governing cask maturation in particular might be putting Scotch at a commercial disadvantage to rival whisky categories.  Balvenie have used rum casks for many years now, is it just me? I don’t understand this “new development”. PAUL MCLEAN