The Diamond Jubilee and Sherry Bombs

This weekend was the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Judging by my twitter feed, this is a fairly big deal and also the coverage was bad to terrible. I don’t really know much about the whole goings-on, nor did I make a point to watch: anything I’d see would be with a serious cultural distance and the magnitude (or lack thereof) of what happened would be lost on me.

No, I can’t even suppose what this is like. Perhaps it’s like celebrating the Ryan Seacrest hosting the 10,000th consecutive season of American Idol? It’s hard to understand quite what it translates to. I guess if Nixon had just always stayed Vice President when he was elected alongside Eisenhower in ’52 and was still plugging away doing the duties of the office, that’d be somewhat similar? Hard to say. America doesn’t really seem to have cultural landmarks that go back more than about 10 years (see also, American Idol or Surivor).

For most people, this isn’t even an event on the radar. I really only had awareness of it for two reasons:

1) Commercials during Top Gear advertising live coverage this weekend.

2) I am a huge whisky nerd and there’s no shortage of bottlings for this occasion.

Now, most bottles that bear the name “Diamond Jubilee” are comically overpriced. Take for instance this Glen Grant, packaged beautifully.

I can't lie: I always think of CLIX vodka when I see this.

Yes, this 60 year old Glen Grant will set you back a mere $10,000 plus shipping.

If you’re a blends drinker, you could also check out the Johnnie Walker Diamond Jubilee whisky. You’ve likely seen mention of this one: $200,000 a bottle, in a Baccarat crystal decanter. It’s a nice presentation (I won’t lie), but also a bit out of my range. To be fair, this one has been targeted as a charity bottle.

Enjoyed best with Coca-Cola & the crisp taste of currency

On the more attainable side of things, you could always get the Diamond Jubilee Bell’s Decanter. This will run you just shy of $100. Bell’s decanters are another one of those lost-in-translation whisky culture things. Some people seem to go crazy trying to find them, but they also seem to be regarded roughly as the Hummel figures of the whisky world. I have no idea.

For all those precious moments?

For the nerdy whisky enthusiast, this did not seem like a particularly interesting set of bottles. Overpriced or boring blends. There were also bottles of Royal Lochnagar and Macallan released, but all of those will likely be long-gone and questionably priced as well. I have to admit, for an industry that seems to thrive on any occasion whatsoever to trot out a limited-edition bottle (“It’s the fifth Tuesday this month! COMMEMORATIVE BOTTLE!”), the Diamond Jubilee seemed like a bust.

Enter The Whisky Barrel.

The Whisky Barrel is one of my favorite UK retailers and I’ve certainly ordered a bunch from them over the years. At some point earlier this summer they announced their “Jubilee Malt” – a 21 year old Bunnahabhain from a first-fill sherry butt, limited to 90 bottles. The asking price was even reasonable!

Really nice, except for the label...

So reasonable, in fact, that I immediately threw down the plastic for a bottle. At 90 bottles from a sherry butt, this was something interesting.

The nose on this is a classic sherry bomb: nutty sherry, leather, and some sherry notes on the margins. There’s deep and abundant dried fruits, figs, a little bit of prunes, and even a momentary flash of Kiwi shoe polish. It’s lightly waxy and has a touch of molasses.

The palate is thick and has some considerable heat. Sherry rules the day here again with leather, which is immediately dancing with abundant white pepper to find a balance. There’s cinnamon as well, and it’s quite lively. There’s wall-to-wall figs and a slight nuttiness; even the elusive rancio note.

The finish starts cooler than expected, but heats up and has a profound sherry influence – nutty, chewy and leathery tastes remain with figs and molasses. Fuji apples and slight citrus provide some brightness, but the whisky gets waxier with time.

All in all it’s a fun, super-sherried malt. It’s not necessarily identifiable as Bunnahabhain but it’s a worthwhile sherry bomb.

While this bottle is LONG gone, you can get the Jubilee Malt II (Wrath of Khan, Electric Boogaloo, Malt Harder, etc) at The Whisky Barrel still. I have a bottle sitting in reserve which I’ll definitely comment on when the time comes. I would have done it sooner but – oh, there you go. American Idol on the DVR. Back soon.

At a glance:

Bunnahabhain 21y Jubilee Malt for The Whisky Barrel
Nutty sherry notes with leather, slightly sulphury notes on the margins. Deep dried fruit notes, figs, a bit pruney, almost a moment of Kiwi shoe polish, lightly waxy, a touch of molasses.
Very thick with some heat. Strong sherry influence with some leather, dances around with white pepper in abundance and a bit of cinnamon. Quite lively. Wall-to-wall figs, slight nuttiness, earthy rancio notes. 
Nice and cool initially, but the heat picks up again. A very profound but nice sherry influence; some nutty, chewy and leathery tastes remain with some figs and a little molasses, as well as some Fuji apples and slight citrus. Goes waxier with time. 
Quite a nice super-sherried malt. It is a little anonymous, but it’s still fun.
Rating: B+

2 thoughts on “The Diamond Jubilee and Sherry Bombs”

  1. They broadcasted this all day one one of our two national channels as well. The royal families are surely popular over here, I agree this is a historical thing. But USA have their own historical traditions, what about 4th July, Thanksgiving etc. ??

    Not a royalist myself (nor anti royalist) these bottlings kinda escaped my radar fast. I’ve been to the Highland Games in Braemar with Elizabeth, I waved and she waved back, not sure it was aimed 100% at me though :-)


    1. Certainly we have our traditions, but they’re a year-in year-out kind of thing.. much like any other national holiday. I really was struggling to think of anything similar in the US and my best guess would be the bicentennial in 1976, but that’s just conjecture. We’re not a culture, generally speaking, that seems to value longevity or continuity much; it’s hard to fathom the Jubilee in American terms. (Usually our long-serving senators become the butt of jokes and tend to recede rather unceremoniously in the winds of change)

      I really don’t have any strong feelings, it’s just an interesting curiosity. However, I had suspected that curiosity would result in some interesting bottles so I kept my eyes open. Glad there was something reasonably priced!

Leave a Reply