Whisky Advocate

WhiskyFest New York highlights

November 1st, 2007

I’m slowly recovering from WhiskyFest New York, which Malt Advocate magazine hosted this past Tuesday night. As you probably already know, it’s my magazine (and event) so I was very busy that night. My primary goal at WhiskyFest is to make sure everyone else is happy and having a good time, but I did manage to discover some new whiskies (and even taste a few) along the way. Here are the ones that caught my attention.

Rye whiskey is still on fire, and I noticed two new ones. You may recall the Willett 22 year old barrel strength rye I reviewed and gave a whopping 96/100 to in the 4th Quarter 2006 issue of Malt Advocate. Well, they were pouring a new 23 year old at their booth (along with a new Willett Bourbon 47% bourbon in a cool glass pot still decanter). And speaking of 23 year old rye whiskeys, wasn’t that a bottle of the “soon to be released” Rittenhouse Rye 23 year old I saw hiding behind the Heaven Hill table? I’ll be getting samples of both. It will be fun to compare the two 23 year olds.

I saw the two new Aberlour whiskies at the Aberlour table: a 12 year old and a 16 year old. Both were described as “double matured” (i.e. aged in both bourbon and sherry casks). These two whiskies replace the existing 10 and 15 year old Aberlours. These recent changes were done with very little fanfare by Pernod, the distillery’s owners, so you may not have noticed the change yet. Reviews to follow in the near future.

Lorne Mackillop pulled out from underneath his table two new Tomintoul whiskies he will be releasing in 2008 in the U.S. The first one is a Tomintoul 12 year old which was finished in oloroso sherry casks for 18 months. I tasted it and it is masterfully balanced–Lorne’s trademark–and the sherry is very clean and polished. He’s told me he only has 15 casks of this whisky, so I don’t expect it to be around very long when it is released.

Lorne also showed me a second whisky coming out soon, a peated expression, which is a blend of 4-5 year old peated Tomintoul and 8 year old standard Tomintoul. (Think of it as a more mature Old Ballantruan whisky with a lower alcohol level.) It’s going to be called, “With a Peaty Tang.”

It’s good to see Scott’s Selection whiskies becoming more visible again. They were pouring a delicious cask strength 1967 Longmorn at their table. That one was bottled back in 2003. Hopefully we’ll see more new whiskies from Scott’s Selection in the near future.

Crown Royal replaced Dickel at one of the Diageo tables. We missed Dickel, but they were pouring the new Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at the table, which is finished in Cognac casks. That’s Malt Advocate magazine’s 2007 Canadian Whisky of the Year award winner. Those of you who “bah, humbug” Canadian whiskies should really try this one.

The two hottest whiskies of the night were at the charity table. Whiskies at the charity table required an additional donation of $20 to the American Red Cross before you could taste them. One was a whisky I donated. It was a 1979, cask-strength, sherry cask aged Springbank that was bottled by Sam’s in the early 1990s. It was hand-picked by the legendary “Joe C” who worked at Sam’s at the time. That whisky disappeared in less than one hour.

The other one was a bottle (bottle #1 of 1) made by Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich just for the charity table. He called it “Bruichladdich 100 years” because the three whiskies he married to produce this bottle added up to 100 years in age (36 and 34 year old in a bourbon cask, and a 30 year old aged in a sherry cask). I tasted it at the beginning of the evening. It was wonderful! That whisky commanded at $40 donation, and the bottle was empty before the night was over. Thanks Jim for helping to support the cause!

I’ll have more to say about the whiskies at WhiskyFest as the days go on, but I wanted to post these while they were still fresh in my memory.

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