Archive for February, 2008

New Four Roses 120th Anniversary Bourbon

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Keeping you ahead of the curve, here’s news on a new Four Roses bourbon, scheduled to be released in April.

The previous owner of Four Roses, Seagram, focused on selling Four Roses bourbon overseas. But ever since Kirin took ownership of Four Roses in 2002, they have made an effort to bring back the brand to the U.S. Starting first in Kentucky, they now have reintroduced the brand to New York, New Jersey, Tennessee and Illinois.

Last year they expanded their portfolio to include a Small Batch bourbon, Single Barrel bourbons, and a limited-edition 40th Anniversary bottling for Master Distiller Jim Rutledge (recipient of Malt Advocate magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2007), which was a single barrel, barrel proof whiskey.

Now there’s going to be a new 12 year old, single barrel, barrel proof Four Roses bourbon to celebrate Four Roses 120th Anniversary. This limited edition will be released in April with a 3,000 bottle distribution.

I have not been told the distribution or price yet, but when I find out, I’ll post it up. Keep ’em coming, guys!

The new trend in single malt scotch

Monday, February 11th, 2008

What do you do when demand is great and your supplies are low—or you have gaps in your production?

In other words, what are so many whisky companies doing right now?

They’re introducing new expressions without age statements. Just look at some of the recent releases: Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Tomintoul Peated, Ardmore Traditional, Longrow CV, Benromach Organic. All of these are whiskies with no age statements. Whiskies with no age statements allows the producer the most flexibility possible—much more than whiskies with a vintage, or even an age statement.

Why do this? Well, realizing both the existing and projected demand for whisky, along with supplies that won’t come close to meeting demand, whisky companies have been cranking up production. But it’s a long time before this spirit can become  a 12, 15, or 18 year old expression.

What do you do in the meantime? You introduce a new expression with no age statement. This solves four problems for the whisky company:

  1. It introduces a new expression, creating excitement for the brand.
  2. It allows the company to begin using the stocks of whisky as young as three years old (the legal requirement), which they can blend in with older whiskies.
  3. It allows them to dance around gaps in production.
  4. It takes some of the pressure off of existing age-defined expressions which they know are, or will be, in short supply.

Of course, it’s not like this has never been done before. Remember Drumguish, which was the younger version of The Speyside whisky. Or how about Springbank CV, which came out when the distillery had really young whiskies and really old whiskies, but not much in the middle. And there was The Macallan Cask Strength, which was introduced after the distillery dropped the 15 year old expression(realizing that selling a 15 year old will delete 18 year old stocks three years later–duh!).

Now, I don’t expect companies to start putting three year old whisky on the market with no age statement. They don’t want to tarnish their reputation by selling an inferior product.

But, I do think we need to be cautious of any whisky introduced lacking an age statement. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding (or in this instance, the “proof” is in the bottle.)

Bottom line here: taste before you buy.

New whiskies from Gordon & MacPhail

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

It’s always tough keeping track of the new whiskies from the independent bottlers. I just received this note from the importer of Gordon & MacPhail. Here’s what’s in the next shipment coming to the U.S.

The Port Ellen looks interesting. I’ll be tasting it, along with several other rare whiskies, at an upcoming “Whiskies from demolished distilleries” tasting at Monk’s Cafe (  in Philly on March 10th.

Littlemill 1991 16 yr 46 abv
Dailuaine 1995 12 yr 43 abv
Glenlossie 1978 29 yr 46 abv
Tomatin 1994 13 yr 43 abv
Old Pulteney 15 yr 43 abv
Benromach 1981 25 yr 54.2 abv
Glen Keith 1968 39 yr 46 abv
Port Ellen 1982 25 yr 40 abv

For more information on distribution and prices, contact Matt Chivian at

Friday’s Pick: Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve

Friday, February 8th, 2008

This whiskey will be hitting the shelves in the U.S. in March, and there’s a press dinner in NYC later this month. As you have come to expect with “What Does John Know?”, I already have this whiskey and I’m offering my thoughts well in advance.

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, 2007 Release, 46%, $250
Jameson’s newest premium release. The combination of aging some of the pot still whiskey in port casks, including some older whiskeys (over 20 years old), along with bottling the whiskey at 46% ABV (and not chill-filtered) has helped make this whiskey rich, deep, and complex. This is a silky smooth, lush, multi-faceted whiskey with notes of honeydew melon, nectarine, banana bread, creamy vanilla, chocolate fudge, toffee, warming cinnamon and nutmeg. The port influence marries nicely with robust oak notes, and the grain whiskey component helps to keep it very drinkable. A more intense affair when compared to the “great anytime” 18 year old expression. A classic after dinner Irish whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

The new Bowmore Trilogy

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

No doubt, by now, you have read my review of the new Black Bowmore 42 year old which I posted up yesterday. I have more big news.

This Black Bowmore is the first release in a new trilogy of whiskies, all distilled in 1964. Later this year, the distillery will release a 43 year old “White Bowmore,” aged in a bourbon cask.

Then, in 2009 the will be releasing a (presumably) 44 year old whisky which will be another color. According to Iain McCallum, whisky “nose” for Bowmore, it tentatively is being called “Red Bowmore,” but that could change.

What is a Red Bowmore? Iain just told me that it is still “work in progress”. I hinted about some sort of wood-finished whisky (of the wine variety) and he didn’t deny it. He just repeated to me that it is work in progress and will depend on the final cask selection.

We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s Red Bowmore or some other color. (As long as it’s not Chartreuse!)

So, more fun stuff from Bowmore heading our way in the future. Start saving those pennies!

Review: The “new” Black Bowmore

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Sometimes older is better. Sometimes it’s worse. Other time it’s neither, just different.

I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the “Double Barrel” Ardbeg whiskies released last year which were distilled in 1974. Ardbeg fans will know that 1974 was the same vintage as the great Ardbeg “Provenance” whiskies releaseed around a decade ago. The bar was set pretty high, but the two Double Barrel whiskies were as good as the Provenance releases, if not better.

The original Provenance whiskies ranged from $300-500. The two Double Barrel whiskies, which must be purchased as a set (along with other shooting-related goodies), will set you back about $20,000.

Now it’s Bowmore’s turn. But with the Bowmore whiskies, the younger, original releases back in the 1990s and the new release are all older in age across the board when compared to the Ardbeg whiskies (the younger ones being 30 years old, plus or minus a year, and the new one being 42 years old). Let’s face it, 42 years is a long time in oak.

Last night I had a chance to taste the new Black Bowmore, for which–at $4,500 a bottle–I already consider my self very fortunate. How does it taste? For those of you with deep pockets, you will want to know whether to buy a bottle. For the rest of us, what are you missing out on?

Here’s what I think of this new whisky.

First, some stats on this new Black Bowmore. It consists of five casks, distilled November 5, 1964, 42 years old and 40.5% ABV. It’s from the same distillation (and stored in the same casks in the same warehouse) as the original three Black Bowmore whiskies. These are also the last of the Black Bowmore casks. There will be no more after this. (They still have whisky from 1964, but they are not from the same Black Bowmore pedigree, which I explain below.)

Total yield: 827 bottles, of which only 80 are destined for the U.S. The current scheduled landing date here in the U.S. is March 3, 2008. Suggested retail price: $4,500. This might seem like a lot of money, but let’s put this in proper perspective. Christie’s in New York recently auctioned a set of the original trio for $18,000 ($6,000 per bottle), and the Bowmore 40 year old, which was released about a decade ago or so, listed at $7,000. Yes, the packaging for the Bowmore 40 was fancier, but this still shows the relative value of the new Black Bowmore.

What really matters is how the whisky tastes. I feared for the worst. Let’s face it, 42 years is a long time in oak. Plus, the original Black Bowmore whiskies tasted so good, I couldn’t imagine this one tasting better. It’s hard to compete with a Legend.

In short, this is one of the most fascinating whiskies I have ever tasted! It’s better than the original Black Bowmore trio. I know that many of you don’t want to hear me say this, because it’s so damned expensive. You would prefer I say that it tastes old and woody, far past its prime, not as good as the original Black Bowmore whiskies, and should only be purchased by wealthy collectors who don’t care how the whisky tastes. But I can’t.

Those of you who tasted one of the original Black Bowmore whiskies will instantly recognize this one as being from the same family as soon as you nose it. No other Bowmore whisky smells or tastes like this. I think it’s partly from where the whisky was stored (The No. 1 Vaults). More importantly, I think what really gives the Black Bowmore whiskies their distinctive personality is the type of sherry casks they were matured in. The casks were from William & Humbert who described them as “walnut sherry” casks.

The damp, earthen warehouse, its proximity to the sea, these specific sherry casks, and the distinctive Bowmore spirit all combine to make this a very individualistic whisky. And the oak, while always present, never dominates.

What I think impresses me most is how the whisky evolves. On the nose and palate, this is a thick, viscous, whisky, with notes of sticky toffee, earthy oak, fig cake, roasted nuts, fallen fruit, pancake batter, black cherry, ripe peach, dark chocolate covered espresso bean, polished leather, tobacco, a hint of wild game and lingering, leafy damp kiln smoke. Flavors continue on the palate long after swallowing. This is what we all hope for (and dream of) in an older whisky!

I have now tasted this whisky twice: last night before dinner with Iain McCallum, Bowmore’s whisky “nose”, and this morning, in my hotel room before posting this. My opinion is the same. My rating for this whisky, which will be published in the next issue of Malt Advocate magazine, is: 97. (That’s the highest rating I have ever given a whisky.)

And stay tuned.  I will have more breaking news on Bowmore in my blog tomorrow!

New Glenrothes 1978 vintage, but…

Monday, February 4th, 2008

A lot of stuff going on. I knew about this one a week ago, but wanted to get more information on it before I posted it up.

First the good news: Glenrothes will be releasing a new vintage from the 1970s: a new 1978 vintage. This vintage follows the 1975 vintage which was my Friday’s Pick” two Fridays ago (which I rated a 93). This is the second release from 1978, the first one put on the market back in 1999. Some of these vintages from the 1970s, like the 1972,  have been outstanding.

The bad news (or should I say “sad news”?): All great things must come to an end. I am told that this is the last of the vintage releases from the 1970s.

More bad (sad?) news (for those of us in the U.S., anyway.): As is common practice with many distilleries, this vintage will be released in Europe in 2008, but will not be imported to the U.S. until 2009. In the meantime, we have the 1975 to sip and savor while stocks last.

New release: Longrow CV

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Springbank is about to release a new expression of Longrow, called CV. According to Kate Wright at Springbank, “CV stands for Curriculum Vitae (Resumé for our North American friends) as it contains whiskies of a variety of ages and so showcases the full range of Longrow characteristics.” 

Those of you drinking Springbank for more than a decade will remember the limited release of Springbank CV, which was a bottling employing a similar concept. There was a time when Springbank had a lot of really young whisky and really old whisky but not much in the middle. The Springbank CV was a bottling of just that. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the Springbank CV because, to my palate, there was too much of the young stuff and not enough of the old stuff.

The Longrow CV (which I have not yet tasted), contains a range of whiskies (specifically 6, 10, and 14 years old) from a variety of cask types. In this respect, it’s different than the Springbank CV which was missing the core range in the teens. Let’s hope there’s enough 10 and 14 year old whisky to balance the 6 year old in this new blend of Longrow.

Longrow CV will be released in March, at 46%, and will be an ongoing release, not a one-off like the Springbank CV.

The future of Michael Jackson’s single malt scotch book

Friday, February 1st, 2008

I would like your thoughts on the fate of Michael’s “Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch” (“Malt Whisky Companion” in the overseas edition).

As you know, it’s been nearly four years since he last revised it. For many of us, this book has been our “go to” book for many years. With Michael’s passing, what do you think should be done with the book?

I see two obvious options:

  1. Let it RIP, and be happy and content that we had this great reference for all those years.
  2. Honor Michael by keeping the book going with fresh reviews by respected writers. If you like this option, how many writers do you think should be involved?

Or would you like to suggest a different scenario?

Friday’s Pick: Lonach “Carsebridge” 1963

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Lonach (distilled at Carsebridge), 1963 vintage, 43 year old, 43%, $115
A rare bottling indeed, from this now defunct grain distillery. Very tropical, with a macaroon and vanilla cream foundation. Complementary notes of marshmallow, crème brulee, honey and pineapple. Surprisingly vibrant for a 43 year old whisky and, while expressing sweeter notes, not at all cloying (the grain whisky aspects actually helps here). Soothing and distinctive. Great price, too!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85