Archive for January, 2009

Is Springbank back to its pre-1980s greatness?

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

The 1990s were a great time to be a Springbank enthusiast. The distillery was closed for most of the 1980s, and the whiskies that were on the market were distilled in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of those whiskies were amazing, and there were a lot of different bottlings to chose from. And then, of course, there were also the the legendary Longow (peated Springbank) offerings from 1973 and 1974, which I am still savoring in my home bar.

When the post 1980s Springbank whiskies started being bottled at the beginning of this decade, I don’t think they were of the same caliber as previous decades. Some were good; others not so. They have, however, been steadily improving since then. So, my question to you is this:

Do you think the post-1980s distilled Springbank whiskies have now reached the same level of quality as the Springers distilled in the 1960s and 1970?

What’s your extreme cold weather dram?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

It’s painfully cold here in Pennsylvania today, with my thermometer outside showing 7 degrees (F). I might have to pour myself a cask-strength Islay whisky tonight to keep me warm. Or maybe a rye whiskey. It’s supposed to go below 0 tonight.

What’s your drink when the temperature plunges? (And don’t tell me you live in Hawaii!)

New PEATED Arran single malt

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

The Isle of Arran distillery has just introduced a peated version. It’s a single cask bottling aged in bourbon casks. Here’s the link to their website describing the whisky along with a bottle shot.

Some of the Arran whiskies have been really good, particularly the single cask bottlings. I’ll be posting up reviews of a few new expressions in the near future.

I’m looking forward to trying this peated version. According to Euan Mitchell from the distillery, this whisky will eventually be imported to the U.S. later in the year.

Review: Templeton Small Batch Rye (Batch #2)

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Templeton Small Batch Rye, Batch #2, Barrel #173, 40%, $35
The labeling is a little confusing. Small batch implies a marriage of multiple barrels, not just a bottling from a single barrel. The labeling seems to imply both. Plus, there’s no indication of the source of this whiskey—or its age. Regardless, this is one of the sweetest and mellowest rye whiskeys I’ve tasted. Spicy fresh mint, cinnamon, white pepper and and subtle clove are tamed by sweet notes of toasted marshmallow, cotton candy, creamy vanilla, candied fruit and red licorice. Soft finish. Rather gentle for a rye whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 79

New Ardbeg “Supernova” is smokin’!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The sky is the limit (pun intended).  Look out Bruichladdich, Ardbeg is flexing its peat smoke muscles too, with a soon-to-be released 100 ppm phenol Ardbeg called Supernova.

Word just got out on the Ardbeg website, but I wanted confirmation from my Ardbeg contact that the whisky will indeed be brought to the U.S. before posting anything. It will.

Here’s the link to the Ardbeg website, with details and a photo. Keep scrolling down past the other Ardbeg products until you get to Supernova.

There’s no mention of an age statement. I suspect it is fairly young. The price for Committee members is £65. I’m waiting on more details, which I will pass on to you as soon as I get them.

Glenmorangie Astar, United States launch, March 1st

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Those of you in the U.S. patiently waiting for the release of Glenmorangie Astar, Glenmorangie’s newest designer whisky, will be happy to hear your wait is almost over. I was speaking a few minutes ago with my Glenmo’s contact here in the U.S. and he told me that the bottles allocated to the U.S. arrived at the port in Newark this past Friday. The official launch date: March 1st.

For more information on Astar, I wrote about it (and rated it) here back in September.

2008 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon released

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

It’s a belated Birthday Bourbon, however, being released about four months later than normal. As the official press release below explains, the delay was caused by glass supplier problems and due to the release of Old Forester Repeal Bourbon last Fall.

Although the whiskey is just getting into circulation, I already had a sample of it back in August and reviewed it here on September 2nd. It’s a hearty, enjoyable version of Birthday Bourbon, but I prefer the 2007 release because of its seemless integration of flavors.

Here’s the press release:

Old Forester has released this year’s expression of its Birthday Bourbon in honor of George Garvin Brown, the founder of Old Forester, America’s First Bottled Bourbon™. Launched six years ago to commemorate Brown’s Birthday on ofbb08-use.jpgSeptember 2, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a premium, historically award-winning bourbon and a must-have for bourbon enthusiasts.

Due to the one-time release of Old Forester Repeal Bourbon along with complications with the glass supplier, this year’s version of Birthday Bourbon was delayed until now. The bourbon remains the same as it was intended to be released on September 2, having been stored in stainless steel tanks since its maturation several months ago.

“This year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is crafted from a 62 barrel batch that was distilled and barreled in the late summer of 1995,” said Chris Morris, master distiller of Old Forester. “These barrels were entered on the sixth floor of Warehouse H on September 6, 1995.  This is an upper floor location which builds heat in the summer months ensuring a robust, complex barrel character will develop. The result is a taste profile that is much more chewy in terms of rich fruit and caramel character than the 2007 and 2006 releases.”

Unlike the standard Old Forester, which is a blend of whisky from several different years, Birthday Bourbon is a vintage-dated bourbon, hand-selected by Morris from one specific day. The result is a one-of-a-kind character and flavor that will never be replicated again. Its unique decanter style glass bottle is a throwback to the late 1800’s when Old Forester was first produced.

Since its introduction in 2002, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon has received unprecedented acclaim and has collected honors from USA Today, Malt Advocate, Wine & Spirits Magazine, and Santé.  A favorite among critics, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon has taken home gold from numerous tasting competitions including a gold medal in the 2005, 2006 & 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The 2007 expression was also named American Whiskey of the Year at WhiskyFest New York.

Depending on the market, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, a Brown-Forman product, retails between $35 – $40, and is sold at most liquor stores with a wide and varied range of bourbons. The 2008 edition of Birthday Bourbon is bottled at 94 proof.

Review: The Notch (Triple Eight Distillery)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Another “advanced” craft distillery here in the U.S. This one is in Nantuckett.  Note the recurring “888” (Triple 8 Distillery, 88.8 proof, $888/bottle, bottled on 8/8/08).

The Notch, 44.4%, $888
Soft, gentle aroma, with notes of vanilla wafers, marzipan, and bramble. Continued soft, sweet and creamy on the palate, with red and black currant, pear, subtle gin botanicals and lingering anise on the finish. Good oak grit for such a young whisky, which helps to balance the sweetness. Fairly straight-forward, as would be expected for such a young whisky, but very enjoyable. I wonder if this whisky is peaking at eight years old (or at least reached a plateau)? Certainly mature enough to enjoy now, but I would be curious to see this at 12 years old, where it might gain some additional depth and complexity, providing the oak is kept in check.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 81

Tom Moore Distillery, Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon sold to Sazerac

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Constellation Brands is selling a bunch of its brands (called their “Value Spirits Brands”) to the Sazerac Company, Inc. (the parent company of the Buffalo Trace distillery). A lot of it is low-end whisky (and whiskey) brands and non-whiskey spirits. But the most significant thing, from a whiskey perspective, is that the Tom Moore Distillery, and the whiskeys made there (Barton, Ridgemont Reserve) are part of the deal.

The Constellation Brands press release, which they have posted on their website, is here.

Balblair, Old Pulteney and Speyburn single malt scotch whiskies, along with Black Velvet Canadian whisky, remain with Constellation Brands.

Review: Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I have some small U.S. craft distillery whiskeys which I’ll be posting reviews up on over the next few day. Here’s the first one.

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2, 55%, $325
A unique and quite intriguing whiskey. A “bottle ready” California Pilsner beer was given an extra dose of hops and then distilled in a pot still and aged in new oak for six years. Then it was aged in stainless steel for another three years. Five barrels were bottled. (When I traveled through Europe some of the breweries let me taste “Hop Schnapps” which they had a distiller produce from their own beer. It was always just for their own private consumption, not for sale. This Charbay release reminds me of that, only aged into a mature whiskey.) It’s a complex whiskey, accentuated naturally by hops, exotic teas, marijuana (seriously!) candied fruit, lavender, dark berries, raspberry (red and black), juniper, freshly ground tellicherry pepper, and light Caribbean rum. A nice “change of pace” whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 81