Archive for May, 2009

Whisky is still a business…

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I try to keep Malt Advocate magazine focused on consumer information (new products, reviews, trends, etc.) Ditto WDJK. I enjoy telling you about these things rather than the business stuff.

But whisky is still a business. And the business decisions do have an impact on you, for better or worse. Here’s just one more example.

Okay, back to the fun aspects of whisky.

Smoky Speyside whiskies: which ones do you like? Dislike?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

So, we finally have ourselves a bunch of smoky whiskies from Scotland’s Speyside district. This is great news, because I feel that most Speyside whiskies are big enough to handle the extra peat, and I think it adds a new dimension to the whiskies.

However, a lot of these peat smoke infused whiskies are still quite young (or blends of young peated whiskies and older unpeated whiskies) and taste young. I think some are better than others.

So, let’s get some dialoge going. Which ones do you like? Which ones don’t you like? And why?

Review: Black Bull 30 year old blended scotch

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Well, what have we here? A blend of 50% malt and 50% grain (a very high malt content for a blend), and bottled at 50% too! The whisky was blended first (very unusual), before being aged in sherry cask for its entire life. (Click on the whisky name below to link to their website for more information and an image.  It will be available in the U.S. in July.)

Black Bull, 30 year old, 50%, $200
 Antique amber/chestnut color. Full sherry impact, but never cloying—the higher alcohol level and grain whisky cut through the sherry and add balance and drinkability. This is a fruity confection delight, with, raisin chutney, fig cake, orange almond scone, and chocolate-covered cherry. Add to the mix richly textured toffee, old oak, polished leather, and a cinnamon-spiced, tobacco finish. A rare treat! A great old blend that malt drinkers will embrace.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 94

Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey Distillery Origin Guide

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Recently I was asked if the source of Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey is from Bushmills. I thought it might something of interest to all of you. The answer is, in chronological order by release: no, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, and no.

To clarify:

The first vintage, 1951, was from the B. Daly Distillery (where Tullamore Dew was once made)
The next three, 1990-1992, were from Cooley
The next three, 1993-5, were from Bushmills
The last one, a 15 year old non-vintage, was once again from Cooley (a marriage of stocks from 1990-1992).

I hope this helps.

Kilchoman: Own the first bottle from the first cask

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Spirit from Kilchoman, the newest Islay distillery, turns three years old in September and can legally be called whisky. You can own the first bottle of whisky taken from the very first cask. It’s being auctioned off for charity during the Islay whisky festival (Feis Ile) coming up later this month, but you don’t have to be there to participate.

Here are the details:

Kilchoman Distillery to Auction a Piece of History from Whisky Cask No.1
With its very first single malt being launched on 9th September this year, Kilchoman Distillery on the western isle of Islay is giving water of life connoisseurs an opportunity of a whisky lifetime.

On the 28th May, Kilchoman Distillery will auction one bottle of the three year old malt out of the very first cask that was filled in December 2005. The limited edition bottle will have a unique design and will be the only one of its kind. It is set to be a dream come true for whisky collectors and fans of Kilchoman.

The auction takes place at Kilchoman Distillery’s Open Day on Thursday 28th May at 12.30pm, during Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Malt & Music. All proceeds of the auction will go to local Islay charities.

Anthony Wills, Founder & Managing Director of Kilchoman Distillery said: “We are looking forward to welcoming people from all over the world through the doors of Kilchoman Distillery during the festival. We have a very exciting year ahead, making history in the whisky industry and across the world.”

He added: “We are delighted to auction the limited edition bottle of our very first single malt to one lucky person. It is an excellent opportunity to take home a piece of Kilchoman History and we hope it will raise a considerable amount of money for local charities.”

The much anticipated single malt has been getting seals of approval from a very young age. The one month old Kilchoman spirit has received a remarkable score of 94 out of 100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2008, rating it as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live!” In April 2009, the two year old spirit sold out on the first day of the Limburg Whisky Fair in Germany.

Kilchoman Distillery prides itself in taking whisky back to its roots and is the first distillery to be built on Islay for 124 years. A visit to Kilchoman Distillery gives everyone the opportunity to see all that is best in the grass-roots traditions of malt whisky distilling – from barley to bottle. The distillery location, Rockside Farm is said to grow the best malting barley on the island.

Kilchoman Distillery is accepting telephone and email bids 30 minutes prior to the auction. Please telephone 01496 850011 or email For more information on Kilchoman Distillery, announcements and events please visit

Stranahan’s grows, moves, brews, grooves…

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Stranahan’s, the maker’s of straight Rocky Mountain whisky, has outgrown its existing location and is moving to a larger one where they’ll be able to add more distilling equipment and make their own wash (distiller’s beer). The current distillery is closing today.

Here’s the press release, which is being sent to the masses tomorrow. You’re getting it here on WDJK one day early.

DENVER – Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey™, a distinctive small-batch whiskey cultivated in Colorado’s first-ever micro-distillery, has outgrown its current facility and will move to a larger facility at 200 South Kalamath Street in Denver on May 6th. 

The new, larger micro-distilling facility will enable Stranahan’s to better meet increasing demand by adding distilling equipment and increasing production. In addition, Stranahan’s will now be able to produce its own proprietary distiller’s wash, or mash, which was formerly supplied by Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo.  This special four-barley fermented wash is part of what gives the Stranahan’s recipe its distinctive flavor.

“This move marks a new chapter for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey,” said founder Jess Graber. “We’re thrilled that the demand for our small-batch whiskey has increased to the point where we need a larger facility.”

We wish the good folks at Stranahan’s all the best in their new location. And keep on making good, interesting whisky.

Diageo whiskies announced for Islay Whisky Festival

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Okay, I’m going for the Trifecta. Third post today. This just came in. If you’re going to the festival this year, you might want to set aside some money for these two beauties.

Here’s the press release:

To celebrate this year’s Islay Festival of Malt & Music on 23-30 May, Diageo has announced that it is issuing two special Festival editions of its Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskies. These very limited editions will be available only to personal shoppers, with a limit of one bottle per person. The natural cask-strength bottlings are: the first-ever single cask bottling of Caol Ila™ by the Distillers, in an edition of  just 654 bottles; and a 14 year old expression of Lagavulin™ in a release of 660 bottles.

Full details online at:



Het Anker Brewery to distill whisky

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Today you get two blog postings for the price of one…

The makers of the delicious Gouden Carolus beer in Belgium is getting into the whisky-making business. They dipped their toe in the water by having a whisky made for them, under their specifications using wash based on their Gouden Carolus Tripel beer. (I tasted it and liked it. My review is coming shortly.) Now they are going to build their own distillery and make their own whisky.

Here’s the official press release which I just received:

Het Anker Brewery is going to build Belgium’s first authentic and traditional whisky distillery!

As a result of the successful launch of the Gouden Carolus Single Malt, the brewery decided to build a brand new, traditional whisky distillery. Although there are already a handful of companies in Belgium who produce whisky, Het Anker will be the first distillery with Pot Stills (large copper kettles which end in a swan neck shape).

A beautiful concept and a fairy tale location.The distillery will not be built at the brewery premises at Mechelen, but in the village of Blaasveld (Willebroek) and this for a very important “historical” reason. The Molenberg estate, a little green “Eden” between the Mechelsesteenweg and the Klaterstraat has been owned by the same family since the 17th century . This family, the Van Breedams, was a dynasty of millers who also had a jenever distillery.

The current owner Charles Leclef, (the fifth Van Breedam-generation) and also owner of the Het Anker Brewery, will use this location to build the distillery, museum and visitors center. The beautiful estate with its rich history will rise again in full glory.

Due to this ambitious venture Willebroek and Blaasveld will become known worldwide.  Even better, Blaasveld will have a new and unique regional product!

The renovation of the estate will start at the beginning of May. The distillery will produce its first spirit on 31 December at midnight, and this after a century of silence…

For more information:
Charles Leclef – +32 (0) 015 287 147 –
Ali Bosmans – +32 (0) 015 287 147  – 0497 416 166 –

If their new whisky tastes as good as the whisky they contracted to have made for them, then we are in for a treat.

Where is the new Dalmore line?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

There’s a new line of Dalmore whiskies out. They were imported to the U.S. So why is it that we can’t find any here?

I reached out to my U.S. contact at White & Mackay, the brand’s owner, to get some answers, and here’s what she had to say:

Distribution is moving slowly.  Given the current economic situation, the importer has been reluctant to place large orders.  We’ve had a few small shipments come in and we’re out in no time.  Another container just left Scotland last week but it will be the end of the month until we see it here in the states.

As an fyi … our priority markets are New York, Florida and Illinois. You’ll find product at retail in those states first.  Since product hasn’t shipped since last June, as you can imagine, the entire country is out-of-stock.  Filling the pipe line has been our primary concern.

So, if you want to get a bottle from the new line of Dalmore whisky, reach out to a retailer in one of those key markets, and place your order now. The new line is: 12 y/o, Gran Reserva, 15 y/o, King Alexander, 1974 and the 40 y/o. I have not tried these whiskies yet, but should be getting samples soon. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I do.

Review: Port Askaig Islay single malt scotch

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Here’s a new line of Islay single malts from Specialty Drinks, an extension of The Whisky Exchange. (The bottle doesn’t tell you which distillery this whisky came from, but if you look at a map of Islay you can probably figure it out.) There’s also a cask strength expression, with no age statement. For some reason, they didn’t send me a sample of that one (fearing I wouldn’t like it?). I assume it’s a younger version.

Port Askaig, 17 year old, 45.8%, £50
I like this expression better than the more expensive 25 year old. There’s impeccable balance and more vibrancy in this 17 year old, with seaweed, smoked Spanish olive, coal soot, pencil shavings, citrus and anise, along with subtle kipper and picked ginger. All this is layered on a bed of oily, honeyed malt. Salty, peppery, sooty, tarry finish. Nicely done!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

Port Askaig, 25 year old, 45.8%, £75
Still in the same vein as its 17 year old sibling reviewed above. But it’s softer, mellower, with  more wood impact (especially on the nose and back end of the palate) and tea leaves. Perhaps even some mild tobacco. Darker sugars too in this one (molasses?) rather than honey. And more berried fruit along with the citrus, which struggles more to reveal itself. Dry, resinous finish. An enjoyable dram, even if the wood outstays its welcome. But if you have to pick between the two expressions, go for the 17 year old and pocket the change with a smile on your face.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85