Archive for June, 2009

The last of the A.H. Hirsch (a.k.a. Michter’s) 16 yr. old bourbon is being released

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

This just came in, so I thought I would pass it along. Unless you can find a dusty bottle on a retailer’s shelf somewhere, this might be your last chance to get a bottle.

A.H. Hirsch Commemorates The Last of Its Renowned 16 year old Whisky With Limited Edition Release

hirsch-limited-editionSan Diego, CA – June 18, 2009 – The day has finally come. The last batch of A.H. Hirsch 16 year old Sour Mash bourbon will be available in a Limited Edition Set. A.H. Hirsch 16 year old was distilled in 1974 at the historical Michter’s Distilleryin Pennsylvania (awarded National Historic Landmark status in 1980). This Bourbon was celebrated as the only post?Prohibition pot still Bourbon in America.

A perfect recipe of grain and rye, distilled in Michter’s small copper?pot stills and 16 years of peaceful slumber in fine oak casks are the fundamentals that make A.H. Hirsch Reserve the magnificent spirit that it is. This is an icon of American Spirits that is uncompromising in quality, depth and individual character, and the first Bourbon to receive a coveted 5?star spirit rating from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.

For the last batch, Preiss Imports prepared a commemorative Limited Edition set that will give the legendary A.H. Hirsch 16 year old a glorious finale celebration. The Limited Edition is complete in a beautiful Mahogany Hand?Crafted Humidor box, custom hand?blown glass bottle finished with a hand cast T?cork and a refinished unique parchment style label along with a masterwork scroll detailing this item’s iconic history. Limited to 1000 sets, each certificate numbered and signed by Henry Preiss, Preiss Imports’ resident Bourbon expert.

Preiss Imports will continue to handpick outstanding products to be bottled under the Hirsch Selection™ label in an effort to keep bringing the spirit and quality of the original A.H. Hirsch 16 Year Old Bourbon to the public.

Item Information
SRP $1,499
ABV 45.5%
Individually Numbered, Certificate of Authenticity
1000 sets produced

Your thoughts on whisky reviewers’ styles?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Okay then. While we’re on the whole “whisky reviews” thing, why don’t we discuss various whisky reviewers and their reviewing styles?

For example, we made an observation in a recent post that Jim Murray rates many young whiskies very highly.

I believe it was also brought up this past week that Michael Jackson scores didn’t vary much from a given distillery. For example, if he was going to rate Macallan highly overall, most of the ratings would be within a relatively tight grouping of high scores. And he didn’t go back and re-taste that much. The reviews were pretty much cast in stone.

And I believe someone brought up that they like Dr. Whisky’s tasting descriptions (as do I), but someone commented that he never really pans a whisky, which he would like to see.

What have you noticed about a given whisky reviewer’s style? It might be something you like or something you don’t like. Or it might just be an observation and you are indifferent.

Everyone is fair game here, even those of us rating whiskies and contributing to this blog. (That includes me.) I think we’re all mature enough to handle it. Maybe we’ll even learn something and become better at what we do.

I just have one request. If there is something you don’t particularly like, please express yourself in an appropriate and professional manner. And remember, we are discussing reviewers’ styles. I don’t want anyone to attack or say anything negative about the actual reviewer or the character of the reviewer.

Given these ground rules, let’s hear your comments. You can address the observations I posted about the above reviewers, or you can post up a completely different observation.

Review: Dewar’s Founder’s Reserve 18 yr. old

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Dewar’s Founder’s Reserve, 18 year old, 40%, $80
Available for several years, but now finally making its debut in the U.S. The higher end Dewar’s expressions (Dewar’s 12 year old and Dewar’s Signature) are very good blends. This one is situated smartly between these two. The malt proportion is rich and creamy. The grain whisky is crisp and well integrated.  Antique gold color, with notes of butterscotch, vanilla wafer, strawberry/rhubarb pie, and citrus drizzled with honey. Lovely floral notes in the aroma too, along with a pleasing, dried spice finish. I could drink this stuff all day long!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

A good, quick, “Whisky 101” read

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

A few posts ago, we discussed briefly how WDJK is a blog for all levels of whisky drinkers. Yes, we have some very seasoned veterans participating here, and we also engage in some pretty serious topics at times. But I also want to make sure we are covering the fundamentals.

Last November The Wall Street Journal ran a 3,000 word article I wrote on whisky in an attept to lure in some whisky advertising.  It was titled “Understanding Whisky” and included some good, basic fundamental information on how whisky is made, the different types of whisky, how to appreciate it, reading a whisky label, and conducting a whisky tasting.

We have a version of it up on the Malt Advocate Website here. Have a quick read. Hopefully you will learn something.

Do you believe in rating whiskies?

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

(Editor’s note: For those of you who commented on ratings in my previous posting due to a drift in the topic, feel free to copy and paste your thoughts here to keep this topic going here.)

I really think that it is absolutely necessary for me to rate the whiskies I review. When I read other people’s reviews that don’t have ratings (or that always give favorable ratings), I have a tough time taking them legitimately. 

There are whiskies that I like, whiskies that I don’t like, and a lot of whiskies I think are just average. A numerical rating makes this distinction.

Now, having said this, ratings without tasting notes (along with an explanation of why the reviewer likes or dislikes a whisky) are completely useless. I might like an Ardbeg very much, but if someone reading my review doesn’t like smoky whisky, they won’t like this Ardbeg, no matter how much I like it. The tasting notes should make this distinction. The person reading my review needs to look at the whole package: my rating AND my review to get the whole picture.

That’s how I feel about this, and it is why I review and rate whiskies the way I do.

[Trust me, it would be a lot easier for me if I didn’t assign a rating to a whisky (or if I only posted “kind” reviews of whiskies), like many other publications do. You will find that many drinks magazines won’t publish a rating of a product less than 80 because they don’t want to piss of the advertisers. I have lost tens of thousands of dollars in advertising in Malt Advocate because I rate whiskies and publish ratings of whiskies I like and don’t like. And I have been told by more than one importer that they don’t want to send me review samples anymore because they fear that I might give the whisky a harsh review which could hurt their sales. ]

How do you feel about rating whiskies? If you don’t believe in ratings, why not? And if you do, explain your logic, and also explain what type of rating system you prefer (e.g., 100 point system, five point system, etc.)

Is “young whisky” a style?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I’ve been wanting to discuss this for some time now. First, let me preface this discussion by saying that, with Michael gone, the two people I respect most regarding whisky reviews and tasting notes are Jim Murray and Dave Broom. This blog topic focuses more on Jim, using him as a springboard to discuss how we perceive and rate young whiskies.

Ever since Jim and I have been reviewing whiskies, I have noticed that he and I are pretty much in line with whiskies we like and whiskies we don’t like.  But there is one area where Jim and I part ways. It’s our rating of young whiskies. He rates young whiskies a lot higher than I do. I’ve been meaning to talk with Jim about this, but never remember to bring up the topic when we are together.

I thought this topic would make for a good discussion here, given that there are more new distilleries making young whiskies globally now than any other time in our lifetime. I’d like to know what you think about this.

First let me give you my viewpoint on this. I don’t classify and rate whiskies by age groups. For me, it’s all about quality, regardless of age.  A whiskey (especially those in warmer climates) could peak at 5 years old, while others don’t peak until they reach 30 or 40 years old.

I have tasted many of the young whiskies by the new microdistillers worldwide. Some have disappointed me, while others have really impressed me. Having said this, very rarely have I tasted a whisky (or whiskey) in the 1-3 year old range worthy of a score over 90.  The better ones usually peak in the mid 80s or so. But I’m going through Jim’s Whisky Bible and I’m seeing ratings consistently in the 90s.

For example: Kilchoman spirit (not whisky): 94, McCarthy’s 3 year old: 96. Stranahan’s Colorado whisky: 96, St. Georges (England) New Make Spirit: 93.5, Panimoravintola Beer Hunter’s (Finland) Old Buck: 96, etc.

I’m not trying to single out any given distillery. I’ve tasted many of the young whiskies that Jim gives mid 90s ratings to and I enjoy them very much, but I don’t find them to be in the same quality class of other whiskies I rate in the mid 90s, like Springbank 21 year old or Black Bowmore, for example.

I’m not even trying to question Jim’s ratings here. Like I said earlier, I respect his whisky reviews more than anyone else right now.

The point I’m trying to make here is that what I see emerging, from various sources, is a paradigm shift where young whiskies seem to become grouped together as a style, and then rated and scored based on the relative quality within that style, not on an absolute quality.

What are your thoughts on this?

Review: two new Buffalo Trace Experimental Whiskeys

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Here are the two new BT Experimental Collection whiskeys. This time the focus is on the type of wood. More specifically, this experiment looks at the growth rate of the wood and its impact on the whiskey. Both whiskeys are the same age, but I think I would have liked the Coarse Grain Oak whiskey if it were bottled several years earlier, where there (theoretically) would be less impact from the wood. If you buy both bottles you might want to tinker around and blend these two together, say four or five parts Fine Grain Oak and one part Coarse Grain Oak.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 14 year old, Fine Grain Oak, 45%, $47
Aged in slow growth wood. I love the balance in this whisky, with all the flavors presented harmoniously. Rather lively too for a bourbon approaching 15 years. Notes of bright fruit (peach, kiwi, golden raisin), soft vanilla, crème caramel, lemon meringue, and coconut macaroon, which dries out nicely to a rather sophisticated, cinnamon-tinged, polished oak finish. Well done.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 94

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 14 year old, Coarse Grain Oak, 45%, $47
Aged in fast growth wood. Quite the antithesis of the “Fine Grain Oak” release reviewed above (the comparison is interesting). Darker fruit (plum, blackberry), darker sugar too (maple syrup, toffee). Resinous and becoming quickly dry on the palate, with leather, tobacco leaves, grape stem tannins, barrel char, and dried spice. A heavier, more textural bourbon than the Fine Grain Oak expression. I like this whisky a lot until the dry, leathery, oak notes begin to dominate the latter half the palate. That, my friend, is the Coarse Grain Oak in action.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Where to find me–and why

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Obviously you know about my blogging, but there are other ways you can communicate with me.

I’m on Twitter (@JohnHansell). Just like this blog, I use Twitter exclusively for business–and only for sending out information. I use it when I have something very brief to say that doesn’t require a formal blog posting. I often use it to inform people about breaking news, new whisky releases, and informal “I like this whisky or don’t like this whisky” comments. Many times I will give my general opinion of a whisky via a “tweet” sooner than I do here on this blog, because it’s faster and easier to do.

For example, yesterday I tweeted that I really like the new Dewar’s 18 year old blended scotch. I also tweeted that I prefer the “Fine Grain Oak” expression over the “Coarse Grain Oak” expression of the new Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection whiskeys. Sure, I’ll be putting up a formal blog review of all these whiskies very soon here on WDJK, but my opinions of them are already on Twitter.

I arranged my blog so that you can see my tweets on the right-hand column of my blog page. However, you can also sign up for Twitter and “follow” my postings, similar to the way you might be following my blog postings.

I am also on Facebook. I know that a lot of people use Facebook for business, but I don’t. Not under my direct name. If you want to know what I’m doing outside of my whisky life  or engage in more casual conversation, just sign up to be my “friend” on Facebook. When you do this, just be sure to comment that you are reading my blog, so I know how you’re connected with me. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that I won’t “friend” you. (I get a lot of friend requests every day and I have no clue who they are.)

And, of course, you can always email me if you have a question that you can’t fit in the conversation here ( I try to respond to every legitimate email that I get.

Isle of Jura contest winners announced

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

As you may remember, Isle of Jura’s Willie Tait posted up a guest blog here back in March announcing a contest to guess the name of the new Jura line of whiskies. A few people correctly named the new line (“The Paps Collection”, named after the mountains on the island.) Here’s an email I received from Willie last week announcing the winners and what they won.

The Jura whisky festival day went very well and the new Paps collecting, got great reviews from the consumers. Lots of new faces this year and some of the familiar ones.

I made the draw for the Paps Collection everyone was very envious, I said that they should read your blog more often. Here is the name of the winner of the collection and the two runners up, who get a signed copy of Richards’s book.

Thanks again for allowing us access into your blogging world, if you want me again, you only have to ask.

PS if the winner and the runners up read this, get them to make contact with me, one for their address and what they want signed in the book.

Thanks again.


Winner of the Paps collection is: Antti Saamanen
Runner up, winner of Richards book: Tim Fobes
Runner up, winner of Richards book: Michael Dereszynski

Well done guys!

So, if the three of you could reach out to Willie via email ( ), he’ll arrange to have your prize sent to you. Congratulations!

What post topics would you like to see?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Okay, let me hear from you. I’d like your feedback. (Not that we aren’t having fun already.) Tell us about a topic you would like to discuss.

Please remember that I will only be able to address a handful of the topics, so don’t be disappointed if I don’t get to yours. But,  if there’s a consensus on a specific topic, I’ll start a thread.

Thanks again for participating and offering your thoughts.