Archive for September, 2009

Review: Strathisla (Lonach bottling) 42 year old

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

In an era of 40-plus year old whiskies costing thousands of dollars, how about a really good one for $200?

Lonach (distilled at Strathisla), 42 year old, 41.1%, $205
I wish the owners of Strathisla would put out older expressions of their whisky, and here’s why. Layers of sweetness (caramel in particular, but also honey and  toffee) dovetail beautifully with an array of lush fruit (orange, apricot, golden raisin, fruit gum drops). All this is underpinned by subtle dried spice (cinnamon, cool mint, nutmeg) and teasing oak resin on the finish. What’s most impressive here isn’t the laundry list of flavors (although they certainly are there), but rather the balance. This, and its lovely depth with no signs of lethargy. Impressive!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Highlander Inn Bowmore single cask bottling

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The Highlander Inn in Craigellachie, Scotland, a place I love to frequent when I’m passing through for a nice cask-conditioned ale or a wee dram, just bottled their single cask for this year. It’s a 26 year old Bowmore from Duncan Taylor.

I know, everyone is bottling their own single cask of whisky these days. But, this one has my tasting notes on the back. Duncan Elphick asked me if I would be willing to taste the whisky and provide tasting notes on the back, and I said yes. It’s a nice Bowmore aged in a bourbon cask.

You can find the details on the whisky, including some images of the bottle, on their website. Here’s a link.

Cool news for Four Roses bourbon fans

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The Four Roses Distillery actually produces ten different styles of whiskey. They have two mash bills (one with 20% rye; the other with 35% rye). They also use five different yeast strains. So, that makes ten possible combinations.

Distillery Manager Jim Rutlede talked about it here during a guest blog  a while back. Jim uses these ten different styles to blend together (in combinations he feels are appropriate) to make the different bottlings of Four Roses bourbon.

Well, Jay Erisman, the Spirits Manager of The Party Source–and also the author of our Four Roses feature a while back in Malt Advocate–has convinced Four Roses to let him do something really cool. He’s going to do ten different single cask bottlings, using each posssible yeast strain and mash bill combination.  

The first two of ten have already been bottled. You can find the details of Jay’s excellent adventure here on The Party Source’s blog. This should be a very interesting (and informative) project.

The Spice Tree by Compass Box returns!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

The U.S. launch will not be until October. Here are the details from Compass Box:

SpiceTreeThe Second Coming
First launched in 2005, we were forced to discontinue production under a legal threat by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for our pioneering use of the highest quality French oak inner staves. This, despite rave reviews from consumers, trade and press. We agreed to disagree with the SWA and halted production (for the full story, see

Over the past three years we have developed a new maturation process which yields similar if not superior results to our previous method, and this new process is something the SWA can’t take any issue with.

The Whisky & The Method
As in the past, The Spice Tree is 100% malt whisky sourced from northern Highland distilleries, (notably and primarily malt whisky distilled at the Clynelish distillery). The primary maturation is in a mix of first-fill and refill American oak.

What is different is the secondary maturation. Rather than using inner stave inserts, as we did for the original Spice Tree, we rack the whisky into barrels with heavily toasted new French oak heads. We have created a method for getting a super heavy toast on the cask heads which imparts a flavour profile similar to the flat staves used for the original Spice Tree. We use oak with three different levels of toasting on the barrel heads, thus allowing us to blend the resultant whiskies to create additional layers of complexity. This secondary maturation lasts as long as two years.

The Spice Tree is a very rich malt whisky, suitable for after dinner sipping, as an accompaniment to certain cheeses, and especially, in cocktails.

Flavour Descriptors
Big, sweet aromas of clove, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate is full, round and sweet, with the spice and vanilla complementing the core distillery characters and leaving a long finish.

Its rich, bold flavours make it most suitable for after-dinner sipping, as an accompaniment to certain cheeses, and ideal in cocktails.

Distillery Sourcing
Sourced entirely from northern Highland single malt distillieries, primarily the distillery in the village of Brora.

Primary maturation: first-fill and refill American oak. Secondary maturation: custom barrels with heavily toasted new French oak heads sourced from 195 year-old Vosges forests.

Bottling Details
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume. Natural colour. Not chill filtered.

John Glaser, Whiskymaker

Review: Gold Bowmore

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009










Gold Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 42.4%, $6,250
Deep gold color. Surprisingly lively for its age on the nose. A complex array of fruit (tangerine, sultana, pink grapefruit, papaya and the general overall citrus DNA that you’ll find in old Bowmores), with balancing notes of honey and vanilla. A hint of damp smoke and coconut. Just like with Black Bowmore, this is a texturally soothing whisky on the palate, which continues to evolve in waves—first the sweet honey, coating vanilla and lively fruit, then turning quite visceral, with juicy oak, damp earth, deep peat smoke, and charcoal, followed by another wave of fruit (this time dried fruit), finishing off with subtle charred oak and roasted nuts. This whisky is better than White Bowmore and it falls just short of Black Bowmore (which I rated 97) because it’s just a bit softer, less vibrant on the palate.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 96

So, what’s with all the animosity?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I’ve been thinking about your comments to my blog postings over the past month or so. The vast majority are negative. I could cite examples, but there are so many. Of course, the biggest one is this one, now with a whopping 172 comments. But there’s a negative tone to your comments throughout many (most?) of my postings.

So, what has you so irritated with the current state of whisky? Is it the higher prices? Lack of availability? The whisky companies’ marketing practices? Something else?

Let’s get it out in the open! I know the whisky companies are reading this. Here’s your chance to let them know how you feel.

Gold Bowmore: the formal press release

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The formal press release for the new Gold Bowmore came out yesterday. The details are below. I got you the details in advance here back on September 11th. I’ll be reviewing this whisky live tomorrow on Twitter at 4pm EST, so if you’re not doing anything, join us.










Gold Bowmore: The final stage of a 45 year long journey
The most collectable whisky in the world

Bowmore, Islay, Scotland, 21st September 2009: First there was White, then Black and now the exquisite trilogy is complete with the release of the exclusive Gold Bowmore – a 44-year-old single malt whisky from Bowmore’s famous weather beaten distillery on the Scottish Island of Islay.
A highly collectible and multi-award winning whisky, with previous trilogies selling at auction for as much as $18,000, Bowmore has long been coveted by whisky lovers worldwide and today sees the release of just 701 bottles of this unique Gold Bowmore spirit, each lovingly hand-numbered and encased in a stunning Burr Elm box.
44 years of quiet maturation in the famous number one vaults, has allowed an exceptional and rare example of Bowmore single malt to develop – the oldest one ever to be released from the distillery. Gold Bowmore has been created from the same hand-crafted spirit as the first two in the trilogy with the individual taste of each influenced by the different casks they were matured in. Gold Bowmore is uniquely matured in three Bourbon casks and a single Oloroso cask then carefully married together to make a spirit richly gold in colour with a finish that is beautifully balanced yet incredibly complex.
The trilogy began in 2007 with Black Bowmore. Matured purely in Oloroso casks, ebony in colour with aromas of exotic fruits, ginger and cinnamon, there were just 827 bottles produced. This was followed last year by the release of White Bowmore, matured in Bourbon casks, the colour of golden syrup and scents of galia melon, mango and papaya and launched with just 732 bottles. All three spirits come from the same year – the first time a Bowmore trilogy has been created this way.
Eddie McAffer, Distillery Manager at Bowmore commented: “I am so proud to see this last and very special part of the trilogy released. At Bowmore we put everything we have into every single bottle but this Gold Bowmore is something quite unique, embodying everything that is special about the whisky and from a year when things at the Bowmore distillery really went into a new era.”
The trilogy reflects Bowmore’s heritage of whisky created by people so passionate that nothing stands in the way of perfection. The whiskies are now some of the most collectable in the world and on release Black and Gold impressed critics across the globe.
Gold Bowmore (42.4%) will be available for pre-orders from 1st September at Harrods, Whisky Exchange, Fortnum & Masons, Vintage House & Harvey Nicols and will be on sale from 23rd September at £3000 RRP.
Notes to editors:
The original trilogy
Whisky lovers will be familiar with the original Black Bowmore trilogy, released in 1993, 1994 and 1995. These highly acclaimed limited editions are some of the most collectable in the world and in 2007 an original set sold for $18,000 at Christies – the highest amount ever reached for whisky at a world auction.  The new Black, White and Gold trilogy are a reflection of this original trio, taking the last of the spirit from this amazing distillation.
Tasting Notes
Black Bowmore
Ebony in colour with aromas of exotic fruits, ginger and cinnamon.
A palate combining ripe mango, toffee and dark chocolate with the faintest hint of signature Bowmore smoke
White Bowmore
The colour of golden syrup with amazing aromas of Gallia melon, mango & papaya.
On the palate, mixed exotic fruits, vanilla and maple syrup with a trace of Bowmore peat smoke   
Gold Bowmore
Rich gold in colour with aromas of passion fruit, papaya and vanilla.
An explosion of ripe exotic fruits, creamy vanilla and only a hint of peat smoke on the palate
Gold Bowmore is the final part of the trilogy which began back in 1964, and has a fascinating history. This milestone year for Bowmore marked a new era in the crafting of the famous single malt. The distillery had newly converted the original coal-fired pot sills to stills that run on steam enabling far better control of the temperature. At the same time as the first batch of distillate dropped from these new stills, 17 sherry butts from Williams and Humbert arrived at the distillery. Unlike the traditional bourbon casks, which impart a golden hue on their contents, the oak Oloroso casks, retain the sherry taste and colour, which results in a much darker, reddish amber whisky.

Review: G&M Glen Grant 1966, 41 yr. old

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glen Grant), 1966, 41 year old, 49.4%, $500 (CAD)
There’s been a lot of old, heavily sherried, independent bottled Glen Grant whiskies on the market over the past several years. Many of them have been heavily sherried. This one appears to be from a refill sherry cask, as its influence is more subtle. It has aged well, showing no excessive oak, but plenty of fruit (summer fruits, dried citrus, stewed fruit, tangerine, golden raisin), balance by polished oak, grape skin, and subtle dark chocolate. Distinctively pleasing.  Don’t add too much water, though, as it breaks down. (A Kensington Wine Market exclusive.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Gold Bowmore: My LIVE Twitter whisky review for this coming week

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Gold_Bow-2-medFor those of you who are interested in how the new Gold Bowmore, the third in a trilogy, tastes, follow me on Twitter ( this Wednesday, September 23rd, @ 4pm EST. You can join in on the lively discussion afterwards.

As part of the review, I’ll be comparing Gold  Bowmore to the other two in this trilogy (Black Bowmore, White Bowmore).

If you can’t (or don’t want to) follow me on Twitter, I’ll post up my review afterwards here on WDJK.

Six incredibly rare whiskies (one bottle produced of each) for WhiskyFest San Francisco

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Six different whiskymakers from six different distilleries have agreed to make a unique bottle of whisky (bottle #1 of 1) just for WhiskyFest San Francisco, which takes place on October 16th. Attendees will be able to taste a 1/2 ounce pour for a requested $20 donation to charity (Meals on Wheels).

Here are the six whiskies, along with a description of each, as provided by the whiskymaker.

Isle of Jura– Willie Tait: “I put a hogs head of Jura down on the 23rd Nov 1989, on my daughter’s 13th birthday. This was my legacy for my children, as they have already taken all my money.”

Bruichladdich– Jim McEwan: “The title of my whisky will be “Working on a Dream” it will be a vatting of 46 years of Bruichladdich as that is the time I have been in the business. A single malt made by humble men on the west coast of Islay whereby you can feel and taste their personality, honesty and passion in every sip you take.”

The Dalmore– Richard Paterson: As Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface for the very first time at 02.56 GMT on 21st July 1969, the new spirit of Dalmore down on Earth on this very same day was being transported onto the circular surface of American White Oak to begin its epic journey too.

The Balvenie– David Stewart: David now has an intimate knowledge of where his personal favorites are within the Balvenie warehouses, many of which he has been carefully nurturing for several years. David’s unique bottling will be a single cask sampling drawn directly from one of this highly personal selections.

Glenfiddich– Brian Kinsman: Cask samples are retained long after the cask has long been bottled and savored. They form a historical archive of Glenfiddich’s greatest and best. Brian will be selecting from these precious remnants to craft a unique and unrepeatable one-bottle “vatting” of Glenfiddich.

Buffalo Trace- Our charity Buffalo Trace bottle contains the very first sample ever drawn from our “Millennium Barrel.” This barrel was filled on December 31, 1999, that’s why we call it our “Millennium Barrel.” It was the very last barrel that we filled on the last day of the last century.

This is about as rare as whisky gets. And you can be sure they are going to taste great. Come to WhiskyFest San Francisco, try one of these rare treats, and help support a good cause.