Archive for November, 2009

Whisky Auctions: First Christie’s, now Bonhams

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Christie’s just auctioned off some rare whiskies this past Saturday, which I wrote about here. Now it’s Bonhams’ turn. The headliner, as you will see by the press release below, was the Dalmore Oculus. But there were other interesting whiskies too. Have a look:


The exceptional one-of-a–kind Dalmore Oculus sells for a staggering £27,600 at Bonhams best whisky sale in history

The Dalmore Oculus low resWhisky enthusiasts worldwide raised their glasses to an outstanding result at today’s whisky sale at Bonhams Edinburgh. With over 90% of lots sold, the sale raised an impressive total of £211,518, the best on record in terms of value.

 One of the highlights of the sale was the rare and unique Dalmore Oculus, assembled from some of the most exceptional whiskies of the past 140 years. This extraordinary whisky sold for a phenomenal £27,600, against a pre-sale estimate of £15,000 – 20,000, as cheers rung around the sale room. This is the highest price ever paid for a Dalmore whisky, far exceeding any previous expectation.

 Other distinguished whiskies on offer included a Black Bowmore-1964 first edition, bottled 1993, beautifully presented in a wooden case, which sold for a sensational £2,100 (estimated £1,500-1,700), whilst the Black Bowmore-1964, final edition, bottled 1995 also reached £2,100 (estimated £1,500-2,000) and the Black Bowmore-1964 first edition, bottled 1993, selling for an equally impressive £2,040 (estimated £1,500-1,700).

 Elsewhere, The Macallan-56 year old-1946, officially bottled by hand at The Macallan Distillery exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £1,500-2,000, selling for £1,980.

 From the first section of the 3,000-strong Willard S Folsom Collection of Old and Rare Single Malt Whiskies, The Dalmore-50 year old-1926 presented in a splendid ceramic decanter sold for an sizeable £1,920 (estimated £1,500-1,700). Also from this collection, a Macallan Speymalt-1938 toppled pre-sale estimates of £800-1,000, reaching £1,920, whilst a Bowmore Oloroso Wood-38 year old-1964 single malt fetched £1,680 (estimated £1,200-1,400).

 Martin Green, Bonhams Whisky Specialist comments: “We are delighted by the results of today’s sale. The atmosphere in the room was electric with much excitement and frenzied bidding for the 583 first-class whiskies of offer. The Dalmore Oculus reached a fantastic sale price, especially in view of the current economic climate.”

 For Bonhams enquiries please call +44 131 225 2266

 For more information please contact Charlotte Hastings or Rosie Kempson at The Communication Group on 0207 630 1411 or email

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 Vintage)

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The classic hits from Heaven Hill Distilleries just keep coming this year. First it was Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary (Score: 97). Then it was the Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old Single Barrel (Score: 96). And now this gem. Well done!

EWBottle_2000_WebEvan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage), Barrel No. 1, 43.3%, $26
Very elegant, bright and silky smooth, with honey-kissed summer fruits, subtle tropical fruit (papaya, coconut, pineapple), gentle caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla, along with a dusting of cinnamon, nutmeg and crisp mint. Pleasing, gently spicy finish. The most impressive aspect of this whiskey isn’t its variety of flavors (they are fairly traditional for a bourbon this age). It’s the integration and remarkable balance of these flavors! It’s also perilously drinkable. I can’t speak for the other barrels, but if you can track down some Barrel #1, buy two! You won’t be disappointed. Let me also note what a great value this whiskey is, compared to the way other premium American whiskeys are being priced. 

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

Whisky. The Wall Street Journal. This Friday!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

You would think I have enough to keep me busy with Malt Advocate, WhiskyFest, WDJK, Twitter, etc. Well, I do occasionally take on some freelance assignment.

As you know, I recently participated in the History Channel show on “Whiskey”, which just ran again this past Saturday. Well, this Friday (November 20th) I have a 2,000 word whiskey section going in The Wall Street Journal.

The special whiskey section covers some of the fundamentals (how whiskey is made, what distinguishes one country’s whiskey from the next, appreciating whiskey, etc.). I also address many new trends in whiskey (designer whiskies, artisanal distilling, extreme peating, no age statements, etc).

We even reached out to master mixologist Gary Regan and he added a great cocktail piece to the section, which includes a few really nice cocktail recipes.

Pick up a copy if you can this Friday.

Christie’s whisky auction results

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Christie’s “Fine Wines & Spirits” auction was this past Saturday here in NYC. There were some whiskies auctioned off, and here are the results.

Lot   Sold Price     Whisky
164  $21,600        Bowmore Trilogy
165  $2,640          Bowmore 1957
166  $2,880          Bowmore 1964, Fino Cask
169  $240              Benrinnes 1989, Glen Garioch 24 yr old
170 $600              Highland Park 24 & 34 yr old
171  $180              Ardbeg 12 yr (OMC bottling)
172  $240              Bruichladdich 1986
173  $240              Auchentoshan 37 yr old
174  $420              Springbank 37 yr old (Dun Bheagan)
175  $360              Tomintoul 40 yr old
176  $180              Compass Box Monster & Canto Cask 46
177  $84                Redbreast 15 yr old
192  $540              Knockando 1977
193  $600              Ladyburn 1973
195  $2,280          Mortlach 50 yr old
198  $1,800          Glenlivet 1943
201  $5,040         Macallan 1946
202  $5,760         Macallan Millenium 50 yr old
203  $13,200      Macallan 55 yr old, in Lalique

My initial impression is that some of the winning bids were higher than what I felt the whiskies were worth. For example, Park Avenue Liquor is selling the Knockando 1977 right now for $215. (Let’s not tell the high bidder, okay? No use ruining his/her day.)

Still, I would be happy to pay $84 for a bottle of Redbreast 15, given how good and rare it is.

Your thoughts?

Review: Compass Box “The Spice Tree” (2nd generation)

Monday, November 16th, 2009


Compass Box “The Spice Tree”, 46%, $65
The second generation of The Spice Tree. (This new expression sports a much larger tree image on the front label.) While the first bottling used inner French oak staves to impart an additional oak influence, this one uses French oak barrel heads. This new bottling is also bolder, displaying more oak —there’s more dried spice notes and it’s more viscous and clinging on the palate. (It’s also less elegant than the original bottling.) Notes of sticky toffee, vanilla fudge, bramble, and red currant give way to oak resin, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and subtle lemongrass. A tactile, somewhat resinous, polished leather finish wraps it up. A nice whisky, but to be completely honest, I really enjoy the subtler, more elegant nature of the original bottling better.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84


Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Auchentoshan beerYes, Auchentoshan beer!

Knowing that I am an enthusiast of all things malt (and that I was actually a beer writer before writing about whisky), my contact at Morrison Bowmore Distillers sent me two bottles of an ale that was made at the Auchentoshan distillery.

I cracked open the first bottle the other night and enjoyed it very much. Above is a very rudimentary picture I took of it with my Blackberry shortly before I drank it. (It was a little yeasty–my fault for not letting the bottle settle before drinking it–but I was too eager to drink it.)

Here are the specifics on the beer, directly from Jeremy Stephens, Head Distiller at Auchentoshan.

I spent several week putting together different recipes and doing small scale brews of around 17 litres.

After a few dodgy batches, I was finally happy with two recipes, which became Summer Gold and Triple Conditioned Ales.

I then bought in a few new pieces of kit and converted the yeast store into ‘The Brewery’.

A summary of the process is outlined below:

The malted barley is mashed in the distillery mash tun and the wort is transferred into the washbacks as usual.

A few buckets of the incoming wort are taken from the wort transfer line and poured into two 100 litre stainless steel boilers.

The gravity of the wort is usually too strong for ale production, so it is diluted with water to a lower starting gravity.

The temperature of the wort is raised to around 65 degrees C and a small amount of crystal malt is added and held for 30 minutes.

The temperature is then increased to 100 degrees C and brought to the boil.

At this point, the bitterness hops are added to give the beer its characteristic bitter taste.

After 45 min of boiling, copper finings are added to help precipitate and remove the hop solids to help give a clearer starting liquid.

After a further 15 min of boiling, the boilers are turned off and the late hop is added to give the desired fruity aroma.

This is then left to infuse for a further 30 min.

The hopped wort is then cooled on transfer to a 200 litres stainless steel fermenter (essentially just a big cylindrical bucket!) to around 20 degrees C and ale yeast is added.

Once full, the fermenter is moved into the tun room where the wort is fermented for around 2 days and the gravity drops to around 1008.

Towards the end of the fermentation, two lots of finings are added to the green beer to help remove the solids to give a presentable ‘bright’ beer.

The clearer beer is then transferred into pressure kegs, where a small amount of primings are added to facilitate secondary fermentation and are left to warm condition for 3 days.  The pressure is let off the kegs after around 24 hours to release any unwanted gases and resealed and conditioning continues.

The kegs are then moved to cold storage for around a week, after which time, the beer becomes clear, fizzy and drinkable (at least, I think so!)  We normally get around 150 litres of beer per batch.

The beer is then either left in keg, from where it was dispensed as cask ale at the Festival or transferred into bottle along with a tiny amount of primings for bottle conditioning.  The cask ale can be drunk immediately, but the bottles are best left for around 3 weeks to lose their sweetness and allow proper conditioning in bottle.

The Triple Conditioned is made similarly, but with more malt adjuncts, different hops and is primed with 3 substrates: honey, wort and sugar (hence the name ‘Triple Conditioned’).

The biggest problem was to ensure consistency as each batch performed slightly differently.

I will aim for a lower final alcohol concentration next year, as although the beer is very drinkable in bottle for the first 3 months, it does take on a much fuller body with less fruit and more malt as it ages.  Reducing the alcohol content to around 4.5% abv would help reduce the ‘syrupy’ nature of the aged beer.  However, beer drinkers who like a strong, fizzy ale would probably be advised to leave the bottle for a few months to achieve these flavour changes.  I gave the best before date as 5th October as I didn’t have time to do proper ‘forcing tests’ (shelf-life tests), so didn’t want to take any chances with the general public complaining the beer had gone off!  However, it should be good until well after Christmas.

Please remember to put the beer in the fridge for a short while (10 to 12 degrees C is optimal or below 6 degrees C if you’re entertaining lager drinkers) and keep it upright as it does contain a small amount of sediment.  Please also pour carefully as it is likely to be quite gassy now, and you don’t want to bring the sediment at the bottom of the bottle into the glass (unless, like many beer enthusiasts, you like the natural flavours and haze of the yeast and other settled products).

We sold 850 pints of Summer Gold Ale and 170 pints of Triple Conditioned Ale in 6 hours at the Festival – that’s a pint every 20 seconds!

We also packaged 750 bottles for sale, of which 250 were sold at the Festival and all but 9 of the remaining 500 bottles were sold in the shop.  You have 2 of the remaining 9 bottles. 

Yes, and now I have just 1 of the remaining 8 bottles! :)  Cool stuff going on at the distilleries.

“Whiskey” show on the History Channel: Tomorrow!

Friday, November 13th, 2009

For those of you who still have not seen this very informative show, it is running again tomorrow, Saturday, November 14th, at 7 pm on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” series.

There are some great distillery tours and interviews, along with some interesting historical discussions about whiskey. And yes, I am peppered throughout the show as the “independent expert”.

Be sure to watch it (or DVR it) if you haven’t seen it yet. I pasted the summary paragraph on the show from the History Channel’s website below.

    Modern Marvels “Whiskey” :
Known to Irish monks as “water of life”, visit some of the world’s finest distilleries to see how each country brews this thousand-year old spirit. Jack Daniels tells the secret of charcoal filtering, Jim Beam shows its premium bourbons and the art of blending is revealed at Canadian Club Whiskey. Cross the Atlantic to get the real deal at Jameson’s Distillery in Midleton, Ireland and in Scotland discover what gives Glenlivet its character. Meet some of the people who are lucky enough to sample whiskey for a living. Cheers!

New Tomatin whiskies

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I was just with Douglas Campbell, Master Distiller of Tomatin distillery. He stopped by at the Malt Advocate office and dropped off samples of two new Tomatin whiskies.

The first one is a 15 year old, aged in used bourbon casks. The second one is a revamped 18 year old. It has additional sherry cask aging, and it’s also bottled at a higher strength (46%) versus the standard 43%.

The entire line’s packaging was also upgraded.

So, the regular line-up now consists of a 12 & 18 yr. old with some sherry cask aging, and a 15 & 25 yr. old, aged in used bourbon casks.

There will also be some special vintage bottlings coming up, which I’ll let you know about when I get more information.

WhiskyFest New York 2009 recap

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Okay, I’m back in the office after being out a week.

I had a great time Tuesday night at the sold-out WhiskyFest. It was nice to see some of you there.

Here’s some of the news-related items that I picked up at the event:

Park Ave Liquor in NYC got on a stash of some delicious Knockando 21 y/o single cask bottled way back  in 1998!! I had a bottle at one time. Great stuff!

There’s going to be a New Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 vintage coming out next year in time for father’s day.

An Cnoc 12 and 16 coming to the US in a month or two. Also Balblair 1991 and 1997 vintage.

Glen Grant made its US debut at WhiskyFest with 10 and 16 year old expressions!

Chivas Royal Salute 38 y/o “Stone of Destiny” also debuted at WhiskyFest.  Only 600 bottles for the US for the entire 2010 calendar year and priced at $600.

Look for a new 2009 vintage Jameson Rarest Special Reserve.

Glendronach Single Casks are going to start showing up at retailers’ shops who have the opportunity to buy a cask. I caught a glimpse of one at the Park Avenue Liquor booth.

I hope to post up more information here as I get more time over the next few days. For those of you who were in attendance, feel free to post up your thoughts on the event.

WhiskyFest New York tonight

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days. I took a much needed pre-WhiskyFest mini-vacation. I’ll be tweeting as the night goes on for those of you following me on Twitter. And I’ll post up something here on the Fest here on WDJK in a day or two.