Archive for March, 2010

Review: Four Roses 100th Anniversary, 17 year old bourbon

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Four Roses 100th Anniversary bottling, 17 year old, 55.0%, $75
I was concerned this whiskey would be woody and dry, but it isn’t. (By comparison, the 2009 “Mariage Collection” release which is a combination of 10 and 19 year old whiskeys comes across much more tannic and dry—especially on the finish.) The grain influence is less prominent (as might be expected), but it is replaced by some nicely dovetailed oak sugars and spices—and prominent fruit. It’s gentle on the nose and palate, with creamy vanilla, caramel custard, apricot, nectarine, glazed citrus, cherry pie, and graham cracker, spiked with subtle mint, clove and cinnamon. Smooth, soothing finish. Therapeutic even.

If you like your bourbons bold, stimulating and challenging, then this one isn’t for you. But if you want bourbon to comfort you like a warm blanket in cold weather, then give this a try.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

Review: The Glenrothes 1994 Vintage

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This is a nice whisky, but it shows a lighter, more elegant side of Glenrothes. It doesn’t express the rich, opulent notes often shown in Glenrothes (like the 1972 Vintage, for example).

Glenrothes, 1994 Vintage, $43%, $78
Very bright and lively. Nice balance of flavors too. Zesty fruit (lemon, peach, ripe pineapple, golden raisin) on a bed of layered sweetness (creamy vanilla, light honey, lightly toasted marshmallow, and a hint of coconut). Gently dry, delicately spicy, dried citrus finish. Light enough and with enough zing to enjoy before dinner, but it should stand up well enough after dinner too.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

Your recommendation for a good post-surgery whisk(e)y?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Because I’m going to need one. Knee surgery: one week from today.

I don’t even know how it happened. I was just getting out of my car two Saturdays ago, and my left knee started making a popping sound. One MRI later confirmed it. A torn medial meniscus. 

I’ve been spending a lot of my time this past two weeks dealing with all the doctor visits and pre-surgery prep: blood tests, physical, medical history, EKG, hospital interview, etc.

So, what should I be drinking during the days following my surgery to nurse me back to good health? And why? I’ll be happy to entertain pre-surgery recommendations too, if you have any.

The two new Glen Garioch whiskies coming to the U.S.

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I just received samples of these two new Glen Garioch whiskies. They are working their way to the U.S., and I have review samples. I already tasted them informally.

The first one is the 1797 Founder’s Reserve. (Top left.)

The second one is a 12 year old.  Details here on their website. So nice to see them bottled at 48%.

The Founder’s Reserve tastes sweeter, maltier, younger. The 12 year old is deeper, tastes more mature, and shows more oak. Formal review to follow soon. (Low to mid 80s is where I see them coming in, with the 12 year old getting a higher nod).

New: The Dalmore Mackenzie

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I first wrote about it here last month. This press release came in yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance to put it up until today. Here are the details of this new bottling. (And yes, it will be sold in the U.S.)

Illuminating a new partnership between The Dalmore distillery and the Mackenzie Clan

On the 17h March 2010 a unique gathering of Clan supporters and whisky aficionados’ is happening at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Underneath the shadow of the famous Scottish painting; ‘Fury of the Stag’, the first few bottles of a new edition of The Dalmore Mackenzie will be unveiled and enjoyed.

Only 3,000 limited edition bottles of the legendary highland single malt are being released to mark a new era in the distillery’s long affiliation with The Mackenzie Clan, and to help raise much needed funds for this famous Scots family.

The Mackenzie family, owners of The Dalmore distillery for almost a century, provides the inspiration for The Dalmore’s iconic stag head logo and its motto “I Shine, Not Burn” which is also the clan motto.

The launch will celebrate the single act of courage that an ancestor of Clan Mackenzie made when saving King Alexander III in 1263 from being gored by a stag, a scene that is depicted in the painting. 

The star of the show will be this iconic piece of art, quite literally, as not only will the largest painting in the gallery (5.4m x 3.3m) take pride of place at this event, it will also be projected on to the National Gallery itself for one night only, so that the whole of Edinburgh can appreciate its brilliance in an entirely new way.

The partnership aims to raise funds to help refurbish and maintain Castle Leod and to support a range of activities organised by The Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland & The UK. 

According to The Dalmore’s master distiller Richard Paterson this is the first step of a long-term commitment, and the brand is hoping to raise a seven figure sum in the next 10 years to help protect this important piece of Scottish history.

He added: “Whether you are a Mackenzie or not, with only 3,000 bottles available globally, this is your chance to own a little piece of Scottish history. 

“I have been nurturing casks at The Dalmore and monitoring their progress for some four decades.  The challenge to craft a whisky fit for the Earl and all Mackenzies was an inspiration. I am proud to be able to help the clan by creating a whisky with a regal heritage and one which is truly fit for a king…….as well as a Clan Chief!”

Each limited edition bottle will be individually numbered and is adorned with the Clan and the brand’s iconic Royal stag formed in molten metal. All purchasers are entitled to claim a limited edition print of the famous painting personally signed by the head of the Clan himself who continues to reside at Castle Leod.

The Earl of Cromartie and chief of the clan, John Mackenzie, says; “As the head of the Clan I speak for all Mackenzie’s to say that we are really excited to be part of this special event which brings to life this iconic painting in more ways than one, celebrating a piece of history that forms the foundation of our joint heritage, as well as the dawn of a new era in our continued partnership with the distillery. 

“I am delighted that The Dalmore are supporting the preservation of Castle Leod for not only me, but for the Clan, and for Mackenzies around the world and of course for Scotland”

Richard Paterson concluded: “This is the first step in a longer journey with the Clan Mackenzie as we work together for mutual benefit. The Dalmore and the Clan are inextricably linked. There are not many brands in the world that have these true royal connections, and we hope to announce more projects like this over the next couple of years. Watch this space.”


Some additional information:

 About The Mackenzie Dalmore

This limited release bottle can be purchased from all good independent whisky specialists for £100 (RSP) including the The Whisky Exchange, Royal Mile Whiskies, The Whisky Shop chain, Selfridges, Harrods, all good bars and of course at the Dalmore Distillery Visitor Centre (  It will also be available in good stockists in USA, France, Germany, New Zealand and in Global Travel Retail.

Tasting Notes

The first spirit used was distilled in 1992 and held in American white oak casks for some 11 years. The Dalmore then finessed the whisky by re-filling to fresh port pipes from the douro.  The natural soft amber red hue – drawn from the port pipes – links the colour of the whisky to the blood of the injured stag.  Bottled at 46% abv, the Mackenzie bottling is a commanding, intense and courageous fit for all aristocracy and proffers hints of vanilla, red fruits, spices and the brand’s classic signature citrus orange

About ‘Fury of the Stag’

In 1786 Benjamin West, historical artist to King George III, commemorated Mackenzie’s encounter with the stag in a vast painting, commissioned by Francis Humberston Mackenzie. The painting remained in the Mackenzie family seat of Castle Leod until 1952, and now hangs in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh ( ).  A commanding and impressive sight, the painting is huge at 5.4m * 3.3 m in size and is situated in the very first viewing room in the gallery.

The Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland & The UK

Castle Leod in Strathpeffer (near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland) is the Home of the Chief of the Clan Mackenzie and Seat of the Clan Mackenzie. The Society ( ) organises and attends a variety of events each year including the Strathpeffer Highland Games in August.  They are always looking for new members in the UK and from overseas from not only Mackenzies but also any Septs of the Clan, which are listed on their website.

Highland Park to release Global Travel Retail range of whiskies

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I have review samples and hope to taste these whiskies soon and let you know my thoughts. Press release is below.


The Best Spirit in the World* has simultaneously released four new whiskies exclusive to Global Travel Retail. Every new expression of Highland Park is eagerly anticipated by trade and consumer alike but the launch of an entire range is unprecedented for the Orcadian distillery. The Vintage Editions range consists initially of four Highland Park single malt whiskies distilled in 1998, 1994, 1990 and 1973.

According to Max McFarlane, Whisky Maker: “The starting point for this range was to look into our maturing stocks to find sherry seasoned casks which would showcase different dimensions of the classic Highland Park profile of honey sweetness and aromatic peat. I am delighted to have identified specific vintage years with exceptional casks.” 

The differences between the expressions lie in the extent to which first-fill or refill European and American Sherry oak casks have been used. The 1998 and the 1990 Vintages emphasise the smokier notes whilst the 1994 and the 1973 highlight the sweeter characteristics.

Jason Craig, Global Controller of Highland Park, adds: “Global Travel Retail has been nothing short of phenomenal for us with 88% growth over the last five years; I am confident this stunning new range will allow us to maintain our dynamic performance in this channel and maintain our position as the world’s most respected single malt.”

Highland Park 1998 Vintage 40%

With an emphasis on first-fill American oak Sherry casks in its maturation, this vintage reveals the smoky side of Highland Park, attributable to the distinctively aromatic peat from Hobbister Moor. The yellow accent of the packaging is inspired by the Orkney sun which, at midsummer, never sets.

Colour:          Rich, golden, clear and bright.

Aroma:         Opaque honey, dried grass with ginger spicy notes. Dried apricot emerges late.

Palate:          The vanilla and honey sweetness developed from a dozen years in American oak is perfectly balanced with the emergence of the aromatic heather peat smoke. Sweet notes of cinnamon and cashew nuts emerge.

Finish:           Sweet with medium lingering spice and smoke.    

Highland Park 1994 Vintage 40%

This vintage has luxuriated in the most expensive casks; a higher proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks have imbued the whisky with a rich, dark colour which is mirrored by sweetness on the palate. The crisp blue of the label reflects the deep sea and big sky of Orkney.

 Colour:          Rich, warm, amber hue.

Aroma:         Warm caramel to the fore coupled with hints of almonds. Dark fruit, including cherries and figs, are slowly revealed as the whisky opens up.

Palate:          Caramel and soft smoky notes intertwine with cinnamon and rich dried fruits.  

Finish:           Beautifully mature with a lingering, warming smoky finish.

Highland Park 1990 Vintage 40%

A slight increase in the proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks underlines the balance between sweetness and smoke for which Highland Park is renowned by whisky enthusiasts the world over. In essence, this expression is a bridge between 18 year old (The Best Spirit in the World*) and 21 year old (World’s Best Single Malt, World Whisky Awards 2009). The light green tones on the packaging represent Orkney’s fertile farmland.

Colour:          Golden, glowing coppery tones.

Aroma:         Orange peel, honeycomb with cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes; nutmeg with a hint of cloves coming through.      

Palate:          Mouth-watering citrus in the form of lemons and oranges, sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end.

Finish:           Medium sweet with lingering smoky spiciness.     

Highland Park 1973 Vintage 50.6%

When laying down a whisky for extended maturation, as with this Vintage, there is a danger the cask may dominate the spirit. Every time a cask is used, its ability to impart an influence on the spirit is diminished, which is why at Highland Park refill casks are used for the older whiskies. The refill casks specially selected for this Vintage allow the natural characteristics of Highland Park to come through; there is no over-dominance of cask. This Vintage is un-chill-filtered and completely natural colour (as are all Highland Park whiskies).

Tasting notes

Colour:          Rich, warm and naturally golden.

Aroma:         Complex aromatic layers emerge as this whisky reveals itself. Vanilla and toffee sweetness are evident; enticing floral notes and hints of heather are followed by dried citrus fruits, nutmeg and coconut.       

Palate:          The assertive citrus notes are balanced by the layers of caramel, cinnamon and soft floral flavours. The slight oak tones are first balanced and then swept aside by the late arrival of classic Highland Park spicy smokiness.     

Finish:           This whisky lingers, a clear reminder of the complexity that Highland Park is able to deliver. It is medium sweet, with a long smoky finish.

The stunning packaging draws on Orkney’s Norse heritage; the design on the front of the oak box takes the form of the complex woodcarvings in the characteristic ‘gripping beast’ style seen on the Oseberg ship, the oldest and most beautiful vessel of the Viking age. The outstanding craftsmanship has provided inspiration for the design of the packaging of this exceptional whisky for today’s intrepid travellers.

Review: The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, 1973 Vintage

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I realize that the price of this whisky is higher than most of you can afford (that includes me), but…

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, 1973 vintage, 49%, $1,250
A marriage of three casks, one of them an ex-sherry butt. The sherry is certainly evident, and this is more sherried than many of the Cellar Collection whiskies to date. Opulent and seductive, with prominent fruit (glazed spiced orange spices, ripe peach, and hints of pineapple and coconut), caramel-coated nuts, and vanilla custard. A peppering of ginger and cinnamon throughout. Coating, soothing finish. Very polished and seamless, with no trace of excessive oak. One of the richest—and finest—Cellar Collections to date. Anyone willing and able to cough up the bucks for this whisky will be richly rewarded. (Only 240 bottles available in the U.S., beginning June 2010.)

Advanced Malt Advocate Magazine rating: 95

Recommend a core whisk(e)y everyone should try.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I know that many of you are seasoned whisky drinkers, but we also have many WDJK readers who are new to whisky and just trying to sort everything out.  Let’s help them. After all, that’s what friends are for, right?

Many of us don’t have a big budget, so we need to factor cost into the equation. With all this in mind, name a whisky you recommend as a “must try” along our whisky journey–something that’s not to expensive and not too hard to find. (Pick any whisky category: Scotch, Bourbon, Irish, etc.)

The details on my upcoming whisky tasting in New York City this Monday

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I’ll be hosting a whisky tasting Monday night at my favorite Manhattan bar called “d.b.a”. It’s a very informal affair, and we’ll have the tasting in the bar’s (heated, enclosed) back patio.

The theme is “Independent Spirit” and features eight different whiskies from eight different distilleries by eight different independent bottlers. The whiskies are from my own collection—some bottled more than 15 years ago.

The whiskies:
-Cadenhead’s “Highland Park”, 21 year old, distilled 1972, bottled 1994, 56.5%
-Whyte & Whyte “Inchgower”, 13 year old, distilled 1980, bottled 1993, 43%
-Signatory “Laphroaig”, 7 year old, distilled 2000, bottled 2007, 59.4%
-Murray McDavid “Bowmore” (finished in Viogner wood), 11 year  old, distilled 1995, bottled 2006, 46%
-Gordon & MacPhail “Glenburgie” (single cask), 15 year old, distilled 1991, bottled 2006, 46%
-Mackillop’s Choice “Macallan”, 14 year old, distilled 1989, bottled 2003, 58.2%
-Scott’s Selection “Glen Elgin”, 25 year old, distilled 1980, bottled 2005, 44.1%
-Port Askaig (distillery undisclosed), 17 year old, 45.8%

The tasting starts at 7 pm. Contact the bar directly for information on tickets and pricing (212-475-5097). If you’re in New York, come and join us.

Tell me about your whisky drinking habits

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

In an effort to get to know you better, I was wondering about your drinking habits.  This is not some marketing research question or anything else like that, but just an honest query.

How many times a week do you drink whisky? And when you do have a whisky, how many drinks do you have?

And what do you drink most? Whisky, or something else?

To get the ball rolling here, I’ll tell you about me. I drink whisky more days than I don’t. Most of the time my whisky drinking is work-related–to taste or review whiskies for WDJK and Malt Advocate magazine, primarily because I have so many review samples that come in. That’s fine with me. One of the most exciting things for me is to try a new whisky.

Actually, I drink more beer than any other category. It is so versatile. Perhaps, in this manner, I am a bit like my mentor Michael Jackson was. I started out as a beer writer first, and then I moved on to whisky. I love wine too, as well as the other distilled spirits categories.

My typical day might be to review a a couple of whiskies during the day. (Not every day, but certainly a few days out of the week.) Then, depending on what our family is eating, I will have a glass of beer or wine with dinner. Whether I have something else to drink after dinner, like a whisky, depends on my mood and the circumstances.

For the most part, I’m a 1-2 drinks a day kind of a guy. But I do drink most days. Why? Because it is something I look forward to. I really enjoy it.

How about you?