Archive for June, 2010

Drink anything fun on Father’s Day?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

We enjoyed some great beer on tap (The Lost Abbey Carnivale), delicious wine (Shafer Relentless), and the Glenfarclas 150th Anniversary bottle that I opened up on Friday after our daughter Shannon’s High School graduation. I even finished the evening with one of my favorite cigars (an Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Robusto).

How about you? What were you drinking yesterday?

Tonight, yet another reason to open up a special bottle of whisky!

Friday, June 18th, 2010

It’s an amazing two weeks. I turned 50 on June 7th, our daughter turned 18 on June 14th, our company joined the M. Shanken Communications group on June 15th, and now tonight our daughter graduates from High School.  (And this Sunday is Father’s Day too!)

There’s been a lot of celebrating here. I’ve opened up some amazing whisky (and other goodies) over the past two weeks, and tonight is no exception.

This is what I am opening up when we get back from graduation. It’s the 150th Anniversary Bottling of Glenfarclas, bottled back in 1986. I’ve waited long enough to enjoy this whisky, and I will do it with some close friends, in honor of Shannon.

Here’s a picture of our daughter Shannon (isn’t she a cutie?), just a couple weeks ago on prom night. That’s Amy (my wife) and me also in the picture. I am very proud of them both.

Here’s to Shannon, our soon-to-be-graduate and to all the other parents out there with children graduating from school (whatever type of school it is)!

Now, I better start thinking about what I should open up on Father’s Day. It’s only two days away. 🙂

Let this be a reminder for you to find a reason to open up and enjoy that special bottles you have been saving. That’s what life is all about!

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first whiskey in 53 years

Friday, June 18th, 2010

It’s great to see the whiskey industry growing worldwide–including Ireland! This press release just came in earlier today.

The World’s Oldest Distillery Launches a New Whiskey

Kilbeggan Distillery releases first new whiskey in over 53 Years

For over 200 years, the Kilbeggan Distillery produced some of the finest whiskey in the world.  In 1957 the stills ran dry but 50 years later Cooley Distillery, the multi-award winning independent whiskey distiller, breathed new life into the world’s oldest distillery and today, the first new whiskey to be distilled at Kilbeggan in over 53 years was officially unveiled at an intimate gathering at the Kilbeggan Distillery in Co. Westmeath.

The Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve Malt, the latest addition to the Kilbeggan family of fine whiskeys, is produced from the oldest pot still in the world which dates back to 1830. The Kilbeggan Distillery itself was established in 1757 and is the oldest distillery in the world.

Fittingly the local heritage group was in attendance to witness the launch of the new whiskey as they played a key role in ensuring the survival of the distillery during the years it lay dormant.  Also in attendance were distillery employees, without whom the world’s oldest still could not have been brought back to life.  All gathered at this momentous event received a signed bottle of the first batch.

The whiskey world has waited in anticipation for half a century for the first new bottling from the historic Kilbeggan distillery.  Distilled from 100% malted barley, the Kilbeggan Distillery Reserve, due to the distinctive narrow necks of the ancient pot still design, is an exceptionally smooth and flavoursome Irish Malt whiskey of distinctive character.

John Teeling, Chairman of Cooley Distillery commented at the launch, “This is another significant landmark in the rejuvenation of the great Kilbeggan distilling tradition.  A huge amount of hard work by Cooley employees and the local heritage committee has gone into getting us to this day.  It is a labour of love to re-establish the Kilbeggan Distillery as a centre of distilling excellence.  Heritage and tradition are vital elements in whiskey.  Great whiskeys come from great distilleries.  Today’s whiskey, though young, has a distinct character both smooth and flavoursome; a character that will only improve with age.  And why wouldn’t it, being distilled by the world’s best distillers, in the oldest working pot still in the world and matured in 200 year old granite warehouses.

Today’s launch also marked the unveiling of the recently rebranded Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.  Currently sold in over 35 international markets, the Kilbeggan brand is Cooley Distillery’s flagship Blended whiskey.  The rebrand project involved creating an over-arching identity for the Kilbeggan Irish whiskey brand and the Kilbeggan Distillery.  This highlights both the unique provenance as the oldest distillery in the world and the high quality of the whiskey. The Kilbeggan 15 Year Old Irish whiskey was honoured recently as the Best Whiskey in the World at the 2009 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London.

Jack Teeling, Managing Director of Cooley Distillery said, “We are delighted to be able to accompany the release of the first new whiskey from the Kilbeggan Distillery with the unveiling of the rebranded Kilbeggan Irish whiskey range.  The new packaging pays homage to the rich heritage and quality of the Kilbeggan brand while also maintaining a contemporary look and feel.  We look forward to seeing the trade’s and consumer’s reaction to the new look Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.

The rebranded Kilbeggan is being rolled out in Germany and the US with all other markets following suit over the next few months.  This will be followed by the release of a range of brand extensions including a Super Premium Kilbeggan 18 Year Old.

What whisky inventory software are you using?

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Okay. Where were we before the “big announcement?” Let’s get the ball rolling again.

I received this email a few days ago from a WDJK reader and thought I would throw it out to all of you to comment on:

Dear John,

I was wondering if you or others in your community of drink pros or blog & magazine readers might be able to help me with something. There are lots of excellent software programs for managing wine collections, but I haven’t been able to find anything comparable for whisky or other distillates. There seem to be a few basic, homemade programs out there but nothing approaching the sophistication of commercial wine-cellar software. Are you aware of any programs that you’d be willing to recommend, or would you be willing to ask your friends or What Does John Know readers.

I’ll be honest. I started an Excel spreadsheet many years ago and still use it to this day. It just contains the basic information: name, age, vintage, ABV, quantity, if it is open or not, and a place for general comments.

My wine inventory (also on Excel) is actually more detailed, because it also contains purchase price, ratings (e.g. Wine Spectator), and recommended drinking time-frames.

How about you? Are you using any software to manage your whisky inventory that you really like and want to tell us about?


Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Well, this is the big news for the day (year? decade?) It’s all very positive–a perfect match.  Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. Details below in the press release.

(That’s Marvin Shanken and me in the picture, earlier today, after I signed what seemed like a million papers. The synergisms have already begun. I’m giving him a bottle of The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959 vintage, and I went home with a handful of pre-Castro Cuban cigars, also from 1959. Very nice!)


Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.


 John Hansell stays on as Publisher & Editor; Amy Westlake remains WhiskyFest Director

New York, June 15, 2010:  Malt Advocate, Inc. today announced that it is now a part of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   Malt Advocate, Inc. includes Malt Advocate magazine, WhiskyFest New York, WhiskyFest Chicago, and WhiskyFest San Francisco.

M. Shanken Communications, Inc.  publishes a variety of consumer and trade publications.  They include Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Food Arts, Market Watch, and Impact.  In addition, the company hosts a number of events across the United States including the New York and New World Wine Experiences, Wine Spectator’s Grand Tours and Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smokes. 

John Hansell will remain Malt Advocate magazine’s Publisher & Editor, and Amy Westlake will continue as Director of WhiskyFest events.  Malt Advocate, Inc. operations will remain at their current office in Emmaus, PA.

“Amy and I are very proud of our efforts promoting the whisky industry, both with Malt Advocate, which will be celebrating its 20thAnniversary in 2011, and the 25 WhiskyFest events we have hosted over the past 12 years,” notes John Hansell.

“Our activities dovetail perfectly with those of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. from a publication and events standpoint.  There are definite synergies that will be achieved between the two companies.  The M. Shanken Group will take Malt Advocate magazine and our WhiskyFest events to levels that we could not have achieved on our own.  We are very excited about our future together.”

“John and Amy are pioneers in this industry and highly regarded,” commented Marvin R. Shanken, CEO of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   “We are proud to have them on board with us.  Their creations—Malt Advocate and WhiskyFest—are benchmarks.”

For additional information, contact Amy Westlake (610. 967.1083 or

Review: Balblair, 1997 Vintage

Monday, June 14th, 2010

There are three vintage Balblair whiskies that I know of (1975, 1991, and 1997), and only two are (finally) being imported to the U.S.–the younger two.

I also have a review sample of the 1991 vintage, and I will post up my review of it soon.

Balblair, 1997 Vintage, 43%, $65
Very fruity (peaches in syrup, pineapple, golden apple, sultana) and satisfyingly rich in texture, with coating vanilla, marzipan and a potpourri of dried spice (especially on the nose and finish of the palate). Great balance too. Nicely done!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 88

Guest blog: Chuck Cowdery on those confusing bourbon regulations

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Chuck is a leading authority on American whiskey and, of course, one of Malt Advocate magazine’s regular feature writers. He also has a great blog you should be checking out. He’s here to clear up all the confusion about those subtle nuances of American whiskey regulations. Take it away Chuck. (And feel free to ask that question you always wanted the answer to.)
There is a lot of activity in the distilled spirits world right now, much of it at the intersection of production, marketing, and government regulation. Tuthilltown’s sale of its Hudson Whiskey line to William Grant & Sons has raised questions about differences between American and European definitions of whiskey, which have nothing to do with how the word is spelled and everything to do with how and for how long the spirit is aged.

Alcoholic beverages also seem prone to myths, some of which die hard. Although bourbon whiskey is strongly associated with Kentucky, for example, there is no law restricting its manufacture to that state. Many people also believe that Kentucky is the only state name that can appear on a bourbon label but that’s false too. There are similar myths about the relationship between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

The actual rules can all easily be found in one place, the Code of Federal Regulations, title 27, part 5, subpart C. The rules apply to all products sold inside the United States, whether made here or imported.

The rules don’t restrict what producers can make, just what they can call it.

They can be confusing.

One easy way to understand them is as a hierarchy or winnowing. The legal definition of “alcohol” is very broad. The definition of “whiskey” is more narrow and the definition of “bourbon whiskey” is even more restrictive. Each level incorporates the requirements of the one below.

To simply use the term “whiskey” the spirit has to be made from grain, distilled at less than 190° proof (95% ABV), and stored in oak containers. The rules don’t say anything about the type of oak container (new, used, charred, toasted. etc.), nor barrel entry proof, nor minimum age.

European Union (EU) rules are the same except they require a minimum of three years in wood.

For a product to be labeled “bourbon whiskey” it has to meet tighter requirements. The mash must be at least 51% corn, the distillation proof has to be less than 160° proof (80% ABV), the barrel entry proof has to be less than 125° proof (62.5% ABV), and the oak containers have to be new and charred, but there is still no minimum age specified.

Hence Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey may be just three months old and legal in the USA, while in the EU it can be called bourbon, but not whiskey.

That brings us to “straight bourbon whiskey,” which has to comply with all of the above plus spend at least two years in wood. Why the word “straight” was chosen to mean “aged in wood for at least two years” I cannot explain.

Finishes and infusions are another controversial area. Many people have argued, incorrectly, that Red Stag by Jim Beam forfeited the right to call itself bourbon by adding a maceration of black cherries and other flavors. Some are raising similar concerns about the new Maker’s Mark 46, which spends a little time in what are technically used barrels, with additional un-charred wood surfaces added. Woodford Reserve, Jim Beam, and Buffalo Trace have all used wood finishes, comparable to single malt scotch finished in sherry casks.

The best way to understand finishes and flavorings is that just as you can’t un-ring a bell, you can’t un-bourbon a bourbon. What you get when you add something to it is “bourbon and…” The official description of Maker’s 46, for example, is “Kentucky bourbon whiskey barrel-finished with oak staves.”

The purpose of these regulations is not to protect the purity of bourbon, it is to ensure that consumers know exactly what they’re buying.

Glen Grant celebrates 170 years with a new limited edition whisky

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

This new whisky will be available in August, and it looks like the U.S. is going to be left out of this one. A marriage of whiskies (1976-1999) and bottled at 46%.  The “hint of peat smoke” in the tasting notes has me intrigued. Details below.




ROTHES, Scotland, June 10th, 2010– This year sees Glen Grant celebrate 170 years of passion and excellence in whisky making.  The Speyside distillery has been producing its famous single malt whisky since it was established in 1840 by former smuggling brothers James and John Grant. 

With the 170th anniversary, the Glen Grant story will continue to maintain the forward-thinking traditions of the Grant family. Its whiskies are still made on the same grounds as those first established by its founders. With the sea and port of Garmouth nearby, the River Spey at its feet, peat in the vicinity, and barley-growing plains in close proximity, all the basic ingredients of malt whisky were at their fingertips.  These traditional ingredients combined with the innovative distilling methods that James ‘The Major’ Grant, son of founding brother James Grant, developed are still used to this day to create the unmistakable flavour, colour and finish of Glen Grant.  The distillery’s unique tall slender stills and special purifiers that were developed over a century ago continue to give its whiskies a light, fresh character – making the innovative Glen Grant whisky clearly different from any other brand.

To celebrate 170 years of uncompromising and passionate whisky making Glen Grant has created an inimitable experience with the launch of a 170th Anniversary Limited Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky. A whisky lover’s dream, the commemorative edition has been specially crafted by Master Distiller, Dennis Malcolm, who has carefully selected the most valuable Glen Grant casks ranging 1976 to 1999 and married them together to create one unique Glen Grant expression.

“170 years on, we continue to build on the combination of tradition and innovation that the Grant brothers brought to their whisky making all those years ago,” Glen Grant Master Distiller, Dennis Malcolm commented.  “We wanted to celebrate the history of the brand whilst translating the unique Glen Grant approach into something new and unexpected with the 170th Anniversary Limited Edition whisky.”

Embodying well over a century of tradition and innovation, the magnificent 46% abv (alcohol by volume) limited edition Single Malt, perfectly delivers the seductively smooth taste for which Glen Grant is renowned; with rich tones of ripe orchard fruits interlaced with hints of peat smoke.  Careful cultivation in oak casks as it matures over time has created a fresh and natural Single Malt Scotch Whisky with a distinctive golden brown colour.

The Glen Grant 170thAnniversary Limited Edition will be available starting August 2010 at the recommended  price of 100 Euros, sold in a premium gift pack, across  Europe, Taiwan, Travel Retail markets and the Glen Grant Distillery visitor centre in Rothes, Scotland, in a 70 cl bottle.

Bonhams has another New York whisky auction slated

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

If you missed out on these whiskies the first time around, you get a second chance. (Okay, so maybe they will cost you a little more.) The press release is below, and the link to the actual list of whiskies on their website is here.

New York– Bonhams New York first sale of Whisky in 2010 will take place at 5pm on Tuesday June 22 at the company’s 580 Madison Avenue saleroom.

The auction features 554 lots, and marks the first various-owner auction devoted to Whisky to take place in the city since a 2007 law change allowed spirits auctions to take place in the state of New York.

The auction also marks the beginning of regular sales schedule for Whisky and Spirits at Bonhams in New York, with plans for at least two sale selections each year.

“Bonhams is committed to the sale of whisky and spirits across the globe. Along with our regular whisky sales in Edinburgh, we are now delighted to see the beginning of a regular auction schedule here in New York – and continue to develop our spirits offerings in Hong Kong,” says Malcolm Barber, Bonhams Group Managing Director.

The vast majority of the sale features single-malt Scotch whisky, along with a handful of blended Scotch and Irish whiskey lots. Estimates go to $9,000 a bottle, and the auction in its entirety is expected to fetch over $200,000.

Highlights include a 190-lot collection that features substantial quantities of Silent Stills, Rare Malts and Gordon & Macphail bottlings. Within this collection notable lots include a 37 year old Bowmore matured in Bourbon wood (estimate: $1,800-2,500), and The Springbank Double, bottled in 1994 (estimate: $800-1,000).

A significant selection of The Macallan features prominently in the auction, including a bottle of The Macallan 50 Year Old Anniversary Malt accompanied by a letter by Chairman Allan Shiach dated July 1983 (estimate: $9,000-11,000); an example of the 35thPrivate Eye Anniversary bottling (estimate: $550-700); and The Macallan 52 year old distilled in 1946 (estimate: $3,750-4,500).

Elsewhere in the sale, a bottle of Gold Bowmore is on offer (estimate: $4,200-5,000); along with a 1940s bottling of ‘Pinch’ in excellent condition and in original Christmas wrapping (estimate: $250-300); and a 35-lot collection of Glenmorangie (estimate range $150 to $1,200) that includes The Culloden Bottle, The Grand Slam Dram, and a 1976 bottling that celebrates the first commercial flight of Concorde (estimate: $650-800).

Glenora releases new “Battle of the Glen” 15 year old Glen Breton single malt

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Glenora has release a new 15 year old Glen Breton single malt called “Battle of the Glen” (a.k.a “Take that, SWA!” :)).

All joking aside, here are the details, straight from their press release.


Glenora Distillers International Limited takes great pride in announcing a Special Edition 15 Year Old GLEN BRETON Single Malt Whisky.

One year ago, on June 11th, 2009, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its judgement dismissing the application of the Scotch Whisky Association for leave to appeal in its unsuccessful campaign to oppose the trade-mark registration of Glen Breton, Glenora’s flagship single malt. That decision finally terminated nine years of litigation by the Scotch Whisky Association, involving four levels of appeal in the Trade-marks Opposition Board and the courts.

On November 19th, 2009, Glen Breton was entered as a registered mark on the Trade-marks Register of Canada. We at Glenora express our deep appreciation for the support and loyal patronage of the many who stood with us to win our cause.

In celebration of the registration of Glen Breton®, and to commemorate our victory in that Opposition, Glenora is releasing a unique bottling of select 15 Year Old Single Malt, the BATTLE OF THE GLEN™ Special Edition.

Lauchie MacLean, President of Glenora, says of this Special Edition Glen Breton,

“As far as we are aware, BATTLE OF THE GLEN is the first and only product created as a result of intellectual property litigation. The packaging and special booklet enclosure chronicle our fight for the inspiration of lovers of fine single malt whisky, and records our struggle for posterity. I am tremendously proud of the work of our people here at Glenora in producing this Special Edition. Glenora also wishes to acknowledge the creative talent of Famous Folks/Creative Communications based in Halifax and Toronto, for concept and development of the presentation box and labeling of the BATTLE OF THE GLEN Special Edition.

With release of this Special Edition Glen Breton, as Cape Bretoners, as Nova Scotians and as Canadians, we also honour all of our families who have gone before us, in courage and with sacrifice, to defend their rights in all just causes.”

We invite you to pour yourself a goodly dram of BATTLE OF THE GLEN, savour the apple and maple of our Cape Breton highlands, and join us in toast to victory for Glen Breton – hard-won, richly deserved.

Glenora has, by its perseverance in craft distilling and the quality of its single malt, now earned a respected position in the world. Glen Breton Rare, Canada’s only single malt whisky, received recognition as one of “Top 50 Spirits 2006” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

For further information, please contact:

Lauchie MacLean



Bob Scott

Vice President