Archive for December, 2010

And you wonder why whisky companies don’t import their whisky to the U.S.?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

It’s not always because they don’t want to. Sometimes our government’s bureaucracy makes it nearly impossible for them to do so.

Yes, we addressed this issue before here with Amrut from India. Well, here’s another example of your U.S. tax dollars at work.

It’s true that “straight” whiskeys here in the U.S., like straight bourbon and straight rye whiskeys, must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. But it’s ridiculous for our government to require a whisky outside of the U.S. be aged in new charred oak barrels to be called a “single malt,” as described below by the importer of Amrut and (hopefully, some day) The English Whisky Company.

Many of you will recall that last year I wrote lamenting about the TTB’s decision to not allow Amrut to be designated as a “Single Malt Whisky”. After appeals and clarification they relented allowing US consumers to enjoy another Single Malt Whisky.

At Purple Valley Imports we are focused on bringing world class single malts to US consumers and have been working to offer the English Whisky Company Single Malts to the US market.

Well, the powers that be are up to the old tricks again.

We recently presented The English Whisky Company’s Chapter 6 and Chapter 9 to the TTB Beverage Lab for analysis. (Any “Whisky” not from Scotland, Ireland, Canada or the US must go through lab testing).

Although the English Whisky distilled spirits taste, smell and drink like Single Malts the TTB department has deemed that we may call these “Whisky or Whiskey” but not “Single Malt”. Their reasoning? Well, the spirits are not aged in “new oak charred barrels”. 

As all of you are aware the majority of distilleries in Scotland use ex-Bourbon barrels. Bourbon is aged in new oak charred barrels and can only be used once. So, technically whisky is being aged in “new oak charred barrels that have had bourbon pass through them”.

The English Whisky Company, is the first new distillery in England in over a century. Located some 250 miles from Scotland they produce “Single Malt” Whiskies using barley grown and malted in England. (By the way some 60% of the barley used for Scottish Malt Whiskies is grown in England).

Andrew Nelstrop, Managing Director of The English Whisky Company commented: “We use only English barley, malted in England. The whisky we are producing at present was also peated in England. I am not aware of any distillery that can claim they use 100% barley, water and yeast produced in their own country other than ourselves”.

So, here is a small Distillery producing a wonderful dram (can I  call a whisky that isn’t from Scotland a dram?), that the US will not allow to be labeled as “Single Malt”.

Yet, they will allow whiskies from a distillery in Wales (which is much further in distance to Scotland then the English Whisky Company is) to do so.

Well while the rest of the world enjoys The English Whisky Single Malts, the consumers in the US can only dream. 

We are appealing this from here and from the UK. As always we appreciate your support and comments


Raj Sabharwal

Review: Oak-aged beers

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010


Many beers on the market are aged in oak for a spell. (More than you might think!) Here are several interesting ones — many of which were aged in whiskey barrels.

96 The Lost Abbey Angel’s Share “Grand Cru,” 12%, $20

A blend of beers of varying age from brandy and bourbon barrels, and there are also some Cabernet Franc grapes added to one of the barrels. It’s a fascinating beer! Dark russet color. Incredibly complex, with thick toffee, molasses, caramel-coated roasted nuts, vanilla, dark fruit (fig, black cherry), charred oak, tobacco, and suggestions of dark chocolate and black licorice. Good oak grip on its rather warming finish. A classic sipping beer.

92 Nebraska Brewing Co. “Mélange a Trois”, 10%, $20

Aged in French chardonnay wine barrels. Beautiful fluffy white head, and hazy marmalade in color. Complex fruit marries with the malt (green grape, rhubarb pie, plum, caramelized pineapple). Creamy in texture, with a soft toasted oak finish. Curious, distinctive, and very compelling. (Think oak-aged Belgian-style tripel, with some white grape influence.)

89 Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo, 9%, $12

Bottle conditioned and aged for over a year in oak barrels that previously contained cask-conditioned beer. A great addition to this legendary brewery’s range of beer. Sweet notes of nutty caramel and toffee meld with raisin and dried apricot, along with a suggestion of tobacco, plum skin, fig, and anise. The oak influence is noticeable throughout, but it is nicely camouflaged until its pleasantly tannic, lightly gripping, dry, warming finish. Nicely done!

82 Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer, 6.6%, $3

Lighter in color, body, and alcohol than the other oak-aged beers I’ve reviewed lately, and the only one where I could use “thirst quenching” as a descriptor. Gently malty, with silky layers of caramel, vanilla and light toffee, peppered with delicate citrus. The textural impact of the oak is more subtle, emerging mid-palate, and imparting a gently dry, tannic (polished leather) finish. A distinctive beer, given that most oak-aged beers are big, brooding, sipping beers.