Archive for January, 2011

Whisky in a can: good or bad?

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Scottish Spirits, a Panama-based company with an office in Scotland, is selling blended whisky in a can in the Caribbean and South America. The Daily Record reported it here yesterday. Have a look.

This issue was a big deal in the beer industry when high-end craft brewers started putting their beer in cans. Did it tarnish the reputation of the craft brewers? I don’t think so.

I buy good beer in cans every year. Why? I don’t want glass bottles on my boat. Bare feet and broken glass just don’t go well together. (Blood on my white deck better be from fish, not people.). I also don’t want to drink crap beer, so I am happy to have the opportunity to buy good beer in cans.

I don’t have any whisky bottles on my boat, largely for the same reason. I put whisky in a flask and have it available. But, if I could buy good whisky in a can, I would. It would make my Manhattan-drinking friends very happy if I had a can of good bourbon on board. And I wouldn’t mind having some good scotch handy too and not have to worry about transferring it to a flask!

So, what do you think? Is canned whisky good or bad for the whisky industry?

Review: The Glenrothes “John Ramsay Legacy”

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Glenrothes “John Ramsay,” 46.7%, $1,000

Made from whisky aged in second fill American oak sherry casks, distilled between 1973 to 1987. Richly malty, with honeyed citrus, juicy oak, chocolate fudge, and nougat. More subtle floral notes, licorice (red and black), ginger, and chamomile tea. Polished oak on the finish balances the sweetness. A great whisky to honor a great whisky maker! (Only 200 bottles for the U.S.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 93

Review: Tomatin, 1973 Vintage

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Tomatin, 1973 Vintage (Cask #25602), 44%, £450

Aged in a refill American oak cask. Quite lively for its age, and the oak (surprisingly and happily) plays a supporting role rather than dominating. Creamy and mouth-coating, with vanilla wafer, coconut cream pie, caramel, nougat, and bright fruit (sultana, apricot, tangerine, and pineapple in syrup). Soothing finish. A very nice whisky. (Not available in the U.S.)

Advanced  Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Irish whiskey lovers: two rare Midleton single casks

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

 Over the many years, I’ve often asked my friends at the Midleton Distillery (makers of the annual vintage release of Midleton Very Rare, Jameson, Redbreast, Power’s, Paddy, etc.) if they could bottle the Midleton Very Rare at a higher strength than 40% ABV. Well, they’re doing it now, but you are going to have work at getting a bottle. (Especially considering I’m a little late getting this information to you. Sorry about that.)

They have introduced two new single cask Midleton Very Rare whiskeys. One is available in Terminal 2 at the Dublin airport, while the other is available at Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop.

A producer always takes a risk when introducing single cask whiskies (Highland Park and Glenfarclas come to mind), because each cask varies in flavor and might alienate  some enthusiasts. I think, in the long run,  we are all the better for it.

I hope we see more interesting releases from the Midleton Distillery–and with broader distribution. They have the potential to make so many great whiskeys (with so much variety). The more the merrier.

I don’t normally post up press releases, but I”ll do it here (along with a photo).

Post update: One thing I forgot to emphasize initially–and this is important: these two new Midleton whiskeys are Pure Pot Still whiskeys. They are not a blend of PPS whiskeys and grain whiskeys, like the standard annual Midleton release. So, in this regard, these new Midleton releases are a kin to Redbreast and Greenspot.

New Exclusive Single Pot Still Whiskey Releases from Midleton

Midleton is synonymous with its annual vintage releases of the exquisite Midleton Very Rare blend but the renowned Co. Cork Distillery has now added to its limited releases of Single Pot Still whiskeys under the Midleton brand name with two new expressions which have been launched this month.

Both whiskeys are Single Cask bottlings destined for two individual retailers – the new Irish Whiskey Collection shop at the recently opened Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport and for the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dublin’s Dawson St.   The two casks were personally selected by Master Distiller, Barry Crockett, as outstanding expressions of the Midleton pot still style.

The Terminal 2 release is a 19 year old pot still whiskey which was laid down in November, 1991 in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has, in a new departure for the Midleton brand, been bottled at cask strength (53.7%).  The cask strength affords the whiskey connoisseur the rare opportunity to experience a Midleton pot still whiskey as it emerges directly from the cask.  The tasting notes for the whiskey reveal a dark, fleshy fruit character in perfect balance with the underlying pot still spiciness.   The impressive presentation box includes a portion of stave from the barrel in which the whiskey spent its life maturing so that on opening the box, one can literally smell the whiskey.  Only 200 bottles were yielded from this Single Cask.

The Celtic Whiskey Shop release was laid down in December, 1996, also in a first fill American bourbon barrel and has been bottled at 46%.  This is a slightly lighter style pot still distillate with green apples and banana to the fore.  270 bottles were realised from this particular cask. 

Each bottle is individually numbered with the Terminal 2 expression retailing at €260 and the Celtic Whiskey Shop expression retailing at €225.

Review: Focus on new Glenglassaugh releases (26, 30 and 40 year old)

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This distillery was closed from 1986 until 2008, when new owners purchased the distillery and restarted it. These whiskies were distilled by the previous owner.

Glenglassaugh, 40 year old, 44.6%, $2,525

An excellent example of an ultra-mature, sherried whisky done the right way. Much darker and more decadent than the other two releases here. Silky texture. Rummy, jammy fruit, toasted walnut, leather, spice (cinnamon, clove), tobacco, and dark chocolate, with a foundation of juicy oak. Tasting this whisky, you know it’s old, but you also know it’s very good.

Advanced Malt Advocate rating: 95

Glenglassaugh, 26 year old, 46%, $260

A polished whisky, light-medium in body with well-rounded flavors. Fruity (ripe orange, lemon gumdrops, candy apple), with creamy vanilla and a honeyed, toasted malt foundation. Soft, gentle oak throughout. What a lovely, gentle-natured whisky, straight down the middle! Bonus points for versatility.

Advanced Malt Advocate rating: 90

Glenglassaugh, 30 year old, 43%, $694

An intriguing whisky. Blueberry cobbler, crushed grape, maple syrup, nougat, and spice (cinnamon, nutmeg). The oak is polished and unimposing. Liqueur-ish. A nice contrast to its younger sibling, and it’s more polarizing because of its distinctiveness.

Advanced Malt Advocate rating: 86

Review: BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Finish 1995 Vintage

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

BenRiach Pedro Ximinez Finish, (Cask #7165), 1995 Vintage, 52.3%, $95

This is the heavily peated expression of BenRiach. (BenRiach does not differentiate their peated expressions with a different name, as Springbank does with Longrow, or Tobermory with Ledaig.) It’s also finished with the dark, lush “PX” sherry. Both influences are very evident, with the deep, heavy, earthy, smoky notes complemented by dark, fleshy, dried fruit. I think the two different influences marry very nicely here and I really enjoy drinking it. (Bottling at cask strength is a bonus!)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel (2001 release)

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Let’s make it five straight American whiskey review posts…

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2001 Vintage (Barrel #1), 43.3%, $26

While last year’s vintage was a more delicate expression of Evan Williams, I loved it for its elegance, charm, and balance (and gave it a 95 rating). This one is darker in flavor and bolder, with more caramelized sugars (caramel, toffee, maple syrup) along with some underlying fruit. It’s also drier, spicier, and with more wood influence (resin and polished leather). It still maintains its balance on the nose and majority of the palate, but with more wood on the finish than I would prefer to rate it in the 90s. (One more thing to consider: it’s a single barrel bottling and no two barrels are alike.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

Review: Early Times 354 Bourbon

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

With all my favorable bourbon reviews the past few days, I wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was on some sort of “happy” pills. But in all fairness to Early Times, this bourbon was meant to be more of a value play rather than a blockbuster whiskey.


Early Times 354 Bourbon, 40%, $16

Sweet corn, along with caramel, vanilla, and more subtle ripe summer fruits (on the nose and palate). Light, slightly brash finish. Rather sweet, somewhat youthful tasting, straight-forward, and unpretentious. Not something I would be drinking neat, but it does fare better on the rocks. (The ice and cold water cut through and calm the sweetness.) I think a little more aging would add some depth, and balance some of the sweetness with more oak spice.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 79

Review: Hirsch Rye, 25 year old

Monday, January 10th, 2011


Hirsch Rye, 25 year old, 46%, $200

Enjoyable, dark sweet notes: molasses, maple syrup, fig, grilled corn. The spices are there, too (cool mint, cocoa powder, warming cinnamon, nutmeg). They’re well-rounded and show up more toward the finish (along with some tobacco and polished leather). Soft, reserved, and slightly past its prime, but it still maintains its dignity.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

What does “Sold Out” really mean?

Friday, January 7th, 2011

I hope you’re enjoying the daily whisky reviews this month. I’m still going to post up my thoughts on timely topics, as they hit me. And this one just did.

As recently as yesterday, I have noticed whiskey producers and importers announcing on various social media sites that their supply of a given whiskey is “sold out.” But what does this really mean? 

If you haven’t purchased a bottle yet, should you stop looking for one? Absolutely not!

When a whiskey producer or importer proudly announces that a given whiskey of theirs is sold out, what this often means is that their entire stock  has been sold to retailers distributors before it even gets to the retailers. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any more bottles on the shelves.

You might have to spend some extra time looking, pay a little more than you wanted to, or travel a fair distance to get it. But, chances are, if you are determined enough you can find what you’re looking for.