Archive for February, 2011

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (2010 Release)

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Roll these names off your tongue: Stagg. Handy. Weller. Sazerac. Eagle Rare. Now wrap it all up with Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Collectively, these are the bottles that American whiskey lovers go nuts for every year, tracking them down on shelves three or four states away, swapping and trading for them.

They drink them, they don’t just collect them, because these are really good whiskeys. Any one of them — three bourbons, two ryes — has the potential to snag this award in any given year, and some years they have. But one’s usually a lot better, and sometimes one is under par that year, and that’s kind of good: you don’t have to buy all of them.

This year, though…the stars are aligned, and you’d better get out your checkbook. This is probably the strongest Antique Collection as a collection since Buffalo Trace started sending out allocations of these five excellent spirits. Weller: layers of lusciousness. Stagg: finely-carved power. Eagle Rare: beautifully balanced corn and oak. Handy: barely-restrained youth. Sazerac: smoothly spicy. (See full tasting notes here.)

Can we pick five whiskeys as “best”? Of course we can. When they’re all this good, when the Collection comes together like this, how can we do anything else?

photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

The “Canadian Whisky of the Year” will be announced tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Artisan Whisky of the Year”: Kilchoman (Summer 2010 Release)

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The Artisan Whisky of the Year recognizes small production distillers making hand-crafted whisky, regardless of where they distill. Sometimes, artisan distillers peacefully coexist with larger, higher production distillers. So it is with Kilchoman, located in a rural farmland setting on Scotland’s famous distilling island, Islay.

Operational only since 2005, the owners of Kilchoman began bottling their peat smoke-infused whisky in small batches shortly after the whisky became legal at three years of age. We were blown away by it. The inaugural release (three years old, 46% ABV), occurred in the fall of 2009, but the first whisky exported to the United States was the Summer 2010 release.

Summer 2010 is this young distillery’s fourth release and it’s aged entirely in bourbon barrels. Previous releases that we have tasted and reviewed (the inaugural release and the Autumn 2009 release) were finished in sherry casks. We miss the sherry, to be honest. It softened the whisky, added a new dimension, and perhaps even masked some of its youth. Still, this is a very nice whisky: brisk, vibrant, and bracing, with plenty of raw peat smoke and tar, along with pear, citrus, vanilla, licorice root, bourbon barrel char, clove, bitter chocolate, and suggestions of olive brine and high- end mezcal.

In addition to the standard Summer 2010 release, there were also two single cask, cask strength bottlings purchased by two specialty retailers. They take everything that is good about the standard release and give it to you “right out of the barrel.” 

If you like smoky whiskies, and you like them youthful, vibrant, and bracing, then Kilchoman is the whisky for you.

Be sure to check back tomorrow. The “American Whiskey of the Year” will be announced here!

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Best Buy Whisk(e)y of the Year”: Tie – Evan Williams & Very Old Barton 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Best Buy is always a touchy category. It’s not cheap whisky, and it’s not barely endurable whisky — there are plenty of both, but we’re not interested — it’s about whisky that’s a great combination of flavor and price.

We went American, as we often have in the past. American whiskey is still an outstanding value, with many excellent bottlings under $30, and some still quite tasty under $20. We zeroed in on about five good ones, then tossed a few aside somewhat cavalierly because they were too expensive…over $15! That’s the kind of value you can find in this category.

That still left us with two bourbons: Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams and Buffalo Trace’s Very Old Barton 100 Proof. On value by the numbers, it was a toss-up. Evan Williams is a dollar or two less, but the VOB is higher proof, but the Evan is probably a bit older… Back and forth: no tie-breaker.

The tale in the glass was no different. Evan Williams is a sophisticated whiskey for its price: smooth, a great aroma, and neither gets lost in nor dominates a cocktail, a classic table bourbon. Very Old Barton is an equally impressive example of another category of bourbon, the pleasantly rough ride: a whiskey with vigor, robust corn character, and unabashed power that lets you know you’ve had a snort, while not so aggressive that it leaves you gasping.

We finally realized we didn’t have to choose one over the other, and neither do you. Both of these are excellent values; in fact, at these prices, you can happily buy both!

This is the first of the 17th Annual Malt Advocate Whisky Awards to be announced. One award will be announced each day through February 28, 2011. Tomorrow, the “Artisan Whisky of the Year” will be revealed.

Next post: Malt Advocate Whisky Awards, beginning Feb 16th

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I’m taking some vacation. This will be my last post until I return, but we will hit the ground running when I get back.

Until then, I encourage you to check out the other fun whisky sites that I have links to.

Be safe, have fun, and drink some great whisky while I’m gone.

Whisky reviews “Shelf Talkers” now online for printing

Friday, February 4th, 2011

This is more for the whisky companies, importers, distributors, and retailers. But, if you go to our online Buyer’s Guide (click on the link above in the header), you can now print a shelf talker of a review you are interested in. The link is below the review.

Retailers, you can now put them on their shelves below the the whisky to help guide consumers on a whisky they will like. (And it just might help you sell more whisky too!)

It just went live yesterday, so if you see any glitches, please let us know.

17th Annual Malt Advocate Whisky Awards to be announced HERE first, beginning February 16th

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Malt Advocate Whisky Awards exist to recognize excellence in the world of whisky. Now in its seventeenth year, these awards are the oldest and longest-running annual whisky awards program.

The awards are always announced in the first issue of Malt Advocate each year. Subscribers will get this issue around March 1st. But, I’ll be announcing the awards here first, beginning February 16th. They will then automatically be fed to my Twitter (@JohnHansell) and Malt Advocate’s Facebook accounts.

The advantage of publishing the awards on this blog is two-fold:

  1. The awards can be announced more quickly on social media than in print media and will help to reach a larger audience.
  2. Announcing the awards in a blog platform allows for further discussion and interaction between whisky enthusiasts, press, and trade.

Unlike other publications who seem to have endless awards, we only have 12. Each day, I’ll post up the award winner, along with the write-up which will eventually appear in Malt Advocate.

The dates the category winners will be announced are:

February 16th:  Best Buy Whisk(e)y of the Year

February 17th:  Artisan Whisky of the Year

February 18th:  American Whiskey of the Year

February 19th:  Canadian Whisky of the Year

February 20th:  Irish Whiskey of the Year

February 21st:  Scotch Whisky Blend of the Year

February 22nd:  Scotch Whisky Single Malt of the Year

February 23rd: World Whisky of the Year

February 24th: Pioneer of the Year

February 25th: Industry Leader of the Year

February 26th: Distillery of the Year

February 27th: Lifetime Achievement Award

February 28th: Top Ten New Whiskies (Not officially an award, but more of a recognition.)

The only requirement for eligibility is that products must be sold in the U.S. in the 2010 calendar year. Last year’s postings were fun and we had a lot of discussion. I’m looking forward to the same this year.