Archive for May, 2011

Review: Michael Collins 10 Year Old

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Michael Collins 10 Year Old, 40%, $40

Don’t remember ever reading that Michael Collins suffered from schizophrenia… This is a bewildering whiskey suffering from an identity crisis; its fruity apple Irish heart wrapped in wood, some peat, and conversely, some sherbet and sugar-coated almonds. It’s not unpleasant — far from it — but the journey from sweet apple to sharp spice is a challenge. Stay with it and ultimately the complexities of the malt win through. –Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

photo courtesy of Sidney Frank Importing Company, Inc.

Review: Glenmorangie Pride

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Glenmorangie Pride 1981, 56.7%, $2,850 (approx.)

Glenmorangie Pride employs the use of Sauternes barriques to give a 10 year period of secondary maturation to a batch of spirit distilled in 1981. The result is a whisky with an intense, pungent, earthy nose; very complex, with polished old furniture notes, spices, oak tannins, and licorice. The palate is ‘full on’ for a Glenmorangie; waxy, with sherbet, honey, and baked apple, then orange marmalade, sultana, and a hint of smoke in the lengthy finish. Available July 1.  –Gavin Smith

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 93

The leading single malt scotch brands in the U.S. (I think #5 might surprise you!)

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Here they are, according to IMPACT DATABANK

US – Leading Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
  Percent Change
Rank Brand Importer 2008 2009 2010 2008-2009 2009-2010
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 285 286 309 0.4% 8.0%
2 The Macallan Rémy Cointreau USA 125 125 134 0.0% 7.2%
3 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 102 100 107 -2.0% 7.0%
4 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 47 50 55 6.4% 10.0%
5 McClelland’s White Rock Distilleries 49 52 54 6.1% 3.8%
6 Glenmorangie Moët-Hennessy USA 37 43 52 16.2% 20.9%
  Total Top Six 645 656 711 1.7% 8.4%


McClellands? That certainly surprised me! Anything surprise you?

Review: Bainbridge Battle Point

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Bainbridge Battle Point organic wheat whiskey, 43% ABV, $47

A small-barrel aged whiskey. The nose is sweet and fairly simple: cotton candy, wintergreen, faint menthol, and some heat. It’s hot in the mouth, too. The mint/wintergreen gives way to light caramel and sweet fudge; it’s even a bit sticky. There’s a need for more depth to balance the sweetness, and some more age to mellow the heat. More rough-edged than ‘big distiller’ whiskey at this point.  –Lew Bryson

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project sample giveaway

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

What’s the right thing to do when you have the entire set of the first release of Buffalo Trace’s Single Oak Project? Give away a 50ml set of all 12 bottles to a deserving individual.

I don’t want this to be a contest. I’m just feeling philanthropic. So, yesterday I installed a plug-in that tells me who’s commenting the most here on WDJK. I decided that’s who would get the set of samples.

I checked the comment list for both 2010 and 2011 year-to-date. It’s the same person: “Red_Arremer.” Congrats Red, and thanks for taking the time to participate here!

What the hell? Why don’t I also give away a set to the second highest commentor? That would be “Sam K.”

I have both of your email addresses. I don’t have 24 50ml sample bottles right now, so give me a couple/few weeks to take care of the logistics. I’ll reach out to you via email.

Enjoy the whiskeys guys!

Review: Glen Garioch 1991

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Glen Garioch 1991, 54.7%, $100

Distilled at Glen Garioch when peated barley was still being used, this 1991 vintage is quite reticent on the nose, considering its strength. Subtle malt and fudge notes, plus a hint of wood smoke. Fresh fruits and a sherbet ‘zing’ on the palate, with a suggestion of treacle. Developing spicy smokiness. Fruitiness is emphasized when water is added. The ‘zing’ — now ginger — lasts to the end of the medium-length finish, with advancing, discreet oak. (Only 120 bottles for the U.S.) –Gavin Smith

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

Review: Greenore 18 year old

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Greenore 18 year old, 46%, $125

Greenore is the grain whisky produced by Cooley, and as an 8 year old and a 15 year old it has proved to be a world beater.  Now it’s being marketed as the oldest Irish single grain whiskey in the world, and while there’s lots to recommend, this age might be a step too far. Lashings of banana and vanilla ice cream are up front, but then sharp salt and pepper slash across it and leave an astringent, puckerish mixed finish. –Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 82

photo courtesy of Patrick Bolger

Review: Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland whisky

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland whisky, 47.3%,  $162

Rarely has a blend caused as much excitement as this one, but with good reason. This is also known as the Shackleton whisky, and is a recreation of the whisky abandoned in the Antarctic by explorer Ernest Shackleton more than 100 years ago. It has lemon, spring blossom, and wafts of smoke on the nose. The taste is full and citrusy, with peat and pepper in attendance. Beautifully balanced and outstanding, but there are just 50,000 bottles, so snap it up. –Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Buffalo Trace’s new “Single Oak” project: Part 1

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Buffalo Trace newest (and biggest) project was announced a couple weeks back. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet (which is understandable given that the whiskeys are only now getting into circulation), here’s an excerpt from the press release:

Beginning in 1999, then Warehouse Manager Ronnie Eddins traveled to the Missouri Ozarks to hand pick 96 trees, consisting of fine grain, medium grain and coarse grain wood, based on the tree’s growth rings. Each type of grain indicates a different growth rate and will yield a different flavor profile.  From there, each tree was cut into a top and a bottom piece, yielding 192 unique sections. Next stop was the lumber yard, where staves were created from each section and were tagged and tracked. The staves were divided into two groups and given different air dried seasonings, 6 months and 12 months.  The air drying allows Mother Nature to break down some of the more harsh flavored characteristics commonly found in wood.  

After all the staves were air dried, a single barrel was then created from each tree section, resulting in 192 total barrels.

The next step in the process was to experiment with different char levels of the barrels. Two different char levels were used, a number three and a number four char. (The standard char level for all Buffalo Trace products is a number four char, which is a 55 second burn.

Then, barrels were filled with one of two different recipes, a wheat and a rye recipe bourbon. To further the variety of experiments, barrels were filled at two different proofs, 105 proof and 125 proof.  And if this wasn’t enough, two completely different warehouses were used, one with a wooden ricks and one with concrete floors.  In total, seven different variables were employed in Buffalo Trace’s ultimate experiment.

And then, the waiting began.  For eight years the Distillery continued with its tracking process, creating intricate databases and coming up with a potential of 1,396 tasting combinations from these 192 barrels!

The Single Oak project is part of a much larger, and noble, effort: to create the perfect bourbon. How? By asking consumers to rate the whiskey they taste and then provide this feedback to Buffalo Trace via this new website that has been established for the Single Oak project.  As the press release puts it:

On the website, consumers create a profile and after rating each bottle, will then see the aging details and provenance of each barrel. They can interact with others who have also reviewed the barrel, compare their reviews on the same barrel, and even use it as a learning process for themselves by discovering which characteristics they like in a bourbon to help them select future favorites.  

Participants online will earn points after reach review and most importantly, help Buffalo Trace Distillery create the perfect bourbon!

According to Mark, at the conclusion of the project, they plan to take the top rated barrel, make more of that product and launch it under the Single Oak Project nameplate. So, ultimately, the 192 unique barrels with 1,396 tasting combinations will lead to one style of bourbon. One damned good bourbon!

I say this is only part of a much larger effort to create the perfect bourbon because over the years, Mark Brown, President and CEO of Buffalo Trace, has told me of some of his other projects to achieve this goal. One of them is to critically deconstruct the tasting notes and ratings of key whiskey writers (including yours truly). Incidentally, he told me just last week that, even though each of us may differ the way we describe our whiskeys, there is common ground in our reviews too. (He didn’t go into detail, so I suppose we’ll save that for a later time.)

Will the lucky ones who actually happen to get their hands on a bottle of Single Oak Project whiskey take the time to rate it and record it on the Single Oak Project website? Only time will tell, but I hope so.

Here’s another snippet from the press release, describing the logistics of the first release (and future releases):

The first release of the Single Oak Project Bourbon is expected to hit stores nationwide in very limited quantities around the end of May. Each release will consist of 12 unique single barrel bourbons.

Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The first release is made up of barrel numbers 3, 4, 35, 36, 67, 68, 99, 100, 131, 132, 163 and 164. Each of these barrels had the same entry proof, seasoning, char level and warehouse aging location. However, the  hope is to identify the differences in taste based on recipe, wood grain size and tree cut as these characteristics varied amongst this group of barrels.

There will be a series of releases over the next four years until all of the 192 barrels have been released.  All releases will be packaged in a 375ml bottle. Suggested retail pricing is $46.35. 

In Part 2 of my post on this project (which will probably be later in the week), I will get out my secret decoder ring and tell you about the first 12 releases and how each barrel of bourbon differs. Additionally, I’ve tasted all of them and, while I don’t plan on rating them formally, I will give you my general thoughts on them (including which ones I liked, the ones I would take a pass on, and why).

Stay tuned!

Review: Benromach Origins 12 year old

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Benromach Origins 12 year old, Batch 2, 50%, $80

The newest member of the ever-expanding range hailing from Gordon & MacPhail’s own distillery in Forres. This example has been aged in port pipes — and it shows immediately on the nose. Benromach is a teasing mid-weight Speysider, and this has added depth of sweet damson jam-like aromas mixed with Seville orange (marmalade) and some milky nut. Rich fruitcake flavors on the tongue. This is a very well balanced and precocious 12 year old. Worth a look.– Dave Broom

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84