Whisky Advocate

Some whisky highlights from WhiskyFest San Francisco

October 10th, 2012

WhiskyFest San Francisco was this past Friday. I had a chance to try some new whiskies while I was there and would like to share my thoughts. Some of these are so new, they haven’t even been formally released yet. I was just offered pre-release samples to taste.

One of my favorite whiskies of the evening was a Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 Vintage. It was elegant, well-rounded, and subtly complex. Very nice!

The U.S. finally has Japanese whisky besides Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu. Nikka is making its formal debut at WhiskyFest New York in two weeks, but the importer was also pouring Taketsuru 12 year old “Pure Malt” and Yoichi 15 year old single malt at the San Francisco event. The 12 year old, a blend of malts, was nicely rounded and easy to drink, while the 15 year old was very distinctive. My feeling on Japanese whisky is: the more the merrier!

Angel’s Envy has two new whiskeys coming out. The first one is a barrel-proof version of their flagship Angel’s Share bourbon that’s finished in port pipes. The other one is a high-rye whiskey that is currently being finished off in a Caribbean rum cask. I tasted both. Both were very interesting. The high rye/rum finish combination was unique.

Wild Turkey is finally coming out with a new whiskey that’s not 81 proof! (Thank goodness!) There’s a new Russell’s Reserve Small Batch being released soon that’s 110 proof, with no age statement.

I was able to taste the next Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage release (a 2003 vintage). It was very smooth, easy-going, and dangerously drinkable.

There’s a new Michter’s 20 year old single barrel about to be released. I was concerned that it was going to taste too woody, dry and tannic. Not a chance! I was so impressed with this whiskey, that I kept taking people I knew over to the Michter’s booth to taste it before it disappeared. (Well, it wasn’t officially there in the first place, but I did my best to spread the word.) I know this was a single barrel, but I sure hope they all taste like this!

Gable Erenzo had a unmarked bottle of a Hudson Bourbon he wanted me to try. It was a six year old Hudson bourbon matured in a standard 53 gallon barrel (not a small barrel!) and it was the best Hudson whiskey I have tasted to date. Thanks for the tease, Gable…

One of the most pleasant experience of the evening wasn’t even a whisky. It was a beer! At the Anchor booth, they were pouring Anchor Steam that was bottled just five hours earlier. Damn that beer was fresh. It was the best Anchor Steam beer I ever had outside of the brewery. So, if you saw me walking around with a glass of Anchor Steam, now you know why!

Finally, I couldn’t resist sitting in on one of the seminars: a flight of Bowmore whiskies paired with a variety of West Coast oysters that were flown in that day and shucked right in front of us.  Delicious!

No Responses to “Some whisky highlights from WhiskyFest San Francisco”

  1. sam k says:

    Damn, oysters and whisky… What a seminar that must have been! I’ll never forget that night at St. Andrews with the Clynelish 14 and those wonderful oysters!

  2. Chap says:

    How lovely! I’ve fallen in love with the Japanese single malts–Taketsuru, included–and this is a very welcome development. I look forward to the others as well!

  3. OudErnest says:

    Glad to read your Anchor Steam comment. I was afraid after the buyout that their beers had fallen off a little based soley on lasteryear’s Christmas Ale but perhaps it was just an off year for the beer

  4. Judd says:

    I can’t WAIT for NYC!!! Excited doesn’t cover it!!!

  5. Judd says:

    And for those looking for a great pre/post game of steak and whisky, my fav place is Keens on 36th and 6th

    I take clients there alllllll the time! Sit upstairs!

  6. Scribe says:

    John, very, very helpful — thank you for posting! I will print out and take this with me to NYC WhiskyFest — always such a good time!!!!

  7. Andrew Ferguson says:

    Yoichi 15 Year is one of my whiskies of the year. So fruity and complex. The chaps at Nikka have been making some excellent whisky as of late!

  8. BFitz says:

    The group at Heaven Hill are wonderful. Rob held my hand when I bought our first private barrel last year, a Evan Williams 2002 Vintage coming in at 86.6 proof. If a restaurant or retailer is considering this, make Heaven Hill your first call. Evan Williams is a great whiskey for getting Jim and Jack drinkers to stretch. Looking forward to tasting some ’03 and Whisky Fest Chicago again!
    -Bobby Fitzgerald

    • JD says:

      Wow, what’s a 6yo Hudson going to cost? Hopefully the use of big barrels will ensure enough supply to help keep the price down. Maybe?

    • JD says:

      (sorry Bobby–that last wasn’t meant to be a reply to you, just hit the wrong button…)

  9. Josh West says:

    I wish the Nikka Yoichi 10 and 12 would also make their way to the USA. The 15 is a big, rich, complex dram, but I found the wood subdued the coal smoke that is so present in the 10 and nicely balanced in the 12. But anyways, this is still good news!

  10. Fresh beer is marvelous. One of the reasons I like Real Ales


  11. mashbill says:

    Who’s the Nikka importer the US??

  12. Christopher Mueller says:

    Are we definitely getting the Nikka whiskies (in particularly the Yoichi 15) or are these just for the WhiskyFest event?

  13. Jim says:

    Is the new Russell’s Reserve a replacement for the current 10 year/90 proof expression or will it be an addition to Wild Turkey’s product line?

    • John Hansell says:

      I’m not sure. I will post when I find out.

      • Jim says:

        Hopefully it’s an addition. I’d take it as a very good sign to see Wild Turkey ADD an expression for a change, rather than just lowering the proof or age on a current one.

        • BFitz says:

          @Jim, they have a 12 year that is produced for Japan, it is amazing and would be a great release for the U.S.

          Not trying to hijack the thread but I do not understand Wild Turkey’s desire to “give them the bird” instead of communicating the high quality product it is. Being a hard-drinkers drink is an image that does not need reinforcing. Last night at dinner a friend said how he loves to sip Dewars on the rocks but can’t drink Wild Turkey. I asked him when was the last time he had it and got the same old reply, “20 years ago in college.” Shots. I’m giving him a bottle of Rare Breed.

          • Vince says:

            Great observation BFitz! I totally agree with you. Just dont understand their marketing strategy at all.

          • Jim says:

            I’d certainly be elated over having the 12 return to the US but there’s no way they have the stocks to sustain that brand here.

            I agree about the marketing, but I think it’s just a product of the fact that WT has no aged whiskey to sell. They’re lessening their brands, reducing ages, reducing proofs, a trend that has gone on for over a decade. Like I said, I hope this new RR is an addition, not the end of age stated Turkeys in the US. If it is, I hope it’s the beginning of the return to glory of Wild Turkey.

  14. […] the second half of my post that began on October 5th (with a WhiskyFest summary in […]

  15. Dichele & Kurt Schartel says:

    This was our first year at Whiskyfest in San Fran and we had a phenominal time, my hubby loves Whisky and I loved the awesome food they had there. We are hoping to attend every year going forward. Thank you for putting together such a wonderful event.

  16. Bob Siddoway says:

    Hearing about the new Angel’s Envy and Wild Turkey makes me thirsty!!! Always been a big fan of the Wild Turkey expressions, especially Rare Breed… Good news, indeed!

  17. Mark McKeever says:

    I really enjoyed my first WhiskyFest. There were a lot of great samples. My favorite was the Elijah Craig 20-Year. Just delicious. See you in Chicago.

  18. Judd says:

    Silly question, but when it is said that the Great King Street will be on sale the day after whisky fest, does that mean I will be able to hit a liquor shop in the area and grab a bottle before I leave NY Sunday afternoon? If so, have they shared WHICH stores will have them available for sale?


  19. Judd says:

    Thanks John! One other question! Dress code? Is it business casual? Dressier? Are hip jeans, button downs, and dress shoes cool? I am pretty hip LOL 🙂

  20. Judd says:

    I was being serious, though… LOL! Does one need to wear a jacket?

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