Whisky Advocate

Thoughts on some new whiskies

June 4th, 2013

John HansellThe stream of new whiskies keep coming. Here are my thoughts on some that I’ve tried over the past month or so.

ArdbogStarting with scotch, I’m enjoying the new Ardbeg “Ardbog.” I must be. I’m halfway through my bottle. (Okay, so I had some help.) It’s contains some Ardbeg matured in Manzanilla sherry casks. I think the Manzanilla integrates a little better than the Marsala in Ardbeg, which was the sherry influence in Ardbeg’s previous release, Galileo. Plus, I find myself in the mood more for Ardbog than I do Galileo.

At WhiskyFest Chicago, I tasted the new Port Charlotte 10 year old (PC 10) from Bruichladdich and really liked it. Great balance to it, along with a nice maturity. This whisky has really come of age.

Regarding Irish whiskey, I tasted a new Powers Signature Release Single Pot Still whiskey at WhiskyFest, bottled at 46% and not chill-filtered. There’s no age statement, and it doesn’t taste as old as Powers John’s Lane 12 year old, but I really enjoyed it. It’s another nicely balanced, flavorful Irish whiskey. (I’m told it will be in the U.S. this September.)

Up north in Canada, Canadian Club has introduced a Canadian Club 12 year old Small Batch. According to my contact, it contains a higher percentage of barley and is aged in more first-fill casks than the standard CC 12. I think I would enjoy something light like this during the warmer summer months.

Port_Charlotte_TenHere in the U.S., there’s a bunch of new releases from Beam. The Limited Edition “Distiller’s Masterpiece” is an “extra-aged” bourbon finished in Pedro Ximinez (PX) sherry casks. Those of you who know PX sherry won’t be surprised when I tell you that there’s a lot of raisonated fruit in there, along with layers of toffee and other caramelized sugars. It’s a polarizing whisky, given the fruit, but I’m enjoying it as a change of pace. It’s also expensive ($200) and only available at the distillery. Those of you drinking bourbon as long as me will remember the Beam released two previous Distiller’s Masterpiece whiskies over a decade ago, one finished in cognac and the other finished in port wine. They were older (18 and 19, respectively), and I liked both of these more than this new release.

Beam has also released two Beam “Signature Craft” whiskeys: one is a 12 year old (which will be a regular stock item), and the other is finished in Spanish brandy (the first of a series of limited edition releases). I like the 12 year old. It’s very traditional, polished, nicely rounded and easy-going. It’s not going to set the world on fire with excitement, but it is indeed very enjoyable with nothing to complain about (except perhaps for the ABV, which is 43%. I would like to see it at 45% or maybe even higher.) The Spanish Brandy  release is more of a mood whiskey, given it’s Spanish brandy influence. It’s rich, fruity and sweet. Just like the Distiller’s Masterpiece above, I think some of you might like this for variety, but “traditionalists” might not be so receptive.

Kavalan Solist VinhoHeaven Hill has released a Limited Edition Barrel Proof Elijah Craig 12 year old. It’s nice to see the age statement still on this whiskey. (It seems all too often that when a producer introduces a barrel proof version of a brand, they do away with the age statement and release it at a younger age.) I like it! It’s very much in the EC style: lots of chewy, nutty toffee notes. In fact, given its higher proof, I would describe it as chunky–in a good way. It’s not a polished or refined bourbon, but it sure is flavorful.

Finally, I would like to mention two other new whiskies I’m enjoying. The new Amrut Greedy Angels  (50% ABV) proves once again that this distillery from India can release lovely whiskies. Also, the whiskies from Taiwan’s Kavalan distillery will be here in the U.S. later this year. I recently tasted my way through their line-up. While I was pleased with most of their offerings, I was particularly impressed with the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique bottling. It was complex, distinctive, and nicely mature.

Updated: Two late additions I almost forgot about. (Thanks Adam for the reminder in the comment section on both.) My Editor’s Pick for the Summer issue of Whisky Advocate is the new Angel’s Envy Rye. I really like that whisky. I enjoy the spice from the rye and how it dovetails with the Caribbean rum notes. I also am enjoying the new Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon. It’s 13 years old, but the oak is kept in check, with plenty of spice, fruit and sweetness.

How about you? What new releases have you been enjoying lately?





28 Responses to “Thoughts on some new whiskies”

  1. Gal Granov says:

    I’ve been enjoying some Glendronach CS batch #2 which is lovely stuff, as well as Turas Mara from Jura, which is a damn good entry level duty free edition , well priced.

  2. Louis says:

    I recently picked up a bottle of Widow Jane rye. It’s 2 year old Kentucky sourced rye, diluted with water from the (retired) Widow Jane mine in upstate NY. Bottled in Brooklyn, NY, less than a mile from my office.

    The whiskey reminds me of Glengoyne 10 year old scotch, but with a bit more complexity and better mouthfeel due to the 46.5% abv.

  3. B.J. Reed says:

    The cask strength PC-10 is even better….

  4. Adam Glaser says:

    The new Angel’s Envy Rye is really interesting and a very unique – gingerbread and wood – the new OBSK Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2013 is also a real powerhouse, lots of rye – a cross between Stagg and Handy.

    • John Hansell says:

      Thanks for jogging my memory, Adam. I updated my post to include both.

      • Adam Glaser says:

        Just got to try the Ardbog side by side with the Uigeadail…you’re right the Ardbog is really distinctive…it has a “smoked” flavor that reminds me of Balcones Brimstone or Corsair Triple Smoke – though much more subtle…in fact, the smoke profile of this one is much different than most Ardbegs I’ve tried…great stuff, though I think the Uigeadail is still the benchmark.

  5. William says:

    Also really enjoying the Ardbog, kinda reminds me of the Uigedall, just a great release.

  6. Luke says:

    John, re Powers Signature Release, any chance of some tasting notes for those of us languishing in Ireland, who’ve only heard rumours of this through the Grapevine…

    • RN says:

      Languishing in Ireland??? Try buying Irish whiskies in the U.S. We don’t get Green Spot, didn’t get Yellow Spot, and waited on Powers John’s Lane and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy for a year (or more depending upon location) after their release in Ireland and the UK. Even if Powers Signature Release Single Pot Still does show up somewhere in the U.S. around September, widespread distribution is doubtful until Thanksgiving/Christmas… if then.

      • Luke says:

        RN, John’s post above is the first solid mention of Powers Signature Release being tasted anywhere – we haven’t heard hide nor hair of it – only rumours! That said, the roll-out of IDL/Pernod Ricard’s Irish portfolio in the states is glacial-slow – my commiserations!!!

        • John Hansell says:

          Luke, I didn’t write down formal notes–it was a tasting at an event, not back home in my office–but I recall the whisky tasting very nice. Not as mature or as much oak as the 12 year old, but very rounded and still nicely mature. I liked it and so did some of my other Irish whiskey drinking friends.

          But having said this, NAS whiskeys in general concern me. The producer can start blending in younger whiskeys in future releases.

          • Luke says:

            NAS doesn’t concern me if the quality is maintained and the price is adjusted accordingly – by which I mean DOWNWARDS. [I’ll do you the courtesy of refraining from my usual Ardbeg-related rant!]

    • Luke says:

      I’ve just head a rumour that Powers Johns Lane 12 is going to be phased out in favour of this NAS vatting – not good news if it’s true.

      • John Hansell says:

        That wouldn’t surprise me. That’s the trend these days. Time to buy some 12 year old bottlings, perhaps? Just in case?

        • Luke says:

          If the price is right, buy as much 12 year-old as you can – the quality/value is still there.

          Re quality/value, the opinion of whiskey-drinking circles here in Ireland is that Power’s John’s Lane 12 SPS was a surprise to IDL/Pernod-Ricard who never anticipated the popularity and subsequent pressure on stock (PJL being a vatting of 12 to 14 year-old SPS). The general opinion is that IDL priced the initial bottling too low given the quality of the spirit (not that we’re complaining).

          That said, phasing out PJL 12, and phasing in a good quality NAS, to maintain stock confirms a (long suspected) commitment to quality by IDL/PR (Roll On higher-strength Powers Gold Label!).

          It’s a shame most large producers follow profits rather than maintaining quality..

          • Jeff says:

            Good quality NAS offerings, though they exist (but don’t have their quality enhanced in any way through the lack of an age statement), are in the eye of the beholder, as are guesses as to what they contain. As a trend, NAS is nothing more than a gimmick to introduce younger and younger whisky into these bottlings without ever having to announce it (or, incidentally, ever reducing the price as a result of net age reduction). If age does not mean quality, higher strength and casking, in and of themselves, don’t mean quality either – or a commitment to it.

          • John Hansell says:

            Yes, Jeff, I agree with you. That’s what concerns me. I call it NAS drift: when a distillery starts putting younger whiskey in a NAS bottling over time.

  7. two-bit cowboy says:

    The Pony Express hasn’t delivered our Ardbog yet, but we’ve been enjoying anCnoc 22; two from David Stirk’s Exclusive Malts collection: Clynelish 15 and Braeval 18; and Longmorn 20 (375ml bottle) by A.D. Rattray.

  8. Logan Mann says:

    Really looking forward to Kavalan coming to the States! And I’m assuming, based on the limited quantity, we won’t be seeing any Amrut Greedy Angels in the States right??

  9. RN says:

    Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon. Goofy name (Small Batch Single Barrel) but enjoyable bourbon. Dear Santa, please have Wild Turkey release something with an age statement of 12-years or more that’s less oak-dominated than American Spirit 15 and Tradition 14.

  10. PT says:

    I liked Ardbog better than Galileo as well. Uigeadail, however, is still my favorite Ardbeg expression.

  11. BFitz says:

    Tried three different of the Four Roses single barrel LE 2013. 116, 119 and 120 proof. The 120 was amazing while the other two were great. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an experience. Thanks for the heads up on the Power’s John’s Lane changing, I will stock up. The Widow Jane Bourbon is my bourbon of the summer. For $60 online it is going on vacation w/me.

  12. Steve Huff says:

    Hillrock is still top of the list and restocked. Just an amazing and well balanced bourbon. Stagg 2012 release is also a fantastic bourbon, but a beast at 70.7 ABV. Jefferson 21 just arrived and I have not yet found the occasion to crack it, but will soon when my new bar shelving has been completed. On the ryes, I have enjoyed the Dickel and look forward to the Turkey. Still nursing a Rittenhouse 25. For Canadian, your recommendaiton of Wiser’s Legacy was a wonderful find. That stuff sells itself! On the Irish front, the Conmera 12 and the Redbreast 12 58.6 ABV are in the wheelhouse. For scotch, loved the Flaming Heart and liked the PC 12. I just was given a New Zealand 1993 58.6 ABV single malt but the brand escapes my recall as of this post, but the 1996 that we opened was wonderful but could have used some strength. I will supplement the brand later.

  13. Newton James says:

    The Ardbog was quite a surprise. I normally do not care for heavy sherry influence in the Whisky, but this was plenty complex without the sherry I expected sweet. It is not as smooth as some previous drams of Ardbeg bottlings, but it is smokey and delightful.

  14. Thom says:

    Based on your Summer Top 10 list of whiskeis, I picked up a bottle of the Cutty Sark Prohibition – and I must say this might be my new go-to $30 dram. Nice richness, good mouthfeel, some complexity, all-around a cracking good dram and 50% ABV to boot.

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