Ardbeg Twenty Something, Laphroaig 27 year old, Japanese Whiskies & More New Whisky

This week brings a mixed bag of new whiskies, from limited-edition scotch to a whole range of Japanese blended malts and a couple of craft whiskeys.

Ardbeg is releasing a well-aged single malt called Twenty Something. Available in limited quantities for the Ardbeg Committee and at U.S. retailers, Twenty Something costs $450 and is made up of whiskies aged at least 23 years. This is remarkable not only because of its age, but because Ardbeg Distillery operated very infrequently during the 1980s and ’90s, even closing down completely between 1981 and 1989. So stocks this old are tiny, and this whisky celebrates the fact that Ardbeg persisted even during the lean years—and thrives today.

Meanwhile, fellow Islay distillery Laphroaig is rolling out a 27 year old expression, priced at a hefty $750. The whisky is available in limited quantities, but guaranteed to be on shelves through at least the end of this year.

Several new Japanese whiskies are launching right now. Kurayoshi is a new line of blended malts made at Matsui Shuzo in Japan’s Tottori prefecture. The malts come from unnamed sources, and there are several expressions, including 3 year old, 8 year old, 12 year old, and 18 year old whiskies, and 3 year old and 8 year old sherry cask versions.

In addition, the Japanese rice whisky brands Ohishi and Fukano have two new expressions each. Ohishi Islay Cask was finished in—you guessed it—scotch casks from an unnamed Islay distillery, while Ohishi Tokubetsu Reserve combines 27 year old whisky with 10 and 7 year old whiskies. Fukano is rolling out a single cask expression (8 single casks in all) aged entirely in new charred oak, as well as a small batch 12 year old whisky matured in sherry casks. Both Ohishi and Fukano are made of 100% rice and fermented with yeast and koji, a fungus that’s also used to make soy sauce and miso.

Two new craft whiskeys are making their debut. Union Horse Rolling Standard Midwestern Four Grain Whiskey blends bourbon and single malt made at the Kansas distillery. And Colorado’s Leopold Bros. has its first straight bourbon for sale.

Finally, Douglas Laing & Co. has a new blended malt whisky in its Remarkable Regional Malt range, this one from Campbeltown. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the U.S. Read on for full details.

Ardbeg Twenty Something

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 23 years old
Proof: 46.3% ABV
Price: $550
Release: November 2017
Availability: Very limited

Need to know:

This limited-edition Ardbeg combines whiskies from ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks, aged at least 23 years. It is available for members of the Ardbeg Committee outside the U.S. to purchase directly. In the U.S., Twenty Something will be for sale in limited amounts at retail.

Whisky Advocate says:

According to the distillery, Twenty Something commemorates the lean years of 1980s and ’90s, when Ardbeg didn’t make much whisky (and for several years, none at all). As a result, stocks of “20-something” year old Ardbeg are rare—so if you’re eager to try a very aged expression, this may be worth the money.

Laphroaig 27 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 27 years old
Proof: 41.7% ABV
Price: $750
Release: November 2017
Availability: Limited

Need to know:

This Laphroaig was aged in refill hogsheads, then transferred into first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and quarter casks. It’s available in limited quantities at least through the end of this year.

Whisky Advocate says:

Very old Laphroaig is a beautiful thing—just check out how often it scores 90 points or more in the Buying Guide. This 27 year old does not come cheap, but for die-hard fans, it may be worth the splurge. (If you taste it, let us know what you think!)

Kurayoshi Malt Whiskies

Style: Blended malt
Origin: Japan and Scotland
Age: Varies
Proof: Varies
Price: $65 to $200
Release: Fall 2017
Availability: Limited quantities

Need to know:

Kurayoshi is a new brand of Japanese blended malt whisky—often referred to as “pure malt”—from undisclosed sources. The range includes 3 year old (46% ABV; $65; 1,440 bottles), 8 year old (46% ABV; $80; 1,440 bottles), 12 year old (46% ABV; $100; 2,160 bottles), 18 year old (50% ABV; $220; 1,140 bottles), 3 year old Sherry Cask (46% ABV; $80; 720 bottles), and 8 year old Sherry Cask (46% ABV; $100; 720 bottles).

Whisky Advocate says:

Kurayoshi is available in other parts of the world, bottled at 43% ABV, but the bottles that are hitting the U.S. are all 46% ABV. (The 18 year old is 50% ABV everywhere.) The company which bottles it, Matsui Shuzo, is located in the well-forested Tottori prefecture, northwest of Kyoto, and uses fresh groundwater for proofing.

Ohishi Islay Cask

Style: Rice whisky
Origin: Japan
Age: Not stated
Proof: 43.3% ABV
Price: $100
Release: Fall 2017
Availability: 636 bottles for the U.S.

Need to know:

This is Japanese rice whisky that was matured first in brandy casks, then finished in casks from an undisclosed Islay distillery.

Ohishi Tokubetsu Reserve

Style: Rice whisky
Origin: Japan
Age: Not stated
Proof: 40.5% ABV
Price: $250
Release: Fall 2017
Availability: 1,214 bottles for the U.S.

Need to know:

This is a marriage of 27 year old, 10 year old, and 7 year old whiskies aged in sherry casks. The 27 year old whisky actually came out of the barrel under proof at 38% ABV, but mingling it with the two younger whiskies has led to a final, cask-strength ABV of 40.5%.

Whisky Advocate says:

Ohishi is from Japan, but it’s not Japanese whisky as you know it. This whisky is made from rice and fermented with both yeast and koji, a kind of fungus that’s also used in making miso and soy sauce. Chris Uhde of GRC Imports, who discovered Ohishi and brings it to the U.S., is working with the master distiller to create unique expressions like Islay Cask and Tokubetsu Reserve. He says about Tokubetsu Reserve: “It is done with the Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch #3 in mind. I was able to try the individual casks that went into the Tun 1401 Batch #3 and I was amazed how Dave Stewart [malt master for Balvenie] was able to take already great whiskies (including one underproof) from different years and make something that is better than its individual parts.”

Fukano 12 year old Single Cask

Style: Rice whisky
Origin: Japan
Age: 12 years old
Proof: 41.9% ABV
Price: $100
Release: Fall 2017
Availability: 3,551 bottles for the U.S.

Need to know:

This is another Japanese rice whisky, distilled in the spring of 2005 and matured in new charred oak casks, which impart bourbon-esque flavors of vanilla, cherries, and oak. There are 8 casks being bottled and released, exclusive to the U.S.

Fukano Sherry Cask

Style: Rice whisky
Origin: Japan
Age: Not stated
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $100
Release: Fall 2017
Availability: 1,850 bottles for the U.S.

Need to know:

This rice whisky is matured entirely in sherry casks which are later married together into a batch.

Whisky Advocate says:

Like Ohishi, Fukano is made in Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture with rice and koji, but the two whiskies have distinct flavor profiles. Ohishi tends to be delicate, floral, and fruity, while Fukano’s core expression (which will be reviewed in the Winter 2017 Buying Guide) has fruity, candied, and umami notes.

Union Horse Rolling Standard Midwestern Four Grain Whiskey

Style: Blended whiskey (bourbon and American single malt)
Origin: Kansas
Age: Not stated
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $31-$33
Release: October 2017
Availability: KS, MO, IL, NY, NJ, CT, and CA

Need to know:

A unique blend of bourbon and single malt whiskey made at Union Horse Distilling Company in Lenexa, Kansas, this is the first release in the company’s Distiller Series of experimental whiskeys. The four grains it calls out are barley, wheat, corn, and rye.

Whisky Advocate says:

Union Horse uses local grains and makes all its whiskey in-house. The distillery’s straight bourbon scored 86 points in the Fall 2017 Buying Guide.

Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon

Style: Straight bourbon
Origin: Colorado
Age: 2 years and 9 months
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $45
Release: October 2017
Availability: Distillery only

Need to know:

Colorado craft distiller Leopold Bros. is launching its first bourbon, made from a mashbill of 64% corn, 17% malted barley, 15% rye, and 4% various specialty brewers’ malts, including chocolate rye. The whiskey is double-distilled on a pot still and aged in a dunnage-style warehouse for 33 months.

Whisky Advocate says:

Although this is Leopold Bros.’ first bourbon, the distillery has more releases in the pipeline, including more mature whiskeys. It already makes a Maryland Style Rye and American Small Batch Whiskey.

The Gauldrons

Style: Blended malt
Origin: Scotland (Campbeltown)
Age: Not stated
Proof: 46.2% ABV
Price: £50
Release: October 2017
Availability: Limited; UK/EU only

Need to know:

The newest release in Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malt series, The Gauldrons blends multiple whiskies from Campbeltown. The name means “bay of storms” and is inspired by the sandy coves on Campbeltown’s western shores, where, according to the company’s press release, “King Robert the Bruce, having been defeated by his enemies, was encouraged, whilst watching a spider building his web with great patience but great difficulty, to try, try and try again.” (Spider and web imagery adorns the whisky’s packaging.)

Whisky Advocate says:

Just in time for Halloween, here’s some appropriately spooky packaging on what is sure to be an excellent whisky. Considering that there are only three distilleries in Campbeltown, well—you can probably make an educated guess about the components of this blend. Sorry to Americans: this whisky is available in the UK and Europe only.

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