Whisky Advocate


Greg Metze, Former MGP Ingredients Master Distiller, Moves On

June 8th, 2016

Author Fred MinnickNo modern distillery has influenced more American brands than the current MGP Ingredients distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which won last year’s Whisky Advocate Distillery of the Year award. They have provided whiskey to dozens of brands, ranging from Bulleit Rye to Templeton. All the while, some of the non-distiller producers (NDPs) were creating questionable marketing around the Lawrenceburg whiskey, often neglecting to include the required state-of-distillation on labels. But as indicated in our 2013 coverage, lost in the marketing backstories was master distiller Greg Metze and the whiskey.

Metze recently announced his retirement after a 38-year career at the distillery spanning ownership under Seagram, Pernod-Ricard, Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), and MGP. Unlike most heralded master distillers, Metze was not involved in product marketing. But Metze tells us his career is anything but over.

You’ve had a long career. What was the highlight?
The four years under LDI, that was the most challenging of my entire career. We started absolutely from scratch. When Pernod left (in 2007), they took every file. When people showed up a week later, I had a room full of operators wanting to know what we’re going to do next. I never knew, but I never let them know that. Pernod’s last day was a Friday and LDI’s first day was a Monday. LDI was like being part of a family business; we got no financial support from Trinidad (headquarters of parent company CL Financial), the plant had to stand on its own. Unfortunately, they got tied up in economic crisis. That whole transition period was the most gratifying of my career.

Since you were so fond of LDI, how did you feel about MGP becoming the plant’s owner?
It was good from many perspectives. MGP injected money into the plant and upgraded a lot of the vintage equipment.

They also put your face on Metze’s Select.
That was very rewarding. I have to thank them on many fronts for the exposure they gave me. But over the 38 years at the facility, I’ve done all I can do there, and it’s time to move on.

Greg Metze

Photo by Fred Minnick

Your whiskey won a lot of awards and made other so-called master distillers famous. Did it bother you somebody else received credit for your whiskey?
No, not at all. People tell me I’m humble to a fault. I always got gratification knowing we produced some of the best whiskey in the world. The notoriety I got with MGP was fun, but I don’t need the notoriety. Everybody in the industry knew where the whiskey came from, and that was recognition enough. I took more pride in running the facility.

Speaking of running Lawrenceburg, I recall you mentioning your barrel involvement was minimal. Kentucky distillers typically have a say in aging, but you really didn’t. Can you elaborate on your role with aging whiskey?
The Lawrenceburg plant always had [separate] warehouse and production departments. My responsibilities ended when the [distillate] went to tanks, where warehouse begins. We brought in grain, mashed it, fermented it, and distilled it. Our quality panel, including myself and Pam Soule, would evaluate distillate every day and give a quality rating. We approved or disapproved for barreling. Once approved, it was transferred to barreling. If it was rejected, it was redistilled for neutral grain spirit. We never put away whiskey we didn’t think was worthy.

So, what are you up to now?
I started my own consulting firm. I have two clients. [He kept the clients confidential.] This has been in the works for five years now. Originally, it was laying the foundation for retirement.

What kind of consulting?
A mix of everything [for distillers]. I can help with grain purchasing, all current distillery operations, selecting/setting up new equipment, commissioning a new facility, training personnel.

Is there a type of project you wouldn’t do?
I would entertain anything. My only fear is over-committing.

Would you help make vodka?
One of the things I’m blessed with is that I’m extremely versatile because I made high-quality vodkas, gins, whiskeys, and batch light whiskeys. My portfolio is broader than most.

One of the areas you’ve been fairly insulated from is marketing. Are you prepared for consumer-facing marketing?
I would not rule that out—hanging with whiskey geeks on social media. It’s gonna be exciting.

 

Andy Simpson – In 140 or Less

May 27th, 2016

Author - Caroline DewarMeet Andy Simpson, whisky expert and aficionado, writer and partner in Rare Whisky 101(RW101). A former banker, Andy saw the light and a way to a better life through Scotch whisky. The RW101 website (rarewhisky101.com) offers valuations for collectors and investors, brokering services, consultancy services on distillery design and the marketing of brands, and picks up where Andy’s previous business, Whisky Highland, left off.  He’s a busy man and the fount of knowledge in whisky valuations worldwide.

Where were you born and brought up?

Bradford, West Yorkshire

Far from whisky country. I’ve read you started collecting whisky at 16 – under legal purchase age. How did that happen?

First dram when teething! Glaswegian father bought me a book on distilleries at 16 years old…started from there.

Better than gripe water or Calpol! Correct that you live in the far north of Scotland? What’s the view from your office window?

Indeed. Raised on old Lagavulin 12. The 16’s still a go-to. Moved to rural Perthshire last October. View: fields, trees, and sample bottles (on windowsill).

Ah, I thought you were still further north. What’s the reason for that home location?

Too much travel. Northern highlands too remote for a 5 year old son. Driving on the worst road in history (A9) every week was painful!

Yes, third world countries have better roads! Understand you were a banker in a previous life. What kind of banking?

Boring! Is there any other kind of banking!?! Was in corporate banking. Worked in London and Edinburgh.

So was it boredom or disillusionment that made you give it up? Did that environment show you a developing global interest in whisky collecting/investment?

Haha, neither, I always had a cunning plan…Scotch has been in my blood almost since birth, so it was only a matter of time before it took the rest of me!

Well, we’re glad to have you. So what was your route to setting up your previous company, Whisky Highland?

Approximately 15 years ago I realized some of my collection increased in value. I started collecting data to understand why. That became meaningful in 2009 when Whisky Highland was born.

Tell us about your new venture, Rare Whisky 101. And does it encompass the same kind of valuation data that Whisky Highland did?

Not that new now oddly, RW101’s in its 3rd year. Time flies. Exactly the same data, just lots more of it now.

Pic Greg Macvean - 07/04/2016 - 07971 826 457 Andy Simpson and David Robertson of Rare Whisky 101 pictured in the Whisky Snug at Hotel Du Vin, Edinburgh

Photo courtesy of Greg Macvean

Yes, but it seems to encompass many more whisky strands than Whisky Highland. Your partner there is David Robertson. How do you divide the work?

I tend to do most of the valuation/brokering/analysis. David is the innovation/creation Yoda of the team and builds new distilleries!

Then busy, he is! I understand you’re revamping the valuation part of your website from the previous company. How will it be different and when will we see it?

New version will have masses of new insight and intelligence enabling buyers/sellers/valuers to make the right decision on pricing.

Will look forward to that. Where does The Cutting Spirit website fit into all this?

That’s our outlet for opinion, updating insight, market analysis, highlighting fakes…and occasionally a bit of fun too.

It’s a good read for all whisky enthusiasts. Malts do better than blends at auction. Snobbery, rarity, or both?

Thanks very much. Old blends do okay. We buy to drink. It’s a really cool lens to the past. We like to compare old and new from the same brand.

What brands are currently of interest to collectors/investors and has that changed much in last few years?

Collecting and investing are very different. Biggest collectable is Macallan. For investment go for old age, old vintage, and silent stills.

Got some of all those! May is Feis Ile time. In your view, are the distilleries now charging too much for their festival bottlings?

Lucky you! I don’t think so, there’s usually something for all budgets to be fair. I might be so bold as to say last year’s Lagavulin was a steal!

Some are a better value than others each year. Do you travel a lot for work? If so, where have you enjoyed visiting most—and least (if you’re prepared to say)?

Indeed they are. We do travel a fair bit but I try to stay in the UK. Fave recent place Diageo Archive, always learning. Least fave…the A9!

Understood! Hear you like skiing, sledging, all snow-related. What’s the attraction?

Just love snow. Mum skied way before I was born, so like my old man and scotch, it’s been part of life really.

Thought it might have been a good reason for a warming whisky afterward. You like cars. Own anything exotic or rare?

I never need a reason for that! Love cars, I had TVR Tamora which was very silly. A family (and fear of death) stopped all that nonsense.

But your ultimate car is…?

You could buy me a McLaren 650s Spider if you really wanted to.

My bank account wouldn’t manage it—and I’m a Ferrari and Aston girl. Lastly, if stuck on a desert island, which ONE whisky would you want with you?

One I tried last week but that’s maybe for later.

I need one whisky…

If it’s stuff I’m not going to get abducted by masked men for talking about —a Rare Malts Selection 1972 22 year old Brora. Mammoth of a dram.

Many thanks, Andy Simpson, for sharing thoughts and experiences with us.

New Releases from Glen Grant

May 24th, 2016

Author Melanie GochnauerGlen Grant has announced the launch of three new single malts: a 12 year old, a 12 year old non-chill filtered, and an 18 year old. These whiskies will be available in June. See the press release included below for details.

GLEN GRANT ADDS THREE NEW PREMIUM SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKIES
AND UNVEILS NEW PACKAGING DESIGN

Award-winning Glen Grant launches new premium quality whiskies: 12 Year Old, 12 Year Old Non Chill-Filtered and 18 Year Old

LONDON, 24th MAY 2016 – Award-winning single malt Scotch whisky, Glen Grant, today announces the launch of new 12 Year Old, 12 Year Old Non Chill-Filtered and 18 Year Old single malt Scotch whiskies whilst unveiling a new contemporary brand identity with packaging and logo redesign. The introduction of three unique and unmatched expressions to Glen Grant’s existing portfolio aims to reaffirm Glen Grant’s position as a leading player in the luxury whisky market and answers the surge in global sales of premium single malt Scotch whisky.

Launching in June, the new 12 Year Old, 12 Year Old Non Chill-Filtered and 18 Year Old expressions will allow consumers to enjoy the unfolding layers of mature and beautifully intricate taste and aroma that is achieved only through Glen Grant’s unique distillation process.

GG 12yo Bottle RenderGG 12yo NCF Bottle RenderGlen Grant 12 Year Old is a remarkable single malt Scotch whisky. With a bright, golden colour and pleasant aromas of orchard fruit, almond and citrus, this exceptional whisky delights the palate with exquisite and delicate notes of apple pie crust and caramel and finishes with lingering fruit and subtle hints of spice.

The 12 Year Old Non Chill-filtered, which will be exclusively available to travel retailers, delivers a full and creamy mouth-feel, with an aroma and flavour that, is unmistakably Glen Grant. With its signature bright, golden colour and a sweet, welcoming nose, this beautifully crafted whisky offers notes of toffee and rich fruit, and a pleasingly long, nutty finish with subtle bursts of spice.

image011The rarest in the new collection is the Glen Grant 18 Year Old. This unrivalled single malt Scotch whisky matures for at least 18 years in the highest quality, handpicked oak casts, which creates a radiant golden colour and seductive floral and oaky aroma. Deeply layered and complex, this rich and vibrant whisky delivers beautifully intricate flavours of malted caramel, vanilla, and raisins and lingers with a long, sweet and pleasantly spicy finish.  

The latest packaging features a new colour palette, allowing the consumer to easily identify the different dram varieties. The 12 Year Old and 12 Year Old Non Chill-Filtered feature a striking bronze label and casing, while the 18 Year Old is enclosed within a superior frosted-blue gift box with luxurious silver hues, reiterating its premium status.

The new Glen Grant logo, the Grant family monogram, stands proudly on the front of each bottle – with the letters ‘J’ ‘R’ and ‘G’ delicately intertwined in a timeless design. ‘J’ for James ‘The Major’ Grant and ‘R’ for his first wife Rose, reminding consumers of the deeply rooted family heritage which helped to produce one of the world’s finest single malt Scotch whiskies.

Jason Daniel, Global Categories Director of whiskies at Gruppo Campari, commented: “We are delighted to launch our new range of aged products and unveil our brand new, contemporary logo and packaging. Glen Grant has made a significant investment in its production within the worldwide luxury whisky market to meet the increased consumer appetite for premium whisky with a rich background. We are extremely proud of our new look which perfectly represents the passion, craftsmanship and family heritage of Glen Grant, while staying true to our Scottish heritage. We are confident that through our unique quality and history, our new aged range of products will prove extremely popular with our consumers.”

Glen Grant’s new packaging will be rolled out across all Glen Grant products from June. The new 12 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky will be available to purchase from June at the Whisky Exchange, whilst the new 12 Year Old Non Chill Filtered will be available from June to purchase from duty free and travel retailers. The new 18 Year Old expression will be available from June to purchase from Tesco.

New Release: The Glenlivet Single Cask Whiskies

May 20th, 2016

The Glenlivet has announced the release of three single cask whiskies: Pullman Club Car, Pullman Author Melanie GochnauerTwentieth Century Limited, and Pullman Water Level Route. This is the Glenlivet’s first single cask release in the U.S. market. Each has a suggested retail price of $350.00 and availability is exclusive to the U.S. Further details are provided in the press release included below.

A One-of-a-Kind Journey Through History and Flavor, The Glenlivet® Honors its Past with the Release of Three Single Cask Whiskies For the First Time in the United States

Inspired by the Historical Connection to The Pullman Company, The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition Pullman Train Collection is a Rare Series of Highly-Collectible Whiskies, Ideal for Malt Connoisseurs

Single Cask RangeNew York, NY (May 18, 2016) – The Glenlivet has been a standard-setting luxury brand for nearly 200 years, appealing to whisky connoisseurs looking for a rare expression steeped in heritage and history. The brand’s historical ties to the Pullman Company, a pioneer of first-class railroad travel, are due in large part to the business savvy Captain Bill Smith Grant, Founder George Smith’s last distilling descendant. Grant was able to persuade the Pullman Company to offer 2-ounce miniatures of The Glenlivet as one of the only Scotch whiskies available in the dining cars helping to spread the whisky’s fame across the US.

To commemorate this piece of The Glenlivet’s history, The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition Pullman Train Collection are three new, special-edition Single Cask whiskies marking the first time ever the brand has released a Single Cask in this market and available exclusively in the US. The name of each bottle is inspired by the Pullman connection: Pullman Club Car, Pullman Twentieth Century Limited, and Pullman Water Level Route.

Founded on the three pillars of rarity, purity, and uniqueness, each Single Cask within the Pullman Train Collection is hand-selected by Master Distiller, Alan Winchester. Chosen for its exceptional quality and intense flavor, The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition has been transferred from cask to bottle purely, at their natural cask strength and without chill filtration, therefore locking in the original flavor and character from the cask’s influence. Only a few hundred bottles of whisky were drawn from each cask, making them a highly collectable and unique Single Malt series.

“The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition reaffirms The Glenlivet’s longstanding commitment to both setting standards in whisky and luxury as well as bringing innovation to the US market,” said Wayne Hartunian, Director of Scotch Portfolio at Pernod Ricard USA. “Choosing to name these whiskies after our historic connection to the Pullman Company, a luxury standard setter in their own right, allows us to share another chapter of our rich heritage with our drinkers and gives them a taste of history that makes the perfect addition to any whisky collection.”

Each of the following Single Casks vary in aging and flavor notes:

PULLMAN CLUB CAR Named after the Club Car that appeared on the Pullman Trains, the original luxury travel experience in the U.S. – from the end of Prohibition when The Glenlivet was one of the first single malts to launch in the states. Aged in Sherry Butt for 18 years, this cask has an initial burst of sweet fruity ripe pears, syrupy peaches, and creamy milk chocolate followed by a subtle background note of nutmeg. With notes of sweet orange, toasted almonds and warm cinnamon, the incredibly long and tangy finish makes this a satisfying dram. The Pullman Club Car has a limited availability of only 618 bottles.

PULLMAN TWENTIETH CENTURY LIMITED Known as “The Most Famous Train in the World,” the Twentieth Century Limited club cars could travel overland from New York to Chicago overnight in record time while in the lap of luxury. Aged in European Oak Butt for 14 years, to the nose this cask has sweet and soft notes of honey, golden syrup and creamy vanilla, followed by a touch of floral gorse in full bloom. The palate is lively citrus orange, spicy ginger marmalade and cinnamon, rounded off by soft sweet notes of ripe pears. The finish is long and dry, with a delicate hint of spice. Only 588 bottles of the Pullman Twentieth Century Limited are available for purchase.

 PULLMAN WATER LEVEL ROUTE Operating between New York City and Chicago by way of the great lakes, the Twentieth Century Limited would take the Water Level Route between the cities, which was one of the most scenic routes available. With only 321 bottles available, this whisky is aged in American Oak Hogshead for 14 years, the cask has floral notes of gorse in full bloom, balanced with soft, creamy fudge and fruity ripe peach. The palate exudes honey and vanilla in abundance, with notes of ripe honeydew melon and traditional barley sugar sweets. The finish is soft and well balanced.

The Glenlivet Single Cask Edition Pullman Train Collection will be available at retail locations and on www.caskers.com at a suggested retail price of $349.99/bottle.

About Pullman Rail Journeys

Pullman Rail Journeys began in November of 2011 after years of planning, research and acquisition of historic rail equipment. Born from a passion for passenger rail travel excellence, Pullman Rail Journeys restores the idea of comfortable, stylish and relaxing train travel to the American travel landscape. Pullman Rail Journeys is finalizing its 2016 schedule of new departures and destinations with details to come soon. More information can be found at www.TravelPullman.com.

 

New Releases: Booker’s Rye and Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition

May 19th, 2016

Author Melanie GochnauerBeam Suntory has announced two new releases: Booker’s Rye whiskey and Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition bourbon. Both are offered as a tribute to the late Booker Noe and are one-time, limited edition releases.

The first rye whiskey offered by Booker’s, Booker’s Rye, 68.1% is uncut and unfiltered. It has a suggested retail price of $300.00 and is available nationwide. 

Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition, 50% has been aged longer than any other Knob Creek bourbon to date. It will be released in a series of three batches and carries a suggested retail price of $130.00.

See the press release below for more details. Look for reviews of these new releases in the fall issue of Whisky Advocate magazine.

Booker Noe’s Legacy Honored With
Two Unprecedented Limited Edition Releases


In Time for Father’s Day, Booker’s® Rye Whiskey and Knob Creek® 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon Celebrate Legendary Master Distiller’s Spirit of Innovation and Experimentation

CLERMONT, KY–(Marketwired – May 18, 2016) – Booker’s® Bourbon and Knob Creek® Bourbon are proud to introduce two ultra-premium, limited edition releases to whiskey fans this month —Booker’s® Rye Whiskey and Knob Creek® 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon — each paying tribute to Booker Noe, the Beam Family’s 6th Generation Master Distiller and founder of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection®.

These special releases are each made from some of the last barrels laid down by the late Booker Noe in the final years of his life and will each be available as limited, one-time offerings. As the first rye whiskey ever offered from Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s® Rye Whiskey was made from a very limited number of barrels of a previously unreleased rye mash bill in Booker’s signature uncut and unfiltered1 style. Knob Creek® 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon debuts as the longest-aged expression ever released from Knob Creek, the ultimate expression of the bourbon’s big, full flavor.

“When Dad helped pioneer the small batch movement nearly 30 years ago, he introduced a whole new way of thinking about how whiskey could be made — introducing small batch, high quality whiskies like Booker’s Bourbon and Knob Creek Bourbon with flavor like nobody had tasted before,” said Fred Noe, Beam Family’s 7th Generation Master Distiller. “Now, all of these years later, we’re excited to keep this tradition alive by giving our fans something really special with these two limited releases made from some of the last barrels Dad laid down. Dad knew exactly what he wanted when it came to making whiskey, and I know these releases would make him proud.”

40235_BookersRyeBottleBoxShotcopyThe hallmark of Booker Noe’s innovative spirit, Booker’s Rye Whiskey is made from a never before released rye mash bill, bottled uncut and unfiltered1 at its natural proof and full of robust flavor, just the way Booker preferred his whiskey. The supply of Booker’s Rye is about half that of Booker’s® 25th Anniversary Bourbon from 2014. Aged for 13 years, about twice as long as a standard batch of Booker’s Bourbon, Booker’s Rye is now available nationwide with an SRP of $299.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Like all batches of Booker’s Bourbon, Fred Noe watched over these barrels to ensure that the liquid was released the way Booker intended so many years ago. It was selected with the following characteristics:

  • Age: 13 years, 1 months, 12 days
  • Proof: 136.2
  • Color: Deep amber
  • Taste: An intense flavor profile with pronounced, well-balanced notes of wood and oak from the longer aging process. The liquid offers a complex aroma with spicy notes from the rye in the mash bill. This uncut rye has a spicy, robust flavor, but it is not overpowering.
  • Sipping Suggestions: Booker’s Rye is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks.


40236_KCLTO_bottlewithboxKnob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon
commemorates a significant year for Knob Creek, as late in 2001, the tradition and responsibility of stewarding Knob Creek Bourbon was passed from Booker to Fred — from father to son. This release, made from barrels that Booker laid down in 2001, was finished by Fred Noe in honor of all he learned from his father and stays true to the pre-prohibition standards that Booker sought to restore when he introduced Knob Creek Bourbon. Bottled at 100 proof and aged for 14 years, longer than any other Knob Creek release to date, this bourbon has an even bigger, fuller flavor than what Knob Creek fans have come to love. It will be released in three limited batches, each accentuating distinct notes of the 14-year-old liquid, for a suggested price of $129.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Packaged in a commemorative wooden case, Knob Creek 2001 Limited Edition Bourbon was selected with the following characteristics:

  • Age: More than 14 years
  • Proof: 100
  • Color: Deep golden amber
  • Aroma: Robust oak and char notes balanced by sweet vanillas and caramels with a hint of warm brown spice
  • Taste: Complex oak and char notes with subtle vanilla and warm spice
    • Batch One: Higher in sweet notes, vanilla and caramel; very smooth
    • Batch Two: Higher in wood and oak notes; more tannic in nature
    • Batch Three: Mid-way between Batch 1 and Batch 2, slightly favoring notes of wood
  • Finish: Smooth and warm sweetness

For more information on Booker’s Rye, visit: www.BookersBourbon.com and for more information on Knob Creek, visit: www.KnobCreek.com.

Whisky Advocate Summer 2016 Issue’s Top 10 Whiskies

May 18th, 2016

The Summer 2016 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine will be on newsstands in early June. Here’s an advanced preview of this issue’s Buying Guide; the 10 highest-rated whiskies. Sadly, this Top Ten highlights the current state of the whisky industry: our highest rated whiskies are either limited releases and difficult to find on the primary market, not imported to the U.S., or rather expensive. However, be sure to check out all 115 reviews in this issue’s Buying Guide for quality whiskies that are more easily sourced (and more reasonably priced).

#10 – Colonel E. H. Taylor Jr. Seasoned Wood,
50%, $70

A wheated recipe bourbon that was aged in experimental barrels with staves utilizing various methods of seasoning. Oak spice is important with a wheated bourbon, as there is no rye to balance the sweet notes, and this whiskey does a great job here. Delicate in personality, with nutty caramel, dried citrus, and golden raisin segueing to polished leather, warming cinnamon, clove, and hints of a cigar humidor.—JH

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 91

Bookers_2016-01_Bottle Image

#9 – Booker’s Batch 2016-1, 63.95%, $60

If Picasso sketched bourbon, it would look like Booker’s, with deep golden and auburn hues. But higher-proof color can deceive. Not here. Think bourbon warehouse: oak, caramel, tobacco leaf, cinnamon, vanilla; floral with hints of honey and blueberry. And then it really comes alive. Oh, baby! Candy corn, crème brûlée, maple syrup, nutmeg, and traces of chipotle and cayenne. The proof strength doesn’t show. I recommend this batch neat for full, unrelenting flavor.—FM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 91
002 Ardbeg Dark Cove_Grey copy

#8 – Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Edition,
55%, $110

This is bigger, spicier, and more complex than the regular edition Dark Cove. A prickly start leads to heavy peat smoke, pink and Szechuan peppercorns, vanilla, dark chocolate, angelica, then seaweed. The palate is oily, with a detonation of gunpowdery peat, licorice, smoked eel, and a feral edge that adds grunt. Layered and complex.—DB

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 91

#7 – The Sovereign (distilled at Cambus) 30 year old 1984, 49.4%, £106

The nose is bathed in aromas of lime, bergamot, lychee, and fresh pineapple cores. This is delicate, refined, and complex, with touches of fragrant spices and a calming influence of oak. A web of citrus strands, barley sugar, and toffee is shot through by wood spices and surpassed by a delicious butterscotch flavor that continues into the finish.  Effortless, relaxed, and brilliant whisky, and quite frankly, I’m not sure you could find better 30 year old whisky at this price.—JM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 92

#6 – Redbreast All Sherry Single Cask, 59.9%, £180

IRISH_RED1999 copyFirst you think you love Redbreast, and then they go and release a triple-distilled single pot still sherry single cask from 1999. Coffee beans, chocolate buttons, nougat, wet leather jackets, macaroon, and black bananas. A sweet sherry baptism of fresh fig fruit and dark toffee, with blackened char wriggling delightfully under the tongue. Thick and oily, a savory tone surfaces, closed by coffee and heavy clove. Chicory coffee and licorice finish. Epic: extroverted northern cardinal to the chirpy European robin. (576 bottles, The Whisky Exchange only)—JM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 92

#5 – Midleton 1991 Single Cask, 55.2%, £245

From this first-fill bourbon cask emerge light, delicate, aromatic fruits: think white peach, poached pear, and lychee with creamed coconut, nutmeg-spiced latte, Simnel cake, Chinese five-spice, and richer apple notes. A seemingly chaste dram that begins with honey, egg-washed brioche, stewed pears, and slender pink rhubarb before innocence is lost as sweet bursts of fruit explode, while dark vanilla, clove, rum and raisin, chocolate, and rye divert the action. Dried apple with Christmas spices marks the finish. (186 bottles, The Whisky Exchange only)—JM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 92

#4 – The Five Distinguished and Rare 39 year old, 51%, £150

This is massive. It even pours thickly, as the aromas spill out of the glass: rich stewed apple, dry oak, a passing digestif trolley wobbling with dark sticky bottles, and currants on the tummy of a gingerbread man. There is a rum-like quality to the thick texture that lands squarely on the palate, bursting out with sweet apple and brown sugar. It hardly loses its grip after swallowing, dissipating almost imperceptibly against the approaching oak flavors. Special indeed. (330 bottles, WoodWinters Wines & Whiskies only)—JM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 92
Canadian Rockies 35[1]

#3 – Canadian Rockies 35 year old, 50%, NT$19,800

What a shame this whisky will sail to Taiwan with nary a bottle left for North America. It would be the oldest and most expensive Canadian whisky on the continent. And bottled at 50%, one of the strongest. Wood, age, toffee, cooked sweet corn, fruit, and slightly dusty new jeans. Gloriously sweet, showing its ABV in a blistering pepper attack that subsides into sweetness and a mild fruitiness. (Taiwan only)—DdeK

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 92

#2 – Wiser’s Last Barrels, 45%, C$65

Distilled in May 2001 from a bourbon-style sour mash, this whisky was intended for blending. However, times change and Wiser’s recently vatted all 132 barrels as an Ontario exclusive. High esters, sweet pitchy resins, clean wood, caramel, barley sugar, floral notes, burley tobacco, green grapes, and Granny Smith apples. And that’s just the nose. Rich toffee, vanilla, brisk white pepper, ripe black fruits. Lingering, peppery, caramel corn finish. (Canada only)—DdeK

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 93

#1 – John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2016 Edition, 43%, $850

Here’s your private audience with the inestimable Mr. Beveridge. After contemplating impeccably selected aged liquids from the big five Distillers Company Limited (DCL) grain distilleries, he’s ready. Three vattings representing cask character, distillery character, and Highland single malt were combined in the final blend. Fresh layers of lemon and honey mingle with wood smoke. A seductive soft and creamy palate, saturated with fudge and delicate vanilla fuse together in a study of honeyed perfection. A fine indulgence. The best yet. (8,888 bottles)—JM

Advanced Whisky Advocate Rating: 93

Barton 1792 Distillery’s Newest Release

May 17th, 2016

Author Melanie GochnauerToday, Barton 1792 distillery announced the release of a full proof, limited edition bourbon. 1792 Full Proof Bourbon was bottled at barrel entry proof: 62.5%. It’s expected to be available for sale later this month with a suggested retail price of $45.00. See the full press release below for details.

New Limited Edition Full Proof Bourbon
Released by 1792 Distillery 

BARDSTOWN, KENTUCKY (May 17, 2016) – A stout 125 full proof bourbon is the latest limited edition release in the 1792 Bourbon line up.  Bottled at the same proof it was originally entered into the barrel, the bourbon was distilled, aged, and bottled at the historic Barton 1792 Distillery.

1792 Full Proof BottleNew oak barrels were filled with 125 proof distillate in the fall of 2007 and left to age in Warehouses E, N, and I for eight and a half years. Warehouse I is one of the oldest warehouses at Barton 1792 Distillery. All of these warehouses are seven stories high, metal clad, with concrete bottom floors, and windows all the way around the outside, allowing some direct sunlight inside.

After the barrels were emptied, the bourbon underwent a distinct filtering process, forgoing the typical chill filtration, and instead was only passed through a plate and frame filter.  This allowed the bourbon to maintain a robust 125 proof for bottling, as well as the rich and bold flavor.The aroma is powerful – with vanilla and dried cherries notes.  The first taste is intense as it meets the tongue, oaky and full bodied, but continues with flavors of caramel and jam-like fruit, before an enduring finish.

This is the fourth limited edition release of 1792 Bourbon expressions, the Full Proof joins previous releases of Sweet Wheat, Port Finish, and Single Barrel Bourbons. Although the 1792 Full Proof Bourbon is very limited in quantities, it will be released annually for the next few years. The 1792 Full Proof Bourbon will be available at retail starting in late May. Suggested retail pricing is $44.99.   

About Barton 1792 Distillery

Barton 1792 Distillery is part of Barton Brands.  Barton Brands has facilities in Bardstown, Ky., Carson, Calif., and Baltimore, Md. Barton Brands is owned by the Sazerac Company, an American family-owned company based in New Orleans, La. Barton 1792 Distillery was established in 1879 and continues today as the oldest fully-operating Distillery in the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” The Distillery is located on 196 acres and includes 28 warehouses, 22 other buildings, the Morton Spring and the Tom Moore Spring.  Distilling, aging and bottling fine Bourbon whiskey are hallmarks of the historic Barton 1792 Distillery. 1792 Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is produced at Barton 1792 Distillery. This whiskey is named for the year Kentucky became a state and is the recent gold medal winner at the 2015 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition. To learn more visit www.1792bourbon.com.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection 2016: Infrared Light

May 11th, 2016

Author Melanie GochnauerBuffalo Trace distillery announced the release of their latest bourbon experiment which involved the use of infrared light waves. This is the first release in their 2016 Experimental Collection. Previous experimental collections focused on the effects of wood type, barrel toast, and mashbills.

All of the details, announced today, are included in the press release:

BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY RELEASES BOURBON EXPERIMENT USING INFRARED LIGHT WAVES

Two Experiments Employing Short and Medium Wave Light Make Up the First Experimental Collection Release for 2016

FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (May 11, 2016) Buffalo Trace Distillery has engaged in an unconventional way to use infrared light waves for its latest bourbon experiment, applying the light waves to barrels before charring, with the goal of learning how new and different flavors can be drawn from the oak. 

Working with barrel cooper Independent Stave Company in 2009, eight special barrels were constructed. All eight first underwent the same process as standard Buffalo Trace barrels, staves were open air seasoned for six months before being made into barrels.

EC Infrared 15Then, the barrels were divided into two groups and subjected to two different levels of infrared light waves.  The first group of four barrels underwent 15 minutes of both short wave and medium wave frequency at 70% power.  The second group of four barrels was subjected to 30 minutes of both short wave and medium wave frequency at 60% power. The barrels were then given a quick #1 (or 15 seconds) char, before finally being filled with Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Mash #1.

After six and a half years of aging, the bourbon from both barrels expressed distinct flavor notes of wood, caramel, and vanilla, as well as pepper flavors drawn from the oak. Another observation from the experiment was the short wave infrared light seemed to affect more of the inner layers of the wood, while the medium wave infrared light affected the surface and medium layers.   

Tasting notes for each describe the 15 minute infrared light barrels as having a floral nose followed by a complex flavor profile. Oak and tannins mingle with dry raisins and sweet caramel.  The 30 minute infrared light barrels are described as strong wood notes complemented by a taste of dried fruit. A lingering finish leaves a hint of cracked black pepper. 

EC Infared 30These barrels are part of more than 5,000 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each of them has unique characteristics that differentiate them in distinct ways. Some examples of experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood, and different barrel toasts. In order to further increase the scope, flexibility, and range of the experimental program, an entire micro distillery, named The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. “OFC” Micro Distillery, complete with cookers, fermenting tanks, and a state-of-the-art micro still has been constructed within Buffalo Trace Distillery. Buffalo Trace has increased its commitment to experimentation with the recent addition of its Warehouse X. Although small in size, Warehouse X is designed to explore the extent of environmental influences on the flavor profiles of whiskey.

The Experimental Collection is packaged in 375ml bottles, with six bottles from each infrared light experiment in a case. Both entry proofs were bottled at 90 proof.  Each label includes all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys retail for approximately $46.35 each and will be available in late May, 2016.  Experimental Collection releases are generally quite small and have limited availability. For more information on the Experimental Collection or the other products of Buffalo Trace Distillery, please contact Elizabeth Hurst at ehurst@buffalotrace.com. 

About Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery is an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky. The Distillery’s rich tradition dates back to 1773 and includes such legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee.  Buffalo Trace Distillery is a fully operational Distillery producing bourbon, rye and vodka on site and is a National Historic Landmark as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Distillery has won 17 distillery titles since 2000 from such notable publications as Whisky Magazine, Whisky Advocate Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It was named “Brand Innovator of the Year” by Whisky Magazine at its Icons of Whisky America Awards 2015.  Buffalo Trace Distillery has also garnered more than 300 awards for its wide range of premium whiskies. To learn more about Buffalo Trace Distillery visit www.buffalotracedistillery.com.  To download images from Buffalo Trace Distillery visit www.buffalotracemediakit.com

 

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Rebuilding the James E. Pepper Distillery

May 5th, 2016

Author Melanie Gochnauer1_Pepper_1776_RYESince 1958, the James E. Pepper distillery has been shuttered and the whiskey was out of production. In 2008, the Georgetown Trading Co. relaunched the brand. A portion of the original distillery site, located in Lexington, Ky., has recently been revitalized within Lexington’s Distillery District.

Yesterday, Georgetown Trading announced that the James E. Pepper distillery will soon be brought back to life. Distilling will take place in the original James E. Pepper distillery building. According to the press release, “Thorough historical research and the collection of historic materials over the years will play an important role in rebuilding the distillery and museum.” A grand-opening for the distillery is planned for mid-2017.

Pepper Distillery Rendering.indd

 

Consumer Confusion in Bourbon

May 4th, 2016

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”— Charles Caleb Coltonfred-minnick-new-author

When Colton, an English cleric, wrote this in the 1820s, bourbon was barely a blip on the radar. Kentucky distillers were placing barrels on flatboats and just beginning their rise. Nobody was interested in imitating bourbon.

Nearly 200 years later though, the word “bourbon” is plastered on everything from candles to soup. Today, bourbon is an international powerhouse with signature brand flavor profiles and U.S. geographical protection.

collageIf foreign distillers slap a “bourbon” label on their spirit, Heaven Hill’s Max Shapira, the industry’s de facto foreign bourbon seeker, will find it. The U.S. government will pursue cease and desist efforts on companies in countries with U.S. free trade agreements. There’s also an army of distillery trademark lawyers who will sue you into submission if you use red wax (Maker’s Mark vs. Jose Cuervo), similar names (Woodford Reserve vs. 1792 Ridgemont Reserve), or even a slogan (Wild Turkey vs. Old Crow). So, there’s enough legal protection to prevent Old Turkey’s Aussie Reserve 1793 bourbon bottled with red dripping wax.

But bourbon distillers are seeing a new form of imitation and it’s
creating consumer confusion. Non-whiskey brands are using bourbon’s good name, hoping to capitalize on its popularity. Tequila, rum, and even scotch have “bourbon” verbiage on labels. And while it’s true they’re aged in bourbon barrels, they were also aged in bourbon barrels in 1980. Why use the verbiage now? “We are trying to appeal to bourbon consumers,” a rum marketer told me.

Some examples are Boundary Oak’s Kentucky Amber (cane spirit finished in a “Kentucky bourbon barrel”), Glenfiddich 14 year old Bourbon Barrel Reserve, and Old Pulteney 23 year old Bourbon Cask. The average consumer can very easily confuse these products with actual bourbon.

I spend a lot of time with non-spirits consumers at the Kentucky Derby Museum. While they are attending  conventions, they visit the museum’s bourbon experience bar where I educate and hold tastings. They don’t read labels like we whiskey geeks do. They see “bourbon” in bold print and think “oh, it’s bourbon.” They may also confuse a scotch as bourbon, so we’re talking about people who buy one to five bottles of spirit a year as gifts, for holiday parties, and the occasional nip at home. Every overuse of the word “bourbon” is detrimental to the category and creates confusion for the typical shopper.

Just as detrimental, is the use of the word “bourbon” on the labels of other spirits. Unlike sherry and port, which are commonly used on whisky labels, bourbon competes against the spirits categories donning its name for cocktails and sipping.

Distillers can’t or won’t stop other spirits from prominently using “bourbon” on the label because they’re the ones behind the overuse. They are more concerned about protecting their individual brands and it’s potentially a costly legal battle to take on other categories. Some actually like seeing “bourbon” in big, bold print near “scotch.”

The only person who can slow down this overuse is you, the consumer. When you see improper labeling let your voice be heard in your social media platforms, write the U.S. Tax & Trade Bureau, or tell the brand. As bourbon grows in popularity, many conglomerates will do what makes investors happy and protecting bourbon isn’t high on their priority list. Oak by Absolut is a bourbon-flavored vodka. It exists for a reason; because spirits companies want to tap into bourbon’s popularity. So, here’s an idea, spirits executives, don’t try to deceive consumers. Give them what they want—bourbon.

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