Archive for the ‘Breaking news’ Category

Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Well, this is the big news for the day (year? decade?) It’s all very positive–a perfect match.  Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. Details below in the press release.

(That’s Marvin Shanken and me in the picture, earlier today, after I signed what seemed like a million papers. The synergisms have already begun. I’m giving him a bottle of The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959 vintage, and I went home with a handful of pre-Castro Cuban cigars, also from 1959. Very nice!)


Malt Advocate, Inc. joins M. Shanken Communications, Inc.


 John Hansell stays on as Publisher & Editor; Amy Westlake remains WhiskyFest Director

New York, June 15, 2010:  Malt Advocate, Inc. today announced that it is now a part of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   Malt Advocate, Inc. includes Malt Advocate magazine, WhiskyFest New York, WhiskyFest Chicago, and WhiskyFest San Francisco.

M. Shanken Communications, Inc.  publishes a variety of consumer and trade publications.  They include Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Food Arts, Market Watch, and Impact.  In addition, the company hosts a number of events across the United States including the New York and New World Wine Experiences, Wine Spectator’s Grand Tours and Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smokes. 

John Hansell will remain Malt Advocate magazine’s Publisher & Editor, and Amy Westlake will continue as Director of WhiskyFest events.  Malt Advocate, Inc. operations will remain at their current office in Emmaus, PA.

“Amy and I are very proud of our efforts promoting the whisky industry, both with Malt Advocate, which will be celebrating its 20thAnniversary in 2011, and the 25 WhiskyFest events we have hosted over the past 12 years,” notes John Hansell.

“Our activities dovetail perfectly with those of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. from a publication and events standpoint.  There are definite synergies that will be achieved between the two companies.  The M. Shanken Group will take Malt Advocate magazine and our WhiskyFest events to levels that we could not have achieved on our own.  We are very excited about our future together.”

“John and Amy are pioneers in this industry and highly regarded,” commented Marvin R. Shanken, CEO of M. Shanken Communications, Inc.   “We are proud to have them on board with us.  Their creations—Malt Advocate and WhiskyFest—are benchmarks.”

For additional information, contact Amy Westlake (610. 967.1083 or

Anchor Brewery (and Distillery) sold!

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This is the big news of the day here in the U.S. I’m seeing several news sources reporting it right now, but here’s one from Inc. Magazine. Give it a read.

What does the selling of a brewery have to do with whiskey? For starters, Anchor also makes whiskey (Old Potrero). In fact, Anchor, and its leader Fritz Maytag, pioneered the craft distilling movement here in the U.S., similar to how they lead the craft beer movement a couple decades ago.

The other connection to whiskey is the company buying Anchor: The Griffin Group. A couple years ago they purchased a major position in Preiss Imports. Preiss Imports bring into the U.S. Springbank, Duncan Taylor, BenRiach, GlenDronach, as well as distributing the Hirsch line of American whiskeys.

I’m not sure what all the synergisms are yet, but I am sure they will all play out in due time.

Gordon & MacPhail introduces world’s oldest whisky

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Gordon & MacPhail has broken the 70 year old barrier with a 70 year old Mortlach under the new “Generations”  label. I also have a very small sample of this whisky, so I’ll let you know my thoughts for those of you who are curious.

Here’s the press release I was also sent, which was enbargoed until today. It explains more about the whisky and the Generations concept.

The wait is over as the world’s oldest whisky sees the light of day

The world’s oldest bottled single malt whisky has been revealed today (Thursday 11 March) by whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail.

Released under Gordon & MacPhail’s ‘Generations’ brand, Mortlach 70 Years Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky was finally revealed – and tasted – by special guests at a launch in the atmospheric setting of Edinburgh Castle’s Queen Anne Room. One precious bottle of Mortlach was piped into the Castle, escorted by guards from The Highlanders (4th Battalion).

The new-make spirit from Speyside’s Mortlach Distillery was filled into the cask on 15th October 1938 by John Urquhart, the grandfather of Gordon & MacPhail Joint Managing Directors, David and Michael Urquhart. Exactly 70 years later, the decision was made to carefully empty the cask and bottle the contents.

Founded in 1895, Gordon & MacPhail is known the world over as the custodian of some of the oldest and rarest single malts available. Members of the third and fourth generations of the Urquhart family now own and manage the business.

David and Michael Urquhart, Joint Managing Directors of Gordon & MacPhail said:

“This is a very special day for us, one we’ve literally been anticipating for generations. Our family has been in the whisky business for a long time, with each generation building and handing on a lifetime’s expertise to the next.

“We believe Mortlach 70 Years Old is a malt without comparison. If the reaction of those lucky enough to enjoy a dram today is anything to go by, whisky fans and people wishing to own a unique piece of Scotland’s liquid history will be very excited about it.”

Charles MacLean, a well-known whisky writer and connoisseur, who was allowed a sneak preview of the single malt, described it as “a delicate, fresh, vital, fruity whisky, with unusual attributes of waxiness and smokiness.”

Each bottle will be beautifully presented in a tear-shaped hand-blown crystal decanter with an elegant silver stopper. The decanter nestles in a stylish silver base and is framed in a handmade Brazilian Rosewood box, created using wood from Forest Stewardship Council (FS C) Certified sources.

Mortlach 70 Years Old was matured in a Spanish oak, ex-bodega sherry hogshead cask, which yielded 54 full-size and 162 small decanters bottled at cask strength (46.1% ABV). The recommended retail price in the UK is £10,000 per 70cl decanter and £2,500 for the 20cl version.

This is the first in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by Gordon & MacPhail under its ‘Generations’ brand.

For more information visit

Buffalo Trace: “Single Oak” Project

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Mark Brown, President and CEO of Buffalo Trace Distillery, is such a tease.

Here is the landing page of a website that will expand into revealing a project that Mark is hopeful “will be the largest experimental project of its kind ever undertaken.”

That’s saying a lot. But, if anyone call pull it off, Buffalo Trace can. Stay tuned!

A new Ardbeg, called “Rollercoaster”?

Friday, February 5th, 2010

A little bird told me this is coming out. Called Rollercoaster. Bottled at 57.3%. It’s already up on Twitter. Twitterland says it contains whiskies no older than 1997. I emailed the powers that be for confirmation, but no response yet.

Stay tuned…

Five Maker’s Mark bourbons in front of me, and the Master Distiller on the phone

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Yes, you read that correctly. There’s only one Maker’s Mark bourbon on the market, but today I tasted five different ones side-by-side, along with Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Kevin Smith. He was on the other end of the phone, tasting along with me.

(Scotch drinkers: don’t leave. You will find this interesting too!)

As I posted here and here last week, Maker’s Mark will be introducing a new bourbon, probably around June. This is BIG news, considering that there has been only one Maker’s Mark bourbon on the market for many years. 

While enjoyable, I sometimes feel that Maker’s Mark is too smooth–too easy to drink. (This is partly because it is a bourbon made with wheat instead of the rye you will find in most bourbons.)

I have been trying to get them to introduce a new bourbon. I know they can make a great bourbon to complement the existing “Red Wax” Maker’s, because they already did! It was their (now extinct) “Black Wax” Maker’s Mark called Maker’s Mark “Select”, which was sold in Duty Free and certain export markets. I really enjoyed that bourbon. In fact, I still have a bottle. (See picture below.)

So, I was thrilled when Kevin called me up and told me they’re coming out with a new product and that he wanted me to taste a sample of it together with him. (He sounded pretty thrilled too!) As I mentioned in my previous post, he told me that this new bourbon is essentially the current Maker’s Mark  that has been aged several more months in barrels with toasted/seared staves inserted into the barrels. (They took the whiskey out, put the staves in, and then put the whiskey back in.)

He sent me a sample last week. This past Saturday afternoon, we tasted it together, next to the current Maker’s Mark. I was in my “tasting room”, he was on the other end of the phone at the distillery.

Before we tasted the whiskey, he said he was looking for four things in this new Maker’s:

  1. A pleasant, sweet, toasted oak aroma
  2. Full of flavor, creamy, and delicous. Strong, but flavorful.
  3. Soft enough to hold on the mouth at 94 proof (the intended bottle proof) without too much alcohol burn
  4. A long finish that’s not bitter.

Was there an noticeable impact on the whiskey from the additional aging in barrels containing seared oak staves? Absolutely! The aroma was rich with layered sweetness (honey, vanilla, caramel, and light toffee), along with more traditional Maker’s aromas.

The palate also was much fuller–those seared staves were once again coming through. Everything was progressing nicely until about midway through the palate all the way to the finish. That’s when I noticed the oak really begin to kick in, to the point where I felt it began to dominate the entire flavor profile, becoming quite dry, spicy, and resinous.

In my opinion, the experiment went too far. The oak impact on the finish was too much.

So, what did I tell Kevin? The truth. I said that I though he succeeded on his first three objectives but, in my opinion, not on the fourth one.

I reminded Kevin that I was just one person and that he should get other opinions. I felt badly and, being the great guy that he is, he took my constructive criticism graciously.

I was about to blog about this the next day when he called me up and asked me to hold off. He said he realized that the sample he sent me was not a “finished” product. It was only rough-filtered to remove the chunks. He wanted to send me a “polished” (carbon-filtered) version, along with a different experiment (one with fewer staves) and also a sample of the old Black Wax release for comparison.

Fast forward to this afternooon, and the five Maker’s samples, and Kevin on the other end of the phone. (I was in New York on business Monday and Tuesday.)  In front of me I had the current Red Wax Maker’s Mark, the previous sample he sent me, and the three new ones. (He wouldn’t tell me which ones were which. They were identified by the letters A, B, and C.)

My thoughts on the three new ones? It was easy to pick the Black Wax sample. It’s flavor profile is very different than the rest. It’s been several years since I last tasted it, but I remember it well.

Of the remaining two, one was almost as intense on the finish as the first sample he sent me the week before. Kevin disclosed afterwards that it was another “rough-filtered” experiment–this time with fewer staves. 

But with the last one, the oak influence was scaled back, which I though was an improvement. There was better balance, and the oak wasn’t so intense on the finish. Interestingly, this was the same whiskey as the first sample he sent last week. The only difference is that it was carbon-filtered (or as Kevin says, “polished”). The filtering actually mellowed out the intensity of the oak.

How about that for a change? These days, when everyone is talking about not chill-filtering their whiskey to allow more flavor to come through, here’s an example where it actually helps.

I suspect Kevin will be tinkering a lot with the whiskey during the coming weeks (especially with the “polishing”). And I am certain that he’ll be getting feedback from more people too.

To be honest, of the five Maker’s Mark bourbons that I sampled, I still liked the extinct Black Wax whiskey the best. It’s a richer, deeper, more mature version of the current Red Wax Maker’s, and the oak–and the other flavors–are nicely balanced from beginning to end. But that “polished” sample I tasted today was gaining ground.

Tinker away, Kevin. Tinker away. I’m looking foward to tasting the final product. And I’m not alone.

More information on the new Maker’s Mark bourbon

Monday, January 25th, 2010

I blogged about it here, and showed a picture of a sample of it here. You know I have the new Maker’s Mark bourbon, so why haven’t I said anything about it yet?

Well, here’s why. Master Distiller Kevin Smith and I tasted the new whiskey together on Saturday, along  with the existing Red Wax Maker’s Mark we are all familiar with.

I was going to post up my thought on the new whiskey yesterday, but I’m going to hold off for a couple days. Why? He wants to send me more samples to taste and compare with him. That sounds like a deal to me. How can I turn that down?

I’ll be in New York Monday and Tuesday, but when I return on Wednesday, he and I will taste some more not yet released and maybe even previously released Maker’s Mark bourbons together.

Then, I’ll spill my guts. Be sure to stop back later on Wednesday.

Edrington mothballs Tamdhu distillery

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Sad, but given the current economy, not surprising. You can read about it here.

Glen Grant debuts in the U.S. next week at WhiskyFest

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

GG_16_yrs_LoRGood news. Glen Grant is coming to the U.S, but not until 2010.

However, if you have a ticket for Whiskyfest New York on November 10th, you in for a special treat. The whisky will make its debut in the U.S. at WhiskyFest.


This is from my contact at Skyy, the U.S. importer:

Whisky Fest is the only event where we will show case the brand before next year’s launch. So, only people at next week’s event will get the chance to taste before anyone else does…! The actual launch will be in January of next year and we will focus resources into the key markets: NY, NY, FL, TX, IL,  and CA.

The whiskies being poured? I’m told it will be the 10 yr. old and the 16 yr. old.

New Diageo whiskies: The Manager’s Choice

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Because of all the rumors, blog postings, etc., (including my own teaser this past week) on this subject (unauthorized, in many instances), Diageo has given me permission to release this information, officially,  one day early.

First, let’s start with the information from the press release:

ManagersChoice_Range_1_LoRes (2)Diageo launches its first ever complete collection of single-cask malt whiskies

Diageo has announced the launch of its first single-cask collection of single malt Scotch whiskies. This is the first time that Scotland’s biggest estate of single malt distilleries has issued a comprehensive series of single-cask bottlings.

Labelled The Managers’ Choice, the rare limited-edition series is aimed at collectors and connoisseurs who will enjoy owning and exploring an unusual expression of their favourite single malt or even a whole anthology of highly individual single malts, chosen to represent each of 27 distilleries’ distinctive but authentic whisky signature.

The releases are being staged in batches over the next year. September 2009 sees the first release of six malts.

Each distillery is represented in The Managers’ Choice by a bottling of its single malt whisky drawn from one single cask, selected after a careful examination of distillery stocks. The cask was nosed, tasted, discussed and finally chosen as the most distinctive expression of that distillery’s single malts by a judging panel of acknowledged experts, including leading maturation experts and the distillery managers themselves.

In many cases, unusual cask woods will have had their influence on the final result. Perfect maturation and spirit quality have been the criteria, resulting in a bottling that delights with original and sometimes unexpected flavours whilst allowing the distillery character to still shine through.

Depending on the size of the cask and the rate of evaporation over the years since it was filled, the volume of bottles obtained can vary between approximately 600 and as little as 200. These are, consequently, extremely rare and distinctive whiskies.

Oban_angledOnce picked, each cask is bottled at its natural cask strength, without chill filtering. Nothing is allowed to affect the natural taste and aromas of the whisky. This means that the liquid the connoisseur pours into his or her glass is exactly as it emerged directly from the cask when it was hand-picked a few months earlier by the experts – it’s as good as a dram drawn from the cask in the warehouse itself.

Diageo whisky specialist Craig Wallace explained the challenge of selecting a single cask for a bottling that will be made available to a discerning and knowledgeable consumer audience:  “When you’re selecting casks for a bigger bottling, you can work with a wider variation of maturity, distillery character and wood influence because you can even it out and aim for consistency.

“But when you are bottling a single cask, you can’t do that: you have to get the balance totally right when selecting the cask. And it’s highly unlikely, whatever single cask you choose this time, that you’d ever be able to replicate that precise flavour profile the next time you look for one.  So finding a single cask with just the right balance is actually very challenging.”

Classic Malts Selection spokesperson Nick Morgan said:  “We have occasionally issued single-cask bottlings of individual single malt whiskies before, for instance for visitors to the annual Islay Festival. And single-cask bottlings of our malts can sometimes be obtained from independent bottlers.

“But this is a much more ambitious venture  –  the most extensive collection we’ve ever released of single cask malt whisky bottlings, from 27 of our operational malt distilleries, involving both the well-known and those whose product isn’t widely available. 

“Each individual distillery cask selected by the experts after an extensive examination has doubly earned its place in The Managers’ Choice, regardless of its age: because it faithfully illuminates that distillery’s individual DNA, and also because it will offer the connoisseur a different, interesting and perhaps unexpected experience of that whisky.”

Full details, including tasting notes, are displayed on the Classic Malts Selection™ website The new website content includes the story of The Managers’ Choice and the selection process, a “Meet the Managers” page where they talk about The Managers Choice collection & questions related to the world of whisky, whisky tasting notes & audio, Q&A with a Sensory Expert, and details of where to buy the whiskies.

Note: Since this project doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, Diageo informed me this morning that the website featuring these whiskies may not be fully operational until then.

Here are the six whiskies in the first release, along with corresponding information on distillation dates, number of bottles, and pricing. (Sadly, these whiskies will NOT be available in the U.S.)

Cardhu™ , distilled 1997,   252 bottles,  £250
Glen Elgin™,  distilled 1998,  534 bottles, £250
Linkwood™,  distilled 1996,  480 bottles, £200
Mortlach™,  distilled 1997,   240 bottles, £250
Oban™,  distilled 2000,  534 bottles, £300
Teaninich™,  distilled 1996,  246 bottles, £200

I spoke with Nick Morgan last week and he was candid with me, telling me that it was very difficult deciding on which cask to pick for each distillery. The nosing team narrowed it down to three different casks for each distillery. Then, the group of nosers, along with the distillery managers and other key individuals, basically debated until coming up with just one pick for each distillery. (I would have liked to been there for that! That would have been fun.)

So, there you have it for now. I WILL be getting review samples of each release, so I’ll let you know my thoughts at that time. If you have any other questions, let me know. I’ll try to get them answered for you.

And please, post up your comments. Diageo is watching…