Archive for the ‘Breaking news’ Category

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…

Very special news about Diageo’s malt whiskies

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I’m not allowed to tell anyone about it until one week from today, on Friday, September 4th. Maybe someone will leak it out sooner, but I will honor their request.

Anyone want to take a guess what it is?

Make sure you visit here next Friday for the details.

Special Announcement: follow my real-time whisky reviews on Twitter

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Beginning this week, I will be starting something new. I will be reviewing whiskies “real time” on Twitter. Now you can get my impressions (and rating) of a whisky the very moment I taste it.

Nothing will change in the way I review whiskies. I will still review them in my “tasting room”, using the same glassware, at the same time, etc. The only difference is, instead of typing my review into my Word document, I’ll be typing it on Twitter.

Each review will begin with a photo of what I’m about to review, followed by additional tweets as I nose and taste the whisky. The review will end with my formal rating of the whisky, which will eventually appear on my blog and in Malt Advocate. Other than the possibility of minor formatting to convert my tweets into the structure of my magazine reviews, the tasting notes, and ratings will be identical.

At the beginning of each week, I will announce a schedule of the whiskies I’m going to review that week, along with the dates and times of the review. If you want to follow along, all you need to do is get a Twitter account and sign up to follow me. It’s really very easy. Several hundred of you are already following me. The other nice thing is that you can also chime in after my review and exchange comments with other people following me and reading my review.

This idea came to me over the weekend, while I was at the Buffalo Trace distillery. I tweeted during a media lunch with CEO Mark Brown, while tasting new Buffalo Trace whiskeys later that afternoon, and also during Elmer T. Lee’s 90th Birthday Party that evening. For those of you who didn’t have the good fortune of being invited to these events, my tweets were the next best thing. And judging by your comments on Twitter, you really enjoyed this. I’m now going to apply this same concept to other things that I do, like when I review whiskies.

There’s also another benefit to this besides “being there with me” when I review whiskies real-time. These days, the really “hot” whiskies often sell out on-line or at retailers very quickly. The sooner you can be informed, the better. And there’s no faster way to get my reviews than real-time.

So, here’s my schedule for this week. All reviews this week will begin promptly at 4pm, Eastern Standard Time.  This week, I will focus on three new American whiskeys of great interest to bourbon and rye enthusiasts:

Wednesday, August 19th: Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 yr.

Thursday, August 20th: Four Roses Mariage Collection, 2009 release

Friday, August 21st: Rittenhouse Rye, 25 year old, single barrel

Give it a try. Get a Twitter account if you don’t already have one, include me as one of the people you are following (@JohnHansell), catch my reviews and join in on the discussion aftewards if you want to.

P.S. If you don’t want to follow me on Twitter, you can still see my most recent tweets on the right sidebar of this blog. I’m not sure how fast the link works, but it shouldn’t take too long.

Two new Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Whiskeys: updated!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Debuting this fall, two “Double Barrel” bottlings. One, a 1993 vintage. The other, a 1997 vintage.

Both are ryed bourbons. Both were aged in new charred oak barrels for 8 years, and then re-barrelled into new charred oak barrels again for the rest of their life span.

I tasted both today. Not enough time to go into detail now, but will fill you in on these two–and the entire new Buffalo Trace Antique collection, which I also tasted–in the near future.


Here are my “tweets” on these two whiskeys soon after I tasted them yesterday. These are informal thoughts, based on cask samples, not the final (lower-proof) dressed bottle. They haven’t been bottled yet. I’ll provide a more formal review of the final product later.

1997 Vintage Double Barrel BT Experimental Collection. Aged 8 yrs. then again in in virgin charred oak barrels. Very woody, but drinkable.

1993 Vintage Double Barrel BT Experimental Collection. Aged 8 yrs. then again in in virgin charred oak barrels. Over the line in oak. Avoid!