Archive for the ‘Microdistilleries’ Category

Het Anker Brewery to distill whisky

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Today you get two blog postings for the price of one…

The makers of the delicious Gouden Carolus beer in Belgium is getting into the whisky-making business. They dipped their toe in the water by having a whisky made for them, under their specifications using wash based on their Gouden Carolus Tripel beer. (I tasted it and liked it. My review is coming shortly.) Now they are going to build their own distillery and make their own whisky.

Here’s the official press release which I just received:

Het Anker Brewery is going to build Belgium’s first authentic and traditional whisky distillery!

As a result of the successful launch of the Gouden Carolus Single Malt, the brewery decided to build a brand new, traditional whisky distillery. Although there are already a handful of companies in Belgium who produce whisky, Het Anker will be the first distillery with Pot Stills (large copper kettles which end in a swan neck shape).

A beautiful concept and a fairy tale location.The distillery will not be built at the brewery premises at Mechelen, but in the village of Blaasveld (Willebroek) and this for a very important “historical” reason. The Molenberg estate, a little green “Eden” between the Mechelsesteenweg and the Klaterstraat has been owned by the same family since the 17th century . This family, the Van Breedams, was a dynasty of millers who also had a jenever distillery.

The current owner Charles Leclef, (the fifth Van Breedam-generation) and also owner of the Het Anker Brewery, will use this location to build the distillery, museum and visitors center. The beautiful estate with its rich history will rise again in full glory.

Due to this ambitious venture Willebroek and Blaasveld will become known worldwide.  Even better, Blaasveld will have a new and unique regional product!

The renovation of the estate will start at the beginning of May. The distillery will produce its first spirit on 31 December at midnight, and this after a century of silence…

For more information:
Charles Leclef – +32 (0) 015 287 147 –
Ali Bosmans – +32 (0) 015 287 147  – 0497 416 166 –

If their new whisky tastes as good as the whisky they contracted to have made for them, then we are in for a treat.

Update on Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I had the opportunity to try one of the most recent Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky from the Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia and was impressed by how improved the whisky was compared to the earlier releases. If you haven’t tried the Wasmund’s recently, you might want to if you have the opportunity.

I spoke with Rick Wasmund, Master Distiller, and he also explained a new concept he is introducing: the Wasmund’s Distillers Art series. Basically, he is selling two different pure spirits (unaged). One is single malt spirit; the other is a rye spirit (2/3 Rye, 1/3 Barley). The spirit is being sold at 62% ABV!

Then, they are also selling 2 liter barrels which you can buy and age the spirit in it until you are ready to drink it. (Of course, you can always drink the spirit without aging it too! I tried both spirits and they tasted pretty good.)

Rick also told me that he’s aging a rye whiskey for release later on this year to compliment his flagship single malt release. So, interesting stuff coming from the Copper Fox distillery these days.

Yep, we screw up too!

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Long term readers of Malt Advocate know that we always try to be fair and balanced in our writing. Sometimes even we fail to live up to our own standards. This happened with our cover story in our last issue on craft distilling here in the U.S. We didn’t include the Anchor Distillery, makers of Old Potrero, the first of a now-growing number of craft whiskey distillers. How could we do something that silly?
Well, the intent of the piece was to introduce our readers to the new craft distillers making whisky this past decade. For reasons too long to explain here, we actually ended up including some of the veteran craft distillers, but completely forgot Anchor, and the pioneering influence they had on craft distilling (not to mention the great whiskey they continue to make.)
We are not trying to make excuses for ourselves, but sometimes something a whiskey (or person or distillery) is so obvious to us because we are exposed to it all the time, we just (innocently) take it for granted. That’s what happened here and we apologize to Anchor, to Fritz Maytag and his staff for this. It was never our intention to keep them out of the story.

We’re not perfect. We make mistakes too. But when we do, we try to do our best to correct it.

History Channel “Whiskey” show rebroadcasts on St. Patrick’s Day

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

In case you missed it when it originally broadcasted on St. Patrick’s day last year, the History Channel’s Modern Marvel’s series “Whiskey” show will be rebroadcasted on March 17, 2009 at 10 AM and 4 PM. (That means you can learn about whiskey and then still go out later on and drink it!)

If you haven’t seen it yet, it is informative and entertaining. And yes, you’ll have to put up with several quotes from me throughout the show. I tagged some of the distilleries that they visit during the show.

If anyone wants to really see the difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, this is the show to watch. They show the sugar maple charcoal mellowing vats. In fact, they actually show the sugar maple being burned to make the charcoal. Cool stuff!

Gouden Carolus Single Malt Whisky

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

For those of you who don’t know, I wrote about beer long before I started writing about whisky. In fact, Malt Advocate was originally On Tap, a beer publication (but that was a long time ago). I still drink more beer than whisky and I still review beers for All About Beer magazine.

So it was with great interest that I received a note today from Ali Bosmans of the Het Anker brewery in Belgium. I love Belgian beers. In fact, the two beers on tap at my house right now are Chimay Tripel and Dupont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux. (This is probably more than you need to know about me and my love of Belgian ales. Sorry for the digression.)

I’ve been to Belgium a few times, touring breweries. I toured the Het Anker Brewery in 1994. This is where the delicious Gouden Carolus beer is made. It turns out that they are now making single malt whisky. The first series of releases were made at a different distillery (that makes Genever), but they are installing pot stills at the brewery and will be making their own whisky at the brewery. Here’s the info from Ali:

I know, you know a lot of beer…So I think you certainly know the Gouden Carolus and Cuvee van de Keizer etc…  from our brewery “Het Anker” in Belgium. All high quality beers! In 2003 we decided to do a test… we distilled the Gouden Carolus Tripel mash and let it sleep in first fill Jim Beam casks.

Last year we bottled the first edition. At the end of 2008 we decided to release a limited edition “Connoisseur’s Pack”.

The whisky is so successful that we decided to build our own pot still distillery. (The first whisky we made is distilled by Filliers in column stills.)  Our new distillery will have pot stills: a  5000l wash still and a 3200l spirit still producing 538 L spirit/day.We will be the first in Belgium to do so. The first middle cut will take place at 31 December 2009 at midnight!

I know that we export a lot of beer to the States, and we also have a good reputation. So, I think that in 3 years time we will also export the Gouden Carolus Single Malt.” And maybe one day (it is a dream) I will come to the WhiskyFest Chicago or San Francisco to present this NEW Belgian product!

We would love to have you join us at WhiskyFest, Ali, pouring your new whisky. It’s something we can look forward to.

Review: Cascade Peak Oregon Organic Rye whiskey

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

I’ll post up one more microdistillery whiskey before reviewing more mainstream whiskeys. This one really shows promise. It has a lot more going for it than the Rogue Dead Guy whiskey I reviewed earlier in the week.

Cascade Peak Oregon Organic Rye (Batch #1), 50.2%, $52
This whisky is only 9 months old, made from 85% rye and 15% malted barley. It’s vibrantly spicy (cinnamon, mint, licorice root, nutmeg), fresh and clean. Bright citrus and peach also entertain. Rich, underlying vanilla notes try to tame the beast, but it’s really no match. Warm, spicy finish. There’s a lot going on here. Yes, it’s youthful, but far more mature than I expected. This whisky is certainly drinkable now (for those who like their rye whiskey young and bold), but I would like to see it develop some more on oak. That’s the only thing missing here. It shows great potential.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 77

Review: Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I’ve been posting reviews of U.S. microdistilleries over the past week or two, so I thought I’d include another one. But don’t go too far out of your way to find a bottle of this one.

Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey, 40%, $40
I love Rogue beers as well as their attitude and philosophy. But this whiskey tastes just too immature—harsh, sweet and one-dimensional. Maybe with some additional aging this whiskey might come around, mellow out and develop, but it has a long way to go.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 69

Review: The Notch (Triple Eight Distillery)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Another “advanced” craft distillery here in the U.S. This one is in Nantuckett.  Note the recurring “888” (Triple 8 Distillery, 88.8 proof, $888/bottle, bottled on 8/8/08).

The Notch, 44.4%, $888
Soft, gentle aroma, with notes of vanilla wafers, marzipan, and bramble. Continued soft, sweet and creamy on the palate, with red and black currant, pear, subtle gin botanicals and lingering anise on the finish. Good oak grit for such a young whisky, which helps to balance the sweetness. Fairly straight-forward, as would be expected for such a young whisky, but very enjoyable. I wonder if this whisky is peaking at eight years old (or at least reached a plateau)? Certainly mature enough to enjoy now, but I would be curious to see this at 12 years old, where it might gain some additional depth and complexity, providing the oak is kept in check.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 81

Review: Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I have some small U.S. craft distillery whiskeys which I’ll be posting reviews up on over the next few day. Here’s the first one.

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2, 55%, $325
A unique and quite intriguing whiskey. A “bottle ready” California Pilsner beer was given an extra dose of hops and then distilled in a pot still and aged in new oak for six years. Then it was aged in stainless steel for another three years. Five barrels were bottled. (When I traveled through Europe some of the breweries let me taste “Hop Schnapps” which they had a distiller produce from their own beer. It was always just for their own private consumption, not for sale. This Charbay release reminds me of that, only aged into a mature whiskey.) It’s a complex whiskey, accentuated naturally by hops, exotic teas, marijuana (seriously!) candied fruit, lavender, dark berries, raspberry (red and black), juniper, freshly ground tellicherry pepper, and light Caribbean rum. A nice “change of pace” whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 81

Annoucing the 2008 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The 2008 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards were announced earlier this evening just prior to WhiskyFest New York. The awards ceremony occurred at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.

Here is a listing of the award winners. A full write-up will appear in the 1st Quarter 2009 issue of Malt Advocate magazine, due out on January 15, 2009.

The top ten new whiskies for 2008 (listed alphabetically)
The Antiquary Blended Scotch, 21 year old
The Balvenie Vintage Cask, 1976 vintage
Black Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 42 year old
White Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 43 year old
Brora , 30 year old
High West Rendezvous Rye, Batch No. 10
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve Irish Whiskey
The Last Drop Blended Scotch
Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon, 27 year old
Willett Family Reserve Bourbon, 25 year old

Best Buy of the Year
Ancient Ancient Age Ten Year Old

American Whiskey of the Year
Parker’s Heritage Collection 27 Year Old Bourbon

Canadian Whisky of the Year
Canadian Club 150th Anniversary 30 Year Old

Irish Whiskey of the Year
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, 2007 Release

Scotch Blended Whisky of the Year
The Antiquary 21 year old

Scotch Malt Whisky of the Year
Black Bowmore, 1964 Vintage, 42 year old

Microdistillery Whisky of the Year
Penderyn Welsh Whisky

Industry Leader of the Year
Dr. Bill Lumsden

Pioneer of the Year
The United States Microdistillers

Distillery of the Year
Four Roses

Lifetime Achievement Award
Willie Tait (Whyte and Mackay)
Kenny Gray (Oban)
Ronnie Eddins (Buffalo Trace)