Archive for the ‘New Releases’ Category

Million Pound Whisky

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Gavin SmithGavin Smith reports on the new “Paterson Collection;” a dozen unique bottles of The Dalmore for an asking price of £987,500.

Paterson Collection group bottle shotIt had to come at some point: the “million pound whisky.” And here it is. To be fair, The Paterson Collection of a dozen unique bottles of The Dalmore is actually on sale for £987,500, rather than a straight million pounds. However, that’s just because top London retailer Harrods decided it didn’t want this collaboration to be all about price, and instead hoped that people would focus on the rarity of the actual product and the sheer excellence of its presentation.

Nice idea, but it seems unlikely many headlines will be generated that don’t include the phrase “million pound whisky.”

This venture by The Dalmore’s parent company Whyte & Mackay, is the work of master blender Richard Paterson, and may be seen as the culmination of The Richard holding bottleDalmore’s campaign to offer ultra-exclusive expressions, as exemplified in last year’s 21-bottle Constellation Collection, the first of which sold for £158,000.

The Paterson Collection is certain to increase the entrenchment between whisky drinkers and whisky collectors. It will undoubtedly attract criticism in some quarters along the lines that the whole project is divorced from the reality of the mainstream marketplace, and is effectively the equivalent of a motor manufacturer unveiling a futuristic concept car to gain publicity and a halo effect for its more down-to-earth offerings aimed at mere mortals.

Nonetheless, Harrods is confident its one-off Paterson Collection will sell and sell soon, though whether the purchaser sits down with a group of friends to drink their way through the twelve bottles remains to be seen. Richard Paterson is a passionate advocate of the view that whisky, especially very old and rare whisky, is there to be drunk, not form part of a hedge fund portfolio, but this collection seems destined to remain unopened, due to its value and unique nature.

So just what is the potential buyer getting for his or her money, and what will he or she be missing out on by not drinking it?

In order to create the collection, Paterson has plundered the darkest corners of Dalmore’s warehouses. The oldest whisky to be included in the series dates from 1926, while the youngest was distilled in 1995. Each decade from the 1920s to the 1990s is represented within the Collection, and every expression is named after one of Paterson’s Scotch whisky heroes. These are not single cask bottlings, however, but “assemblages” from several casks, which in many cases have then undergone secondary maturation in different types of cask prior to bottling.

Richard and Paterson Collection cabinetAccording to Paterson, “I personally have invested a huge amount of time ensuring that each of these twelve expressions represent the very best of the incredibly rare and valuable stocks that we nurture up at the distillery in Alness.”

Glencairn Crystal has designed lead crystal decanters for the collection, which is housed in a wooden cabinet made by Gavin Robertson. Paterson himself has spent an estimated 1,000 hours or more crafting the contents of an 800-page handwritten, calfskin “ledger,” detailing aspects of Dalmore’s heritage, his own career, characteristically flamboyant tasting notes for the whiskies, and the story of how The Paterson Collection came into being.

The excellence of the whiskies themselves is not in doubt, and neither is the lavish yet discreet manner of their presentation. But can they really be worth £1 million? If someone buys them, then the answer presumably is yes!

Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed in Whisky Advocate’s Summer Issue

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Here is your sneak preview of the top 10 whiskies from Whisky Advocate’s summer issue Buying Guide. The list begins with #10 and ends with the #1 whisky.

#10: Glen Garioch Cask #992 14 year old 1998, 54.6%, $100Glen Garioch Cask 992

Quite fragrant, with a thick, oily texture. Sweet notes (vanilla, sticky toffee), ripe barley, earthy peat, licorice root, and a hint of melon and citrus. Very clean and characterful. A lot of fun to drink. Nicely done! I can’t imagine a 14 year old Glen Garioch tasting any better than this. (A Julio’s Liquor Exclusive)John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 90

#9: Breckenridge Bourbon, 43%, $40Breckenridge Bourbon

WHACK! The spicy smack of the nose sends me to check the mashbill; sure enough, this is 38% rye. The nose fumes with youthful zest: cinnamon, bright mint, sun-warmed green grass. Pour some on the palate for more explosive entertainment; sweet cinnamon red-hots burst, corn pops, and the oak burns on into the rye-high finish. This is one excitable boy of a bourbon, and it’s got me humming along. Impressive.—Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 90

#8: Angel’s Envy Rye, 50%, $70AngelsEnvyRyeLR           

The folks at Angel’s Envy once again push the envelope with this 95% rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks. Vibrant, spicy rye notes (cinnamon and mint) are tamed by rich maple syrup, graham cracker crust, nutty toffee, candy floss, subtle tropical fruit, and creamy vanilla. Warm, spicy, rummy finish. This is a mood whiskey—not one I would drink every day—but the flavors marry nicely and the sweetness tames this high-testosterone rye whiskey. Bonus points for uniqueness.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 90

#7: Cutty Sark Prohibition, 50%, $30

The Real McCoy! It’s said that during Prohibition Bill McCoy serviced the better speakeasies with proper Cutty Sark; hence the name. If this is a recreation of what they might have been drinking back then, you can see why they kept fighting over it. This is another bold, earthy, smoky blend with oily, industrial notes. There’s crabapple, smoke, bitter lemon, grapefruit, and even black currant. It would seem blended whisky is where it’s at right now! Great stuff.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 90

#6: Jura 1977 Vintage, 46%, $900Jura 1977 Vintage

This vintage expression from Jura has been matured in three first-fill bourbon casks and then finished for one year in a ruby port pipe. Just 498 bottles have been released. Apricots, pineapple, caramel, butterscotch, sultanas, and white chocolate on the nose. The palate is warm and spicy, with subtle pine and citrus fruits, along with coconut and a hint of peat. Long in the finish with more vanilla before dried fruits and oak kick in. The delicate peat remains.—Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 90

#5: Paul John Single Cask Whisky P1-163, 57%, £60Paul John Single Cask P1-163

Another hard to get Indian whisky, but further proof that the category isn’t a one-trick pony. This single cask release is the second from the John Distilleries and a significant step upward. An altogether more complex whisky with an earthy prickly peat at one level, and a rich pureed pear heart with orange fruit and berries. The combination is quite gorgeous and with a little water you get whisky’s answer to a summertime flower show. Impressive stuff.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

Kavalan Bourbon Oak#4: Kavalan Bourbon Oak, 46%, $100

Surprise, surprise. This is like the school’s best pitcher, who then steps onto the football team and throws for a game-winning touchdown. This is a whole new side to Kavalan. Remember Faith No More doing “Easy”? Having out-sherried and out-bourboned us with kickass rock n roll whisky, Kavalan goes for gentle and croony, with vanilla and honey. The coup de grace? Apple pie and cream morph into licorice and menthol. Exquisite.—Dominic RoskrowMillstone Rye 100

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#3: Millstone Rye 100, 50%, €53

From the distillery that received last year’s World Whisky award comes another contender for the title in 2013. This is called 100 because it’s 100 percent rye distilled in pot stills, 100 proof, and 100 months old (a bit over eight years). It’s big, and perfectly balanced between honey and fruit, sparkling distinctive raunchy spice, and a dash of ginger biscuits. This is rye to die for. Superb.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#2: Amrut Greedy Angels, 50%, $225Amrut Greedy Angels

A whopping three-quarters of the spirit put in these casks was taken by greedy angels. It has a big waft of crystallized pineapple, tropical fruits, and spiky spice on the nose. On the palate, red licorice, syrupy jellied fruits, some mandarin, cherry lozenge, and tinned strawberries, and the same menthol rancio you’d kill for in a 30 year old scotch. This is Amrut’s oldest-ever whisky; it’s as rare as hen’s teeth…and just 8 years old. Awesome.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magaine rating: 94
Lot No 40 2012 Release

#1: Lot No. 40 2012 Release, 43%, C$40

Distilled from 90% rye grain and 10% rye malt, Lot No. 40 boldly mingles the galvanizing piquancy of distilled rye grain with the soaring floral fragrance of malted rye, and a fruitiness born of age. It begins with hard, dusty, earthy rye, and sour rye bread, followed by a trio of baking spices: cloves, nutmeg, and blistering ginger. A farm-tinged sourness fades into citrus fruit with velvet tannins. (Canada only)—Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

 

 

 

 

 

Four whiskies that impressed me this year, and one disappointment.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I was thinking about the new whiskies I’ve tasted this year, and which ones stood out (for better or worse). Here are four I really liked, and one that let me down, in that order.

Lagavulin 21 yr. old Limited Edition (2012 release)

The first time I had this was at WhiskyFest New York during the seminar’s lunch program. It’s aged in sherry casks, and it’s a real stunner. It’s packed with flavors, seamless, rich, and the sherry and smoke dovetail nicely. One of my most favorite Lagavulin whiskies ever. It’s just getting into circulation here in the U.S. so get one while you can. (You can check out Dave Broom’s review of it for Whisky Advocate here.)

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 3

A bottling that went to the U.S. and has been out for sometime now, which I reviewed here earlier this year. Have a look at my review. (There’s a Batch No. 6 that’s replacing it, but I haven’t triend that one yet.) A beautiful whisky, and one of the best Balvenies I’ve tasted in quite a while.

Yellow Spot

We blogged about this new Irish single pot still whiskey here, so check out the link if you want more information. It’s the new, older sibling to Green Spot, which is also a great whiskey. My bottle didn’t last long at all. That’s saying a lot, given that I have plenty of whiskeys at my disposal to drink. (Sadly, like Green Spot, this whiskey is not available in the U.S.)

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch

With two different mash bills and five different yeast strains, you can imagine the potential that Four Roses has to make a great, complex bourbon. Well, the did just that. My review here here pretty much says it all. Like I state in my review, “your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.”

And now for the disappointment…

Woodford Master’s Collection Four Wood

I really appreciate the experimentation that Brown-Forman is doing with the Master’s Collection line. It’s always nice to see whiskey companies trying new things, but this one has let me down. It’s the seventh and newest release in the Master’s Collection line. This one’s aged in: American, Maple, Sherry, and Port wood.

I enjoy the nose on this whiskey–there’s plenty going on and it’s very inviting. But the palate is a different story. It’s very sweet up front (bordering on cloying). Then, there’s an emergence of flavors (wood spice, stewed fruit, caramel, etc.) that turns very busy and lacks integration. The flavors just don’t play well with each other. To me, the whiskey is trying too hard to impress and achieves the opposite.

 

The ten highest rated whiskies in Whisky Advocate’s Winter 2012 issue

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The ten highest-rated whiskies of Whisky Advocate’s winter issue are being revealed right here, today, before the magazine hits the streets. Our list begins with the #10 whisky and ends with the #1 rated whisky of the issue. (P.S. In case you’re wondering where the best whiskeys for the price are coming from right now, this should help to clarify.)

#10: Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release 2012, 52%,  $624

Lagavulin from a first-fill sherry butt? There’s unusual. This is huge, fluxing, and complex, mixing saddles and dark chocolate, pu-erh tea and smothered kiln, geranium and velvet, gamey venison and treacle. The smoke is integrated, the fires ember-like, the oak there but not oppressively so. Massive, dense, layered, and complex, this needs time to open. In short, a distillation of Islay and up alongside last year’s Jazz Festival bottling. — Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9: Elijah Craig Single Barrel (Barrel No. 13) 20 year old, 45%, $130

All the current Elijah Craig 20 year old releases in distribution are single barrel offerings. I’ve tasted a few, and they vary to a degree. This is my favorite so far. Yes, there’s a lot of oak here (resinous, spicy, leathery, tobacco-tinged), but it’s on a bed of layered sweetness (nutty toffee, caramel fudge, maple syrup) that supports and marries with the oak. An ideal postprandial bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#8: Compass Box Oak Cross, 46%, $50

This has long been a core whisky for Compass Box, but the latest version of it is spicier and fresher than I recall, and without doubt, it’s my new best friend. Virgin French oak heads help to contribute oriental and aromatic spices on the nose, with hints of melon and pineapple candy sweets. The taste is a delight, with spearmint, soft toffee, sweet citrus fruit, lemonade mixed with beer, and strawberry wafers. An array of spices from cinnamon to chili to ginger dominate the finish. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7: Brora 35 year old Special Release 2012, 48.1%, $645

Previous Broras in the Diageo Special Release series have set the bar remarkably high, and this, the eleventh such bottling, does not disappoint. The component whiskies were distilled during 1976 and 1977 and matured in refill American oak casks. The nose offers lemon and contrasting vanilla and honeycomb aromas. Musty malt and coal in the background. The citrus and honey themes continue into the slightly earthy, peppery palate, while French mustard and coal figure in the drying finish. 1,566 bottles. — Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#6: Eagle Rare 17 year old (bottled Spring 2012), 45%, $70

Usually the least talked-about in the Antique Collection, but in my opinion certainly of the same caliber. This year’s release proves my point: nutty toffee and rummy molasses notes balanced nicely with dried fruit, cinnamon, polished oak, subtle leather, and tobacco. The oak is kept in check for such an age, and all the flavors work well together. Nicely done! —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#5: Johnnie Walker The Casks Edition, 55.8%, $300

You don’t mess with the Johnnie Walker brand name casually, so we expect greatness, and boy, do we get it here. This has a dusty, smoky nose with dried apricot and grape, and the whisky is gossamer-soft on the palate, with sweet pear and honey evolving on top of an oaky rich heart before a tidal wave of pepper and peat, and a delightful spice smoke and oak conclusion. Magnificent. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4: Sazerac 18 year old (bottled Fall 2012), 45%, $70

A perennial classic. Not aggressively bold like its younger sibling (Thomas H. Handy), but this is a rye of distinction and class. Still quite vibrant for its age, with plenty of spice (cinnamon, soft evergreen, vanilla, hint of nutmeg) softened and balanced by sweet notes (caramel, toffee), glazed citrus, and dried oak on the finish. This remains the benchmark for what a mature rye whiskey should taste like. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#3: William Larue Weller, 61.7%, $70

The key to bourbons that use wheat instead of rye (like this Weller), is to get the right amount of wood influence to balance the sweet notes and add depth. This whiskey does a great job of it. Notes of dark fruit (blackberry, plum, blueberry), layered sweetness (maple syrup, toffee, caramel), and dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla). Soft, pleasant finish. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#2: George T. Stagg, 71.4%, $70

Another excellent Stagg, and considering its alcohol level, it’s also a good value if you can get it at this price. Notes of toffee, pot still rum, nougat, dates, tobacco, roasted nuts, polished oak, and leather. Great depth and nicely balanced. A masculine bourbon of character and structure.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

# 1: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.7%, $90

A marriage of four different bourbons, ranging from 11 to 17 years old. This, to me, is benchmark Four Roses: subtly complex, vibrant, yet fully matured, with well-defined flavors of bramble, dry citrus, soft creamy vanilla, caramel, marzipan, allspice, a hint of cinnamon, and subtle cedar-aged cigar tobacco.  Soft, clean, polished oak finish. A very versatile bourbon! Your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.  —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

 

My Informal Thoughts on New Whiskies (Part 2)

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Here’s the second half of my post that began on October 5th (with a WhiskyFest summary in between).

So, about the new Ardbeg Galileo. Interesting stuff, this. Here’s my take on it. Ardbeg, for most people is a “mood” whisky to begin with, meaning that you have to be in the right mood for it. (I know, there are some of you out there who could drink Ardbeg all day long, including with your sausages at breakfast.) The fact that Galileo contains some Ardbeg matured in Marsala wine casks makes it even that much more of a mood whisky. So much to the point where I am currently struggling to find a mood where I would prefer Galileo to even another Ardbeg. Let’s face it. There have been so many great Ardbeg releases that the bar is set pretty high. Maybe too high for Galileo. And I am just not sure if the wine flavors play well with the other more traditional Ardbeg notes. This is a “try before you buy” whisky.

And while I’m still scratching my head a little, I might as well bring up Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. Okay, I know that many of the craft distillers have come out with essentially unaged whiskeys, and yes, some of the big boys have released some “white” whiskeys too. I also appreciate that many talented mixologists have created some interesting cocktails with unaged whiskeys. Personally, I would prefer to wait another several years or so after this whiskey has aged and mellowed out a little.

Speaking of aged Tennessee whiskeys, there’s going to be a new George Dickel Rye ($25). All the whiskey in this new bottling is at least 5 years old, and for this reason alone I am enjoying it more than Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. It’s made from 95% rye, like many other rye whiskeys on the market, including the another Diageo-owned bourbon label, Bulleit Rye. (Some Whisky Advocate readers out there might have a pretty good idea where these 95% rye whiskeys are sourced, because we’ve written about it recently.)

I thought it quite a coincidence that Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye was introduced just days before George Dickel announced their new rye. A wry rye, perhaps? 🙂

On to another product which, at this time, is more of a curiosity now but, like Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye, could blossom into a very nice whisky. I have a sample of the new Glen Moray Peated Spirit (Batch #1). It a 200 ml sample, hand-bottled, from a single cask at barrel proof (60.6%). It’s not old enough (3 years minimum) to be called whisky, but it shows a lot of promise. Time will tell.

Two new whiskies I like very much, and we don’t have to wait another 5 years to drink them are from Compass Box. They are the Great King Street New York Blend and the most recent version of Flaming Heart. The NY Blend of Great King street is bolder than the original GKS: it’s maltier and smokier. John Glaser did a great job matching the personality of the whisky with the great city of New York. And the Flaming Heart kicks ass, as always. Well done John.

Finally, I’d like to make a quick mention of another new whisky I am enjoying. It’s the Glenfiddich Maltmaster’s Edition. It’s matured in bourbon casks and then finished in sherry casks. Compared to, say, the standard 12 year old bottling, this one is richer, fruitier and spicier. This whisky is for those of you out there who keep telling me that Glenfiddich 12 year old is just not interesting enough for you. ($80)

 

 

Some whisky highlights from WhiskyFest San Francisco

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

WhiskyFest San Francisco was this past Friday. I had a chance to try some new whiskies while I was there and would like to share my thoughts. Some of these are so new, they haven’t even been formally released yet. I was just offered pre-release samples to taste.

One of my favorite whiskies of the evening was a Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 Vintage. It was elegant, well-rounded, and subtly complex. Very nice!

The U.S. finally has Japanese whisky besides Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu. Nikka is making its formal debut at WhiskyFest New York in two weeks, but the importer was also pouring Taketsuru 12 year old “Pure Malt” and Yoichi 15 year old single malt at the San Francisco event. The 12 year old, a blend of malts, was nicely rounded and easy to drink, while the 15 year old was very distinctive. My feeling on Japanese whisky is: the more the merrier!

Angel’s Envy has two new whiskeys coming out. The first one is a barrel-proof version of their flagship Angel’s Share bourbon that’s finished in port pipes. The other one is a high-rye whiskey that is currently being finished off in a Caribbean rum cask. I tasted both. Both were very interesting. The high rye/rum finish combination was unique.

Wild Turkey is finally coming out with a new whiskey that’s not 81 proof! (Thank goodness!) There’s a new Russell’s Reserve Small Batch being released soon that’s 110 proof, with no age statement.

I was able to taste the next Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage release (a 2003 vintage). It was very smooth, easy-going, and dangerously drinkable.

There’s a new Michter’s 20 year old single barrel about to be released. I was concerned that it was going to taste too woody, dry and tannic. Not a chance! I was so impressed with this whiskey, that I kept taking people I knew over to the Michter’s booth to taste it before it disappeared. (Well, it wasn’t officially there in the first place, but I did my best to spread the word.) I know this was a single barrel, but I sure hope they all taste like this!

Gable Erenzo had a unmarked bottle of a Hudson Bourbon he wanted me to try. It was a six year old Hudson bourbon matured in a standard 53 gallon barrel (not a small barrel!) and it was the best Hudson whiskey I have tasted to date. Thanks for the tease, Gable…

One of the most pleasant experience of the evening wasn’t even a whisky. It was a beer! At the Anchor booth, they were pouring Anchor Steam that was bottled just five hours earlier. Damn that beer was fresh. It was the best Anchor Steam beer I ever had outside of the brewery. So, if you saw me walking around with a glass of Anchor Steam, now you know why!

Finally, I couldn’t resist sitting in on one of the seminars: a flight of Bowmore whiskies paired with a variety of West Coast oysters that were flown in that day and shucked right in front of us.  Delicious!

New Compass Box Great King Street New York Blend: the details

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I asked John Glaser if he would create a new whisky and debut it for us at WhiskyFest New York this fall. He said he would, and here are the details. This limited edition Compass Box whisky will debut during the WhiskyFest New York seminar program on October 27, 2012 and go on sale to the public immediately afterwards. John Glaser sent me information on this new blend, and it sounds very exciting. Here are the details, straight from John:

 

 A Scotch Whisky Blend Made Just for New York

 Great King Street to Release the First of its Limited Release Regional Blends

 

GREAT KING STREET, the Blended Scotch whisky specialist brand launched by the Compass Box Whisky Company last year, has announced they will launch next month their NEW YORK BLEND, the first of the brand’s Limited Release regional blends.

Compass Box founder and Great King Street whiskymaker John Glaser explains: “We were approached by the New York WhiskyFest last year asking us to debut a new whisky at this year’s festival, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to start a series of regional blends, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  What better place to begin than New York?”

Glaser has long been inspired by the old Scotch whisky blending houses of 120 years ago who commonly made different blends for regional tastes.  He has also been inspired by the ways in which blends were made in this period, delivering far more flavour than those of today.  These things have formed the basis of his whiskymaking approach for the Great King Street brand.

For the New York Blend, Glaser made two key discoveries that inspired this one-off, limited edition bottling.  One was an ancient New York Times article describing an 1890s bartender named Patrick Duffy who was responsible for instigating the importation of branded Scotch whisky in glass bottles for the first time into New York.  Second, was an old Scotch blend recipe from a Glasgow blending house from the same era. Glaser fashioned a blend based on the old recipe and dedicated the bottling to Duffy, and the New York Blend was born.

What sets this Great King Street blend apart from Scotch whisky blends of today is flavour.  The New York Blend uses lots of peaty single malts, plenty of sherry cask-aged single malts, and a much higher proportion of malt to grain whisky (80%/20%) than is typically used today (generally 30%/70%).

The Great King Street “New York Blend” will be launched on Saturday, October 27th, 2012 at the New York Whisky Fest at the Marriot Marquis hotel in Manhattan.  Only 1,840 bottles are being released and it will be available primarily in the New York metropolitan area  and via the Compass Box Whisky Company web site.  Glaser plans more Great King Street regional blends in the future, but for now he is mum about the details of where or when!

Whisky Advocate’s top 10 whiskies of the fall issue

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The ten highest-rated whiskies reviewed in the fall 2012 issue of Whisky Advocate’s Buying Guide are being announced right here, right now.  We begin with whisky #10 and count down to the #1 whisky. Please note: any whiskies currently available in the U.S. have prices listed in dollars; any whisky priced in other currency is not presently available in the U.S.

#10: Crown Royal XR (LaSalle), 40%, $130

Vanilla and oak nose, with a creamy layer of mint that warns you: Rye Ahead. And what a sweet rye wave it is, rolling in with green mint and grass, more bourbony oak and vanilla, lively spice on the top (with enough heat to keep it bold), and a finish that brings everything together. Beautifully integrated, and not overly woody, a tribute to the blending art of Canadian distillers. —Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#9: Cutty Sark Tam o’ Shanter 25 year old, 46.5%, $329

In my opinion Cutty Sark 25 year old is one of the great blends, so a new version was always going to be a big ask. This one comes with a lot of packaging, so is it a victory for style over substance? Not at all. This is all about big flavors; burnt orange, juicy raisin, and dark chocolate; rich oak and exotic spice. A treat, and worthy of its heritage. But at that price—and bearing in mind it’s a limited edition—are you going to open it? —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#8: Macallan Masters of Photography 3rd release 1989 cask #12251, 56.6%, $2,750 

Dark mahogany with ruby glints and a green rim. Lots of highly-polished oak as we move out of the woods and into a silent country estate. Wax polish and masses of whisky rancio. Sherry-soaked oak, dry leaves, currants, and ripe blackberry. Highly concentrated, but the fruits push their way through only lightly-resisting tannins. There’s a hint of smoke and Seville orange bitterness on the finish. My pick of the quartet. Excellent. Only 285 bottles. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91


#7: Blue Hanger 4th Release Berry Bros. & Rudd, 45.6%, £61

This Blue Hanger has sherry and fruit on the nose, but it’s all reined in. Then the palate is big, rich, complex, and fruity, and late oakiness from some 30 year-plus malt in the mix brings the perfect finale. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#6: Glenglassaugh 37 year old, 56%, $600

A first-fill sherry cask bottling (one cask, exclusive to North America). Some of the old Glenglassaugh whiskies can be very delicious, and this is one of them. It’s very clean, lush, and fruity (bramble, citrus, golden raisin), with a kiss of honey, toffee, and soft spice. Elegantly sherried; it’s never cloying. A very nice whisky from a quality cask that tastes more like 21 or 25 years old than 37. (I mean this in a good way.) —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#5: Glenfarclas 1953, 47.2%, £5,995

The hits just keep on coming for Glenfarclas. Here we see it not only with enormous age but in relaxed mode in terms of oak. You can tell it’s old: the leathery waxiness and exotic fruits of whisky rancio; you can tell it’s Glenfarclas because of the ever-present earthiness, but both are intensified into a new aromatic realm: gentlemen’s barbershop, rowan berry, and images of an old bonfire next to a gingerbread house. Mysterious, subtle, and highly complex. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#4: Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel, 54.3%, $95

Elegant, clean, and peppered with dried spice notes throughout (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). Additional notes of barrel char, vanilla wafer, summer fruits, caramel corn, maple syrup, and candied almond add complexity. Begins sweet, but dries out nicely on the finish, inviting another sip. Very nice! —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#3: The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 3, 50.3%, $250

A combination of three sherry butts and seven bourbon casks. This is a complex, dynamic whisky, loaded with lush, layered ripe fruit (red berries, tropical fruit, honeyed apricot, raisin), toffee, oak resin, polished leather, and well-defined spice notes (cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, clove). Long, warming finish. (Exclusive to the U.S.) —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#2: Blue Hanger 6th Release Berry Bros. & Rudd, 45.6%, £68

If you want proof that blended malts can be world class, you’ll find it in any bottle of Blue Hanger. Lovingly created by Berry Bros. whisky maker Doug McIvor, every release has been exceptional. Even by the series’ own high standards, this sixth release surpasses itself. The nose is fresh, clean, and citrusy, with wafts of sherry. But there are smoky hints, too. And it’s that peaty, earthy note on the palate that gives this release a new dimension, enriching the fruity Speyside sweetness at the whisky’s core. The age and quality of the malt asserts itself throughout. This really is stunning stuff. —Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

And the #1 whisky of the fall issue’s Buying Guide is…
Bowmore 46 year old (distilled 1964), 42.9%, $13,500 

There have been some legendary Bowmores from the mid-60s and this is every bit their equal. All of them share a remarkable aroma of tropical fruit, which here moves into hallucinatory intensity: guava, mango, peach, pineapple, grapefruit. There’s a very light touch of peat smoke, more a memory of Islay than the reality. Concentrated; even at low strength the palate is silky, heady, and haunting, and lasts forever in the dry glass. A legend is born. (Eight bottles only for the U.S.)  —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 97

Some new bourbon and rye whiskeys

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Heaven Hill’s Larceny

A review bottle of this showed up yesterday and I did not waste any time. I shared some of it last night with a friend. There’s an interesting story to it, so I will include part of the press release I received:

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., announces the initial launch of Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey into 12 markets in September 2012. A super-premium 92 proof Bourbon, Larceny is the heir to the wheated Bourbons that make up the historic Old Fitzgerald franchise that Heaven Hill acquired in 1999. In fact, it is the somewhat controversial history of John E. Fitzgerald and his eponymous Bourbon brand that provides the story, and name, to Larceny Bourbon, the latest new label from the venerated distillery that produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig Bourbons and Rittenhouse Rye.

Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the third or “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mashbill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.

It is actually the story of the Old Fitzgerald brand, made famous by the late Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., that forms the historical basis for Larceny Bourbon. According to industry lore, John E. Fitzgerald had founded his distillery in Frankfort , KY shortly after the Civil War ended, making his Bourbon available only to steamship lines, rail lines and private clubs. This story was furthered by S.C Herbst, who owned the “Old Fitz” brand from the 1880’s through Prohibition, and “Pappy” Van Winkle, who purchased the brand revealed by Pappy’s granddaughter, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, in her 1999 book But Always Fine Bourbon—Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald, that in fact John E. Fitzgerald was not a famous distiller at all. He was in reality a treasury agent who used his keys to the warehouses to pilfer Bourbon from the finest barrels. His discerning palate led those barrels to which he chose to help himself being referred to as “Fitzgerald barrels”.

Now Heaven Hill has launched Larceny, whose tagline—“A taste made famous by an infamous act”—sets history straight.

For 2012, Larceny will be available in the 1.75 liter, 1 liter, 750ml and 50ml sizes in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. At an average national retail price of $24.99 for the 750ml size, Larceny is a true small batch Bourbon produced from dumps of 100 or fewer barrels that have been selected from the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Heaven Hill’s open rick warehouses in Nelson County, Kentucky. Larceny is drawn from barrels that have aged from 6 to 12 years at this high storage, and is bottled at a full-bodied 92 proof, or 46% alcohol by volume.

Okay, so what are my thoughts on this whiskey? It tastes very much like I expected it to taste. Like many wheated bourbons (think Maker’s Mark), it’s smooth and easy-drinking. The press release states there’s 6-12 year old whiskey in there. The majority might be on the younger end of the scale, but that’s okay. There’s just enough oak to balance the sweeter notes. I don’t think I would want this whiskey aged any longer. I like the whiskey. I would be more inclined to buy a bottle if it were $19.99 instead of $24.99, but I guess that this is the sign of the times. $25 is the new $20.

Jack Daniel’s…Rye?

I can’t say for certain, but Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, will be speaking at WhiskyFest San Francisco in October and his topic is scheduled to be on a new rye whiskey. Just sayin’…

Colonel E. H. Taylor Rye

I was also checking the pour list for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and noticed an E.H. Taylor Straight Rye on the list. All the Taylor releases to date are from Buffalo Trace have been bourbons, so this would be the first rye release under the Taylor name. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Allison.)

Something new from Russell’s Reserve

There will be a new whiskey coming out in the Russell’s Reserve line. It’s being bottled soon and I’ll let you know more about it then. (I was asked to hold off saying anything at this time.) Stay tuned!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Hillrock Estate Distillery: tiny, vertical, and beautiful

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Whisky Advocate’s managing editor and contributor Lew Bryson reports on his visit to Hillrock Estate Distillery.

I recently took a trip up to Hillrock Estate Distillery, near Ancram, New York. The distillery is east of the Hudson River, near the Massachusetts border, in a rolling, wooded valley near the Berkshires, an area that was settled by Dutch grain planters. This is a part of the country I’m well familiar with; my wife grew up here, and we were married about fifteen miles away. So I wasn’t surprised to find that the roads to Hillrock were narrow and winding, or that the place itself was beautifully rural.

Hillrock is the baby of Jeffrey Baker, who made his money in banking…but has a farming background. He’s been involved in small-scale farming as a sideline for over 20 years, having started with a dairy farm in 1989, then organic beef, finally moving down from the Vermont border to Ancram, where he became interested in the concept of field-to-glass distilling. He was particularly interested in the idea of tasting a difference from grain grown in one field vs. another, and eventually hooked up with well-known distilling expert Dave Pickerell.

Dave’s spent quite a bit of time here in the past year, and was there when I arrived at Baker’s 1806 farmhouse. They were in a mood to celebrate: they had just that very minute received an approval email from ATTTB for their solera bourbon label. We went out on the porch, looked down on the distillery, sitting in a sunny spot between a barley field and a rye field, and talked.

Hillrock’s all about details. The rye and barley is grown here and on another 100 or so acres in the valley (the corn is grown by local farmers); it’s being grown organically, but they haven’t received their certification yet. They built a malthouse with floor maltings, what they believe to be the first such in-house distillery maltings in the country since Repeal. They’re using a variety of smoking techniques for some of the malt (and looking at old maps to find local peat sources). They are distilling on a combi-still (a pot still with a column) with a series of adjustments applicable to the type of spirit produced that Pickerell would take pains to show me (distillation began in October, 2011). They are currently aging spirit in seven different barrel sizes.

It was the seven different barrel sizes that led Pickerell to laugh and admit, “Sometimes I do things that are a pain in the ass.” His day-to-day distiller (and maltster, and warehouse manager, and bottler…), Tim Welly, grinned in tacit agreement.

That in turn led Baker to admit that he went along with all of it, and instigated some of it. That’s why he’s the sole investor. “I’m a detail-oriented guy,” he explained. “If you’re going to do this, something this insane…do you really want an investor looking over your shoulder?”

We did sit down and taste the solera bourbon, which includes aged stock they bought and mingled with small-barrel aged Hillrock distillate. It is a good whiskey, with a cinnamon-spicy, fruit-laced finish. Dave recalled his excitement when that spicy note appeared. “That’s from that field,” he said. It was proof of the terroir concept, when they knew they had something with the estate-grown grain concept.

The solera bourbon will be available in New York around the beginning of October, as will a single malt whisky that is about to begin a wood finishing process. Dave was a bit cagey about that, only saying that he’d done research and found a dynamite wood to season whiskey; further pressure would only get that it was a type of fruit tree. Or maybe a nut tree. And he wouldn’t tell me more.

The tasting room is more like a small vineyard than most small distillery’s, with graceful wood furniture and samples of locally-grown foods. The whole place is simply elegant, and will make a great tour once it’s open.

There’s not going to be a lot of whiskey out of Hillrock, but I suspect we’ll be seeing more of them, and more of this type of high-end distillery; like Distillery No. 209, a high-end gin distillery in San Francisco that I visited last fall. This is going to be part of the future of whiskey distilling, a small and very interesting part.