Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

Visiting Forty Creek Distillery and tasting their new whiskies

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Stephen Beaumont, Whisky Advocate contributor, fills us in on his visit  to Forty Creek distillery and gives us a sneak peak of some new whiskies they are about to release.

John Hall, the man behind Forty Creek whisky, turned me around on Canadian whisky.

I was an aficionado of many different spirits, including whiskies and whiskeys, but the Canadian stuff had never moved me, not even back in the 1990’s when Corby experimented with its ill-fated trio of spirits marketed as the Canadian Whisky Guild. Then Hall emerged from the shadows of Niagara Falls with his Forty Creek Barrel Select, composed of corn, barley and rye whiskies separately distilled and aged for up to a decade, then blended into what remains one of the great values of the whisky world.

I was moved. Not to category love, mind you, but along the path towards Canadian whisky acceptance. His special editions—Double Barrel, John’s Private Cask No. 1 and, especially, Confederation Oak—plus assorted finally-stepping-up-to-the-plate releases from bigger names like Wiser’s and Crown Royal, sealed the deal. Finally I could drink Canadian and hold my head high.

So it was odd that, despite the distillery being a short hour’s drive from my Toronto home, I had never visited Kittling Ridge Estate Wines & Spirits, as Hall’s distillery is known. Or rather, was known.

The occasion that ultimately led me down the highway was the August re-branding of the business, plus the release of three new or almost-new products: the once-before-seen Port Wood Reserve, the premium Copper Pot Reserve and the new Cream, Canada’s first-ever home-spun whisky cream liqueur.

You’ll read more about these three brands once our resident Canadian whisky guy, Lew Bryson, gets his palate around them—hint: the Port Wood Reserve is superior to its initial incarnation, and the Copper Pot is true to its “amped up” billing—so I’ll instead tell you a bit about the “new” Forty Creek Distillery.

Now two decades old, the renaming of the company is representative of the fact that Hall says 90% of his production is now spirits, which include brandy and vodka, in addition to the whisky line. With Forty Creek Barrel Select now the seventh largest selling spirit in Canada’s most populous province, you can guess what the comprises the bulk of those spirits.

With increased whisky production, of course, comes a need for increased space, and to that end Hall has expanded his distillery twice to a total of 175,000 square feet, in which he houses 40,000 barrels, with an additional 60,000 stored offsite. That’s a lot of barrelage relative to Hall’s production, but it’s needed due to his insistence on maturing his component whiskies separately prior to blending and further aging them in his own sherry barrels.

Overall, it makes for an impressive tour, one which is open to the general public Tuesday through Sunday or by appointment for groups. Or, if you’re in the area in mid-September, during Forty Creek’s already large and rapidly growing Whisky Weekend, occurring this year on September 15 and 16. For further details, visit

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

An All-Encompassing Chronicle

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Lew Bryson joins us today with a review of Davin de Kergommeaux’s recently released book.

Canadian Whisky: the portable expert, by Davin de Kergommeaux

With this book, Davin de Kergommeaux establishes himself as the foremost writer on Canadian whisky. Before you get in a snobbish whisky geek mood and dismiss that as similar to being the world’s tallest midget, you really should read the book. Even if it doesn’t make you a regular Canadian whisky drinker, it will at least dispel the myths and mistaken assumptions you may have about this entire category of whisky, for de Kergommeaux has written a book full of facts about Canadian whisky, and written it well.

While the author’s mission is clear—present a full, true, accurate picture of Canadian whisky in order to gain the industry a greater measure of the respect it is due—only rarely does he pound the pulpit. Instead, the point is made by describing the historical origins of Canadian whisky and the blending philosophy that informs it, and by explaining the distillation process at each of the nine Canadian distilleries.

Explaining the process at each distillery is a good idea, because this is not bourbon or Scotch whisky, a closely defined and regulated spirit with very specific rules. There are rules, but those rules and the idea behind them allow a much wider variety of techniques, components, aging, and blending. It may help if you think of blending Canadian whisky more in terms of blending cognac rather than blending Scotch whisky, or of American blended whisky. There is a greater freedom to blend whiskies of different ages, types, and strengths, in a variety of woods.

It can be dizzyingly complicated, but de Kergommeaux handles it deftly, taking us through each distillery’s own twists on whisky making, including the easily-differentiated Kittling Ridge and Glenora, the two outliers in the list. Not only that, he untangles the knotted strands of brand history, explaining how the iconic Canadian brands like Crown Royal, Wiser’s, Canadian Club, V.O., Windsor, and Alberta Premium were created, developed, and came to be made by the companies that now own them. He even makes it easy to follow; quite an accomplishment, given the twisting nature of whisky ownership over the past 40 years.

Did you want to know something about the actual whiskies as well? You’re covered, with tasting notes for 100 of the top Canadian whiskies are included, sprinkled through the text at appropriate spots (the addition of a separate index for the tasting notes is most welcome). A wide array is included, from the humble standard bottlings to the exalted Alberta Premium 30 Year Old and the long-gone cult favorite Bush Pilot’s Reserve.

Reading this “portable expert” will not make you an expert on Canadian whisky. The only way to do that is to do what the author has done: taste widely, visit the distilleries, and talk to the people who make it. But Canadian Whisky will open your mind to the possibilities of this long-underappreciated and slowly awakening branch of the whisky family. Well worth a read.

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.

Interview with Crown Royal XR LaSalle master blender Andrew MacKay

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Lew Bryson, Whisky Advocate managing editor, chats with Crown Royal’s master blender, Andrew MacKay.

When Crown Royal master blender Andrew MacKay was asked to create a second Crown Royal XR bottling, after the XR Waterloo bottling was a success, he thought of the LaSalle distillery, west of Montreal, which is where he learned the whisky business. I spoke to him yesterday about this new, limited bottling.

The new Crown Royal XR LaSalle is blended with whiskies distilled at LaSalle, correct? When did the distillery close, and how old would those whiskies be?

It has whiskies from the LaSalle distillery in it; I wouldn’t want to imply that those are the only whiskies in it. It was shut down completely in 1993; it’s still used as a warehousing site; there are still a few multi-story brick warehouses. That distillery was started in 1924, finished in 1928. People asked, “Why build a distillery in the middle of Prohibition?” [We both laugh.]

The whiskies are obviously from pre-1993, but when we’re putting these blends together, the idea is not to hit an age profile. It’s designed to be a smooth, gentle whisky in your mouth. That creamy character of Crown Royal is there.

You’re going to have aged whiskies in there, and there is continuous, base whisky — which comes off the still with the characteristics of a vodka — and that’s aged in used barrels. If we put that in a new barrel, it would just overwhelm it. But if you have a barrel that had just contained bourbon, and put that vodka in it, it pulls out the fruity aromas and flavors from the wood. That’s part of our arsenal. It’s interesting how the different barrels lend themselves to different whiskies.

The XR takes the LaSalle ryes, and accentuates those rich aged notes, then blends the younger whiskies in to get that creamy Crown Royal character. It’s designed to feel and taste this way. It’s quite distinct from bourbon; it’s quite distinct from Scotch. We try to be very distinctive, and we know we have to make our distillate the best it can be; we can’t just depend on the wood.

How does Crown Royal blend: what ages separately, how long is the mingling, how many steps? Was the blending of the LaSalle XR different in any way from that process?

All the whiskies are aged separately, in individual barrels, different bonds (warehouses). We’re surveying everything at three years of age, and maintaining the library as it ages. Every 8 to 12 months, we’re getting samples. We’ll take all those out of the library, nose them, and guide them back.

The calendar is really a guide – you’re moving backwards and forwards in time. What I’m making today is for ten years from now: these are the whiskies I need to make, these are the barrels to put them into. But I’m also looking back, seeing what I actually have from ten years ago, and how it’s matured. You have to consider the evaporative loss, where it’s produced, the barrels you have, how much they cost.

Planning like that must only get more complex when a brand is as big as Crown Royal, right?

Most people don’t perceive how difficult maintaining a successful blend is. Excess stock is good, you get that richness from the aged whisky. But unmitigated success means you’d better have the older whisky you need. You may even have to go to the open market to get the continuous base whisky. It’s a fascinating game.

And back to the LaSalle XR?

The LaSalle is unique. We were looking for something distinct right off the bat. The Waterloo XR had a distinct flavor: the mealy, doughy, breadlike but not yeasty richness from Waterloo whisky. It could withstand the age of the barrels it was in. If you wait too long, the wood overwhelms the distillate. The Waterloo was able to stave that off. It was a success, and marketing liked the product, so they wanted another. [he laughs]

What happened with the Waterloo…I was blending Crown Royal by then. Mike Connors, the master blender before me, always used Waterloo’s whisky as the gold standard. When they asked me to make a special XR, it was easy: pull samples from Waterloo! But when they came back two years later asking for another, I was on my own. I started looking at the inventory.

If you have a few hundred barrels out of LaSalle that have been sitting there, in terms of blending Crown Royal, that’s a drop in the bucket. But in terms of the XR series, that’s an opportunity. That’s the joy of being able to create something brand new. Once I settled on the LaSalle rye, it was a matter of accentuating the bold spicy notes while blending with enough bourbon [barrel-aged] whiskies and continuous whiskies to get the rich and creamy notes; and on top of that we wound up with a small floral note. The LaSalle is all about that richness, but mixing it up a little.

Where else can you go with the XR series?

Don’t ask me, they haven’t come to me with that one yet! My job is to maintain the Reserve, and the Black, and make sure they will be continuous through time. When they let you create something new it’s a challenge, it lets out that nugget of creativity.

It was great talking to Andrew, but I took the opportunity to tell him, around the time he was explaining the blending process — “moving backwards and forwards in time” — that this was exactly the kind of thing Canadian distillers should be explaining to consumers: exactly why Canadian whisky is the way it is — “We make it this way on purpose,” he said, laughing — and what a painstaking process blending really is. He said he agreed with me completely; now we just have to get through to marketing.

What’s In That Bottle Of Van Winkle Anyway?

Monday, June 11th, 2012

A few weeks ago, when I posted my review of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 year old here, a big discussion ensued about the source of this whiskey (and other Van Winkle expressions). I noted at the time that the comment thread on my review was neither the time nor place to discuss something as in-depth as this. I wanted to focus on the quality of the whiskey, not the politics behind it.

We approached the person who we feel knows as much about the subject as anyone, Whisky Advocate contributor Chuck Cowdery. He went directly to Julian Van Winkle for the facts, and here’s his report.

It’s no secret that the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery isn’t a distiller. It’s a marketing company, and a brand, run by Julian Van Winkle III and his son, Preston, with partners the Sazerac Company.

Van Winkle, as a brand name, was retained by the Van Winkle family when Julian’s father sold the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1972. Julian took over after his father died. The company continued to operate as a non-distiller producer, mostly selling whiskey made at Stitzel-Weller, which stopped distilling twenty years ago.

About ten years ago, with whiskey from Stitzel-Weller no longer available, the Van Winkles entered into a joint venture with the Sazerac Company to secure a future supply. Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace Distillery made wheated bourbon sporadically between 1991 and 1999, and in earnest after 1999. When Sazerac acquired the W. L. Weller brand in 1999, it received stocks of wheated bourbon made at the new Bernheim distillery between 1992 and 1999.

That’s where things stand now.

Because the Van Winkle whiskeys are so rare, esteemed and costly, there is always a great deal of interest in where they were made. Sources changed over the years and it can be hard to keep up. It is impossible for anyone, even the Van Winkles, to say with certainly what any given bottle contains, though except for the rye, everything in recent years has been Buffalo Trace, Bernheim, or Stitzel-Weller, individually or in combination. They create a profile prior to bottling, based on what they have available and how much whiskey they need, then dump barrels accordingly.

Here, specifically, is the make-up for the upcoming (Fall 2012) bottling. This information comes directly from Julian Van Winkle.

The Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye has long been a 50/50 combination of Medley (Owensboro) and Cream of Kentucky (old Bernheim in Louisville) rye whiskey. The whiskey was all dumped into stainless steel tanks years ago. Each fall, some of it is withdrawn and bottled.

This fall’s Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year old will be wheated bourbon made entirely at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.

Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 year old (‘Lot B’) will be a mixture of wheated bourbons made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old will be a mixture of wheated bourbons made at Buffalo Trace, Bernheim, and Stitzel-Weller; every bottle will contain some whiskey from each distillery.

Pappy Van Winkle 20 year old and Pappy Van Winkle 23 year old will be a mixture of wheated bourbons made at Buffalo Trace and Stitzel-Weller.

Eventually, as current stocks are depleted, everything will become Buffalo Trace.

–Chuck Cowdery

Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey is back!

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Iorwerth Griffiths, Whisky Advocate contributor, shares the news of a new release from Midleton Distillery.

About a year ago at Midleton Distillery, the Irish single pot still whiskey category was relaunched, with the promise of a new whiskey each year. At The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London, the first of those promised releases has just seen the light of day.

“Welcome back to an old friend,” said Kevin O’Gorman, Irish Distillers master of maturation, as Yellow Spot single pot still whiskey was released on May 23.

Yellow Spot was, like its stablemate Green Spot, an old bonder brand of Dublin wine merchant’s Mitchell and Son. Fittingly Jonathan Mitchell from Mitchell and Sons was also on hand to launch the whiskey to invited guests.

The colors — the “spots” — came from their practice of daubing each selected cask with paint to denote how long the whiskey would be kept in cask. For many long years, Green Spot kept the tradition alive, and now Yellow Spot returns for the first time since the early 1960s. Yellow Spot is bottled at 12 years old and 46% ABV, and 500 cases will be released annually.

However, what is more interesting are the casks used in the vatting. Joining first fill ex-bourbon and sherry casks are ones formerly used for Malaga wine, a sweet wine from Spain that uses the Pedro Ximenez grape. The choice of wood partly reflects Mitchell and Sons’ history, as they would have imported fortified wines and then used the casks to mature whiskey. Irish Distillers proudly boast that they are not involved in ‘finishing’ any of their whiskeys, so that means that the Malaga wine component will also have spent at least 12 years in the wood.

Yellow Spot is certainly a step up from Green Spot, with more wood and spice coming to the fore, and is an excellent addition to the ever-growing ranks of Irish single pot still whiskey.

Review: The Angel’s Share (The movie, that is)

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Today, Whisky Advocate contributor Ian Buxton joins us with a review of The Angel’s Share. The film will open in the UK on June 1st. (To view the trailer, click on the link below.)

Veteran left-wing British film maker Ken Loach is known for his uncompromising approach and the gritty reality of working lives presented in his movies. So it’s no surprise that the opening scenes of his latest offering, The Angel’s Share, feature a court appearance by the main character; some less than appealing images of Glasgow’s decaying housing projects and an unhealthy dose of casual violence, not to mention liberal and fluent use of the F-word. We might expect whisky to be presented in a wholly negative context, responsible for all kinds of societal ills.

Instead whisky is here the surprising agent of the redemption of Robbie, a Glasgow tearaway with a criminal record, but determined to better himself and find a new life for his pregnant girlfriend, Leonie. Sentenced to a period of community service he discovers whisky through his ‘angel’ of a supervisor, Harry, only to find he has a nose of unusual sensitivity and discrimination. Learning of the forthcoming auction of a genuine cask of Maltmill (in the auction scene it sells for more than $1.5 million, as indeed such a treasure might in reality) he contrives to acquire some bottles — unlabelled, of course. Selling one to the devious agent of a shadowy and unscrupulous collector (are there such people?) secures him a job at a distillery and funds a fresh start for Robbie and his new family.

Whisky fans will be delighted to see their favorite tipple center and front, with tourist board scenes shot at Glengoyne, Deanston, and Balblair, not to mention a convincing performance by Charlie Maclean as the ‘whisky expert’ — though largely all he does is play himself!

Viewed in the context of Loach’s previous work, The Angel’s Share may appear flawed and morally suspect (Robbie embarks on further crime to escape his life of crime), but most movie-goers will accept it at face value as a feel-good cross between a rom-com and a heist caper and leave the theatre smiling.

Like a pleasant, well-made blend, The Angel’s Share pleases in an undemanding way. It lifts the spirits without challenging the intellect and can safely be shared with even your vodka-drinking friends!

Whisky Advocate’s #1 whisky of the summer issue

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 year old, 53.5%, $75

Sometime recently, the source of this whiskey changed from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery to Buffalo Trace. No matter. This whiskey is still the best of the Van Winkle line. It’s crisp, clean, vibrant, impeccably balanced, and nicely matured. Complex fruit (bramble, candied citrus), caramel, coconut custard, maple syrup, fresh spice (vanilla, warming cinnamon, nutmeg, a dusting of cocoa powder) on a bed of nougat. Outstanding! —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96



Whisky Advocate’s #2 whisky of the summer issue’s top ten

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, $100

This is the pick of the (Kavalan) bunch, the whisky equivalent of Fountains of Wayne; an effervescent dessert whisky, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and overripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon. — Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94