Glenfiddich Grand Cru, Four Roses Limited Edition, Aberlour A’bunadh Alba & More New Whisky

Don’t fret that summer’s coming to a close, celebrate that the biggest whisky release season is upon us, and this week serves as a hearty entry, with loads of new single malt scotch and other whiskies.

Glenfiddich is hoping you turn to their 23 year old Grand Cru next time you have a toast-worthy occasion. The whisky was finished in French cuvée casks from the country’s most famous sparkling wine region. At $300, the single malt will be part of the brand’s core range and is widely available starting this month.

Less permanent, Four Roses is releasing their annual Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon, this year’s release clocking in at 56.3% ABV and $140. Each Limited Edition Small Batch release scores high marks in our Buying Guide, so this whiskey, released for National Bourbon Heritage Month, should appeal to collectors and sippers alike.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland, Aberlour has a new A’bunadh expression, Alba, mirroring past cask-strength releases but matured in American oak bourbon casks rather than sherry casks. Laphroaig is adding a 16 year old to their core range. While exact numbers aren’t being disclosed, there is a limited amount in the U.S. with drinkers in the U.K. able to purchase a bottle through Amazon. GlenAllachie is likewise adding a moderately aged whisky to their range with a 15 year old exclusively aged and finished in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry puncheons and hogsheads.

Virginia Distillery Company is teasing their first entirely house-made single malt. While that’s expected in the spring of 2020, Prelude: Courage & Conviction is out now in Virginia and in a handful of additional states next month.

Kentucky’s James E. Pepper is bringing back their Old Pepper Finest Kentucky Oak Rye, available at 49.5% and 58% ABV, both selling for $70 in select markets.

Kavalan has released the second whisky in its Concertmaster range, a single malt aged in American oak refill casks and finished in sherry-seasoned American oak casks. Priced at NT$1,500 (around $48)—significantly lower than some of Kavalan’s other core whiskies—it’s only available in Taiwan at the moment but slated for the U.S. around the middle of next year.

Read on for full details.

Glenfiddich 23 year old Grand Cru Cask-Finished

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 23 years old
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $300
Release: September 2019
Availability: Widely available

Need to know:

This new, core range single malt matured for most of its life in bourbon casks. It was then finished for up to six months in what Glenfiddich is calling French cuvée casks, which come from the country’s most famous sparkling wine region. The casks held the sparkling wine during its primary fermentation.

Whisky Advocate says:

You can probably guess where the finishing casks for this whisky came from, but it’s important to note that they can’t be called champagne casks. This is because champagne isn’t champagne until its second, in-bottle fermentation is complete. These casks, thus, are imbued with the acidity of the wine during its first round of fermentation, and that acidity can be tasted in the final whisky.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (2019 Release)

Style: Straight bourbon
Origin: Kentucky
Age: No age statement
Proof: 56.3% ABV
Price: $140
Release: September 2019
Availability: 13,440 bottles; available nationwide

Need to know:

Released in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, this non-chill filtered, barrel-strength whiskey blends several higher-aged Four Roses bourbons. It marks the distillery’s first limited-quantity bottling to feature a 21 year old bourbon from its OBSV recipe, but also includes 15 year old bourbons from the OESK and OESV recipes, and an 11 year old OESV.

Whisky Advocate says:

Four Roses is unique among whiskey distilleries in that it combines two mashbills with five proprietary yeast strains to produce ten distinct bourbon recipes, each of which showcases different flavors and aromas. Longtime Four Roses employee Al Young explained the different flavors each recipe offers in this 2017 interview. For the latest release, master distiller Brent Elliot combined fruit flavors and spice from the distillery’s V and K strains. Past editions of Four Roses Limited Edition Small batch have scored high in our Buying Guide, including the collectible 130th Anniversary Edition.

Aberlour A'bunadh Alba

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: Not stated
Proof: 57.1% for Batch 001 but will vary
Price: $90
Release: September 2019
Availability: Widely available in the U.S. only

Need to know:

Joining Aberlour A’bunadh—a cask-strength, non-chill filtered, non-age statement single malt matured entirely in sherry casks—Aberlour A’bunadh Alba shares all those qualities with one key exception: Rather than sherry casks, it’s matured exclusively in American oak bourbon casks. Like the regular A’bunadh, it will be released on a rolling basis in batches whose ABV will vary.

Whisky Advocate says:

“A’bunadh” means “the original,” a nod to the style of whisky made at Aberlour in the late 19th century. “Alba” here refers not only to the Gaelic name for Scotland, but also Quercus alba, the white oak species used for bourbon (and many other whisky) barrels. This new whisky is being released exclusively in the U.S.

Laphroaig 16 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 16 year old
Proof: 48% ABV
Price: $90
Release: September 2019
Availability: Limited in U.S.; 11,500 available in the UK through Amazon

Need to know:

Laphroaig is adding a new age statement whisky to their core range, available in the U.K. exclusively through Amazon and in the U.S. through select retailers. This whiskey was aged entirely in ex-bourbon barrels.

Whisky Advocate says:

While the exact number of bottles coming to the States remains under wraps, we’re told that it is the brand’s intention to keep the 16 year old as a permanent, ongoing expression in their portfolio. Laphroaig fans should keep their eyes peeled for this release, which offers an older, and stronger, alternative to the classic 10 year old.

GlenAllachie 15 year old

Style: Single malt
Origin: Scotland (Speyside)
Age: 15 years
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $100 to $110
Release: October 2019 in U.S.
Availability: 800 bottles in U.S. to start

Need to know:

The GlenAllachie Distillery is adding a 15 year old single malt to its core range. Matured in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry puncheons and hogsheads, the 15 year old is currently available across U.K. and international markets, with the U.S. receiving 800 bottles starting toward the end of October.

Whisky Advocate says:

GlenAllachie was acquired in 2017 by a group that included master distiller Billy Walker, the man behind GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh before they were sold to Brown-Forman. In July 2018, the brand unveiled a new lineup that included a cask strength 10 year old (89 points), a 12 year old (89 points), an 18 year old (88 points), and a 25 year old (88 points). The 15 year old slots right in the middle of the range, relying exclusively on sherry cask maturation.

Virginia Distillery Co. Prelude: Courage & Conviction

Style: Single malt
Origin: Virginia
Age: At least 3 years old
Proof: 46%
Price: $70
Release: September 2019
Availability: 4,200 bottles; available in VA now, and from Oct. 1 in NC, DC, MD, DE, MA, CT, RI, IL, MI, NY, NJ, FL, GA, SC, and KS

Need to know:

Billed as a preview to VDC’s first American single malt slated for release in spring of 2020, this 100% malted barley whisky is matured in former bourbon, sherry, and cuvée wine casks. Its name pays homage to a phrase used by the company’s late founder, Dr. George G. Moore, a native Irishman with a passion for single malt whisky, who came to the U.S. in the 1970s and started VDC in 2011— “Always have the courage of your convictions.”

Whisky Advocate says:

While waiting for its own single malt to fully age, VDC has offered its Virginia-Highland series of cask-finished whiskies that combine the distillery’s own-make single malt with blended malt sourced from Scotland’s Highlands region. Recently, however, the company found itself caught in the legal crosshairs of the Scotch Whisky Association, which accused the American distillery of misleading consumers to believe their Virginia-Highland whisky is scotch; the dispute ended in a mutual agreement, with VDC dropping the word “Highland” from their labels. Nevertheless, VDC maintains that the quality of its whisky speaks for itself; we’d agree in at least one instance; the Virginia-Highland cider cask finish ranked No. 13 in Whisky Advocate’s 2018 Top 20. Temperature swings between seasons in a place like Virginia have a significant impact on an aging whisky’s final flavor, and we spoke with VDC CEO Gareth Moore about the effects of the state’s warm climate on the brand’s single malt whiskies.

Old Pepper Finest Kentucky Oak Rye

Style: Straight rye
Origin: Kentucky
Age: Not stated, but at least 4 years old
Proof: 49.5% ABV and 58% ABV (cask-strength)
Price: $70 (for either proof)
Release: October 2019
Availability: 1,800 bottles (900 each of regular and cask-strength), available in KY, NY, NJ, CA, TX, DC, MD, WA, IL, and GA

Need to know:

Based on the standard James E. Pepper 1776 Rye distilled from a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, this expression is finished in new casks made from staves of Kentucky oak, which were air-dried for 24 months prior to assembly, then heavily toasted and lightly charred, which can affect the flavor of a finished whiskey.

Whisky Advocate says:

The main difference between this release of Old Pepper’s Finest Kentucky Oak series from the initial 2018 batch is the proof at which it enters the finishing barrel, as well as price and availability. Whereas the earlier release entered at 110 proof, these batches enter at around 116 proof (cask-strength) and 99 proof. Whisky drinkers partial to big, bold expressions should take note that the cask-strength and lower proof expressions of this release are priced the same. Also, the price has decreased from the initial release, which retailed at $80 and comprised just 120 bottles.

Kavalan Concertmaster Sherry Finish

Style: Single malt
Origin: Taiwan
Age: Not stated
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: NT$1,500 (around $48)
Release: September 2019
Availability: Currently only available in Taiwan, with U.S. rollout slated for mid-2020.

Need to know:

Whereas the first whisky in Kavalan’s Concertmaster range was finished in ruby port casks, this release is finished in sherry-seasoned American oak casks after resting in the distillery’s American oak refill casks to showcase the fruity flavors that develop in Taiwan’s subtropical climate.

Whisky Advocate says:

While some of Kavalan’s expressions are prohibitively limited or pricey, the brand considers this a more entry-level expression. Yet, given the distillery’s reputation for exceptional quality—the majority of its whiskies have scored 90 and above in our Buying Guide—it seems likely that this latest offering won’t fail to impress; notably, the first Concertmaster earned a spot on our list of non-Japanese Asian whiskies to try. Alas, barring a trip to Taiwan, U.S.-based fans will have to wait at least several months before this whisky is widely available stateside.

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