Whisky Advocate

A few brief Scotch, Bourbon, Rye and Irish whiskey updates

April 18th, 2011

First, let me thank all of you who offered whisky recommendations for the new enthusiast in my last post. More than 100 comments later, I can say that the post is a very valuable resource.

As you know, I was in Chicago last week hosting WhiskyFest. It was a great event, and I even managed to find time to taste some whiskies and get the scoop on a few items. I thought I would pass them on to you.

I tasted the new Spring 2011 release of Kilchoman. This one has some sherry aging, unlike the previous two releases here in the U.S. I must say that I think this is the best Kilchoman whisky yet. It’s well rounded, surprisingly mature for its age, and 100% Islay!

This was the first time independent bottler Samaroli was at WhiskyFest. Indeed, they are only now being imported to the U.S. I tasted a few of their offerings and really enjoyed them. (Really cool bottles, too, as you can see pictured on the left!) I look forward to tasting more of their whiskies in the future.

The importers of Springbank for the U.S. hand selected several casks 14 year old Springbanks, each one matured in a different type of sherry, and what will be offered at cask-strength. It’s an interesting essay in the impact of different sherry wines on a whisky. You might want to check those out.

I was able to taste a prototype of what will be a new barrel-proof expression of Angel’s Envy bourbon which will be released later this year. It was delicious!

The folks behind the Jefferson’s line of bourbons, including the outstanding Jefferson’s Presidential Select releases, told me they will be releasing a 10 year old 100% rye whiskey later this year at 94 proof. I tasted a pre-release. It reminded me of WhistlePig. I mean, it really reminded me of WhistlePig (hint!), but at a slightly lower proof (and what will be offered at the significantly lower price of about $35).

Do you remember my review of Redemption Rye? Well, they recently came out with a high-rye bourbon. Which was also pretty good. Now I’m told they will be introducing a more standard, easy-going bourbon (which the brand manager referred to as a “breakfast bourbon”) in July. They will also be releasing a barrel-proof version of their high-rye bourbon around August.

This isn’t WhiskyFest related, but there’s a big press event going on at the Midleton distillery in Ireland in a couple weeks. A little while back I was informed that Pernod has repackaged Redbreast and Green Spot single pot still whiskeys. (Note that I used the word “single” and not “pure.”) Rumor has it that they will also be introducing a new line of single pot still whiskeys at this press event. Malt Advocate will be present at this event and we will report back here with our findings.

Finally, some of you were also at WhiskyFest Chicago. For those that were, please feel free to share what you learned at the event–new releases, whiskies the really stood out, etc.

41 Responses to “A few brief Scotch, Bourbon, Rye and Irish whiskey updates”

  1. Josh says:

    Great summary John. I agree on the Kilchoman. The Samaroli table was the hidden gem of the show!! Fantastic stuff!!

    For me, the winner of the night was Duncan Taylor’s Lonach 36yr…..simply incredible.

  2. Ryan says:

    “Rumor has it that they (Midleton) will also be introducing a new line of single pot still whiskeys at this press event.” I’m intrigued. Hopefully it (unlike Green Spot) will get exported to the U.S. Actually, it had better be good because when I read, “big press event,” I immediately hoped, “Green Spot is coming?!?” But, t’was not to be. Oh, and please don’t be another duty-free, travel retail expression.:)

    • Luke says:

      New lines of Irish Single Pot Still?

      Perhaps the re-emergence of Jameson 15YO “Millenium” PPS?

      The return of Mitchell’s Sherry and Port PPS? The legendary/mythical Blue Spot (7YO), Yellow Spot (12YO) or Red Spot (15YO)?

      Fingers crossed Gentlemen…

      • JC Skinner says:

        I understand that IDL may be making a presentation to the Irish Whiskey Society in a couple of weeks about what they’re planning at a special event in Bow Street Distillery.

        • Tim F says:

          I’m attending the event at the Midleton distillery in early May. I’m sure all will be revealed soon, but my fond hope is Redbreast 18 :). Second choice would be some nice old single cask or small batch potstill whiskey.

          • Luke says:

            As before, hopefully NCF vattings of Mitchell’s Yellow Spot (12YO) or Red Spot (15YO).

            Then again, the outside possiblity of an affordable NCF Single Pit Still Jameson or, better still, Powers (ever heard of Powers White Label?)

            Interesting times Gentlemen…

  3. John Parker says:

    John,

    Have you tried the Buffalo Trace Experimental 2011 releases, the 89,91, or 93 releases. My local retailer has all 3 for sale and was wondering if you had tried them, has anyone on here tried these releases, at $60.00 for a little bottle, I want to make sure they have some good juice in them.

    John Parker

  4. Chris Barrett says:

    I thought the 100% Islay expression of Kilchoman wasn’t to be available until June? I thought the Spring release is still the Ardbeg spec purchased malt from Port Ellen, and the 100% Islay should be more like 20-25ppm peating so it should have a very different flavour profile from the all previous releases.

    • John Hansell says:

      What I meant was that it takes like an Islay whisky, meaning that it tastes like traditional Islay whisky (not that all the ingredients are from Islay).

  5. AaronWF says:

    As a scotch novice, I think I need another few WhiskyFests to narrow my scotch tastes, but the Samaroli Evolution blend and 1967 Tamountil really spoke to me. I was somewhat surprised to find that I generally gravitated more towards the simpler, rougher scotches; the fancier, multi-multi-barreled bottlings often left me wanting more definition. I can’t wait to get my hands on my own bottle of Kilchoman.

    High West’s 21-year old rye astounded me with its voluptuousness, and the Bourye was quite a work of hybrid art in the midst of so many straight bourbons and ryes. I was very happy to get a chance to taste the Dickel Barrel Select as well; I found it totally unique and deliciously more refined than the No. 12.

    I really haven’t had that much fun on a Friday night in a long time. Really comfortable, relaxed, stimulating vibe all around, so thanks for that!

  6. Vince says:

    John

    I tasted the Kilchoman and agree with you. I think it was very good. Being more focused on the bourbons, I would have to say the most enjoyable tasting for me was the cask strength Angels Envy. I thought that was fantastic! It was great to see the Buffalo Trace Antique collection available for tasting and the complete line up of the Van Winkle Bourbons–superb! I also really enjoyed the limited edition single barrel from four roses. Really looking forward to that release.
    And lastly, I agree on the Jefferson’s Rye, did taste alot like Whistlepig.

  7. Tony Menechella says:

    I would like to start out by saying that I really enjoyed WhiskyFest again! It had been some years for me. I agree on the Kilchoman Spring 2011; it did not taste like a young whisky to me, and the Sherry helps it immensely! I was also taken with the Bowmore 10YR Tempest, Black Bull 12YR (I can honestly say that I don’t drink many blends, but enjoyed that one!), the Benriach 1995 PX and the Glendronach 15YR PX. I aslo fell in love with the Knappogue Castle 16YR Twin Wood, which is my favorite Knappogue next to the 1951!! I would like to have another sample of the Samaroli Glenlivet to confirm my liking it!! LOL

    • John Hansell says:

      Yes, you have not seen my KC 16 review yet, but I basically said the same thing: my favorite of all the releases (1951 Vintage notwithstanding).

  8. bj reed says:

    Kilchoman was excellent and tasting it side by side with the Binny’s cask strength really helped discern the differences – I was surprisingly positive toward the cask strength in light of how the sherry finishes help smooth out the youth of the whisky.

    BTW – Great event John – Especially loved Rachel Barrie’s enthusiasm for Ardbeg and the chance to taste the 75 single cask Ardbeg!

  9. C.J. Jurczak says:

    The guys at Angels Envy almost poured me your shot of the cask strength…glad I didnt steal it from you…they are really great guys…it was great to meet you the legend from my favorite Modern Marvels…

  10. Jason Pyle says:

    John, first off, great event. It was a very well ran operation all the way around. I’m glad to hear you were able to sip a few yourself.

    My biggest impression was a general one; Most whiskey lovers (as well as industry folks) are great people worth getting to know. I enjoyed tasting all of the whiskey I was able to, but meeting folks with a passion for whiskey was the real highlight for me.

    Second observation is I think American Whiskey is the most exciting in the world right now. Obviously it’s a fantastic time to be a global whiskey lover/consumer, period, but I was really impressed with a number of American Whiskey offerings.

    Some of the standouts of the show for me were: Angel’s Envy Single Barrel (I’m not alone here it seems), Four Roses Ltd Edition Small Batch, Redbreast 15 (Actually preferred it to the 12), and Thomas Handy (One I hadn’t tried from 2010 BTAC).

  11. John Hansell says:

    Jason, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. We were very happy with the event, and we will continue to strive to have WhiskyFest be the benchmark of whisky festivals.

  12. Jason R says:

    Had an amazing time at WhiskyFest – thank you for throwing such a great event. Simon Brooking had a single-barrel Ardmore from Julio’s Liquors that blew my mind. Agreed on the Spring 2011 Kilchoman. I was raving about it all night.

  13. JWC says:

    John, I think we (Texans) ask every year but I’ll ask again: any possibility of a WhiskyFest being held in Texas, preferably Houston =) ?

    As for the new rye that tastes like Whistlepig except a lot cheaper – I guess some people know the source of Whistlepig ;) BTW, still haven’t had a chance to taste Whistlepig (not sold in Texas) but if the new rye is going to be distributed in Texas, I may never taste (at least purchase a bottle) of Whistlepig. What do you think about the rumor that Whistlepig (and possibily this new rye you are writing about) was sourced from juice left over from the Lot No 40 bottlings? Any idea when it will be available for purchase?

    Thanks for the news about the new rye John. Really looking forward to it. Quality, value and availability. Cannot beat that.

    • John Hansell says:

      We looked at Texas. There are some crazy laws deterring us from having a WhiskyFest there. But, never say never…

      • Texas says:

        John,

        Sorry to mention competitors, but the The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza has an event every year in Houston (and Dallas)..just had it on 13 April..I could not attend. How is that they can have their event, but you guys can’t?

        I do know the laws are screwy in Texas, but that has me scratching my head..

  14. Chris says:

    Now I’m even sorrier I couldn’t go. What was the consensus as far as the different Springbanks? Also, where can I find out more about when/where they’ll be available?

  15. Aaron Barker says:

    For my first Whiskyfest, I was very pleased with the event. It was tons of fun to taste so many great expressions and meet the people behind the malt. I’ve heard and read about the name ‘Samaroli’ and was quite eager to sample their wares when I spotted their name on the Pour List. I hit the table early and was not disappointed. At. All. Bottle after bottle was a winner. The Tomintoul 1967 was so smooth as to be practically frictionless! The Evolution blend? Mega-wow! They even managed to make a one-note malt monster (my opinion) like Glenburgie palatable. I spread the word to everyone I could after that. I know 3 or 4 of us (you too, Josh) will be a constant thorn in our local shop’s side until they have it on the shelves.

    The Glen Garoich was a pleasant and enjoyable suprise as I was not familiar with their offerings. The Angel’s Envy standard and the yet-to-be-released Cask Strength were terrific, as well. I’m also looking forward to the Collingwood Maple Whisky to become available in Indiana. A lush, soft and sweet offering that would be perfect as a dessert dram or (dare I say it?) over ice cream with its maple, brown sugar and soft spices.

    I heard complaints about whiskies either absent or in short supply during the VIP hour. Lombard Springbank 1965? Gone in 10 minutes during the VIP but returned mysteriously when ‘friends of the table’ showed up later in the evening…hmmmmm.

    Overall a great event and one I look forward to in the future.

    Thank you, Mr. Hansell and all involved!

    • John Hansell says:

      Yeah, the Tomintoul ’67 and the Evolution Blend were my two favorites at the Samaroli table. Tasty stuff!

    • DenisL says:

      Aaron. Glad you enjoyed your first Whiskyfest. I’m sorry i missed it myself. Sounds like it was a lot of fun, but then it always is. As a coincidence i met with the guy from Samaroli today so it may be on the way to Indiana. Cheers.

  16. Tim F says:

    Wow, this is interesting – you guys must be getting a different Spring Release 2011 Kilchoman!

    The stock we have just received in the UK says clearly on the back of the box: “This is the sixth release from Kilchoman and is a blend of 3 and 4 year old single malt matured in a combination of refill and fresh bourbon barrels.”

    There’s nothing about a sherry finish or sherry matured barrels being used for this release, although of course it also does mention on the box that Kilchoman spirit is filled into both bourbon and sherry casks at the distillery.

    Very interesting, wonder why they would do two different releases like that? Seems a lot of trouble to go to.

    • John Hansell says:

      Tim, your Spring 2011 release reminds me of our Winter release. The U.S. hasn’t had a sherry wood finished expression yet. The Spring 2011 will be our first.

      I really don’t know why they do different releases. Something to ask Anthony Wills…

      • Tim F says:

        That’s very interesting, John – our first three releases were all sherry finished or from a mix of bourbon & sherry casks, I think.

        I’ve emailed Anthony and will report back if I hear anything.

  17. Scott says:

    So in the switch from pure pot still to single pot still, can the consumer trust that the adjective “single” means the same thing as it does in single malt — that is, that the whiskey in the bottle is the product of a single distillery? Not much of an issue in Ireland today, with its dearth of distilleries, but with any luck it will be an issue in 10 or 15 years as more, and hopefully some independent, distilleries open in Ireland.

    If the integrity of the meaning of “single” is preserved, then I like the switch from “pure” to “single.” Now if only Ireland would find a better term than “pot still,” since single malt is also distilled in pot stills, and it’s actually the malting process, not the distilling vessel, that primarily distinguishes Irish single pot still from Scottish single malt. I know, tradition and all, but if Irish distilling ever wanted to improve on traditions to the benefit of consumers, now, in the early days of a potential boom in Irish whiskey, would be the time.

  18. Brian Bradley (Brian 47126) says:

    I am not sure this is the correct thread to pontificate on my Whiskeyfest experience; however, it was a great festival and I believe I had more fun this year than the previous year. One a scotch note, the Tomatin 40 was quite a stunner. I was pleasantly surprised to have a dram as I did not see it listed.

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