Whisky Advocate

More new whiskies, and some disappointments

August 3rd, 2012

As you may have noticed, recently I’ve been trying to post regularly on new releases I hear about and offer my informal thoughts on review samples I receive. Do you find this valuable to you? If so, I’ll try to keep doing it on a regular pace (depending on my schedule).

Kilchoman Sherry Cask release

This is the first 100% sherry cask matured release from Kilchoman. My press release says the whisky is aged for 5 years, the box the whisky came in states 4.5 years, and the bottle has no age statement. 6,000 bottles were produced, of which 600 are destined for the U.S. and will set you back about $75.

Regarding the type of wood aging, my favorite Kilchoman releases to date are the ones where there’s a combination of both sherry cask and bourbon barrel aging. (Spring 2011 comes to mind.) My pick after that would be some of the ones aged entirely in bourbon barrels. This sherry cask matured release, is one of my least favorites. I was eagerly awaiting to try it. Now that I have, I must admit I wish there wasn’t so much sherry. Some of you reading this who love sherried Islay whiskies might disagree with me, but that’s I feel about it.

Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon (2012 release) coming soon!

This year’s edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey, which is being released to the general public in the Fall, will be a marriage of two bourbon formulas: a wheated bourbon and a rye bourbon. It essentially bourbon made from four grains. (The other two grains being, of course, corn and malted barley.)

Straight from Heaven Hill:

The 2012 release will feature select barrels of 11 year old Heaven Hill rye-based Bourbons, used for such renown brands as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, mingled with select barrels of the wheated mashbill Heaven Hill uses for the Old Fitzgerald line, also aged for 11 years. Bottled at cask strength, this bottling showcases not only the individual whiskeys, but also the skill of the Master Distiller in selecting and marrying them together in the right proportions.

The rye-based Bourbon was pulled from the 4th floor of Rickhouse “R” in Bardstown, while the wheated Bourbon aged on the topmost 7th floor of nearby Rickhouse “T”. Like previous Parker’s Heritage Collection releases, the “Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills” will not be chill-filtered as is the custom for many Bourbon brands, thereby helping to maintain the natural esters and compounds which provide a rich texture and mouthfeel. The release will comprise of 3 “dumps”, with each having a slightly different barrel proof.

I’m looking forward to trying this one! Price: $80

Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old

Coming to the U.S. this October is an older expression of the long-established and popular 12 year old DoubleWood. It’s aged in American Oak casks and then transferred to European Oak sherry casks. It’s bottled at 43% and will retail for $130.

Sullivan’s Cove Tasmanian whisky: good news and bad news

First the good news. This whisky is now being imported to the U.S. There will be three different expressions: an American Oak Single Cask ($165), a French Oak Single Cask ($165), and a Double Cask bottling of bourbon and port oak ($100). The single cask bottlings are 11 years old and bottled at 47.5%, while the third one doesn’t have an age statement and is bottled at 40%.

Now the bad news. These whiskies are not setting my world on fire–especially given the hype. There seems to be a subtle note in them that is a bit off. (Or maybe its some sort of house character?) And the flavors don’t integrate as much as I would like them to. If I were to rate these, my rating on these would be in the low 80s, with maybe a notch higher for the French Oak Finish. I guess what I’m saying is that nothing is inspiring me here.

Having said this, Dominic Roskrow and Dave Broom has reviewed two other expressions previously for Whisky Advocate and rated them in the mid-80s. So, maybe you will like these better than I do? But for $165, I think your money can be better spent elsewhere.

High West American Prairie Reserve Bourbon

High West is at it again, with this new blend of two different bourbons: a six year old and a ten year old. It can be purchased at the High West General Store for $40. Ten percent of the after tax profits are being donated to the American Prairie Reserve in Montana.

Buffalo Trace releases Round Six of their Single Oak bourbon project

Here are the particulars, straight from the press release I received on Wednesday:

Buffalo Trace Distillery launches its sixth round of Single Oak Project Bourbons, known as the 105 Proof Warehouse L Release.

As the moniker indicates, all the bourbons in this release were aged in Warehouse L and entered into the barrel at 105 proof. This allows this release to focus on three other variables, the recipe, rye vs. wheat; the char level, a number three vs. a number four char; and wood grain size, tight, average, or coarse. All of the other variables such as stave seasoning, aging warehouse, entry proof, and tree cut (top or bottom) remain constant.

Warehouse L is considered by many to be the best all-around aging warehouse at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Longtime Warehouse operations Manager Leonard Riddle proudly defends Warehouse L as his favorite; the Distillery even dedicated this warehouse to Leonard in 2011. This brick warehouse with five concrete floors and concrete walls create a very concentrated aging environment.

But the most exciting part of this sixth release to Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley is hearing what people think about the 105 entry proof, since entry proof has always been a hot button amongst Master Distillers. “We experimented with many variables and tried to use the most profound. Entry proof is one that has been debated for decades and we are able to offer to the public different variables to get a good look at how it affects flavor.”

No Responses to “More new whiskies, and some disappointments”

  1. Scott MacKenzie says:

    11 year old whiskies, selling for $165? I don’t think so! For that money, I could easily get three bottles of 12 year old Scotch that have higher overall scores! I might have tried Sullivan’s Cove at a more reasonable price!

  2. Chris says:

    I for one really like it when you post your general impressions, even without a formal review. It helps me get a sense of what a whisky is like before the full review/score come out. So please keep it up, I’m looking forward to your impressions of the two new EH Taylor bottlings. And I guess I should also keep an eye out for the Parker’s Heritage too.

    • Scribe says:

      I agree 100% with Chris, John…your impressions — informal or with an “advance” score from the magazine — are terrific. There are a few of you in the industry…you and your writers, and some key retailers…whose opinions I trust. Actually, “trust” is the wrong word — I trust lots of folks who have opinions! It’s just that yours are opinions and *tastes* that align with my own — and with the upward trend in pricing for our beloved hootch, that becomes more important than ever when you’re considering purchases of bottles that regularly cross over into three figures.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks, and I agree. At least for a majority of whiskies, I find my tastes align with John’s, which helps me narrow down the whiskies i buy before trying. In the few instances where I know our tastes differ, I know to stick to my own judgement, but it really really helps to have someone who gets to taste most new whiskies before they are released, in order to get a sense of how they show.

  3. Scribe says:

    John, I’m a sucker for simplicity. I remember well when the first…or the second…Single Oak project bottlings came out…you (or the team) tried them all…and flatly stated the one bottle you liked best (#67 in the post of 5/24/2011). I promptly went out…bought that one locally…and it was delicious. I realize that does not at all align with the “experience” BT may be hoping aficionados will have…but I will be watching the blog closely to see if you “flag” a single bottle again and will then bolt to the store. Of course, it’s a tough job tasting all those samples of the Single Oak project…but someone has to do it! :) :)

  4. Vince says:

    John

    I love the advancec, informal reviews! Please keep it up as your schedule permits. I have no interest in the Buffalo Trace single oak collection. I have already been burned there once, not again. Parkers on the other hand…. can”t wait to try it!!

  5. Red_Arremer says:

    Balvenie Doublewood 17 yo– what a nice boring idea. And a high price. And yeah, I’m always hearing good things about Sullivan’s Cove.

    Folks seem to be amazed when a “world whiskey” is passably distinctive and palatable. They set the bar low (prejudice?) for the category– The result: they’re easily impressed.

    • mongo says:

      yes, a 17 year doublewood at 43% for $130. the folks at william grant & sons must be drinking a lot of someone else’s better, higher proof whisky.

      • MrTH says:

        I concur, mongo. Balvenie used to be a favorite of mine, but the pricing on their more interesting 14-17yo bottlings has put me off. Was it really so long ago that I bought a bottle of the 21yo PortWood for well south of $100?

  6. Alex says:

    Yes, posts like these are one of the many reasons I read the blog. Please keep them coming!

  7. John Hansell says:

    Some of you may have noticed that I have updated this post a couple times, mainly with the addition of the new Balvenie and also with my Sullivan’s Cove write up. My apologies for that.

    For the past 24 hours, I’ve been having trouble both with getting Internet access, and also with the server on my blog crashing on me. With all this happening, I accidentally posted up an older draft version of the post and have been trying to update it–all from my iPhone WordPress App. I think I now have it where it should be. Thank you for your patience.

  8. Mark says:

    Not to sound redundant, but I agree that these informal posts are great, so please keep them coming.
    I tried the Balvenie at an event not long ago; it was good, but not $130 good.

  9. Randy Perrelet says:

    Mr. Hansel, your posts regarding new releases are both appreciated and invaluable. It takes a little longer for product to make it to the west coast, so impatience can be a problem. But when it does arrive, armed with information, we know what we’re looking for and are ready to pounce (so to speak). As far as pricing goes, it’s just supply and demand. Here in California, a bottle of Caymus Cabernet goes for $160. Somebody must be paying it.

  10. Ray Radford says:

    Enjoy the blog.. One of my favorite reads. Please give my best regards to all.

  11. John Hansell says:

    Just in from my friends at Heaven Hill: The new Parker’s Heritage Collection release will come in around a whopping 143.6 proof for the first dump! Have some water handy…

  12. Jeff says:

    Re: Kilchoman – Kind of a steep, slippery slope with some of these NAS bottles: the press release says 5, the box 4.5 and the label… nothing. Quality isn’t necessarily the issue, but you should be entitled to know what you’re drinking – and paid for.

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