Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

WhiskyFest New York 2013: rare and wonderful whiskies

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

WhiskyFest New York 2013 is over and done, and it sure left some great memories behind. There were great whiskies, the top figures in the industry, and a lot of very happy whisky drinkers. Some of them were lucky — or smart — enough to taste some extra special drams.

Ask the average WhiskyFest New York attendee why they go, and you’ll get answers like, “To try new whiskies,” or “to compare a lot of different whiskies.” Ask the average Whisky Advocate Blog reader why they go…and you’ll likely get an answer more along the lines of “To try the stuff I can’t find at the store.” You can buy a VIP ticket to get some of the special ones, or you can buy a ticket to the Day of Seminars.

WhiskyFest_Grand_Tasting-8071This year’s VIP ticket got you the chance to try whiskies like Macallan 18 year old, Highland Park Loki, Glenrothes Vintage 1988, Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year old, Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch #9, Glenfiddich Malt Master, Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, Distiller’s Editions from Lagavulin and Oban, Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, Aberlour a’bunadh, Glenlivet 21 year old, Danfield’s 10 and 21 year old, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, George T. Stagg… Pre-fest planning is always a good idea, but plans often fell apart when folks saw the other great whiskies available; there were over 375 this time.

To get the really special stuff, the crazy rare stuff, you had to go to the Day of Seminars. The first two seminars were the kind of whisky amazement that just leaves you grinning, breathless, amazed. As we did last year, the first servings were rare whiskies. Dr. Nick Morgan of Diageo presented a Glenury Royal 23 year old, with a delightful short history of the demolished distillery. William Grant global ambassador Sam Simmons talked to us about a 23 year old Kininvie, distilled the very first day of operations at this rarely seen-as-single-malt distillery. Buffalo Trace head chemist Chris Fletcher led attendees on a tasting of the first bottling (done back in 2000) of Sazerac 18 year old rye. We wound up with a tasting of Stitzel-Weller bourbon — really, distilled in the final days of the distillery — and a comparison bottling of Bernheim, presented by Diageo’s Ewan Morgan.

For a break, attendees got to hear whiskey legend Jimmy Russell talking about his 59 years at Wild Turkey; some stories, some insights, and a few laughs. But even that came with a rare whiskey; a 12 year old, 49.5% bottling that was actually not the one he’d intended to sample! It was, naturally, a delicious bourbon; Jimmy Russell made it.WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar - 12 in all the World

The second seminar wasn’t just rare, it was unique. We called it “12 in all the world,” and it presented four whiskies, selected and bottled specially for this event; the only twelve bottles of them in existence. Gerry Tosh sampled us on a 1968 Highland Park, vatted from four American oak sherry casks. Ann Miller led us on a tasting of a 21 year old cask strength, single cask Aberlour. Malt Master David Stewart brought us Balvenie “Offspring,” a blended malt pulled from three casks laid down in the birth years of his three children! Finally, Dr. Bill Lumsden presented a 1973 Ardbeg, aged in a bourbon cask. Four amazing whiskies, which you simply could not taste anywhere else in the world.

It was hardly downhill from there. We tasted Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2013 with living legend Jim McEwan, and sampled whisky and fine chocolate with John Glaser (Compass Box), Richard Paterson (Dalmore), and Dr. Bill Lumsden again (Glenmorangie this time), along with Ryan Cheney of Raaka Chocolate, and famed chef Daniel Boulud. Then we had a four-Talisker lunch with Dave Broom and Dr. Nick Morgan, including a rare taste of Talisker unaged spirit, followed by a panel on whisky trends, including Blue Hanger, Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 year old, Anchor Hotaling’s, and a Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection bottling (extra-seasoned staves).

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar - Whiskey Legend Parker BeamBefore we got to the final seminar of the day, the tasting of seven Whisky Advocate Award-winning whiskies led by the writers who’d chosen them, we had one more very special whiskey legend to honor. Heaven Hill master distiller emeritus Parker Beam came up, with his son, Craig, and joined Whisky Advocate publisher John Hansell on the stage. Parker, who has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has been bravely doing everything he can to raise awareness and money for research for the disease. He didn’t say a word this day, and John could barely speak himself.

Fellow Kentucky icons Jim Rutledge, Jimmy Russell, and Fred Noe joined them on stage for a toast with Master Distillers’ Unity, a bourbon blended by Parker and his son Craig from whiskeys from all seven major Kentucky distillers. This was the only public tasting of the bourbon (the only other two bottles were auctioned for $8,500 at Bonhams the next day, with all proceeds going to ALS research). It was a deeply emotional moment as everyone drank a toast to Parker Beam and his legacy of good bourbon and personal courage.

It was two great days of whiskies. For those two days, it was the best place in the world for a whisky lover to be.

Your most memorable whisky story?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

There’s more to drinking whisky than what’s in the bottle. Whisky is a very social thing. We drink with friends, visit distilleries, go out to bars and restaurants, go to whisky festivals, etc.

Indeed, whisky has helped create a lot of great memories along the way. Surely you have a fond whisky-related story that we might enjoy?

As you can imagine, after drinking whisky for 30 years and writing about it for 20 years, I have a lot of stories I could share with you. But for now, I’ll begin with this one, as it is the first one that popped into my head.


It was my first trip to Islay about 20 years ago  on a chilly November morning. I was by myself, and I had just taken the ferry (with my rental car) over from the mainland after a splendid weekend in Campbeltown.

It was lunchtime. I was thirsty for a pint of beer and hungry for food. I heard about the Lochside Inn in the town of Bowmore and their great whisky selection, so I wanted to check the place out.

Great whisky indeed! I perused the amazing selection of Islay whiskies while I drank my pint, contemplating what whisky I will enjoy before the day is over. Then, I sat down at one of the tables to grab a bite to eat.

Next to me, also alone at his table, was an older gentleman who appeared to be in his 70s. I noticed he was finishing a half pint of beer (and that he also had a walking cane on the empty seat next to him). I bought him a round and asked him to join me for lunch, which he did.

I can’t remember his name (I have it written down somewhere in my notes.) It turns out that he worked at the Caol Ila distillery for close to 50 years before he retired. He told me that, because of his bad leg, he can’t drive anymore. But, if I drove him to the distillery, he would give me a personal tour. Of course, I said “yes”!

So, we finished our lunch and drove over to the distillery. On the way he told me about Islay life and the Islay people. And he gave me a tour like you wouldn’t believe. Amazing stories–some that no PR company would ever want told in public. For example, it was the first time I learned about adding soap to the pot stills to keep the frothing down during distillation.

It turns out this clever old chap had an alterior motive for my taking him to the distillery. On our way out, he popped into the office quick to say goodbye (or so I thought). The receptionist behind the counter walked into the back room, brought out a bottle wrapped in a plain brown bag, and gave it to him. He quickly slid the bottle out of the bag, looked at it, and then slid it back into the bag.

During the ride back, he didn’t mention the bottle once. I figured that, as part of his retirement package, he was allowed  an occasional bottle of whisky. The problem is, he couldn’t drive anymore (and neither did his wife) to pick it up.  I was more than happy to oblige.

As I was dropping him off in Bowmore, he invited me to join him and his wife for dinner. Naturally, I said I would. Later that evening, the three of us had a wonderful dinner. And then he pulled out of the bag that same bottle he got at the distillery. It was the old distillery 12 year old bottling (prior to “Flora and Fauna” Caol Ila releases). He opened it up and we drank a dram together, to finish off the evening. Great whisky. Great day!

It was my first distillery tour on Islay, and it was the beginning of an amazing five days on the Island which was almost spiritual in nature. I will never forget the great whiskies I tasted along the way, the simple beauty of Islay, and the wonderful people living there. I have been back to Islay many times after that, but I will always remember my first day on Islay.


So that’s my story. What’s yours? We could really get a nice thread going here. Think about a special whisky moment you have experienced, and please share it with us.

Where are you?

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Keeping things on the lighter side right before Christmas–and keeping in the social theme of the holidays–I thought it might be nice to know where we’re all from so we can get to know each other a little better.

 If you have a moment, let us know where you live. Tell us what you’re currently drinking, what the weather’s like, or anything else you feel like saying.

I’ll start. I’m living in Emmaus, PA. It’s a small publishing town near Allentown, about one hour north of Philadelphia.

I just spent two hours snow-blowing the 8 inches of snow off my 1,200 foot driveway (seemingly uphill in both directions!), so I am very thirsty. Beer first, then maybe a whisky later.

Oh, one more thing:  I’m glad you’re here!

Your clever whisky marketing campaign

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

You remember Bruichladdich’s quadrupel-distilled X-4 being used as race car fuel. Recently, there was the world’s largest whisky bottle, filled with Tomintoul whisky.

pic24464Back in early November I read about a geeky computer guy who made a PC out of a 1.5 liter Ballentine’s whisky bottle. (Picture on left.)

Now, we have the world’s first single malt menorah, filled with Tullibardine.



When it comes to whisky, there’s never a dull moment. And whisky marketing, whether just coincidental or fully intended, is getting more extreme.

What next, I wonder? How about a suggestion or two? Let’s help the whisky companies out by coming up with a few ideas of our own.

We’ve been getting a little too serious of late. Let’s have some fun. I know many of you out there have the intelligence, creativity and wit to do this.

Come on. Don’t be shy. Let’s hear them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

It is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.. I really do have so much to be thankful for. This includes all of you who take time out of your busy schedule to join in here and participate.

I want to take time out of my Thanksgiving festivities to say that we have a good thing going here, and it’s because of you. Thank you!

Pairing whisky and cigars

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Tonight I’m going to Cigar Aficionado’s “Big Smoke.” It’s the cigar equivalent of a WhiskyFest. In fact, Big Smoke is held in the same room as WhiskyFest New York at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square in New York City. (We comp them a couple tickets to WhiskyFest and they do the same for us with the Big Smoke.)

I know that some of you would never even think of smoking a cigar, let alone smoking one while enjoying a whisky. But, for over 25 years, I have enjoyed an occasional cigar–and something good to drink with it.

Sometimes I’ll have rich, malty full-bodied beer to go with my cigar. Other times, I’ll have a nice vintage port wine. But many times I’ll enjoy a whisky with my cigar.

I don’t have a specific pairing, but I generally DON’T drink smoky whiskies with cigars, because cigars are already smoky. Rather, I look for something to complement my cigar–like a rich sherried Speysider or full-bodied bourbon.

For those of you who enjoy a cigar with your whisky (or whiskey), do you have a favorite pairing? If so, tell us what it is.

What’s your Thanksgiving Day whisk(e)y?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

With Thanksgiving just one week away, have you thought about what you might be drinking during this food-festive holiday? Surely you can think of something special to follow the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie?

I’m leaning towards a really nice bourbon. I just haven’t figured out which one yet. I really like the new Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000 Release bourbon. That cork might be popped. And I’m still milking my bottle of Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary bourbon. That’s definitely on my short list too. (I’m not driving anywhere, so I might just drink both of them! Or maybe even a third!)

How about you? Are you planning on drinking anything special? Or perhaps just your regular whiskey? (There’s nothing wrong with that, BTW.)

Two upcoming spirits auctions featuring rare whiskies

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The first one is by Christie’s, in New York City, on November 14th. It includes the most recent Bowmore Trilogy (Black, White, and Gold), along with many rare whiskies from Park Avenue Liquor. The press release:



goldbowmoreNew York – With the winter season fast approaching, Christie’s is delighted to announce its November 14 sale of Fine Wines and Spirits, with a special selection of spirits that are sure to ward off the chill of cold days to come.  Over 40 lots of carefully-curated whisky, bourbon, cognac, armagnac, and rum will be offered from prominent sources, including the Park Avenue Liquor Shop, one of the most respected spirits retailers in the country. 

In addition, Christie’s is honored to have been selected as the first U.S. sales site to offer the exceedingly rare 1964 Bowmore® Trilogy (pictured above) direct from the Bowmore distillery in Scotland.  An exceptional selection of fine and rare wines rounds out the sale, with recent and mature vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy in great supply, along with collector favorites from California, Italy, the Rhône Valley, and Champagne (separate press release available).  The total sale of wine and spirits includes over 800 lots and is expected to realize in excess of $2.1 million.

View our latest wine sale catalogues online here:


The second one is by Bonhams in Edinburgh on November 18th. This one features a rare Dalmore Oculus (pictured), along with the 3,000 plus bottle collection by deceased whisky enthusiast Willard S. Folsom. Details from their press release:

Bespoke bottling created to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of whisky auction sales

The Dalmore Oculus low resAs part of Bonhams Edinburgh’s highly-anticipated November 18th Whisky Sale, whisky enthusiasts will have the unique opportunity to purchase an exceptional one-of-a kind The Dalmore Oculus, amongst other distinguished whiskies.
This rare and unique Dalmore Oculus is one of the most precious whiskies to ever appear at auction. It is both the first and last of its kind, assembled from some of the most exceptional whiskies of the past 140 years and is thus estimated to sell for a staggering £15,000-20,000.
Due to its rarity and depth of stocks The Dalmore has long been recognised as a brilliant single malt. Jim Murray, whisky guru comments it is “one of the world’s greatest and undervalued distilleries”.
This particular unique expression of the Dalmore Oculus was created by master-distiller Richard Paterson, drawing on some four decades of experience. With his intimate knowledge of the stocks, Richard Paterson fused an incomparable and brilliant assemblage, beginning with a rich spicy and orange zest core from cask 1781 (distilled in 1951), trace elements of the taste and smell of dried fruits, ripe bananas, treacle toffee and almonds from an original fifty year old are added to develop complexity. Alongside these elements, rare malts selected from vintages distilled in 1868, 1878, 1922, 1926 and 1939 add a depth of flavour. Finally, to intensify the whisky, an incredibly intense oak, spice and bitter dark chocolate long matured distillate from cask 1782 is added to the mix alongside the whisky’s ‘capstone’: a judicious amount of the revered 64 year old, proffering notes of coffee, aromatic spices and citrus zest.
Such alchemistic artistry creates a peerless whisky fusion, which is beautifully presented in a precious Baccarat crystal decanter. This exceptionally crafted bespoke decanter is decorated with an intricate solid silver iconic stag standing alongside the name of this extraordinary whisky.
Richard Paterson, master distiller at The Dalmore said: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and The Dalmore Oculus is without doubt a truly exceptional expression. This is the most exquisite expression I have personally crafted with all the loving reference it so richly deserves to seduce the most discerning and sophisticated plates imaginable. I am confident it will appeal to epicureans, investors and collectors”.
Alongside the Dalmore Oculus, Bonhams will also be selling the first section of the largest single-owner collection of whisky ever to appear at auction. The 3,000-strong Willard S Folsom Collection of Old and Rare Single Malt Whiskies has been amassed over an 18-year period and features wide ranges of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Dalmore, Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, Springbank, Kinclaith, Killyloch, Ben Wyvis, Glen Grant, Glenmorangie, The Glenlivet, Strathmill, Mortlach and The Macallan.
Martin Green, Bonhams Whisky Specialist comments: “The 18th November Whisky sale is the most interesting to take place over a 20 year period and marks the 20th Anniversary of Whisky Auctions. The inclusion of the Dalmore Oculus is an exciting addition to this high quality sale. The Folsom Collection being sold in Edinburgh, Hong Kong and finally in New York in December makes this a very interesting and progressive year for Bonhams Whisky Sales”.
For Bonhams enquiries please call 0870 0273622

There are some pretty special whiskies in both collections.

After a weekend full of bourbon, three things: scotch, beer, and…

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The flu!! I somehow picked this up during my weekend with the Heaven Hill folks.


084Here’s the scotch. They arrived while I was gone. They’re samples of the most recent Diageo special release single malts. They look very tempting, don’t they?







086And here are the beers, which also showed up. They’re from Midnight Sun brewery in Alaska. One of my side jobs is that I review beer for America’s largest beer magazine, All About Beer.






So, for the next few days, these fine beverage are going to have to sit there and collect dust. I’m not sure who gave it (the flu) to me or what kind it is, but it sucks!

Still, I have fond memories of my weekend with the Heaven Hill folks, putting a nice dent into their inventory, and that will get me through this.

And don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging. I was going to take the next two days off and go fishing, but now it looks like it’s just me, my laptop, and the TV. (Maybe even a book!) Plus, I reviewed several whiskies (and whiskeys) last week which are in the queue here.

Evan William’s Single Barrel 2000 Vintage Debut

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

I was at the event last night where Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam debuted the new vintage. A great time, and a very nice whiskey too. Here are a few pics from my Blackberry. (Some are a little blurry…)

The barrelThis year’s Evan Williams Single Barrel: 15th vintage!! 2000 vintage.







Parker Talkin'Master Distiller Parker Beam talking about the new vintage!! Cool!







CommunionParker and Craig Beam pouring. Damn I’m thirsty for a bourbon–out of the barrel, no less!  142.9 proof! Their highest ever!

This is the closest thing I will get to Communion!!






Gary ReganGary Regan: I poured too much water in mine, can you top it up Craig?

Why didn’t I think of that?







Larry Kass at Heaven Hill (not pictured): ” We have this really cool high speed bottling line. You should see it.”

Me thinking to myself: “Oh no, not another bottling line! The least exciting part of any distillery tour.”


PenguinAnd to end my evening at the bar called Proof: a penguin taking care of business, surprising us all…