Archive for the ‘WhiskyFest’ 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.

Whisky’s Hearts, Hands, and Brains All At WhiskyFest New York

Monday, October 7th, 2013

John HansellLet’s try one more time to convince you to take the plunge and go to WhiskyFest New York this weekend. You know Grand Tastings are wall-to-wall distillers, right? The folks pouring your whiskies are distillers, brewers, whisky experts, brand managers, people who have put their whole lives into this wonderful stuff they’re pouring for you and just can’t wait to answer your questions.

But the Saturday Day of Seminars features some of the legendary people of whisky: distillers, blenders, creators; whisky chemists, brand ambassadors who are steeped in whisky lore; and the staff of Whisky Advocate, the very best whisky writers in the world. Take a look at who’s going to be there.

In the morning, panels will include the witty and personable Dr. Nick Morgan of Diageo, who has dug deeply into the history of that company’s whisky distilleries; Ewan Morgan, also with Diageo, who’s a 3rd-generation whisky man (his dad was distillery manager at Highland Park, his grandfather the brewer at Cardhu); Sam Simmons of William Grant, who blogged with such passion that he won a whisky career; and Chris Fletcher, lead chemist at Buffalo Trace, grandson of Jack Daniel  master distiller Frank Bobo. They’re joined by Dr. Bill Lumsden, the head of whisky creation for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie; the revered David Stewart, long-time malt master at The Balvenie; Gerry Tosh, the face and voice of Highland Park;and Ann Miller, international brand ambassador with Chivas Brothers since 1996 (and her husband grows barley within sight of Ben Rinnes!).

We’ll have a bit of chocolate with our whiskies, pairing people like Richard Paterson, the brilliant blender of Whyte & Mackay with world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud; Dr. Bill Lumsden again with Roger Rodriguez of Del Posto; and blending prodigy John Glaser of Compass Box with Ryan Cheney of Raaka Chocolate. We guarantee the pairings will be up to the level of the presenters!

After a great three-course/four-whisky Talisker lunch with Dr. Nick Morgan and the equally witty and personable Whisky Advocate writer Dave Broom, you’ll sit down with David King, the president of Anchor Distilling; Tadashi Sakuma, the master blender at Japan’s excellent Nikka distillery; Doug McIvor, the man behind the spectacular Blue Hanger blends at Berry Bros. & Rudd, and Chris Fletcher again.

We’ll also have one-on-one sessions with three bona fide Whisky Legends: Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey; Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich; and Parker Beam of Heaven Hill, a total of over 150 years of experience in the industry. Each will present a special whiskey, and talk with a Whisky Advocate writer.

The day winds up with seven Whisky Advocate Award winners from last  year, presented by the writers who picked them: John Hansell, Dave Broom, Lew Bryson, Davin de Kergommeaux, Dominic Roskrow, and Gavin Smith.

It’s going to be an amazing day of whisky discussion, tasting, and just plain story-telling. The stars come out on Saturday at WhiskyFest New York!

Rare and unique whiskies at WhiskyFest New York seminars

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

John HansellIf you’re still trying to decide whether to splurge for the WhiskyFest New York seminar ticket, the six-hour whisky experience on October 12, maybe this will help make up your mind. That headline is no exaggeration: there will be unique whiskies at the event, and not run-of-the-mill uniques, either.

IMG_6113Start at 9:00 AM.The very first whisky you’ll taste is a Glenury Royal 23 year old, bottled in 1997. Right off the mark you’re tasting a 23 year old single malt from a distillery that last produced in 1983. Not rare enough, you say? How about Kininvie, the secluded “third distillery” tucked in behind Balvenie and Glenfiddich? There have only been a couple limited single malt bottlings under the Hazelwood label (but never in the U.S.), and one or two for employees and friends; we have some just for you, friend. Then there’s Sazerac 18 year old rye. So what, you’re thinking, that stuff comes out every fall! Not this bottling: this is the original, distilled in 1981, bottled in 2000. Then we cap it with a Stitzel-Weller bourbon. The stuff that’s at the heart of the oldest Pappy Van Winkle, locked up in the warehouses for over 20 years. We’ve got it, you’ll taste it.

And that’s just the first hour! How could we top that? Well, after a little interlude — just an intimate moment with legendary bourbon distiller Jimmy Russell and a one-off bottling of some of the oldest Wild Turkey anyone’s ever seen, no big deal — we will blow your minds with four unique, never-to-be-released-again whiskies. There’s an Ardbeg 1973 (presented by Dr. Bill Lumsden), the one-off Balvenie Offspring (presented by David Stewart), a Highland Park 1968 (presented by Gerry Tosh), and a 21 year old cask strength Aberlour (presented by Ann Miller). None have ever been bottled before; only these 12 bottles of each ever will be.

Remember…we haven’t even broken for lunch yet.Yellow Spot Whiskey

What else? Well, Jim McEwan has the last of this year’s Feis Ile bottling from Bruichladdich, and we have a sampling of three exceptional whiskies (from Compass Box, The Dalmore, and Glenmorangie) paired with exquisite chocolates (one presented by Chef Daniel Boulud). Then there’s that lunch, with four Taliskers and the lively repartee of Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan and our own Dave Broom, followed by a hot seminar on whisky trends (with the Taketsuru 21 from Nikka, and our 2012 blend of the year, Blue Hanger 6th Release) and a presentation of seven of last year’s Whisky Advocate award winners, including Glenmorangie Pride and Yellow Spot.

Still haven’t made up your mind? Wow, you’re tough. There’s one more whiskey you’ll get to taste: Master Distiller’s Unity, a bourbon blended from whiskey donated by seven master distillers from their stocks to honor Parker Beam. Parker will present it himself, and the ten bottles we’ll be pouring — for you — will be the first and only tasting of the whiskey. There are two other bottles, which will be sold together the next day at Bonhams, with all proceeds going to the Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund. But you’ll taste it first. With Parker.

So…ready to buy that ticket now?

Top left photo: WFNY 2012 Seminar Day; Michael Gross

WhiskyFest New York 2012: a weekend of whisky recap

Monday, November 19th, 2012

So there we were, 9:15 a.m. on the first Seminar Saturday at WhiskyFest New York 2012, looking at Whisky Advocate auction expert Jonny McCormick and a panel of Scotch whisky luminaries up on stage…while the staff at the Marriott Marquis Times Square poured hundreds of tastes of Glenmorangie 1963, The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1983 Vintage, The Balvenie Islay Cask, Brora 30 Year Old, and Gold Bowmore. Not a bad way to start the day!

WhiskyFest New York 2012 was a celebration of fifteen years of the world’s first whisky festival to feature the people who actually make the spirit: the master distillers and blenders. To mark the anniversary, the festival was expanded from a one evening show to two evenings of the grand tasting event, with an additional six hours of master class-level seminars during the day between. One attendee called Seminar Saturday “the high point of my whisky life to date.”

“After fifteen years of WhiskyFest New York events, all sell-outs,” said Whisky Advocate publisher and editor John Hansell, “we felt that it was time to expand the event to an entire weekend.” The expansion included the extra night of tasting, a total of 339 whiskies (plus a few other top-notch spirits and beers), and the day of seminars, all featuring whiskies from around the world.

Friday night’s grand tasting boasted more producer booths than ever before, pouring Scotch, bourbon, rye, Canadian, Irish, and Japanese whiskies. Craft distillers from France, Tasmania, India, Sweden, and America were also well-represented. “I learned a lot about whisky that I never thought I needed to know,” said attendee Patty Merritt, “and now have a few favorites—thanks to the fest!”

That opening seminar was “Whisky Collecting and Auctions.” Jonny McCormick had done some number-crunching and let attendees know that if they’d bought a bottle of each whisky they’d just tasted, it would have set them back about $10,000. “We’ve just poured over $100,000 worth of whisky in 45 minutes,” he announced at the seminar’s end.

Bowmore’s master of malts, Iain McCallum, brought it into perspective, noting that, “Yes, it’s collectible; yes, it’s investable; but it’s whisky. It’s a luxury product: enjoy it.” The following seminars—on the latest trends in Scottish, Irish, and American whiskeys—emphasized that enjoyment, noting how distillers were creating new spirits that were both delicious and innovative. Each seminar was a discussion hosted by one of Whisky Advocate’s top writers, questioning a panel of industry luminaries: esteemed distillers, experienced master blenders, and the rising stars of the whisky business.

Attendees also tasted three special debut whiskies. The first was a limited edition “New York Blend” of Compass Box’s Great King Street, presented by company founder John Glaser. “As a whisky maker, as a blender, which I am, this is the fun stuff,” he said. “This is what I live for.” It was made even more special when cocktail historian David Wondrich and his team of mixologists used the whisky to make hundreds of fresh Morning Glory Fizzes; a wonderfully reviving whisky cocktail.

Two other debut whiskies came from the A. Smith Bowman and Midleton distilleries. Bowman distiller Truman Cox said he enjoyed making his Virginia port-finished bourbon specifically for WhiskyFest New York: “It was fun, local, collaborative, and it tastes great.” Legendary Midleton distiller Barry Crockett fell ill (he’s recovering nicely), so distillery representative Patrick Caulfield ably stood in for him, presenting the U.S. debut of Barry Crockett Legacy.

There was a break midday for a Lagavulin lunch with four of the Islay distillery’s whiskies affably presented by Diageo’s head of whisky outreach, Dr. Nick Morgan. The daytime session wound up with a writers’ panel presenting six of the most recent Whisky Advocate Award-winning whiskies, and the writers’ reasons for their selection. The warmed-up crowd had fun with the animated and passionate panel, then left the room for a few hours’ rest before the Saturday grand tasting.

Saturday night’s grand tasting—hosted and poured by the same people who had worked Friday night (and some  during the seminars as well)—was, if anything, up a notch on energy from the night before, an excited group on both sides of the tasting tables. Distillers repeatedly noted that once again, the attendees’ level of experience and enjoyment had set new heights.

Distillers rubbed elbows with drinkers, laughter rang through the room, and there was a lot of appreciative nodding going on as new whiskies were tasted. The Broadway Ballroom was loud, happy, and filled with the stars of the industry. As Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Single Cask Nation—an exhibitor at the tasting sessions, but just another happy guest at the seminars—put it, “WhiskyFest NYC is a whisky rock show!”

Photographs by Michael Gross

Rare whiskies pouring at WhiskyFest New York this Saturday

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

At this Saturday’s WhiskyFest New York seminar program, you get to taste these whiskies. (1/2 ounce pours!)

  • Glenmorangie 1963 Vintage
  • The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage)
  • Gold Bowmore
  • Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old
  • Brora 30 year old

And that’s just the first seminar! There will be many more great whiskies, many of them debuting at this event, along with legendary Master Distillers,  Master Blenders, and the Whisky Advocate writers.

If you’re in the New York area and have Saturday free, a few tickets still remain.  You can purchase just the seminar program, or combine it with one (or both) of the grand tastings in the evening. Follow the link to find out more.

Some whisky highlights from WhiskyFest San Francisco

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

WhiskyFest San Francisco was this past Friday. I had a chance to try some new whiskies while I was there and would like to share my thoughts. Some of these are so new, they haven’t even been formally released yet. I was just offered pre-release samples to taste.

One of my favorite whiskies of the evening was a Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 Vintage. It was elegant, well-rounded, and subtly complex. Very nice!

The U.S. finally has Japanese whisky besides Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu. Nikka is making its formal debut at WhiskyFest New York in two weeks, but the importer was also pouring Taketsuru 12 year old “Pure Malt” and Yoichi 15 year old single malt at the San Francisco event. The 12 year old, a blend of malts, was nicely rounded and easy to drink, while the 15 year old was very distinctive. My feeling on Japanese whisky is: the more the merrier!

Angel’s Envy has two new whiskeys coming out. The first one is a barrel-proof version of their flagship Angel’s Share bourbon that’s finished in port pipes. The other one is a high-rye whiskey that is currently being finished off in a Caribbean rum cask. I tasted both. Both were very interesting. The high rye/rum finish combination was unique.

Wild Turkey is finally coming out with a new whiskey that’s not 81 proof! (Thank goodness!) There’s a new Russell’s Reserve Small Batch being released soon that’s 110 proof, with no age statement.

I was able to taste the next Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage release (a 2003 vintage). It was very smooth, easy-going, and dangerously drinkable.

There’s a new Michter’s 20 year old single barrel about to be released. I was concerned that it was going to taste too woody, dry and tannic. Not a chance! I was so impressed with this whiskey, that I kept taking people I knew over to the Michter’s booth to taste it before it disappeared. (Well, it wasn’t officially there in the first place, but I did my best to spread the word.) I know this was a single barrel, but I sure hope they all taste like this!

Gable Erenzo had a unmarked bottle of a Hudson Bourbon he wanted me to try. It was a six year old Hudson bourbon matured in a standard 53 gallon barrel (not a small barrel!) and it was the best Hudson whiskey I have tasted to date. Thanks for the tease, Gable…

One of the most pleasant experience of the evening wasn’t even a whisky. It was a beer! At the Anchor booth, they were pouring Anchor Steam that was bottled just five hours earlier. Damn that beer was fresh. It was the best Anchor Steam beer I ever had outside of the brewery. So, if you saw me walking around with a glass of Anchor Steam, now you know why!

Finally, I couldn’t resist sitting in on one of the seminars: a flight of Bowmore whiskies paired with a variety of West Coast oysters that were flown in that day and shucked right in front of us.  Delicious!

My Informal Thoughts on New Whiskeys (Part 1)

Friday, October 5th, 2012

WhiskyFest San Francisco is tonight. WhiskyFest New York weekend is three weeks from tonight. Because of this, I don’t have much time to blog at the moment, but I did want to provide my informal thoughts on some new whiskies.

Let’s start with American whiskey. I’ll do another quick post next week sometime and address some new scotch whiskies I’ve tasted, along with some more bourbons.

I tasted my way through the newest Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and I must say that they are all great. If you normally like one or more of these whiskeys (Sazerac 18 yr., Eagle Rare 17 yr., George T. Stagg, Thomas H. Handy, and William Larue Weller) and you manage to find a bottle for sale somewhere, buy it! I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The new Colonel E. H. Taylor Straight Rye release is different than Buffalo Trace’s other Rye offerings. This one is very high in rye and has no corn in the mashbill. It’s a different flavor profile and you might want to try it before you buy it to make sure you like that style of rye. While a nice whiskey, I don’t put it on the same level as Sazerac 18 yr. old or even Thomas H. Handy Rye.

I’ve really been enjoying the new Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2012 Release. It’s one of the best Four Roses whiskeys I’ve ever tasted and one of the best bourbons I’ve tasted this year. Yes, high praise indeed.

As you know, after we named the initial single barrel release of Elijah Craig 20 yr. old our American Whisky of the Year, Heaven Hill decided to discontinue their 18 yr. old and start releasing limited amounts of Elijah Craig 20 yr. old nationwide. I’ve tasted my way through a few of the single barrels, and my favorite to date is Barrel No. 13. I don’t know where Barrel No. 13 went, but if you can find a bottle, I think you will like it. It’s not as elegant as the initial release, but it has a richer flavor. And while there is more wood influence (something that concerns me with well-aged bourbons), there are lovely sweet notes to balance the dry oak spices. (I also want to mention to be on the lookout for Elijah Craig 21 yr. old hitting the market soon.)

The new Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection releases are whiskeys aged in two large French oak barrels: one for 19 years, the other for 23 years. I enjoy the 19 yr. old release. It’s surprisingly nicely balanced, and defies its age. The 23 yr. old, however, is a different story. I think that one was left in the barrel too long and I would avoid that one if I were you.

P.S. Speaking of WhiskyFest San Francisco tonight, we have a first for WhiskyFest: Nikka 12 yr. and 15 yr. from Japan are on the pour list. While I enjoy Suntory’s Yamazaki and Hakushu, it’s nice to see a new Japanese whisky here in the U.S.

New Compass Box Great King Street New York Blend: the details

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I asked John Glaser if he would create a new whisky and debut it for us at WhiskyFest New York this fall. He said he would, and here are the details. This limited edition Compass Box whisky will debut during the WhiskyFest New York seminar program on October 27, 2012 and go on sale to the public immediately afterwards. John Glaser sent me information on this new blend, and it sounds very exciting. Here are the details, straight from John:

 

 A Scotch Whisky Blend Made Just for New York

 Great King Street to Release the First of its Limited Release Regional Blends

 

GREAT KING STREET, the Blended Scotch whisky specialist brand launched by the Compass Box Whisky Company last year, has announced they will launch next month their NEW YORK BLEND, the first of the brand’s Limited Release regional blends.

Compass Box founder and Great King Street whiskymaker John Glaser explains: “We were approached by the New York WhiskyFest last year asking us to debut a new whisky at this year’s festival, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to start a series of regional blends, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  What better place to begin than New York?”

Glaser has long been inspired by the old Scotch whisky blending houses of 120 years ago who commonly made different blends for regional tastes.  He has also been inspired by the ways in which blends were made in this period, delivering far more flavour than those of today.  These things have formed the basis of his whiskymaking approach for the Great King Street brand.

For the New York Blend, Glaser made two key discoveries that inspired this one-off, limited edition bottling.  One was an ancient New York Times article describing an 1890s bartender named Patrick Duffy who was responsible for instigating the importation of branded Scotch whisky in glass bottles for the first time into New York.  Second, was an old Scotch blend recipe from a Glasgow blending house from the same era. Glaser fashioned a blend based on the old recipe and dedicated the bottling to Duffy, and the New York Blend was born.

What sets this Great King Street blend apart from Scotch whisky blends of today is flavour.  The New York Blend uses lots of peaty single malts, plenty of sherry cask-aged single malts, and a much higher proportion of malt to grain whisky (80%/20%) than is typically used today (generally 30%/70%).

The Great King Street “New York Blend” will be launched on Saturday, October 27th, 2012 at the New York Whisky Fest at the Marriot Marquis hotel in Manhattan.  Only 1,840 bottles are being released and it will be available primarily in the New York metropolitan area  and via the Compass Box Whisky Company web site.  Glaser plans more Great King Street regional blends in the future, but for now he is mum about the details of where or when!

Some new bourbon and rye whiskeys

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Heaven Hill’s Larceny

A review bottle of this showed up yesterday and I did not waste any time. I shared some of it last night with a friend. There’s an interesting story to it, so I will include part of the press release I received:

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., announces the initial launch of Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey into 12 markets in September 2012. A super-premium 92 proof Bourbon, Larceny is the heir to the wheated Bourbons that make up the historic Old Fitzgerald franchise that Heaven Hill acquired in 1999. In fact, it is the somewhat controversial history of John E. Fitzgerald and his eponymous Bourbon brand that provides the story, and name, to Larceny Bourbon, the latest new label from the venerated distillery that produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig Bourbons and Rittenhouse Rye.

Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the third or “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mashbill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.

It is actually the story of the Old Fitzgerald brand, made famous by the late Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., that forms the historical basis for Larceny Bourbon. According to industry lore, John E. Fitzgerald had founded his distillery in Frankfort , KY shortly after the Civil War ended, making his Bourbon available only to steamship lines, rail lines and private clubs. This story was furthered by S.C Herbst, who owned the “Old Fitz” brand from the 1880’s through Prohibition, and “Pappy” Van Winkle, who purchased the brand revealed by Pappy’s granddaughter, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, in her 1999 book But Always Fine Bourbon—Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald, that in fact John E. Fitzgerald was not a famous distiller at all. He was in reality a treasury agent who used his keys to the warehouses to pilfer Bourbon from the finest barrels. His discerning palate led those barrels to which he chose to help himself being referred to as “Fitzgerald barrels”.

Now Heaven Hill has launched Larceny, whose tagline—“A taste made famous by an infamous act”—sets history straight.

For 2012, Larceny will be available in the 1.75 liter, 1 liter, 750ml and 50ml sizes in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. At an average national retail price of $24.99 for the 750ml size, Larceny is a true small batch Bourbon produced from dumps of 100 or fewer barrels that have been selected from the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Heaven Hill’s open rick warehouses in Nelson County, Kentucky. Larceny is drawn from barrels that have aged from 6 to 12 years at this high storage, and is bottled at a full-bodied 92 proof, or 46% alcohol by volume.

Okay, so what are my thoughts on this whiskey? It tastes very much like I expected it to taste. Like many wheated bourbons (think Maker’s Mark), it’s smooth and easy-drinking. The press release states there’s 6-12 year old whiskey in there. The majority might be on the younger end of the scale, but that’s okay. There’s just enough oak to balance the sweeter notes. I don’t think I would want this whiskey aged any longer. I like the whiskey. I would be more inclined to buy a bottle if it were $19.99 instead of $24.99, but I guess that this is the sign of the times. $25 is the new $20.

Jack Daniel’s…Rye?

I can’t say for certain, but Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, will be speaking at WhiskyFest San Francisco in October and his topic is scheduled to be on a new rye whiskey. Just sayin’…

Colonel E. H. Taylor Rye

I was also checking the pour list for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and noticed an E.H. Taylor Straight Rye on the list. All the Taylor releases to date are from Buffalo Trace have been bourbons, so this would be the first rye release under the Taylor name. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Allison.)

Something new from Russell’s Reserve

There will be a new whiskey coming out in the Russell’s Reserve line. It’s being bottled soon and I’ll let you know more about it then. (I was asked to hold off saying anything at this time.) Stay tuned!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

WhiskyFest New York 2012: A whisky enthusiast’s dream weekend!

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The agenda for the saturday seminar program has been finalized. It’s going to be a great day: rare whiskies, debut whiskies, award winning whiskies, master distillers and blenders, and leading whisky writers all in one place.

A summary of the day’s events is below. If you follow the link to the WhiskyFest website (click on the logo), you’ll find the details in outline form and also be able to purchase tickets to this exciting event.

WhiskyFest New York: imagine a weekend of the world’s best whiskies, two nights of grand tastings and a day of seminars presented by the world’s top whisky distillers and blenders, bringing their best, their oldest,and their newest. The seminars on Saturday, October 27th, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be an unprecedented whisky event for those fortunate enough to attend. This educational experience takes the hands-on approach to learning, engaging every sense as we nose and taste our way through a line-up that is not to be missed. Legendary master distillers, blenders, and whisky makers will be pouring their finest—and newest—whiskies!   

The Whisky Advocate writers—the best in the business—will moderate the five 45-minute seminar sessions, and a special whisky-themed lunch, along with several whiskies making their U.S. and world debuts. A brief summary of this very special day follows.

Debut Scotch Whisky

The first debuting whisky of the day will be presented by John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky, featuring mixologist and Whisky Advocate contributor David Wondrich.  In addition to treating us with a world-debut Compass Box whisky, they’ll also be serving it up in a breakfast cocktail. A great way to start a day!

Whisky Collecting and Auctions
Jonny McCormick, Whisky Advocate contributor and Martin Green of Bonhams will enlighten us on the auction and collecting scene that has exploded lately. They will offer tips on collecting and participating in whisky auctions. Attendees will taste some of the very rare whiskies that have been seen on the auction block. The whiskies speak for themselves, as do the personalities presenting them:

Gold Bowmore – Iain McCallum,
Balvenie Islay Cask 17 year old – Nicholas Pollacchi,
Glemorangie 1963 Vintage – Dr. Bill Lumsden,
Brora 30 year old - Dr. Nick Morgan,
The Glenlivet Cellar Collection (1983 Vintage).

Debut Irish Whiskey
Then, legendary Barry Crockett from the Midleton distillery will present the U.S. debut of his very own Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy bottling.

Trending Scotch
Keeping the momentum going, Dave Broom, Whisky Advocate contributor, examines the trends in Scotch whisky. Join Dave to explore smoky blends, designer whiskies, single malt extremes, and brand premiumization. Dave will be joined by the A-list of master distillers and blenders from Scotland who are making some of these special whiskies. Here they are, with the whiskies they will be pouring:

Dr. Bill Lumsden – Glenmorangie Malaga Wood Finish 30 year
Jim McEwan – Bruichladdich Octomore 4.2
Matthew Crow – Johnnie Walker Double Black
Richard Paterson – Dalmore Castle Leod

Debut Bourbon
Here we will feature the world debut of a very special bourbon presented by Truman Cox,  master distiller from  the A. Smith Bowman distillery.  He knows what the whiskey will be, but for now he’s keeping it a surprise.

Understanding Irish
Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate contributor, follows by taking us on a tour of Ireland, explaining the difference between the single pot still, single malt, grain, and blended whiskeys of Ireland. And, of course, we will taste some very special examples of each, and we will be joined by the master distillers who make them:

Barry Crockett of Midleton distillery will pour Powers John’s Lane (Single Pot Still) and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (Blend)
Noel Sweeney from the Cooley distillery will be pouring a very special grain whiskey – Greenore 8 year old
Colum Egan of Bushmills distillery treats us to a very special Bushmills 21 year old single malt.

Lagavulin Lunch

The whisky fun continues at lunch. Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach, along with Whisky Advocate writer Gavin Smith, will lead us through a tasting and comparison of three special Lagavulin whiskies: Lagavulin 16, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, and the very limited 2012 Lagavulin 21 year old Special Release.

Bourbon and Rye Innovations
Immediately after lunch, we focus on American whiskey. Whisky Advocate contributor and managing editor Lew Bryson will lead a session focused on innovations in bourbon and rye. Joining him will be three legendary master distillers and one whiskey pioneer, and they will be pouring some very special new releases:

Chris Morris – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection new 2012 release
Harlen Wheatley  – Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project, comparing two Single Oak bottlings
Parker Beam – Parker’s Heritage Collection new 2012 release
David Perkins – High West’s “Campfire” (a blend of bourbon, rye and scotch!)

Award Winning Whiskies
Finishing up our special day, attendees will taste a sampling of the 18th Annual Whisky Advocate Awards winners published in the spring issue of Whisky Advocate magazine. Here they are, along with the Whisky Advocate contributors who will be presenting them:

Gavin Smith: Lowland/Campbeltown Single Malt of the Year: Springbank 18 year old (2nd edition)
Dave Broom: Islay Single Malt of the Year:Bruichladdich 10 year old
Lew Bryson: Canadian Whisky of the Year:Wiser’s 18 year old
John Hansell: American Whiskey of the Year:Elijah Craig 20 year old
Dominic Roskrow: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year: Compass Box Great King Street

Tickets for this special day of seminars can only be purchased through a combination package with one of the evening grand tastings.  Tickets are available at whiskyadvocate.com  or by clicking here. We hope to see you at this very special event.