Posts Tagged ‘Evan Williams’

Top 10 Whiskies Reviewed in the Summer 2014 Issue Buying Guide

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Here’s a sneak preview of our Summer 2014 issue’s Buying Guide. A total of 117 whiskies were reviewed for this issue. We welcomed two new members to our review team: Jonny McCormick (blended scotch, blended malts, grain, Irish, and world whisky) and Geoffrey Kleinman (flavored whiskies and U.S.-exclusive imports).

Crown-Royal-XO-bottle#10 – Crown Royal XO, 40%, $45

A rich luxurious whisky finished in cognac casks, as was the crisper, brighter Cask No. 16 that it replaces. This is the cedary, leathery, tobacco-ish sipping whisky of the private club. Simple toffee and the cherry essence of Beaujolais nouveau evolve into ripe red apples and heavy, dusky, dark fruit with candied citrus peel, bitter almond skins, and hints of oak. Sizzling gingery spice and white pepper linger over textured sandalwood. Defined by its heavy, creamy body. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#9 – Evan Williams Single Barrel (Barrel No. 1) 2004, 43.3%, $27

Polished and nicely balanced, with caramel as the main note, followed by candied fruit, soft vanilla, sweet corn, and nougat. Subtle spice (ginger, cinnamon) and gentle oak on the finish round out the sweet notes. Easygoing demeanor and very drinkable. Great value too! A very pleasing, versatile bourbon. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93JW Odyssey

#8 – Johnnie Walker Odyssey, 40%, $1,100

Jim Beveridge delivered these aromas of toffee apple, peach, and rich berry fruits by working with European oak casks. The smoke is timid, with hints of background salinity. The finely structured mouthfeel is where this triple malt whisky truly shines: the polished smoothness is exceptional. The flavor journey begins with honey, citrus, and swirling melted chocolate, building to a fire of squeezed orange oils, dry fruits, and pecan nuttiness before concluding with rich espresso, dark caramels, and plain chocolate. Immaculate.—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7 – Cragganmore Triple Matured Edition, 48%, £80

This is Cragganmore in early autumnal guise. Dry leaves underfoot, ripe black fruits on the bushes, waxed jacket, chestnut, and a whiff of cedary smoke, opening into dried peach. The palate is thickly textured, with those fruits, dark chocolate, and pomegranate molasses. The immensely long finish gives you light pepper, smoke, and blackberry jam. Cragganmore at its very best, and at a great price. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93mortlach_18yo

#6 – Mortlach 18 year old, 43.4%, £180/500 ml

Deep amber in color with the green glints of first-fill sherry, this has bosky notes and meat—mutton and venison—plus graphite, bitter chocolate, and wet rock before layers of dried stone fruits and date. This is the most savory and Bovril-like of the new range. The palate is feral and earthy; think mushroom with game pie, and rowan berries. Deep, but with more dimensions than the previous 16 year old which, in comparison, seems like a blunt instrument.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#5 – Brora 40 year old Single Cask 1972 Vintage, 59.1%, £7,000

Just 160 bottles of 1972 Brora are available through UK World of Whiskies and World Duty Free Group stores. The oldest bottling of Brora to date was distilled using heavily-peated malt. A big hit of oily peat on the early nose, with malt, dried fruit, and black pepper. Mildly medicinal. The palate yields bonfire ash, licorice, honey, more pepper, and well-integrated oak. The finish is long, with peat smoke, plain chocolate, and tannins lingering in harmony. Complex and rewarding. —Gavin D Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4 – The John Walker, 40%, $3,500

The pinnacle of the current Johnnie Walker range, this is a rare, inimitable blend of just nine whiskies. It exudes the aromas of ripe bananitos, whole mango, satsuma, vanilla seeds, barley awns, butter biscuits, and crystallized pineapple. The supple grain sustains indulgent, characterful malts creating a weighty, smooth mouthfeel. I’m smitten by the vanilla creaminess, burgeoning deep fruit layers, how it swells with a satisfying snuffbox smokiness. A beautifully styled blend delivering a captivating, sensuous experience. (330 bottles only)—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94Last Drop 50 year old

#3 – The Last Drop 50 year old, 50.9%, $4,000

Would you have gambled The Last Drop 1960 liquid in new sherry wood for four more years? The indulgent nose proffers maple syrup, buckwheat honey, roasted spices, blue grapes, pomegranate, raspberry compote, cilantro, pandan leaf, and beefsteak juices soaking into mushroom gills. The complex, lustrous mouthfeel is replete with a sheen of rich maltiness, molasses lashed by sherry before a dry, resinous finish. Water brings an oily nuttiness, then further drops produce a silky, clingy texture. Glorious. Miraculous. Victorious. (388 bottles only) —Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

peatmonster_park-avenue_front2#2 – Compass Box The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Special Cask Strength Bottling, 54.7%, $120

As you’d expect, solid peat is the first thing out of the glass, but this isn’t just a peat beast. Underneath are honey, dried fruit, and malt. The palate is all about balance with honeyed malt, raisin, and oak spice all complementing smoky peat. A lush mouthfeel makes you forget it’s cask strength. A pure love note in a glass from Compass Box to Park Avenue Liquor.  (Park Avenue Liquor only.) —Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95
Bookers 25th Anniv Bottle

#1 – Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon Batch No 2014-1, 65.4%, $100

The complete package: uncut, unfiltered, full-flavored, richly textured (almost chewy), and very complex. Notes of toffee-coated nuts, vanilla fudge, polished leather, cedar-tinged tobacco, barrel char, cocoa powder, and a hint of fig, wrapped up with a firm oak grip on the finish. Worth every penny of the premium price being charged for this commemorative release. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

Chuck Cowdery: The best kept secrets in bourbon

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Yes, I know. I’m overdue for a blog post. I’m just back from vacation and diving head first into putting together the next issue of Whisky Advocate magazine.

To keep you entertained in the interim, I’d like to draw your attention to a great blog post by Whisky Advocate contributor Chuck Cowdery. Good bourbon isn’t expensive, nor is it hard to find. I agree with every one of his recommendations. Have a look.

Nicely done, Chuck. It’s a valuable resource for anyone looking for a nice, versatile bourbon at a fair price.

The top ten rated whiskies from the spring 2013 issue of Whisky Advocate

Monday, February 11th, 2013

The ten highest-rated whiskies from Whisky Advocate’s spring issue are being announced right here, today, before the magazine hits the streets. Our list begins with the #10 whisky and ends with the #1 rated whisky of the issue.

#10: Wiser’s Legacy, 45%, C$50
Winemakers have long known that toasted oak is very spicy. Today’s whisky makers are slowly catching on. Cinnamon hearts and hot peppermint add zing to a rich and creamy mouthfeel. Although the whisky is not overly sweet, it has a candied feel. Cloves and hot pepper round out the spices while vanilla and butterscotch lend smoothness as they keep earthy, flinty rye notes under control. Essences of cedar cigar box and black, withered figs contribute additional complexity. —Davin de Kergommeaux
Highwood 25 year old Calgary Stampede Centennial

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#9: Highwood 25 year old Calgary Stampede Centennial, 40%, C$52

A few years ago, Alberta’s Highwood distillers purchased all the remaining stock from Potter’s whisky brokerage just over the Rocky Mountains in Kelowna. With it, Highwood skillfully created a sumptuous, limited-edition bottling that is as sweet, smooth, and creamy as French vanilla ice cream, and richer in fresh clean wood than a carpentry shop. Dried cloves and red cedar balance real maple syrup and butterscotch which, in turn, dissolve into sweet white grapefruit. (Alberta only) —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#8: Old Pulteney 40 year old, 51.3%,  £1,490
Old Pulteney 40 yo
The oldest bottling of Old Pulteney to date has been matured in American bourbon and Spanish sherry casks, and was personally bottled by distillery manager Malcolm Waring. The nose of this highly accomplished veteran is fragrant and waxy, with cooking apples, milk chocolate orange, Christmas spices, vanilla, and fudge. Initially, the substantial palate offers spicy fresh fruits, seasoned timber, then a hint of brine, with sultanas and plain chocolate. The finish is figgy, gingery, and sherried.  — Gavin Smith

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#7: Alberta Premium Dark Horse, 45%, C$30Alberta Premium Dark Horse

For six decades, Alberta Premium has been one of Canada’s favorite economy-brand mixers. Floral, herbal, and fruity, with charcoal and wet slate, this new addition to the lineup is clearly meant for connoisseurs. While the original is made entirely from rye grain, Dark Horse beefs up the flavor and body with a dollop of corn whisky and a sherry finish, creating a vanilla-rich symphony of pepper, hot ginger, pickle juice, and crisp, clean oak. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#6: Big Peat Small Batch, 53.6%, $48

The original Big Peat was a mix of smoky Islay malts and was already up there with the very best competition in the category, even though many of the others were bottled at cask strength. I scored it at 90. Now it’s back to play in the big boys’ pool with a killer cask strength whisky of its own. This is to whisky what AC/DC is to heavy rock: old school, predictable, but great and exactly what fans want.  — Dominic RoskrowGibson's Finest Rare 18

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#5: Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 year old, 40%, C$75

A quintessential Canadian whisky that holds fresh-cut lumber, hot white pepper, and creamy oak caramels in delicate balance. Long years in oak have delivered a range of complex flavors that evolve slowly in the glass and on the tongue. Sweet vanilla contrasts with dusty rye, while a drop of pickle juice slowly matures into poached pears with cloves. Dry grain ripens into fresh-baked biscuits before it all fades away in clean oak and citrus pith. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#4: Millstone Sherry Cask 12 year old, 46%, €60
Millstone sherry cask 12 year oldLR

Millstone is made by Zuidam, a Dutch spirits and liquor company that prides itself on never cutting corners and in using the very finest ingredients. There are hundreds of European distilleries making spirit, but few this good. Its malt and rye whiskies have always been special, but this is Premier League, a world class sherried 12 year old that matches many sherried Scotch whiskies flavor to flavor. That’s a first for Europe.  — Dominic RoskrowMichter's 20 year old bourbon

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#3: Michter’s (Barrel No. 1646) 20 year old, 57.1%, $450

A soothing bourbon, with maple syrup, blackberry preserve, polished leather, roasted nuts, marzipan, vanilla toffee, dusty dates, subtle tobacco, and a hint of pedro ximinez sherry. Soft, flavorful finish. The oak is kept in check, with layered sugars and fruit for balance. The price of admission is steep, but this whiskey is very satisfying. –John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003

#2: Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage (Barrel No. 1), 43.3%, $26

Silky smooth. Lush honey notes married with bright orchard fruit and candied tropical fruit. Soft vanilla, mint, and cinnamon round out the palate.  Seamless and perilously drinkable. Proof that a bourbon doesn’t have to be old, high in alcohol, or expensive to be good. –John HansellMasterson's Rye 10 yr old

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#1: Masterson’s Straight Rye, 45%, $70

A seamless fusion of rain-moistened earth, gunnysacks, and searing white pepper underpins the delicately bitter grain-like notes of fresh-baked rye bread. Lilacs and violets speak of rye grain, as do delicate cloves and tingling ginger, while dark stewed fruits attest to age. A mingling of hand-selected barrels of 10 year old all rye whisky, Masterson’s is redolent of vintage car leather and kiln-dried burley tobacco, with touches of dry herbs and spearmint. Sweet vanilla envelops early butterscotch. —Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94



17 bottles of bourbon; $4,000 for charity

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

The Bonhams auction is over, and my donation of all 17 vintages of Evan Williams Single Barrel bottlings sold as one lot for $4,000. That’s far above the estimate of $800-$1,000. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m giving the entire proceeds to charity.

I want to tell you where the money is going. I cannot find the words to describe the damage that Hurricane Sandy has inflicted on all those who have homes at the Jersey Shore. I am among the victims, but at least for me it’s not my primary residence. There are, and will continue to be, people who have no place to live, no power, no water, no heat, and no food. I’m not sure exactly how I am going to distribute it yet (I want to avoid as much red tape as possible so it quickly gets into the hands of the people who need it), but that’s where the money is going.

Bid on some great whiskies for charity

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This Sunday, Bonhams will be conducting a whisky auction in New York City. You can find the catalog of whiskies here.

You may remember that I posted I’m auctioning my entire collection of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintages. I have a bottle from each of the 17 vintage, many of them Barrel No. 1 and signed by (Master Distillers) Parker Beam or his son Craig Beam. I’m donating 100% of the proceeds to charity. (I’m letting my wife Amy pick the charity, since she has to put up with me and my crazy passion for whisky.) It’s Lot No. 369. Estimated range is $800-$1,000.

A fine gentleman, seeing my post about donating my Evan Williams vintages, is following suit by donating four bottles of A. H. Hirsch 16 year old bourbons from the long-gone Michter’s distillery. (Lots 388-391.) Each bottle is its own lot, with a range of $400-600.

Finally, for those with a little more pocket change than I have, you can also bid on Lot No. 84: the Bowmore 1957 Vintage, 54 year old. All the proceeds are going to charity. It’s range is set at $160,000-$190,000. Seriously, if you have a lot of disposable income, why don’t you buy this great bottle of scotch instead of the new yacht? A yacht costs a lot of money to maintain, and you need someplace big to story it. This Bowmore requires no maintenance other than a little dusting and drinking and can be stored in a liquor cabinet or display case. And it’s for charity.


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!

I’m auctioning my Evan Williams Single Barrel collection for charity

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Okay, one more post before I leave for vacation…

People close to me know that I’m a purger, not a hoarder. I try to follow the philosophy that less is more.

So, it’s a bit atypical for me that I have the entire collection of Evan Williams Single Barrel bottlings. I have one bottle from every vintage released for the past 17 years. The majority of them are from Barrel No. 1, and a large percentage are signed by either Parker or Craig Beam. (And some by both!)

When these bottlings first came out, I regularly went out and bought them. They were good, and they were affordable.  Several years later, I realized that I still had one bottle from each year’s release–unopened!

By this time, Heaven Hill began sending me a review bottle. I told them about my accidental collection, so they were kind enough to send me an extra bottle for my collection. Most times, either Craig or Parker would sign it before the sent it to me. (Each year, I would offer to pay, but they always refused.)

And so, here I am, seventeen years into this accidental fortune. Like I mentioned above, I’m not a hoarder. So what should I do with it? Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is that I could drink it! But these whiskeys are too special for me to drink randomly. I also thought about lining them all up, inviting about 40 special guests, and having a really fun tasting some night.

But, the fact is, many of these bottles were gifts thanks to the kindness of my friends at Heaven Hill. My feeling is that I should not benefit or profit in any way from them. That includes my drinking them, even if I share them.

What I decided to do was auction the complete set at the Bonhams auction in New York City on October 28th and donate the proceeds to charity. I haven’t informed Heaven Hill yet, but I would also like their input on the charity that’s picked.

So, if you feel like you missed the boat on these excellent Evan Williams Single Barrel offerings, here’s your chance. I have tasted them all over the past 17 years. Most of these bottlings are excellent, and some were awarded our “Whiskey of the Year.”

Maybe you can get a bunch of friends to go in with you on the bidding? Great whiskeys, and for a great cause!

New American whiskeys strive for maximum versatility

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Some bourbons (and rye whiskeys) are good enough to drink neat or with a splash of water. Others, usually because of their youth and lower cost, are more suitable for cocktails or on the rocks.  Most people put American whiskey into one of these two categories.

Very few whiskeys, for my palate anyway, manage to accomplish both. Arguably, some that might pass the test are Evan Williams Black Label, Sazerac Rye (Baby Sazerac, as it is affectionately know), and Old Forester Signature (100 proof). These are versatile, affordable whiskeys which you can keep in your drinks cabinet and use for many drinks applications.

However, I’ve noticed a lot of new whiskeys that seem to be produced and marketed for this exact kind of versatility. Part of it might be driven by the popularity of cocktails. It might also be that older, more mature American whiskeys are becoming scarcer.

I will also point out that most of these new releases don’t have age statements, allowing the producers more flexibility with their stocks, and some people aren’t very happy about it. (I, too, was a little bummed when Knob Creek Rye was released without an age statement, instead of being released at 9 years old similar to the Knob Creek bourbons.

Recent examples include Wild Turkey Bourbon 81 Proof, Wild Turkey Rye 81 Proof, Knob Creek Rye, and even the private label Breaking & Entering bourbon (which is quite nice, btw). All of them seem, to varying degrees, come across as mature just enough to enjoy neat or with a little water, but youthful and vibrant enough to work well in cocktails without breaking the bank in the process.

And, of course, the more versatile a whiskey is, the more bottles of it will be sold, which won’t exactly hurt the company’s bottom line either.

Have you noticed any whiskeys released recently that fall in this category? Your thoughts on this trend?


Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Best Buy Whisk(e)y of the Year”: Tie – Evan Williams & Very Old Barton 6 Year Old Bottled in Bond

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Best Buy is always a touchy category. It’s not cheap whisky, and it’s not barely endurable whisky — there are plenty of both, but we’re not interested — it’s about whisky that’s a great combination of flavor and price.

We went American, as we often have in the past. American whiskey is still an outstanding value, with many excellent bottlings under $30, and some still quite tasty under $20. We zeroed in on about five good ones, then tossed a few aside somewhat cavalierly because they were too expensive…over $15! That’s the kind of value you can find in this category.

That still left us with two bourbons: Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams and Buffalo Trace’s Very Old Barton 100 Proof. On value by the numbers, it was a toss-up. Evan Williams is a dollar or two less, but the VOB is higher proof, but the Evan is probably a bit older… Back and forth: no tie-breaker.

The tale in the glass was no different. Evan Williams is a sophisticated whiskey for its price: smooth, a great aroma, and neither gets lost in nor dominates a cocktail, a classic table bourbon. Very Old Barton is an equally impressive example of another category of bourbon, the pleasantly rough ride: a whiskey with vigor, robust corn character, and unabashed power that lets you know you’ve had a snort, while not so aggressive that it leaves you gasping.

We finally realized we didn’t have to choose one over the other, and neither do you. Both of these are excellent values; in fact, at these prices, you can happily buy both!

This is the first of the 17th Annual Malt Advocate Whisky Awards to be announced. One award will be announced each day through February 28, 2011. Tomorrow, the “Artisan Whisky of the Year” will be revealed.

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel (2001 release)

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Let’s make it five straight American whiskey review posts…

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2001 Vintage (Barrel #1), 43.3%, $26

While last year’s vintage was a more delicate expression of Evan Williams, I loved it for its elegance, charm, and balance (and gave it a 95 rating). This one is darker in flavor and bolder, with more caramelized sugars (caramel, toffee, maple syrup) along with some underlying fruit. It’s also drier, spicier, and with more wood influence (resin and polished leather). It still maintains its balance on the nose and majority of the palate, but with more wood on the finish than I would prefer to rate it in the 90s. (One more thing to consider: it’s a single barrel bottling and no two barrels are alike.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89