Posts Tagged ‘Four Roses’

Top 10 Rated Whiskies from the Winter 2014 Issue

Friday, November 14th, 2014

The winter issue of Whisky Advocate will be hitting the newsstands in early December. Until then, here’s a sneak preview of the Buying Guide. It’s our biggest yet; with 157 whiskies reviewed. We start with #10 and conclude with the highest-rated whisky of our winter issue.

#10: Port Ellen 1978 35 year old (Diageo Special Release 2014), 56.5%, $3,300Port Ellen bottle&box LR

Scarcity and the secondary market have driven prices up, so either buddy-up to a rich guy, or club together to try this. Greater levels of cask interaction have added an extra dimension to a whisky that is often skeletal. The smoke’s in the background, as salted cashew, peppermint, tansy, furniture polish, and smoked meats take center stage. The palate is slowly expanding and smoked, with some chocolate and wax. Finally, a Port Ellen that is truly, classically mature. A killer. (2,964 bottles)—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

Makers Cask Strength Hi Res

#9: Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, 56.6%, $40/375 ml

This is what I wish the standard Maker’s Mark would be: more mature, spicier, more complex, and with a richer finish. Caramel kissed with honey provides a base for marzipan, cotton candy, cinnamon, clove, and a balancing leather dryness on the finish.–John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93The Joker Hanyu color label

#8: Ichiro’s Malt The Joker (distilled at Hanyu), 57.7%, £220

The final deal of Ichiro Akuto’s Card Series, a vatting of Hanyu from 1985 to 2000. Highly complex, rich, and distinctly resinous. Typical Hanyu boldness, but with balance struck between weightiness, finesse, and intensity. There’s old cobbler’s shop, tack room, light smoke, incense, ink, autumn leaves, and sumac. The palate is sweet to start, then builds in power. Leathery, then praline, damson jam, and fine tannins. Water loosens the tension, allowing yuzu to show. What a way to go out.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#7: Four Roses 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.9%, $90

C2014LESmallBatch_Frontrisp clove, cool mint, cinnamon, and cocoa mingle with glazed orange, honeyed vanilla, caramel, and maple syrup. Polished oak and leather on the finish balance the sweet, fruity notes. More oak and dried spice when compared to the 2013 release (our American Whiskey of the Year) and, while not quite reaching that caliber (it’s not quite as seamless, drinkable, or complex), it gets close. Very impressive. –John HansellSpeyside

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#6: The Exclusive Malts Speyside 25 year old 1989 Cask #3,942, 48.8%, $200

Exclusive Malts doesn’t disclose the source distillery, which doesn’t matter when you’ve got a whisky that’s a gem. Apple cider defines the nose and is complemented by ginger and iris. On the palate this whisky is lush but well balanced, with honeyed apple cider, gingerbread cookie, and baked apple. In the center of all this is rancio. Ginger spice and baked apple define the finish, which is long and flavorful. Great balance, integration, and flavor. What more can you ask for? (U.S. only)
Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

Park_Avenue-Rare_Release#5: Scotch Malt Whisky Society Hunting Hound on Holiday 4.180 24 year old 1989, 51.3%, $225

From the nose you can tell this is a special whisky, with old, dark, lacquered wood, dusty cigar box, and sea salt combined with dark sweet cherry and a hint of rancio. On the palate it gets even better, with lush, dark cherry perfectly balanced and integrated with oak spice, salt, and peat smoke. There’s clear rancio in the center of it all that’s utterly delicious. This stunner finishes with a long, slightly spicy, and entirely lovely finish. (Park Avenue Liquor only) – Geoffrey KleinmanMidleton Very Rare 2013 Bottle

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#4: Midleton Very Rare 2014, 40%, $125

Make way. The nose is dense, oily, and mesmeric. There’s vanilla, sure, but it’s the intense aroma of vanilla pods split and scraped at knifepoint. Woven around it, there’s crème caramel and heavier cinnamon flaring at the margins, softening with dilution, but remaining sweet. The first Midleton to carry master distiller Brian Nation’s name is purposeful and assured, lacking some of the sappiness of the 2013 release. This is less about succession, more an emphatic statement of intent.—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

Brora bottle&box#3: Brora 1978 35 year old (Diageo Special Release 2014), 48.6%, $1,250

This is the 13th annual release of Brora, which has been aged in refill American oak and refill European oak casks. Hessian and hemp on the early nose, with a whiff of ozone, discreet peat, and old tar. Fragrant and fruity notes develop, with ripe apples, and a hint of honey. The palate is waxy, sweet, and spicy, with heather and ginger. Mildly medicinal and smoky. Dries steadily in the finish to aniseed, black pepper, dark chocolate, and fruity tannins. (2,964 bottles) —Gavin SmithSazerac Rye 18

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

#2: Sazerac Rye 18 year old, 45%, $80

A benchmark aged rye whiskey, and it’s similar in profile to recent releases. Vibrant for its age. Complex too, brimming with allspice, clove, mint, and cinnamon. The spice notes are balanced by soft vanilla, soothing caramel, and candied summer fruits. Impeccably balanced, and a pure joy to drink! –John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

Stagg#1: George T. Stagg, 69.05%, $80

No age statement, but distilled in 1998. A beautiful expression of Stagg, and a lot of bourbon for your buck. Easy to drink with the addition of water, showing caramel, nougat, dates, dark chocolate, polished oak, along with a hint of leather and tobacco. Slightly better than last year’s release—richer, thicker, and more balanced. I’m enjoying Stagg’s more rounded, less aggressive demeanor of late. A classic! –John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

Whisky Advocate’s Fall Issue Buying Guide’s Top Ten Reviews

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The fall issue of Whisky Advocate will hit the newsstands September 1st. It’s a great issue from cover to cover, and the Buying Guide contains more reviews than ever before. Today we offer a sneak peek at the Top Ten whiskies reviewed. (As always, if the price is not listed in U.S. dollars, the whisky is not currently available in the U.S. market.)

JW&Sons Priv Coll 2014#10 – John Walker & Sons Private Collection 2014 Edition, 46.8%, £500

Smoke begins Jim Beveridge’s public replication of the annual Directors Blend concept, built around Johnnie Walker’s signature characteristics. Peat smoke harks back to Islay, but there’s wood smoke, tobacco leaf, and malt, with a salty richness behind it. The grain just gives it a lift of extra sweetness. Polished, with great structure; red apple, raspberry, and sweet linctus wrap up with a long, smoky finish of cigar stub and peat stores. Clear parallels with Directors Blend 2009, but better. (8,888 decanters released)—Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

#9 – Benjamin Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey, 40%, $45

Although the Prichard distillery is located in Lincoln County, it has a Prichards TN Whiskey Vertical Bannerspecial exemption from using the Lincoln County Process and isn’t charcoal filtered.  The nose reflects that with bright aromas including caramel, cinnamon, and oak. The entry is sweet caramel corn followed by soft cinnamon and black pepper with a boost from some oak. A medium, slightly dry finish completes a very flavorful but still extremely easy-drinking Tennessee whiskey. This is the crown jewel of the Prichard distillery line.—Geoffrey Kleinman

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

feathery #8 – The Feathery, 40%, £39

Chocolate-covered raisins scoffed on a heathery moor, leather riding tack, intense plain chocolate, malt loaf, mixed nuts, Medjool dates, and traces of wood ash. A gorgeous, unctuous mouthfeel with flavors spun around bright sparks of orange, dark toffee, and rich maltiness, melding to black cherry, stewed fruits, licorice, and charred oak. Named for the leather golf balls packed with goose feathers used in the early 19th century. Sink one for a birdie. From the bottlers of Sheep Dip. —Jonny McCormick

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

#7 – Glenfarclas Family Casks 1988 Cask #434, 53.4%, £345

Quite earthy, with orris root, burlap, and dunnage warehouse notes.  Distinctly meaty—Bovril (beef stock)—then cedary. This untamed edge—think Mortlach or Benrinnes—dominates the palate, but the cask (a refill butt) isn’t overstating its presence. There’s espresso on the finish. Here’s Glenfarclas taking a ramble on the wild side. If your preference is for more robust styles, then look no further. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Bakers
#6 – Baker’s, 53.5%, $47

Rich, multi-layered nose: vanilla, cornmeal, berries (black raspberries, wineberries), and broad-shouldered oak. Powerful, but not overproof hot in the mouth; controlled. The berries sing a high counter-melody over the corn-oak beat as the whole experience rocks along. It’s powerful, sweet, authoritative, and finishes with a reprise of it all: berries, corn, vanilla, and stronger oak. Mature, complete bourbon with a 7 year age statement, and a real sleeper in the Small Batch Collection. —Lew Bryson

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Lagavulin_1995 Feis Ile 2014
#5 – Lagavulin 1995 Feis Ile 2014 bottling, 54.7%, £99

A sherry-cask Lagavulin, this immediately shows a rich, mellow power with a touch of potter’s wheel, but it needs water to bring out sandalwood, beach bonfire, kombu, Lapsang Souchong, and bog myrtle. The palate is where it shows itself fully; resinous and thick, unctuous even, with that scented pine/juniper tea note shifting into paprika-rubbed ham, membrillo, currants, blackberry. I’ve a feeling that this period will be seen as Lagavulin’s golden age.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#4 – Glenfarclas Family Casks 1987 Cask #3829, 48%, £230

This is the bomb. Savory and lightly meaty, but sweetened by plum sauce; there’s even some strawberry around the fringes. You could see how with another 30 years this would end up like the ’54. Elegant yet powerful, there’s sandalwood incense, marmalade, even a little dried mango. The distillery’s density is balanced by this fruit. Lush with supple tannins and at its best neat. From a refill butt, this is an exemplary sherried malt. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

 

FR 2014 Single Barrel#3 – Four Roses 2014 Limited Edition Single Barrel, 60%, $100

Aged 11 years, this year’s single barrel release is a lively mix of caramel and bright, zingy orange on palate entry. Cinnamon, vanilla, and mint emerge mid-palate, leading to polished oak, baked apple, and a hint of leather on the finish. A lively bourbon, with crisp, clean flavors and nicely balanced. Another winner from Four Roses. —John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#2 – Crown Royal Monarch, 40%, $75Crown Royal Monarch 75th Anniv Blend_LR

Monarch, the 75th anniversary limited edition of Canada’s best-selling whisky, raises the already high Crown Royal flavor bar. Zesty rye from an ancient Coffey still is the throbbing heart of this blend, balancing cloves, ginger, cinnamon, glowing hot pepper, and that gorgeous sour bitterness of rye grain against crispy, fresh-sawn lumber, fragrant lilacs, dark fruits, and green apples. Butterscotch, chocolate, toffee, mint, pine needles, and sweet pitchy balsam enrich a luscious, creamy mouthfeel carefully tempered by grapefruit pith. —Davin deKergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

And the top rated whisky of the fall 2014 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine is…

Glenfarclas Family Cask 1954 2014 Series

Glenfarclas Family Casks 1954 Cask #1260, 47.2%, £1,995

A rich amber color and elegantly oxidized notes greet you. There are luscious old fruits—pineapple, dried peach, apricot—and puffs of coal-like smokiness. In time, sweet spices (cumin especially) emerge. Superbly balanced. The palate, while fragile, still has real sweetness alongside a lick of treacle. It can take a drop of water, allowing richer, darker fruits to emerge. The finish is powerful, long, and resonant. Superb, not over-wooded, and a fair price for such a rarity. —Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

 

Whisky Advocate’s Winter Issue Top 10 Buying Guide Reviews

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Here it is: a sneak preview of Whisky Advocate‘s winter 2013 issue’s Buying Guide. Revealed here are the top 10 rated whiskies. We begin the list with #10 and conclude with the #1 highest-rated whisky of the issue.

Forty Creek Heart_of_Gold_bottle#10: Forty Creek Heart of Gold, 43%, C$70

Each fall, whisky lovers in Canada and Texas anticipate John Hall’s new limited edition whisky. This year’s sits squarely in the golden heart of classic Canadian rye. Tingling gingery pepper is bathed in ultra-creamy butterscotch, woody maple syrup, black tea, and barley sugar. Prune juice and ripe dark fruits dissolve into dried apricots and zesty hints of citrus. Then floral rye notes turn dusty, with gentle wisps of willow smoke. Complex, full-bodied, and slowly evolving, so let it breathe.—Davin de Kergommeaux

Advanced Whisky Advocate rating: 93

Handy Sazerac2

#9: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac, 64.2%, $70

The youthful, testosterone-laden member of the Antique Collection family. Bold and spicy with cinnamon and clove, but softened and balanced by thick toffee, vanilla, and honeyed orchard fruit. Lush and mouth-coating. An exercise in extremes: bold, muscular spice, along with soothing sweeter notes. While its older sibling, Sazerac 18 year old, expresses a classic “older rye” low-risk profile, Handy pushes the envelope in many directions.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

#8: Eagle Rare 17 year old (bottled Spring 2013), 45%, $70

Often overlooked in this portfolio because it isn’t barrel proof. The last few years of this bourbon have been wonderful. This year is no exception, with a bit more spice. Notes of nutty toffee, caramel, creamy vanilla, and pot still rum, with interwoven hints of oak resin, dried spice, tobacco, and honeyed fruit. Hint of barrel char and anise for intrigue. Delicious! (And actually 19 years old, even though it bears the traditional 17 year age statement.)—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94
Elijah Craig 21 Year Old
#7: Elijah Craig 21 year old Single Barrel (No. 42), 45%, $140

Surprisingly reserved on the oak spice; it tastes like a bourbon half its age. Soothing in nature, with layers of sweetness (honey, vanilla cream, caramel, nougat), lively complex fruit (coconut, pineapple, ripe peach, honeydew melon), and gentle cinnamon. Soft, creamy finish. A whiskey that has aged very gracefully. Delicious! (This is a single barrel; every barrel is unique.)—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94SazeracRye18year2

#6: Sazerac 18 year old (bottled Fall 2013), 45%, $70

Still lively for 18 years old, with no hint of interfering oak. The age has softened the rye spice, making it an easy entry into the premium rye category. The balance here is beautiful, with rounded spice (mint, cinnamon, licorice root) on a bed of soft vanilla and caramel. Gently, dry finish. Very sophisticated for a rye. It remains my benchmark for extra-matured rye whiskeys, which are becoming exceedingly scarce.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#5: William Larue Weller, 68.1%, $70

The traditionally gentle demeanor of this wheated bourbon is jazzed up with some lovely complex spice (mostly coming from the oak). Sweet notes of maple syrup, silky caramel, blackberry jam, and blueberry are peppered with notes of allspice spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. Soft leather on the finish. Great balance. A lovely whiskey!—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95
GeorgeTStagg2
#4: George T. Stagg, 64.1%, $70

Less alcohol than past Staggs, even at 128.2° proof. This whiskey has always been one of the best in the portfolio, and its reputation is intact. Sweeter and fuller in body than recent releases, and not as masculine, making it easier to drink. (Don’t worry; it’s still a big Stagg, but with a smaller “rack.”) Vanilla taffy, nougat, dates, polished oak, roasted nuts, leather, and tobacco: it’s all there.—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 95

#3:  Yoichi 1988 single cask, 62%, €185

Though aged in virgin American oak, it’s distillery character that’s in charge here; a fully expressive Yoichi. Rich, mysterious, layered, mixing rich fruit compote with scented coastal smoke (ozone, tar, soot) alongside masses of vetiver and cigar humidor. The palate is oily and immense, with fluxing layers of sweet fruit, oily peat, salt, and ink; camphor, flax seed, and in among the smoke, apple mint. Long, insanely complex, and jaw-droppingly good. This will go down as a classic.—Dave Broom

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96Redbreast 21 Year Old

#2: Redbreast 21 year old, 46%, $180

Wow! After the wonderful 12 year old cask strength, Redbreast does it again. This is a different beast altogether, but it is a stunner. This is Roger Waters doing The Wall: over the top, unsubtle, and totally entertaining. There’s lots going on: fermenting apples, juicy oils, spice, and dark cherry and berry fruits zip and fizz over the palate, the wood influence is sublime. I’m comfortably numb.—Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 96

125th_Front_SMBLE#1: Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch, 51.5%, $85

A marriage of 13 and 18 year old bourbons. A mature yet very elegant whiskey, with a silky texture and so easy to embrace with a splash of water. Balanced notes of honeyed vanilla, soft caramel, a basket of complex orchard fruit, blackberry, papaya, and a dusting of cocoa and nutmeg; smooth finish. Sophisticated, stylish, with well-defined flavors. A classic!—John Hansell

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 97

 

2013: The Year of Great Premium Bourbon

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

author-hansellWhiskey prices keep climbing, and none of us are happy about it. It’s a simple matter of economics: supply vs. demand. The entire world has discovered the joy of whiskey and there isn’t enough to go around.

But if we can set aside the price issue for a moment and look at the quality of the product on the market, it’s quite apparent to me that 2013 will go down as a great year for premium and super-premium bourbon, and other American whiskeys, like rye and Tennessee. Let’s take a look at what’s been released this year.

The premium whiskeys we expect to be great every year are great again this year

Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Eagle Rare 17 yr., Parker's_ALS_Promise of Hope_Bottle ShotSazerac 18 yr., and Thomas H. Handy) delivers an amazingly consistent combination of quality and variety.

Then there’s the new Parker’s Heritage Collection “Promise of Hope” bottling. While the Antique Collection might get all the attention, Parker’s new release is just great, honest, no frills bourbon that I could drink every day and never tire of it.

On top of this, we have another stunning Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch for 2013. After we gave the 2012 Limited Edition Whisky Advocate’s “American Whiskey of the Year” honors, I thought that there was no way Jim Rutledge and the team at Four Roses could ever match that one. But they did with the 2013 Small Batch release! And the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel offering is no slouch either.

Even the “hit and miss” annual releases are great this year

2013 saw two different Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection releases, six bottles in total—four different wheated bourbonsOldForBDay2013 that experimented with barrel entry proof and two 15 year old bourbons that varied the barrel stave seasoning times. All four wheated bourbons, while tasting quite different, were very good to excellent. The 15 year old bourbon with the extended 13 month stave drying time blew me away with enriched sweet, creamy notes that balanced the dried oak spice that comes with 15 years of aging, without the harsh tannins often found in bourbon that old.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release for 2013 was the best in many years. And my Elijah Craig 21 year old Single Barrel rocked! (Mine was from Barrel No. 42 if you’re keeping track. I did taste whiskey from other barrels and they were still good, but not quite of the stature of No. 42.)

George Dickel gets into the act too!
Dickel Hand Selected Barrel 9
After wishing for years that George Dickel would put out some great super-premium Tennessee whiskeys, they finally did. I was thrilled to see them introduce to retailers the new single cask “hand selected barrel” offerings at both 9 and 14 years of age—and higher proof! I particularly enjoyed the 9 year old samples I tasted. There’s so much untapped potential there at Dickel. Let’s start tapping it.

The new stuff is also exciting

Angel’s Envy Rye was like a breath of fresh air, combining rye spice with the rummy notes gained from being finished off in rum barrels. Beam came out with a new Distiller’s Masterpiece finished in PX casks and two new “Signature Craft” releases; one a standard 12 year old, the other finished with Spanish brandy. Wild Turkey Forgiven married bourbon with rye whiskeys. Okay, so maybe some of this new stuff isn’t of the caliber of the other whiskeys I mentioned above, but it was the icing on the cake of a really great year.

Sure, there’s still some ho-hum whiskeys

The Stagg Jr. I reviewed was a bit harsh and aggressive on the finish, and I could take or leave the two new Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Limited Edition Malt releases. Still, these were the exceptions to what otherwise was an outstanding year for premium and super-premium American whiskey.

All this, and not one mention of Pappy…

Four Bourbons To Buy This Fall

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

John HansellAll of these will be sold in the U.S. I’ve tried them all. These are all new and will be released over the next month or so. They are the best I’ve tasted this year (so far). In alphabetical order:

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 21 year old ($140)

My barrel sample (Barrel No. 42) tastes very close in flavor profile and quality to the Elijah Craig 20 year old single barrel (Barrel No. 3735) that was our “American Whiskey of the Year” in 2011. Those of you who were fortunate enough to get a bottle of that (sold only at Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center) know what I’m talking about.

Four Roses “Limited Edition Small Batch” (2013 release) ($90-100)

Very close in personality and quality as last year’s 2012 limited edition release, our “American Whiskey of the Year” for 2012. Enough said!

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2013 release) 12 year old ($55)

The best tasting (and best balanced) OFBB release in many years.

Parker’s Heritage Collection “Promise of Hope” 10 year old ($90)

A single barrel bottling, but with no barrel number identified. Reminds me somewhat of the roundness, great flavor profile, and drinkability of the PHC Golden Anniversary release. And it’s for a good cause. Heaven Hill will donate $20 of every bottle sold to the ALS Association’s Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund. A bourbon that will make you feel good for many reasons.

 

Some new whiskeys I like, and some I don’t like (part 1)

Monday, August 12th, 2013

John HansellWhiskeys might be more expensive (and perhaps harder to find) these days but, after tasting my way through some new releases, it’s pretty clear that there are still plenty of high quality whiskeys coming on the market. Here’s a run down of the ones I like, don’t like, and why.

Part 1 focuses on American Whiskeys. Part 2, which I will publish in about a week or so, will address some new single malt Scotch whisky, blended Scotch whisky, and a new Indian whisky I’ve recently tasted.

Bourbon & Tennessee Whiskeys

Four Roses Small Batch 2013Let’s start with new bourbon releases. There are quite a few of them. For those of you who enjoyed the Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch (I did–I named it Whisky Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year last year), I think you will like the Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch. It  is similar in flavor profile, with a little more oak spice and a touch less honey. This whiskey is already on my short list of favorite new bourbons for 2013.

Similarly, I am equally impressed by the new Elijah Craig 21 Year Old Single Barrel review sample that I have (Barrel No. 42). Heaven Hill has discontinued the most recent 20 year old offering and has replaced it with a 21 year old release. As you will recall, two years ago I named the Elijah Craig 20 Year Old  Single Barrel (Barrel No. 3735) our American Whiskey of the Year. The new 21 year old single barrel is very similar in profile to the award-winning 20 year old with a bit more oak influence. It’s elegant, subtly complex, with some intriguing tropical fruit, and–most important of all–not over-oaked, which is something we all need to be concerned about when buying bourbons that are 20+ years in age.

Let me be clear about one thing though, regarding these Elijah Craig 21 year old single barrel offerings: I’m giving you my thoughts on whiskey from just one barrel (Barrel No. 42), and I don’t know what the other barrels are going to taste like. Hopefully, they will be similar in profile. However, after I tasted our award winning EC 20 single barrel two years ago, I tasted two other barrels after that and both–whiles still very nice bourbons–definitely showed more oak in their flavor profiles. I am hoping to taste more of the Elijah Craig 21 year old single barrels as they come out. If I do, I’ll offer my thoughts here in the comment thread. Bottom line here: the barrel that I’m reviewing (and that other writers are reviewing right now) are review samples sent directly to us from Heaven Hill. Could they have cherry picked the best barrel or barrels? It’s possible. Fair warning…

EC 21I’ve been checking out the recent Booker’s Bourbon offerings. There’s one in particular I wanted to tell you about that I think really stands out. It’s richly flavored and nicely balanced. It’s my favorite Booker’s so far this year, and it’s just about get into circulation. (I’m not sure exactly where, though. Sorry.) It’s bottled at 127.1 proof and is Batch No. 2013-4.

You may have heard rumblings of a new George Dickel Barrel Program. Well, it’s definitely a reality. I’ve always been a big fan of George Dickel (especially the Barrel Select), and when I heard that they were going to start offering older, single barrels to retail accounts for purchase, I got very excited.

At the moment, there are two different ages of single barrels available to retailers to chose from: a 9 year old (bottled at 103 proof) and a 14 year old (bottled at 106 proof). Diageo was kind enough to send me two barrel samples from each year, and I’ve just tasted them. They are delicious! If you’re a Dickel fan, then you’ll want to track down a bottle. Based on the samples I was sent, here’s my advice: go for the 9 year old if you can find one. I think they’re a little more balanced (i.e. not as oak-driven) as the 14 year old and I suspect it will cost less too! (If any of you know where to find the 9 year old, let us know. I’d like to buy one myself!)

BTEC Wheat Mash Enrty ProofThe newest release of Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection is out, and this time there are four of them. They’re all wheated bourbons and the difference between them (from a production standpoint) is the barrel entry proof (125, 115, 105, and 90). In short: if you can find yourself a bottle of one of these, give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed, if you enjoy wheated bourbons. (My favorite is the 90 proof entry expression.) Some will rate a 90 or more when I eventually review them formally.

STAGG JR FrontOkay, and now for the bourbon that didn’t impress me: the new Stagg Jr. by Buffalo Trace. It is, according to my press release, a younger sibling to the more mature George T. Stagg releases. There’s no age statement, but it contains whiskeys aged for 8-9 years. Yes, Stagg Jr. big and bold like the original George T. Stagg, but it is harsher and more aggressive (with the spice and oak notes) than George T. Stagg. I just don’t enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong. George T. Stagg is certainly no wimpy whiskey. But it’s usually also incredibly complex and well-balanced. Stagg Jr.’s aggressiveness crosses to line. My advice: save your pennies and spring for the older George T. Stagg if you are choosing between the two.

Thoughts on some new whiskies

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

John HansellThe stream of new whiskies keep coming. Here are my thoughts on some that I’ve tried over the past month or so.

ArdbogStarting with scotch, I’m enjoying the new Ardbeg “Ardbog.” I must be. I’m halfway through my bottle. (Okay, so I had some help.) It’s contains some Ardbeg matured in Manzanilla sherry casks. I think the Manzanilla integrates a little better than the Marsala in Ardbeg, which was the sherry influence in Ardbeg’s previous release, Galileo. Plus, I find myself in the mood more for Ardbog than I do Galileo.

At WhiskyFest Chicago, I tasted the new Port Charlotte 10 year old (PC 10) from Bruichladdich and really liked it. Great balance to it, along with a nice maturity. This whisky has really come of age.

Regarding Irish whiskey, I tasted a new Powers Signature Release Single Pot Still whiskey at WhiskyFest, bottled at 46% and not chill-filtered. There’s no age statement, and it doesn’t taste as old as Powers John’s Lane 12 year old, but I really enjoyed it. It’s another nicely balanced, flavorful Irish whiskey. (I’m told it will be in the U.S. this September.)

Up north in Canada, Canadian Club has introduced a Canadian Club 12 year old Small Batch. According to my contact, it contains a higher percentage of barley and is aged in more first-fill casks than the standard CC 12. I think I would enjoy something light like this during the warmer summer months.

Port_Charlotte_TenHere in the U.S., there’s a bunch of new releases from Beam. The Limited Edition “Distiller’s Masterpiece” is an “extra-aged” bourbon finished in Pedro Ximinez (PX) sherry casks. Those of you who know PX sherry won’t be surprised when I tell you that there’s a lot of raisonated fruit in there, along with layers of toffee and other caramelized sugars. It’s a polarizing whisky, given the fruit, but I’m enjoying it as a change of pace. It’s also expensive ($200) and only available at the distillery. Those of you drinking bourbon as long as me will remember the Beam released two previous Distiller’s Masterpiece whiskies over a decade ago, one finished in cognac and the other finished in port wine. They were older (18 and 19, respectively), and I liked both of these more than this new release.

Beam has also released two Beam “Signature Craft” whiskeys: one is a 12 year old (which will be a regular stock item), and the other is finished in Spanish brandy (the first of a series of limited edition releases). I like the 12 year old. It’s very traditional, polished, nicely rounded and easy-going. It’s not going to set the world on fire with excitement, but it is indeed very enjoyable with nothing to complain about (except perhaps for the ABV, which is 43%. I would like to see it at 45% or maybe even higher.) The Spanish Brandy  release is more of a mood whiskey, given it’s Spanish brandy influence. It’s rich, fruity and sweet. Just like the Distiller’s Masterpiece above, I think some of you might like this for variety, but “traditionalists” might not be so receptive.

Kavalan Solist VinhoHeaven Hill has released a Limited Edition Barrel Proof Elijah Craig 12 year old. It’s nice to see the age statement still on this whiskey. (It seems all too often that when a producer introduces a barrel proof version of a brand, they do away with the age statement and release it at a younger age.) I like it! It’s very much in the EC style: lots of chewy, nutty toffee notes. In fact, given its higher proof, I would describe it as chunky–in a good way. It’s not a polished or refined bourbon, but it sure is flavorful.

Finally, I would like to mention two other new whiskies I’m enjoying. The new Amrut Greedy Angels  (50% ABV) proves once again that this distillery from India can release lovely whiskies. Also, the whiskies from Taiwan’s Kavalan distillery will be here in the U.S. later this year. I recently tasted my way through their line-up. While I was pleased with most of their offerings, I was particularly impressed with the Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique bottling. It was complex, distinctive, and nicely mature.

Updated: Two late additions I almost forgot about. (Thanks Adam for the reminder in the comment section on both.) My Editor’s Pick for the Summer issue of Whisky Advocate is the new Angel’s Envy Rye. I really like that whisky. I enjoy the spice from the rye and how it dovetails with the Caribbean rum notes. I also am enjoying the new Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon. It’s 13 years old, but the oak is kept in check, with plenty of spice, fruit and sweetness.

How about you? What new releases have you been enjoying lately?

 

 

 

 

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics Announced

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

I wanted to share with you our list of seminar topics and whiskies scheduled for the WhiskyFest New York 2013 weekend. The seminar program, outlined below, will take place on Saturday, October 12th.

Some of the whiskies are being produced and bottled just for this event–you won’t see or taste them anywhere else. They’re still “work in progress” and are identified as TBD (to be determined). We are very excited about the program and the whiskies. Hopefully you can join us. I’ll provide additional updates as we get closer to the event.

WhiskyFest New York 2013 Seminar Topics

Wanted: Dead or Alive

A tasting of rare whiskies: two from demolished distilleries and two from active distilleries. Industry experts will be on-hand to describe these whiskies and what makes them so special

Moderator: Jonny McCormick

  • Glenury Royal 23 yr. old, bottled in 1997. A rare bottling of single malt scotch from a distillery that last produced in 1983.
  • Stitzel-Weller bourbon (TBD). This legendary bourbon distillery closed in the early 1990s. We will taste something rare from the Diageo stocks that remain.
  • Kininvie (TBD). Relatively new distillery owned by William Grant and on the site of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, but rarely ever bottled and never imported to the U.S.
  • Sazerac 18 yr. old Rye. This is the first-ever release of this now legendary rye whiskey, Distilled in 1981 and  bottled in 2000.

 

Glenmorangie-Pride-1981LR-300x200Whisky Legend #1: Jimmy Russell

We spend time with Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, talk about life and whiskey, and taste a very special Wild Turkey whiskey selected by Jimmy.

Moderator: Lew Bryson

 

 

12 in all the World

The world’s best whiskymakers each produce just twelve bottles of a whiskey exclusively for WhiskyFest, never to be tasted anywhere else. Ever. (Whisky specifics TBD.)

Moderator: Dave Broom

  • Ardbeg
  • Balvenie
  • Highland Park
  • Aberlour

 

Auchentoshan 1979 OlorosoWhisky Legend #2: Jim McEwan

We spend time with Bruichladdich Whiskymaker Jim McEwan, talk about life and whisky, and taste a very special Bruichladdich selected by Jim just for this occassion.

Moderator: Dave Broom

 

Scotch & Chocolate

Whiskymakers collaborate with chocolatiers, each pairing a whisky with a specific chocolate. Both the whiskymakers and chocolatiers will be on the panel to discuss their parings. (Details on the whiskies and chocolates TBD.)

Moderator: Gavin Smith

  • Compass Box (Featuring John Glaser of Compass Box)
  • Glenmorangie (Featuring Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie)
  • Dalmore (Featuring Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay)

 

Talisker lunch

We taste a special selection of four different Talisker whiskies.

Moderator: Dave Broom

 

Balvenie TUN1401-Batch5_ComboLR1-225x300Whisky Legend #3: Parker Beam

We spend time with Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, talk about life, whiskey, and his recent diagnosis of ALS, and taste a very special whiskey selected by Parker.

Moderators: Lew Bryson & John Hansell

 

Where Whisky is Heading

Taste the hottest, cutting edge whiskies along with the master distillers and blenders who are making them.

Moderator: Dominic Roskrow

  • The evolution of US Artisan distilling: Anchor Hotalings
  • Bourbon Innovation: Something new and special from Buffalo Trace (TBD)
  • Japanese whisky boom: Something new to the U.S. from Japan’s Nikka whisky company.
  • The trend towards blended malts. Featuring Blue Hanger, Whisky Advocate Blend of the Year

 

The Best!

Taste several of the Whisky Advocate award winning whiskies, along with Whisky Advocate’s esteemed whisky writers who chose them.

Moderator: John Hansell

  • Glenmorangie Pride 1981 Vintage (>$3,000/bottle!): Gavin Smith
  • Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch: John Hansell
  • Auchentoshan 1979 Vintage: Gavin Smith
  • Balvenie Tun 1401: Dave Broom
  • Lot No. 40: Davin de Kergommeaux
  • Yellow Spot: Dominic Roskrow
  • Corsair Triple Smoke: Lew Bryson

(Please note: whiskies subject to change)

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: American Whiskey of the Year

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.7%, $90

The Four Roses distillery is unique in that they use five different yeast strains and two mashbills. This allows them to make ten completely different bourbons, which they definitely are doing.2012SmallBatchFront

It’s been great fun, as a whiskey enthusiast, tasting and comparing the different types of whiskey that Four Roses produces. They have been very open about their coding system, which explains the yeast strains and mashbills used to make a given bourbon; quite often putting this information right on the bottle. That’s what they’ve done with this release.

By blending these ten different whiskeys together, master distiller Jim Rutledge has the potential to create a great, complex bourbon. This particular bottling is a marriage of four different bourbons ranging from 11 to 17 years old (one 17 year old whiskey, two 12 year olds, and an 11 year old).

This, to me, is benchmark Four Roses: subtly complex, vibrant, yet fully matured, with well-defined flavors of bramble, dry citrus, soft creamy vanilla, caramel, marzipan, allspice, a hint of cinnamon, and subtle cedar-aged cigar tobacco. It’s soft and clean, with a polished oak finish.

It’s also a very versatile bourbon and should accommodate most situations and moods. Like I said in my original review of this whiskey: your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.  —John Hansell

Tomorrow, the Canadian Whisky of the Year will be announced.

Four whiskies that impressed me this year, and one disappointment.

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I was thinking about the new whiskies I’ve tasted this year, and which ones stood out (for better or worse). Here are four I really liked, and one that let me down, in that order.

Lagavulin 21 yr. old Limited Edition (2012 release)

The first time I had this was at WhiskyFest New York during the seminar’s lunch program. It’s aged in sherry casks, and it’s a real stunner. It’s packed with flavors, seamless, rich, and the sherry and smoke dovetail nicely. One of my most favorite Lagavulin whiskies ever. It’s just getting into circulation here in the U.S. so get one while you can. (You can check out Dave Broom’s review of it for Whisky Advocate here.)

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch No. 3

A bottling that went to the U.S. and has been out for sometime now, which I reviewed here earlier this year. Have a look at my review. (There’s a Batch No. 6 that’s replacing it, but I haven’t triend that one yet.) A beautiful whisky, and one of the best Balvenies I’ve tasted in quite a while.

Yellow Spot

We blogged about this new Irish single pot still whiskey here, so check out the link if you want more information. It’s the new, older sibling to Green Spot, which is also a great whiskey. My bottle didn’t last long at all. That’s saying a lot, given that I have plenty of whiskeys at my disposal to drink. (Sadly, like Green Spot, this whiskey is not available in the U.S.)

Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch

With two different mash bills and five different yeast strains, you can imagine the potential that Four Roses has to make a great, complex bourbon. Well, the did just that. My review here here pretty much says it all. Like I state in my review, “your decision shouldn’t be whether to buy it, but rather how much water to add.”

And now for the disappointment…

Woodford Master’s Collection Four Wood

I really appreciate the experimentation that Brown-Forman is doing with the Master’s Collection line. It’s always nice to see whiskey companies trying new things, but this one has let me down. It’s the seventh and newest release in the Master’s Collection line. This one’s aged in: American, Maple, Sherry, and Port wood.

I enjoy the nose on this whiskey–there’s plenty going on and it’s very inviting. But the palate is a different story. It’s very sweet up front (bordering on cloying). Then, there’s an emergence of flavors (wood spice, stewed fruit, caramel, etc.) that turns very busy and lacks integration. The flavors just don’t play well with each other. To me, the whiskey is trying too hard to impress and achieves the opposite.