Posts Tagged ‘Parker’s Heritage Collection’

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.

 

More new whiskies, and some disappointments

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

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

Kilchoman Sherry Cask release

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

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

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

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

Straight from Heaven Hill:

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

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

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

Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old

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

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

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

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

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

High West American Prairie Reserve Bourbon

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

Buffalo Trace releases Round Six of their Single Oak bourbon project

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Parker’s Heritage Collection Barrel Finished 10 year old, 50%, $80

Heaven Hill’s first wood-finished bourbon. Finished for several months in cognac casks (reminiscent of Beam’s Distillers’ Masterpiece offering around a decade ago), which show nicely without dominating. Very silky and smooth in texture. Notes of graham cracker, dark fleshy fruit (ripe grape, blackberry brandy), light toffee, maple syrup on pancakes, and creamy vanilla. Great balance, distinctive, and perilously drinkable for 100 proof.

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91

Some new whiskies I’ve been enjoying

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

I was in San Francisco most of last week hosting WhiskyFest (More on that in a bit). We’re gearing up for our New York WhiskyFest which is only a couple weeks away. In the interim, we’ve got to put together the Winter issue of Whisky Advocate. So, if you’re wondering where I’ve been lately, now you know. This is the busiest time of the year for me. The moment I get some free time, I will post something up here.

I’ve been tasting a lot of whiskies lately. Formal reviews will follow for most of them. But, in the interim, so you can get a jump on your autumn whisky-buying, I’ll let you know my informal thoughts now.

I was able to taste the new Bruichladdich 10 year old at WhiskyFest. (It’s not in the U.S. yet, but the importer brought me a sample.) As you may know, this is the first 10 year old whisky being sold that was produced by the current owners. It’s a new dawn for Bruichladdich, and I am happy to say that this whisky is very good. Most of it is from bourbon barrels, but there’s some sherry casks thrown in too. I just hope they can keep this profile consistant going forward. If they do, it could become the go-to entry level non-smoky Island whisky (competing with Highland Park 12 year old and Bunnahabhain 12 year old  for that honor). To me, it tastes like a 12 year old whisky.

Another whisky that surprised me was the Kilkerran WIP (Work In Progress) 3rd release. If memory serves me correctly, it’s 7 years old and tasted surprisingly fresh and also nicely mature for its age.

Dr. Bill Lumsden, after his Ardbeg seminar, let me sample a 1975 Ardbeg from a sample bottle (Cask #4714) from a refill sherry cask which I thought was outstanding! My favorite whisky of the night. He said they’ve been using so much from this cask at whisky shows, they won’t have much left when it is bottled. But let me put it this way: when it’s bottled, I am buying a bottle (if it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg).

I tried some of the Samaroli releases. This independent bottler is new to the U.S. I tasted a 1967 Tomintoul and a 34 year old Glenlivet which were delicious. (The Glenlivet was not identified as such–it had a false name which I didn’t write down. I’ll try to dig that one up and let you know what it was called.). I’m not sure what the prices and availability of these whiskies will be at this time. Details to follow.

I have a bottle of the Shackleton whisky, which I have really been enjoying over the past couple of weeks. Very distinctive for a blend, and with plenty of character. Dominic Roskrow rated it in the lown 90s for us, and I would probably have given it at least a 90 myself if I formally reviewed it.

Another new blended scotch I really like for its drinkability and versatility is Compass Box’s Great King Street. It’s not going to set your world on fire, but it was never intended to do so. That’s what whiskies like Peat Monster are for. Whiskymaker John Glaser continues to impress me.

For the bourbon enthusiasts out there, I’ve been through the new Buffalo Trace Antique Collection a few times already. It’s just hitting the shelves now. The entire line is stellar–as it was last year, and they taste very similar to last year’s release. So, if you liked last year’s offering, you can be confident that you will like this year’s releases if you have a chance to buy them. (They are always hard to come by.)

Heaven Hill has two really nice whiskeys that just came out. This year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection is a 10 year old, 100 proof bourbon finished in Cognac barrels (similar to the old Beam Distillers’ Masterpiece bottling). The cognac doesn’t dominate, adds intrigue, and this whisky is dangerously drinkable for 100 proof. But, if you are a purist (dare I say stubborn?), and don’t want people meddling with your bourbon, you might think differently about this offering.

The second whiskey from Heaven Hill is a Elijah Craig 20 year old single cask bottling (Cask #3735). The good news: I love this whiskey, and will be rating it in the mid 90s. The bad news: it’s only available at Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, KY, and it will set you back $150.

Finally, for those of you who are budget-minded, I tasted my way through the Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons (12, 15, 20 and 23 year old). My favorite? The 15 year old. Save your money and get this one!

Top 10 rated whiskies in the new issue of Malt Advocate

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Here’s a sneak peek  of the top 10 rated whiskies in the upcoming issue of Malt Advocate magazine (the Winter 2010 issue). Most have been reviewed here already, but I thought it would be helpful if you had them all organized in one post.

96 Redbreast, 12 year old, 40%, $43
Very elegant, complex, and stylish. Honeyed and silky in texture, with toffee, toasted marshmallow, nougat, maple syrup, banana bread, and a hint of toasted coconut. Bright fruit and golden raisin blend in nicely with the layers of sweetness. Impeccable balance and very approachable. Classic Irish whiskey!

95 Compass Box Flaming Heart (10th Anniversary bottling), 48.9%, $105
A marriage of three different single malts, aged in American and French oak. This whisky shows the advantage of marrying whiskies from more than one distillery (when properly done). Vibrant, with a complex array of fruit (orchard fruit, sultana), sweetness (light toffee, marzipan, honeyed malt), spice (creamy vanilla, mocha, warming pepper), smoke (tar, smoked olive, coal), and lesser notes of toasted almond and beach pebbles. More smoke and tar on the palate than the nose, yet always in balance. Well played!

95 Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%, $47/375ml
Surprisingly light and fresh for a 15 year old whiskey. Crisply spiced, with cinnamon, evergreen, vanilla, anise, and teaberry. Hints of dried fruit, kissed with light honey and a wisp of smoke. Balanced and clean throughout, and very drinkable. An excellent whiskey!

95 Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve, 40%, $70
Perhaps the finest Canadian whisky I have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Gently sweet, with orange creamsicle, marzipan, sultana, praline, maple syrup, and a hint of coconut macaroon. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky!

94 Highland Park, 1970 vintage, 48%, £2,250
This limited edition bottling consists of a marriage of both European and American oak. Still lively for its age, and beautifully balanced. Bountiful golden fruit (sultana, pineapple upside down cake, tangerine, overripe nectarine) balanced by soothing, creamy vanilla. A peppering of dried spice, chamomile tea, toasted oak, cigar box, and subtle smoke round out the palate. Soft and seductive. (Not available in the U.S.)

94 Knob Creek Single Barrel, 9 year old, 60%, $40
This new single barrel expression of Knob Creek tastes very similar to the original “small batch” Knob Creek (when brought down to the same alcohol level). If anything, it’s slightly drier, more elegant, not as heavy on the palate, and more sophisticated — but I am reaching here. The similarity is a good thing, because I really enjoy the original expression. Keeping in mind that no two barrels are exactly alike, your decision to purchase the single barrel might just come down to whether you want to pay a little more for a higher strength version, and whether knowing that it might taste a little different than the standard small batch bottling excites you. This is a stylish, big, broad-shouldered bourbon with a thick, sweet foundation (nutty toffee, pot still rum, maple syrup) peppered with spice (cinnamon, but also vanilla and evergreen) and dried fruit. Dry, warming, resinous finish. (Incidentally, I would rate the small batch within a point or two, and the tasting notes would be very similar.)

93 Parker’s Heritage Collection (2010 release), 10 year old, 63.9%, $80
Soft, sweet, and very smooth. Richly textured layers of caramel, toffee, vanilla fudge, nougat, maple syrup, and rhum agricole. Blackberry, date nut bread, cinnamon, subtle cocoa, and nutmeg add complexity. Clean, polished, and perilously drinkable. A delicious wheated bourbon! (Not quite the complexity of the 2009 William Larue Weller (a benchmark wheated bourbon which I rated a 96), but getting close.

93 High West Straight Rye Whiskey, 12 year old, 46%, $50/375ml
A bottling from only five barrels of 95% rye whiskey produced at the former Seagram’s distillery in Indiana. It’s the American whiskey equivalent of drinking Ardbeg Supernova. Powerful and invigorating are words that come to mind. Crisp mint, warming cinnamon, dried citrus, cocoa, roasted nuts, and subtle botanicals are soothed by caramel, molasses, and honeyed orchard fruit. Brisk, bracing, spicy finish. The notes are clean, and the whiskey’s not just a one-trick “rye” pony. The sweetness balances the rye spice quite nicely. If you just can’t get enough rye in your whiskey, then this one’s for you. (Available only at the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah.)

93 Caribou Crossing, Single Barrel, 40%, $50
Those of you who think Canadian whiskies are thin and bland should give this one a try. No, it’s not a new concept, like Forty Creek. It’s still very much a “traditional” Canadian. But when compared to most Canadian whiskies, it’s richer, creamier, and velvety smooth. The flavors are straightforward — primarily vanilla, with some crème brûlée, toasted marshmallow, tangerine, peaches and cream, and gentle rye spice — but they are clean and well-balanced. A delicious, lighter-style whisky.

92 Duncan Taylor “NC2” (distilled at Aberlour), 16 year old, 46%, $80
This whisky packs a lot of clean, complex, and well-balanced flavors. It features a creamy, layered, malty-sweet foundation (vanilla, caramel, toffee) chock full of bright fruit (golden raisin, honeyed orchard fruit, currant), rounded out by firm, dried spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, mint) that dances on the palate. Long, warming, spicy finish. Nicely done!

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon (2010 release)

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

 The fourth edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection, and the first wheated bourbon as part of the Collection. Another solid effort!

I lined up my review sample, along with samples of a few other great wheated bourbons: Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 year old Batch #1 (which I rated a 96), and the 2009 and 2008 releases of William Larue Weller (ratings of 93 and 96, respectively). This new Parker’s is in the same league.

For more information on this whiskey, check out my previous blog post announcing this whiskey.

Parker’s Heritage Collection (2010 release), 10 year old, 63.9%, $80
Soft, sweet, and very smooth. Richly textured layers of caramel, toffee, vanilla fudge, nougat, maple syrup, and rhum agricole. Bramble, date, cinnamon, subtle cocoa and nutmeg add complexity. Clean, polished and perilously drinkable. A delicious wheated bourbon!  Not quite the complexity of the classic 2009 William Larue Weller, but getting close.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 93

Malt Advocate Magazine’s “Top Ten New Whiskies” for 2009

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Top Ten New Whiskies of the Year (listed alphabetically)

You will not be happy with the prices of some of these whiskies, but here’s our ten best new whiskies released in 2009 (keeping in mind that whiskies must have been for sale in the U.S. in the 2009 calendar year to be eligible).

The selection process for this list is based primarily on the whisky’s rating. All ten whiskies rated 95 or higher in Malt Advocate  magazine.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1%, $85
Powerful, muscular, well-textured, and invigorating. Even within the realm of Ardbeg, this one stands out. There are many relatively young whiskies with no age statement on the market. This is a benchmark. Quite stunning!

Brora 30 year old (2009 Release), 53.2%, $400
This whisky shows all the good aspects of a very mature whisky (depth, complexity) without all the bad ones (excessive oak, one-dimensional). It’s very clean and polished. One of the best releases from this shuttered distillery.

Dalmore 50 year old, $1,500/100ml
Incredibly viscous and chewy, and thick on the tongue. Very complex too, with that classic Dalmore marmalade note as its foundation. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on a beach. It is a whisky you can’t drink slowly enough.

Gold Bowmore, 1964 Vintage, 42.4% $6,250
Surprisingly lively for its age. I like this whisky better than White Bowmore but feels that it falls short of Black Bowmore, because it’s a bit softer and less vibrant on the palate. (But, for most of you with limited means, I can understand if you don’t really care.)

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, 46% (2009 vintage), $250
I love the pot still character and the lushness that some of the port-wood aging has imparted. If anything,  this 2009 vintage is even richer and lusher than the previous 2007 vintage I reviewed. Another classic Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.

Laphroaig 25 year old, 51.2%, $500
I love the way the flavors of this whisky evolve on the palate. I also like that it retains some of its youthful brashness, while showing the depth that maturity affords a whisky. A delicious, well-balanced, old-fashioned Laphroaig.

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve (Bottle B1986), 23 year old, 47.8%, $220
My review of this whiskey a few years back indicated this whiskey was too woody and past it’s prime to be a stellar whiskey. This one is much better. (Yes, whiskey bottlings do change over time.) There’s great balance and the oak is in check.

Parkers Heritage Selection Golden Anniversary, 50%, $150
This is a fabulous whiskey: seamless, incredibly complex, with an impeccable marriage of youth and maturity. It’s also very even-keeled throughout. A classic bourbon that’s very complex and yet very drinkable.

Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old (Barrel #1), 50%, $190
Not as vibrant as the 21 year old Rittenhouse Rye released a few years back, but it’s more sophisticated, which more than makes up for it. I can’t speak for the other barrels in this lot, but I think this one is a great example of what a 20-plus year old rye whisky should taste like.

William Larue Weller (2009 release), 67.4%, $65
This whiskey has improved greatly over the past two years. (I thought that the 2007 release was almost too easy-going, as some wheated bourbon can be.) A little more oak spice has added balance, complexity and depth. Very clean on the palate too. Excellent!

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “American Whiskey of the Year”: Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary” Bourbon

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

American Whiskey of the Year

Parker’s Heritage Collection “Golden Anniversary,” 50%, $150

Fifty years is a long time to be working in one industry, and master distiller Parker Beam has done just that. This bottling celebrates Parker’s 50 years of service by mingling whiskey from each of the past five decades. (Although, I don’t think there’s a whole lot from the 1960s in there.)

This is a fabulous whiskey; seamless, incredibly complex, with an impeccable marriage of youth and maturity. It’s also very even-keeled throughout—quite different than last year’s equally impressive Parker’s Heritage Collection bottling, a 27 year old, whose personality was more like an exhilarating old wooden rollercoaster ride (and also brandished more oak).

The Golden Anniversary bottling shows candied citrus, nectarine, blueberry, and sultana anchored by a nougat center and laced with honeyed vanilla and orange creamsicle. There’s a dusting of cocoa powder, brittle mint, and cinnamon, too! Tobacco leaves, polished leather, and teasing bourbon barrel char round out the palate, emerging more prominently toward its warming finish. This is a classic bourbon that’s very complex, yet very drinkable.

Tomorrow’s Malt Advocate Whisky Awards announcement: Canadian Whisky of the Year.