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Whiskey news from around the world

The Highland Park Spirit of the Bear Travel Retail Exclusive

[This is a no age statement (NAS) single malt whisky matured in Sherry seasoned American oak casks. It represents the entry tier of the new travel retail exclusive line from Highland Park we’ve termed “The Animal Parts” line.]

Tasting notes:
Highland Park’s Spirit of the Bear nose opens with a typical Highland Park wall-to-wall carpeting of beeswax, clean peat technology applied to solar panels, and ambergris encapsulated in amber. What’s that, John? None of those clauses make sense to you? I guess then that’s none of your, beeswax! (Dad jokes, amirite?) There’s also a bit of the lingering synthetic-tire+cobblestone aroma after the Tour de France’s peloton goes whizzing past. On the whole, it’s judicious, like a clerk magistrate declining, at the last, to penalize you for driving 2km over the speed limit.

The mouth is jagged like a maple leaf edge, or maybe pine needles, but definitely not the nail bed of a yogi ascetic. It’s got a wholesome and organic base, some smoke and peat on the top that’s thick enough that it comprises a kid’s saw that cuts only fog and illusion. One wants to claim that a burnt bourbon cask is a major influence on this drink, but one, like a clerk magistrate, should be judicious. Instead one notes that although there is a punchy aspect to the mouth, and it’s got a pugilist’s face, it’s not a menace to society and speaks instead in Mike Tyson’s surprisingly, surpassingly soft voice.

The finish is reminiscent of a pancake fried in a cast iron skillet that’s just barely on the right side of being burnt. It was heated over the embers of what had been thought to be a well-doused campfire (to be specific, the fire was doused with water from a stream, not a well, in case you wondering). There’s smoke and ash and the promise of heat and warmth to come. And just barely not-burnt pancakes.




On the scale of great songs centered around horrible puns–
The Highland Park Spirit of the Bear Travel Retail Exclusive is the Jungle Book’s Bear Necessities, sung by Baloo–Sure, this might be a category with very few entries, but I’m okay judging the Spirit of the Bear to be sui generis. It is indisputably a Highland Park malt, yet it is willing to travel off in a new direction.






–Our thanks to Highland Park for the sample!



Irish Whiskey's Ups and Downs in 2018

Irish Whiskey continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of the whisky business around the world, but the distilleries in Ireland and Northern Ireland have had their share of ups and downs this year. Walsh Whiskey Company founder Bernard Walsh is a former chairman of the Irish Whiskey Association, and on WhiskyCast In-Depth, we'll talk with him about the boom in new distilleries and challenges presented by Brexit and Ireland's controversial new public health legislation. In the news, we'll have details on another executive change in Scotland, while a former consultant now finds herself running the distillery she was hired to consult for. We'll also have details on a breakup that will affect whisky festivals during 2019 in many major U.S. cities, along with a court hearing that could send former Indian whisky baron Vijay Mallya back home to face fraud and money laundering charges. On Behind the Label, we'll find out what happened when a whisky lover won a contest to help create this year's Forty Creek Unity whisky, and we'll have tasting notes for it, too!

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (December 7, 2018)

Welcome to Inbox.  For those new to WFE, Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week.


Isle of Arran Distillers has announced the release of its first ever 21 years old expression in to their core range. There will be just 9,000 bottles in total and these will be available in selected specialist retailers worldwide. It joins the 10, 14 and 18 year old age statements and is the oldest single malt ever released by the distillery, which began production in 1994. The Arran 21 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. each bottle will cost £115. Further information can be found at

The Speyside distillery of Benromach has announced the latest release in its 1970s Heritage range - the Benromach 1978 Vintage. The whisky has been taken from a single re-fill ex-sherry hogshead cask (Cask #2608), which has yielded just 184 bottles. The 1978 Vinatge is released at 40 years of age with a natural cask strength of 56.3% ABV. As with the other expressions in the series, the whisky is presented in a decanter style bottle and dark oak casket. It will be available via selected specialist retailers globally and each bottle will cost £1,250 (€1,410).

"Our carefully chosen Heritage single cask releases give Benromach lovers the opportunity to taste moments in time from the distillery’s rich history. We are proud to be releasing such a rare and precious whisky during the 20th anniversary year of distilling restarting here at Benromach."
Keith Cruickshank - Distillery Manager at Benromach.

Eden Mill
The independent craft distillery of Eden Mill in St. Andrews have announced the 2018 edition of their single malt. It is only their second ever release of single malt following a very small batch bottling last year. This batch is restricted to just 3,200 bottles with 2,000 of these earmarked for the UK market. The batch is made up of four ex-Oloroso sherry hogsheads, four first-fill ex-bourbon barrels and four ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry octave casks.

"We are delighted to be able to release our second whisky. This release is the first in an annual series, which will build over the coming years and we thought it was only appropriate to launch the 2018 single malt on St. Andrew’s Day. 
Paul Miller - Co-Founder of Eden Mill.

Royal Lochnagar
The Highland distillery of Royal Lochnagar have announced the release of a very rare whisky - The Prince's Foundation 30 years old. The limited edition single malt was distilled in 1988 and put in to cask during a Royal visit by HRH Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay. The single cask has now been bottled to mark the Prince's 70th birthday and sales will raise money for his charity, The Prince's Foundation. There are just 206 bottles and the majority will be sold via a special ballot through The Whisky Exchange, which will run from December 31 until January 27.

Each bottle of the Royal Lochnagar 30 years old is individually numbered and presented in a special bottle and box. Bottles will cost £1,470 each and all proceeds will be donated to The Prince's Foundation. The bottles will be distributed as such - 184 to The Whisky Exchange ballot, 20 to The Prince's Foundation, one to a special auction once the ballot has closed and one to the Diageo Archive.

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WhiskyFest Hits New York City

Whisky Advocate's annual WhiskyFest took over the Marriott Marquis in New York City's Times Square Tuesday night, and we'll have some of the highlights along with the sadness. There was a pall in one corner the ballroom as whisky lovers mourned the death of master distiller Dave Pickerell last month along with teams from several of the whiskies he helped create during his long career. We'll talk with one of Dave's protegés, Hillrock Estate's Dylan Strang, about the distillery's plans to move forward using the lessons he and his colleagues learned from their friend and mentor. In our Behind the Label segment, we'll have an interview you can only hear on WhiskyCast as we talk with artist Michael Dillon, the painter who created the one-of-a-kind label for the 1926 Macallan that shattered the world record for a whisky auction last week in London. In the news, we'll have the details of the U.S. Treasury Department's plan to rewrite federal alcohol regulations for the first time in more than three decades - and some of the agency's proposals have craft distillers nervous.

The Ileach Peaty Islay Single Malt

The Ileach Peaty Islay Single Malt 40% ABV $35 Website What the Bottler Says For centuries the stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean has not only shaped the character of the people of Islay but also the character of their famous whiskies. In many ways this fine malt mirrors the character of Islay people – … Continue reading The Ileach Peaty Islay Single Malt →

Maker’s Mark Private Select

Maker’s Mark Private Select Exclusive Oak Stave Selection – Tower Wine & Spirits 55.25% ABV $70 Website What the Distiller Says At Maker’s Mark, our wood-finishing series was created to explore new, unique expressions of our signature whisky. Beginning as fully matured Maker’s Mark® at cask strength, Private Select is created by adding 10 custom … Continue reading Maker’s Mark Private Select →

The Chicken Cock Double Barrel Bourbon 10 Year Old, Batch #3/6

Tasting notes:
At first, this smells like clarified honey made into butter. It’s sweet and round and has an afterthought of lemon zest on it. But then I get melted pecan pie with French vanilla ice cream. You know when you’re nearing the end of the slice and the ice cream has melted and the pecan pie has cooled and the flavors blend perfectly? That part. We also got marbles made of cherry wood used in garden games at a replica Versailles (France).

The first impression of the mouth is that it is strong and flavorful. “It’ll clean your andirons,” Stephen barks, with that annoying “woodsman” tone he occasionally adopts. But then I start to wonder, would this clean my andirons? I then wonder, Where are my andirons? Are my andirons even adequate? (And believe me, the voice inside my head saying these things is very far from that of a woodsman.) I’m pulled out of this sorrowful shame spiral by the seriously tannic dimensions of the mouth. The subtle tones on the nose remain, but they are at times overshadowed, perhaps by the 104 proof. It’s like the rarely-performed duet for harp and jack hammer by Philip Breaking Glass, which I’m pretty sure is not the name of a person but rather that of a collective of art students, provocateurs, and a retinue of hangers-on and phonies.

The finish picks up those tannic notes and puts them to work. Leather licorice sticks used as bloody Mary stirrers. I’m on a tour inside an old cello, with a wizened mouse guiding us to the rosin clumps that passed through the F hole. What’s this? I ask as the mouse hands me sheet music. The next thing I know we come together in song. “O Tannin-bomb, O Tannin-bomb.” The tour guide now takes us to the rest of the tree from which Roy Hobbs’ bat was made. I look over at Stephen as I think he’s going to use his woodsman voice to tell us about how old, classic, and timeless this tree is, while my non-woodsman voice wonders which movie outfielder holds the record for best ballpark-adjusted defense. On the open, we get after dinner mints on roller skates. Sweet and floral notes press forward, and thin boysenberry syrup is lovingly poured over fried bacon, everyone’s favorite celery substitute.



On the scale of how hard it is not to end this review with a “why did the chicken cross the road” joke–
The Chicken Cock Double Barrel Bourbon 10 year old, Batch #3/6 is really friggin’ hard.






–Our thanks to Chicken Cock for the sample!



Whiskey & Music with Three Chord Bourbon's Neil Giraldo

Neil Giraldo is one of music's "hit makers." As a musician and producer, he's worked with some of rock music's legendary performers to create the soundtrack to our lives since the late 70's. While he's not the first musician to create a whiskey brand, he comes to the whiskey business with more than just a name. He helped his grandfather distill whiskey and grappa as a young boy growing up in Cleveland, and tells us on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth that there's a lot in common between producing a hit song and blending a hit whiskey. We'll also have the story of a new world record for the most expensive bottle of whisky, along with new ownership for Cutty Sark, the week's new whiskies, and much more.

Compass Box The Story of the Spainard

Compass Box The Story of the Spainard Batch TS 2018-A (June 2018) 43% ABV $70 Website What the Producer Says THE STORY OF THE SPANIARD BLENDED MALT SCOTCH WHISKY A showcase of malt whiskies aged in Spanish wine casks. The newest addition to our range, we plan to produce this malt whisky once or twice … Continue reading Compass Box The Story of the Spainard →

The Michter’s Small Batch Original Sour Mash Whiskey Batch #L17I17278

Tasting notes:
The Michter’s Small Batch Original Sour Mash Whiskey, 43% abv, is a sterling example of a no-age statement whiskey. The nose is muted, at first, as if someone turned off the microphone at a demagogue’s rally. In other words, it’s blissfully quiet, except for the psychologic effects of everyone around you looking confused. As time passes, bourbon-y classics emerge; a bit of oak, a hint of vanilla, a nice bit of fresh yeasty bread dipped in some nice olive oil and some nice balsamic vinegar by a nice person on a nice date with a nice person in a nice restaurant on a nice day in a nice city. There’s just a whole lot of niceness and wholesomeness and the world feels like something shifted to full-on rightness.

The mouth is alluring, approachable, drinkable, and gosh-darn-it-all…we’d drink this all day. Yup, I’d have with breakfast, mid-morning snack, elevensies, brunch, lunch, pre-siesta…I think you’ve gotten the point. I’d smuggle it into music festivals, sporting events, weddings, funerals, and Twitter Board meetings. “Why do you keep bringing your cane handle to your mouth?” Oh, no reason; I’m just, uh, lightly rapping it against my lips to stay awake. Fine! You caught me! The cane has a flask in the handle! Nice work, Jack Dorsey. On the more normal side of things, Stephen got orange pekoe tea made from hickory resin, because of course he did.

The finish has a tingle like novocaine wearing off after an experimental procedure that implants, rather than extracts, wisdom teeth. I got ancho chili powder that had all the capsaicin removed (and put into John’s boxer shorts). A really long finish holding true to its ringing note, much like a high school kid, circa 1954, holding tight to what he hoped was a love note, passed to him by the young woman he was crushing on, yet afraid to unfold the note and discover that his secret hopes were dashed.



On the scale of dreams we hold from our youth into our old age–
The Michter’s Small Batch Original Sour Mash Whiskey, 43% abv, is the wish that someone loves us for who we are and for our best and worst selves. That wish is likely to never come true, but at least I can wish for another glass of the Michter’s Small Batch Original Sour Mash Whiskey, and then another glass, and then another: those wishes will come true!






–Our thanks to Michter’s for the sample!



Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (November 30, 2018)

Welcome to Inbox.  For those new to WFE, Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week.


Cutty Sark
The popular Scotch blended whisky brand of Cutty Sark, which was first produced in 1923, has been sold by The Edrington Group. The new owners are French company La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, who also own the Glen Moray single malt distillery and Label 5 blended Scotch brands. Completion of the deal is expected within one month. Edrington are to provide blending, bottling and other associated services during a transition period.

"We are proud to take ownership of this powerful brand. Cutty Sark perfectly compliments our portfolio of international brands and this acquisition is a major step forward to accelerate our international expansion."
Jean-Pierre Cayard, President of La Martiniquaise-Bardinet

Douglas Laing
Prolific family-owned independent bottlers Douglas Liang & Co. continue their very busy year with the release of a limited edition blended malt whisky for the Christmas period - the Scallywag Red-Nosed Reindeer Edition #3. The whisky was launched last week on Black Friday and is available exclusively at

As with all releases in the Scallywag range, the whisky is composed of only Speyside single malts. In this case, all are 12 years of age and have been matured in ex-sherry casks for an extra Christmassy feel. It is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There are just 450 bottles and each will cost £65.

"Christmas capers ensue once again here at Douglas Laing with the release of the third and final expression of the Scallywag Red-Nosed Reindeer. It is essentially a Christmas pudding in whisky form!" 
Chris Leggat - CEO at Douglas Laing & Co.

The Three Drinkers

A new TV programme about whisky has aired on Amazon Prime. The Three Drinkers Do Scotch Whisky is a four part series exploring the world of Scottish whisky in a new and innovative way. It has been launched to 65 countries around the world. Further adventures for The Three Drinkers - whisky expert Colin Hampden-White, wine and spirits communicator Adrian Smith and Helena Nicklin, wine writer and Editor of The Winerist - are planned, covering different subjects within the drinks sector. To watch the trailer - please click here.

“The show is the other side of the all-to-often snobbish and pretentious way in which drinks are communicated. Scotch has never been promoted through entertainment on a digital platform. We want people to feel inspired to try Scotch whisky, whether for the first time or if they are already a fan.” 
Colin Hampden-White.

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Review - The Glenrothes Soleo Collection

The Glenrothes Soleo Collection represents a major revamp of the core range of the increasingly popular Speyside distillery. This sees the brand move away from its Vintage and Reserve expressions and towards more traditional age statements, which range from 10 to 40 years old. The Soleo Collection are all 100% matured in ex-sherry seasoned oak casks and is aimed to appeal to premium whisky drinkers.

The range features age statements at 10, 12, 18, 25 and 40 years of age, plus the no age statement Whisky Maker's Cut. All are of natural colour and are available through specialist whisky retailers globally. The 40 years old expression will not appear until early 2019.

The Glenrothes distillery is located in the small Speyside town of Rothes and has a current capacity of 5.5 million litres per year. The whisky produced there has traditionally been used in popular blends such as Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark, and the distillery has long been associated with these brands.

Glenrothes was founded in 1878 by James Stuart & Co. and has had its fair share of bad luck in its early history with two bad fires (in 1897 and 1922) plus an explosion in 1903. The distillery is currently owned by The Edrington Group.

The range are bottled at different strengths with the 10 and 12 year olds at 40% ABV, the 18 and 25 year olds at 43% ABV and the Whisky Maker's Cut at 48.8% ABV. The prices are - 10 years old (£37), 12 years old (£42), Whisky Maker's Cut (£55), 18 years old (£100) and 25 years old (£375).

Our tasting notes

Glenrothes 10 years old
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is packed with sultana and fudge aromas. Then come further aromas of golden syrup, brown sugar and stewed apple with a late hint of candied oranges and ginger.

On the palate this whisky is initially very sweet and sugary with plenty of golden syrup and honey to the fore. Sugary fudge and dried fruit notes then develop - think of sultanas, raisins and candied citrus peel. Some late dried apple is also evident, as are some notes of cookie dough and warming wood spices (imagine cinnamon and gingerbread especially). The finish is slightly shorter than anticipated (particularly once the sugar sweet characteristics fade) and gets dry, hot and peppery quite quickly.

Glenrothes 12 years old
The colour is deep gold and the nose is immediately highly fragrant. There are aromas of raisin, orange zest and caramel evident. These are backed up by warm ginger cake, butter, cinnamon and cloves.

On the palate this whisky has a creamy butterscotch-like mouth feel with plenty of preserved orange and candied peel up front. Then come notes of caramel and dried fruits, especially raisins and sultanas, along with some pleasant baking spices (think of cinnamon and all-spice in particular). The cloves from the nose appear towards the end, as does a touch of cocoa powder and white pepper. The finish is long and warming with the sweet ginger cake-like note holding well and combining with the earthy baking spices.

Glenrothes Whisky Maker's Cut
The colour is golden yellow with a hint of amber and the nose has plenty of green apple, golden syrup and baking spice aromas. The combination is reminiscent of apple crumble or apple sponge pudding. With water it opens more to reveal white chocolate and sultanas.

On the palate this whisky has an instant peppery quality, which almost fizzes in the mouth. It feels vibrant and punchy. Once it settles a little then a variety of characteristics begin to reveal themselves - dried green apple, boiled peardrop sweets, golden syrup and butterscotch rise first. These are followed by soft dried fruits - sultanas, candied lemons and a hint of apricot - and something reminiscent of spiced sponge cake. With a splash of water it becomes softer with a toffee, crumbly brown sugar and fudge-like feel. The finish is of decent length and is extended by the green apple and peppery notes.

Glenrothes 18 years old
The colour is deep amber and the nose has an exquisite fragrance - a wonderful mix of dried fruits (think of raisins, dates, apple and orange peel), moscavado sugar and nose-tingling spices such as cinnamon bark and cloves. Underneath are hints of cocoa, lavender and menthol.

On the palate this whisky feels equally as exquisite. It has immediate grip and bite with notes of caramel, brown sugar and warming peppery spices hitting first. Then comes the increasingly influential fruit characteristics - imagine dried apple, sultanas, raisins, prunes and dates - and a distinct chocolate/cocoa powder note. It feels classy and luxurious. The initial peppery spices mellow and become more warming - think of gingerbread, cinnamon and mace, with a hint of liquorice and menthol. The finish is long and becomes increasingly warm, especially once the sweet and fruity notes disappear.

* The Glenrothes 25 years old was not supplied as a sample. We hope to review this as and when we get to taste it.

What's the verdict?
This new Glenrothes Soleo Collection is a nice range of whiskies and offers a spectrum of flavours available from ex-sherry cask maturation. The 10 and 12 year olds are not the most complex whiskies but show what can be acheived from ex-sherry casks at that age and are good examples at keen prices.

The Whisky Maker's Choice is big and bold with a captivating vibrancy, while the 18 years old is extremely classy and our favourite, if we had to choose one. It is a real 'sip and savour' whisky that deserves to have time taken over it.

The brand has taken a brave step in ditching its Vintage and Reserve statements, something which made it different from its competitors and was actively promoted as such. Only time will tell if it will achieve their aims and goals.

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon 44% ABV $40 Website What the Distiller Says SMALL BATCH BOURBON WHISKEY A traditional bourbon, from an untraditional place. Our original, flagship, and defining product, the award-winning Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey. ONLY WYOMING INGREDIENTS The Big Horn Basin has everything we need to make great bourbon, and it … Continue reading Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon →

The Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard

[This new expression in Compass Box’s core range is a blended malt focused on whisky matured in Sherry (48% of the blend) and Spanish red wine casks (25%).]
Tasting notes:
The nose opens with a healthy whiff of rich Sherry funk that makes me feel like this Story of the Spaniard might be “The Cask of Andalucia”–featuring a not-so-unfortunate fellow getting closed up in a Sherry butt and left there to drink his way out. (Italian revenge seems to go in nastier directions.) There are notes of Portobello-crust pizzas just coming out of a brick oven burning mossy, wet logs. The creamy buffalo mozzarella on the pizzas oozes onto a bed of arugula on the plate, creating an aroma that calls me from across the room. The beginning of this story of the Spaniard portends a very happy ending.

The mouth is spicy like great Christmas cakes are, but also like old wine red zinfandels are–at the same time. It’s a remarkable, muted feat. There’s also a richness in there like the backside of a piece of water-soaked tree bark presented on a bed of deep, damp loam. The mouth makes one consider pouring this dram into a huge bowled red wine glass. This part of the Story of the Spaniard feels more like an alternate ending to Roald Dahl’s “The Butler,” where Tibbs and Estragon actually train the Cleavers to appreciate the finest Rioja. It would be a fantasy, given who the Cleavers are, of course, but this dram brings on such dreams.

The finish fires on the back two-thirds of the tongue with the kind of deep burning lust for life that Robert Jordan feels as he falls in love with Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls. That one’s not really the story of a Spaniard, but at least Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. And the finish here is as long as that joke has remained funny. For Sherried whisky lovers, this dram will flat knock your socks off.



On the scale of stories about Spaniards–
The Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard is Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth–A dark fantasy with a keen moral core (also set around the time of the Spanish civil war). Like Ofelia, this dram passes the ultimate test. The faun is very pleased.






–Our thanks to Compass Box for the sample!



Bulleit Barrel Strength Bourbon

Bulleit Barrel Strength Frontier Whiskey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 60-65% ABV (exact varies by batch) $60 Website What the Producer Says In 2015, Bulleit Founder, Tom Bulleit traveled the globe sharing sips of a new, unreleased style of Bulleit Bourbon with some of the world’s top bartenders. As a whiskey built by the support of … Continue reading Bulleit Barrel Strength Bourbon →

The Power(s) of Irish Whiskey Lore

Ireland's Power family dominated the Irish Whiskey industry almost from the day innkeeper James Power started making whiskey behind his inn on Dublin's Thomas Street in 1791 until his descendants merged their company with the Jamesons and Cork's Murphy family in 1965 to create Irish Distillers. Powers remains one of Ireland's best-selling whiskies to this day, and is gradually being reintroduced to the world - while its history is being reintroduced to Dubliners through the Powers Quarter. It's a network of pubs around the family's old Johns Lane Distillery, which is now home to Ireland's National College of Art & Design. We'll look at that history and the Powers Quarter on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, a tentative Brexit deal between Great Britain and the European Union still faces tough challenges, but is receiving support from the whisky industry. A distillery project in Northern Ireland is being scrapped a year after construction began, and a bankruptcy filing in the US could be a sign of tough times ahead for craft distillers. 

Sonoma Cherrywood Rye Whiskey

Sonoma Distiller’s Edition: Cherrywood Rye Whiskey 47.8% ABV $50 Website What the Distiller Says About Sonoma Distilling Co. Owner/whiskeymaker Adam Spiegel, distilling since 2010 Non-GMO grains milled in-house Direct-fire heated 250-gallon Copper Alembic pot stripping stills Barrel size: 15, 30 and 53 gallons of new American Oak from Minnesota & Missouri 3rd degree charred, 12-24 … Continue reading Sonoma Cherrywood Rye Whiskey →

Review - Black Friday 2018 Edition 'Orkney Islands 18 years old Single Malt'

Black Friday has been and gone for another year. As always, whisky retailers were inevitably involved and saw companies tripping over each other to give their customers the best 'deals'. Some of the painfully low prices must have had the Master Blenders and Distillers around the industry crying in a dark corner of their blending labs and wondering why they had bothered working so hard. However, one retailer took a different approach.  The annual Black Friday bottling from leading UK spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange has quickly become a fixture in the pre-Christmas feeding frenzy.

This year's offering only confirmed that. Bottled by Elixir Distillers for The Whisky Exchange, it was an 18 years old single malt from an un-named distillery on the Orkney islands (there are only two, so place your bets). The whisky was bottled at the natural cask strength of 54.6% ABV, non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There were just 1,400 bottles, which were priced at £69.95 each. They were only available from the TWE website - they went on sale at 6am on Black Friday, by 6.40am they were all sold.

Therefore our review is a bit late. Well done to those that managed to secure a bottle and commiserations to those that missed out. Here are our thoughts on the liquid.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose leads with fragrant tones of almonds and something floral like heather or lavender. Sweetness comes from notes of fudge and toffee with a touch of sweet barbeque smoke, akin to a good bbq sauce. Oakiness and fresh sawdust aromas add further depth.

In the mouth this whisky has initial sweet notes of marzipan and hard honeycomb. There is also a delicious vegetal sweetness that is most reminiscent of fresh green peas. These sweeter characteristics evolve into fudge, toffee and butterscotch with Maltesers - this last element combines a distinct maltiness with milk chocolate. All is rounded out by sweet and deliciously moreish smoke. This has an earthy wood spice edge – think of cinnamon, all-spice and mulling spices, which give a pleasant and warming dryness. Late hints of clove, white pepper and oak add yet more complexity.

The finish is sweet and malty with a rich peppery vibrancy. It is long with a lingering and drying wood spice. Faint sweet smoke and peat linger for an eternity, slowly fading. A very impressive whisky.

What's the verdict?
A superb and well balanced single malt from The Whisky Exchange, and one that shows that theri cask selection for such bottlings is spot on. This whisky was always going to sell out rapidly, not only because of the popularity of the suspected distillery of origin but also for the incredible price - £70 for a cask strength, limited edition single malt at 18 years of age.

They must be applauded for that, when they surely could have charged more. We were just thankful to get the opportunity to try it - thanks to Billy Abbott for our sample.

Our sample did not last too long ...

The Wigle Terroir Rye Project (2015-2018)

The Wigle Terroir Rye Project is like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with more rye and less, uh, Jimi Hendrix. It’s not nearly as ambitious as the Buffalo Trace Cask Project; however, the smaller-scale lends itself to easier comprehension and appreciation. Instead of Very Many different casks made from Very Many different oaks trees stored in Very Many different ways, the distillers at Wigle opted to take rye from three Very Different terroirs (in alphabetical order): Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Saskatchewan.

A few more technical details: Wigle consciously and conscientiously harks back to the Monongahela rye that was used by some of the earliest distillers in the United States—rye that led to the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania from 1791–1794. For the project, Wigle diligently held as many variables constant as possible: The three mashbills were the same: 80% rye, 20% malted barley; the mashes were distilled in a consistent manner, and were poured into 23-gallon charred, new American oak barrels. All three types were aged for two years before being bottled at 80 proof.

Wigle, being comprised of professionals, also sent samples along the production for chemical analysis via gas chromatography. The details are of interest (to a distiller or a chemist), and for interested parties can be found here. If it is facts or truth you want, you’ve come to the wrong place. Here, instead is found our opinions and our whimsy (which of course cut a straighter road to the truth than any philosophical syllogism).

It struck us that the best way to compare these was head-to-head. I would’ve preferred a blind tasting, as well as a deaf one, so as not to hear John’s moans of ecstasy nor Stephen’s caterwauls of delight. Also, if it were blind, I couldn’t report that the colors of the three ryes are roughly equivalent.


Tasting notes:
The Minnesota (MN) nose evokes what I think of as a standard or classic rye. It’s high and piercing, like a jazz flute solo, it’s grassy, like a lush late spring lawn, and herbaceous and floral, like an ikebana class held in a Penzey spice shop. The Pennsylvania (PA) is low and strong. Beyond classic rye notes, there is fresh-cut cedar stacked in a lumberyard, ready for siding a luxury riverboat. Lurking behind is also some black cherries plucked from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. It’s robust and round, almost like it was aged in an ex-wine cask. The Saskatchewan (SK) is soft, with the vanilla rising so smoothly, it’d be easy to convince me that this was some intriguing bourbon with a lot of rye in the mashbill. It’s even rounder than the PA, and if this was a round robin tournament like the World Cup, the SK would have won its group.

On the mouth, the MN is a tart little, uh, tart made with rhubarb, wild raspberries, sloe, fern leaves, and Thai basil. It casually asserts a rye dominance, inviting all comers to do battle with it. The PA declines to fight, and takes a different tack to explain its version of rye: It’s surprisingly understated, like a lion who purrs loudly rather than roaring. It’s acerbic, like a comic playing a college campus, working within the modern boundaries students expect to be observed.The SK is dreamy, watery like a Monet painting in shades of teal and aqua, excuse me, sarcelle et turquoise. There’s also a lancing of spearmint, as if Wrigley and Wigle combined on a rye/mint-flavored hybrid gum: Wigley’s.

The finish of the MN continues to evoke classic rye. The herbs—sage, bay leaves, and tarragon—reassert themselves. The flowers have been weeded, because it was opposite day for the gardener. There’s a long plaintive note, like a bugle playing Taps far away over the plains, crying out for a mixer to make God’s Own Cocktail. The PA’s finish picks up the spearmint, devolves it into molasses, and transforms it into adolescent dreams: Savory and sippable. The SK is muted, subtle, determined. It is the opposite of relentless while somehow also having a spine of titanium, unwilling to give up; nay, unwilling to even concede an inch that might bring it a slightly better deal. All three of their finishes resonate long after standard expectations have been met, all three allow their character to express themselves in the fading of their actuality as they become poignant memories.


On the scale of beloved Disney rides–
The Wigle Terroir Rye Project is the Tower of Terroir!–What’s that, Stephen? It’s actually the Tower of Terror? Hmmm. You do you, Stephen; forever after for me, it’s now the Tower of Terroir!


DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME, PEOPLE! We are experts, albeit Impostors.






–Our thanks to Meredith Meyer Grelli and all the good people at Wigle for the sample!



Sonoma Rye Whiskey

Sonoma Rye Whiskey 46% ABV $40 – $45 Website What the Distiller Says About Sonoma Distilling Co. Owner/whiskeymaker Adam Spiegel, distilling since 2010 Non-GMO grains milled in-house Direct-fire heated 250-gallon Copper Alembic pot stripping stills Barrel size: 15, 30 and 53 gallons of new American Oak from Minnesota & Missouri 3rd degree charred, 12-24 month … Continue reading Sonoma Rye Whiskey →