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Whiskey news from around the world

Doubling Distilleries on the Isle of Arran (WhiskyCast Episode 720: August 19, 2018)

It's been a hot, dry summer in Scotland, and Euan Mitchell isn't complaining a bit. The managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers is overseeing construction of a second distillery at Lagg on the island's southern coast, and the weather is allowing work to be completed right on schedule. Lagg's stills are scheduled to arrive on the island this week, and plans are still in place for the distillery to begin production in January. We'll catch up on Lagg's progress and changes at Arran with Euan Mitchell on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, whisky auctions Friday brought out bidders in Scotland and Hong Kong, with one rare Japanese single malt selling for more than $340,000! We'll also have details on a rare traffic jam in Speyside as would-be collectors jammed the gates at The Macallan hours before a rare single malt went on sale at the distillery. 

Glenfarclas 21 Year

Glenfarclas 21 Year 43% ABV $115-$140 Website What the Distiller Says 100% Oloroso sherry cask maturation. An incredibly rounded whisky that leaves you refreshed and contented. A whisky that always deserves a second glass. Tasting Notes Colour: Dark amber-gold. Nose: Intense, full of aromas – sherried fruit, tropical fruit, nutmeg and almonds with slight citrus … Continue reading Glenfarclas 21 Year →

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (August 17, 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.


The central Highland distillery of Aberfeldy has announced two new expressions that will be exclusive to the travel retail sector - the 16 and 21 years old Madeira Casks. Both whiskies have undergone a 12 month period of finishing in two types of Madeira wine casks (ex-Malvasia Malmsey and ex-Bual) prior to marrying and bottling. They have been created by Stephanie Macleod, the Malt Master for Aberfeldy.

Both of the new whiskies are bottled at 40% ABV and will be available shortly to join the permanent additions to the range of Aberfeldy malts available in airports globally. The recommended prices are - 16 years old (£85/ $110 US) and 21 years old (£155/ $195 US).

"Aberfeldy is a both an approachable yet complex dram. By using Madeira casks I’m able to further develop the layers of flavour present in Aberfeldy’s honeyed-rich characters."
Stephanie Macleod.

Old Pulteney

The north Highland distillery of Pulteney has announced a revamp of its core range and the bottlings that will be making it up. The 12 years old remains from the previous range but is joined by expressions at 15 and 18 years of age, plus the no age statement Huddart. Old Pulteney, which is famously distilled and matured by the sea in the northern fishing town of Wick, also sees the new whiskies presented in redesigned packaging.

The three new expressions are bottled at 46% ABV, while the 12 years old remains at 40% ABV. It has been matured in ex-bourbon casks as before. The 15 and 18 year old have both been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, while Huddart presents an unusual smoky malt from the distillery. All four will be available globally in the Autumn after an initial launch in the UK market.

The recommended prices are - 12 years old (£32), Huddart (£45), 15 years old (£70) and 18 years old (£115). Please visit for further information.

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The Convalmore 32 Year 2017 Limited Edition

Tasting notes:
The nose presents you with a muted mustiness and fresh flowers, like stepping out of a plane from the 1980s and immediately getting lei’ed. Actually, the problem with the preceding sentence is that it gives the impression of superficiality and transience that’s not really there. In fact, the nose is rich and substantial. It’s Pete Postlethwaite’s florist shop in The Town. It’s a Mediterranean remake of When Harry Met Sally called When Narcissus met Jasmine–only with more spice than that title suggests.

The mouth is light, but broad, which represents an entirely new point on the mouthfeel spectrum. And man, is it spicy! There’s betel nut and mace and about sixteen other things I can’t readily tease apart. This is the sequel to The Poisonwood Bible.  Or better: it’s The Spicewood Book of Mormon.  Now here comes the fruit in a wild free association: Bananas. Goji berries. Halle Berri. Berri Berri. Peri-Peri. Timothy Leary’s private stash of LSD. Creamy.  Shakuhachi. David Carradine. Florentines without chocolate. Wow, what a ride!

The finish is like a long, slow sunset: it’s as long and slow as the last breaths of this long closed distillery. The buildings still linger, empty and ghost-like, on the edge of William Grant Company’s properties in Dufftown, but this spirit still flows into the world like the nectar of long-forgotten royalty. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but my goodness, if it is hyperbole, it’s not far from the truth.



On the scale of ghostly flowers–
The Convalmore 32 Year 2017 Limited Edition is Monotropa uniflora–Also known as the “ghost pipe” and the “Indian pipe,” it is a strikingly singular flower: it contains no chlorophyll and thus can grow in very dark environments, like among the ghostly remains of a silent distillery.








–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!



Glenfarclas 17 Year

Glenfarclas 17 Year 43% ABV $100 Website What the Distiller Says 100% Oloroso sherry cask maturation. Hints of oak, complexity but finely balanced. Combines the smoothness of our younger whiskies with the greater depth of our older expressions. Tasting Notes Colour: Rich amber. Nose: Complex, with distinctive butterscotch and sherried fruit. Flavour: Big, full-flavoured, with … Continue reading Glenfarclas 17 Year →

Whiskey on the Willamette (WhiskyCast Episode 719: August 12, 2018)

This week, we'll visit House Spirits Distillery - part of Portland's "Distillery Row" along the eastern banks of the Willamette River. House Spirits is the home of Westward American Single Malt Whiskey, and head distiller Miles Munroe will take us on a tour of the distillery during WhiskyCast In-Depth. We'll also talk with Jeneen Bell, the president of Portland's 300-member Women Who Whiskey chapter, about what makes Portland a good place to drink. In the news, cleanup work is slowly progressing at Kentucky's Barton 1792 Distillery following the recent rickhouse collapse, but it could take months to work through a massive pile of around 18,000 whiskey barrels. Templeton Rye has opened its $35 million distillery in Iowa, and we'll have the latest on new whiskies from Scotland and Kentucky, too. 

The Dailuaine 10 Year 2007 from The Exclusive Malts

Tasting notes:
The Exclusive Malts Dailuaine 10 Year 2007, aggressively bids Two Clubs to open the annual Malt Impostor World Invitational Duplicate Bridge Tournament. I wonder if its hand can be that powerful, and catching a whiff, well, yes, it certainly has that paint lacquer daubed on urethane longboard wheels aroma going for it. Beware insects! My whisky hath become death from above for you. There’s also a box of No. 2 pencils used by high school sophomores for a string of fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests. As time passes, I’m getting roast pecans sprinkled over petroglyphs carved into limestone.

The mouth–ooh, that’s warming–brings a Song of Fire and Fire. There are flavors there aplenty, but since the better angels of my tastebuds are weeping from the high ABV, I’m going to water this down to see what emergent properties it has. Okay, that’s smooth now, like a Siamese rubbing against your calves. At your 10th high school reunion, a slingshot made from an almond tree sproings apple-butter coated Cinnamon Red Hots™ at that kid you always hated. Ping! Kill-shot, back of the head! He rubs his wooly ginger hair, bleating like an angry sheep who was just shorn. Revenge is sweet.

The finish has sugar, when it was a rare savory after being introduced by Crusaders come home, say circa the 12th century. There’s also post-orchid-nectar hummingbird poop, which is, if you’ve never had it, surprisingly good. What’s that Stephen? No, of course I’ve never had hummingbird poop! Anyways, it’s rich and smooth, like a pick-up artist who inherited his money from his carefree ne’er-do-well Aunt Clarissa.



On the scale of things that get better over time–
The Exclusive Malts Dailuaine 10yo, 2007, is the body-identification of a driver with an automobile. At first, it’s tentative. But before long, you *feel* like you’re the car, and you know where all your boundaries lie. Now, just put the pedal to the metal and go!






–Our thanks to The Exclusive Malts and ImpEx for the sample!



Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (August 10, 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.


The South African drinks company of Distell have announced a new annual limited edition programme for their three Scotch brands, and the first bottlings for the series. All three of their Scottish distilleries - Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory - are featured in the new series, which has been named 'The Malt Gallery'. There are two expressions from Bunnahabhain and Ledaig, the peated version of Tobermory, and one each from Deanston and of the classic Tobermory.

The two Bunnahabhains are the 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured (pictured, right) and the 21 years old Palo Cortado Sherry Cask Finish. These are priced at £75 and £275 respectively. The Deanston (pictured, above) is the 2008 Brandy Cask Finish and is priced at £60 per bottle. The two peated Ledaigs were both distilled in 1998 and bottled at 19 years old. One is the Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish (£130) and the other is the Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask Finish (£150). The classic Tobermory is 12 years old and is the Fino Sherry Cask Finish. It will cost £110 each. No details of the ABV or number of bottles of each were given in the press release.

"This has been a revolutionary year for our malt portfolio. We’re lucky to have three very different distilleries and this showcase will allow us to share the stories of each and highlight how these are reflected in the bold new releases."
Derek Scott - Brand Director for Malt Whisky at Distell.

Whyte & Mackay
Whyte & Mackay have announced details of a new blended whisky that has joined its portfolio - The Woodsman. The new blend is designed to attract younger drinkers to the category and focuses on the company's wood and cask management. This is reflected in the casks used to mature the whiskies involved - these include new virgin oak casks from Ohio and 'double scorched' ex-bourbon barrels. It is also reflected in a bottle design that features embossed wood grain and tree rings.

The Woodsman was launched this week at the Edinburgh Festival and will be available initially in the UK through selected supermarkets and whisky retailers. It is bottled at 40% ABV and will cost £28 per bottle. For more information, please visit the new website for the brand -

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Review - The Glenlivet Captain's Reserve

The Captain's Reserve is a new single malt from the famous Speyside distillery of The Glenlivet. The new expression has been finished in ex-Cognac casks and honours Captain William Smith Grant, the great grandson of The Glenlivet's founder George Smith, who fought in France during the First World War. It is initially matured in first-fill ex-sherry casks made from American oak. It joins numerous expressions in the core range, including the Founder's Reserve and recently re-introduced 12 years old, but also designed to show the versatility of the Glenlivet spirit and the experimentation happening at the distillery.

The Glenlivet distillery is located in the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains, close to the village of Ballindalloch in the Speyside region of Scotland. It is named after the Livet Glen in which it sits and was founded in 1824 by George Smith, whose signature still appears on the labels and packaging. The distillery was the first in the Speyside to be granted a distilling license under the new Parliamentary Excise Act, which was written in 1823.

The Glenlivet is now one of Scotland's largest distilleries with an annual production of over 10 million litres, which will increase very soon due to the completion of a planned expansion. It is currently owned by Pernod Ricard, who took control in 2001, and is one of the best selling Scotch single malt brands. The Glenlivet regularly battles with Glenfiddich for the number one spot.

The Glenlivet Captain's Reserve is now available globally and is bottled at 40% ABV.  It will retail for a price of £45 per bottle. For further information on The Glenlivet and the Captain's Reserve, please visit

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow, almost amber, and the nose has initial aromas of green apple, golden syrup and dark dried fruits. These are particularly reminiscent of prunes with some currant, raisin and fig also evident. There are also aromas of burnt cereals, plasticine and a hint of treacle.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate sweetness that is led by the dark dried fruits and sweeter elements from the nose. The note of prune is prominent and backed up by raisins and figs again, with a hint of candied bitter orange peel. The sweetness is driven by notes of golden syrup and honey with an element of fudge or toffee in the background. Underneath is some crisp green apple and stewed pear, along with a pinch of earthy wood spices (think of cinnamon and all-spice especially) and cocoa powder. Late notes of white chocolate and a hint of liquorice/aniseed round things off.

The finish is quite short, especially once the sweetness and dried fruitiness fades. The earthy wood spices remain and there is a pleasant dryness that has a warmth and a peppery bite (imagine white pepper) to it.

What's the verdict?
There are not too many whiskies that we can think of that are matured in ex-Cognac casks so it is a bold step by a leading brand such as The Glenlivet to put one in their core range. The Captain's Reserve is a pleasing result with a nice sweetness, warmth and feel to it.

This single malt is also dangerously easy to drink but not the most complicated. It is good to drink a whisky like that sometimes. The short finish is a little disappointing but had the effect of us wanting to pour ourselves another glass straight away ...

Glenfarclas 15 Year

Glenfarclas 15 Year 46% ABV $60 – $70 (not currently distributed in the US) Website What the Distiller Says We bottle this at 46% simply because my grandfather preferred it at this strength. It’s still a family favourite. This is perfect for single malt enthusiasts. Tasting Notes Colour: A rich golden amber. Nose: Complex, sherried, … Continue reading Glenfarclas 15 Year →

Review - Mortlach 12 years old, 16 years old & 20 years old

The Speyside distillery of Mortlach has announced a revamp of its core range, which introduces three new expressions to replace the previous three bottlings. The new whiskies are the 12 years old 'Wee Witchie', the 16 years old 'Distiller's Dram' and the 20 years old 'Cowie's Blue Seal'. All three are designed to show the bold and audacious nature of the distillery, which is nicknamed 'The Beast of Dufftown', with the bottle size reverting to 70cl from the previous 50cl.

Mortlach is located on the edge of the small Speyside town of Dufftown, which is the region's whisky capital. Six distilleries are currently in operation there - Balvenie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Mortlach. Three others have also existed but are no longer in production - Convalmore, Parkmore and Pittyvaich.

Mortlach was the first of these and was founded in 1823 by James Findlater. It is currently owned by Diageo. The whisky from Mortlach is mainly used within Diageo's extensive range of blends, most prominently in the hugely popular Johnnie Walker Black Label and Double Black. The current capacity is 3.8 million litres per year.

All three of the new whiskies are bottled at the 43.4% ABV and have undergone Mortlach's unique 2.81 times distillation process. The 16 and 20 year olds have been matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks, while the 12 years old has a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

"These whiskies really stand out in Speyside. For me it’s the way the unique 2.81 process gives you such an intensely complex liquid and character from the minute it comes off the still; it’s like having three distilleries at the one still house. Our job is to hone the character in the right way."
Dr. Craig Wilson - Master Blender at Diageo.

They will be released initially in Taiwan in the Autumn, before being rolled out to other selected world markets. The recommended prices are - 12 years old (£50), 16 years old (£80) and 20 years old (£200).

Our tasting notes

Mortlach 12 years old 'Wee Witchie'
Named after the distinctive still that aids and creates Mortlach's unique 2.81x distillation, the nose of this 12 years old expression kicks off with aromas of pear, apple, toffee, butterscotch and dark chocolate. Then come further earthy and savoury aromas and a hint of honeysuckle.

On the palate there are immediate notes of caramel, vanilla, toffee, honeycomb and cocoa.  This gives a lovely creamy feel to the whisky. Then some warming spices begin to develop (cinnamon and gingerbread in particular) and these are complimented by a soft stewed fruit note - imagine pear and apple especially. Hints of bitter orange marmalade (or is it jaffa cakes?), marzipan and white chocolate round things off. There is an underlying meaty/savoury note throughout. The finish is long and becomes drier and earthier as the warming spices take hold. A late hit of dried tropical fruit adds further depth.

Mortlach 16 years old 'Distiller's Dram'
This new 16 years old expression is designed to stand alone, rather than replicate or replace the now-fabled Flora & Fauna 16 years old bottling that was discontinued four years ago.

The nose is packed with aromas of soft brown sugar, dark raisins, dates and leather with hints of black treacle, dried fig, tropical flowers and cocoa adding complexity. On the palate this whisky feels robust and viscous with plenty of hard caramel and dark dried fruits immediately present (think of raisins, sultanas, dates and figs), followed by a tropical note most reminiscent of canned peaches. Then comes a delicious mix of crème brûlée, baked apple, toffee, leather, tobacco leaf, plus musty and earthy wood spices (especially cinnamon and all-spice). The finish is intense with an initial sweetness but becomes more dry and spicy as the sweeter notes fade.

Mortlach 20 years old 'Cowie's Blue Seal' 
Named after one of the original bottlings of Mortlach, 'Cowie's Blue Seal' dates back to 1909 and was released until the 1970s. Now it has been re-born as this 20 years old.

On the nose there are a lovely set of aromas - think of cocoa, milk chocolate and clove with hints of tropical fruit (especially apricot, lychee and white oriental pear) and a hint of meat gravy and dry tea leaves. On the palate this whisky is robust and oily but with a distinct elegance. Initial notes of golden syrup, caramel and tropical fruits (similar to the nose but with peach added) give way to more savoury and earthy characteristics. There is a heady mix of cinnamon, clove, all-spice and ginger with some cooling menthol and sweet chilli jam in the background. This note comes through more on the long and savoury finish, as does the cocoa from earlier and a delicate hint of white chocolate.

What's the verdict?
It is a brave move by Diageo to revamp the Mortlach range just four years after they launched the previous incarnation.  When speaking with those behind the new whiskies they told us that they had listened to consumer criticism about the bottle size, liquids and price. This new range is the result and is a refreshing approach from such a big company.

Mortlach is a big, bold and robust single malt and like many whiskies of this style it reacts and matures best with ex-sherry casks. This is evident here and each whisky works well individually, but also within the set of three. While we enjoyed the previous incarnation of Mortlach, these new whiskies make more sense and are very enjoyable.

The Caol Ila 18 Year Unpeated 2017 Limited Edition

Tasting notes:
Imagine if marzipan pelicans carried smoked sardines in their pouches.  You might see a bit of lagoon muck tracing a lipstick smile on the side of the beak, but this is tarry in all the right ways.  A clear tar, etiolated with grace.  We also found a bit of pipe tobacco and curly-cue shavings from an illuminated manuscript.  There’s also a crate of mandarin oranges sitting atop a spice wood pyre.

This spicy wood comes alive on the mouth, as if heat activates the resin like the perspiration along a runner’s brow.  What’s puzzling is how this 18 year-old whisky could keep its ABV so high.  Hypothesis: no angels got in there at all.  This is deep and orotund.  I’m dropping a star opal into a dark well on a moonless night, and just want to dive into the void right after it.

The finish gives suggestions of peppermint, which become insinuations on the open.  The orange spices, too, are softened by grilled plantain custard.  Still, the chewiness persists long after I’ve swallowed.  A feeling takes hold of me that I recognize at once as the firm grip of certainty upon my breast.  And it is this: I am certain that there once existed cutting-room floor footage of Charles Foster Kane dropping a Glencairn glass and saying, with his final breath, “Caol Ila.”



On the scale of biographical remarks about Orson Welles–
The Caol Ila 18 Year Unpeated 2017 Limited Edition is Andre Bazin’s quip about Welles’ happy childhood that “too many fairies bent over his cradle”–Rather than spoiling the man, it seems to have equipped him with a courage to match his genius.






–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!



Jeff Arnett: 10 Years as Master Distiller at Jack Daniel's (WhiskyCast Episode 718: August 5, 2018)

Jeff Arnett became the Master Distiller for Jack Daniel's in 2008, joining a small club of distillers that began with Jack Daniel and Nathan "Nearest" Green in 1866. In his first decade on the job, he's created more new Jack Daniel's whiskies than all of his predecessors combined, while also traveling the world as the brand's chief ambassador. We'll talk with Jeff Arnett about that decade and his plans for the future on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, community activists in Northern Ireland are trying to scuttle part of the expansion plan for Bushmills, while Wild Turkey's team is scrambling to meet unexpected demand for one of their newest whiskies.

The Tomatin 18 Year Old (Oloroso Sherry Finish)

Tasting notes:
The Tomatin 18 Year Old (Oloroso Sherry finish) presents, on a bronze tray, unpopped buttered popcorn kernels surrounding, like marching ants having a May Day parade, a sticky toffee cake baked by a rotund, rubicund ex-pat Scotsman wearing surgical gloves. Angus, also known as the “Dancing Baker,” stewed maraschino cherries in a molé sauce—Olé!—and poached Bosc pears and Bosch spark plugs to form a truly unique fruit compote.

The mouth is an obituary page dipped in solvent…John, how did that get into the notes?!?…I’m going to ignore John, and invite you to do the same. There’s licorice, and a backbone of windmill vanes drying in the autumn sun after a light spring rain. (Yes, I know the seasons don’t align, but I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.) It’s thick and spreading without being cloying, as cozy as a handmade quilt laden with sweet heirloom tomatoes reduced in peach nectar, black pepper, Herbs de Murmansk…John, seriously, have you been drinking? I mean, beyond the Tomatin? Anyways, the flavors concentrate at the front roof of the mouth, establishing a beachhead in the soft palate, and invading the finish in balsa kayaks. I also got 70% dark chocolate Easter Island Santas.

[Stephen: Bill! What have you been drinking?!?]

Rapa Whooie!

The finish is long, hard, and spicy, like an anise and cinnamon salami (also made by the versatile Angus). He added a mélange of spices he scraped from the bamboo and teak floor of a Burmese spice shop after about two shelves worth of exotic curries and the like were knocked over by a particularly inept apprentice. We also got melted Jujubes®, bubbling in peppermint oil in a crêpe pan. Mon Dieu, mon ami!



On the scale of pasta dishes I’m imagining I might have for dinner–
The Tomatin 18 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Finish is gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce–Why? you ask. Why not? I answer. It’ll be delicious and the many wonderful flavors of the Tomatin will complement it perfectly.






–Our thanks to Tomatin for the sample!



Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (August 3, 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.


The Speyside distillery of Aberlour has announced a new single malt - the Casg Annamh. The name translates as 'rare cask' from Gaelic and has been created in small batches by Graeme Cruickshank, the Master Distiller at Aberlour. He has selected a small number of ex-Oloroso sherry casks made from both American and European oak to produce this first batch. Casg Annamh is non chill-filtered and bottled at a strength of 48% ABV. It will be available worldwide and will carry a price of £55/$70 US per bottle.

"Casg Annamh is a tribute to our craftsmen’s passion for sherry and their expertise to create a rare and fine single malt. We carefully hand-pick our Oloroso sherry casks from traditional bodegas in Spain, making sure the wood has exactly the right aromatic qualities for Aberlour."
Graeme Cruickshank.

Douglas Laing
The indie bottler Douglas Laing & Co has announced the release of a high ABV version of their Rock Oyster blended malt. The Rock Oyster Cask Strength Batch 2 features a collection of single malts from Scotland's whisky islands including Arran, Islay, Jura and Orkney. They have all been matured in American oak and Batch 2 has been bottled at the natural strength of 56.1% ABV. There are just 8,400 bottles and they will be available in selected specialist retailers worldwide. The price is £50.


The east Highland distillery of Fettercairn has announced a global relaunch of its single malt range, with an emphasis on its rare and aged stock portfolio. The relaunch is also accompanied by a full bottle and packaging redesign, plus a refreshing of the brand logo.

The four new bottlings are age statements of 12, 28, 40 and 50 years of age. Each product has been matured in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels. The 12 and 28 year olds have seen full maturation while the 40 and 50 year olds have experienced a period of finishing, in ex-Apostoles sherry casks and ex-Tawny Port pipes respectively. The 40 and 50 year olds are presented in hand crafted wooden caskets.

"Fettercairn is a beautiful distillery with a treasure trove of aged and rare stocks. I’ve worked there since 1990 and most of the team that started with me then are still on this journey today. It’s a pleasure crafting Fettercairn single malt together and we are excited to share our exceptional whiskies with enthusiasts the world over."
Stewart Walker - Distillery Manager at Fettercairn.

The Fettercairn range will be released to key markets including France, Germany, Taiwan and the UK and will be available from late August. Prices will be set as follows - 12 years old (£48/$60 US), 28 years old (£500/$675 US), 40 years old (£3,000/$4,000 US) and 50 years old (£10,000/$13,5000 US).

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Building a Showcase for Bourbon History (WhiskyCast Episode 717: August 2, 2018)

Construction workers are racing the clock to complete work at Louisville's Frazier History Museum by the end of this month, when the new "Spirit of Kentucky" Bourbon history exhibit and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center are scheduled to open. Both represent a multi-million dollar investment in Bourbon tourism on Louisville's Whiskey Row, and we'll take a "hard hat" tour with the Frazier's Andy Treinen on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, 2017 was another record year for Scotch Whisky tourism, and a new whisky trail is giving tourists a taste of the Hebrides. We'll also have details on new whiskies from Jack Daniel's, Highland Park, Johnnie Walker, and the revival of Fettercairn with a new range of single malts. 

Glenfarclas 10 Year

Glenfarclas 10 Year 40% ABV $40 Website What the Distiller Says 100% Oloroso Sherry Cask Maturation. Gloriously smooth, yet with the depth and finish you would normally expect of a much older dram. A wonderfully sherried whisky and an excellent aperitif. Tasting Notes Colour: Vibrant, straw-gold. Nose: Tempting sherry-sweet malty tones combine with delicate aromas, … Continue reading Glenfarclas 10 Year →

Distillery Visit - Balcones

The Balcones distillery was ahead of its time and helped to kick off the craft distilling boom in the United States. They have also helped to put American single malt and Texan whisky on the map. Now the distillery is celebrating its 10th anniversary and Matt was invited over for a special tour.

It seems difficult to imagine the spirits scene without any small artisanal distillers. However, this current landscape is very different to that of a decade ago when we first began writing Whisky For Everyone. The American whiskey sector was dominated by a limited number of major players and in our UK market there seemed little choice.

These big players remain dominant in terms of volume and sales, but have been joined by a huge number of smaller ‘craft’ brands that offer variety and experimentation. The first of this new wave of distilleries that we became aware of was Balcones.

Welcome to the new Balcones.
As you walk around the impressive new distillery in downtown Waco, which they moved in to in 2015, it is easy to see how far the brand has come in the last decade. The modern décor of the shop and bar area sits well within the old building and they are producing more spirit than they ever have. It is even easier to see this progression when you visit the old distillery where everything started.

Tucked under a concrete freeway on the edge of town, the previous distillery was where it all began for Balcones. The unassuming building houses equipment that was all hand built and fills the space, crammed in to every corner it seems. Everything is now covered in cobwebs and has a sad and derelict feel.

The now silent stills at the old Balcones site.
It takes some imagination and vision to see how they produced any quantity or quality of spirit at all in such surroundings. But the thing you quickly learn about Balcones and the people that work there is that they are a skilled, passionate and determined bunch. This has got them to where they are today.

That sees Balcones as one of the leading craft distillers in the country. Named after the Balcones Fault, a nearby fissure in the earth that produces the spring water for production, the new distillery is a world away from its previous incarnation. It is state-of-the-art and eco-friendly with an emphasis on sustainability and consistency.

All aspects of the whisky making process happen on site from the time the grains are delivered to when bottles are shipped out all over the world. Key markets include America, northern Europe and the UK.

Balcones uses corn, rye and malted barley.
Cereals are stored in massive dry grain silos that hold 58 tonnes (120,000 lbs) each and these then follow one of two routes depending on what is being produced. Everything except malted barley goes to a cereal cooker that produces the sugars and enzymes needed for fermentation. On the day of our visit it was rum being prepared.

Alternatively, the malted barley goes to a mash tun that would not look out of place in a Scottish malt distillery. There is a good reason for that - it was made in Scotland by renowned coppersmiths Forsyths and was formerly at the Speyburn distillery. Each mash takes six hours and produces 6,500 gallons (24,605 litres) of wort.

The mashtun.
While in this area we were introduced to Pickles the distillery cat, who was a real show stopper. To a man (and woman) everyone was captivated. Apparently the cat was brought in to deal with a rodent problem but its credentials as a mouser are said to be under close scrutiny as no one has ever seen one caught.

Pickles. Zero mice and counting ...
Outside and up some steep metal open stairs (- one of my worst nightmares ...) are the fermenters. There are seven and they are metal. Each has a capacity of 7,000 gallons (26,500 litres) but is only ever filled with one complete mash of 6,500 gallons. Then, 20kgs of yeast is added and the wort is then left for an extraordinarily long fermentation time of seven days (168 hours). This is done to increase flavour and promote acid pH development. The rum is left for the even longer time of 21 days (504 hours).

Head Distiller Jared checks a fermenter.
The resulting wash then heads down to the still house, the like of which I have never seen before. The stills themselves are striking and housed in a dramatic corner of the old building that Balcones now call home. The building was constructed in 1923 and was used by the Texas Fireproof Stroage Co. It is built of brick and covers a whopping 65,000 square feet (6,040 square metres). A large sign from the previous occupants hangs above the wash stills.

Fireproof? You bet.
The distillery and visitor area covers the ground floor, while the first floor is currently being converted to new offices and a blending and sampling room for Jared Himstedt, the charismatic Head Distiller. The upper floors are home to maturing casks of whisky.

The stills at Balcones are copper and are heated via steam injection. They were made in Scotland and have and extraordinary striking design that takes the breath away. They were created to replicate the stills at the old facility and create the same style of spirit, but were upsized to cope with the increased production demands.

This led to a problem - when the lyne arms of the stills were increased in size they turned out to be extremely long and unable to fit in the required space. The solution? To construct a unique coiled lyne arm that means the spirit vapours travel the same relative distance and have the same relative contact with the copper.

The coiled lyne arms at Balcones.
Around 20% of all Balcones casks in existence are currently being matured at the distillery. This equates to approximately 1,500 casks. The two upper floors are dedicated to this and have a cool and serene air about them. Despite this, they lose approximately 20% of the cask contents to evaporation each year due to the Texan climate. This results in the Balcones spirit ageing quickly and being bottled at relatively young ages.

Casks maturing at the distillery site.
The remainder of the casks are stored at a new facility on the edge of Waco, which we were fortunate to be taken to the following day. These two purpose built warehouses can house 11,000 casks and are currently just over half capacity. Since Balcones began in 2008 they have filled an estimated 20,400 casks of spirit in total.

Barrel rolling in the new warehousing.
Once the spirits have reached their optimum maturation time according to Jared and his skilled team, the casks are married together to produce the required batch and then bottled on a production line on the ground floor of the distillery. This can filled, label and cork 20 bottles per minute. 

The final leg of our tour took us back to the shop and bar area where we were treated to a tasting to end all tastings. The line-up was fantastic and featured core range bottles, limited editions and preview samples. This was all in the company of Winston Edwards, the US Brand Ambassador for Balcones, and Jared.

What. A. Tasting.
The Baby Blue, Rumble and Single Malt were followed by a preview of the French Oak and Mirador expressions, which had not been released at the time. Then came Single Malt Rum Finish, Rum, Rye 100% and Rye Cask Strength. Finally a sample of Peated Single Cask, earmarked as a 10th anniversary bottling, followed by Brimstone and Brimstone Cask Strength.

However, the surprises were not over yet. Jared and Winston then presented us with a Balcones cocktail before we headed up to the roof for an impressive view across Waco. The old water tower, now painted with the Balcones logo, has quickly become a local landmark. It represents another demonstration of how far the brand has progressed since its early days and how important is has become to the Waco community. Long may that continue in to the next decade and beyond.

Up on the roof ... isn't that a song?
I would like to thank Jared and Winston for the wonderful tours of both Balcones sites, for their knowledge and insight given, and for their excellent hospitality throughout my stay in Texas. I would also like to thank Emily Harris of MayFox PR, who invited me and organised such a great trip. I hope that it is not too long before I can return to the distillery for another visit.

Visitor Information

  • Tours are available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for $15 per person - booking in advance is highly recommended.
  • Masterclasses are offered approximately four times per year for $75 per person.
  • The Tasting Room and gift shop hours are - Wednesday & Thursday 2-7pm, Friday & Saturday 1-8pm.  
  • For further information, please visit