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WhiskyCast Episode 587: April 30, 2016

The other night, Louisville's Haymarket Whiskey Bar held a "Jim
Rutledge Tribute Night" to honor the retired Four Roses master
distiller. Less than 24 hours later, Jim announced his plans to
come out of retirement and start a $2 million crowdfunding campaign
to build a new distillery near Louisville. We'll talk with Jim
about his new project on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the
news, Brown-Forman is back in the Scotch Whisky business after 11
years with a $416 million deal to buy the BenRiach Distillery
Company from Billy Walker and his partners, Compass Box is hoping
to "enlighten" those who oppose transparency in Scotch whisky with
two new bottlings, and Cleveland Whiskey's Tom Lix is using his
"magic" maturation machine for a new range of finished
whiskies.

The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve

Glenrothes-Vintage-ReserveTasting notes:
The Glenrothes Vintage Reserve’s color is that of a beautiful dark amber comprised of congealed ebony tree sap that’s been ground into fine dust and used as polish for the cedar prow of a trireme. Of course, I’m colorblind, so take that with a (coarse) grain of salt. I tried to convince myself that the nose might not have an archetypal Glenrothes spine of beef burgundy—really, I told myself that even though it’s their signature scent, even though it’s in their DNA, perhaps this will be a mutant expression that will envelop me in, say, Medusa snakes spun into platinum and onyx straws by Rumpelstiltskin…and, no. It still has that beef burgundy imprint that I’ve come to love. It’s lighter this time, like it’s been mixed with sour cherries and Greek yogurt by a blender with mad skills, a veritable Willy Wonka—excuse me, a veritable ‘Willie MacWonka.’

Exceptionally smooth when it first hits my tongue, as if I’d stumbled into a unique massage parlor that holds an esoteric doctrine that the nerves in the tongue mirror those in the body, and as such, relaxing the tongue will unknot the body. The twist is that this parlor works its magic by coating your tongue with zinnia nectar combined with that of saguaro blossoms, and then letting a charm of Costa’s hummingbirds loose at it. Then, it is the seemingly continuous flicking of their tongues that works the magic. I also got marzipan marbles, essence of Delacroix, unripe kumquats, and the lofty aspirations of a 14 year old hoyden just accepted to Caltech. Shoe polish, too, but a reeeeaaalllly niiiice shoe polish that’s custom produced for Michael Flatley. [Stephen: You mean it’s heat resistant? Or maybe cheeseball resistant?]

The finish doubles down like A-Rod playing a full house in an illegal poker club. (Little does he know that Bronson Arroyo is holding a straight flush.) There’s the same, but much more of it, and the deliquescent tongue-tappings have become hummingbird talon-tip-toed ostinados fading into a passacaglia performed to an aria from Carmen sung by Pagliacci. Confused? Not as much as I am!

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of things that change, but don’t change much–
Somewhat like Captain Renault in Casablanca, the Glenrothes Vintage Reserve is watching a great movie for the second (or third or fourth) time–You pick up nuances; you see the layers. Released from the tension of “What happens next??”, you are able to peer deeper and deeper into the scriptural substructures. You feel microripples of joy and open up other wellsprings of emotion and critical capacities. Hello, old friend. I’m so glad you stopped by again.

 

 

 

                                                                      –Bill

 

 

 
   
–Our thanks to Anchor Distilling Co. for the sample!

 

Whiskey Irreverent with Stefan Part 2

Green Spot Chateau Leoville Barton review (part 2): Consummation Apparently based on reader feedback, some of you drunken SOBs felt slighted due to the lack of details around the actual contents of the bottle. While what follows is that actual review, I would like to say I write it under protest as I am not … Continue reading Whiskey Irreverent with Stefan Part 2 →

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (April 29, 2016)

Welcome to this week's Inbox.  For those that have recently discovered us, 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.  Here is this week's news that caught our eyes ...

________

Brown Forman - Back in the Scotch game


American drinks firm Brown-Forman, owners of brands such as Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve, have reached a 'definitive agreement' to purchase The Benriach Distillery Company.  The sale of the independent company owned by Billy Walker includes three single malt distilleries - Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh - as well as the company's headquarters and bottling plant in Edinburgh.  All will operate as a subsidiary of Brown Forman.  The aquisition is set to be completed on June 1 and is reported to be costing £285 million (US$416 million).


“The acquisition of these super premium brands will allow Brown-Forman to re-enter one of our industry’s most exciting and consistent growth segments, single malt Scotch whisky. The Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh single malt brands are rich in history and we believe they will continue to prosper and grow in our hands.”
Paul Varga - CEO at Brown-Forman.



Compass Box - Two new bottlings
The artisan whisky blending company of Compass Box have announced two new limited edition releases.  The first, named The Circus, is a blended Scotch and is made from a number of different blends and blended grain whiskies that were then aged together in ex-sherry butts for several years.  There are just 2,490 bottles available (in Europe and the USA) and the whisky has been bottled at 49% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour.  The label is inspired by a Charlie Chaplin film from 1928, which is also named The Circus.  The price will be £190, US$275 or €235 a bottle.


The second release is called Enlightenment and is designed to be a celebration of Compass Box's ongoing Scotch Whisky Transparency Campaign, which currently has over 7,000 people signed up to it.  The new whisky is a blended malt that consists of single malts from the Balblair, Clynelish, Glentauchers and Morthlach distilleries.  There are just 5,922 bottles of Enlightenment and they will be available from mid-May in Europe and early June in the USA.  It has been bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour.  The price is £60, US$85 or €79 per bottle.



Jim Rutledge Talks of Four Roses Past, Distillery Future

fred-minnick-new-authorWhen Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge retired last year, he wasn’t the first master distiller to retire before his career was truly over. Woodford Reserve’s Lincoln Henderson retired from Brown-Forman and then started Angel’s Envy. Now, Rutledge joins the extremely rare crop of Kentucky blue blood master distillers to leave the corporate ranks and start his own distillery, which he announced yesterday. Read the Whisky Advocate blog story.

Fred Minnick caught up with Rutledge to discuss his past and new venture.

First, let’s discuss Four Roses. After you retired, speculation surfaced that you were pushed out as Four Roses master distiller. Is this true?

I47feab770ca27ccf7cbc5caf44708271 absolutely did not get pushed out the door. When I started talking with the previous CEO, I said it was time to move on in my career. Our new CEO and I negotiated my retirement. They asked for a five-year notice. I hear people thinking I got fired…no truth in that. And I don’t know where this speculation comes from or how it got started. Everything was cordial when I left. Four Roses is a part of my life and will always be a part of my life. Four Roses is an old flame and will always be the best part of my life. It was very mutual departure. No hard feelings on my part. They were disappointed they couldn’t talk me into staying on longer.

Did anybody from Four Roses reach out you for congratulations?

My text messages and emails were inundated with Four Roses people congratulating me and wishing me the best of luck.

Now that you’re the new distillery on the block, if you need whiskey, would you contact Four Roses for contract distilling?

No, because they need every gallon for themselves. It’s been that way for years. If they had excess capacity, they’d be the first one I’d contact.

Why did you retire from Four Roses if you still have distilling on the mind?

Because I’m 72, and it was time to move on. [My own company] sounded exciting.

After you retired, how many employment and partnership calls did you receive?

Within the first two hours, I received phone calls for consulting work and had several offers to work for other distilleries. Consulting work is fine. I said I’m retired from corporate work and not interested. The two guys I’m working with I’ve known for years…if I was going to do anything, it would be with them.

Let’s talk money. You’re Jim Rutledge, and we whiskey geeks think you can just throw your name on a project and the investors will come. Crowd funding has a reputation for being last-resort funding. Why go this route?

I don’t look at crowd funding as a last resort. It’s a kickstarter to get us on the road and then we have something to offer. It’s a mid-size distillery. You just can’t call people up and say, ‘hey do you want to donate and all we have is our experience?’ I look at it as a starting point. We also want to remain as independent as possible.

How much do you need?

For 100 acres of property, a distillery that can produce 30,000-40,000 barrels year…about $25 million to $30 million.

Are you only using crowd funding?

We’re also speaking with people for private funding or large investor groups. Not venture capitalists because they want a quick return. Most people willing to put up money want a quick return. A distillery operation is in for the long haul. Once we get to the point that the barrels are matured, earnings increase. Up until that point, we can do contract distillation, barrel warehousing, and offer rooms for events and weddings.

From a banking investor standpoint, they’ll want to see a plan in place for the long haul. You’re 72.  

We will have somebody working with me from the start to train in my ways and philosophies to generate the mellowness and smoothness. It’s an exciting time. We’re planning an environmentally-friendly distillery with geothermal and solar power. I don’t know how long I’ll last, but I’m hoping I’m still working 15 years from now. It’s been my life and I want to continue.

Are you planning a flavored whiskey?

Yeah, a honey bourbon [he laughs, obviously joking.] We will not do anything to deviate from the integrity of Kentucky straight bourbon.

The post Jim Rutledge Talks of Four Roses Past, Distillery Future appeared first on Whisky Advocate.

The Trojan is Here!

The wait is almost over folks... 
Tomorrow (Thursday 31st March) sees the release of The Trojan- our first whisky from the Exile Casks project that we've been working on.

The Trojan was distilled on 19th June 1990, and filled into cask 3110.  It's been maturing for 25 years now and its finally ready for the world to taste!

To get your hands on The Trojan, which is bottled at 57.1% and available in 306 limited edition 50cl bottles, priced at £65, visit www.exilecasks.com The whisky is only available from there and we envisage it to go on sale around 1pm UK time tomorrow.

Until then- here's a nice picture of the bottle!!

Discover. Liberate. Enjoy.
Joel & Neil x


Jim Murray, 2015 Whisky Bible and Why Scotch Whisky Sucks



There is always a good deal of chatter when Jim Murray releases his awards list ahead of the release of a new edition of his bible, surely the sometimes controversial choices he makes are no promotional accident...
Some of the best whiskies I was fortunate enough to taste in 2014 were from Japan, and I would agree that the Yamazaki Sherry Cask is a stunning whisky from one of the world’s greatest malt whisky-producing countries, but the Daily Mail’s (expected) sensational headline and Mr. Murray’s statements strike me as remarkably unfounded. That Scotch whisky has something to be “humiliated” about, that a perceived lack of innovation has hindered Scotch producers is near nonsense.
Scotch whisky is celebrated and esteemed as much for its diversity of flavour as for its adherence to traditional craftsmanship over its lengthy history but recent years have seen these traditions used in new ways, with innovation from barley to barrel to bottle across the industry, albeit within parameters. Interestingly, many of these innovations have been in turn praised and criticised by Mr. Murray over the past two decades, from 1994s praise of finishing to his 2008 critique of the practice.
Japanese whisky was founded on the traditions of Scotch whisky making over 90 years ago, and it could possibly be argued that Japan adheres even more to the traditional methods (wooden washbacks, direct firing stills, etc) than the average malt distillery in Scotland so I do question Murray’s implied praise of generalised Japanese “innovation” over just making really good whisky that he liked.
Since the mid-1980s, when the world saw its first Single Malt from Japan, Japanese whiskies have attracted acclaim. Since 2008, Japanese blends and malts have won major titles, most notably from the World Whisky Awards. This is not to say that Scotch has stoppedwinning these awards or top acclaim from writers, including Murray. Although Scotch has, until now, won his highest accolade in all but one edition of his bible, Murray has awarded more American whiskies in recent years than Japanese. It is no news that America and Japan make excellent whiskies. Not a great headline, though, and tough to sell newspapers or magazines with a headline like that, "Whiskies Being Made to High Standard Outside Scotland"
The assumption from Murray’s statements is that Japanese whisky has an edge on Scotch because of a stronger vision or wilder innovation; innovations like the highball campaign? No Age Statements? Local barley or local oak? There are precedents in Scotch in every case. So in what way is Japanese whisky’s success due to innovations that Scotch lacks? Zero. It is due to releasing top quality malt whiskies. To infer that this precludes the ongoing (and much longer-running) success of Scotch whisky is balderdash, but a great reminder that Jim Murray’s latest book is about to be released!
Finally, in case it has not been mentioned, Jim has a new book coming out next week. 


The Glenlivet Alpha Review

Introduction

GlenlivetAlphaBig thanks to the folks at Deep Focus, a social media agency working with The Glenlivet, for sending me a free sample of the new Glenlivet Alpha expression that has only 3350 bottles shipping worldwide (not sure how many are coming to the U.S.). Especially since I’ve been flying under the whisky radar this past year (I’ll post more on that later). I haven’t checked out all of the marketing details, but apparently there is going to be a big “reveal” for Alpha in a few days, so I thought I’d go ahead and post some thoughts on the whisky while it is still something of a mystery (the box only states that it is a Single Malt bottled at 50% abv). The U.S. retail price is $120.

Tasting Notes

On the nose, my first impression is of cinnamon apples. Then vanilla custard, and finally some fresh wood shavings. Then back to the fruit, of the apples and pears variety. Looking online now at other reviews, I see people talking about lots of tropical fruits. Personally, that’s not the way I respond to this. It doesn’t strike me as tropical in the same way as something like Glenmorangie 18 year. But of course, this is all subjective.

On the palette, it starts out mouth-watering and juicy, sweet, then very slightly prickly on the tongue. There is a point where it becomes slightly nutty, and just as I start to expect a slight walnut bitterness, it pulls back. Very nice. It’s smooth as silk…almost buttery going down. It then becomes drying on the finish, before my mouth waters up again. A very enjoyable, if not particularly long, experience.

Impression

The Glenlivet Alpha is an extremely drinkable expression that would be great for sharing with all levels of whisky drinkers. It strikes me as a Special Edition release of their Nadurra expression. The overall flavor profile (especially on the nose) is quite similar. However, the Alpha has an extra silky smoothness to it relative to Nadurra, in the same way the 17 year finished Balvenie expressions relate to the 15 year single barrel. Though, I don’t detect anything resembling the typical “finishing” casks of sherry or wine in Alpha.

So what is it?

If this is a game, and we’re supposed to guess what the heck is in this black Alpha bottle, I’d have to guess a combination of first-fill and second-fill American White Oak bourbon barrels were used to mature the spirit. There is no sign of coloring or chill filtration (like Nadurra). Age? That’s a hard one. Is the extra buttery smoothness in the mouth over the Nadurra due to age, or is it related to the type of casks used? Not sure. I could believe a number of scenarios: 1) It’s a year or two older than the 16 year Nadurra. 2) They use a combination of refill casks and smaller quarter casks to give the impression of extra maturity, while keeping the oak in check, or 3) this is just the result of very carefully selected casks by the master distiller.

Value

Did I really enjoy this whisky? Yes. Am I going to seek out a bottle? No. Do I think you’re an idiot if you do? No.

I really like this whisky, but for me, the 16 year Nadurra (at $50/bottle locally) is close enough in profile to keep me satisfied. On the other hand, I have no immediate issues with the price of Alpha. They are saying that it was “carefully crafted” by the master distiller, and it is a limited release of 3,350 bottles. It’s not going to be for everybody, but then, the limited run kind of takes care of that. :-)

I’ve seen much higher prices asked for “carefully selected” expressions…how about the Diageo Manager’s Choice a few years ago? Talk about crazy pricing. These things work themselves out, though. A bunch of those Manager’s Choice bottles can still be had at 40% discounts online. So far, The Glenlivet Alpha is selling out quickly. The UK allocation disappeared immediately. If, upon commencing with their “reveal” on Facebook later this week, people are outraged by what they hear, then I’d expect that feedback to influence future releases.

If they keep their main line whiskies priced reasonably, and of high quality, what’s the harm in experimenting with various boutique releases aimed at smaller segments of the market? I look forward to learning more about the story behind The Glenlivet Alpha.

Cheers,
Jeff

Ch-Ch-Changes – Update Your RSS Feed!

Things are changing here at Whisky Party! We’re about to roll out a new design and switch to a new blog platform.

This is all happening on Monday February 20th!

If you’d like to continue reading Whisky Party in your RSS reader, you’ll have to update to the feed URL in your feed reader:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/whiskyparty/ETPs

For a sneak peak at the new sight, you can check out our staging version here.

Studio A

The Ca Scotch Couple firmly believe in living below their means. They shop at consignment stores, sock away the max for retirement, and adhere to a strict 25% debt to equity ratio. Consequently, the CA Scotch Couple's move to paradise in 2004 couldn't have come at a worse time. It was at the height of the real estate boom; the only houses even remotely within the CA Scotch Couple's price range were shacks, and even those shacks had multiple bidders.
So, it is no surprise that the beloved Little Beach House was one such shack: a circa 1913, 700 square foot single wall construction edifice with outdated wiring, inadequate plumbing, precipitously sloping floors, and a hole in its roof. The CA Scotch Couple spent many (many many many) years making the Little Beach House habitable. Unfortunately, no matter what they did, there was no escaping the reality that even with its new wiring, plumbing, and roof, the Little Beach House was a shack.
So, when the real estate bust hit San Diego hard, the CA Scotch Couple decided to see if they could trade their shack for something a little more spacious. They took a financial bath on the Little Beach House, and set out on their house hunting adventures with three goals for the new home: it needed to have lost at least as much value as the Little Beach House had, it needed to be more spacious than the Little Beach House; and it couldn't be a project.
One of the first properties the CA Scotch Couple viewed was a lovely old mixed use loft conversion in a slightly dodgy area. This 1933 grand dame had started its life as an old fashioned car dealership/garage and had then become an artist's studio and residence. It had magnificent arching barrel ceilings, open architecture, exposed terra cotta masonry, and concrete floors. It also wasn't up to earthquake code, had a leaking roof, had been stripped of plumbing, appliances and countertops, and, worst of all, had birds nesting in it. It was a whopping 2700 square feet, but man, oh man, it was project. CA Scotch Chick dubbed it "the Bird Sanctuary," and the CA Scotch Couple swiftly walked the other way.
But the CA Scotch Couple kept their miserly eyes on the Bird Sanctuary, and within a few months, market forces had driven it down to the price that the CA Scotch Couple had paid for the Little Beach House in 2004. Project or not, the CA Scotch Couple simply couldn't resist. It was a remarkable space, and it was worth the pain to make it beautiful again. They made an offer.
For seven months, long before the accident and throughout the CA Scotch Couple's recovery, they fought their way through the tortuous short sale and then foreclosure process. They managed to buy the Bird Sanctuary from the bank on the final day of 2009, immediately moved in, and endured endless months of living under plastic sheets with construction chaos ringing around them.
On the day they finally closed on the Bird Sanctuary, CA Scotch Gent sat CA Scotch Chick down and asked for two favors. First, could they please, please, please, set a goal of having the renovations done by the end of summer? No more projects stretching for years. Secondly, could they please, please, please, stop calling it the Bird Sanctuary?
They set a goal of August 31st as the drop dead date for finishing the renovation, and they scheduled a party to make sure they met that goal. Then they cast around for a more suitable name — finally deciding on "Studio A" in honor of the sign over its door.
It was a long hard nine months, complicated by the CA Scotch Couple's recovery from their injuries and those all encompassing work schedules. However, on August 31st, a mere three hours before their party, the CA Scotch Couple finally removed the last of the plastic, pushed the furniture into place, and claimed Studio A as their own.
It was well worth the effort. Studio A is now up to code; the birds have been evicted; it has been scrubbed from top to bottom; and it is now equipped with new bathrooms, appliances, countertops, skylights, and roof. Gentle light filters into its spacious and gracious interior giving the CA Scotch Couple the impression that they are stepping into a magnificent cavern whenever they return at the end of the day — the perfect refuge for a pair of recluses. It has been an extremely long tough year, but the CA Scotch Couple are finally home.