Glendalough Tasting Thursday, March 5 @ 7:30 p.m. Tonight Donal O’Gallachoir from Ireland will be hosting and guiding us through the delicious flavors of the newly launched Irish whiskey Glendalough. We will have the pleasure of tasting: Glendalough Sherry Cask Glendalough Double Barrel Glendalough 7yr Single Malt Glendalough 13yr Single Malt All for $37. Please RSVP at … Continue reading Event Notice: Glendalough Tasting at Mac McGee →
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In case you’re not glued into the American whiskey world, let me fill you in: these NDPs purchase whiskey from X distillery by the barrel and bottle it. Sometimes they slap a phony backstory on their label. Sometimes they try to hide the state of distillation on the bottle. And almost always, consumers, bloggers, and class-action lawyers will paint the Internet with “fraud” and “phony” comments about said NDPs.
This exhausting NDP narrative continues to play out with new companies trying this stuff every day. Just last month, Hatfield & McCoy launched a whiskey that was made from the two family recipes. According to the press release, the two feuding families “have century-old recipes written down in the backs of bibles and the backs of their minds. Until now, those recipes of the two clans have never met.” This whiskey is made by Charleston, South Carolina, Local Choice Spirits, which uses the TerrePure technology that rapidly matures whiskey outside of the barrel. While this Hatfield & McCoy whiskey may very well be from the family recipes, they most certainly did not use high-tech filtration technology to craft their whiskey. In the defense of the Hatfield & McCoy, they are not hiding their TerrePure connection and are merely making a sound business decision to take advantage of their family history.
With that said, the Hatfield & McCoy Whiskey is already catching flak on social media and merely permeating the anti-NDP sentiment that exists in the hardcore whiskey consumer culture.
Meanwhile, the whiskey is a victim. If tasted blind and without hearing the questionable backstories, the TerrePure and sourced whiskey fare well in competitions. Perhaps more importantly, business owners who are not making up phony backstories are getting lumped into the fake story group. The fact is, these bottlers are purchasing barrels from great distilleries, most notably the MGP Ingredients facility in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which uses the same “V” yeast as Four Roses. (MGP and Four Roses were once owned by Seagram’s.)
I’m a big fan of MGP’s whiskey. Several companies have done a nice job selecting splendid stocks, and some are getting really fed up with the never-ending NDP conversation. Redemption co-founder Dave Schmier says NDP is often used as a derogatory term, and he much prefers “merchant bottler” or “brand owners.”
If anybody has been transparent about the whiskey, it’s been Schmier and Redemption. When Schmier and industry veteran Michael Kanbar launched Redemption in 2010, Redemption’s low price point and mixability made it an immediate bartender favorite. They told everybody it was whiskey made in Indiana, even—get this—putting it on their label. Then, all the scuttlebutt came about the sourced whiskey dilemma, and Redemption, as well as several other brands, found themselves in the crosshairs of an angry whiskey-drinking mob.
Things have calmed down a little, and Redemption survived.
Now, as Lew Bryson’s recent ratings accurately illustrate, Redemption is reaching new levels of stardom with its sourced whiskey. But there’s more to this whiskey than Indiana. Redemption’s latest releases have been extraordinary and some have a connection to Stitzel-Weller, the famous distillery once owned by Pappy Van Winkle. Redemption’s recent 6 year and 7 year old rye releases were distilled in Indiana and aged at the Stitzel-Weller warehouses. For the record, Redemption didn’t put this on their bottle as some have; I simply gleaned this from conversation with the owners. In fact, these barrels were aged at Stitzel-Weller for four years.
As for the ultra delicious 10 year old rye, it was aged almost exclusively in Indiana. Redemption will also be releasing 17 year old Redemption Rye later this summer and 8 year old rye sometime in the near future. All aged in Indiana.
The brand also purchased significant amounts of bottled 1978 bourbon that it intends to “fine tune” with younger bourbons. Not sure what that means, but I’ll sign up for a partial whiskey made in the 1970s!
Redemption had a distillery planned, but like many plans, things changed and continued its contract distillation at MGP. A distillery is still a hope, but for now, Redemption is sticking to Indiana.
Don’t expect a strange backstory to come about, though. Schmier and Kanbar have had successes and failures; Redemption is essentially their second chance. As it turns out, whiskey was their thing.
The post Non-Distiller Producers? Or American Independent Bottlers? appeared first on Whisky Advocate.
The Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt Whiskey opens with the first fully retractable grass notes of an American whiskey, much like the Glendale Arizona “University” of Phoenix Stadium has the first fully retractable grass of any stadium in the world—Tifway 419 Hybrid Bermuda Grass, if you must know that particular detail. Speaking of Glendale, “I’m just reviewing this so I don’t get fined.”
Stephen: Bill! You have to review this! What about the nose?
“I’m just reviewing this so I don’t get fined.”
John: Bill! Isn’t there a strong presence of sherry?
“I’m just reviewing this so I don’t get fined.”
Stephen: Bill! Why are you doing this? Why are you here in the Malt Cave if you aren’t going to tell us about the nose?
“You know why I’m here.”
John: Bill, I’m taking this review over; here I go. On the nose, unsurprisingly there’s sherry, much as if a little elf—INTERCEPTED! That was the worst review ever from John, and Bill has the laptop back! BILL WINS! BILL WINS! BILL WINS!
*enigmatic smile as I walk past Stephen with the laptop*
When the grass goes, my goodness, butt (sic) there’s sherry, like the richly sherry-scented kitchen of your aunt when you stop over after school. She seems…excessively happy for 3pm, and a little clumsy, too. None of it makes sense to 11-year old you. Besides the sherry, there’s a spray of nasturtium—family Tropaeolaceae—in a small blue vase that she bought from artisan glassblowers who sell their wares in a boutique just a few blocks away. She’s baking a meringue pie, and the browning of the stiff eggwhites says to you, in a whisper that you’d later identify as sultry, but you’re only eleven, the eggwhites whisper, “Worcester sauce on a rare porterhouse steak.” You’re baffled, but not upset: Your aunt’s house is a wonderland, and you’ve taken the red pill.
The mouth is a delicious maple syrup tapped from specially-selected hydroponically grown maple trees raised in Biosphere 3. (You believe there are only two Biospheres? You must also think that astronauts have landed on the moon!) It’s slick, a bit oily like the amazing rainbow-like refractions from the small amounts of oil on a road after a rainstorm, and lipid-y; really, lipidicious like ScarJo’s lips. It’s simple and uncomplicated, like the bamboo incense your aunt burns while offering sashimi without wasabi, because let’s face it: You’re eleven and your sinuses don’t need to be cleared.
The finish is sherry syrup mellowing on the legitimate offspring of black cherries and “Sugar in the Raw” packets, a mostly civil union consummated on the tannic-y Ikea teak table in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep. Drink this then, while you’re asleep (and no longer eleven) and drink it now, if you don’t pour it on blackstrap quinoa pancakes with, yes, maple syrup.
On the scale of mentholic cigarettes–
The Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt Whiskey is the Kretek cigarette of Jakarta, Indiana.
Stephen: It’s Indonesia, not Indiana.
Clove cigarettes may be the affectation of hipsters, but let’s face it, hipsters often are on the bleeding edge of greatness and authenticity. So, as quickly as you can, snatch that bottle from their hand! You win, grasshopper.
–Our thanks to Steve Hawley and Westland Distillery for the sample!
This is a new blended malt from the leading artisan whisky company of Compass Box. The Lost Blend is inspired by the O. Henry book of the same name from 1907, in which the author writes "Distilled elixir of battle, money and high life!" It also pays homage to Compass Box's own 'lost blend' - the Eleuthera - and combines three single malts (from the Allt-a-Bhainne, Caol Ila and Clynelish distilleries). The packaging also features other items lost to history, including a gramophone and the dodo.
Compass Box was founded in 2000 by John Glaser and has premises in London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into a unique product. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three whiskies to create a new product, and all are then given a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than traditional independent bottlers and they are a widely regarded as one of the most innovative whisky makers in the industry.
John Glaser explains, “In 2001, we created our first single malt blend which we called Eleuthera. It was an elegant marriage of approximately 80% un-peated Highland and 20% peaty Islay single malts. Alas, after three years, we were no longer able to obtain one of the key whiskies required so, sadly, we retired Eleuthera in 2004. Quietly, I have been looking for whiskies that we could use to bring it back, even if temporarily, but without any luck. Until now ...”
The Lost Blend was released in August 2014 and bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There are just 12,018 bottles - these will be available in Europe, the UK and the USA, costing €100/£85/$125 respectively.
Our tasting notes
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is fresh and vibrant. There is a lovely mix of fruity and sweet aromas - think of crisp green apples, pears, honey and refined sugar. Underneath are further aromas of menthol, damp moss and lemon zest along with a distinct ashy peat smoke that seems to grow in the glass.
On the palate the smokiness is immediately more prominent, as is a malty cereal note that was not really detected on the nose. The whisky again feels fresh and vibrant with plenty of fruitiness and sweetness present. The fruit characteristic is driven by notes of crunchy green apples and stewed pear, while the sweetness has a mix of honey, icing sugar and vanilla. The fresh feeling is also helped by notes of green grass and the damp moss on the nose. This moss-like quality evolves to become earthy and ashy, with the peat smoke adding depth and a pleasant bitterness. Final hints of lemon sherbet and hints of cinnamon and white chocolate round things off.
The finish is of decent length. The smokiness lasts longest and creates a lovely lingering dryness in the mouth. The fruity and sugary notes fades to reveal some pleasant bittersweet malted barley and wood spice.
What's the verdict?
The Lost Blend is another delicious offering by the guys at Compass Box. It combines a classy delicacy with a lovely sweet vibrancy. The fruity, and smoky notes work particularly well as a partnership and creates a mouth watering freshness that makes you want to go back for more. The lingering dryness on the finish is also an enjoyable twist.
Unfortunately, the original Eleuthera was retired before our time and we have never tried it. If it was anything like this, then it must have been a fine whisky indeed ...
Lots to talk about this week, with news from all over the world! Bruichladdich's Jim McEwan joins us on WhiskyCast In-Depth to talk about the world's peatiest whisky ever -- his Octomore 6.3 with a phenol level of 258ppm! We'll also hear about new whiskies from Tomatin, Duncan Taylor, Midleton, and Whistlepig...the latest on Teeling Whiskey's new Dublin distillery that could be ready to make whiskey by St. Patrick's Day, and look at the Bourbon boom with Beam Suntory's chief of marketing and sales for Whiskies and Cognacs, Chris Bauder.
As we speed away from Burn’s night and head towards St Patrick’s Day, it’s time to start cracking open some Irish whiskey.
Once long forgotten, the rise of Irish whiskey has seen a plethora of new distilleries opening up, with plenty more in the pipeline. In our recent visits to Ireland to see either brand-spanking new facilities or those out in the market drumming up support, one thing has made itself very clear: Ireland will become more serious about Pot Still than any other style of whiskey.
Scotland is a fairly simple place when it comes to whisky-making. You’ve got your single malts, with only one distillery fully triple distilling (nb: Springbank occasionally utilising their three still to triple distil, and Mortlach using bamboozing marketing terminology to say they distilled more than twice).
Then you’ve got your grain whisky, mainly matured in bourbon casks. Add them together and you’ve got your third type, blends. Simple, hey?!
Over in Ireland, it isn’t quite so simple. With a much smaller pool of distilleries, the fame of Irish whiskey grew up around their main ideal of triple distillation. But there is so much more to Irish whiskey than the third still, for across this tiny network of distilleries they make single malt twice distilled (peated and unpeated), single malt thrice distilled, grain whisky, pot still whiskey (from a malted and unmalted barley mix), and of course blends... but blends not just of grain and malt whiskeys, but blends of all of these. Jameson Black Barrel even takes some whiskey from a pot still and runs it through the column still before maturation... I mean, what kind of voodoo is that?!
Currently the fastest growing category of dark spirit in the world, Irish whiskey is on a roll (driven by the popularity of Jameson in markets such as the USA) and with each new release from across the countries different distilleries, clarity is beginning to fall on the various production styles and flavour profiles.
One of the most sought-after releases, and a real favourite of ours here at Caskstrength HQ, is Redbreast. A wonderfully well matured whiskey, we have always been a fan of the 12 Year Old. When the 15 Years Old appeared, fleetingly, at the start of the last decade, we got very excited indeed (in fact I seem to remember nearly an entire bottle being consumed at one of the Toucan pubs in London with a group of writers and employees of some of London’s finest whisky shops) and even more so when it came back as part of the permanent range.
With the addition of a Cask Strength 12 Year Old and then the fantastic 21 Year Old, the range seemed to be taking shape with a real personality and DNA of its own. And now the folk at Irish Distillers, producers of Redbreast, have just launched a limited edition version. A No Age Statement, although in answering questions on their social media outlets had it pegged at carrying an age statement of 13 years old, if it were to have one) the whiskey has been solely matured in ex-Oloroso sherry butts. This one sounds right up my street.
When I heard that this whiskey was available, but only 2000 bottles were being released, I headed over to the Redbreast website to buy a bottle. And the verdict?
Redbreast – Mano a Lamh – Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey – All Sherry Limited Edition – 2000 bottles only – 46% abv – 65 euro here
Nose: Marzipan and Battenburg Cake rise from the glass with a surprisingly large amount of vanilla for an ‘all-oloroso’ offering. This has some spirituous notes but this is one of those occasions where this is a positive as it provides a platform for the lovely, sweet flavours to play. Light and airy but with hidden depth.
Palate: This is a smooth whiskey with a sweet back palate, some frozen red berries and hot vanilla sauce on top. It is terribly easy to drink, as you would expect from a Redbreast, but a block of ice really takes this up a level to a longer, more sipping whiskey. The flavours from the nose deliver on the palate too.
Finish: Sweetened vanilla custard, almonds and some milk chocolate praline.
Overall: Well, there we have it folk... the rise of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey doesn’t seem fleeting, or limited to core expressions. It seems to be strong, and rising.
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.
Unfortunately I let the URL www.thescotchblog.com go…
Worse someone registered it – and worse yet – his name is (or he calls himself ) “Kevin”.
I hope that no one thinks that Kevin is me – or that The Scotch Blog is related in anyway to this The Scotch Blog.
Big 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
For a sneak peak at the new sight, you can check out our staging version here.
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.