You are here

Whiskey Wire

Whiskey news from around the world

The Highland Park The Light

Tasting notes:
The nose of the Highland Park the Light, a 17yo special release bottled at 52.9% alcohol by volume, is more layered than tiramisu. There’s seawater on sedimentary rock, slowly evaporating, leaving behind the olfactory memory of petrichor. There’s Jennifer Aniston’s Prada™ leather and canvas handbag, filled with a bit of juniper and a ton o’ anise. There’s passionfruit filling erupting out of hand-crafted dark chocolates that are being squeezed by someone who not long ago was thin-slicing onions and Morbier cheese to top a frittata. There’s honey made from alien flowers from an exoplanet brought back by the first successful interstellar probe—or maybe lilies. I couldn’t quite be sure, between the two. Guys, what do you think? Lilies or alien flowers? Guys? Guys?

The mouth is exceptional. It’s rambunctious pushing towards bumptious. It’s fireworks without the concussive explosions. It’s full, rich, and round. Resonant and orotund, it’s vibrating the tendrils of my nervous system like the Liberty Bell tolling the death of tyranny. It’s golden oranges that Jason missed while stealing the Golden Fleece. It’s coconut meat drizzled with cocoa butter, as well as pineapples and cherries plucked from a roast ham by a crack team of six hummingbirds who are the avian equivalent of the A-Team plus MacGyver. Dappled dabs of smoke and peat perfectly balance the fruit and richness as if HP’s Malt Master hit on a flavor/body/tactile trifecta at odds of 2,000 to 1.

The finish is a monster, but not the kind to be scared of. It towers over human pretension, asking nothing more than the chance to explore its own destiny separate from human fears and desires. There’s horse-rein leather and cured tobacco rolled into a spliff, using boysenberry fruit leather, being smoked by the world’s most ambitious Rastafarian. There’s a gong sympathetically vibrating along to an electric bass being played slap-style by a precocious kid who mastered P-Funk by watching YouTube videos. John got overripe macerated plums belching out of an oxeye daisy growing from his nose, because of course he did. Stephen said that he didn’t mind if his baby had a *really* hard time falling asleep, so long as he had a pour of the Highland Park The Light in his glass.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of negative charges trending down meeting positive charges streaming up–
The Highland Park the Light is lightning–It connects the earth to the sky in a shattering climax, transforming the atmosphere, sending thunderclap shockwaves miles away. A bolt from the blue, the weapon of Zeus, untamed torrents of crackling anarchic electricity. Extraordinary.

 

 

 
                                    –Bill

 

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Highland Park for the sample!

 

 

The GlenDronach 8 Year Old The Hielan’

The GlenDronach 8 Year Old The Hielan’ 46% ABV $40-45 Website (Important note for those of us outside the UK:  on the site’s landing page, select United Kingdom as the country or it will auto-direct by location, and you won’t see the content; I couldn’t find a way around that!) What the Distiller Says This … Continue reading The GlenDronach 8 Year Old The Hielan’ →

Growing a Whisky Business in Glasgow (WhiskyCast Episode 708: June 21, 2018)

The Glasgow Distillery Company won't release its first 1770 Glasgow single malt whisky until later this year, but the four-year-old company is already kicking off a year-long expansion project to double its production capacity. We'll talk with co-founder Liam Hughes about the expansion and the challenges of launching Glasgow's first malt whisky distillery in a century on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, European Union import tariffs on American-made whiskies go into effect on Friday, setting the stage for potential retaliation against their whiskies from Washington. We'll update distillery projects in Ireland and Scotland as well on this episode of WhiskyCast recorded at New York City's Grand Central Station, where Highland Park premiered a pop-up Orkney exhibition Wednesday night.

The GlenDronach Original 12 yr

The GlenDronach Original 12 yr 43% ABV $60 Website What the Distiller Says This superb richly sherried single malt is matured for at least 12 years in a combination of the finest Spanish Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks. Non-chill filtered, of natural colour and bottled at 43%, the GlenDronach 12 year old Original is … Continue reading The GlenDronach Original 12 yr →

The Compass Box Phenomenology

Tasting notes:
The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at dusk, a wise philosopher has said.  But the deeper question is: what does the owl pour into the glass on his end table?   On the nose it is nothing less than the women’s powder room just off the vestibule outside of Heaven’s gates.  There is butter, cream, buttercream icing, and ice cream.  We also find honeydew drenched in kaffir lime juice.  The honeydew is exceedingly ripe and sweet.  The scent of fresh linen, perfumed hand towels, elegant body washes, and the mahogany trim on the couch round out this brilliant invitation to commence toward the end of history, the stage of Absolute Knowing.

Wow, this mouth is beautiful.  It marries sweetness and bitterness in a way that is perfectly harmonious.  [Bill: Would you say, John, that there is something like a thesis and antithesis thing going on?]  Keep your powder dry, sport, I’m getting there! [Stephen: Quietly looks on eating popcorn]  This marriage of the incompatible into something that transcends its constituents is [Bill: …a synthesis?!?]  Dammit, man!  Give me a chance!  This marriage, as I was saying, would make the killer secret ingredient in a pisco sour. But what a pyrrhic victory that would be to adulterate this delicious nectar in a cocktail. This is the first single malt I can recall that presents such balance and joie de vivre that it is at one in the same time a singular, malt-ular whisky and a living, breathing scotch cocktail!  [Bill, impatiently looking at his lap, is hardly consoled when Stephen says that he’s pretty sure Hegel mentions pisco sours somewhere in The Philosophy of Right].  You see, there’s depth here that we could not have descried on the nose. In fact, when we return to the nose, the sweetness now seems almost malty, almost like stoneground maize on the prairie.  We also detect charred lemon rinds inserted into white grape sorbet.  Key lime tarts with sorghum crust.   It is the return of a long-lost child bearing great gifts, an inversion of the parable of the prodigal son.

The finish is the echolocation of the mouth.  Spices emerge like guerrilla fighters under the cover of dusk, bringing out 5.56 mm caliber white pepper guns for suppressing fire as the camouflaged troops dart forward with purpose.  Then, at the key moment—the temporal aspect that the Greeks tried to describe not as chronos but as kairos—depth charges placed by the buzzing, skimming PT-boats are felt rumbling in the distance, roiling the waters and announcing that yes, the attempt to rescue the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man is happening, it’s finally happening!  Rindy aftershocks kick up in my palate.  There is a touch of pith.  Stephen’s head has taken up the lolling posture it assumes when he has reached hedonic overload.  We are all witness to the genius that we can hold like liquefied gemstones in our hands.  We are all witness to the final stages—the fat and happy stage, for lack of a better term—of a master whose fleeting whims surpass even the determined genius of his competition.  And at the end, he is his own competition.  His battles are self-contained.  His aim is his own self-overcoming.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of technical terms in Hegelian philosophy–
The Compass Box Phenomenology is aufheben–Translated into English as supersede, abolish, cancel, or sublimate, this juicy Teutonic verb carries more contradictory baggage can you can check on a transatlantic flight.  It can somehow carry at one and the same time a negative sense (to annul, abolish, destroy, suspend) and positive sense (keep, save, preserve).  There is a third sense as well: to raise, hold, or lift up.  And this we do with our glasses. 

 

 

 
                                                                         –John

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Compass Box for the sample!

 

 

Review - Kilchoman Port Cask Matured

The Port Cask Matured is a recent limited edition release from the small farm distillery of Kilchoman, which is located on the isle of Islay. It has only been released once previously and that was in 2014. The 2018 Edition combines 30 ex-Ruby Port hogheads, which were filled in 2014, and these have yielded 10,000 bottles. The Port Cask Matured 2018 Edition is bottled at 50% ABV and is available through selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide. It costs £85 per bottle and has already sold out in a number of locations.

Kilchoman is one of Scotland's youngest and smallest whisky distilleries, named after the local church parish. It is new in whisky terms - the first spirit was produced in June 2005 and the first single malt was released in November 2009. Kilchoman is independently owned by the Kilchoman Distillery Company and has a production capacity of 100,000 litres a year, although this is increasing annually.

Kilchoman is also one of only seven distilleries to do some traditional floor malting, which takes place in a new building that was completed earlier this year.  It has built up a healthy following of whisky drinkers and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre, despite being in a remote location.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow with a a pinkish red tint. The nose is has a wonderful aroma - think of a combination of caramel, toffee and earthy peat smoke that is backed up with a robust sweet maltiness (this is reminiscent of damp malt on a malting floor). There are also some dried fruits and hints of yeast, plasticine and delicate wood spices.

On the palate this whisky has a viscous texture and it is the malty and earthy peat smoke notes from the nose that hit first. This creates an initial bittersweet feel that is then joined by the sweeter and richer elements - in comes some delicious caramel and golden syrup, along with dried fruits (think of raisins and cranberries especially) and something biscuit-like (the immediate thought was cookie dough). There is also a growing power to the delicate wood spices from the nose - think of cinnamon, all-spice and a pinch of ginger, clove and Szechuan pepper.

With water, and quite a lot of it at that, the smoke and spices are softened. This allows the sweetness of the dried fruit and caramel-like notes to shine through. They are joined by a distinct floral characteristic, which has a hint of rose petal and Turkish delight.

The finish is long and warming with the smoke and spices dominating. This creates some peppery heat and a pleasant dryness, particularly towards the end. The sweet, malty and fruity notes linger and then fade.

What's the verdict?
Peated whisky in ex-Port casks seems to be a growing phenomenon and this Kilchoman is the latest example. It offers a lovely combination of sweetness, richness and a decent hit of smoke. It is young at four years of age and is a bit hot and feisty as a result, but we quite like that. The addition of water softens it and balances the whisky, with the resulting rose-like note an interesting twist. This is another nice whisky from Islay's smallest distillery and one that shows good experimentation.


Experiment: Once opened, does whiskey go bad over time?

“Bad” is highly subjective, and can mean many things. If you mean does it become unsafe to drink, I’d say that if it is stored properly (room temperature, out of direct sunlight) and in a glass bottle with a decent enclosure – than probably not. If you mean does it taste like crap if you … Continue reading Experiment: Once opened, does whiskey go bad over time? →

Speed Rack: Women Shaking Cocktails for a Cause (WhiskyCast Episode 707: June 17, 2017)

There are plenty of cocktail competitions for bartenders, but Speed Rack was one of the first to highlight women working behind the bar. Lynette Marrero and Ivy Mix founded Speed Rack in 2012 to not only empower women in the cocktail culture, but also to raise money for breast cancer research and charities. They've succeeded at both over the last six years, and will be staging the first Speed Rack competition in Australia next month. We'll talk with Lynette Marrero on WhiskyCast In-Depth, and while we're talking about cocktail competitions, we'll check in with Lynn House as the eight regional winners in Heaven Hill's 2018 Bartender of the Year competition gather in Sea Island, Georgia for this week's finals. In the news, China has joined the growing list of US trading partners targeting American-made whiskies for punitive tariffs as the trade war expands. Kentucky's Castle & Key Distillery has successfully defended a trademark infringement suit over its use of the original Old Taylor name for its distillery, and on Behind the Label, we'll look at the tricky question of when whiskies made in one country can be labeled as coming from another country.

Hammerhead 28 Year Old Czech Single Malt Whisky aged in Czech oak

Tasting notes:

We’ve tasted liquid that is old enough to draw Social Security, as well as liquid that bent our minds because of the pre-phylloxera wines that partially constituted it. And here, we have another such liquid: distilled as the Warsaw Pact fell apart and laid down in a spot where it would remain untouched by the tides of Eastern European history washing over the people and the landscape around it. Twenty-eight years later, casks were discovered, and Raj Sabarwhal had the good sense to buy one and bottle it as a single cask, at cask strength (52.1% abv).

Nosing it, I was transported to a knotty pine rec room that was the Czech equivalent to the tan wood paneled area where my brother and I were still kicking the crap out of NES Baseball six years after it came out. To complete the picture, the rec room was adorned with a dusty lemon spearhead, candied apricots reconstituted in gin (Mom also left a bundt cake pan in there)​, and a joss stick holder ​from a Shaolin temple ​that monks used to ​rub the ash into during the after-​service​ (I was a big fan of David Carradine’s Kung Fu)​.

​The mouth is light and ​lemony, ​with notes of ​fruit bats flitting through Seville orange groves, ​only to be stopped cold by a cross-country ski-boot binding (on sonar, that thing looked crazy out of place)​​ that militarized bee​s had inhabited in hopes of turning it into a honey factory. ​​Taste further, and there are beautiful wood notes that aren’t quite resinous and not really bark-like, either. They are heart of the tree type of notes: clearly xylem, not phloem (the phloem-heads are always whining in our comments section anyway, so it’s not like this line’s going to make that situation any worse).

​The finish fir​e​s ​brilliantly ​on the sides​ of the tongue, like a Soyuz rocket.​ There’s also the sensation of having a ​tangerine ​L​ifesave​r​™ duct-taped to the front of the ​roof of my mouth​, then poked with dried, lemony pine needles dipped in powdered molasses​. ​It’s a post-Soviet cri de coeur emerging from the soil like this cask emerging from its historic slumber. Democracy blossoms and then flourishes in its wake.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of Czech historical events that could be the name of a band–
The Hammerhead 28 Year Old Czech Single Malt, Single Cask Whisky is the Velvet Revolution–This rating is so incredibly on point, it already is the name of a band from Ottawa. One of the founding members is Michael Kavchak, so they even seem to have the bloodlines to pull off the name. Well played, Bytowners!

 

 

 
                                                 –Stephen

 

 

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Raj Sabarwhal and Glass Revolution Imports for the sample!

 

 

Hewn Spirits Reclamation American Single Malt Whiskey

Hewn Spirits Reclamation American Single Malt Whiskey Finished in Chestnut 46% ABV $43 (375 mL) Website What the Distiller Says AGED WITH 300-YEAR-OLD RECLAIMED WOOD, FOR A TRULY TIMELESS CHARACTER In the age of recycling, we’ve discovered a brilliant use for old wood in the making of Reclamation American Single Malt Whiskey. Made from premium … Continue reading Hewn Spirits Reclamation American Single Malt Whiskey →

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (June 15, 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.

________

Macallan


The premium Scotch single malt brand of Macallan have launched a new limited edition to celebrate the opening of their revolutionary state-of-the-art distillery in Speyside. The Genesis Limited Edition is inspired by lead architect Graham Stirk's vision for the £140 million distillery and visitor centre, which opened to the public on June 2. The bottle is presented alongside a lithographic print of the architectural drawings of the new distillery, signed by Stirk.

The Macallan Genesis Limited Edition is bottled at 45.5% ABV and will be available shortly from the Macallan distillery shop and Macallan airport boutiques around the world. There will be just 2,500 bottles and the recommended retail price is £495/$665 US.


"The collaboration between The Macallan and Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners was the beginning of something truly remarkable; a partnership based on a shared commitment to mastery, delivering both an iconic distillery and this unique, limited edition bottling."
Ken Grier - Creative Director for The Macallan.



Royal Salute

The super premium blend of Royal Salute have announced the first ever collaborative blend in the Scotch brand's history. The Kew Palace Edition is inspired by the kitchen gardens of Kew Palace, which sits on the banks of the River Thames in west London and is located within the famous Kew Botanic Gardens. It is the second in the brand's Flask Edition series, which kicked off last year with the Royal Salute 30 years old.

The whisky saw Sandy Hyslop, the Director of Blending for Royal Salute, team up with perfumer Barnabé Fillion to try and push the boundaries of modern Scotch blending. The Kew Palace Edition is bottled at 28 years of age and is presented in a green porcelain flagon with accompanying flask, pouring funnel and wooden display tray. It has an ABV of 40% and the recommended reatil price is £595/$790US.


Get Social With Us
Follow us for regular news updates throughout the week.



A Double Whammy for US Whisky Distillers (WhiskyCast Episode 706: June 14, 2018)

 

Tax cuts that took effect at the start of 2018 encouraged many US whisky distillers to expand their facilities. Now, they're caught in the middle of the trade war between the United States and its trading partners in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Not only are the whiskies some of those distillers export going to be hit with new tariffs at the start of July, but prices for the stainless steel and aluminum they need for those expansion projects are going up because of the US tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. We'll look at the issue on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, Brown-Forman has opened its Old Forester distillery on Louisville's "Whiskey Row" downtown, while the management of Bardstown's Willett Distillery is being handed down to the next generation. Wild Turkey is releasing a new Bourbon with a back story appropriate for Father's Day weekend, and we'll head into the weekend with some Dad jokes.

1792 Bottled-in-Bond

1792 Bottled-in-Bond 50% ABV $37 – $45 Website What the Distiller Says In 1897, the Bottled-in-Bond Act revolutionized the quality of American whiskey. Carrying on that tradition, this well-aged bourbon from barrels all filled during the same season was bottled at exactly 100 proof for a bold taste and a lingering finish – a testament … Continue reading 1792 Bottled-in-Bond →

Distillery Visit - Benromach


The small Speyside distillery of Benromach is celebrating two anniversaries this year – 120 years since it was originally built and 20 years since it was renovated and reopened by Gordon & MacPhail. On a recent visit to Speyside, Matt was given a personal tour by Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank on a bright sunny Spring morning.

____________
Benromach has long been a favourite single malt of Whisky For Everyone. The classic 10 years old won our first ever Whisky of the Year way back in 2009 and we have always been impressed with their releases, almost without exception. It is a delight to see the distillery going from strength to strength as it hits its 20th and 120th anniversaries.

It was also a delight to spend the morning with Keith, an experienced whisky maker who joined Benromach in 1998 when it began production once again. Shortly afterwards, he became the Distillery Manager in 2000 and has held the position ever since. He is Benromach through and through.

Keith and Matt.
When independent bottling company Gordon & MacPhail took over Benromach in the mid-1990s there was little remaining of the distillery apart from the four walls and a good water supply. All the equipment had been sold off to various places. This apparent negative was quickly turned in to a positive as it was seen as presenting a clean slate – now G&M could decide on the style of whisky that they wanted to make.

“We looked back at the historical ‘old style’ of Speyside whisky from the 1950s and 1960s,” Keith tells me, “these used local barley and local peat to dry the malt, which is softer and gentler than peat from Islay. We then selected the type of equipment and working practices to fit that.”

Back in the day, Benromach was used in blends and it was a key ingredient in the Antiquary range of whiskies. Now most is used for the distillery’s growing single malt range. When the distillery restarted it was producing just 135,000 litres per year. Now that has grown to an average of 380,000 litres per year. As a result there has been some significant expansion on site since 1998, mainly in the form of five new warehouses and a visitor centre.

The Boby mill.
They are currently using Concerto barley and organic Concerto for making their limited organic single malt. This gives Keith the high yield that he requires and 20 tonnes are delivered to the distillery each week. This is then ground in a re-conditioned 105-year old Boby Mill, which is the smallest I can remember seeing in Scotland. This processes one tonne of malt per hour.

Benromach currently operates on a five-day week and 14 mashes are completed in this time. Each mash contains 1.5 tonnes of grist and three different temperatures of water are added and drained off to extract the maximum amount of soluble sugars – these are at 64.5°C and then 78°C and 90°C.

The mash tun.
Walking across from the mash tun, there are four European larch washbacks. Nine further ones have been added elsewhere as production demands have increased and this allows them to deal with the 14 mashes per week. Each mash is six hours apart – it is then filled to a washback and powdered distiller’s yeast added – so by the time the first mash of the week has fermented, the last is ready to replace it.

Each washback produces 7,500 litres of wash with an alcoholic strength of around 8% ABV. The fermentation time ranges from 65 to 115 hours, depending on the time of the week – the washes from the early part of the week are towards the lower end of the scale, while those from the latter part sit for a longer time over the weekend when no one is working.

The washbacks and stills.
The stills sit opposite the four washbacks. The wash stills take each 7,500 batch of wash and distil it to make low wines of 23% ABV. These are then distilled a second time through the spirit stills, which have a capacity of 4,500 litres to produce the final new make spirit. The stills are small and onion-shaped.

“This allows for a cooler and slower distillation,” Keith explains, “which in turn allows more copper contact with vapours and spirits while also allowing medium and heavier alcohols to rise up and travel down the lyne arm to be re-condensed.”

Every run of the spirit stills yields 900 litres of new make and this has an average strength of 69% ABV. This is reduced to 63% before it is filled to cask. The majority of the casks filled at Benromach (around 70%) are European oak ex-sherry casks. The remainder are American oak ex-bourbon casks, plus a small percentage of other cask types such as ex-red wine or ex-dessert wine.

Casks waiting to be filled.
The casks are all filled on the site (around 56 casks a week and 2,500 per year) and matured in one of the five dunnage-style warehouses. Currently there are approximately 13,000 casks of whisky maturing within these. Two further warehouses are planned at the distillery in 2019, which is another sign of the growing popularity of Benromach.

The distillery has a compact feel with the mash tun, washbacks and stills all housed in one room. It feels like one of the best places to visit and learn about the whisky production process as it can be easily explained and seen with the simple layout. To compliment this, everything is hand crafted and every part of the process uses the traditional whisky making skills that are sadly becoming more rare.

“Everything is manual at Benromach,” Keith tells me, “this means each staff member needs to understand the processes and run things by themselves. They need to know the sights, sounds and ‘feel’ of the distillery. If something is not right, then we need them to instinctively know.”

In a time when technology seems to be taking over our lives and so many industries, not just whisky making, it is refreshing to see a place that still champions and relies on the traditional skills of those that work there. It simply adds to the charm of Benromach and their lovely range of whiskies.

____________
I would like to give a personal huge thank you to Keith for the time taken out of his schedule to show me around and share so much information about the distillery, its practices and his time there. It was an absolute pleasure.

I would also like to thank the distillery team for the warm welcome offered, especially Kirsty Saville and Georgia Wilson - the Benromach Brand Manager and Marketing Assistant respectively, who accompanied Keith and myself around on the tour.

- Matt.


Visitor Centre Opening Times
January to March - Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm (last tour 3pm).
April, May & September - Monday to Saturday 9.30am – 5pm (last tour 3.30pm).
June, July & August - Monday to Saturday 9.30am – 5pm (last tour 3.30pm), Sunday 10am – 5pm (last tour 4pm).
October to December - Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm (last tour 3pm).
Closed over the Christmas and Hogmanay period.


Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye

Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye 45% ABV $25 Website What the Distiller Says PRODUCED AND SOLD IN LIMITED QUANTITIES, SMALL BATCH RYE OFFERS SMOOTH, SPICY RYE FLAVOR WITH ENOUGH BACKBONE TO STAND UP TO CLASSIC COCKTAILS. NOSE Spicy with Hints of Chocolate and Vanilla TASTING NOTES Mildly Woody with a Sweet and Surprising Spice What … Continue reading Rebel Yell Small Batch Rye →

The Second Coming of Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskies are back in fashion.
There is a resurgence happening. A long forgotten and much maligned spirit is making a comeback, and in a big way. That spirit is American rye whiskey.

Long seen as the spicy and brash brother of bourbon, rye whiskey had fallen out of favour with consumers and bartenders in a big way. The spirit never properly recovered from the Prohibition period, which was from 1920 to 1933 in America, and the effect was almost terminal. It was relegated to being produced by just a few distillers for a decreasing number of drinkers.

Post-Prohibition distillers began using cheaper and higher yielding grains, such corn and barley, more frequently and that has produced the styles of American whiskey that we are accustomed to today. The growth of bourbon almost put rye whiskey in to oblivion. But it was not always that way.

The heyday for rye whiskey was in the 1800s and early 1900s, and it formed the base for many classic cocktails that were developed during that time. These include iconic drinks such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour.

Classic cocktails such as the whisky sour are helping to promote rye.
The northeastern states, particularly Maryland and Pennsylvania, were the traditional powerhouses for rye production during this time. Rye was easy to grow, resistant to disease and plentiful in supply. The dry, spicy and robust flavours of the resulting spirit were extremely popular and rye whiskey was thriving.

Then Prohibition hit.

Only now is there a true growing revival of rye whiskey. This began a couple of years ago with a spread across the USA and then slowly to the world, driven by a new breed of spirits drinker and the re-birth of classic bartending. Sales are increasing massively each year.

As a result, more distilleries and products are entering the market. Rye whiskey is being produced all over America as its popularity booms. It has also seen American whiskey’s big players, such as Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam, enter the game alongside smaller craft brands to try and claim a slice of the pie.

While many small brands are not actually distilling their own rye spirit – they buy it from the large MGP distillery in Indiana and then bottle and re-brand it themselves – some are.

One such place is the Balcones distillery in Waco, Texas. The craft distillery, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and saw the introduction of rye whiskey into its core range for the first time, began distilling rye spirit in 2015.

Unusually, Balcones use 100% rye to produce their whiskey (they actually spell it without the ‘e’). The legal minimum is 51% with the rest made up from other grains, predominantly barley or corn. It must then be matured in new oak barrels and must be bottled at a minimum strength of 80 Proof (40% ABV). While there is no minimum age, it must be matured for at least two years to be called Straight Rye.

“We started making our rye whisky as we were drinking lots of it at the time,” Jared Himstedt, the Head Distiller at Balcones, tells me. “We knew from the beginning that rye would make a comeback at some point. We are now making more than we ever have and more than we can physically bottle, as we think the popularity of rye will continue grow and grow.”

Jared Himstedt sampling some new rye spirit.
This is backed up by the fact that Balcones have strategically switched their production schedule to reflect the growing popularity of rye. They have just finished a solid three-month run where they have distilled nothing else but rye whiskey. That is just shy of 100,000 litres. It is a far cry from the twelve barrels that they produced back in 2015.

Balcones are not alone either as every distiller ups production and new products appear in the marketplace each month. Bartenders are getting creative with rye whiskey and consumers are buying more bottles. The Second Coming of Rye Whisky is here and long may it continue.


The First American Single Malt Whiskey? (WhiskyCast Episode 705: June 10, 2018)

Historians aren't sure who distilled the first Scotch-style single malt whiskey in the United States, but Oregon's Clear Creek Distillery has a pretty solid claim to the title. Steve McCarthy started making his McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt in 1993, and while Steve McCarthy sold Clear Creek in 2014 and eased into semi-retirement, his influence still guides Clear Creek's distillers to this day. We'll talk with Clear Creek's Jeanine Racht on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, the G7 Summit ends with no progress in resolving a global trade dispute pitting the US against its key trading partners, while new tariffs could affect 65 percent of all US whiskey exports within the next month. We'll look at a new whisky that's raising money for search and rescue operations in the UK, along with other new whiskies, tasting notes, and much more.

The Glenfiddich Cask Collection: Vintage Cask

Tasting notes:
Feitheamh, dè? Have the Glenfiddich people taken a trip to Islay? Did they wake up one morning and smell the bog? I don’t know what led them to embrace peating…okay, remember: We’re impostors, and perhaps Glenfiddich has a long history of peating its Speyside creations, but it’s new to me. As the astute reader will have guessed, the nose opens with a not unwelcome dose of peat that may be covering a multitude of sins, including, but not limited to, eating haggis and brie cheese sandwiches, using a wet kilt as a towel, and playing bagpipes at 3am because the spirits moved you. We got a spinning top on one pan of the Scales of Justice, and on the other pan, the collected brimstone aromas wafting up like dry ice “smoke” from a death metal band’s laser-inflected performance. Unsurprisingly, the balance was precarious. For patient drinkers, blended Bermuda grass and giboshi emerge, weed-like, in your fancy-schmancy suburban lawn. Runny milk-sap dribbling from a pleated palm frond. (Yes, there’s an obscure Ronnie Milsap pun lurking there somewhere. So be careful.)

The mouth is *not* Islay-like peat; it’s milder and the Scales of Justice have balanced out. The verdict is in: Refined, but not vitiated. Could the peat be compressed and aged burnt almond torte? (No, but still it wouldn’t have surprised me.) Caught candle smoke, candied, and sold in neon mylar packets to unwitting youngsters. Suave and dangerous, like an idealized assassin.

The finish evokes weirwood tree roots fully penetrating my esophagus, a portent of vows that won’t be kept. It’s sweet, and fast, and light, like a Steph Curry three-pointer arcing up from a space-and-pace New Basketball play. This peat was accepted at both Princeton and Yale, but chose instead to go to the University of Arkansas, because it heard the M/F student ratio was highly favorable. It’s Peater O’Toole, not Peater Quill, and it could marry up–and it already has! Out of the bogs, into the university clubs and corporate boardrooms.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of items inducing metamorphoses–
The Glenfiddich Cask Collection: Vintage Cask is Calvin and Hobbes’ Transmogrifier–To you, it looks like a cardboard. To you, it seems elegantly peated. To me, though, it’s portal to a new self.

 

 

 
                                                                    –Bill

 

 

 

Thoughts on Future Prospects for Private Selections

When thinking about private selections, it left me pondering about how much they’ve changed in recent years. 8 years ago, these private selections were less frequent to come upon (not including stores with a long history of them), but today there are pretty readily available. While I’m excited to see more of those selections, I’m … Continue reading Thoughts on Future Prospects for Private Selections →

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (June 8, 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.

________

BenRiach


The innovative Speyside distillery of BenRiach has announced the details of the bottlings in Batch 15 of its popular Single Casks series. Seventeen casks have been selected by Rachel Barrie, the Master Blender for BenRiach, and these include a mix of their classic and peated spirit within some of their most eclectic and experimental oak barrels. These include ex-Moscatel, Port, rum and Sauternes casks. The bottles will be available in selected regions - Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and New Zealand - via specialist whisky retailers.


“Batch 15 provides a rare opportunity to explore the many facets of BenRiach maturation, something us whisky makers are lucky to do every day. There is a cask to suit every whisky lover’s palate. Now’s the time to explore, take your pick and find the cask you most enjoy!”
Rachel Barrie.


The details of the 17 single casks are listed below. The recommended retail prices were not provided in the press release.

  • 1991/ Cask #6898/ 26 years old/ ex-Burgundy wine barrique/ 49.4% ABV 
  • 1992/ Cask #979/ 25 years old/ ex-Port hogshead/ 53.9% ABV 
  • 1995/ Cask #7383/ 22 years old/ Peated/ ex-Oloroso sherry butt/ 51.5% ABV 
  • 1997/ Cask #4437/ 20 years old/ ex-Marsala hogshead/ 54.8% ABV 
  • 1997/ Cask #7859/ 20 years old/ ex-virgin oak hogshead/ 53.1% ABV 
  • 2005/ Cask #5014/ 12 years old/ ex-Oloroso sherry butt/ 58.1% ABV 
  • 2005/ Cask #2682/ 12 years old/ Peated/ ex-Port pipe/ 53.9% ABV 
  • 2006/ Cask #1855/ 11 years old/ ex-Sauternes wine barrique/ 56.5% ABV 
  • 2006/ Cask #2406/ 11 years old/ ex-Port pipe/ 58.7% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #7610/ 11 years old/ Peated/ ex-rum barrel/ 59.5% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #8731/ 10 years old/ ex-Moscatel hogshead/ 59.2% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #8737/ 10 years old/ ex-Moscatel hogshead/ 58.9% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #3236/ 10 years old/ ex-Oloroso sherry butt/ 58.5% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #7722/ 10 years old/ Peated/ ex-virgin oak hogshead/ 57.1% ABV 
  • 2007/ Cask #3071/ 10 years old/ Peated/ ex-Oloroso sherry butt/ 58.3% ABV 
  • 2008/ Cask #5807/ 10 years old/ ex-Sauternes wine barrique/ 59.7% ABV 
  • 2008/ Cask #2048/ 9 years old/ Peated/ ex-Port pipe/ 61.7% ABV



Douglas Laing
The family owned independent bottling company of Douglas Laing & Co. have announced the second single cask bottling in their Provenance Coastal Collection, which will feature four single malts from Scottish islands. The Jura 12 years old has been matured in an ex-sherry butt and has been bottled at 48% ABV. It follows the launch of the series with the Bunnahabhain 10 years old earlier this year. It is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There will be just 383 bottles and they will be available in selected specialist retailers worldwide. The price was not revealed in the press release.


 “For this very limited Provenance Coastal Collection, we have specially selected only four single casks which we believe truly bring to life their maritime heritage. This latest Jura release is a beautiful balance of ex-sherry butt maturation alongside the archetypal Jura character.”
Fred Laing - Chairman of Douglas Laing & Co.



Glenmorangie
The north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie have announced a special bottling to help commemorate their 175th anniversary. The 16 years old single ex-bourbon cask made from American white oak was hand selected by Dr. Bill Lumsden - the Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Glenmorangie. There are just 191 bottles and these will only be available at the distillery in Tain. The whisky is non chill-filtered and bottled at the natural cask strength of 53.1% ABV. Each bottle will cost £650.


“This single cask bottling is the perfect way for us to mark such a seminal year in the Distillery’s history. It offers a unique insight into Glenmorangie’s quintessential style and I hope those lucky enough to own a bottle will enjoy celebrating this landmark anniversary.”
Dr. Bill Lumsden.



Get Social With Us
Follow us for regular news updates throughout the week.