Alexander Murray Dailuaine 16 Year

Alexander Murray & Co Dailuaine Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 16 Years
40% ABV
$45 (Costco Exclusive)
Website
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What the Bottler Says:
Dailuaine Distillery is found in the heart of the Speyside Region near Aberlour. Only 2% of Dailuaine Distillery whisky production ends up as a Single Malt. It is also a key component in all the Johnnie Walker Blends. Alexander Murray & Co brings you this rare bottling of Dailuaine Single Malt Distilled in 1997. It has been matured in Oak Casks for 16 years. This gives our single malt a sweet vanilla nose, followed by a sweet, creamy butterscotch taste and a long soft-spiced fruit finish. Perfect for an after Dinner Drink.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Sweet vanilla cream and honeysuckles. As the nose opens it becomes a bit more herbal and grassy yet retaining the back sweetness almost like a Ricola cough drop but much better.
Palate: The palate is a bit thin (probably due to the low bottling proof) but the rich sweetness hits you out of the gate. Vanilla whipped cream on butterscotch pudding. Around the edges is a little hint of prickly spice.
Finish: There is a distinctive malty note before settling to slow mellow oakiness.
Comments: This is another private bottling by Alexander Murray for Costco. They’ve done a few of these over the years and they also do the Kirkland Signature bottlings and bottlings for Trader Joe’s. This isn’t a mind blowing malt but it is tasty and easily drinkable. I wish it was at 43% or 46% and unfiltered. I think then a nice oiliness might show through that would be great with the rich sweetness. If you are a scotch drinker and happen into a Costco it’s worth grabbing a bottle of a rarely seen malt at this great price.
Rating: Stands Out

Thomas H. Handy 2014

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey – 2014 Release
64.6% ABV
$75-80
Website
thomas-h-handy-sazerac-rye-whiskey-2014-release
What the Distillery Says:
Named after the New Orleans bartender who first used rye whiskey in the Sazerac Cocktail, this uncut and unfiltered Straight Rye Whiskey is bottled directly from the barrel, just as it was over a century ago. Full of rich flavors, this authentic American rye whiskey is a symbol of the timeless history of New Orleans and the legacy of Thomas H. Handy.

TASTING NOTES: Powerful, lush, and boldly spicy. Flavors of toffee, fig cake, and candied fruit, followed by mint, cinnamon and clove. The finish ultimately reveals subtle notes of allspice, coconut and nutmeg. Long and warm.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Toasted orange zest and mango, cinnamon, nutmeg, warm banana nut cookies with toasted oak.
Palate: Christmas; fruit cake; warm pepper spice, stewed raisins, red hots, orange bitters.
Finish: Warms to near hot, but lingers nicely.
Comments: While not a departure from the Thomas H. Handy flavor profile, this one comes across as a bit harsher with more alcohol burn. I compared it to the 2011 release (the only other one I have on-hand) after making my notes, and it definitely has more edge to it – despite being only 0.3 ABV higher. The good news is most of us are not often sipping this next to a previous vintage. Handy has always been a rough and up-front rye whiskey, and it delivers on that – with perhaps a bit more of a bite. If you have been a fan of Handy in the past, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed – and if you’ve never had the opportunity – I recommend giving this one a try!
Rating: Stands Out/Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Mint tea, with a fruitcake scone drizzled with cinnamon icing.
Palate: More fruitcake up front followed by citrus zest, cinnamon, and then a harsh peppery kick in the teeth.
Finish: Whoa hot! It takes more than a few splashes of water to tame this beast. Once the heat dies down it’s much more of a bitter wood flavor.
Comments: Not my favorite rye for sure. The nose is great; the palate isn’t doing it for me but all the components are there to make an outstanding old fashioned. It’s a bit pricey for a cocktail rye and the finish is too off putting for a sipper. I’m not sure what I would do with this bottle if I’d bought it rather than sampled Gary’s bottle.
Rating: Stands Out

Event Notice: Johnnie Walker Dinner at Mac McGee

Johnnie Walker Dinner
Hosted by Master of Whisk(e)y Kevin Mulcahy
Tuesday, December 16th @ 7:30 p.m.

Amuse
Devils on Horseback: Medjool date stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in applewood smoked bacon.
Johnnie Walker Red

1st
Cocoa rubbed pork tenderloin medallions with a pear, spinach and pomegranate salad.
Johnnie Walker Double Black

2nd
Steak & Mushroom Pie: Braised steak, roasted mushrooms, potatoes, vegetables in a winter spiced gravy wrapped in puff pastry.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

3rd
Ginger Lemon Trifle: fresh ginger, lemon curd, meringue, vanilla, cream cheese mousse.
Johnnie Walker Swing

4th
Johnnie Walker Blue

Just in time for Christmas. All for $75.
Seating is limited so please RSVP.
We look forward to seeing you!

Cheers, Mac McGee

RSVP
macmcgees@gmail.com

Mac McGee Irish Pub
111 Sycamore St
Decatur, Ga 30030
(404) 377-8055

William Larue Weller 2014

William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – 2014 Release
70.1% ABV
$85-90
Website
william-larue-weller-kentucky-straight-bourbon-whiskey-kentucky-usa-10485163
What the Distillery Says:
Uncut and unfiltered, this hand-bottled bourbon is barrel proof. Weller substitutes wheat for the traditional rye grain, a production method pioneered by W.L. Weller.

TASTING NOTES:
Fragrant scents of caramel corn, new leather, plums, light toffee and pipe tobacco. The palate tastes of marshmallow, salted almonds, nougat, figs and dates. This whiskey finishes smooth, composed and flavorfully sweet.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Cocoa, toffee, steamed condensed milk (thinking of Cuban coffee), vanilla, hint of clove and honey; warm, dark and rich. For the proof, there isn’t as much alcohol burn as you might expect neat, but I recommend adding some water – which brings in new aromas of a comfortable leather chair (maybe in the waiting room of my favorite bakery?) The kind of whiskey I could nose for a long time – and love every minute of it.
Palate: Warm, chewy toffee sweetness; mincemeat pie with a dusting of hot chocolate instant powder (you know you’ve tried it without any water). Burnt toast and wood are balanced nicely with the sweetness.
Finish: Quite long, with a bit more spice and a bit of a bite at the end
Comments: I’ve always been a fan of this member of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and this year is no exception. The proof is up there, so don’t be shy with the water. I like to nose it neat and take my first sip neat, adding water from there, but with proof like this you can burn your palate if you’re not careful – and I honestly find I enjoy it more with some water. The last several releases have been in the same age range, and while the proof has increased, Buffalo Trace picked the right barrels for the flavor profile. Fans of past William Larue Wellers shouldn’t be disappointed. And if they are, please let me know and I’ll try to help you dispose of the remainder of your bottle.
Rating: Must Buy

What Richard Says:
Nose: I really expected the nose on this to be rocket fuel out of the bottle but there is a lot of nice leather and caramel notes coming across even before you add water. Water opens up a big burst of cinnamon and honey drizzled over fresh baked cornbread.
Palate: Damn that’s rich! I didn’t even bother with a “before adding water sip” given the proof this is clocking in at. It’s really delicious. Dark fruit, toffee, and more cinnamon prevail.
Finish: A nice slow long woody spice with a dusting of cocoa powder. Very dry. Maybe a little too dry?
Comments: How the Pappy fanatics aren’t just as rabid about this I’ll never know. It is a standard bearer for barrel proof wheater bourbons. It’s absolutely delicious. My only complaint is that this year’s release seems a little too dry on the finish, but hey that just makes you want to drink more right? :)
Rating: Must Buy

Are we at the tipping point?

As a lover of whiskey in all (well…most) of its forms I diligently follow whiskey related news, stories, books, blogs, and publications of all kinds. That works for and against me. With the growth in the popularity of whiskey there is no shortage of information available. Unfortunately, a lot of its either crap or true enough but just serves to piss me off. I have a lot to be pissed off about these days.

Recently, I saw this article in The Spirits Business and some of the commentary around the web and I had to take another long, deep sigh. When I saw the headline “Diageo Halts Scotch Expansion as Demand Dives” my first thought wasn’t “oh, no the proverbial sky is falling” but rather “It’s about damn time.” I’m not worried about a scotch whiskey bust. I’m not worried about more moth balled distilleries. I’m not really worried at all. I’m actually kind of excited because maybe we are finally at the tipping point.

I’ve been a scotch drinker for about fifteen years now. That doesn’t sound like a long time but for an industry that has had as much change as scotch has in the last decade and a half it feels like a lifetime. More to the point of my excitement, the way scotch prices have soared in the last 15 years is ridiculous to me. When I say “soared” I am not being hyperbolic. In 1999 I could walk into my local liquor store, at the time it was Capital City Liquor and grab Macallan 18 (Gran Reserva at the time) for around $65. Now if you can get it for less than three times as much you’ve found a deal! That kind of price inflation should be left to third world countries with tanking currencies.

Yes, I know times change and prices of consumer consumables go up but scotch as an industry and particularly single malts are an egregious perpetrator of this farce. It does not cost three times more to make a bottle of 18 year old scotch compared to 1999. What has happened is that the companies making scotch have taken advantage of the interest in their products and wrung it for every damn dime they can get. I’m not just picking on Edrington for Macallan. Pernod Ricard, Diageo, and most of the rest are just as guilty. Macallan is just the easiest to pick on. They aren’t making any better whiskey than they used to. They aren’t making less whiskey than they used to. What they are doing is riding a marketing wave that should be the capstone of someone’s marketing MBA course work. That wave tells you that their product is awesome and you should buy it. More of you have bought it. That drives up demand, which drives up price. Also, through advertising and other great public relations work they have convinced you to pay more for their whiskey than anybody else’s. Is it better? Not necessarily. It’s good, sometimes really good but there is a lot of good whiskey out there.

The whole industry participates in the push to drive demand and premium pricing and collectively prices have risen dramatically. Again, I’m not just picking on Macallan/Edrington. Whyte and Mackay tried it a few years ago when they relauched Dalmore. While the regular line prices has fallen more in line with the market their special releases command astronomical prices in the tens of thousands of dollars at retail. The latest to try to rebrand as super premium is Mortlach. Diageo’s pricing for these 500ml bottles is laughable. But somebody is buying it….or at least they were.

Let’s shift back over to Diageo now. They were the focus of the article that started this rant, they are the latest super premium rebranders with Mortlach, and they are the largest spirits company in the world. Of their portfolio of spirits, a significant amount is whiskey. So even though they don’t release enough detail for me to dive deep down into their whiskey portfolios, their corporate numbers tell the story better than most. From 2009 to 2014 their sales have grown by about 10%. However, in Asia it is 48% growth over the same period of time. By contrast, North America grew by less than 5%. However, from 2013 to 2014 sales in Asia dropped twice as fast as North America as a result of the economic factors mentioned in the Spirits Business article. Although, it is also true that the sales numbers have dropped across the board for Diageo over the last year. I find it interesting though that even though sales declined in North America by 7.5% the profit margins went up. In fact, those margins have steadily increased year over year since 2009.

I don’t want to get too into the weeds on this point because even though my day job is in finance, most of you come here to read about whiskey and may not care about the difference between an operating margin and margarine. Bear with me for a minute. What the margin increases mean is that for every dollar of product they sell they are keeping more of that money as profit for the company. How do they do that? Well really in one of two ways. They can lower their costs which include materials (barley, water, barrels, etc.), logistics (delivery, transportation, etc.), marketing dollars, and other expenses or they can charge more for their products. Said another way, if you make 40 cents on the dollar you can make it 45 by either cutting 5 cents of cost or charging $1.05. When looking at Diageo’s cost of goods sold it only went up 3.5% over the five years from 2009 to 2014. That means that they are either charging more (they are) or are shifting to a different mix of products that they make more money on (they also are).

In getting back to my original “It’s about damn time” comment it’s only so long a company or industry can keep doing this before the market’s demand for its products will no longer bear the prices they are trying to charge. So in looking at Diageo’s financial results in light of their halt of further expansion it looks like they got the double whammy. The new markets they are pushing look to be pulling back a bit and their old markets (Western Europe’s numbers look similar to North America) may just be tired of continuing to pay more every time they go buy another bottle.

It’s not just Diageo. Pernod Ricard’s trends are similar. It’s not just scotch. Bourbon has seen large increases and marketing driven price increases too. It’s all got a bit out of whack. In “proselytizing the way of malt” I’m not supposed to root against whiskey but as the international fascination and fad dies down a bit maybe we can come a little closer to a healthy normalized industry. One with good give and take between consumer and suppliers instead of the crazy race to the top we’ve seen in the last few years. Prices have gotten ridiculous and it pisses me off. Hopefully, I’ve vented enough that I don’t start a regular series of “Things About Whiskey That Piss Me Off” on Whisk(e)y Apostle. Now I’m going to go take another deep breath and have a drink.