All posts by Richard

Founding Apostle

New U.S. Releases – August ’09 Part 2

Well, when I posted the latest information I had on new releases announced in August a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that they month was just getting started. Here’s the lowdown on the rest of the new releases announced during the month of August:

Rittenhouse Rye Single Barrel 25 Year Old

Timeframe: November/December

ABV:50%

Price:$190

This comes from the same batch as the previously released 21 Yr and 23 Yr. It’s supposed to be the best so far.

The Glenlivet Nadurra Triumph 1991

Timeframe: November

ABV: 48%

Price: $85

A new limited edition of The Glenlivet Nadurra made exclusively with Triumph barley. It should be interesting.

Jefferson’s Presidential Select (Batch #1), 1991 Vintage

Timeframe: Now

ABV: 47%

Price: $90

This is a wheated bourbon from one of the last production years of the old Stitzel-Weller distillery. It’s one of John Hansell’s top rated new products this year. If you can find it grab a bottle. Just don’t grab mine.

Bruichladdich Infinity 3

Timeframe: This fall

ABV: 50%

Price: ?

I haven’t had any of the Infinity releases so I can’t offer much commentary beyond saying that if it’s a Laddie it will definitely be interesting.

Old Forester 2009 Birthday Bourbon

Timeframe: now

ABV: 48.5%

Price: $39.99

It’s that time of year again for the new annual release from Old Forester.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Timeframe: September

ABV: 57.1%

Price: $85

This is the new release replacing the Airigh Nam Beist or “Beast” bottling. It is the same formulation, just one year older of last year’s Ardbeg Committee release of the same name.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 2009

Timeframe: November

ABV: ?

Price: $89.99

This is the annual release from Woodford’s Master’s Collection. Past releases have run the gamut from spectacular (Four Grain) to not so spectacular. This year’s release is finished in casks that were made from wood allowed to dry and age naturally for several years before being toasted (not charred).

That’s it for the month of August. There are already a few more announcements for September from Buffalo Trace. I’ll get those posted soon.

– Richard

New U.S. Releases

It appears that we’ve been a little derelict in out duties on noting the release of new whiskeys to the United States.  So far this month there are five promising additions that were annouced.  And it’s only August 13th!

Suntory Yamazaki 1984 Single Malt Whisky 
Timeframe: October 2009
ABV: 48%
Price: $550 – $650
More of the wonderful whisky being made in Japan come here is never a bad thing.  In addition to the Hibiki we announced last month we seem to be making headway with Japanese distribution.  Sadly this ones out of most of our price ranges.

Four Roses 2009 Mariage Collection Bourbon
Timeframe: September (around the Kentucky Bourbon Festival)
ABV: 57% – 59%
Price: ?
I have yet to try the 2008 Mariage.  Apparently I need to get on that and quick!

Tullamore Dew 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Timeframe: Late 2009
ABV: ? But most likely 40%
Price: $39.99
More Irish single malt!  This will be a welcome addition to Tullamore’s portfoilo of standard, 10 Year, and 12 Year blends.

Laphroaig 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Timeframe: September
ABV: ?
Price: $84.99
This is the new release that will replace Laphroaig’s current 15 Year Old bottling in their standard portfolio.  It promises to be good but if you’re in love with the 15 Year, get it while you can!

Evan Williams Honey Reserve
Timeframe: Soon
ABV: 35%
Price: $14.99
It seems like everyone is coming out with flavored bourbon or whiskey liqueurs.  Here’s Evan Williams’s entry into the category.

Did You Know #2: Beware the Burn

Did You Know…that you can burn your taste buds on higher proof whiskey?

Opinions vary about the preference for or against difference proof strengths of whiskey.  Some folks chide the 80 proof while rallying behind cask strength whiskeys and vice versa.  Regardless of your preference you should note that the higher the alcohol content the more likely you are to burn your taste buds.  It may seem really manly (or womanly if you’re so inclined) to drink all your whiskey straight all the time.  That’s all well and good when your bottles are in the 40% to 46% ABV range.  However, once you start knocking back glasses in the upper 50’s, 60’s, and heaven forbid 70’s without any water then you’re looking for a hurtin’.  I’m not talking about the level of inebriation but rather the effect the alcohol has on your tongue and it’s subsequent ability to taste.  All that alcohol “burns” or essentially numbs your taste buds to further experiences for some period of time there after.    If you are eating grandma’s okra and squash surprise (I’m from Georgia remember) then that may not be a bad thing.  But if you want to actually taste and enjoy your whiskey, not to mention subsequent whiskeys, then you need to be careful.  Sipping slow and adding a little water won’t call for an automatic revoking of your man-card.  I promise. 

On a related note, if you’re engaging in a tasting of multiple whiskies it is a generally good idea to go from lowest alcohol content to highest.

– Richard

Did You Know #1: More Than a Shelf Can Show

I thought it might be a good idea to post little nuggets of whiskey related advice, knowledge, or wisdom from time to time to help out our readers.   Some people may say that these are all “common sense” but in life, like whiskey I find that “common” sense is a little less common than we think.  A number of you may already know most or all the bits of information that we’ll share under the “Did You Know” banner but if we can enlighten just one reader then in my opinion the post was helpful.  So here goes…

Did You Know…that your local liquor stores have access to a lot more selection than you see on the shelves? 

Have you ever gone into your local purveyor of the water of life just to sigh as you see the same old bottlings again and again?  You may find yourself wondering why your local shop only carries the same 5 bourbons, 2 ryes, 2 Irish, and 4 scotches?  The answer?  Supply and demand.  I’m not going to give you an economics lesson but suffice it to say that if your local shop sells their selection just fine then why change?  However, if they see a growing demand for something else that they can get their hands on then they may start stocking that too.  Try talking to the local store manager/owner and see if they are willing to order specific whiskeys for you.  You may be surprised when they pull out the book they get from their local distributor and then ask you which of 50+ additional scotches on that list you are interested in. 

There are limits of course.  Some producers don’t sell in certain areas.  There are plenty of scotch bottlings that don’t make it stateside.  Japanese whisky is all but completely absent here.  Even a great brand like Buffalo Trace doesn’t send any of their standard bottling two states south to Georgia.  So don’t go in expecting to get  the most hard to find and esoteric whiskey imaginable.   On the other hand, see what they can get.  You may just be surprised.  If enough people start doing it then you may just see that standard selection increasing a bottling at a time.

One additional note about price – generally speaking the liquor store will probably charge you a little more for your special order bottle than if you bought it off the shelf.  Why?  Well, it’s either because they can (you obviously couldn’t get it elsewhere or you wouldn’t be coming in and special ordering it) or because what they pay for a single bottle is a good bit more than the per bottle price if they order a case/box of a regularly stocked item.   Either way, as long as they don’t completely screw you on the price then fair is fair.  They are getting a decent profit and you are getting the whiskey you’ve been looking for.  What’s not to like?

– Richard

Gateway Series #10: The Three Glens

For this week’s entry in the Gateway Series we decided to do something a little different.  Last week Matt was down in Atlanta and we got to sit down together and do some tasting.  We decided that a head-to-head-to-head tasting of the Three Glens would be a nice twist on our usual reviews.  There was some discussion if single malt scotches should even be included as a “gateway” drink given their tendency toward higher prices and a more refined palate.  That said, if you are venturing into single malts for the first time you’re likely to cross paths with one of these three.  Here are the results of our tasting of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, and Glenmorangie The Original.  Enjoy!

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
40% ABV, 80 Proof
About $25 to $30
Darn near everywhere

What the Distillery Says:

Glenlivet 12 Year Old shows a perfectly balanced display of fruity and floral flavours.  Oak is present but in the distance.  This Classic Speyside conveys beautiful images of a fertile orchard, blossoming at springtime and laden with juicy ripe fruit at summertime.  Nose and palate offer a warm experience of Speyside fresh and fragrant air.  The single malt to choose for a relaxing moment, enjoyed on its own or with a fruit pudding (plum or apricot pie, Belgian waffle with stewed apples, marzipan biscuits).

What Richard Says:

Nose:  Light grass with sweet fruit notes pushing through. No note of earthiness (peat, smoke, etc.) which is a little surprising.  Water tends to fade the nose without continued agitation.
Palate: Apples, grass (like sitting in a meadow), and sweet cream (pre-whipped sweetened heavy cream).  Water mutes the more delicate notes.
Finish:  Short and fleeting.  Not much but it leaves you with notes of apple skin.
Comments: Full sweetness through the palate as opposed to a typical fore tongue sweetness.  Overall it was better than expected.  I’ve had this a thousand times and I’ll have it a thousand more.  It’s a great entry scotch but not necessarily typical of like scotches.  Good for fans of a fruiter white wine.

What Matt Says:

Nose:  Crisp green apples, caramel, candy apple coating.  This is a very fruity and accessible nose for the neophyte but not very “Scotch-y.”  No smoke and no earth.
Palate:  The green apple is still present, but the sweeter notes move from caramel to sweet cream.  There is something I can’t quite grasp that Richard calls grassy.  I suppose I could call it saw grass, but it is very vague and faint.
Finish:  Short and tart.  The skin of a Granny Smith apple.
Comments:  This is a pleasant dram with lots of crisp fruit.  It is a great introduction for folks with a fondness for fruity drinks.  Don’t bother adding water or using this as a mixer.  Mixing kills the flavor.  Among single malts, this is decidedly average (that’s why it is so popular).  However, this stands out among gateway whiskies.

 
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Special Reserve
40% ABV, 80 Proof
About $25 to $30
The bestselling single malt in the world

What the Distillery Says:

The pioneer of the prestigious single malt Scotch whisky category, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old is today enjoyed by more people around the world than any other single malt whisky.

Our original, signature single malt Scotch whisky has matured for at least 12 years in American and European oak casks. The quality of these casks is exceptional as all are individually tended by our experienced team of coopers, ensuring our whisky develops complex, elegantly rounded flavours with notes of fresh pear and subtle oak.

NOSE
Distinctively fresh and fruity with a hint of pear. Beautifully crafted single malt with a delicately balanced fragrance.

TASTE
Characteristic sweet, fruity notes. Develops into elements of butterscotch, cream, malt and subtle oak flavour.

FINISH
Long, smooth and mellow.

What Richard Says:

Nose:  Honey/honeysuckle with butter but it’s more like a brown butter sauce or clarified butter.  Not to sound too snotty but it has a really nice bouquet.  More of a green/under ripened note develops with water.
Palate: Initially not very much on the palate.  Upon further investigation this is a more peppered honey on the palate compared to the nose.  It has a creamier mouth feel.
Finish:  Leave the mouth feeling…chewy.  A slight vegetal note as the sweetness clears the throat.  More pepper is left behind.
Comments: There’s a reason this is sold more widely than any other single malt.  It’s a very pleasant dram.  A solid go-to malt.

What Matt Says:

Nose:  Honey butter and those little toast bites you can buy at Ikea (like heavily toasted mini baguettes).
Palate:  Buttery, toasty, viscous, clove, slightly burnt toast bites.  The palate gives an interesting sensation.  The whisky forms a meniscus then bursts on the center of the tongue.  Water opens the nose to some green apple, but kills the palate.
Finish:  Short finish with a slight burn.  Glenfiddich makes my mouth water and my cheeks feel full (almost swollen).
Comments:  Of the Glens, Glenfiddich is the one that I would suggest to anyone interested in getting into Single Malts.  It is not overly complex or overly simple and has a very accessible flavor profile.  Like the Glenlivet, this stands out only compared to other gateway drams.  This is my favorite gateway dram despite the fact that I prefer Glenmorangie (see notes below).

 
Glenmorangie Original
43% ABV, 86 Proof
About $40
Worldwide

What the Distillery Says:

Glenmorangie Original is an inviting single malt whisky, acclaimed and appreciated by luxury spirit drinkers around the world.
The original expression of Glenmorangie’s elegant, floral spirit that is renowned the world over for exquisite finesse and alluring complexity, The Original is the intriguing marriage of delicate spirit and long, slow maturation.

The taste characteristics from the first-fill bourbon casks that permeates the majority of the ages spirit, coupled with the increased proportion of our ‘designer casks’ (made from slow-growth, air-dried American oak from the Ozark Mountains of Missouri), results in a delicious spirit that enhances the relaxed and convivial mood of the group by igniting the senses.

The Original is, quite simply, the most delicate and deliciously complex single malt whisky in the world.

What Richard Says:

Nose:  Yeast rolls and tart apples.  For only 3% more alcohol than the other two Glens it makes a big difference on the nose.  Much more alcohol.  Water cuts down the alcohol but all else remains the same.
Palate: Viscous mouth feel with a bit of sweetness but more tart.  Almost like Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.  Water mutes the flavor.
Finish:  There’s like a viscous hold on the finish and then it releases from the mouth like a dam break.
Comments: Glenmorangie seems to move away from a gateway malt to be more of a defined palate that needs to be sought out as opposed to embracing your.  Their reformulation over the old 10 Year is quite noticeable.  Would I call it “the most delicate and deliciously complex single malt whisky in the world”? No.  But it is quite good.

What Matt Says:

Nose:  Yeast rolls, tart apples and a lot of alcohol. 
Palate:  Birch beer, herbal, faint notes of licorice.  Water draws out some caramel sweetness but creates an odd sensation of a crystalline caramel shell with nothing inside.
Finish:  Short and slightly numbing
Comments:  I find it odd that Glenmorangie is so often mentioned in the same breath as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet.  Both ‘fiddich and ‘livet are Speyside malts while Glenmorangie comes from the Highland region.  Furthermore, the taste profiles are very different.  Glenmorangie is herbal and slightly medicinal compared to the fruitiness of the other two.  The extra alcohol content is small, but prominent.  This dram is for a decidedly different palate.  While this suits my palate best of the three, I cannot recommend it over the Glenfiddich as a gateway dram.

 
Rating:  This was a very interesting experience.  It brought up a lot of questions about the nature of ratings and whether they should be a definitive scale or a relative scale.  Definitively we rated all three as average because while good, they are far overshadowed by world of single malts.  On a relative scale all three standout from everything we’ve tried in the gateway series.  So if you want an overall rating they would each be Average/Stands Out.  Personally, Matt and I both picked Glenfiddich from the group.  No matter which one you pick up I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.