Category Archives: Scottish Whisky

SMWS Atlanta Whisky Tasting

I just received an invitation to a scotch whisky tasting hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. After clearing it with a Society representative they gave me the okay to extend the invitation to our readers. Here are the details:

Where: Buckhead Club, 3344 Peachtree Roead NE Suite 2600, Atlanta, GA
When: Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Time: Registration begins at 6:30pm, Tasting from 7:00pm until 9:00p
Price: $105
RSVP: Please call 800.990.1991 or email to reserve tickets

Additionally, a buffet style dinner is included and they request that you wear business attire (jackets, no denim or athletic wear). I don’t have any more details about what they are pouring but I believe this is a Society event and will most likely include their special bottlings. The invitation I got said that you are invited to “a connoisseurs evening of rare and unique Society whiskies” so I’m pretty confident you won’t be drinking Famous Grouse on the rocks.

This will be a rare chance to try some of the SMWS’s special bottlings without have to join and buy them yourself. My wife and I will be there and I hope some of you can make it too.

Supernova Returns

For those fans of Ardbeg out there I just received a note from Ardbeg that their Supernova bottling will briefly be returning to the states. There should be bottles headed to California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

The Atlanta locations that should be expecting a shipment are Pearson’s and Tower.

The NYC locations are Astor Wine & Spirits, Morrel & Company, and Park Avenue Liquor.

If you’re in one of the other states lucky enough to be included on the list and want to know where to get some shoot me an email.


Beauty and the Beist

I just got back from brunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden, Master Distiller of Glenmorangie and Arbeg, at the Brandy Library.  The food was great, the whisky was better and a great time was had by all. Dr. Bill promised to bore us to death and then give us great whisky.  I told him that talk of whisky was never boring.  “You’ve never heard me talk before,” says he.  Needless to say, I was not bored.

One of the things I learned today:  Glemorangie has the tallest pot still in Scotland (16′-10 1/4″).  Dr. Bill also took us through the long journey that the Astar barrels take before holding Glenmorangie (ask me about it or ask Dr. Bill, it’s a long journey).  And we learned how to “release the serpent” in whisky (add water).

The whiskies on the menu were Glenmorangie Original, Astar, Lasanta, Sonnalta PX, Ardbeg Supernova and Corryvrecken.  I was also allowed to sample some Glenmorangie new make spirit.  Smelling and tasting of banana peels, coconut and rum, the new make would make a great cocktail mixer.  Too bad it’s not for sale.

We’ve reviewed both the Original and the Astar (Dr. Bill’s favorite) quite recently, so I won’t rehash those.  Notice there are no age statements…

Glenmorangie Lasanta
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Sherry, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, toffee
Palate: Oily, sticky, sweet, spicy, hazelnut, blood orange
Finish: Oily, long, spiced orange and dark fruits
Comments: Lasanta is finished in Dry Oloroso Sherry casks for two years.  Otherwise, it is basically the same whisky as the Original.  I like what they are trying to do here.  Dr. Bill is one of the engineers of the extra-maturation movement afterall(remember all those old Glenmorangies?).  You still get some of the Glenmorangie character, but with an extra zing.  I like it, but I like the Original better.

Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Everything you find in the Lasanta but bolder, dark chocolate, berries
Palate: Again, like Lasanta on steroids.  Bold, rich sherry flavors with black pepper, tobacco and spice.
Finish: Long and oily, but sharp
Comments: Similar to the Lasanta, but using Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks.  The extra richness of the PX really comes out in the whisky.  This is a great addition to the extra-matured world.  Plus, although this whisky is currently only available at Travel Retail, they will be releasing the Sonnalta PX domestically (in the US) soon due to popular demand.  Whose says the consumer has no control in the whisky world?  (It’s not like Glenmorangie is a Diageo company!)*

Glenmorangie Signet
46% ABV, 92 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: Sherry, chocolate, dark berries, coffee, pecan pie,
Palate: Rich, chocolate, oak, spice, blood orange, vanilla, crème brulee, coffee, leather
Finish: Velvety
Comments: I knew that Glenmorangie was using ‘chocolate’ malt in the distilling process for the Signet.  What I did not realize was that the malting process for ‘chocolate’ malt more closely resembles tumble-roasting (like coffee) than traditional floor malting (hand or machine turning on the malting floor).  This is a wicked dram with one of the most complex recipes I’ve ever heard for a single malt.  Just to give you an idea, the Signet contains whisky from ‘chocolate’ malt, first and second fill bourbon cask whiskies (using the special oak of the Astar barrels), sherried whiskies, virgin oak whiskies, and whiskies of various ages (some over 30 years old).  There is no other whisky like this on the market.  It goes really well with dark chocolate and cigars, but you could drink it neat with no food and still be happy.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan
57.1% ABV, 114.2 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: PEAT.  I don’t get a lot of anything else.  It’s peat smoke and a lot of it.
Palate: Sweet, rich, spice, tar, nutty, medicinal, creamy, smoky, fresh shellfish and hot black top asphalt.  Incredibly complex.
Finish: Long, earthy and creamy
Comment: This will replace the Airigh Nam Beist, which is being discontinued despite being Dr. Bill’s personal favorite among the Ardbeg range.  I can’t say that I mind.  This is my very favorite Ardbeg to date.  Love it.

Ardbeg Supernova
58.9% ABV, 117.8 Proof, Non-Chill Filtered
Nose: The high proof puts the alcohol at the forefront of the nose.  The peat is surprisingly coy.  Sweet, lime juice and band-aids
Palate: Whoa!  Like chewing on a lump of peat covered in dark chocolate and burnt sugar.  Smoke, spice, lime and band-aids
Finish: I could still taste the peat, chocolate and sweetness after an hour on the subway.  So, yeah, “long finish.”
Comments: The “lime juice and band-aids” comment comes directly from Dr. Bill Lumsden, but he is right on with the description.  I’m not sure that is the best way to sell people on your whisky though.  For being Ardbeg’s peatiest whisky and one of the peatiest on the market, the Supernova is surprisingly approachable.  I like it, but give me more of that Corryvreckan.

Thanks to the Dr. Bill Lumsden, David Blackmore of Moet Hennessy and Ethan Kelly of Brandy Library for putting this together.  I always love a chance to meet a Master Distiller.  It only sweetens the deal that it was Dr. Bill (Glenmorangie is my ‘go-to’ whisky).

*The Glenmorangie and Arbeg are owned by Moet Hennessy.

Drink well, drink responsibly.

Whisky On The Hudson ‘09

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that Thursday night was the Whisky Guild’s annual Whisky On The Hudson booze cruise.  You also know that I forgot my ticket and had to wrangle a new one (which makes this the most expensive tasting event I’ve ever attended.  Not the Guild’s fault, but there it is). Despite my ineptitude, Thursday turned out to be a really great night.  I schmoozed with industry insiders, helped turn other attendees on to new things, and most importantly I learned a lot.  I was even surprised a couple of times.

The boat was bigger this year, but the number of presenters was about the same, which made for a more comfortable socializing experience.  The down side was that things looked a little sparse for a while.  I decided to get the lay of the land first and to seek out some friends.  First I headed to a part of the boat where Glenmorangie had set up a little jazz club, where you could taste the whole line (including many Ardbeg’s) and relax a bit.  Of course, there was a mob around the Signet.  Even though I love Glenmorangie, I was on a mission (I grabbed some of the new Ardbeg Supernova on the way out though).  I didn’t want to be sidetracked.  However, I am easily sidetracked.

I found a boat map to help look for the William Grant & Sons tables.  I know I will find Dr. Whisky there.  On my way, I get turned around and end up talking Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia.  Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky (hmm, he leaves out the ‘e’ even though it is an American Single Malt) is a pot stilled whisky that uses barley malted over apple and cherry wood.  I tried it last year and was not impressed, but a trusted source said that they have improved the product, so I was willing to give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You can taste the influence of the fruit woods, but it does not come off as overly fruity.  It’s bold, round and balanced.  To sweeten the deal, Rick was also pouring an aged rye (containing both rye and his proprietary malted barley) and white dog* of both whiskies.  I’ve tried a lot of white dog in the past couple of months (it seems to be the it whisk(e)y these days).  I have to say, these were my favorites.  The malting process really smoothes out the rough edges commonly associated with white whisky.  The most interesting thing Rick has to offer is a box set that contains two bottles of the white whisky and a miniature charred oak barrel.  You can age your own whisky!  He had a second fill barrel there with five month old whisky.  It was different from the bottled stuff.  The wood was really bold.  This is a must have for any whisky nerd (like myself).  Here’s the rub.  Wasmund’s is only available in the D.C. area right now.  They are working on getting New York distribution, but the rest of the country is still without fruit wood malted single malt.

Once again, I was off to find Dr. Whisky.  He’s always good for a laugh and some quality information.  In route, I caught a glimpse of a Jefferson’s Reserve bottle.  “I wonder if they brought the Presidential Select,” I think to myself.  It’s not on the table.  I ask and they deliver.  Trey Zoeller, V.P. of Bourbon Operations for Castle Brands, comes over and we start talking about this whisky from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery.  This is one of Malt Advocate’s “Must Buy” bourbons (but you already knew that).  It’s every thing John Hansell says it is (we’ll have a formal review someday).  As Trey and I reminisce about dead distilleries (we agree that the Hirsch <Michter’s> 16yo is superior to the 20yo), he tells me that he has another batch of this Stitzel-Weller bourbon that he plans to release next year as Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18yo.  I can’t wait.

Finally, I make it back to the Balvenie table where I find a bearded(!) Dr. Whisky pouring the entire Balvenie line.  We have a chat and I try the new 17yo (Madeira cask).  This is a good one folks.  I was a little disappointed with the Rum cask 17yo from last year.  The palate did not deliver on what the nose promised.  The Madeira 17yo is just the opposite.  The nose is a little weak and uninteresting, but it really delivers on flavor.  Later, I came back and tried the 21yo.  A very fine dram indeed.

Much of the remainder of the night was a flurry of schmoozing and tasting (I even ran into Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast).  I reacquainted myself with the Glenlivet 15yo (aged in virgin charred Limousin oak).  Limousin oak is used in Cognac barrels and is tricky to work with but it makes a damn fine whisky.  The 15yo is the only Glenlivet to use Limousin oak casks.  This specialty oak gives the whisky a richness and boldness that round out and compliment the sharp, fruity qualities common to Glenlivet.  This is smoother and richer than the standard expression.

I had the opportunity to try the PC6 and PC7 (both distilled at Bruichladdich).  These are both good drams with a fair amount of peat.  I prefer the PC6.

Dave Conroy of International Beverage Company, Inc., took me through his whiskies from Mull and Islay.  I don’t remember ever trying Bunnahabhain before and I think I would remember an unpeated Islay.  I liked it at every age.  There is a sweetness and complexity that I associate more with the mainland.  This is very approachable whisky.  Dave also introduced me to Tobermory and Ledaig (both from the Isle of Mull).  Really good stuff, the Ledaig especially is a must try for any peat lovers out there.

Other things that stood out for me that night were the Knappogue Castle 1995 Irish whisky, the Hibiki 12yo Blended Japanese whisky, Deanston 30yo, and Tuthilltown’s New York Whiskey.  However, the topper had to be the tasting lab led by Master Ambassador for Laphroaig, Simon Brooking.  We tasted peated barley, he lit a peat brick on fire, and each dram was accompanied by a song (or a joke) and a toast.  Simon is a real showman.  We tasted Ardmore 30yo (loved it), Laphroaig 10yo, Quarter Cask, 15yo, 18yo, and 25yo.  I really like the Quarter Cask (and the 25yo of course).  The 18yo is a new addition that will be replacing the 15yo.  They are very different whiskies, so if you are a fan of the 15yo, stock up.  Personally, I prefer the 15yo, but I seem to be among the minority in the critics’ circles.  Maybe I’ll have to give it another go in a less overwhelming setting.

So, that was my Whisky on the Hudson experience.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  The Whisky Guild does several of these events around the country each year.  You should check it out.

* “White dog” is a common term for whisky straight from the still (non-matured, no water added).  I’m not sure if Wasmund’s non-matured whisky is unwatered or not, but it is pretty high proof.

Drink well.  Drink responsibly.


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



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