Event Notice: Extravaganza Spring Tour ’09

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza is making the rounds this spring.  You may remember this as the event that Richard spoke so highly of last month.  Well, here is your chance to get a piece of the action (if you live in Dallas, Denver, or New York that is).  The cost is $130 and the focus is completely on Single Malts (from around the world) and Scottish blends.  This event will be in Dallas April 16th, Denver April 30th, and New York City May 7th.  I have a previous engagement on May 7th, so raise a dram for me.

For more info go to www.singlemaltextravaganza.com.

Glen Garioch 15 Year

43% ABV/86 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $45 to $55

What the distillery says:

Honey in color. Medium-bodied with hints of lavender and oak with a syrup sweetness. Long, mellow and very sumptuous finish.

What Matt says:

Nose: Heather, dulce de leche, trace hints of smoke
Palate: Clean palate with honey, vanilla, peat, cardamom, and what I could only assume is sherry.
Finish: Medium-long finish. The peat asserts itself here with a little alcohol and vanilla.
Comments: A very respectable Highland Malt. Fairly typical, which is to say good. Richard sent me this, so I don’t know much about it. I’m assuming that it spent some time in a sherry cask based on the flavor and color. Among the broad spectrum of all whiskies, I would say this is slightly above average, but does not quite stand out.
Rating: Average

What Richard says:

Nose: Tobacco, cedar, orange blossoms and a slight hint of vanilla.
Palate: Spicy and smoky but with a light bit of sweetness.  All of this is layed on a foundation or earthiness.
Finish: The finish gives me a bit of briney peat and alcohol burn.
Comments: I really find this dram uninspiring.  It was the last “blind buy” that I made, meaning bought without tasting or hearing anything about it.  It’s not particulary bad.  It just doesn’t make me want a 2nd dram.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

UPDATE 1/26/10: As this is now a discontinued version of Glen Garioch replaced with a 12 Year Old we’ve moved this to The Collector’s Cabinet

Boilermaker in a bottle

Few things go together like whisk(e)y and beer: peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and strawberries, bacon and… well, anything. Plus, a boilermaker is about the only thing that no bartender can screw up. A while back, I did a blog about how some whisk(e)y makers who are using barley traditionally reserved for beer to make some really great whisk(e)y. Well, today I’m talking about beer aged in whisk(e)y barrels. A lot of craft and micro breweries are experimenting with cask conditioned beers aged in bourbon casks and at least one brewery is making beer aged in single malt scotch casks.

Most breweries are using dark beers like porter or stout. Goose Island in Chicago brews up Bourbon County Stout. This bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout is rich, chocolaty, and smoky. For my taste, the beer picks up too much sweetness from the bourbon (although it is better than most of it’s competition) and at 13% ABV this beer has some bite. It tastes a little like dropping half a shot of bourbon into a chocolate stout. My brother-in-law loves this beer and only complains that it gets him drunk too quickly so he can’t have one with lunch. Goose Island also does a version of this beer with coffee beans added to the barrel only available at one of the Goose Island locations in Chicago. I have not had the pleasure of making its acquaintance.

Another brewery to age a sweet, dark beer in whisky casks is Scotland’s Harviestoun Brewery. Harviestoun offers not one, but three porters (roughly based on the ever popular Old Engine Oil), called Ola Dubh, aged in HIghland Park cask; a 12yr, a 16yr, and a 30yr. Of three, the 16 is the best. The 12 is overly sweet and tastes more like a boilermaker in a bottle than a unique beverage. Highland Park 30yo is a very fine whisky (very fine), but is too complex and delicate to survive the porter’s bolder qualities. The Ola Dubh 16, is absolutely stunning. This is not just a beer. This is something altogether different. There are notes of dark chocolate, hops, damp earth, fruit, smoke and peat. This is truly an example of a sum that is greater than its parts (and the parts weren’t bad).

Although most breweries opt for dark beers, Twisted Pines Brewing in Boulder, CO has created a red ale aged in Buffalo Trace casks. By using a red ale, Twisted Pines gets around the over-sweet pitfall. This is without a doubt one of the best beers I have had. Like the Ola Dubh 16, Oak Whiskey Red is greater than the sum of its parts. You get a lot of Buffalo Trace on the nose and the bourbon adds some toffee and smoke to an already great beer (they use their Red Mountain Ale). Hopefully, more breweries will take the cue and give us some more bourbon barrel-aged red ales.

As you can imagine, these are small run beers from small breweries. What does that mean to you? They can be hard to find (Old Whiskey Red is not available outside of Boulder) and more expensive than your average beer. However, this is such a big trend, there is likely a micro-brewery in your area that is working on something like this (especially with porters and stouts). If not, go to the brew master and request it.

I know I also promised a review of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, but my best efforts came up empty. If I find it, I’ll post an update.

If you know of a good whisk(e)y barrel-aged beer, let us know about it. Happy hunting.


Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

43% ABV/86 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $45 to $50

What the distillery says:

Subtly sophisticated Lowland is a superb pre-dinner drink; try it taken straight from teh freezer.  Pale gold in appearance.  It has a light sweet nose with barley-malt, green grass and wispos of autumn smoke.  The body is firm and light.  The palate is slightly sweet yet fresh, late summer fruits and harvest fields, young wood and malted barley.  A suprising dry finish with a smoky spiciness.

What Matt says:

Nose: Light, sweet (cereal and honey), fresh cut grass, with a trace of smoke.
Palate: Very floral, citrus, honey, over-ripe fruit
Finish: A little spice, some alcohol and sweetness.
Comments: More complex and interesting than your average lowland malt, this is an everyday kind of malt. While none of the flavors are terribly bold, this is a good dram. A great intro into single malt Scotch.
Rating: Stands Out (among Lowlands)

What Richard says:

Nose: Grassy with light hints of fruity sweetness.
Palate: Mellowed and muted flavor.  Slight hint of iodine on the rear of the palate.  As the flavor begins to clear it leave a malted barley after taste that’s very beer like.  Almost like an IPA.
Finish: Smooth, mellow, little about the finish stands out.
Comments: Glenkinchie is a lowland malt.  As such you expect the category to be mellowed with a less drastic flavor profile than malts from other areas of Scotland.  Glenkinchie holds true to this.  Nothing really stands out.  When you’re done with the dram it’s almost like it was never there.  Nothing offensive in this whisky but nothing to write home about either.  That being said, the 12 Year Old is Diageo’s replacement to the 10 Year Old in the Classic Malts range and I do note improvement from the additional years.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Boston Whisky Party

The Whisky Guild is hosting a booze cruise on May 13th for whisk(e)y lovers in good old Bean Town. They held a similar event in NYC last fall. It was really great. The whisk(e)y list is quite respectable and focuses mainly on Scottish single malts. I encourage you to try the new offerings from Bruichladdich, the Highland Park 30yo, Glenmorangie’s the Signet, and the Suntory whiskeys if you have not had the opportunity. So, if you are in the Boston area, check it out. Go here for more info. Drink responsibly. Drinking on the water is a little different than drinking on dry land.