Tag Archives: Compass Box

New U.S. Releases – June 2011

I thought it might be a good idea to post these new release summaries on the last day of the actual month I’m summarizing instead of the following month. We’ll see if I can stick to that.

With one exception, June seemed to be all about American whiskey. From big producers to craft distillers, we have some interesting stuff that came through in June.

Wild Turkey 81
Release Date: Now
ABV: 40.5%
Price: $20
This one kind of took us by surprise. Usually, we get press releases some months in advance of bottles hitting the shelves. This is especially true of large producers like Wild Turkey. There is not really much to say here that Matt hasn’t already covered. Check out our review for more details.

OYO Whiskey
Release Date: Now
ABV: 46%
Price: $45
This new wheat whiskey comes from Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. This is a 100% wheat whiskey aged in beeswax sealed barrels.

Walleye Rye
Release Date: Now
ABV: 45%
Price: $35/375ml
Made by New Holland Brewer, this rye is fermented from a wash of malted rye and 2-row malted barley. Walleye Rye is twice-distilled and matured in small American oak barrels. They release less than 350 375ml bottles per batch.

Whipper Snapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey
Release Date: Now
ABV: TBD
Price: $30
This is an interesting little product from Ransom Spirits. The first part of the whiskey is made from barley that is malted in the Pacific Northwest, and unmalted barley grown in the Willamette valley of Oregon. The second part is made by using a base of Kentucky corn whitedog, re-distilled in an alembic pot still. They age in a combination of barrels, including used French coopered pinot noir barrels, new American coopered whiskey barrels, and used American whiskey barrels. The age is between six months and two years, with an average time of about one year.

John B. Stetson Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Release: TBD for US market
ABV: TBD
Price: TBD
American whiskey (most likely Heaven Hill) purchased and bottle by Germans and sold back to U.S. consumers (among other countries too). If it tastes good I’ll buy, regardless of how convoluted the supply chain is. Plus, it’s got cowboys and horses on the label! You don’t get more manly and American than that.

Great King Street – The Artist’s Blend
Release: September 2011
ABV:43%
Price: $41/500ml, no price yet on 750ml bottles coming to the U.S.
Something new from Compass Box? Hell yeah I’m excited. John Glaser never disappoints. This new range of whiskies named for the Compass Box office address was created to appeal to both the malt whisky enthusiasts and those new to whisky. The first release in the Great King Street range is the Artist’s Blend. I can’t wait until September!

That’s June. Let’s see what treasures July holds!

New U.S. Releases: October ’10

After the relative drought last month I’ve heard rumblings of a number of new drams coming stateside between now and early next year. The problem is that most of them are just that…rumblings. Most of what I’ve heard is pretty light on details. Here’s what I’ve got:

Compass Box Flaming Heart 10th Anniversary Bottling
Price: $105
ABV: $48.9%
Release: Fall 2010
This is the third Flaming Heart release and only the second to come to the U.S. market. It was developed to celebrate Compass Box’s 10th anniversary. I am a big fan of Compass Box and John Glaser’s talent. I can’t wait to try this one.

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
Price: $375
ABV: 55.6%
Release: Fall 2010
This special bottling is coming out to celebrate the recent distillery expansion at Glenlivet. Look for it in a specialty shop near you.

Penderyn Sherrywood and Peated
Price: $70 each
ABV: 46%
Release: Fall 2010
Matt and I were supposed to receive review samples of these but that fell through for some reason. Regardless, more whisky from around the globe is always a good thing.

There are also several that are not new but will be new to the US. These include:
The Black Grouse
an Cnoc 12 Year and 16 Year
A.D. Rattray independently bottled whiskies

Other new releases include…

The Glenrothes John Ramsay Legacy
Old Pulteney 30 yr. old
Deanston Virginia Oak
Amrut Intermediate Sherry

…and several special releases from Diageo:
Lagavulin 12
Cragganmore 21
Talisker 30
Glen Spey 21
Auchroisk 20
Glenkinchie 20

That’s a lot of new stuff but unfortunately I don’t have many details on any of these. Stay tuned for more information.

Drink wisely my friends,

Richard

Whisky Fest NY ’09 Recap

Last night the Whisk(e)y Apostles re-united at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the 12th Annual New York Whisky Fest.  Despite selling fewer tickets this year, it still seemed awfully crowded.  We ran into some friends, saw some from a distance, and I’m sure we missed others entirely.  We had a great time, but we hope you appreciate what hard work an event of this magnitude is for humble whisk(e)y writers such as ourselves.

The night started off with VIP hour.  For the first time, there were published special VIP only pours.  Before we just got to drink for an hour longer than everyone else.  When we saw that The Dalmore was pouring the King Alexander III during the VIP hour, we made a b-line for the table.  The King Alexander III is comprised of whiskies aged in six types of barrels.  The results is a very rich and complex whisky that far out shines the rest of the Dalmore line (more on that later).

Bushmills‘ VIP pour was the 1608, a very fine dram indeed.  However, both of us agreed that the 21yo to be superior (although Matt found it to be a slow opener).  It delivered a complexity of character previously unseen in the Bushmill’s single malts.

Not to buck the established whiskirati, but both of us found the new Wild Turkey Tradition to be superior to the recent American Spirit bottling (but Matt never really took to the American Spirit).

Next up was a lovely pour of Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.  This was another high point of the VIP hour.  It started with a lovely nose and followed all the way through as an all around great Irish whiskey experience.  Highly recommended by both Apostles.

There were a few disappointments during the VIP hour.  Tullamore Dew’s 10yo single malt, Bunnahabhain’s 25yo, and the Kilbeggan 15yo all were not bad but didn’t grab us as particularly special, although the Kilbeggan’s nose was unlike any Irish we’d ever smelled.

We rounded out the VIP hour with a stop at Pierre Ferrand’s booth.  This was always Richard’s favorite cognac distiller but it was a new experience for Matt.  In addition to their great standard offerings they were pouring their 45yo Abel and 75yo Ancestrale bottlings during the first hour.  Both were magnificent to say the least.  Unfortunately, we fear that Matt is now ruined on cognac with a new affinity for these exceptional and very old Grand Champagne bottlings.  (And you thought all we drank was whisk(e)y!)

At the end of the VIP hour we tried to handled the overwhelming abundance of offerings with strategic planning but even for the experienced attendee Whisky Fest can be overwhelming.  We’ll take you through the high points by group.

Most of our bourbon time was spent with Woodford, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace.  We got a nip of the new Master Distiller’s Seasoned Oak release from Woodford Reserve.  It was unanimous that the Seasoned Oak is far superior to the most recent two releases but still doesn’t hold a candle to Four Grain releases of years past.  Heaven Hill was offering the 27yo and Golden Anniversary bottlings of Parker’s Heritage Collection.  Both are very good but Matt found the Golden Anniversary more complex while Richard thought the 27yo was the better of the two.  Either way you really can’t go wrong.  We ended bourbon for the evening by thoroughly harassing the Buffalo Trace representative. Threats were issued and promises were made.  In the end there is a loose promise that we will see Buffalo Trace in Georgia by the end of next year. Richard finds it a travesty that Georgia is so close to Kentucky but can’t get any of Buffalo Trace’s standard release.  We haven’t formally reviewed it but it is a personal best buy for both Apostles.

Next we move to our neighbor to the north.  Seasoned readers of our site will know that we haven’t spoken too kindly regarding Canadian whiskies in the past.  We were fortunate enough to have a very candid discussion with John Hall of Forty Creek about the current state of the Canadian whisky industry.  He is great guy and always good to talk with.  During the discussion he poured the Double Barrel Reserve release of Forty Creek, which is very nice.  We also found out that there is the potential for a new release of the Port Wood that didn’t make it to the U.S. the last time it was made.  This time, according to Mr. Hall, it will make it to the US market.  We rounded out our Canadian experience by tried the Cask No. 16 from Crown Royal.  What can we say?  It was good!  This is just more proof that Limousin oak can make anything taste great.

As with most of these events, Scotch seemed to dominate the floor.  We were eager to try the new Dalmore range and were a little disappointed.  The Dalmore has been an Apostle favorite in the past.  The new line tasted flat.  However, we didn’t make it over there until later in the evening.  There is a great possibility that we were suffering from palate fatigue (not to mention the general distraction involved with these events).  We agreed that it would be best to try these again under calmer circumstances before making any definitive statements.

We had a long chat with John MacDonald of Inver House (distillery manager for Balblair) about great whisky and sexy packaging.  We started with AnCnoc, an interesting dram with the scent of a Speyside and the palate of a Highland.  The 16yo particularly stands out.  John’s baby, Balblair was poured as 1991 and 1997 vintages.  Both were really exceptional and will be in the states January of 2010.  When asked about a vintage model versus the age model, he said it was about quality.  After tasting, we could not argue about the quality.

Other highlights in Scottish whisky included as short visit with Dr. Whisky at the Balvenie table, where we tried the 17yo Madeira Cask.  This edition of the 17yo is a fine dram, a step up from last year’s Rum Cask, but still not as heavenly as the original Islay Cask.  The Springbank table gave us some very lovely 18yo Springbank and some very promising 5yo “work in progress” Kilkerran.  Ronnie Cox of The Glenrothes poured us some excellent whisky before being mobbed by Orthodox Jews.  To our palates, the Alba Reserve is superior to the Select Reserve and the 1985 vintage is just swell.  Perhaps the most colorful part of the night was the latest Compass Box offerings.  John Glaser has re-introduced The Spice Tree and Orangerie to the line.  The Spice Tree is going to once again be an Apostle favorite, while Mr. Glaser himself described the Orangerie as some “wacky shit.”  We couldn’t agree more.

After hearing all the hype about Amrut whisky (not to mention the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth involved in getting it to the US), the Apostles were eager to try this Indian single malt.  Matt had been taken in by the hype and was a little disappointed, while Richard’s ardent skepticism provided him with a pleasant surprise.  In general, the entire line is overly sweet and a little unbalanced, it might benefit from a higher proof.  The Fusion expression (a mixture of Indian barley and Scottish peated barley) is the most balanced and enjoyable of the line.

Finally, there were the American microdistillers,  There were more this year than ever before.  Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York brought Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey and McKenzie’s Rye.  Glen Thunder can best be described as liquid corn bread in both nose and palate.  McKenzie’s Rye is unlike any other American rye.  The palate is heavy with ginger bread without any of the sticky sweetness of modern ryes.  Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey continues to improve.  It is very much a beer drinker’s dram (very malty).  The much talked about High West Whiskeys brought their entire line.  All were good, but the Rendezvous Rye stands above the rest.  Lastly was Triple Eight Distillery’s Notch whiskey.  We were like “how good can whiskey from Nantucket be?”  The answer:  pretty darn good.  Made using their own bottle ready beer, it reminded us a little of Charbay Whiskey.  However, at $888, it makes Charbay look like a steal.

Whisky Fest was a great event again this year.  This is always a highlight of the U.S. whiskey calendar every year for twelve years running.  We would like to thank everyone involved in making Whisky Fest work.  The food was great and the atmosphere was friendlier than ever before.  Thanks especially to John Hansell and his entire staff at Malt Advocate for organizing this event.  We can’t wait until next year!

-Matt & Richard

News From Compass Box

We’ve recently mentioned the re-release of The Spice Tree from Compass Box Whisky.  This is more than exciting to me, as this was one of my favorites when it was first released.  You can read our review of the first release here.  We will let you know about the new one as soon as possible.

Well, Compass Box is also bringing back Orangerie, an “infusion of fresh, hand-zested organic orange zest, cassia and clove in 10 year-old Scotch whisky.”

Look for these two drams this fall and something extra special closer to winter time.  Compass Box is releasing a very limited, one time release of old vatted malt inspired by the “Lucky Blend.”  The new whisky will be called Lady Luck and I can’t wait to try it.

For more information about these whiskies, hit up the Compass Box website.

Drink well, drink responsibly.
-Matt

Taste of… The Collector’s Cabinet

Matt and I have discussed, at length the merits of offering reviews on whiskeys that are no longer available.  The argument against it is that if we review a dram that is out of this world then it would offer nothing to our readers but frustration at not being able to procure such a fine spirit.  This was our stance from the outset of Whisk(e)y Apostle.

As time went by we started thinking about this idea in a different light.  We realized that there is something to offer our readers by reviewing the occasional rare whiskey.  From a collector’s standpoint there are other resources available offering assistance in how collectable or valuable certain whiskeys are but rarely anything on taste. (As a general rule, we here at Whisk(e)y Apostle do not advocate the collecting of whiskey.  It is made to drink after all!)

So if you find a rare bottle of whiskey, how are you to know if it’s worth purchasing for the purpose of consumption?  That’s where we hope to offer what little assistance we can.  Matt and I aren’t exactly rolling in dough so this will not be a regular part of our reviews but we’ll do it whenever we get the opportunity.

To kick us off we thought we talk a wonderful whisky from Compass Box called The Spice Tree.  There is an unfortunate story behind why this great whisky is no longer in production.  I’m not going to reproduce the sad tale here but if you are interested further information can be found here (in the “Past Whiskies” section).

The Spice Tree

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Formerly produced by Compass Box Whisky Company
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky46% ABV/92 Proof
Discontinued

What the distillery says:

A natural, deep, gold-brown color and a rich nose with spices such as clove and nutmeg, and sweet stewed fruits. Palate is soft, sweet, deep and rich with a malt whisky fruitiness embellished by rich spice. Very long.

What Richard says:

Nose: Scotch rolled in a warm bourbon blanket?  If I didn’t know what this was it would really keep me guessing.  Water opens up the nose to honey and floral sweetness.  Quite lovely.
Palate: The wood is the first and last thing you taste but not in the way you might think.  It’s not the tired over wooded flavor of an over aged whiskey.  It’s more like carrying your dram on a walk through the forest.  It’s a fresher wood taste.  There is a minor honeyed sweetness that almost hides from you.  The spice there but much more understated than the name suggests.  There are a lot of nutty flavors and at the very end of the palate I swear I get a hint of spearmint.
Finish: Much smoother than I expected but that really is par for John Glasser’s work.  Spice, nut, and wood remain after the palate is emptied.  It’s almost like peppered walnut bark.
Comments: As unfortunate as it is, this is a discontinued product. If you happen across a bottle at a reasonable price I would highly recommend picking it up.  I can’t give it a “Must Buy” because of the scarcity but it really deserves top honors.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt says:
Nose: Fox glove honey, caramel, wildflowers, and cardamom.
Palate: Like drinking a nice cup of mulled cider by a fresh cut Christmas tree.  Wood, evergreen, mulling spices, cooked fruit (apples and apricots).  The ultimate ‘comfort’ whisky.  Complex without being uppity.
Finish: Oak, white pepper, and pecan husks linger with a touch of caramel sweetness.  This whisky is incredibly smooth with very little burn on the tongue or in the throat.
Comments: My official rating for this will be a “Must Try” for the reasons that Richard states above.  However, if you see a bottle of this, buy it.  If you see two, let me know.  I will buy the other one.  I love this whisky and lament it’s passing.  When the last drop falls from my bottle, I will shed a tear.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating:   Must Try

Closing Comments: A lot of discontinued whiskeys are phased out due unpleasant factors (Glenmorangie Burgundy Wood Finish) or diminished stocks (Ardbeg 17 Year) but the Spice Tree is the unfortunate victim of politics.  There is little lacking in this quality dram.  If you are fortunate enough to come across a bottle or dram, by all means drink up.

Slainte!