Tag Archives: Single Malt

Event Notice: Extravaganza Fall Tour 2010

I just received the fall tour schedule for the 17th Annual Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza. Matt and I hit New York and Atlanta during the Spring Tour earlier this year. I also received the following invitation to pass along to our readers::

Ladies and Gentlemen are cordially invited to enjoy a connoisseur’s evening featuring over 100 rare & exceptional single malt and Scotch whiskies. The evening includes a delicious dinner buffet as well as a selection of premium imported cigars for our guests’ later enjoyment. The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza brings the discerning enthusiast the opportunity to sample the participating whiskies in a sophisticated and elegant environment with genuine camaraderie and knowledgeable representatives from each participating distillery.

All events from 7:00pm-9:30pm. Registration begins at 7:00pm. Business casual, Jackets preferred. Jackets are required at the Chicago & Philadelphia events. No denim or athletic attire may be worn to the events.

Here is the fall schedule:

Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Union League Club of Chicago
65 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604

Thursday, October 1, 2010
The Taj Boston
15 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116

Washington, DC
Thursday, October 27, 2010
JW Marriott Hotel
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Thursday, October 29, 2010
The Union League Club of Philadelphia
140 South Broad Street
Philadephia, PA 19102

San Francisco
Thursday, November 16, 2010
Intercontinental San Francisco
888 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Los Angeles
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
1700 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Fort Lauderdale
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
1 Seminole Way
Hollywood, FL 33314

Tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 990-1991 or online here. The regular ticket price for each event is $135 but the Society is again kind enough to extend their special society member pricing of $120 on the first two ticket purchased by each of our readers. To get the special Whisk(e)y Apostle pricing use the promotional code “WAP2010” when you call or order online. If you order more than two tickets then the additional tickets are still $135 each.

Tullibardine Interview

Some time ago, I attended a special tasting of Tullibardine single malt whisky at The Brandy Library.  Since I was somewhat impressed by the uniqueness of Tullibardine and had a lot of questions, Adam Jacobs of Total Beverage Solution hooked me up with James Robertson, International Sales Manager for Tullibardine (who missed the tasting due to volcanic activity in Iceland).  What follows is the result of an interview with James Robertson conducted by email.

Matt: James, what is your official title?
James Robertson: International Sales Manager
M: How long have you been in this position?
JR: Just over 2 years, before that I worked in the wine trade for 15 years including 8 years with Taittinger and Louis Jadot.
M: I really enjoy the unique character of the ’93 vintage.  Is this what we can expect from Tullibardine in the future?
JR: At the end of last year we produced our first bottling of new Tullibardine (made from spirit after 2003) tasted blind against the 1993 at recent events in Canada and Europe customers have been amazed how similar the profile is for a single malt which is in effect 6 years old.
M: Are the same barley strains available now as when the distillery was mothballed?  If not, how do you plan on recapturing the unique profile built under previous ownership?
The Barley used comes from as local a source as we can get, harvests permitting. The profile is certainly being retained but also we feel improved by following the same model as before but also in much better cask purchasing.
Is the plan to continue with the vintage model instead of an age statement or will that change once you start bottling the whiskies produced after 2003?
The plan is at the moment to continue with the vintage statement although the new bottling mentioned earlier has no age statement but is called “Aged Oak Edition”. There may well be no age statement wood finishes to follow, so Tullibardine Port Finish for example.
When will we see whisky made completely under the new management hit the market?
In most markets the Aged Oak has arrived but I am not sure when we will get it onto the US market, soon I hope!
When you opened up the warehouse doors in 2003, did you find anything that surprised you?  Will there be any weird one-off bottlings like we’ve seen with Bruichladdich?
There were no real surprises although I think that most commentators would agree that we have been exceptionally lucky in the quality of the 1960 casks that we have bottled to date. All of them have been very fruity and not woody at all. Our oldest cask from 1952 will be bottled in the near future. We will not be increasing the range too much as we feel that we do not want to go down the route of “shelf pollution” as one retailer put it about distilleries releasing too many expressions but we have got some casks being finished off in Banyuls which is probably a first!
What can we expect from Tullibardine in the future?
We aim to produce single malts that retain the elegant, delicate and fruity style of Tullibardine and also to maintain the policy of selling our single malts at a price across the range that means that at each level they do not just sit on the shelf.
Thank you so much for your time.  I know I’m looking forward to seeing more Tullabardine on the shelf.  I’m especially interested to see what Banyuls casks do to the spirit.  Hopefully, we’ll cross paths at a whisky festival in the near future.

There you have it folks.  If you’re looking for a slightly different single malt, go looking for Tullibardine.  It looks like it’s only going to get more interesting.


Qu’est-ce que c’est?

“I hate people when they’re not polite” as the song goes.  Whisky writers and enthusiasts have long been accused of elitism.  Even those of us who seek to lift the veil on whiskey’s mysteries, can fall prey to what some see as arrogance and snobbery.  Whisky festivals often seem to enforce this theme.  The vast majority of attendees are white men over forty with very comfortable lifestyles.  Clubs, guilds, or societies often host the events.  There is often a dress code.  One expects a certain amount of decorum.

Where am I going with this?  Well I’m about to rant in a way that suggests my own elitism (though that is hardly the point).  This week the Single Malt Whisky Society hosted the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza.  The event itself was very great.  However, some the attendees did not comport themselves a way befitting their standing.  There are always a few assholes at events like this.  There are the guys that pre-game and show up drunk.  There are the guys that don’t understand the point of the spit/pour buckets and are hammered after the first table.  My chief complaint this time?  The guys that do not respect the “talent.”

Unless you are at Whisky Fest, most of the folks behind the tables are brand ambassadors (as opposed to Master Distillers).  Brand Ambassadors range from dudes in kilts with a brogue to well educated non-kilt wearers to actors, actresses and models.  These folks are the “talent.”  Back in the day, the actors/actresses/models rarely knew anything about whisky in general and sometimes not much about their own brand.  I’m happy to say that (apart from a handful of brands) this is becoming a thing of the past.  They still hire pretty girls (they know their market), but the brands are doing a better job with education.

While talking to the Heather at the Glenfiddich table (a real class act who knows her stuff), I heard someone behind me mutter, “it doesn’t matter how many questions you ask, she is not going to sleep with you”.  This is unacceptable.  First of all, don’t disrespect a guy who is genuinely seeking knowledge.  That is the act of a barbarian.  Secondly, do not disrespect the ladies at these events (or ever for that matter).

If that was the only incident, I would still be outraged but I would allow that it was just one jerk-ass showing off for his friends.  However, throughout the night, there were many instances of this kind of behavior.  Now, I’m no prude.  I like a well shaped form as much as the next guy, but real men leave that kind of talk in the locker room or in the company of other men.  You’re momma raised you better.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I guess I should talk about the event itself.  It was a good time.  The food was pretty good.  The layout in the tasting room caused some traffic flow problems.  The tasting tables were laid out in a “U” shape with table seating in the middle of the room.  There were times that navigating between the tasting tables and the seating became difficult.  Without prodding people to keep moving, I’m not sure there was anything to be done though.

There were over 100 whiskies on pour.  I tried a small amount of quite a few, but really took my time with a few others.  At events like these, I try to focus on things I wouldn’t normally try.  That night, the SMWS bottlings were high on my list.  They are all worth trying, but my favorites were the Cask No. 76.68-15yo from Dufftown (Mortlach distillery) and the Cask No 53.136-17yo from Islay (Caol Ila).  The Mortlach surprised me, because it was very sweet with some great berry notes.  Previous independent bottlings I’ve tried tasted like Robitussin.  The Caol Ila?  Well, that’s a distillery that continues to grow on me.  Perhaps my palate is getting more sophisticated.  Finally, I see what all the hype is about.  I get a lot of those fizzy, lemony notes I found in the unpeated Caol Ila with some great peaty bite.  This is a whisky you can chew.

I got my chance at the Ardbeg Rollercoaster.  Rollercoaster is very enjoyable, but I think the Corryvreckan was better.

Like Richard, I decided the give the Dalmore another try.  I’m still not enthralled.  For some reason, I’ve always wanted to like the Dalmore.  Maybe it’s Master Distiller Richard Patterson’s charm or the beautiful package design.  I’m never satisfied with the whisky though.

Usquaebach was there.  If you’ve never had this blend, I encourage you to give it a try.  The high-end version comes in a nice ceramic jug (it’s an NAS vatted malt).  That’s the only one I’ve seen on shelves.  They have two other versions. (a 12yo with some grain content and 15yo vatted malt).  For my money, I think the 12yo and the NAS are the way to go.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the 15yo.  The 12yo is a great little blend at a good price point.  I put it on the same level as Old Parr (maybe even better).

Overall, the Extravaganza was great.  I highly recommend the event.

Remember, if I see you disrespecting the ladies at one of these events, I’ll come at you like Richard Patterson going at someone putting water in a glass of Jura (seriously, he’ll slap you).

fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa


Tullibardine At The Brandy Library

Last night, I hopped the E train down to Tribeca for some whisky and conversation (way better than tea and sympathy btw).  The Brandy Library and Adam Jacobs of Total Beverage Solution was hosting a tasting of four Tullibardine single malts.

Despite being located on the side of Scotland’s oldest brewery (circa 12th century), Tullibardine is a Highland distillery that you don’t hear about much here in the States.  This is due in part to being mothballed from 1995-2003.  Luckily, the distillery was in pretty good shape and there were a lot of casks just waiting to be bottled.

Tullibardine Vintage 1993
(15 years in 1st fill bourbon casks, no caramel coloring, chill-filtered, 43% ABV)
This is Tullibardine’s “benchmark” expression and arguably the most unique in the range.  I get a lot of citrus from both the nose and the palate.  Specifically, it’s like the pith of a pink grapefruit; slightly tart, slightly sweet, and crisp.  The cereal notes are also very prominent.  When you add in the floral and vanilla notes, it’s like a hearty country breakfast.

Tullibardine Vintage 1993 Oloroso Sherry Finish
(15 years old, about 15 months in sherry butts, non chill-filtered, no caramel coloring, 46% ABV)
Despite the higher proof, this whisky is not “hot” by any means.  The elements that make Tullibardine unique are still present, but with added elements of toffee, dark fruits and spice.  If you threw some haroset* into your country breakfast, this is what you’d get.

Tullibardine Vintage 1992
(16 years old, a marriage of mostly 1st fill bourbon casks with some sherry hogsheads, non chill-filtered, no caramel coloring, 46% ABV)
Here is where we lose some of the unique Tullibardine-ness.  Don’t get me wrong; this is a really nice whisky.  However, it’s very generic.  Vintage 1992 could easily have come from a number of other Highland distilleries.  The cereal notes are still there, there is a lot more sherry influence, but the citrus is muted almost to extinction.

Tullibardine Vintage 1988
(20 years old, a 50/50 marriage of 1st fill bourbon casks and sherry hogsheads, non chill-filtered, no caramel coloring, 46% ABV)
The extra age and slightly different blend resuscitates the citrus (and the whisky).  Vintage 1988 is rich and smooth, like a bolder version of the ’93 Oloroso Finish, but retains the vibrancy of the standard ’93 vintage.

I really enjoyed the uniqueness of Tullibardine, but there’s a catch.  All of the whiskies in this line-up where distilled under the previous ownership.  What’s to say that the new Tullibardine whiskies will be anything like these?  Will there still be that grapefruit vibrancy or will the taste profile become more generic like so many other malts that fall within a somewhat narrow range of deviation?  Only time will tell.  Thanks to Adam from Total Beverage Solution and Ethan Kelly at Brandy Library for playing host.

*Haroset (or charoset) is a blend of fruits, nuts, and spices that people of the Jewish faith eat during Passover to symbolize the mortar used during the years of slavery in Egypt.  I’m specifically referring to the Middle Eastern style that uses figs, dates, raisins and walnuts mixed with cinnamon and sweet wine.


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.