Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Elijah Craig 12 year Label Change

As part of the administrative tools available via the blog provider, I can see keyword searches you all put into the Google Machine or other browsers and clearly readers are questioning the possible demise of the age statement.  Within the last couple of days it was noted that Heaven Hill has made a label change to their Elijah Craig 12 year 94 proof brand.  Right now, the number 12 is front and center on the front label but new bottles showing up on retail shelves simply say "Small Batch" on the front with the age statement noted on the back.  For those of you that have been fortunate to pick up their barrel strength variant, there is no age statement on the front but is listed as "twelve years" on the back label.  The back label age designation will now be the place for their 94 proof offering.

Let the freak out begin.  One keyword search that popped up over the last 24 hours is "Elijah Craig losing age statement".  If I put on my tin foil hat I could forecast that this is a per-cursor to the age statement being dropped at some point in the future.  Let's analyze:

Go back to 2009 when Buffalo Trace removed the age statement from Old Weller Antique.  It was noted from BT that this was done because there simply wasn't room for the age statement with the new bottle format and label.  BT assured the enthusiast community that OWA will remain 7 years old.  Well, I'm not going to point the guilty finger directly at BT, the reality is, a shortage of wheat mashbill soon followed and there was a shortage of 7 years + barrels.  Weller Special Reserve was difficult to find for a period of time as was Old Weller Antique.  Bottom line, BT, as is their right, can put younger whiskey in the bottle if they choose.  The bean counters want more flexibility with bourbon stock and one way is to remove age statements which then removes outflow constraints (e.g. sell younger whiskey).  This in response to significantly higher demand.

So, Elijah Craig 12 year and the label change smells like the same trajectory.  Here's my tin hat theory.  Heaven Hill changes the front label and the consumer (that's you!) over time gets used to the new label and the absence of an age statement in plain view.  One day you walk into your local liquor retailer and pick up a bottle of Elijah Craig 12 year and suddenly notice the "12 year" is no longer on the back label.  Surprise, you're not buying a 12 year bourbon anymore.

So, what should you do? I guess that depends on whether you think it's good enough to bunker or trust that it will be around for a while.  To be honest, Elijah Craig is not a bottle I typically have in the bunker for the very reason that it's readily available.  This afternoon while traveling home, I stopped and picked up a bottle and am at this moment, sipping on a healthy pour.

This is a value pour no doubt.  I paid normal retail at $27 but in some markets, it's over $30.  I'm mulling over a trip to a neighboring state to pick up 1/2 case because their prices are around $20 a pop.  I've been drinking bourbon long enough to have seen many age statements drop off the shelves so this is one to watch.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Latest Acquisition - Bacardi and Angel's Envy

The deal closed on Friday, March 27th with Bacardi acquiring Angel's Envy with this marking Bacardi's entrance into the American whiskey market.  Bacardi will leave in place the management and staff structure allowing Angel's Envy to continue operations as is currently planned with distillery expansion set to be
complete in 2016.

Read the details here from Businesswire.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Go Irish - Teeling Irish Whiskey

I'm not Irish and don't do a lot of celebrating on St. Patrick's Day but one thing this Irish holiday represents (besides the Irish and great whiskey) is the entrance of Spring.  After a rather long and at times harsh winter, I'm looking forward to warmer weather and with that, digging in to some new whiskey. 

Teeling has a long history of making whiskey dating back to 1792 where Walter Teeling began distilling in Dublin.  Fast toward to 1987 and John Teeling opens up Cooley Distillery which prior to his purchase was making Potato based alcohol.  Since Cooley's opening they became a force in the Irish distilling scene racking up numerous international awards.  Point is, they know whiskey.  In 2011, The Teelings sold Cooley to Beam Global for a cool $95M.  Now, Jack Teeling is kicking off a new venture by sourcing whiskey from his fathers former distillery with the release last year of Teeling Irish Whiskey.  This is a small batch Irish blend that is finished in Flor de CaƱa rum casks for around 6 months.  This is non-chill filtered (NCF) and is bottled at 92 proof. 

This expression interested me as I'm not sure there's another Irish whiskey with a second finish using rum casks.  I'm a big fan of Balvenie and they offer a rum finish 14 year old Scotch that to me is average with the rum not balancing so well with the scotch base.  So, I was maybe a tad skeptical with the Teeling. 

The whiskey is 35% malt whiskey (100% malted barley) and 65% grain whiskey (95% corn and 5% malted barley) and according to Teeling, aged between 4-7 years in first fill bourbon casks.  After that first aging, it's then rum cask finished. 

Color: Very light pale straw
Nose: Molasses (backstrap), vanilla, grain whiskey 
Entry: Grain forward, vanilla just a touch of cinnamon
Finish: Rum notes, mild oak with a touch of pepper toward the end.  Medium in length.  

I like the fact that it's NCF and they didn't cheat us on the proof.  This is an easy sipping Irish and one that I will keep on the bar on a regular basis.  I have quite a few Irish whiskies but this rum finished expression is a nice deviation from the norm.  Teeling has plans to offer future expressions with additional second finish expressions as well as super premium aged single malts. 

The Teeling Irish Whiskey Small Batch is readily available in numerous markets and runs about $40 a 750ml.  

Note: This whiskey was provided by the PR firm representing Teeling here in the U.S.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cigar Journal - Monte by Montecristo Jacopo No. 2

I don't have to point out that my writing on this blog is pretty much exclusive to whiskey.  My friends know that whiskey isn't the only thing that I have a passion for.  Good BBQ, craft beer and cigars make there way into my normal consumption routine.

During the winter it's tough to sit down and enjoy a good cigar because the weather pretty much sucks here in the Mid Atlantic.  I won't whine because my neighbors to the north have had it far worse.  That being said, I make it a point to travel to my local cigar lounge where they allow clients to "bring their own".

This last week I settled in to enjoy the Monte by Montecristo Jacopo #2.  This has got to be one of the nicest box pressed cigars I've seen as well as being a little unusual in that it had 4 equal sides; not something you see in a typical box press.  The construction of this torpedo looked to be spot on and the wrapper was a typical colorado brown.  Using a Xicar cutter, I clipped the end and used a torch to toast the foot and then light.  Initial draw was nearly perfect with just the right amount of resistance.The one thing lacking with this cigar was noticeable flavor transitions as I smoked through the stick.  This is not necessarily uncommon but something I experience when smoking an aged Cuban.  Overall, this was a medium strength cigar with a good flavor profile.

From a flavor perspective, this cigar had some good things going on.  Initial profile consisted of honey sweetness with light citrus on the back end; a combination I like in cigars.  Added to that I got some espresso, cocoa and moderate wood notes.  As I continued to smoke the stick down, the citrus influence dropped off and the coffee and wood notes became more pronounced with the honey sweetness still lightly in play. Taking my time with this cigar avoided any bitterness from popping up toward the end due to tar build up.  This was a pleasant smoke and one I'll come back to as the weather becomes more favorable.

This cigar was featured in the Cigar Aficionado Magazines top 25 cigars of 2014 coming in at #9.

I got this cigar from Famous Smoke Shop where it runs about $9.25 a stick.  From their website, they say this about the Jacopo:

 "Monte by Montecristo is a modern twist on the classic cigar. The Monte features a double binder, composed of a Dominican Olor and Nicaraguan Corojo which encases an aged Dominican filler, all wrapped in a rich Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. With the name of Montecristo, you can be assured you will get the same flavor, complexity, and enjoyment out of this cigar that you have come to expect from all of Montecristo's offerings.  In a word, this smoke is exquisite."

Size: 6 1/8 x 54 
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper Color: Natural
Wrapper Origin: Ecuadorian
Wrapper Leaf Type: Habano
Price: $9.25 (per cigar)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wheater line-up: Results

This past weekend I traveled to North Carolina to conduct a bourbon tasting.  As mentioned in my previous post, bourbon using wheat in the mashbill was featured.  I had 17 tasters attend.

I decided to line up the bottles based on proof so they were presented as follows:

W.L. Weller 12 year 90 proof:  Most everyone liked this one although some stated it was a little hot.  Overall, well received and most stated they would purchase a bottle.  For those in the group that are hard core Pappy fans, I told them this is the closest they can get for the price sans having PVW itself.

Jim Beam Red Wheat 11 year 90 proof: Most were indifferent to this selection.  I found the nose to have a slightly funky sour note to it.  The entry didn't exhibit this sour note but had a sweet start and then a quick finish.  Very one dimensional with the nose getting a thumbs down.

Larceny 92 proof: Overall, this was an average bourbon.  For the most part average feedback with most stating the nose was a little underwhelming.  This one didn't do anything for me whatsoever. To me, a simple sipper.

Makers Mark 46 94 proof: This was an instant hit among the group.  They liked the entry, sweet with spice, transitions over the palate finishing with dark chocolate.  I like this expression.  Normal Makers is not something I keep around because it's average to me but the "46" expression punches above its brother.  While most liked it, many said the extra $10 plus dollars was not worth it over the standard shelf expression.

Old Fitzgerald BIB 100 proof (HH): Many liked this and I thought it was decent enough to sip on.  Granted, this is no SW variation but as a 2009 release, I thought it was good enough.  Overall for the group, average pour.

Old Weller Antique 7 year 107 proof: I cheated on this selection.  For the life of me I could not find a normal OWA shelf offering.  I've mentioned before the Weller products are exceedingly difficult to find so I had to grab one of my single barrel selections.  This hands down was the favorite of the group.  Profile was fruity with spice and cream exhibiting a great mouthfeel and long finish.

We had a great time and I've been asked to maybe consider doing this twice a year.  Summer would be a great time to visit down south and share some bourbon.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bourbon Tasting - wheater line-up

For the last couple of years I've traveled down to North Carolina to conduct a whiskey tasting to a group of bourbon enthusiasts.  I was invited down initially by my brother-in-laws father.  The first year I brought along a variety of selections to include OTS, dusties and private picks.  The favorite among the men the first year was a 1987 Old Grand Dad 86 proof.  When they asked where to purchase this bottle I responded "in 1987". 

Last year I lined up a rye tasting that spanned OTS and private pick with a focus more on what's currently available.  I had nine selections so we took our time tasting through all the bottles.  The selections included Thomas H Handy, Jim Beam Rye, Sazerac Rye, High West Double Rye, Jefferson Rye, Rittenhouse Rye BIB and a couple others.  This was a large venue with about 40 people in attendance to include the ladies who had a separate table to sample wine.  By the end of the evening, many of the ladies had joined the men tasting through the flights of rye.

This year I am bringing selections only found in the retail market; no dusty's or private picks.  For this tasting I'm presenting Makers Mark 46, Heaven Hill Larceny, Heaven Hill Old Fitz BIB, Old Weller Antique, W.L. Weller 12 and Jim Beam Red Wheat.  Some of these selections may be harder to find than others but at least it's all current production.  One of the tasters actually sits on the local ABC board and as a result of these tastings has championed getting some of these selections on the shelves.  Up until 2013, Four Rose Single Barrel was not carried in that market.  Now it is. 

Looking forward to spending the weekend visiting family, eating NC BBQ and drinking whiskey.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Heads Up! New offerings from Brown Forman and Barton 1792

For years a regular offering from Brown Forman was their Bottled in Bond; one of my dusty favorites.  It was replaced somewhere in the early 2000's by Old Forester Signature (IIRC), still a 100 proof but without the BIB designation.

A recent submission to the TTB shows BF bringing the BIB back under their new 1897 label.  This means this whiskey will be at least 4 years old, distilled in the same season and bottled at 100 proof.  I'm glad to see the BIB making its way back into their we'll have to wait and see how it tastes.

Another new addition is from Barton 1792.  Kelsey Creek KSBW will be a small batch offering at 90 proof.  The TTB approval came December 19th.  In the past we've seen many labels drop from portfolios so again, nice to see a new addition.  Unknown at this time is whether this bourbon will be high or low rye mashbill.

The back label denotes "Old Tine Company" located in Louisville, KY with no UPC listed as yet.  This looks to be a new trade name under the Barton 1792 umbrella (or maybe Sazerac) as it was submitted for consideration back in June of 2014. 

There's no guarantee that these labels will see market but I'll assume at this point it may be a number of months in the event they do.

Note: Edits made to post based on feedback from Buffalo Trace PR Rep.