Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bourbon Shortage - maybe / maybe not

Let's say you live in Houston Texas...chances are you can walk into any store and find W.L. Weller 12 year for $23 (I paid that just two weeks ago so it's real).  Let's say you walk into a liquor store in Pensacola Florida and see that same bottle on the shelf except it's behind glass and costs $199 (that's real too).  Here in Virginia fat chance finding any Weller products as Weller 12, Weller Antique and Special Reserve have pretty much disappeared from the shelves.  So, for me, there's a shortage because what was once found simply by walking into an ABC, now is not. 

About 6 weeks ago Tripp Mickle a staff writer with the Wall Street Journal contacted me about a story he was doing on whether there was a pending bourbon shortage.  It was a simple question but really produces a complex answer...or maybe non-answer.  Go back 4 decades and the American Distilling industry experienced a significant downturn in demand.  So much so that distilleries were bottling extra aged bourbon in labels that stated "This whiskey is four years old", only, it wasn't.  The glut lasted for quite a few years.  The difference now is that world demand for whiskey is at an all time high.  Japan has been a large consumer of American whiskey for a long time; so much so that they purchased both Four Roses and Beam Global.  China is a large consumer as is Europe.  That wasn't the case back in the 70's when all those barrels sat in the rick houses.  So, while a second glut is possible, I think unlikely.  The world loves bourbon and rye.

The Wall Street Journal article was released yesterday and makes for some interesting reading.  Yours truly is featured in the piece.  Additionally, the WSJ blog has a secondary posting on three bourbons worth the hunt.  Before anyone comments on the picture....I agree, I look pretty miserable.  I didn't get to pick what Polaroid was used.

Distillers are producing more now than ever, new distilleries are opening, craft distilling is gaining greater foothold in the market, storage is expanding and new expressions are popping up almost monthly.  It's a great time for whiskey drinkers; even for Scotch, Irish, Japanese and other world whiskies.

My take?  There is a shortage but the net effect isn't felt among the typical consumer who picks up a Jack Daniels, Jim Beam White label or Makers Mark.  Those guys pump out serious distillate.  I'm talking about Limited Release and Small Batch.  Those bottles when released get snatched up in no time making acquisition very difficult.  I've been collecting long enough to have seen the shift in the marketplace where bourbon is hotter now than ever before.  So, if you like Blanton's, maybe pick up two bottles instead of one....you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Evan Williams Red Label 12 year

I have the white label and green label....now all I need is the red label.  In case you didn't know it, Heaven Hill has sold a red label 12 year 101pf expression in the overseas market showing up in places like Japan and Australia.  Sadly, not here for us local folks.  I do some crazy bourbon purchasing but on occasion (last Saturday being one of them), I pick up the very drinkable and value based Evan Williams Bottled in Bond (White Label).  To think I could get the same whiskey at 12 years old is very enticing.

Five days ago TTB approved the new red label for Heaven Hills 12 year old expression.  Will this label be available here in the U.S. market?  I don't know but I can only hope.  With labels and age statements rotating out of circulation over the last number of years, it's encouraging to think that a distillery just might put a decent proofed, aged stated bourbon on the market.....but what market is yet to be seen.

UPDATE 1/24/15: Rumor has it that this will be released here in the U.S. and will be (at least for the time being) a distillery only bottling.  I've heard two timelines; this month or within the next few months.  I have friends keeping an eye out so at the very least, I'll pick up some bottles in May while in KY picking barrels.

UPDATE 2/15: Expect to pay around $130 a bottle and it's available in the gift shop only.  Moving on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A History of the American Spirit - Bourbon

Earlier this year I was contacted by Harper-Collins and asked if I would like to read a new book about Bourbon.  Of course I'm interested is my response so within a few days I receive Dane Huckelbridge's A History of the American Spirit - Bourbon.  Unfortunately my work schedule was quite full which pulled me away from reading as well as this blog which you can attest to by the lack of posts over the summer. 

I managed to squeeze in times that I read a chapter or partial chapter but I did finally manage to finish the book.  There are a number of books I've read over the last couple of years that includes Whiskey - An American Pictorial History by Oscar Getz; But Always Fine Bourbon by Sally Van Winkle Campbell; and Bourbon Straight by Charles Cowdery.  Each of these books is well written for the most part and provides a nice history and facts about America's beloved spirit and those that make it. 

Dane's book was packed full of facts that for the average reader may seem meaningless but for the enthusiast, it was whiskey catnip.  I quickly determined as I read the first couple of chapters that Dane spent a good amount of time researching this topic.  His ability to weave in American history into the history of American distilling was at times fascinating. The book at times read almost like fiction taking historical facts and not only bringing them to life but written in a way that makes you want to turn the page to find out what happens next (which was very difficult for me since time devoted to reading was so haphazard).

As an example, Chapter 2 "A Tale of Two Georges" piqued my interest early on as the story of Boston's Molasses disaster describes how 2.3 million gallons of sweet, sticky Molasses swept the streets of Boston.  How did I not know this?  What a fascinating story of a virtually unknown fact in America's distilling history. 

In recent weeks as I sat and read the final portion of this witty and entertaining book, it was not uncommon to pair up with a bourbon or rye to make the read that much more enjoyable.  If you love American's whiskey and its history, I highly recommend Dane's book, A History of the American Spirit - Bourbon, it's a spirited read (pun intended). 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Enthusiasts Challenge

There are those that have been chasing and collecting far longer than I.  It wasn't until 2005/06 time-frame that my interest really piqued when it came to American Whiskey.  Since that time I've been on a acquisition rampage that eventually extended into other whiskies. 

I've been witness over time of bourbon becoming harder and harder to find.  Even back in 2007/8 you had to be on "the list" in order to ensure you received some sort of allocation, which truth be told, wasn't that hard.  Witness my allocation of multiple 2008 BTAC sets sitting on the dining room table.  Crazy to think how far we've come with bourbon and rye turning into a very hot commodity.

Back in early 2007 I called a liquor store that carried Pappy Van Winkle 15, as most any good liquor store did.  The manager asked how many bottles I wanted so I order 1/2 a case, or 6 bottles at $36 each.  In today's secondary market those bottles now run upwards of $650-$700 a whopping 1900% increase.  Gone are the days of bourbon providing quality over value when PVW15 was $36 a bottle, or George T. Stagg cost $45 a bottle. 

The waiting lists, lotteries, parking in front of a liquor store to be first in line or in some cases, chasing the delivery trucks down the road asking if they have PVW on-board is crazy land but unfortunately that's reality if you want to get one of these uber hard to find whiskies. 

I still chase whisk(e)y but for the most part, no Antique Collection, Pappy Van Winkle or Parkers Heritage.  I chase things that I truly want to drink over the long term.  I recently acquired two 1991 Wild Turkey Rare Breed which through multiple resources landed me the opportunity to pick those up.  I've been adding quite a bit of Scotch to the bunker that includes a recent find that is simply wonderful whisky; Balvenie Founders Reserve 10 year.  This whisky has been out of production for at least 4 or 5 years but I've been grabbing bottles to bunker since it's undervalued for the quality of the pour.

Hunting whisk(e)y has taken on a whole new definition that in most cases will cost you lots of cash and time.  Back in the day I would dusty hunt because older bottles were plentiful and cheap.  Those days are over for the most part but the reality is my tastes and interests have expanded well beyond out of production Old Fitzgerald or Old Forester.  I still like the thrill of the hunt but I'm much more selective and deliberate in my efforts to ensure I'm adding what I want and not bunker spamming.

I mentioned earlier in the post that you had to be on "the list".  I've been on lists for many years but for some reason, my name is now gone and I don't get the phone calls anymore.  That's ok, I think my bunker is stocked enough to provide solid enjoyment to my dying day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fall Whisk(e)y Splurge

I've been hammering away at adding quite a few world whisky selections to the bunker that primarily includes Scotch but I've also acquired some Japanese as well.  I've managed through friends and online to pick up some nice selections below market value.  I did pick up some additional bourbons as well; some dusties and some current.

On the bourbon front, I picked up three Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof selections.  I've not been chasing these since they came to market but figured it was time to play catch up since some of my fellow enthusiasts seem to like the various offerings.  I picked up five bottles of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to add what I already had in the bunker.  I really believe this bourbon is undervalued for a 12 year cask selection.  Next up I scored two original release Wild Turkey Rare Breed 1-91.  I have a 2-91 open and it's fantastic whiskey.  Too bad Wild Turkey isn't what it used to be.  I also picked up a Wild Turkey Cheesy Gold Foil, Wild Turkey 12 year split label and a Wild Turkey Legend.  I'm a fan of the older Wild Turkey so I'm very happy to have these in the bunker.  Last an Ancient Age 86 proof liter from 1981 made its way on the bunker shelf.

On the Japanese front I added a Memories of Karuizawa 16 year, HST Karuizawa 14 year and a Mars Kagoshima 25 year.  The Kagoshima Distillery stopped producing whisky way back in 1984 and  Karuizawa stopped production in 2000 after producing whiskey for nearly 50 years. I have two Karuizawa in the bunker, a 13 year and a 31 year.  The 13 year is probably one of the most complex and interesting whisky I've ever had.  Last, I added a Nikka Coffey Grain.

Scotch has been the biggest addition to the bunker in the last month.  Balvenie, located in Dufftown, pumps out some pretty good Scotch and I added three out of production Founders Reserve 10 year and two Tun 1401 Batch 9 along with the new Tun 1509 Batch 1.  Also added were Glenfarclas 21 year, two Ardbeg Ardbog for about $80 a piece; well below retail in 2013, an out of production Glenmorangie 15 year, and one I'd never heard of; a 20 year Authroisk that I pulled the trigger on based on some reviews.  From K&L I picked up a very interesting selection; Michel Couvreur Peaty Overaged Malt Whisky.  They've sold out but am glad to have nabbed two bottles as it's fantastic.  A dusty blended Scotch made it's way to the bunker; a late 70's Cutty 12.  This will be opened soon as I'm very curious about this one.

This year has also seen barrel selections come in from Smooth Ambler, Four Roses and Jim Beam.  I'll get to those later.

For now, I'm just trying to make room for all these new additions.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve Get's A Makeover?

Wild Turkey submitted for approval three new labels for their Russell's Reserve lineup; 10 year, 6 year Rye and the Single Barrel.  Proof's will remain the same but now Jimmy's son, Eddie, has his signature on the label along with dear old Dad.  Unclear if the bottle will change but I suspect not.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Back in Business

I can't believe it's been two months since my last post.  It's been one crazy year.  During my hiatus, all the Spring 2014 barrel picks arrived and included a new addition to our regular lineup; Knob Creek 120.  I was skeptical since I'm typically not a Beam fan but these three picks are fantastic. 

My life is now getting to a more normal pace (even though yesterday was a 12 hr day and today 10 hrs) I can get back to spending time writing about all things whiskey. 

Very sorry for the absence but sometimes, life takes over.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Short Update

This has been one crazy busy summer to the point where I've had to put off things like vacations, golf, blogging and yes, sometimes drinking.  I hope to get back to normal soon. 


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jim Beam Signature Crafts going all out

I'll be honest and say I have not paid much attention to the recent release of Jim Beam Signature Craft whiskies that arrived on shelves mid last year.  Maybe I should pay attention as last month Jim Beam submitted new labels for upcoming Signature releases. 

The first two releases last year included a 12 year and one with a touch of brandy added (not brandy barrel aged).  I've not tried them so can't speak to the profile of either.

The new labels cover quite a few variant grains in the bourbon in addition to a quarter cask aged selection.  As seen on the labels, all are 11 years old and 90 proof except the quarter cask which is 86 proof and NAS.  I'll admit, I'm intrigued and may look to pick up a couple of these to give them a spin.  One that caught my attention was the rolled oat selection.  A number of years back I was visiting a friend in Laurel, MD who brought out a pre-prohibition Old Rip Van Winkle that included oats in the recipe.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Time in a bottle

A couple months ago I was contacted by freelance writer and New York Times staff editor, Clay Risen.  He was kind enough to reach out and ask some questions related to Dusty Hunting for an article he was writing for Wine Enthusiast Magazine.  The article is featured in the June issue and you can read it here on their website. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Road Trip: Bardstown KY 2014 - Wednesday

Kicking off this years Bardstown trip with an early morning departure of around 7:30 and arrived Bardstown around 6:00 pm.  Couple stops along the way with special mention to Hillbilly Hot Dog in Lesage, WV.  Awesome dogs and awesome staff.

First night was an open table to bring whatever interests you. Some notables this evening were:

Dusty Early Times
Dusty Yellowstore 90 pf
OWA SB 9 yr non chill
WT 17 year
Willett 18 year wheater
Old Saint Nick 17 year
Balcones Rumble Cask Reserve

There were also some world whiskies that showed up on the table that included:

Karuizawa 13 year NOH
Green Spot
Balvenie TUN 1401 B9
Powers Johns Lane

Tomorrow morning it will be an early start as we head out to Buffalo Trace and then on to Jim Beam after lunch.  Beautiful weather is forecast as we spend the next couple of days barrel picking.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Death of the Barrel Programs?

I'm not going to go all gloom and doom here but something is amiss with various distillers and their barrel programs.  Let's start with Buffalo Trace.  While the program is still available, selections are dwindling.  Last year there were limitations on the age of Old Weller Antique and limitations on Elmer T. Lee.  This year BT is limiting the number of OWA barrels available to States.  KBD suspended their barrel program but that was due to a significant backlog.  Last week, Heaven Hill announced an indefinite suspension of their barrel program.

K&L out in California reported last week that Buffalo Trace is now limiting them to 1 case of Old Weller Antique per week and as a result, each customer is limited to 1 bottle.  K&L is no small Mom and Pop operation so that's significant news.  

What gives? I can see in KBD's case, they just need to get caught up but Heaven Hill has one of the largest holdings of aging bourbon in KY so I'm baffled about the suspension.  I'll be in KY starting Wed of this week and we have a tasting scheduled at HH so I guess I'll come out and ask for details.

For enthusiasts such as myself, this is a little disconcerting.  With my trip to KY this week, our group will top 60 barrels of bourbon / rye selected in the last 4 years.  Seeing these barrels starting to become out of reach isn't fatal but it does mean we will have to be creative and establish new relationships with other producers / bottlers.

For the average consumer, this will have little or no impact on them but for us crazy people? We'll have to see what the next year or two brings and I for one hope this isn't a permanent condition.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Barrel Shortage.....say it so

Evidently, Independent Stave is having issues keeping up with demand.  As a result, distillery's are negatively impacted with a barrel shortage. 

For those of you who do not know, ISC provides the barrels for most distillery's.  The exception would be Brown Forman who actually have their own cooperage formerly called Blue Grass  Cooperage but changed to Brown Forman Cooperage a couple years ago. 

Jim Rutledge at Four Roses is faced with either shutting down, reducing output which means also cutting employee hours.  Not a good situation to be in.  Small micro distillers are pretty much shut out completely.  For the time being, Four Roses is operating on reduced production.  What this means in the short term is not much in my opinion but some years down the road...maybe something. 

ISC also produces barrels for the other big guns like Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill.

Let's hope the sourcing of American White Oak is only a temporary glitch for ISC and things get back on track soon.

On a more positive note, Four Roses has submitted their 2014 Limited Edition label to TTB noting the recipe as OESF and aged 11 years.  Rumor has it that aged whiskey is in limited supply at Four Roses but to be honest, I prefer their whiskey in the 8-12 year range.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Whiskey trading and tasting......

As part of a larger whiskey enthusiast community, participating in tastings (both known and blind) and trading samples is part of sharing the passion.  Over the years I've acquired a rather large collection of sample bottles.  For many I know the provenance but for others, I have no idea.  The whiskey samples include bourbon, rye, craft, Scotch, Irish, Canadian and out of production.  I know I have a couple samples that date back to shortly after prohibition as well as older samples of Mt. Vernon Rye from the 30's, Very Old Fitzgerald from the 50's and Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond from the 50's

I've always intended to pull samples and go through them but my intentions have never materialized into actual execution.  I routinely attend tastings and we're always thinking of various themes to try. One recently focused on various expressions of Glenmorangie.  I'm planning a tasting for sometime this spring so I'm thinking of using these 2-4 oz sample bottles in a tasting where I may know the provenance or may not so basically a grab bag tasting.

The nice thing about swapping samples is trying expressions you may have never tried or don't want to invest the capital into a whole bottle.  A 2 or 4oz sample is a nice "try it" pour before committing.

Guess it's time to take stock of what I have and start digging in.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring on the Horizon

I hate winter....seriously......hate as in loathe.  This winter has been exceptionally harsh for the D.C. area.  I know, what we experience is nothing like upstate NY or other areas to the north but here in the mid Atlantic, this winter has dumped higher than average snow and the temperatures much colder than normal.  This morning as I left for work it was 5 degrees and that's just too cold.

We're now in to March which means spring is about 2 weeks away.  Spring also means the annual visit to Bardstown KY for barrel picking.  That's right....the time has come once again to taste through wonderful barrels of bourbon.  The schedule is pretty much the same as previous years with the exception of skipping KBD as their barrel program is suspended for a spell until they get caught
up on their bottling backlog.  Next year.

The schedule of events is firming up that includes a 35 bottle Wild Turkey tasting that pretty much encompasses every variant of Wild Turkey released over the last couple of decades.  We're visiting Four Rose, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill as well as hosting the
owner/distiller from Smooth Ambler while in KY to conduct a little barrel sample tasting one evening.  Speaking of Smooth Ambler, the group conducted a barrel tasting at the distillery in December and selected 3 barrels; 7 year, 8 year and a 10 year.  Those will be ordered this week and I should have them in hand next.  I'll post tasting notes once I get them.

As of today, we're at 49 days until picking time.......spring can't come soon enough.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Go Irish! Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey

This second blog post is a follow on to the review I did for Contarf.  Castle brands has a number of expressions and the three I'll focus on for this post is Knappogue 12 year, 14 year Twin Wood sherry finish and 16 year Twin Wood sherry finish, all single malts. 

Irish whiskey dates back quite a few centuries and in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I was quite the fan of uisce beatha or "water of life". Peter the Great declared that of all the wines in Europe, Irish whiskey was the best. At a point in the 19th century, Irish whiskey took off on a global basis and
while competing with blended Scotch was considered the most popular.  In 1880 Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world due in part to a devastating crop infection that almost wiped out the Cognac industry.

By the 20th century, Irish whiskey took a number of body blows that significantly interrupted growth and nearly killed it off.  The Irish War of Independence, English closing its market to the Irish, American prohibition which was particularly harmful as low grade bootleg whiskey was passed off as Irish whiskey and then World War 2 were just a few noteworthy events.  In 1880 there were approximately 160 distilleries in Ireland but by the end of WWII, only seven remained clinging to life.

At one point there were only three distilleries in operation in Ireland but since the late 20th century, Irish whiskey began gaining in popularity again.  Today there are seven distilleries with another nineteen either under application or in the process of build out.

Ok, enough history.  Let's talk whiskey.

Knappogue Castle 12 year - this expression is one I've enjoyed over a couple of years.  I mentioned that Castle's Contarf could be distilled by Jameson but the reality is, it could be Bushmills as well since they triple distill.  No matter who distilled the whiskey, this expression is a light, smooth and somewhat creamy whiskey.  On the nose I pick up vanilla and mild oak and some citrus notes.  The entry is smooth, sweet and clean with moderate fruit and a honeyed quality to the finish which is medium in length.  I would consider this an nice entry level Irish whiskey which is no way detracts from its pleasant flavor.

Knappogue Castle 14 year Twin Wood- On the nose is toasted nut, sherry and summer fruit.  The entry has a bit more kick than the 12 year as it's bottled at 92 proof rather than 80.  On the palate I get a touch of bitterness like bitter chocolate, caramel, nut and some dark fruits from the Oloroso sherry cask.  The finish is moderately long with the sherry notes hanging on the palate to the end.  A very nice expression and one I'm glad to have in the bunker.

Knappogue Castle 16 year Twin Wood - The nose oak forward, dark fruits and vanilla.  Entry is slightly dry, dark fruits, caramel, oak with a buttery mouthfeel.  About mid palate I pick up a slight pepper and floral profile.  This whiskey has nice transitions, is full bodied and the 80 proof is tricky as the whiskey doesn't drink low proof.  This is a classy whiskey and now I'm on the hunt for a bottle of my own.

March 17th is St. Patricks day so maybe the Contarf or any of the Knappogue expressions above would be appropriate for celebration. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Go Irish! Contarf 1014 Irish Whiskey

The tag line on this blog is "The ridiculous pursuit of Bourbon (...and other whiskies)" and in the other whiskies column would sit Irish whiskey.  I've slowly added numerous expressions of Irish whiskey to the bunker over the last couple of years.

Full disclosure, this review is from a sample received from the PR firm representing Castle Brands which distributes Clontarf.  The fact sheet indicates the whiskey comes from Dublin which would mean distillation is most likely from Irish Distillers Group (Jameson). 

The Gaelic spelling of Clontarf is Cluain Tarbh meaning “Bulls' Meadow.” It refers to an area north of Dublin where a famous and decisive battle – the Battle of Clontarf - between the Irish, under the leadership of High King Brian Boru, and the Vikings, took place in 1014. 

Ireland at the time was heavily forested, rural and rich in natural resources. Large parts of the island that historically had been divided up among many fractious clans were controlled by the
High King (the Ard Ri) named Brian Boru. There were also coast trading cities, such as Dublin and Limerick, built and controlled by the Vikings. And there were some rebellious Irish allies who were against the High King. Boru took them all on and routed the Vikings in a bloody conflict. He himself was killed at the conclusion of the battle, however, the Vikings mostly left Ireland after the battle, hence the pride felt by the Irish in subsequent centuries for this historic victory. 

Clontarf 1014 is a blended Irish making up ten percent pot stilled single malt whiskey; the rest of the blend is a combination of pot stilled and column stilled grain whiskey.  Whiskey is aged 4 years in bourbon casks.  Color is very pale and the viscosity is thin in nature.  On entry, the profile starts off sweet and malty but then turns grainy exhibiting its youth.  Keep in mind that the climate in Ireland is much different than KY when aging whiskey.  The more moderate and wet climate means the whiskey does not age as aggressively as say Bourbon or Rye whiskey.  Additionally, I don't know if first or re-fill bourbon casks are used.  My guess would be re-fill casks as there is little barrel influence in the profile.  The finish is short and just a tad bitter. 

Castle brands recommends this be enjoyed neat, with a dash of water, on the rocks or mixed with ginger ale or ginger beer.  My recommendations is don't add water or ice.  At 80 proof it's already a very easy sipper and adding more water doesn't make sense.  

As a whiskey, it's light and easy to drink and at about $20 this is one for the bar or to share among friends.  As I say in all my posts where I get samples provided to me, I call it the way I see (or drink) it and this one will get the same consideration.  For me, not one I would carry in my bunker as it's simply too light and young a whiskey.  Taste being subjective, others may find this is what they're looking for.  

In the coming week, I'll be adding three more reviews from Castle Brands; Knappogue Castle 12 year, 14 year single malt twin wood, and 16 year single malt sherry finish.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

BOLO Old Grand Dad 114

Readers of this blog know that I do a lot of personal barrel picks and that tends to be my focus in many of my posts.  Because of this I don't write much about off the shelf offerings but that's because I really don't buy that many plus there are many other bloggers that write about regular offerings.

I won't provide a review of Old Grand Dad 114 at his time but I did want to alert readers to be on the lookout for the latest batch of ODG114.  Specifically, the 2012 and 2013 releases have been much better than previous releases.  I can't speak as to why but many of my fellow enthusiasts are talking about this bourbon and commenting on the quality of the pour.  In order to find out the bottling year, flip the bottle over and look for a 12 or 13 in the upper right corner of the bottom.  I managed to find another 2012 bottle yesterday and picked it up for $22; what a deal.

This bourbon is a great drinker, full of flavor and the proof is really under control.  I've already killed off one bottle but I've bunkered 5 others so I can enjoy this for years to come.

3/28/15:  Rumors abound that this offering may be changing.  I have friends that are buying this stuff by the case.  In some markets it's less than $20, especially with a case discount.  Change or not, the OGD114 has become quite popular.  I was in SC in Feb. and visited a very large liquor store and besides Weller products missing from the shelves, ODG114 was sold out as well.  Since the original post, I went ahead and picked up 5 more bottles.  Why not?  On sales it's $22 and a great multi use bourbon.

Exam-o-dram Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013

I'll start off like I've done in previous reviews by acknowledging that the sample I am reviewing comes from the marketing firm representing Four Roses.  I reviewed products from this firm before and have provided both favorable and unfavorable reviews so I have no allegiance to the source of this sample.  Long readers of this blog know I call it the way I see it.

Now, down to the review.  Once again Four Roses picks and bottles a winner, at least the sample that I reviewed.  It's no secret I'm a fan of Four Roses as I've been picking private barrels from them for a number of years.  I think Jim Rutledge is doing a fantastic job as Master Distiller and his selection for the 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch is yet further evidence.

I find this release to be better than previous editions.  The age blend in this release is very compelling making up two 13 year and one 18 year bourbons using three recipes that encompass OBSV (high rye), OBSK (high rye) and OESK (low rye).  Pre-release review put the bottling proof at 110 but the bottles that I have are at 51.6% or 103.2 proof.

At first sip this is a very elegant whiskey full of flavor and lasting viscosity.  As the bourbon hits the palate the spice is right up front and leans toward baking spices reminding me of Christmas cake with cloves and cinnamon.  The mouthfeel is creamy and at mid palate ripe fruits of berries and tropical fruit pop up.  The finish is very pleasant and moderately long with a lingering of moderate oak and and dark chocolate covered fruit.

There were approximately 8,000 bottles released.  I managed two grab two before they disappeared.  If you can find this on the shelves, I would suggest you grab a bottle.  This release is a real winner.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary

Wild Turkey recently submitted to TTB a new label for approval; Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary celebrating Jimmy Russells 60 years with the distillery.

A blend of 13-16 year old bourbon...oh, sorry....a very rare blend, bottled at the staggering proof of 91........yawn.  Why not 101 for Pete's sake?

Wild Turkey's release of Forgiven, was met with a tepid response (e.g. there wasn't a whole lot of yammering about this bourbon from the community).  The 2009 release of American Spirit was actually a very good bourbon...and in my opinion, the last decent limited release.  I've got Wild Turkey as early as 1976 to 2012 and I have to say, the early years were quite nice.  Maybe it's just me but I think Wild Turkey has lost a step or three along the way as I'm not finding much to be excited about these days coming from Lawrenceburg.  I miss the days of Russells Reserve 10 year 101 and both the 8 and 12 year 101 (both sold overseas).....which brings up a good point.  Why in hades armpit do they sell the 12 year 101 overseas but not to bourbon drinkers here in the good 'ole US of A?  Please Campari....bring back the age stated WT 101!

End rant.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The socialization of whiskey and cigars

I don't know about you but over the years my two vices; whiskey and cigars have produced friendships I don't think I would have made otherwise.  Good people I call friends span multiple states from Kentucky to Indiana, Texas and North Carolina.

I'm in the middle of a cigar tasting for the group and due to the completely sucky weather in the DC area, smoking outside is a non-starter.  So, yesterday I swing by the local cigar lounge near my house to sit and enjoy and smoke and provide my review.  About 30 minutes in to my smoke a gentleman comes in and sits at the table next to mine.  Almost immediately, he hands me a cigar; a Montecristo Monte.  For anyone who's a regular cigar smoker, this is not uncommon.  Dimitri and I strike up a conversation and he says he's the local cigar rep for Altadis USA, maker of the domestic Montecristo brand cigar.  We chatted like we were old friends, discussing different smokes, the art of rolling, binders, fillers, etc.

I had planned to sit and smoke my cigar and enjoy reading a couple magazines I was behind on but talking with Dimitri was a pleasant experience sharing our collective passion for cigars.  It's hard to explain but there's a very social aspect to whiskey and cigars that goes beyond race, religion, politics, financial standing or anything else that unfortunately creates division among some folks.

For me, responsible consumption of whiskey and cigars is a celebration of life best enjoyed with friends, new and old regardless of who you are or where you come from.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Exam-o-Dram Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3

I'm not one to pay a lot of money for any whisk(e)y but there are times when I break that rule.  Balvenie released their Tun 1401 back in 2010 as a distillery only offering.  Batches 3, 6 and the most recent 9 were U.S. releases only. 

Tun 1401 is a blend of hand selected barrels that span decades by David Stewart, Balvenie's Master Blender.  When batch 3 first showed up in 2011, I passed on it as the price point was north of $230.  I didn't regret that decision until 2013 when a friend of mine shared a sample from Batch 3.  I was smitten to say the least.  A phone call one day by the same friend said he was in MD and found a couple bottles on the shelf of a liquor store for $285.  My answer was yes....please get me a bottle.

Color is a rich gold and the viscosity produces nicely spaced legs down the side of the glass.  Nosing this whisky exhibits a rich fruit profile with a subtle sherry notes as well. 

The entry is classy, sophisticated and captivating.....and I hate using these goofy descriptors but I'm not sure how else to describe a nearly perfect Scotch.  Balvenie produces solid whiskies but Tun 1401 is multiple steps above anything else they release.  As the whisky hits the palate I taste summer fruits, stone fruits and mild mature oak with a touch of spice all with perfect balance.  This whisky is smooth and creamy, has fantastic mouthfeel with a long warming finish. Bravo David Stewart.

I wish I could afford to bunker multiples of each batch but I'm happy to have this one. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Suntory purchases Beam Global

Well, now the Japanese own another big American distillery.....Four Roses and now Jim Beam/Makers Mark.  Beam shares in the market today shot up on the news.  Suntory is reportedly paying $13.6B.  Maybe this acquisition will help get more Japanese whisky to the U.S. market? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Exam-o-Dram Highwest Rocky Mountain Rye 21 year

In recent years rye has become quite popular to the point that rye goes missing from the shelves for period of time; e.g. Wild Turkey Rye.  Heaven Hill only mash's rye twice a month.  MGP/LDI pumps out a good bit of rye as do the Canadians and I think they'll have to continue to do so.

Highwest Distillery started back in 2004 by David Perkins and back then he was sourcing rye and bourbon from some pretty good sources.

I recently was able to acquire 9 bottles of HW Rocky Mountain Rye 21 year (Batch 10).  While not necessarily a fan of uber old bourbons, older rye's can be quite good and this rye offering is no exception.  From the Highwest website, they state that Rocky Mountain Rye "...is very rare whiskey aged in USED barrels. All were aged on the lower three tiers of the rickhouse. Mash bill is 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt." Technically, this is not a rye whiskey since used cooperage was employed and Highwest doesn't market this whiskey as such but says it's "whiskey distilled from rye mash".  Fine by me.

For the age one would expect a deeper color but this whiskey is a light golden color reminiscent of low proof Scotch.  The nose is rye forward with mild spice, mint and a nice oak backbone.  Entry is soft and flavorful with a profile consisting of oak, cinnamon, nut and a touch of anise.  Mid palate is somewhat candied with a cream finish.  The whiskey really hangs on the palate offering up a very pleasant finish of sweet vanilla and cereal grain that lasts quite some time.  

Truthfully, this is a very approachable whiskey, easy to drink with a brilliant flavor profile.  This is not a one dimensional whiskey but offers layers of flavors from start to finish. 

I hate to say it but I don't think you'll find these on your local retail shelf.  A quick check and I found one bottle on the German Ebay site for $244.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Whiskey-less Christmas

I think this is a first.  Not a single solitary bottle of booze to be found on Christmas morning.  How can this be?  I don't think I was naughty but actually, pretty nice.  Let's see...going through the list of gifts again to see if I missed anything;

LL Bean slippers.....check
Red Vines.....check
XBox One.....check

Well, truth is, I didn't ask for any.  I have a lot of whisk(e)y.  The never ending question we ask on the board; when is it enough?  "Never!" say some......."more than 100 bottles" says another.  A couple sheepishly chime in and say "my wife doesn't know about the stash at work". 

So, not my wifes fault, although she has been more vocal of late on the amount of beautiful glass bottles lining the bunker shelves.  I take the blame for not asking. 

There is though something quite nice about getting a brand new bottle to add to the bunker.  Recent acquisitions (pre-Christmas) include

George Dickel Single Barrel 14 year
George Dickel Single Barrel 9 year
A.D. Rattray Cooley Irish - single barrel cask
Glenmorangie Ealanta
Highwest 21 year Rye
Cambus 21 year single grain

So, maybe I didn't need any whiskey for Christmas.