137 WHISKIES RATED
ISLAY TRAVEL ISSUE
F A L L 2 0 1 6 • W H I S K YA D V O C A T E . C O M
DISTILLERY TOURS PUBS • HOTELS RESTAURANTS
ISLAY 10 WHISKIES MUST-TRY
DISPLAY UNTIL DEC 2016
CRAFT DISTILLING HOT SPOTS THE RISE OF ONLINE AUCTIONS BARREL-AGED GOURMET FOODS
VOLUME 25, NUMBER 3
52 F E AT UR ES
52 The Allure of Islay and Jura by Jonny McCormick
88 Craft Hot Spots by Jake Emen
74 The People of Islay’s Whisky by Liza Weisstuch
94 Still Vendome by Liza Weisstuch
Islay and Jura, two islands of Scotland’s southern Inner Hebrides, are a peated-whisky paradise. This is our guide to drink in all of what Islay and Jura have to offer.
Islay’s whisky comes to life. This is the story of the whisky from the perspective of the hands that craft it.
82 The Best Stuff in a Barrel by Jeffery Lindenmuth The flavor imparted by a used whiskey barrel is tempting many producers: beer, coffee beans, chocolate, tea, sauces, maple syrup, and more! Cover photograph by Jeff Harris
The U.S. is seeing a surge of craft whiskey distilleries. We take a look at what makes certain locales hot spots for craft whiskey making.
Louisville, Ky. still manufacturer Vendome Copper & Brass Works is an American success story, a bourbon heritage story, a family story.
103 Bidding to Be the Best by Jonny McCormick Online auctions are the present and future of whisky auctions. We speak to pioneers of this flourishing industry.
D E PA RTMEN TS
by John Hansell
12 Dear John
Letters to the Editor
48 Hours in Portland, Ore., extreme whiskies, grain-to-glass distillers, smoked American whiskeys, pairing whisky and beer, Scotch whisky transparency, and more.
38 The Whisky Advocate Auction Index
by Jonny McCormick A composite of average prices for benchmark whiskies sold at commercial auctions.
43 World Whiskies
by Dave Broom Is that 16 year old whisky really 16 years old? No, it’s older. Dave puts time and taste in perspective.
44 American Spirit
by Fred Minnick The thrill of the hunt and the taste of history inspire some to go to great lengths in search of a dusty bottle. Join Fred on a hunt.
47 Add Whiskey
by Jeffery Lindenmuth First impressions count and Jeffery recalls his first Whiskey Sour. Giving the drink a second chance was wise. Might it be the world’s best whiskey cocktail?
48 The Thinking Drinker
by Stephen Beaumont What’s the intrigue of drinks from the past and why do companies go to such great lengths to recreate them? Stephen explains.
111 Buying Guide
by John Hansell et al Reviews of the latest whisky releases.
127 I’m a Whisky Advocate 128 A Lighter Dram
by Terry Sullivan What happened to the good ol’ days? You know, when the buy-back wasn’t rare. Pull up a seat next to Terry, buy him a round, and he’ll enlighten you.
TOP RIGHT: GARY HOVLAND; BOTTOM RIGHT: MARTIN HUNTER
11 From the Publisher
TH E W H ISKY ADVO CATE
A Pilgrimage to Islay
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY
here’s something magical about Islay, the island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides known best for its peat-smoked whiskies. Anyone who cherishes a wee bit of smoke in their dram needs to put a visit there on his or her bucket list. It really is a lifechanging experience. The first of many visits for me was back in November of 1991. I had fallen in love with smoky whiskies. After realizing most were distilled on the same island, and only a few miles from each other, my mind was made up. I had to go. I knew that I was going to have a great time visiting the distilleries. What I wasn’t prepared for were the other blessings that Islay had to offer: the friendliness of the Ileachs (the people of Islay), the beauty and history of the island, and the great pubs in which I spent many a night. I remember my first day fondly. I arrived by ferry and made my first destination Bowmore distillery. After a great tour, including experiencing floor maltings for the first time, I de-
by JOHN HANSELL cided to grab lunch at the Lochside Hotel in the town of Bowmore, a short stroll from the distillery. While I savored freshly-caught fish and a pint, I befriended an older gentleman sitting at the table next to me. It turns out he worked at Caol Ila for close to 50 years. He had a bad leg and could no longer drive, but he told me he would give me a personal tour if I drove him there. Caol Ila wasn’t giving public tours at the time—this was before Islay whiskies became a bit of a cult thing—but I really enjoyed the tour he gave me. I remember standing in the glass-walled stillhouse, overlooking the Sound of Islay and the snow-capped Paps of Jura, while he told me secrets of the trade that no tour guide would ever share these days. We ended the evening back in Bowmore, where he lived and I rented a hotel room. I joined him and his family for dinner, and I fondly recall the many great drams of Islay whisky that were enjoyed that evening at the Lochside Hotel. Every day of that trip on the Island was spe-
cial, if not bittersweet: seeing the ruins of the Port Ellen distillery, strolling around the Ardbeg distillery property which was a ghost town at the time, getting an informal tour from the Bruichladdich distillery manager, and visiting the Kildalton Cross. Rush hour on Islay was when the sheep or cattle crossed the street. Every time a car drove by, the driver waved. Sure, things have changed a little since then. Now, all the operating distilleries are making whisky as fast as they can and they are much more accommodating to visitors. It really is a great time to visit, which is why this issue is dedicated to enjoying Islay. Who knows? You might come back inspired. I did. The following year, my daughter Shannon, who I just walked down the aisle this past July, was born. And so was the magazine you are reading right now. Slainte!
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
quality were everything, then bottles from distilleries such as Convalmore...would be eagerly sought after,” and a couple other bottles. Thanks for inspiring a great evening of whisky among friends here in the Big Apple! Best, Charlie Prince New York, N.Y.
Dear John... ENJOYING WHISKY Dear John, Just want to say thanks for keeping it simple and helping with understanding the processes and differences in whiskies. Love the magazine and keep up the great work! I enjoy reading it on the lake (see above). I live in Royal Oak, Mich. and the picture is from West Graham Lake in Lake Orion, Mich. Douglas Herominski Royal Oak, Mich. Thank you for sharing, Douglas. The Summer 2016 issue of Whisky Advocate sure looks nice on the water! There’s no doubt that any day on the lake is a good day. Add to that: beautiful scenery, tranquil waters, and blue skies; a perfect setting for our “Enjoying Whisky” issue.
MORE REVIEWS, PLEASE! Dear John, I have been an avid reader of the Whisky (Malt) Advocate website for years and have come to trust your reviews and those of Dave Broom as well. Every now and then a new whisky shows up here in Ontario and I always look to your website for a review. I couldn’t help notice that there are a few brands that have never made it to your site and I was wondering if there is a reason for this. James Fancy Ontario, Canada Good question, James. We do endeavor to review as many whiskies as possible. (And we review more whiskies annually than any other
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print drinks publication.) In the current state of a whisky boom there are far too many whiskies being released right now; we can’t review all of them. But we do our best!
PAGES OF INSPIRATION Dear John, Here’s a photo from our “Drammers Club” meeting here in NYC. The evening’s lineup was almost entirely inspired by the Spring issue of Whisky Advocate, including several of the Whisky Award winners (Crown Royal Monarch, Tamdhu, Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Spirit of Hven Sankt Claus), and our anchor of the evening was a Convalmore (1969 Connoisseur’s Choice) which we picked entirely on the strength of what Ian Buxton wrote in “What We Lost in the Whisky Loch,” “But if
Wow, that’s a great lineup of whiskies! We’re glad our Awards issue resulted in a memorable night for you and your fellow Drammers Club members.
“THE MANUSCRIPT” Dear John, We are the “Dirty Rotten Basterds” (purposely misspelled) tennis team in Fort Collins, Colo. We enjoy trying new whiskeys with our conversations after each match and practice session. Our subscriptions to Whisky Advocate are the source of information we use in choosing what new bourbon, rye, scotch, etc. we will try next. In fact, we refer to Whisky Advocate as “The Manuscript.” So, thank you. Regards, Rodney Wonenberg Fort Collins, Colo. Thank you, Rodney! A post-tennis dram sounds delightful. We value your readership and are honored to be the “go to” reference for you and your team. n
A publication of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019 vol. 25, no. 3 Editor & Publisher Executive Editor Managing Editor Art Director Photo Editor Production Manager Stephen Beaumont Dave Broom Davin de Kergommeaux Jake Emen
John Hansell Jeffery Lindenmuth Melanie Gochnauer John Thompson Casey Oto Leigh Aubry
Writers John Hansell Jeffery Lindenmuth Jonny McCormick Fred Minnick Stuart Maclean Ramsay
Senior Vice President, Advertising Advertising Director, Cigars and Luxury Events Manager Circulation Director Circulation Manager Assistant Circulation Manager Senior Retail Sales Director Office Manager Copy Editor
Gavin D Smith Terry Sullivan Liza Weisstuch Amy Zavatto
Amy Westlake Barry Abrams Joan McGinley Phylicia Bedoya Jesse Arvidson Tina Ratwani Jeanne Holly Kathy Fox Sam Komlenic
Mission Statement To be the most informative and entertaining drinks publication by promoting the intelligent, responsible, and joyful consumption of the world’s whiskies. Mailing address 167 Main Street, Emmaus, PA 18049 voice: (610) 967-1083 fax: (610) 965-2995 email@example.com www.whiskyadvocate.com M. SHANKEN COMMUNICATIONS, INC. Chairman Marvin R. Shanken Vice Chairman Michael D. Moaba Senior Advisor to the Chairman Mel Mannion Senior Vice President, Administration/Advertising Constance McGilvray Senior Vice President, Events Marketing Lynn Rittenband Vice President, Director of Advertising Miriam Morgenstern Senior Vice President, Circulation Laura Zandi Chief Financial Officer Steven Gordon Vice President, Business Development Jessica Shanken Vice President, Production Kevin Mulligan Assistant to the Chairman Janice McManus-Genevrino Assistant to the Chairman Sheena Dellanzo Questions about your subscription? Call (800) 610-6258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Questions about your retail sales account? Call (800) 344-0763 or email email@example.com Whisky Advocate magazine (ISSN 1086-4199) is published quarterly by M. Shanken Communications, Inc., 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019 (212-684-4224). Postmaster: Address changes and subscription inquiries: Whisky Advocate, P.O. Box 37367, Boone, IA 50037-0850; go to www.WhiskyAdvocate.com; or call 1-800-610-6258. Subscription rates: U.S., $18 for one year; Canada, $24 for one year; International, $40 for one year. Subscriptions are payable in U.S. funds. To order a new subscription, go to www.WhiskyAdvocate.com. Unsolicited manuscripts will not be returned, and no responsibility can be assumed for such material. Whisky Advocate© is a registered trademark of M. Shanken Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Copyright© 2016, M. Shanken Communications, Inc.
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
Steeped with the spirit of the land, from bright citrus fruit to smoky wo o d . A g av e a r o m a s a n d the earth’s purest spice.
THE SPIR IT OF THE HIGHL A NDS
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M A D E W I T H C H A R A C T E R, S T R E N G T H AND 100% AGAVE LOS CAZADORES TOMAN CON RESPONSABILIDAD. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. ©2015. CAZADORES, ITS TRADE DRESS AND THE DEER LOGO ARE TRADEMARKS. IMPORTED BY TEQUILA CAZADORES U.S.A., SEAL BEACH, CA. TEQUILA – 40% ALC. BY VOL.
Distillations W HIS KY NEWS • C U LT U R E • PE R SON A LIT IE S • N E W R E L E AS E S
Multnomah Whiskey Library offers an expansive selection of whisky.
48 Hours in Portland DINA AVILA
BY STUART MACLEAN RAMSAY
The city of Portland, straddling the Willamette River in the Pacific Northwest, is not a bad place to be a drinker. Around 70 breweries are located here, more than any other city in the world. About a dozen distilleries call ‘Stumptown’ home, with a similar amount of urban wineries. The food culture complements the drinking scene, with award-winning restaurants, 600 food trucks, and an almost religious
belief by Portlanders in enjoying local products and the farm-to-table philosophy. There are whisky and cocktail bars in almost every neighborhood, and a healthy respect for pairing good whisky with local craft beer (the two major food groups in the city). Add to this a walkable, vibrant downtown with efficient public transportation, and two days of hedonistic ramblings are easily filled.
Many of the bars don’t open until late afternoon, so take a distillery tour earlier in the day or pay a visit to a liquor store. Oregon is a control state, so all spirits are sold through state-controlled stores. The prices are set by the state, but the retailers are private, independent contractors. Retailers with an interest in whisky offer a nice variety, including their own private label single barrels. Browse WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
a store’s selection in advance by visiting the Oregon Liquor Control Board’s website, oregonliquorsearch.com, which includes a reasonably-current list of the spirits carried by the individual stores. (See sidebar for a few suggested stores.)
Day One There is an increasing multitude of whisky bars in the city, but the best are overseen by passionate owners and spiritual curators, and this is the journey to embark upon. Begin downtown, where a plethora of bars offers extensive whisky selections, a myriad of local beers, and beautifully crafted whisky cocktails. Multnomah Whiskey Library is a mecca for the serious whisky explorer. Over 950 whiskies and 600 other smartly-curated spirits are displayed. Servers arrive at your seat with carts replete with the fixings for an expertly made Old-Fashioned and the knowledge to steer you toward the perfect dram. Perhaps begin with a whisky cocktail, then settle back and explore the Library’s selection from around the globe. The lines can be long to gain entrance, but Monday evenings don’t require a reservation and arriving close to opening time early and mid-week should get you a table with less of a wait. There’s always the Library’s downstairs Green Room, a sophisticated cocktail bar where guests can contemplate the Library experience over a cocktail.
Multnomah Whiskey Library is in the West End of downtown Portland, a neighborhood of innovative bars and restaurants and live music. Three recommended hotels are in the heart of this bustling, late-night destination. The Ace Hotel is home to Clyde Common, a modern European-style tavern with communal tables and a well-appointed cocktail bar overseen by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Clyde Common leans toward American whiskey, around 150 of them, cross-categorized by distillery and style. “Customers can have an interesting experience with a vertical tasting
Left: Raven & Rose’s historic location. Top: a gleaming copper still at Big Bottom Distilling. Above: fresh oysters at Interurban.
by distillery or a horizontal tasting by category,” says Morgenthaler. A few blocks away is McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel. It’s across the street from McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom and the rooms have rock ‘n’ roll themes influenced by the live music venue. Like all the McMenamin’s hotel properties, there are one or more eclectic bars
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tucked into corners and hidden in basements. The McMenamin’s empire includes close to 100 brewpubs, historic hotels, distilleries, breweries, wineries, and movie theaters. Their distilleries are just outside Portland. There’s Edgefield distillery in Troutdale and Cornelius Pass Roadhouse in Hillsboro. Other craft whiskey distillers that call Hillsboro home are Big Bottom and Tualatin Valley Distilling (they share a tasting room). Across from the Crystal Hotel is the Pearl District, a neighborhood of upscale shops and bars that rose from the ashes of industrial Portland over the past 30 years. It has some fine brewpubs, a stellar cocktail bar (the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge), and an unassuming whisky bar, Paragon. Bob Brunner is the beverage director, and whisky comprises nearly half of the bar’s 323 spirits. “It’s not how many whiskies you carry,” explains Brunner, “it’s how well-chosen your selections are. This is what makes guests excited about their tasting experiences.” Your whisky experience can be elevated by his quality interpretation of classic whisky cocktails. Take a ten-minute walk into Northwest Portland and you’ll be transported to the Bluegrass State via the Pope House Bourbon Lounge. They serve southern cuisine and over 150 bourbons and ryes. The friendly staff knows their American whiskeys and the Pope House specializes in limited-edition bottlings. Not far from the Pope House is Bull Run Distilling Company. They offer a variety of bourbon and other whiskey; their single malt will be released soon. Another craft distillery, Clear Creek, is a five-minute walk from Bull Run. They specialize in fruit brandies, but once or twice a year McCarthy’s Oregon single malt is released in very limited quantities. Downtown Portland has several whiskey bars, all within walking distance of the Paramount Hotel in the heart of the city. These bars are within walking distance of the Mark Spencer Hotel and the Ace and Crystal hotels, too. The Swine Bar is in the Paramount Hotel and offers rare American whiskeys. Close to 300 whiskeys await the drinker at the Irish pub, Paddy’s, just a few blocks away. Raven & Rose is close by, serving well-aboveaverage classic British and Irish-inspired farmhouse food in the historic Ladd Carriage House. The Rookery Bar, upstairs, pours some of the best cocktails in the city, many of them from their collection of private single barrels. Dave Shenaut, who oversees the bar
program, prices his hard-to-find whiskies to sell. “We leave these whiskies off our printed menu, which has around 100 whiskies,” Shenaut says. “This allows our bartenders to hand-sell these bottles to people looking to engage in conversation, and our customers are pleased with the value.”
Day Two Portland’s Lower East Side Industrial District is home to urban distilleries, brewpubs, and bars. Distillery Row is in the thick of it, with eight distilleries producing a plethora of spirits; four are currently producing whiskey, most have tasting rooms and tours. Eastside Distilling offers a variety of bourbons and other whiskeys. House Spirits bottles Westward Oregon straight malt. New Deal sells their limited-edition whiskeys in their tasting room. Next door, Vinn Distillers distills a rice-based whiskey. Further south, Stone Barn is focusing on 100 percent rye whiskeys. Scattered among the neighborhood’s produce warehouses is a handful of whisky bars that take whisky and beer pairings to another level. The Produce Row Café was the first bar in Portland to seriously pair different categories of whisky with specific beer styles. The Bit House Saloon has a Boilermaker menu, outstanding cocktails, sherry on tap, and innovative American cuisine. There are around 250 whiskeys, mostly American, and over 20 single and private-barrel bourbons and ryes. Bar manager Jesse Card put the program together. “I like that we have a large selection of whiskies priced $8-12 a pour,” says Jesse. Affordability was the key when the owners of the Loyal Legion Pub, a few blocks from Bit House, decided to add whisky to the menu and appointed Tommy Klus as their whisky consultant. He put together a program that focuses primarily on regional single malt scotch, along with a healthy dose of American, Irish, and Japanese whiskies, around 130 bottles. Most drams cost between $6 and $20, with some one-ounce pours as low as $3. This contemporary pub also offers Oregon beers exclusively, up to 99 of them. Head to North Portland for the next bunch of whisky bars. The much-gentrified Mississippi Avenue has its share of Portland hipsters and soaring rents, but it’s also home to eclectic shops and restaurants. It’s a great street to walk, explore, and experience a slice of Portlandia. The owner of Sidecar 11, John Cooper, is passionate about collect-
Clockwise from top: a whisky-educated staff assists patrons at Sidecar 11; stellar cocktails await at Teardrop Cocktail Lounge; the lobby of Portland’s Ace Hotel.
ing and sharing whiskey with his customers. Sidecar has over 400 on offer, with a focus on bourbons and ryes. “The key to a good whiskey bar is continuous education for my staff,” explains John. “They in turn bring the golden liquid alive with stories and the taste. We have flights, special bottle openings, guest speakers, a whiskey club…all designed to have enough information for the whiskey connoisseur, but not so much to overwhelm the whiskey enthusiast.” Interurban, a few blocks north on Mississippi, has a solid selection of American
whiskey and craft beer. Just down the street, Stormbreaker Brewing pairs beers with local and world whiskies, as does The Old Gold, a neighborhood pub a few minutes away. The Old Gold’s sister bar, Paydirt, in Northeast Portland, has over 250 whiskies, with an emphasis on affordable American whiskey. Artisanal pizza and 300 mostly rare whiskies? Welcome to Pinky’s. The pizza is eclectic and tasty. The backbar is lined with gems of bourbon, rye, Scotch, and Japanese whiskies. The owner will not carry overpriced novelty whiskies or those from nonWHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
Distilleries Big Bottom Distilling 21420 NW Nicholas Ct., Ste. D-9, Hillsboro; 503-608-7816; bigbottomdistilling.com Bull Run Distilling Company 2259 NW Quimby St.; 503-224-3483; bullrundistillery.com Clear Creek distillery 2389 NW Wilson St.; 503-248-9470; clearcreekdistillery.com Cornelius Pass Roadhouse distillery 4045 N.W. Cornelius Pass Rd., Hillsboro; 503-640-6174; mcmenamins.com/CPRDistillery Edgefield distillery 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale; 800-669-8610; mcmenamins.com/edgefielddistillery Tualatin Valley Distilling 21420 NW Nicholas Ct., Ste. D-9, Hillsboro; 949-212-6900; tvdistilling.com
Above: the relaxed atmosphere at Produce Row Cafe. Right: Clyde Common employees transfer a cocktail for barrel aging.
Eastside Distilling 1512 SE 7th Ave.; 503-926-7060; eastsidedistilling.com House Spirits distillery 65 SE Washington St.; 503-235-3174; housespirits.com New Deal distillery 900 SE Salmon St.; 503-234-2513; newdealdistillery.com Stone Barn Brandyworks 3315 SE 19th Ave.; 503-341-2227; stonebarnbrandyworks.com
Paragon Restaurant & Bar 1309 NW Hoyt St.; 503-833-5060; paragonrestaurant.com
Vinn distillery 222 SE 8th Ave.; 503-706-9299; vinndistillery.com Lodging
Bars & Restaurants
Paydirt 2724 NE Pacific St.; 503-233-3655; paydirtbar.com
Ace Hotel 1022 SW Stark St.; 503-228-2277; acehotel.com/portland
Bit House Saloon 727 SE Grand Ave.; 503-954-3913; bithousesaloon.com
Pinky’s Pizzeria 3990 N. Interstate Ave.; 503-282-1259; pinkyspizzeria.com
Mark Spencer Hotel 409 SW 11th Ave.; 503-224-3293; markspencer.com
Clyde Common 1014 SW Stark St.; 503-228-3333; clydecommon.com
Pope House Bourbon Lounge 2075 NW Glisan St.; 503-222-1056; popehouselounge.com
McMenamins Crystal Hotel 303 SW 12th Ave.; 503-972-2670; mcmenamins.com/crystalhotel
Highland Stillhouse 201 S. 2nd St.; Oregon City; 503-723-6789; highlandstillhouse.com
Produce Row Café 204 SE Oak St.; 503-232-8355; producerowcafe.com
Paramount Hotel 808 SW Taylor St.; 503-223-9900; portlandparamount.com
Interurban 4057 N. Mississippi Ave.; 503-284-6669; interurbanpdx.com
Raven & Rose/Rookery Bar 1331 SW Broadway; 503-222-7673; ravenandrosepdx.com
Loyal Legion Pub 710 SE 6th Ave.; 503-235-8272; loyallegionpdx.com
Sidecar 11 3955 N. Mississippi Ave.; 503-208-3798; sidecarpdx.wordpress.com
Multnomah Whiskey Library 1124 SW Alder St.; 503-954-1381; mwlpdx.com
Stormbreaker Brewing 832 N. Beech St.; 971-703-4516; stormbreakerbrewing.com
The Old Gold 2105 N Killingsworth St.; 503-894-8937; theoldgoldpdx.com
Swine Bar 808 SW Taylor St.; 503-943-5844; swankandswine.com/swine-bar
Paddy’s Bar & Grill 65 SW Yamhill St.; 503-224-5626; paddys.com
Teardrop Cocktail Lounge 1015 NW Everett St.; 503-445-8109; teardroplounge.com
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Barbur Liquor Store 9875 SW Barbur Blvd.; 503-246-1760; barburliquor.com Portland Center Liquor Store 2075 SW 1st Ave.; 503-241-9354; portlandcenterliquor.com Hollywood Beverage 3028 NE Sandy Blvd.; 503-284-0987; hollywoodbeverage.com Uptown Liquor 1 NW 23rd Place; 503-227-0338 Westmoreland Liquor 7207 SE Milwaukie Ave; 503-235-3635
BOTTOM: SUSAN SEUBERT/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX
distiller producers, concentrating on whiskies that build a reputation around quality, value, and transparency. Some say that the best whisky bar is in Oregon City, down the Willamette River from Portland. Mick and Tammy Secor have recreated that rare beast: a Scottish Highland pub. Mick makes his own haggis and has gathered over 1,000 bottles of whisky, mostly Scotch single malts. There are lots of old and rare Islay whiskies and a diverse selection from the rest of Scotland and from around the world. Visiting Portland without an excursion to the Highland Stillhouse would not be a whisky trip.
Distillery Row distilleries (those with whiskey currently available) distilleryrowpdx.com
Ireland’s New Walsh Distillery BY GAVIN D SMITH
The latest chapter in the story of Ireland’s remarkable whiskey revival was written on June 21, 2016, when husband and wife Bernard and Rosemary Walsh officially opened Walsh distillery on the historic Royal Oak estate, County Carlow. Joining them at the ceremony was Augusto Reina, chief executive of Illva Saronno S.p.A. of Milan, makers of Disaronno and Tia Maria, and 50 percent shareholder in the Walsh distillery.
At total of €25 million is being invested in the distillery and accompanying visitor center. Spirit production had already commenced in March of this year. The plant has the capacity to produce up to 2.5 million liters of alcohol per annum. According to Bernard Walsh, “This is an Irish first, in that we have the ability to make all three styles of spirit in the one stillhouse. We have a column for grain and pots for malt whiskey, and we will also do campaigns of pot still whiskey
[made from both malted and unmalted barley]. It’s very exciting being able to do it all under one roof in the same room.” Bernard and Rosemary left their native Ireland to work in the IT business in London, but returned home in 1999 and created Hot Irishman, a premixed Irish coffee drink. On the back of its success they diversified into whiskey, launching The Irishman in 2007 and the pot still blend Writers Tears three years later. Today, the two brands are available in more than 40 countries worldwide. Ultimately the spirit made at Royal Oak will allow for additional sales in the core U.S., Russia, and European markets, as well as giving scope for ambitious plans to expand into Asia. Greater product innovation is also on the agenda. Bernard says, “After 17 years in business, the opening of our own distillery is both the fulfilment of Rosemary and my own dreams and a game-changing moment for the company. We are now in control of our destiny and have the capacity, variety, and relationships to play our part in the continued revival of Irish whiskey, which is one of this country’s great traditions.”
The Rise of Craft Maltings BY JONNY M C CORMICK
The concept of a Scottish craft malting revival has been germinating. Craft malting involves the production of custom-ordered batches of malted barley made from locally grown grains, unusual manufacture methods, or interesting barley varieties. Distillers undertake craft maltings primarily for the pursuit of distinctive whisky flavors. You may have tasted a number of drams that owe their existence to craft maltings: Glenmorangie Tùsail, Bruichladdich Bere Barley, Benromach Organic, and Springbank Local Barley to name a few. Muntons, a global supplier of malt to the whisky industry, is handling more inquiries about the subject. However not everyone requires their services, explains Pete Robson, the general manager for malt sales. “Muntons’ commercial malting operations can handle typical batch sizes of 30 to 300 tons. A craft distillery may want to use a special heritage variety as a one-off, but they could end up having far too much of that whisky to sell.” For custom batches of up to three tons, distillers need to find a traditional floor maltster, where
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the additional labor and transport can push up the costs of manufacturing. Unfortunately for the distiller, the unavoidable analysis costs of the malt are the same whether it’s a 3-ton or a 300-ton batch. Robson points out, “You’re paying 100 times more per ton for your analysis.” Distillers are experimenting with varieties of barley used 50-100 years ago, such as Maris Otter, Proctor, and Zephyr. Cultivating heritage varieties is riskier for the farmer, as these became obsolete due to their low yield and lack of disease resistance. Each new modern variety of barley is superior in quality, with breeding advantages leading to continual improvements in agronomic, laboratory, and extract yield. A viable crop needs to be able to compete with wheat and modern barley. Robson remarks, “Say the yield to the farmer is half of growing a modern malting variety; you will have to pay double for the farmer to get the same return.” With greater appreciation of the effort to produce these whiskies, distillers pursue further trials. “Like the American brewer, the
American distiller is very experimental,” notes Robson, describing the use of highly-colored brewing malts such as chocolate malts to determine if the flavor is carried forward in the distillate. At Strathearn distillery in Scotland, they have been experimenting with Maris Otter ale malt, replicating the old ways, when beer was distilled into whisky. These malts have been fired at higher temperatures on the kiln, producing extra color which adds greater biscuit and malty flavors. “There’s a relationship between color and the alcohol yield from the malt,” explains Robson. “The higher the color and the heat treatment, the more the enzymes are denatured during kilning, so the alcohol yield is lower. That’s why the big guys go for low-color specifications.” Robson is optimistic that the attractions of heritage, organic, or farm-specific barley crops will lead to new craft maltings being built alongside craft distilleries: “People experimenting with different varieties or manufacturing methods will drive a craft maltings resurgence.”
Hammond Charcuterie BY JONNY M C CORMICK
has ensured that everything she sells is deliciously superior and a feast for the senses. The Hammond Charcuterie curing space is drafty, dark, and damp, the ideal conditions helped by being located just 100 yards from Eyemouth harbor. Her sublime airdried ham starts at a farm about six miles away, where she deliberately selects rare-breed pigs. “Tamworths are fantastic for bacon and pancetta and they make really good sausages from the front end, where they’ve got this lovely, dark, gamey meat,” she explains, “that’s had 18 months air drying, which means that it’s fully cured. Most hams are not cured to that extent, so they haven’t reached equilibrium.” As the fat melts from the hanging hams, it slowly drips to the floor. As the protein and fats break down naturally inside, the ham becomes much more aromatic. The British restaurant critic Jay Rayner once said that the best foods have a faint whiff of death about them. “You can Rachel Hammond, founder of Hammond Charcuterie. smell a good ham from the wafting aromas,” agrees Rachel. She is looking for Deftly preparing the carcass with her trusty well-worked muscle from aged beasts that six-inch paring knife, Rachel Hammond is an have lived a stress-free life to the end, which army of one. She quit the rat race of London is why she insists that the farmer takes to for a rustic life in the Scottish Borders, and slaughter every animal she prepares. over the last three years she’s become a As whisky drinkers, we are not intimiself-taught butcher and maker of exceptiondated by robust flavors in cured meats. The ally fine charcuterie. Rachel’s insistence on traceability, quality, and traditional methods continued on page 26
Hog Wild Pairing whisky with Hammond Charcuterie Rather than recommending whisky brands, Jonny offers some whisky style suggestions to help the salivating gourmand reach for the perfect pour. Air-dried ham works beautifully with a sweeter Kentucky straight bourbon or a triple distilled Irish whiskey matured in American oak. Pancetta Choose a refill sherried Speyside whisky to cut through the fat of the cured pork belly. Oak-smoked goose requires a delicate touch, so pick out a light grain whisky or a young Lowland whisky. The trick is to avoid anything too sweet. Oak–smoked venison Draw on a heavier first-fill sherry cask single malt or a subtle, smoky scotch blend.
Shetland Reestit gigot Avoid a peaty whisky here, and instead look for a rich, complex blend with a touch of sherry influence. Venison-and-pheasant salami Select a dark sherried whisky, particularly one with pronounced chocolate notes on the nose and palate.
Left to right: Hammond Charcuterie’s pancetta, coppa, and venison-and-pheasant salami.
Wild boar coppa A good sherry cask Highland malt with a rich, textured mouthfeel will work wonders here. WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
continued from page 25 thick fat layer on her wild boar coppa tastes wonderful. Coppa is capocollo (the top of the collar), a marbled muscle cut from Boston butt, especially from an older animal. “It’s quite a hard-working part of the pig, so you get a fabulous depth of flavor,” says Rachel. It’s cured in sea salt, then hung and dried for four to five months, losing 30-40 percent in weight, which intensifies the flavor like a porcine angel’s share. “During that time it takes on that funky, part salami, part air-dried ham flavor with the addition of the melting air-dried fat. I put a fennel and pepper crust on it: very northern Italian.” She is rightfully proud of her 100 percent pasture-fed, oak-smoked goose, raised just over a mile away from her curing space. The goose is rich and buttery. “They are dry cured with a bit of salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of star anise, which I like for bringing out the background flavors.” Oak-smoked wild venison comes from roe deer shot on an estate a few miles away. She seam cuts it, French butchery style, splits out the muscles, then cures them individually before smoking them in a traditional smokehouse. Her Shetland Reestit mutton gigot can be fried like smoky mutton bacon or used in stews. It’s based on the regional specialty where Shetlanders would salt meat and hang it from a low ceiling over a peat fire. Today, at the Edinburgh Farmer’s Market, she has a basket of thick, knobbly sticks of venison-and-pheasant salami that contain wild garlic and local beer to make it creamy. She has experimented with whisky too. “I’m a huge fan of Springbank and I have used it in sausages. I’ve made whisky-and-orange wild boar sausages at Christmas, as the quality of the wild boar here is just unbelievable. I would love to smoke meat with whisky barrels, if only I could get my hands on some.” In the future, she hopes to run courses to teach consumers, chefs, and farmers how to make their own charcuterie, but meanwhile she’s quite content. “I absolutely love doing the butchery, that’s all I want to do.” Hammond Charcuterie is sold at Edinburgh and Alnwick Farmers’ Markets, on either side of the Scottish Border. The online shop is planned to be open December 2016. hammondcharcuterie.co.uk
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Rooting Around for Flavor BY AMY ZAVATTO
To honor their 10th anniversary this past June, Bitter Truth, one of the companies that all but kicked off the artisanal bitters revolution in the modern cocktail community, launched Drops and Dashes, a limited-edition line of four new bespoke bottlings: Root, Wood, Blossom, and Nut; each carries an ABV of 42%. Their earthy aromatics and lush flavors are particularly pleasing for whisky mixing. The inspiration for their back-to-basics approach was the Tree of Life, say founders and owners Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck.
“The idea circulates around the different parts of a tree, which express different flavors and offer different experiences when applied to a drink,” says Berg, a former bartender who came up with the idea for Bitter Truth bitters out of sheer necessity: he simply couldn’t get the ingredients he wanted in his home country of Germany. “Usually bitters ingredients are taken from different plants and come together that way, but for this we thought, why not make a liquid just out of extract from just wood? Or from just roots? It gives each of them a very different flavor profile.” It’s that particular high note in each that seems to lend well to complementing specific regional and stylistic whisky characteristics. Berg’s focused, nuanced recipes—now totaling eleven different bottlings in regular production—have become ever-present on bars nationwide, but the tweak that makes the Tree of Life concept cleave so nicely to barrel-and-barley-centric spirits is the way they hit your palate. “For these, we’re not focused on bitterness as most traditional bitters
are, but more on full-fledged flavor without the bitterness at the forefront of your mouth,” says Berg. “Instead, you get a slight bitterness in the back, but a lot of flavor in [the] foreground.” Root uses licorice, orris (the rootstock of an iris), and alpine gentian to add a textural and flavor richness to the bitterness; to bump up the aromatics and, as Berg says, “a fragile earthiness” overall. Wood uses different European oak extractions, as well as sandalwood and Brazilian wood, which soup-up the color and add a bit of tannic, linear dryness. Blossom gives gentle aromas of jasmine, lavender, and orange blossom, which make a nice addition to light, simple cocktails like a Presbyterian, centered around the buoyant citrus and stone fruit qualities in certain Highland or Speyside whiskies. “The idea for this one was born in Taiwan,” offers Berg. “A bartender showed me a perfume he had behind the bar. He said, ‘Smell that, and now I’ll make you a cocktail that tastes and smells exactly like it.’ He did and I was blown away. It was brilliant.” Finally, for the luscious Nut bitters, Berg and Hauck use mainly young black walnuts, as well as hazelnuts and cashews. “The Nut really adds a richness and warmth to younger-style American whiskeys.” The limited-edition line, totaling about 30,000 bottles, comes in vintage-style glass vessels. Not only do they cozy-up nicely to the flavors of whiskies, they also look lovely on your bar next to them. And to the neat set who doesn’t like to mix? Berg has a message: “People think, okay, if I have my $50 bourbon, I’m going to drink it neat and not in a cocktail. I think that’s nuts. If you have better ingredients, you have a better cocktail—it’s simple. I had a well-made Old-Fashioned the other day with the Wood, and it was great!” Visit the-bitter-truth.com for a list of establishments that carry Drops and Dashes bitters. Each bottle has a suggested retail price of $20 per 100 ml bottle.
Scotch Whisky Transparency BY GAVIN D SMITH
Can a whisky drinker ever be given too much information about the product he or she is consuming? You may think that at a time when provenance and traceability seem to be of greater importance than ever that the answer would be an emphatic “No.” However, according to EU (Economic Community) law, which currently applies in the UK, a distiller or bottler may only make public the age of the youngest component spirit in the bottle. More detailed information is not legal. This first became a point of controversy when John Glaser’s Compass Box Whisky company was informed last year by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) that the company had acted illegally by revealing the full recipes on its website—including the distilleries from which whisky was sourced, the age of component whiskies, and the proportions included—for its This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart releases. Glaser has tangled with the SWA in the past, most notably regarding the use of French oak inserts in casks destined for the original version of the Spice Tree back in 2005. He is now campaigning to have the relevant legislation amended to allow those distillers and bottlers who wish to share detailed information about the contents of their products to do so. Those who agree may register their support at the Compass Box website. Glaser says, “We believe the law should change. This is why we’re asking for sup-
port from consumers and industry leaders to challenge the regulation. Our proposed amends would give producers the freedom, but not the obligation, to provide complete, unbiased, and clear information on every component whisky in their product—with or without the headline age statement outlining the age of youngest spirit permitted under the current regulations. “This would provide room for producers to provide total transparency if they chose to, without any risk of the consumer being misled. It turns out that Scotch whisky is one of the few products where it is prohibited by law to be fully open with consumers. This is an issue that affects every corner of the scotch world (from single malt distillers to blenders) and limits the ability of the producer to share pertinent information with their customers.” The SWA’s chief executive David Frost responded by noting that the organization’s role is, “…to explain those rules so producers can comply. Complying is a legal obligation and it’s not for us to suggest that laws should be broken. Equally, where appropriate and our members want it, we are ready to work to encourage change to existing laws. “Changes can’t happen overnight though, and where the rules are set at EU-level they need to be agreed with other member states. At the moment we are not hearing a consensus for change, but we are always happy to have the discussion.”
He added, somewhat pointedly, “We would of course be delighted if Compass Box were to want to join the SWA to bring its perspective more fully to bear on such discussions.” One distiller to throw its weight behind the transparency campaign is Bruichladdich, which now allows purchasers of bottles of Classic Laddie to enter a batch code on the relevant website page to reveal details of the component casks. As a company spokesperson puts it, “We believe that our customers should be able to find out the age, provenance, and proportions by volume of all the casks that make up the different vattings of the Classic Laddie, bottles of which do not carry an age statement....Every vatting of the Classic Laddie has been created using a different suite of casks and therefore every batch code will give different results. We celebrate natural whisky and variety.” It remains unclear as to the extent of the appetite for legislative change among the membership of the SWA, with some of the larger distillers perhaps feeling that they would be compared unfavorably with the likes of Compass Box and Bruichladdich if such legislation came about and they did not divulge more product information as a result. What seems clear, however, is that among drinkers who take their whisky seriously there most definitely is an appetite for change. In their view, more certainly seems to be better.
New Whisky Advocate Executive Editor Appointed Jeffery Lindenmuth has joined the Whisky Advocate editorial team as executive editor. Jeffery has nearly 20 years of writing experience within the M. Shanken Communications organization, including Whisky Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Food Arts. He has also written for many other drinks publications over this timespan. Jeffery has traveled across the globe learning and writing about alcohol beverages. His writing appears regularly in Whisky Advocate, including his feature “The Best Stuff in a Barrel” in this issue. “Jeffery’s broad drinks background,
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creative instinct, great reputation in the drinks industry, and excellent writing skills will help take the magazine to the next level and foster its growth,” notes John Hansell, Whisky Advocate editor & publisher. “He will also be instrumental in growing the other Whisky Advocate platforms (WhiskyNotes, the Whisky Advocate blog, the Whisky Advocate website, etc.). In addition to being involved in the creative aspect of the magazine’s editorial future, beginning with this issue he is also writing our whisky cocktail column (Add Whisky) and reviewing craft whiskeys in our buying guide.”
Whisky with...Beer BY STEPHEN BEAUMONT
The Scots call it a ‘half and half,’ or sometimes phonetically, a ‘hauf ‘n’ hauf.’ By whatever pronunciation, it is a half-pint of beer, typically an ale and traditionally a dark and malty one, paired with a dram of whisky, usually with the flavor emphasis placed on the latter and the onus for refreshment on the former. They are not combined, as sometimes happens with the American Boilermaker, but sipped and savored alongside one another. Ordinarily, the partnership is not something long considered and the result is perfectly
acceptable, if seldom dramatic. I have found, however, that with a modicum of thought and planning, the mundanely sufficient can soar to new heights of beverage bliss. Start, if you will, with a simple blend. Famous Grouse is my house blended whisky, and I admit that all I typically combine it with are a bit of ice and a splash of soda. So to find its natural beer partner, I began with the advice of brand ambassador Nicola Riske, who suggests the crispness of an “old school” lager like Narragansett to bring forward all the flavors of the whisky. The problem for me was that the whisky muted the none-too-robust flavors of the beer. Fortunately, it was an issue easily solved by going Old World rather than old school and selecting a Bavarian style helles lager with a
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more assertive malt profile, like the Hofbräu Original, or to really bring forward the fruitiness in the whisky, a malt-forward British pale ale such as Samuel Smith’s. From there to a workaday single malt, something you’d find on most backbars, I chose Glenlivet 12 year old. To complement its fragrant, floral, and fruity character I found a rather surprising ally in Allagash White, a spicy-fruity Belgian-style wheat beer with sufficient character to measure up to the whisky, yet still light enough that it didn’t run roughshod over the gentle Glenlivet, as did the American pale ale I first assayed. I then turned to the opposite ends of sherrybarreled single malt, picking the elegant and unpeated Glengoyne 18 year old and the darker, richer, and unapologetically peaty Highland Park Dark Origins. For the former, with its enticing flavors of marzipan and fruit, both fresh and stewed, I searched for something that wouldn’t overwhelm the spirit, but still possesses the nutty and soft chocolaty notes needed to complement the Glengoyne’s elemental attributes, eventually settling quite happily on the Jacobsen Dark Lager from Denmark. A similar, more complex Bavarian style dunkel lager, such as the Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel or the seasonal Sly Fox Dunkel Lager, I suspect, would have served the cause even better. For the robust Dark Origins, I found a more heavy-handed approach to be necessary and turned to the distillery’s island neighbor, the
Orkney Brewery and its 10% alcohol Drk Isld Rsrv, an amped-up whisky barrel-aged version of their flagship Dark Island Scottish Ale. The round and musky flavors and aromas of both beer and whisky complemented each other outrageously well, although I suspect that if Drk Isld Rsrv wasn’t available, a strong porter like De Molen Tsarina Esra or a dark Scotch ale such as Founders Dirty Bastard would fill the role most ably. Flipping the partnership around, one might think that a bourbon barrel-aged beer, such as the Putin’s Reserve Imperial Stout I had from Grist House Craft Brewery in Pittsburgh, would best be partnered with, well, a bourbon. But the combination of flavors again proved heavy-handed, even for someone well attuned to bourbon flavors, and I found rather unexpectedly that a milder Islay such as Bowmore 12 year old made a far better foil for the robust black brew. For a more potently peaty whisky, like Laphroaig Quarter Cask or Ardbeg, I long ago settled on an unhopped but herb-seasoned ale, known as a gruit, as the ideal match. Look for the Dutch Jopen Koyt if you care to try for yourself, as it is not only one of the best gruits I’ve tried, but also an excellent match for the Quarter Cask. While the above pairings obviously omit vast expanses of nuance and complexity which lay within the fields of both whisky and beer, they do serve to illustrate that when a little consideration is applied, two halves may indeed combine to form something far exceeding the sum of their individual parts.
Grain to Glass Craft Distilling BY AMY ZAVATTO
The prolific percolation of craft distilleries shows no signs of slowing to a drip; more and more, “farm” distilleries—those purchasing some or all of their grain and grass from farms within a stone’s throw—are becoming the bucolic norm nationwide. But a small, burgeoning faction of whiskey makers seeks to germinate an even more close-to-home methodology: growing their own grains and grass right outside their distillery doors. “When talking terroir in whiskey, it’s probably something that hasn’t existed in any real, meaningful way in a long time— and I’m talking in Scotland and Kentucky, too,” says distiller Christopher Williams of Coppersea Distilling of that Gaelic-grabbed, wine-centric term that implies an unmistakable, identifiable sense of detectable place in your glass. For Coppersea, which engages in thoroughly rooted 19th century methods, including fire-fueled alembic stills, handraking their malted grains, and using local oak for their barrels, that sense of place is what they’re banking on from their heirloom strains of corn, Danko variety rye, and oats. Among their farming brethren, Coppersea is one of the few who began production first and added the farm component after—distilleries like Myer Farm in New York, Far North in Minnesota, Coulter & Payne in Missouri, Belmont Farm in Virginia, Frey Ranch in Nevada, and Whiskey Acres in Illinois began as multi-generational farmers. And producers Hillrock, also in New York state, and WhistlePig in Vermont had the land and began growing, but supplemented early on with high-quality “seed” whiskeys to get things rolling before being able to use the whiskey made from grains grown on their land. Another, Bently Heritage in Minden, Nevada, has secured 6,000 acres and is growing, among other things, barley, wheat, rye, and oats and expects to begin rolling out bottles of vodka, absinthe, gin, and bourbon in 2017. “On our farm, we have 22 planted varieties of corn, but we home in on three for our whiskey, along with two heirloom varieties,” says Jamie Walter of Whiskey Acres, a distillery that sits on his family’s 2,000 acre, fifth-generation farm in Dekalb, Illinois where they grow winter wheat, rye, and their
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Top and bottom left: Coppersea Distilling employs 19th century farming and distilling methods. Top right: the farm at WhistlePig.
big cash crop, corn. “Some have more spice, some more sweetness. Some have a creamy, butteriness—a different mouthfeel entirely. We really think there’s something to varietal differences, as well as the soil and microclimate, and how those things affect us.” Colby Frey’s family has been farming in Fallon, Nevada since 1854. Frey Ranch Distilling sits smack in the middle of their 1,200 acres of wheat, corn, rye, and barley. Frey devotes slightly less than 10 percent to the distillery, but it’s enough to eschew the need for any outside sources of grain. The milling, fermenting, distilling, aging, and bottling are all done on site as well. “I personally have total control of the entire process, from the planting [and] seed selection to irrigating, harvesting, and distilling,” says Colby. “As a farmer there are certain things that can be done in the field during the growing process to obtain a higher-quality grain. Almost always they lead to lower yields…. I am able to sacrifice quantity for quality.” Currently, Frey is aging single-grain whiskeys. He is also aging a fourgrain bourbon in 53-gallon barrels with an anticipated release in late 2018 or early 2019. There’s another thread that several of these distilleries have in common along with
their propensity for planting: master distiller Dave Pickerell, the man who has done for craft distilling what Jack Nicklaus has for golf course design. The former long-time master distiller for Maker’s Mark made his own major mark on craft distilling with his company, Oak View Consulting. For many upstart clients, Pickerell has sailed in, advised, and orchestrated the set-up, and then left them to their own distilling devices. And for those who want that process to start from seed, he has become the veritable Turk of Terroir. Most famously, Pickerell has been front and center with both Hillrock Estate distillery, a luxury whiskey-only producer in Ancram, NY, owned by Jeff Baker, and WhistlePig, the baby of Raj Bhakta—projects with big names and big bucks behind them, but no less sincerity to find success from the literal ground up. “Not only are we growing our own grain on a significant scale—over 500 acres—we’re also harvesting our own oak trees [for barrels] and using that to further bring the flavor of the land into our whiskey. We’re also using water from our own well on the farm,” says Bhakta of his rye. “It’s our grain, our water, our wood—we’re taking craft to 2.0.” The liquid of Bhakta and Pickerell’s farming labors is currently sitting in barrels and, he says, he may release a small portion of the estate-centric rye later this year. But as a businessman at heart, Bhakta knows that while tales can be tantalizing, flavor doesn’t come from story alone. “At the end of the day, a whiskey isn’t great because Uncle Fester made it in his backyard. It’s great because of the taste.”
Ten Rebel Whiskies BY JONNY M C CORMICK
There are some rebel whiskies out there. Whiskies with a reputation. Bristling with bravado, they carry a certain swagger and command everyone’s undivided attention. Some cause a ruckus, throw a punch or two around, and ruffle a few feathers. Some flagrantly disregard the rules and become embroiled in the glare of a scandal, while the lucky ones emerge as accidental heroes. The fate of a rebel whisky can be condemnation, judged by the mocking commentaries to be heinous, abject failure, while others capitalize on the notoriety, ensuring fame propels them into the heavenly realm of legends. You can’t argue with the fact that some rebel whiskies are just effortlessly cool. Compass Box Spice Tree The year was 2005 and John Glaser released a vatted malt whisky mellowed in casks lined with inner staves of heavily-toasted French oak, provoking the ire of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The practice was deemed non-traditional, leading to an effective ban, which in hindsight handed Compass Box a brilliant publicity coup. Bruichladdich X4 A 2006 quadrupled distilled spirit so rock ‘n’ roll it could make a race car howl along the roads of Islay at top speed. It was rocket fuel; consumption of this widow maker was akin to walking a quivering tightrope between immortality and death. Uncompromising? You bet. Live fast, die young. Cardhu Pure Malt Before the release of Pure Malt in 2003, Cardhu was a single malt whisky. Blending with other single malts to make Pure Malt resulted in the mind-boggling concept of a blended malt whisky bewilderingly named and packaged like a single malt. A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma? Nope, a capricious short-cut to satisfy the thirst of Spanish drinkers as stock pressures began to bite. What followed was an all too public spat through the SWA between Cardhu owners Diageo and William Grant & Sons, leading to the expeditious demise of this categorycontorting beverage. Gone, but not forgotten.
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Gordon & MacPhail Generations Mortlach 70 year old In 2010, when most companies were relishing the prospect of their own 40 year old whisky, nobody was expecting the Elgin whisky specialist to raise the bar this high. The quixotic pursuit of hyper-aged whiskies paid off handsomely. Audacious, peerless, undeniably luxurious, and in retrospect, not nearly expensive enough. Loch Dhu 10 year old Known as the “Black Whisky,” this liquid coal was made at Mannochmore distillery in 1997 using casks with an incredibly heavy toast. Just imagine the blackened, blistered, charred carbon surfaces of those poor scorched staves. Michael Jackson rated it a 70. ‘Nuff said. Glen Breton Battle of the Glen 15 year old Just to prove to the SWA that you can’t win ‘em all. The SWA pursued Glenora distillery for seven years through the courts over concerns that the inclusion of ‘Glen” in a trademark could only refer to a scotch. Heaven forbid, drinkers showing a lackadaisical approach to basic geography might mistakenly order Canadian whisky! This bottle, released in 2010, from Nova Scotia was the mischievous and victorious last word on the matter. High West Bourye Utah-based blending maverick David Perkins had some folks hollering foul when he picked up a craft
whiskey award in 2010 for his delicious blend of sourced mature bourbon and straight rye whiskeys. Nobody could fault Perkins for his consistent honesty and transparency: he was the blender of the bottle with the jackalope label, just not the distiller. Within a year, Perkins picked up the Whisky Advocate Pioneer of the Year award. Macallan Replicas Looks can be deceiving. In 1996 the distillery began recreating the Macallan of yore in a popular series of releases straddling the millennium. The impetus was the company’s surprising run of good fortune at auction, purchasing bottle after bottle of 19th century Macallan. Except it wasn’t 19th century Macallan. No siree Bob. They were nearly all fakes. Don’t dismiss them, however, the Replicas contain some darn tasty Macallan. Ardbeg Supernova Advanced Committee Release This 2009 bottling kicked sand in the face of its feebly peated challengers and strutted around packing the kind of raw machismo you only get with peating levels north of 100 parts per million. This act hurled down the gauntlet in the opening salvo of the peat race, and the rest, as they say, is astronomy. Black Bowmore First Edition When Morrison Bowmore was cool, back in 1993. Actually, before they were cool. It’s the Daddy. Always has been, always will be.
Corsair Triple Smoke, a smoked American whiskey.
Smoke in American Whiskey BY JAKE EMEN
Scottish peat isn’t the only smoke game in town and American producers are leading the charge by using all types of smoke to create new, unique whiskeys. There’s no better place to start than with the guy who wrote the book on it—literally. Corsair distillery’s Darek Bell wrote Fire Water: Experimental Smoked Malts and Whiskeys. He’s worked with a massive assortment of woods and other fuel sources, carefully controlling variables such as time, humidity, terroir of the fuel, and how well different grains absorb various types of smoke. “We quickly became frustrated that there were so few options of types of smoked malts to buy, so we began malting and smoking our own grains,” says Bell. Corsair offers a changing collection of smoked whiskeys among their seasonal and experimental releases, but their penchant for smoke is most prominent in their popular Triple Smoke. The mashbill incorporates three separately smoked malts, with cherrywood, beechwood, and yes, peat. “We find blending different smoke types
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results in more flavor complexity,” he says. Cherrywood is also being used by Copper Fox distillery. Owner Rick Wasmund interned at Bowmore under the recently retired Jim McEwan, and brought back a similar malting and kiln-smoking setup to what he saw there. For Wasmund’s single malt, he uses a tandem of 60 percent applewood and 40 percent cherrywood to smoke his barley. That malt is also a component in the mashbill of his rye whiskey. Copper Fox further recycles that wood for a unique aging system. “We rotate used oak and applewood chips through our barrels as the whiskey ages,” explains brand ambassador Abby Hopper. Mesquite wood smoke is a distinctly southwestern American flavor, and at least three producers there are using it for whiskey. Santa Fe Spirits produces Colkegan single malt, incorporating a mixture of 30 percent mesquite-smoked and 70 percent unsmoked barley. “It is a very different kind of smoke flavor to peat,” says Santa Fe’s Adam Vincent. “If you were to smell the grain out of the bag,
it smells distinctly of barbecue and in the glass comes across sweeter and perhaps meatier than peat.” Hamilton Distillers handles their own malting and smoking; however, in place of a traditional floor malting environment, they’re using new technology. “It’s a prototype system, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else quite like this,” says owner Stephen Paul. It consists of two tanks: a steeping tank and a dual-purpose germination and kilning tank. “It allows us to have much more control…. We know the temperature of the air coming in and out, humidity going in and out, all kinds of sensors all over the place.” Hamilton produces Del Bac Dorado, a mesquite-smoked single malt, and Del Bac Clear, its unaged version, along with an unsmoked single malt, Del Bac Classic. Ranger Creek uses mesquite to cold-smoke malted barley for their Rimfire single malt via a system they constructed. “We bought a shipping container and welded a firebox onto the back and a chimney onto the front,” explains co-founder Mark McDavid. Then they lined it with screens and shelves, and voila, a huge smoking compartment was born. Balcones Distilling uses a different local fuel source. Their Brimstone corn whiskey is smoked with Texas scrub oak. Rock Town distillery offers Hickory Smoked whiskey, a wheat whiskey made from 91 percent wheat and 9 percent malted barley. “I decided to use a hickory smoke because in Arkansas, when we make barbecue, we typically smoke it with hickory,” says founder Phil Brandon. He also created his own cold-smoking system, customizing a large wooden cabinet. Now for the first time American peat is also entering the smoked scene. “This year we’re adding Washington State peated malt to the mix, which we’ve been working on basically since we started,” says Westland distillery cofounder and master distiller Matt Hofmann. First though they needed to find a maltster who would make it, eventually connecting with fellow Washington startup Skagit Valley Malting after previously working with prominent UK supplier Baird’s. “We knew that one day we wanted to use Washington State peated malt because we have plenty of peat here. We’re putting a pretty big bet on peated,” he says. A smoky American whiskey world awaits. n
AUC TION IN DEX
The Limitation Game BY JONNY M C CORMICK
The Whisky Advocate Auction index (WAAI) tracks a basket of 100 rare, collectible whiskies through the world’s commercial auction houses. Each bottle’s current price was benchmarked at a baseline value of 100, ensuring that every whisky exerts an equal influence on the value of the index. The current value of each whisky—compared to that original price—is calculated quarterly and composed of a rolling average of the hammer prices over the previous twelve months. The WAAI is determined as a composite of the quarter’s performance of these 100 whiskies. From 2016, the WAAI includes sales from online as well as live whisky auctions, which stimulated another large quarterly rise of 7.3%. The index stands at 217.1, a threshold moment indicating that the average value of our 100 whiskies has doubled over the past five years.
etting the measure of the collectible whisky market is never easy, especially for those clever devils looking for profit. Fully aware of the secondary market, whisky producers continue to offer us fresh conundrums, tactically shifting the variables of age, price, and volume. Consider last year’s Laphroaig 32 year old that was launched for the bicentenary at £799 with a run of 6,000 bottles, for example. Those who use online auctions to sell in the window SPOTLIGHT
Islay Rarities—Going Up or Going Nowhere?
The addition of bountiful online auction sales to the Whisky Advocate Auction Index has added data to each of our 100 tracked bottles, allowing us to zero in on their true market performance and share it with you. This might persuade you to add bottles to your collection, give in and drink some, or decide that it’s the perfect time to part with them. While the best performing bottle on the index continues to be Bruichladdich Blacker Still, now worth more than six times its value since the WAAI began, there are other top performers from Islay too. The Bowmore 1968 37 year old sold for £2,600 at Scotch Whisky Auctions while another reached £1,800 at Whisky Auctioneer, with a similar price achieved by Zachys, Hong Kong, where one sold for HK$20,000. It’s unprecedented that three appear for sale so close together; elevating it to the seventh bestperforming bottle in our basket of 100 collectible whiskies. From the same year,
immediately following the disappearance of the bottles from shelves stand the best chance of making a profit. They benefit from bidding by two camps: potential buyers disappointed to have missed out on their local retail allocation and global buyers from markets where the release was never available. The potential gain is governed by the size of this demand, driven in turn by the distillery name and the excitement generated about the release as the bottles sell out. Collectors knew they were on
pretty sure footing with the oldest age statement on an official Laphroaig for many years, and a limited-edition bicentennial bottling at that. At auction those first bottles made around £1,000 at best. With an online auction house asking 10 percent, the profit would be £76.40, or 9.6 percent after deductions for tax on the premium and lot fees. Not quite a deposit on a super yacht, but a win nonetheless. Fast forward six to twelve months and prices begin to slide as the demand on the secondary market wanes. By then, the keenest collectors’ urges are satisfied, having taken possession of their bottles, and the pipeline of hot new releases has caught the wandering eye of everyone else. Currently, the Laphroaig 32 year old is attracting winning bids of £825. For sellers who paid the full retail price, selling at the same online auction house makes a loss of £77.60 or -9 percent. Regretfully, it’s time to hide those super yacht brochures. The Laphroaig 32 year old has the same fantastic credentials as it ever did, and the surviving number of those initial 6,000 bottles will have been whittled down by the thirsty, the studious, and the curious. At some point in the
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the Bowmore 1968 32 year old bottled for Morrison Bowmore’s 50th anniversary could be obtained for under £500 three years ago. Not anymore: Whisky Auctioneer sold one with a winning bid of £1,200, while Bonhams, Hong Kong delivered a price 25 percent higher, selling this Bowmore for a winning bid of HK$17,000. The index is not just there to track the pace of market growth, it can warn of whiskies that have reached a plateau or those that have peaked and begun to fall in value. Perhaps to coincide with the upsurge of interest in Islay bottlings around Fèis Ìle, there was a noticeable abundance of Port Ellen Maltings 21 year old about. This single malt Port Ellen whisky was released in 1998 to mark the 25th anniversary of Diageo’s maltings on Islay, and long periods can pass without a bottle being
seen. Whisky Online Auctions achieved £2,000 for one in May, then £1,800 for another one in June. Just Whisky handled a bottle for £1,950 in April, then topped that with a £2,000 sale in May, and in the saleroom another bottle changed hands for £1,700 at McTear’s, Glasgow. With prices landing in this zone over and over again during the past couple of years, you might expect fewer bottles to appear in the marketplace in the future. With fewer bidders having that kind of budget, owners may be wondering if it will ever get going again. Fear not, I recall Black Bowmore had a similar sticky period in 2011 and eventually market scarcity drove prices up to double or triple the prices they were then. The closed distillery allure of the Maltings bottling should be sufficient to see it follow suit.
future, this bottle will climb back up to £1,000, then creep up to £1,200, then £1,500, and before you know it, you will be asking yourself, ‘Why didn’t I buy one in the first place?’ Now, having digested this knowledge, you are in a prime position to evaluate the potential of the new Lagavulin 25 year old released to honor their distillery managers’ service over the last 200 years. There are 8,000 bottles for sale at £799, expected to be $1,200 a bottle (at the time of writing, Brexit volatility is playing havoc with the exchange rates, so prices have not been converted for this issue’s Index). Slightly younger liquid, slightly greater availability: same price. Picture the scene in the shadowy, bottle-filled alcoves of the whisky speculator’s lair as they dial the variables into a Turing-style code-breaking machine to determine whether they will be buying or not. Previous releases of Lagavulin 25 year old are trading at around £530 this year, yet few brands have the strength in the secondary market as Lagavulin distillery. Do you dare? Many of the most attractive collectibles are being released around this price point, though only the scarce Japanese rarities seem to go up faster than an H-IIA rocket. Bowmore MizuFA L L 2016
Glenmorangie 1981 Sauternes Wood Finish
My sweet Lord, can it be nearly 15 years since Glenmorangie released this honeyed delight into the world? The marriage between Highland Scotch whisky and extra maturation in Chateau D’Yquem casks has been a rich vein for the distillery in Tain. The Glenmorangie 1981 Sauternes Cask Finish (GMO81SWF) was priced at $300 in 2002, the luscious result of 19 years maturation followed by 2 years of additional finishing, the whisky getting to know the wood once home to the sweet Bordeaux wine. Whisky Advocate acknowledged its finer points with a rating of 90. Younger, less expensive offshoots followed: the Glenmorangie Sauternes Wood Finish 15 year old, a staging post en route to Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or. The Glenmorangie Pride 1981 was a kindred spirit, a parcel of contemporary stock allowed to mellow in the D’Yquem casks for a decade, exquisitely presented in an orb of Baccarat crystal. Funnily enough, it was twelve times the release price of GMO81SWF. Even last year, collectors could still pick up a bottle of GMO81SWF for £300-£400, but during Scotch Whisky Auction’s 59th-61st sales, market prices were up substantially at £640-£720, even ahead of the realized prices at Bonhams, Hong Kong. Surprisingly, Pride has yet to triple in value, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it does.
nara Cask is another example from Islay that is traveling down the U-shaped curve of value versus time. That release point is too high for many people, not exclusive enough for some people’s tastes, but it ensures that the lion’s share of the profit from the bottles sold goes
back to the company that released the whisky. The opportunities for flipping whiskies are being limited, but there are positives: it brings stability to the market, stifles the short-term outlook, and stops bubbles from forming. Once again, it’s time to take a long view. n
W H I S KY ADVO C AT E AUCT IO N INDE X
120 JONNY MCCORMICK
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
WORLD W H ISKIE S
The Taste of Time
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY; PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER
o there I was, standing at the bar of Warehouse 3 at Lagavulin. Not that there is a bar there normally of course—that would be madness and undoubtedly in contravention of Diageo’s marketing code. Dramming was being permitted for one night only. It was a birthday party, after all. A 200th anniversary party to be precise and if that isn’t a good reason for rules to be waived, then I don’t know what is. Later in the evening there would be a performance by Prince Adewale and the Endeavours, fronted by Dr. Nick Morgan and Neil Ridley, the latter of whom played a guitar solo using a bottle of 16 year old as a slide. It was a party. It was an occasion to also reflect on the passing of time, which is what I was chatting about at the bar with Kevin Campbell and Niall Colthart. The latter is a keen amateur historian, “but I’m not so good at the recent stuff like the Lords of the Isles,” he says. “I stop around the stone age.” Kevin, as well as being an operator at the distillery, is a peat cutter and the fuel was at the center of the chat. Niall was telling me that a team of scientists had been digging at Machrie moss and discovered, six feet down in the bog, a tree stump which, after carbon dating, turned out to be 6,000 years old. “There’s a whole lot of hazel where I cut,” added Kevin, “right at the bottom peat level. The funny thing is that they are all at one end of the field and all lying horizontally, as if there had been a massive flood.” It gives a clue as to what the Islay landscape, now pretty much tree-free, might have looked like thousands of years ago; hazel being one of the first trees to establish itself in the Hebrides at the end of the last ice age. “Funny though, no one has ever found any
by DAVE BROOM human remains in the peat,” commented Kevin, which isn’t as macabre a statement as you might initially think. “Bog bodies” have been discovered across Europe—in Denmark, Ireland, and Russia. No one has been able to ascertain why these leathery guardians of the moor are there. Were they buried, sacrificed, or killed as punishment? Some still have ligatures around their tanned necks. Maybe some peat bogs have conditions that preserve, while others, such as Islay’s, dissolve all the matter away. We had another dram. It struck me that
would have been using casks made from trees planted when the distillery was founded. Then there’s the peat. We can estimate, thanks to the tree stump, that the level of the peat rises one foot every 1,000 years. The peat used for the maltings is around 1,000 years old. We smell the changes in flora over that period. Burn peat from deeper down—Kevin’s hazel layer—and the aromas might be different. Looked at in the framework of deep time, an age statement on a label is completely irrelevant. Lagavulin 16 could be 116 or 1,016
Minutes in the glass, years in the barrel, and millennia in the earth. Whisky is the taste of time.
as the whisky touches your lips, you taste time. As the aromas rise, the past comes alive. Your memories help you to name the flavors, which themselves are products of time—the length of distillation and fermentation, the speed of mashing, of how long the barley had been aromatized by the peat smoke, and the period spent in cask. It goes deeper still. You are tasting the flavors created over a period of the 100 years it took for the tree that made the cask to grow. Within living memory, Lagavulin
years old. It is almost impossible to measure accurately what the true effects of time have had on a whisky. Dwelling upon the length of time it has spent in cask, as if that is the sole arbiter of quality, is a pointless exercise. It is also a somewhat reductive way of thinking about whisky. Numbers can never tell you the whole story. We agree that time is a slippery customer and can be viewed from many perspectives. Tonight though, we can agree on one thing. Two hundred years matters. n WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
AME RIC AN SPIRIT
Dusty Hunting: the Irrational Love
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spine. I’ve fallen in love with 1940s Weller, 1950s Old Forester, 1960s Kentucky Tavern, 1970s Wild Turkey, 1980s Old Fitzgerald, and 1990s Booker’s. My dream discoveries would be a 1958 Maker’s Mark, its first year, and a 1940s private Old Forester bottling for the Kentucky Derby. It’s unlikely I’ll find these white whales, but I’ll keep tracking leads. In the old days, we purchased eBay’s vintage whiskeys. This went the way of the dodo bird, but a handful of online sites and auction houses continue to sell old whiskeys. States are also liberalizing laws to bolster
while the vintage Stitzel-Weller presented an overwhelming mothball taste. Old whiskey is a crapshoot. The older it is, the more likely it is to be a dud. Once, I found a 1930s Broad Ripple and swear it was 50 percent glycerin. I tasted a Prohibition-era Mexican bourbon (before it was a U.S.-only product), which reminded me of Brut cologne. Until reconnecting with Mr. Lipman, I didn’t think whiskey could taste worse than Mexican bourbon. At Lipman’s home, I saw in big bold letters “Tennessee Corn whiskey” with a stalk of
The best bourbon I’ve ever tasted came from a friend’s dusty hunt; an Old Crow Decanter Chess piece from the 1960s. I’ve fallen in love with 1940s Weller, 1950s Old Forester, 1960s Kentucky Tavern, 1970s Wild Turkey.... antique spirits sales. Last year, North Carolina passed legislation allowing bars and liquor stores to resell old spirits and currently, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association is lobbying for the same. That means it will be harder to find the rare gems. Dusty savant John Lipman and I recently gorged ourselves on his staunch collection, mostly purchased back when Lawrenceburg, Ky. Eagle Rare was $15. We sipped pre-Prohibition ryes, the best being Victoria Club Maryland Pure Rye, a complex and zesty taste for its time. We compared Missouri’s top bourbon, McCormick, to Illinois’ Ten High and tasted extinct bourbons, such as Cedar Brook from Lawrenceburg, Ky., circa 1890s, and one of the first Stitzel-Weller bourbons—a 1936 distilled, 1941 bottled Old Fitzgerald bottled in bond. Cedar Brook was heavy on the black licorice,
corn shooting out of circle. For whatever reason this bottle begged, “Fred, come sip me.” It was unopened, with a less than desirable fill level. John twisted the cork. It broke, a common occurrence with 110 year old bottles. He decanted, filtered sediment, and poured. John smelled and made a face. “It’s about the history,” he said, passing the whiskey onto Molly Wellman, an author and fellow whiskey geek. She found it repulsive. My turn. Its milky-yellow color was, um, unappealing, but its nose so vile, so pungent, so layered in barn smells that there’s no way any rational human being would taste this. Then again, who said dusty hunters were rational? Now if you’ll excuse me, I found a lead on a 1930s-era Old Jordan. I’m meeting the guy in a Denny’s parking lot. n
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY
s I walked into the stranger’s home, ducking under the low doorway, I anticipated the worst. I’d never met him, his house was covered in cobwebs and reeked of an ashtray, in the middle of nowhere—the kind of place it would take days to find a body. I feared the vintage whiskey fill levels would be below the shoulder, an unacceptable level for an old dusty. Then through the kitchen was whiskey heaven. From dusty bottles to cobweb-covered wooden crates, vintage bourbons and ryes were waiting for me to wipe off their soot, inspect their integrity, and take them home, where they’d be loved with other old dusties. In my spare time, this is what I do: gallivant across Kentucky, seeking dusty bottles. I don’t care about Pappy Van Winkle or anything bottled after 2000. My coveted genre is pre-1964, back before hybrid corn got a stronghold on American whiskey and barrel-entry proofs were 110 and below. I open these treasures with friends, sip, and share the stories of the forgotten brands, such as Chapin & Gore and Kentucky Cream, and revere the good old days for Old Crow and Kentucky Tavern, two former juggernauts that bring little contemporary excitement. I am a dusty hunter, a rare breed of whiskey enthusiast who exhausts all possible resources to find old whiskey for the sheer pleasure. We’re doctors, lawyers, bar owners, mechanics, writers, and an unemployed car salesman who just love whiskey. We love the history, the taste, the look, the smell, and perhaps, most of all, the hunt. The best bourbon I’ve ever tasted came from a friend’s dusty hunt; an Old Crow Decanter Chess piece from the 1960s. The complex caramel notes sent chills down my
by FRED MINNICK
ADD W H ISKEY
Redemption for the Whiskey Sour
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY; PHOTO: ISTOCK
he Whiskey Sour is the world’s worst whiskey cocktail. Or, at least that’s what I thought. I made the mistake of ordering my inaugural Whiskey Sour in a small-town college bar in Pennsylvania, long before the current cocktail renaissance. It seemed like a grown-up thing to do. The drink that arrived—a noxious amalgamation of tepid, neon-green sours mix, with its cloying corn syrup and food-factory acid sting, tossed together with some insipid Canadian whisky— was typical of the time. This is the Whiskey Sour that fostered a generation of vodka martini drinkers. First impressions count. Twenty-five years later, I think it’s time to bring the Whiskey Sour in for Round Two. Comprised of whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar, a drink as simple as the classic Whiskey Sour can be truly beautiful, but leaves little room for error. Quality ingredients and good technique are paramount. First, whiskey: you’ll need 2 oz. of something with fortitude, preferably 86 to 100 proof. Bourbon is a popular choice, but my preference is a high-rye bourbon or simply a rye whiskey, whose spicy complexity neatly fills the void between sweet and sour. A poor whiskey will find nowhere to hide. To mix, add your whiskey to a cocktail shaker with 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice and 3/4 oz. simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar). Add large cubes of ice, cover, shake, and strain into a cocktail glass over fresh ice. That was easy! Ready to take your Whiskey Sour to the next level? It can get better. A dash of orange bitters in the shaker will add the olfactory enticement lacking in many sour-style drinks. The addition of an egg white doesn’t alter flavor, but lends the drink a frothy mousse and a silky texture. Current mixological wisdom dictates
by JEFFERY LINDENMUTH that when using egg white you should “dry shake.” This means pre-shaking the cocktail without ice to fully incorporate the ingredients and create froth. Add ice and finish as usual. Finally, top it off with a “flag,” the Whiskey Sour’s distinguishing garnish of an orange slice and a maraschino cherry; real marasca
bar manager Jacob Kress prepares a Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour, rich and suited for autumn imbibing. Kress begins by combining equal parts agave syrup and fresh lemon juice, noting the agave adds texture to the drink. To complete, combine 1½ oz. of the agavelemon syrup with 1 oz. maple syrup, and 3 oz.
Comprised of whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar, a drink as simple as the classic Whiskey Sour can be truly beautiful, but leaves little room for error. cherries in brandy, like Luxardo Gourmet maraschino cherries, offer a tasteful makeover of the Whiskey Sour’s signature look. Now that I’ve nailed the Whiskey Sour, the drink has become a sort of comfortable couch for my favorite whiskeys to relax upon. Irish whiskey, Canadian, Japanese, even the occasional scotch: all are at home. Many bartenders don’t stop there. At Grill 23 & Bar in Boston,
STERLING SOUR Jason Hedges, Gotham Bar and Grill, New York 2 oz. Tincup whiskey 3⁄4 oz. lime juice 3⁄4 oz. Velvet Falernum 1⁄2 oz. pineapple juice 2 tsp. Fernet Branca orange slice Combine whiskey, lime juice, Velvet Falernum, and pineapple juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass over fresh ice. Carefully pour the Fernet Branca over the back of a bar spoon to float it on top of the drink. Garnish with an orange slice.
Michter’s bourbon in a cocktail shaker with ice, tossing in a sprig of rosemary before shaking. Jules Aron, author of Zen & Tonic, created the elegant Haiku Sour to showcase floral and fruity Japanese whiskies. It begins with honeylemongrass syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup honey, and 2 sliced lemongrass stalks simmered over medium heat for 10 minutes). To complete the drink, Aron combines 1/2 oz. of cooled syrup with 2 oz. Japanese whisky (Yamazaki 12 year old or Hibiki Japanese Harmony recommended), 1 oz. Yuzu juice (or lemon juice), and an egg white. Mix by dry shaking. My favorite Whiskey Sour of the season is the Sterling Sour (see recipe) from Jason Hedges, head bartender at Gotham Bar and Grill in Manhattan. A crowning layer of Fernet Branca adds bitter complexity and contrast to the drink’s aura of Tiki, with the clove spice of Velvet Falernum mingling nicely with bourbon, and pineapple juice offering the requisite frothiness. I’ve recently experienced Whiskey Sours that include India Pale Ale or smoky Islay whisky floaters. Is it possible that an inventive Whiskey Sour might actually be the world’s best whiskey cocktail? Well, it will certainly be the best one I drink today. n WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
THE THINKING DRINKER
Obsessing With the Past
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who asked for it. As beers to that point had all been fermented by a loosely understood mix of yeast and sometimes other bacteria, Dr. Hansen’s discovery did nothing less than revolutionize lager brewing. There was only a modest quantity made of Re-brew, as the Carlsberg beer was dubbed, I believe largely because of the small amount of the 1880s-era barley the brewery had grown in Denmark and New Zealand. Poured directly from the wooden barrel in which it had spent its final week of conditioning, it was quite herbal and yeasty on the nose and had an earthy and gently spicy body with herbal notes returning on the finish. I mention the above two beers not because I’m recommending either—even if you could buy them!—but because I feel they are emblematic of a most curious obsession drinks people have with the beverages of the past.
with them, whether they are beers like the two above or whiskies such as the Macallan “Travel Series” recreations (recreating how Macallan whisky tasted during past decades) sold in Travel Retail shops earlier this century? The obvious answer is, of course, sheer curiosity. It’s undeniably enthralling to taste a relic from the past, whether that’s a carefully cellared bottle of whisky, wine, beer, or a studious recreation of a beverage from a past era. More so, however, I think there is an anchoring that may be found in the ability to taste what our ancestors tasted, whether from three or 100 generations ago. In our fast-paced and changeable world, few people would wish to work with a computer from the 1970s or drive an authentic recreation of a Ford Model T—at least not for more than a
It’s undeniably enthralling to taste a relic from the past, whether that’s a carefully cellared bottle of whisky, wine, beer, or a studious recreation of a beverage from a past era. Look, both Tutankhamun and Re-brew took years to make, when you count the research, lab work, and grain cultivation; each was undoubtedly a very expensive project. Further, neither resulted in any revenue for the breweries, and even the PR value in the case of the Scottish & Newcastle beer was rather negligible, since the whole effort was all but forgotten shortly after the beer’s release. (Scottish & Newcastle itself didn’t survive much longer, being divvied up between Heineken and Carlsberg in 2008.) So why bother with such projects at all? And as consumers why are we so fascinated
quick novelty experience—but the chance to drink beverages from those and much older times helps connect us to our collective past, just as the communal experience of drinking in a bar binds us within our collective present. During times when news, information, and often inflammatory opinion are all fired at us in a more or less constant barrage, succor is quite often sought and found in food and drink. Add in a dose of history and a really good story and the result becomes massively attractive, even if the beer or spirit itself is often somewhat less appealing. n
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY
ack in 1996, the UK’s Scottish & Newcastle brewery released a rather extraordinary beer that sold at what was then a rather extraordinary price. Only 1,000 twelve-ounce bottles were made available to the public, exclusively through London’s Harrods department store, and all proceeds went to charity. The beer, known as Tutankhamun Ale, was an as-true-as-possible recreation of a beer made during the time of King Tut, based upon laboratory analysis of beer residue unearthed during the excavation of what appeared to have been an ancient commercial brewery. It was a complicated process, since the main ingredient was a grain called emmer, then not cultivated commercially, and the team had to hypothesize about things like water composition and other flavoring ingredients. I was able to sample the £50 a bottle brew. It was fairly nice despite its apparent astringency, with soft fruitiness, vanilla-ish notes, and a very dry finish. The King Tut Ale, as it was informally known, came to mind when I was recently invited to the unveiling of a different beer recreation at the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen, Denmark. Researchers there, some time back, came across a few bottles of a 133 year old lager, from which scientists were able to pluck still-viable yeast cells. Now, had this been a standard 19th century ale, such an announcement might have been of interest, but hardly worth the cost and bother of flying in writers from around the world. But this was no ordinary yeast—it was the original pure-strain lager yeast, Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, that Carlsberg research scientist Dr. Emil Hansen identified in 1883 and then made available for free to any brewer
by STEPHEN BEAUMONT
The Allure of
Jura & Islay Islay and Jura, two islands of Scotlandâ€™s southern Inner Hebrides, are a peated-whisky paradise. We present the ultimate guide to drink in all of what Islay and Jura have to offer.
DAVID BURTON / ALAMY
BY JONNY M C CORMICK
Unmistakable. Typical of distilleries perched upon the Islay coast, Ardbeg is painted white and boldly labeled, easily identified by seafaring travelers.
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
single malt scotch lover. Islay, Queen of the Hebrides, and her world-class whiskies have come to represent Scotch whisky for so many minds and palates. We love those assertive, uncompromising, smoky single malts bristling with machismo, and we revel in their unpeated drams that produce soft, rich Hebridean beauties bursting
with personality. These whiskies ignite passionate dedication and near-religious fervor at times, leading some to commit spectacular acts of single-minded devotion that no other whisky producing area can rival. They are unmatched. No spirit distilled anywhere else in the world is a substitute for Ardbeg or can be taken as a proxy for Laphroaig. If you’re the kind of person who likes to suck the marrow out of life, then simply nothing else will do. Both islands face the teeth of forceful Atlantic gales through the winter, and bask in the welcoming relief of the Gulf Stream climate in the summer months (well, they do on the good days). Marvel at the wilderness of The Oa, the cloud-smeared summits of the Paps of Jura, and explore the miles of remote coastline dotted with isolated cottages. Ileachs and Diurachs (the people of Islay and Jura, respectively) are resourceful, adaptable, and welcoming; the latest in a long line of men and women who worked the land of their crofts, put fishing boats to sea, ministered over their neighbors, and of course, turned barley into whisky. These days, it is whisky, wildlife, and tourism that
drive much of the local economy. That has helped to raise the standards and choices of accommodation, though like most aspects of island life, everything hinges on the frequency and reliability of the ferry and air services. At its lowest point in the 1980s, Islay dropped to five working distilleries, the whisky tap tightened to a metaphorical trickle compared to the seven days a week, 24 hours a day production of more recent years. The three most significant acts in the resurgence of Islay’s whisky fortunes in a generation have been the deliverance of Ardbeg on the day when the Glenmorangie Company unlocked the warehouses and remarked, “Oh, hello, what have we got here?” followed by the day when Wright, Coughlin, Reynier, and McEwan applied the electrodes to the temples of Bruichladdich’s corpse and bellowed “Live! Live!” shortly followed by the eureka moment
The CalMac ferry enroute to Port Ellen glides upon the glilmmering water at daybreak.
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when Kilchoman’s Anthony Wills ran a hand through his hair and thought to himself, “You know what this place needs?” The Isle of Jura is a five-minute ferry ride from Islay. The island has only one road that hugs the southern coast and will take you straight to the distillery at Craighouse, where you will find the only pub, inside the wonderfully relaxing Jura Hotel. For the thousands of whisky pilgrims who set foot here each year, it’s a chance to live life on Islay time. It’ll happen when it happens, and that’s good enough for me. Drivers wave at every passing vehicle, no matter how narrow the single track road, no matter how tight the squeeze negotiated between the vehicles: the wave is paramount. You will find the faces of like-minded enthusiasts becoming familiar as you navigate from distillery to distillery. You may not even speak a common language, but a grinning smile when the glass leaves the lips is universally understood. The last time I visited (Whisky Advocate Spring 2015), I toured Jura, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, and Ardbeg. The travelog of my latest visit took in the adventures that unfolded during a three-day trip to Islay back in the spring. It seems that no matter how long you go for, it’s never long enough.
drive coast to coast overnight, through sleepy villages, zipping through still, dark forests, and skirting under watchful mountain ranges with a singular purpose: making the 7 a.m. ferry to Port Ellen. The MV Finlaggan is moored at Kennacraig, the ferry port for Islay on the Campbeltown road. Her hull looms in the last of the darkness, the sprinkling of deck lights casting shimmering reflections on the water’s surface. The tourists’ cars are first to arrive, unfamiliar with the roads and eager to embark, they park nose to tail in lane one. Dog owners patrol between the lampposts, whispering insistent encouragement to their oblivious charges to avail themselves of the facilities. With minutes to spare, the commercial vehicles, post office van, and an articulated grocery wagon rock up and park in the queue. To them, sailing to Islay is routine, mundane, and everyday. With a wave of a hand, all drivers turn their beams on against the purple dawn and we file into the belly of the ship. On board, travelers gorge upon bacon rolls and make short work of demolishing stacks of hot buttered toast. I spy a cluster of fishing boats west of Gigha bringing in the catch of the day. Two hours later, our arrival in Port
VISIT TO ISLAY AND JURA is the ultimate adventure for the
TOP (2): MARTIN HUNTER; BOTTOM (2): JONNY MCCORMICK
Clockwise from top left: Laphroaig distillery’s pagoda-style kiln chimney billowing peat smoke; a freshly-cut block of peat destined for burning; barley germinates on the malting floor at Laphroaig; an old cask serves as a road sign pointing travelers toward Bunnahabhain distillery.
Ellen is greeted by a cloudless blue sky, the sun picking out a panoramic assortment of painted houses beyond the marina. I make the short journey to Laphroaig distillery and book the first tour. I’m asked if I’m driving when handing over my tour fee, a responsible development at distillery visitor centers since the introduction of Scotland’s stricter drink-driving laws. The tour moves swiftly, and Megan, our guide, packs in a great deal. Laphroaig produces 20 percent of its
malted barley requirements on-site, aiming for a phenolic content of 55 parts per million (the remaining 80 percent comes from Port Ellen Maltings at a lower peating level). The two malting floors are laden with barley for six days and nights. Plunging a hand into the grains makes you appreciate the warm glow of germination beneath your fingertips. On the slotted floor seventeen feet above the peat kiln, seven tons of green malt will be spread out. A suffocating fug of peat smoke will rise
up to envelop the grains in its smoky embrace. Laphroaig burns 1.5 tons of peat a day, and those blocks of fibrous, chocolate-colored turf smolder on the fire for nineteen hours before air-drying completes kilning. Back in the visitor center, a number of the 800,000 Friends of Laphroaig members are printing off their certificates and claiming their annual rent (a Laphroaig 10 year old miniature) next to a rack of green wellington boots. Picking one of the small flags from WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
TOP: MARTIN HUNTER; OTHERS THIS PAGE: JONNY MCCORMICK
around the world, they depart to squelch through the sodden field over the road to triumphantly stake their plot for the nation. Up the road, bicentenary stencils have been painted around the Lagavulin distillery site, I notice, but the Lagavulin 8 year old, inspired by Alfred Barnard’s visit, has still to arrive on Islay, and the islanders are itching to taste it and buy some. I pick up a Jazz Festival bottle from the shop instead and keep traveling east. Inescapably, a colossal Ardbeg symbol has appeared in the courtyard since my last visit. I’m here for lunch in the Old Kiln Café, something I try to make time for on every trip. The delicious Scottish seafood linguine in a sherry and herb cream sauce is packed with morsels of crayfish, salmon, and haddock, with fat, yolk-colored mussels hanging out of their glistening bivalve shells. As I’m beginning to feel the effects of the overnight drive, this is a welcome feast. My plate is soon spotless. I retrace my route to the town of Port Ellen and take the Low Road past the Islay airport to Bowmore. This long, straight route can look like a bleak moorland wilderness to the unfamiliar eye, but it is laid over a rich habitat of deep peat bogs. It is far from featureless; geese peck the grasses by small lochans, channels of black water run in strips along the worked peat banks, then, with a silvery flash, a ghostly hen harrier breaks cover above the horizon, haunting the landscape on whispering wings. Disappointingly, Bowmore is not running full tours today, I’m told, as the distillery is not in production. As a consolation, I view the slowly turning bottle of Bowmore 1957 on display. The last time I saw one of these bottles was at Bonhams, New York when the distillers attempted to auction it for charity (no takers for the $160,000 reserve that day). During the sale, my flight home was canceled due to the impending arrival of Superstorm Sandy. On this sunny afternoon, I count my blessings that our reacquaintance seems to have brought me better luck with the weather. The epic view over Loch Indaal from the dining room of the Lochside Hotel makes it hard to concentrate on the menu. Over an early evening pint, I leaf through the Ileach, the local newspaper, spotting the help wanted ads for seasonal guides at Caol Ila and Lagavulin, and Clockwise from top: guests at the Lochside Hotel; Bowmore Hotel’s patrons receive service with a smile from bartender Amber; a tower of casks at Bunnhabhain distillery; Port Charlotte lighthouse in the moonlight. WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
jobs in the Bruichladdich bottling hall. This suggests that the whisky industry on Islay continues in rude health. A haggis tower appetizer with an apple and whisky jus arrives and is substantial and satisfying. The seafood platter that follows is an impregnable tangle of langoustines, plump mussels, and ridged scallops in a half shell. Delicious. Finger-lickin’ good! While traditionalists lament the loss of Duffy’s bar at the Lochside (fear not, you can find it installed in the Ballygrant Inn), the new Lochside has dark wood paneling and strong uplighters showcasing their finest Islay malts. There are still heavyweight classics here, such as Ardbeg Lord of the Isles, Sherriff’s Bowmore, Bunnahabhain 1966 35 year old, and Black Bowmore 1964 42 year old. Stay and drink a while.
fter a good night’s sleep, my destination today is Caol Ila distillery, but not before a hearty full Scottish breakfast. The largest distillery on Islay, Caol Ila produces 5.5 million liters of pure alcohol annually (lpa), which requires 200 tons of malted barley every week. The 2012 refurbishment saw the installation of an enormous new stainless steel semi-lauter mash tun and two extra fermentation vessels, commonly referred to as washbacks (there are ten washbacks in total; eight tanstriped wooden vessels and two stainless steel tuns). The scale is mind-bending; the contents of the 58,000 liter washback will fill all three wash stills. In the stillhouse, six plain-shaped copper stills face the Sound of Islay and the Paps of Jura through huge picture windows, widely acknowledged as the best stillhouse view around. No surprise to spot a sturdy pair of
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binoculars in the stillhouse control room. Distillation is run quickly over six hours to promote the collection of light, fruity flavors (Lagavulin takes more than ten hours by comparison). Furthermore, I learn that every tanker departing up the narrow single-track road carries away 24,000 liters of new make spirit, or one day’s production, bound for filling and maturation on the mainland. It’s very impressive indeed. Caol Ila’s old cooperage, where the tastings are held, is a veritable treasure trove of discarded distillery equipment: copper cask stencils, an iron cask stamp spelling out “YALSI,” old ledger books from 40 years ago, boxes of rusting cask-hoop rivets, and old advertisements for White Horse and Old Rarity De Luxe in the shape of copper stills. An adze and stirrup, wooden handles worked smooth by the cooper’s palms, lie abandoned on the bench as if their owners had just downed tools for lunch. I retrace my steps back to the wiggly little road that runs to Bunnahabhain distillery, the most northerly distillery on Islay, and dart through the archway to join the Warehouse 9 tour. Dave Brodie leads the whistle-stop tour, explaining the origins of the unpeated style introduced in the 1960s when much of the current equipment was fitted. The malt bins can hold 900 tons of malted barley, a throwback to the days when boats bringing 500-600 tons of barley would dock at the pier. Nowadays, it arrives in 40-ton articulated lorries picking their way along the same winding single-track road. It’s a deliberately brisk tour, leaving more time for the tasting, well suited to seasoned
whisky fans that have toured more than a few Scottish distilleries, but it’s well worth seeing the giant 15-ton copper-topped mash tun and the 100,000 liter capacity Oregon pine washbacks. What made me connect with Bunnahabhain was the stillhouse, for it is unlike any other on Islay. Delightfully, neither the stills nor condensers have seen any copper lacquer in years. The copper is a patchwork of burgundy, earthy browns, verdigris, and cuprous tones; splattered leaks streak the flanks from wash still windows and yawning manway covers, and the skins of the stills are scarred where the copper has worn thin and the coppersmith has stitched in a replacement section. I love the gutsy authenticity of the place, the grimy dullness of the four gigantic pear-shaped stills with their lyne arms stretching out horizontally to encourage plenty of copper conversation. I think this may be my new favorite stillroom on the island. Warehouse 9 was once a malting floor, which explains the concrete floors and low ceilings, but after reinforcement, two floors are now full of maturing casks. Most years, Bunnahabhain splits their production into 90 percent bourbon and 10 percent sherry casks, though in 2015 they casked more Bunnahabhain into sherry than bourbon casks. From 24,000 casks maturing at the distillery, three sherry casks are selected for the tasting. These casks contain unpeated and peated styles for comparison, all drawn by valinch (the tube used to draw whisky from a cask through the bunghole) in the chilly depths of the warehouse. Earlier this century, Bunnahabhain distillery was not even open to the public. The visitor center guides here have fought hard to
TOP RIGHT: JONNY MCCORMICK; OTHERS THIS PAGE: MARTIN HUNTER
Islay’s beautiful landscape and trenches of peat. Top: Welly boots lined up for Friends of Laphroaig members. Bottom: Port Ellen docks.
LOWER LEFT: MARTIN HUNTER; OTHERS THIS PAGE: JONNY MCCORMICK
promote the range of tours, making it highly rewarding to spend time at this Victorian distillery, even if it feels like little has changed internally in the past 50 years. Distell, the brand owner, is sitting on a nugget of gold here, and I hope the team receives the support they deserve in their endeavors to share their pride and passion. I halt the car at the proposed site of Hunter Laing’s Ardnahoe distillery, where I walk down the track to inspect the lay of the land. Next, I call into the award-winning Ballygrant Inn, the longest-running bar on the island under the same management, and home to the largest collection of whiskies. Ewan Graham, the bar manager, oversees a giddying array of Fèis Ìle bottlings from past festivals, prized limited editions, and independently bottled goodies. The bar is lined with wood from a former Bruichladdich washback and staves from Bowmore casks are incorporated into the bar. This bar should be as essential a part of your visit as any distillery. Tonight I dine in the Port Charlotte Hotel, on a trio of cured Loch Fyne salmon, followed by the braised Octomore beef brisket. Replete, I retire to the bar to work through more of their real ales, chased down by drams of Black Bottle amidst the toe-tapping jigs coming from the accordions and banjo. Graham Allison is behind the busy bar, as always. Traditional sessions are held on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and I get to chatting with the musicians. Conspirationally, they confess to being from the south of the island and joke about being caught this far north on a Sunday night! It transpires that the Hohner accordion player is David Adams, a warehouseman at Laphroaig, Ciara MacTaggart on the Manfrini accordion once worked as a distillery tour guide, and the banjo player is none other than Donnie Mackinnon, former head brewer at Lagavulin. He’s the man who famously made the last filling of Malt Mill new make spirit in June 1962. David invites me to return to Laphroaig the next day before I catch the ferry.
hile walking off my substantial Port Charlotte Hotel breakfast, I spy the Port Charlotte warehouses used by Bruichladdich, once the proposed site of their second distillery. In the only youth hostel on the island, I learn that this is where Bill Lark, the Australian distilling legend likes to stay. For just £18.50 a night, you get a private room, towels, access to a selfcatering kitchen, and free WiFi—not bad!
Top: a view of Caol Ila distillery from across the Sound of Islay. Bottom left to right: Bowmore Hotel’s pub welcomes guests and locals alike; the stainless steel washbacks at Jura.
At Bruichladdich I fill a valinch bottling of Port Charlotte Cask Exploration 07, called Eolas An Deididh, a belter of a dram bottled at 64.7% from a Rivesaltes cask. The Kilchoman distillery shop café is packed solid with hungry visitors when I get there. Kilchoman has just started selling the latest batch of their Kilchoman 100% Islay, a remarkable whisky made with barley grown on the farm itself; malted, distilled, matured, and bottled at the distillery. I return to Bowmore and stand agape in the face of the vast whisky selection in the Bowmore Hotel. Just past the Bowmore warehouses, I swing right and travel to Gartbreck. The road gets pretty rough a few miles in, but I make it to the Gartbreck distillery sign, with its announcement that they plan to start production by the end of 2015. Unfortunately, there is no sign that any work has begun. The eerie farmhouse lies abandoned, and it’s a sorry sight; a giant tractor tire, a fallen freezer spotted with blistering rust, and an upturned wheelbarrow lie scattered around the yard. Let’s hope Gartbreck gets the green light to begin soon.
My final stop of the day before catching the ferry is Laphroaig, where David Adams, as promised, is waiting for me. He introduces me to Billy Johnston, stillman, who gives me the most fascinating technical tour around the pipework behind the stills: the heat exchanger, the olive green tank for spent lees, the silver low wines and feints receiver, and finally the cooling tower outside. Leaving Islay is never easy. Tonight, one of those familiar Carntyne Transport tankers is parked in the ferry queue. I like to think that it is brimming with Caol Ila new make spirit. The Port Ellen pier doesn’t just exist for ferry traffic. Beside us, the barley boat Islay Trader is berthed, with her hatch covers wide open to admit a thick pipe that sucks up tons of barley into the silo for transportation to Port Ellen Maltings. As Finlaggan’s engines thunder into life, I reflect that those grains are the seeds of the future of Islay whisky, liquid that we might not drink until the end of the 2020s or beyond. Yes, leaving Islay is never easy. I’ll just need to keep coming back again and again. WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
A Taste of Island Life Kilchoman 100% Islay, 50%, $105 Grain Don’t worry if you’re not able to make the journey anytime soon. Simply open a bottle of whisky, kick back, and let Islay and Jura come to you. Here are ten recommendations, all $100 or less, that will let you taste the turf and feel the salty lash of Atlantic sea spray on your face. It’s almost like being there! Visit whiskyadvocate.com’s Buying Guide for formal reviews of these and other whiskies from Islay and Isle of Jura.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 57.1%, $90 Gird your loins for a vortex of flavor. By far the best of the regular Ardbeg bottlings, but beware, this peppery, fruity beast of a whisky is not for cowards.
Black Bottle, 40%, $25 Terrific balance of quality and value. An everyday Islay-dominated blended scotch with perfect harmony between the sweetness and the smoke. The ideal Islay pick-me-up. Bowmore 15 year old Darkest, 43%, $76 Overload on outstanding oloroso. This looks magnificent in a glass; the 3 years of extra sherry maturation really pay off in delivering fulfilling flavors of chocolate and rich fruit. Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007, 50%, $60 A tower of terroir. Whether Bruichladdich, Octomore, or Port Charlotte, each of their Islay barley whiskies are worth tasting for the pleasingly richer textures they offer over standard expressions.
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Bunnahabhain Toiteach, 46%, $66 Peated Bunna, in a pre ’63 style. Though we admire the soft fruits of the age statement range, the reintroduction of heavily peated production has proven to be a winning decision. Caol Ila 12 year old, 43%, $50 An iron fist in a velvet glove. This is an overlooked secret: the key to its distinctiveness is the fast distillation and American oak. Don’t be fooled by the grassy and lemon aromas, beneath the surface, it’s a robust, oily whisky with subtle smoke characteristics.
Isle of Jura 16 year old Diurachs’ Own, 43%, $65 The islanders’ favorite. Jura in its prime, this unpeated style is more typical of distillery character. The sherry cask finish adds chocolate, citrus, and spices to create a well-rounded drink.
to glass without leaving the farm. As the sixth edition hits the shelves, we salute Kilchoman for being the only Islay distillery to harvest and malt their own barley, and the end result is rather special.
Lagavulin 16 year old, 43%, $90 The power and the glory. A pinnacle of elegance, the grandeur of this classic malt cannot be understated. Sink into the rich peat, salt, and sherry notes and let your cares drift away.
Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength, 57.3%, $75 The fighting pride of Islay. Immerse yourself in the iodine and medicinal qualities of this cask strength monster. Welcome variations from batch to batch keep you coming back for more.
What, no Port Ellen? Tragically, new releases of Port Ellen are too highly priced for casual sipping these days. Until that lone piper plays a mournful, slow air to mark the emptying of the last cask of Port Ellen, this is my indulgence, my aspirational eleventh choice. Mind you, for the same money as the latest official release, you could book a return flight to Islay from anywhere in North America and still have change left over for a good hotel and dinner. I know what I would do.
BY JO NNY M C CO RM ICK
The Jura Hotel and distillery.
ISLAY & JURA
PHOTO CREDIT JONNY MCCORMICK TK
WHISKY ADVOCATE’S ULTIMATE VISITOR GUIDE
distillery with a tasting of new make Ardbeg spirit and one dram of Ardbeg 10 year old, Below is a list of the operational distilleries Uigeadail, or Corryvreckan. Ardbeg Full on Islay and Jura that run regular distillery Range Tour (£20) is a 1.5-hour tour of the tours. We strongly suggest that you check distillery with an in-depth tasting of three websites or call ahead to determine tour current expressions and two previous times, the days they are open for tours Ardbeg releases. Wood & Whisky in (some options are seasonal), and try your Warehouse 3 (£30) is a one-hour, straight best to plan and book your from the cask tasting from tours in advance to avoid PRONUNCIATION three casks in conjunction disappointment. It is worth with a food pairing experiGUIDE remembering that the island ence, hosted in the is much quieter outside of warehouse. No tour is Please, it’s Eye-luh, not the peak tourist weeks. included, so it’s ideal for Izz-lay as in mislay, not Distilleries each have their returning Ardbeg fans. Aye-Lay or Aye-Lee, ok? own open day during Fèis Deconstructing the Dram Ard-beg Ìle, with a busy program of (£40) is a 2.5-hour exploraBow-more events, though they lay on tion into the core of Ardbeg Boona-have-in extra tours throughout the flavors, delivered in a Brook-laddie week due to the volume of tongue-in-cheek scientific Cull-eela visitors. fashion, with plenty of Kil-ho-men opportunity to explore the Ardbeg (established 1815, La-froyg main range and taste owner: LVMH, distillery Lag-a-voolin directly from the casks in manager: Michael Heads); Isle of Joo-ra Warehouse 3. Loch Uigeadail 1496 302244; ardbeg.com. Pit t’Ellen* Hike (£80) is held every Open seven days a week, *if you want to sound third Saturday between April year-round. Admission: like a local and September (allow 5-6 Ardbeg Tour (£5) is a hours). Dress appropriately one-hour tour of the
for the walk up to the Ardbeg water source, spurred on by some tasty liquid encouragement along the way. Listen to the stories, visit the deserted village, devour a picnic lunch from the Old Kiln Café, and undertake the Lock and Key ritual.
Bowmore (established 1779, owner: Beam Suntory, distillery manager: David Turner); 1496 810441; bowmore.com. Open seven days a week, year-round, though the tour schedule can be curtailed when the distillery is not in production. Bowmore Distillery Tour (£7) is a one-hour experience that includes a video, tour of the distillery, and a dram in a Bowmore glass that you can take home with you. Bowmore Tasting Session (£20) is a comparative tasting of four expressions of Bowmore showing the effect of maturation; held once daily. Craftsmen’s Tour (£55), an in-depth tour including a visit to the legendary Bowmore No.1 Vaults, one of the Seven Wonders of the Scotch whisky world (Monday to Thursday only, book in advance). Master Distiller’s Tour (£225) lasts for the whole day and includes a walk to the water source, a chance to cut peat, a lunch with whisky pairings, a comprehensive distillery tour, and the chance to fill WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
both the heavily-peated Bunnahabhain Toiteach and 12 year old. Tasting Tour (£25) includes a full distillery tour and a comprehensive tasting of the range, including Bunnahabhain 12 year old, 18 year old, Toiteach, and Cruach Mhòna. Warehouse No. 9 Tasting (£25) lasts for 1.5 hours and includes a quick tour of the distillery and exploration of the distillery character through a warehouse tasting of three different single casks. Manager’s Tour (£100), a two-hour special visit with the distillery manager that includes a tasting of four expressions of Bunnahabhain.
4 5 9
12 2 6 3 18
Caol Ila (established 1846, owner: Diageo,
11 19 22 24
The Best of Islay and Jura
Distilleries and selected places to eat, drink, and sleep DISTILLERIES 1
EAT, DRINK, SLEEP 10
An Tígh Seínnse
Port Charlotte Hotel
The Harbour Inn
Bowmore Taste of Islay
The Islay Hotel
The Jura Hotel
Islay Ales Brewery
White Hart Hotel
Isle of Jura SLEEP
your own bottle of whisky from a cask in the warehouse (Monday to Thursday only, book in advance).
Bruichladdich (established 1881, owner: Rémy Cointreau, distillery manager: Allan Logan); 1496 850190; bruichladdich.com. Open six days a week all year; open Sundays from April to September. Bruichladdich Tour (£5) is a one-hour tour of the distillery, including the wonderful Victorian distilling equipment. The Warehouse Experience (£25) takes you deep into
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a Bruichladdich warehouse to sample from interesting casks, accompanied by entertaining stories from your knowledgeable guide.
Bunnahabhain (established 1881, owner: Distell, distillery manager: Andrew Brown); 1496 840557; bunnahabhain.com. Open seven days a week, year-round. Standard Tour (£7) includes a full tour of the distillery’s production areas and concludes with a dram of Bunnahabhain 12 year old. Dram Tour (£10), the Standard Tour plus a dram of
distillery manager: Heather Wall); 1496 302769; discovering-distilleries.com/ caolila/. Open six days a week, year round; open Sundays from April to October. Friends of the Classic Malt members can take the distillery tour free of charge and receive discounts on the other tours. Distillery Tour (£6) includes a full tour of the large distillery and the chance to take in the unparalleled views across the Sound of Islay toward the Paps of Jura, and concludes with a tasting within the old cooperage, including a couple of expressions in a complimentary glass. Core Range Tour (£15) includes the Distillery Tour with a further 30 minutes spent in the cooperage with a tutored tasting of the wider expressions. Premium Tasting Tour (£23) follows the tour of the production area before a detailed tutored tasting in the old cooperage. At the time of visiting, this included Caol Ila 18 year old, 25 year old, Stitchell Reserve, Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2013, and Caol Ila Fèis Ìle 2014. Whisky & Food Pairing (£23, March to October only) is a one-hour matching experience; four Caol Ila expressions are tasted along with Arran cheeses and artisan chocolates.
Kilchoman (established 2005, owner: Kilchoman Distillery Co., distillery manager: Robin Bignall); 1496 850011; kilchomandistillery.com. Open seven days a week April to October, Monday to Friday otherwise, and
WHISKY CLUBS JOIN THEM ALL! The Ardbeg Committee Diurachs—Isle of Jura Friends of the Classic Malts —Caol Ila & Lagavulin Friends of Laphroaig The Inner Core—Bowmore Kilchoman Club The North Star—Bunnahabhain
MAP: GARY HOVLAND
closed in January. Distillery Tour (£6) is a one-hour tour of the production facilities and tasting of two Kilchoman expressions. Tutored Tasting (£15) is a 30-minute visit to the tasting room to taste through the current Kilchoman range and can include a few limited editions. Premium Tour (£25), 1.5 hours and combines the Distillery Tour with a tutored tasting. Stillman’s Tour (£20, Monday only), tour the distillery with the Kilchoman stillman and enjoy a sample of Kilchoman new make spirit, a maturing sample straight from the cask, and a tasting of the full Kilchoman range.
Lagavulin (established 1816, owner: Diageo, distillery manager: Georgie Crawford); 1496 302730; discovering-distilleries.com/ lagavulin/. Open six days a week all year; open Sundays April to October. Friends of the Classic Malt members can take the Distillery Tour free of charge and receive discounts on other tours. Distillery Tour (£6), a tour of the production areas of the distillery, concluding with a dram of a classic Lagavulin in a complimentary glass. Core Range Tasting Tour (£15) includes the Distillery Tour with a further 30 minutes spent comparing the Lagavulin 16 year old, 12 year old, and Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition. Premium Tasting (£23) involves a 30-minute tour of the distillery and a five-dram tasting session that includes the three core range bottlings plus the Lagavulin 8 year old released for the bicentenary and the Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2015 bottling while stocks last, and a complimentary glass. Warehouse Demonstration (£23), if you’re lucky, Lagavulin stalwart Iain McArthur leads the tour. He has been at the distillery for 45 years. Taste your way through duty paid casks of a variety of Lagavulin expressions within the warehouse. Mini Nips & Nibbles Tasting (£6/£10) includes tastes of two or three whiskies with some fine chocolates. Sensory Tasting Experience (£35) is a new tour for the bicentenary; indulge yourself in the sounds, smells, and tastes involved in the creation of Lagavulin. It includes the five drams of the Premium Tasting and guests take home their own Lagavulin sensory kit.
Laphroaig (established 1815, owner: Beam Suntory, distillery manager: John Campbell); 1496 302418; laphroaig.com. Open seven days a week; open Monday to Friday during January and February. If you are a Friend of Laphroaig, remember to visit your plot and collect your liquid rent. Distillery Tour (£6) includes a one-hour distillery tour including the malting floors and peat kiln, and a taste of Laphroaig Select. Designated drivers are given a miniature of Laphroaig 10 year old
FAQ D IST IL L E RY T OU R S
Where do you want to go today? Where can I see a smoking pagoda? Look to the skies at Bowmore, Laphroaig, and Kilchoman for the tell-tale puffs of smoke billowing out through the slatted panels of the pagoda chimney, though kilning does not take place every day. Where can I see floor malting in operation at a distillery? Oddly enough, at all the places with smoking pagodas. If you’re lucky, the distillery guide will let you have a go at pulling the rake through the barley. Don’t tell me I can have a go at digging peat on Islay too? Yes, you can! You want to book yourself on Laphroaig’s Water to Whisky Experience for the afternoon. Alternatively, spoil yourself with Bowmore’s Master Distiller’s tour and get your hands dirty lifting peat that could help flavor Bowmore single malt in the future. Can I taste Islay whisky straight from the cask? You bet! Several distilleries can make this dream come true if you choose the right tour. Check out the options for Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and Laphroaig. Can I take a Distillery Manager’s tour? Step right up for the Master Distiller’s tour at Bowmore or try the Manager’s tour at Bunnahabhain. Where can I fill my own bottle straight from the cask? Laphroaig will let you bottle from the barrel on their Distiller’s Ware tour. There are valinch bottlings for you to fill inside the Bruichladdich shop, with the casks cycling through expressions of Bruichladdich, Octomore, and Port Charlotte. Will we see inside the warehouse? You can see inside several warehouses, if you have the time to take the connoisseur’s tours. Bowmore’s Craftsmen’s tour takes you into the wonderfully atmospheric No.1 Vaults, down at sea level with Loch Indaal. Bruichladdich runs their Warehouse Experience, Ardbeg invites you on their Wood & Whisky in Warehouse 3 tour, the Bunnahabhain Warehouse 9 tasting tour is superbly done, and the
Laphroaig Distiller’s Wares tour escorts you inside Warehouse No.1 to open up some casks. Where can I taste new make spirit? Ardbeg is the place for you. Can I stay at a distillery? Ardbeg Seaview Cottage is available to rent. Bowmore distillery has six cottages available to book, and you may find a bottle of Bowmore left inside for you to enjoy. (See the Eat, Drink, Sleep section for details.) The Bunnahabhain distillery cottages are no longer available for self-catering rentals. Where can I see a traditional open top mash tun? Bruichladdich has a wonderful array of Victorian distillery equipment, though the beautiful old mash tun now sports a fine set of new custom built rakes. Where can I buy exclusive bottles? Join the back of the Fèis Ìle line, my friend! Outside of the festival week, you may find Ardbeg Committee bottlings, a distillery exclusive Bowmore single cask, Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, or Octomore valinch bottlings; small bottles of three different single cask Bunnahabhain whiskies, Caol Ila Fèis Ìle bottlings, Lagavulin Jazz Festival bottlings, Laphroaig limited editions, and Kilchoman distillery shop exclusives. Occasionally, Travel Retail bottles are sold in the distillery shops too. If you plan to buy a lot, come by ferry rather than the plane. All that whisky has made me hungry. Which distilleries serve good food? The Old Kiln Café at Ardbeg is a destination renowned for its good cuisine. There are light bites, Ardbeg Fish Pie, and a mouth-watering specials board to satisfy every appetite. Kilchoman serves up tasty baked potatoes, Cullen skink, soups, and panini. If you just need a coffee, then the home baking at Kilchoman is delicious: warm lemon drizzle cake with new make spirit and cream anyone? Can I buy good gifts at the distilleries? They have thought of everything. I spotted wares ranging from soap to fleece jackets and everything in between.
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
Whisky-Related Activities Ardnahoe The proposed Hunter Laing distillery site is on the Bunnahabhain road, but there is little to see until construction begins.
Gartbreck Construction of the Gartbreck distillery has yet to begin, so there is only the bleak, abandoned house to gawp at.
Islay Whisky Shop In this Aladdin’s cave
Top: Islay’s craft brewery, Islay Ales. Bottom: the Islay Whisky Shop in Bowmore. after the tour to enjoy later. Flavor Tasting (£15) is a pre-lunch food pairing experience without a distillery tour that includes three different tastes of Laphroaig. Premium Tasting (£30), a mid-afternoon tour that includes a detailed one-hour tutored tasting of Laphroaig 15 year old, 21 year old, 10 year old Cask Strength, and Càirdeas. Distiller’s Wares (£60) is the first tour of the day and lasts until lunchtime, with a tour of the distillery, a warehouse tasting where visitors are invited to nose and taste from 3 casks (a quarter cask, a sherry cask, and a bourbon cask), then bottle 250 ml of their favorite using the valinch. Water to Whisky Experience (£90, seven-guest maximum) starts at midday and lasts all afternoon. Start with a distillery tour and a picnic lunch before donning a pair of wellington boots and heading to Laphroaig’s water source. Next stop: Laphroaig’s peat banks, to try your hand at cutting peat. The visit concludes with a warehouse cask tasting and valinch bottling.
Isle of Jura (established 1810; modern distillery was built in 1963, owner: Whyte & MacKay, a subsidiary of Emperador Distiill-
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
of whisky on Shore Street, Bowmore, you’ll find everyday drams and some jaw-dropping rarities. This is the only specialized whisky shop on the island outside of the distilleries themselves. 1496 810684 islaywhiskyshop.com
Port Ellen Dwarfed by the gray hulk of the Port Ellen Maltings, the old warehouses and distillery pagodas are still standing, though you cannot enter the maltings site or any of the buildings. Port Charlotte Warehouses The old Port Charlotte warehouses are still used by Bruichladdich for maturation. Look for them up a slope, behind the Port Charlotte Community Fire Station.
Whisky Tours Islay Discovery Tours will pick you up for a day of touring distilleries; 1496 850170 islaytaxis.com Islay Whisky Tours offers guided tours for up to six people; www.islaywhiskytours.net
Lady of the Isles Christine Logan has a wealth of whisky and island knowledge. Her tours are highly recommended; 1496 810485 ladyoftheisles.co.uk
Discover Islay provides tours of the island suited to your needs; 1496 810756
Brewery Islay Ales Company Ltd. This craft brewery has a visitor center, bar, and shop; it offers free tours within Islay House Square. They brew Finlaggan Ale 3.7%, Black Rock Ale 4.2%, Saligo Ale 4.4%, Ardnave Ale 4.6%, Dun Hogs Head Hale 4.4%, Nerabus Ale 4.8%, Angus Og Ale 4.5%, Single Malt Ale 5.0%, special occasion and other seasonal ales. Bridgend, Islay; 1496 810014; islayales.com
Transportation BY AIR The 35 to 40-minute scheduled flights are operated by Loganair/Flybe from Glasgow International Airport. Two flights daily on weekdays and one flight on weekends (an extra weekend flight is added for Fèis Ìle) for approximately 34 passengers. This is the quickest route, but think carefully and realistically about the amount of whisky you can pack into your checked bags due to the weight restrictions. flybe.com
Hebridean Air Services operates summer flights from Oban to Islay via Colonsay on Tuesdays and Thursdays on their nine-seater plane. Private charters are available. hebrideanair.co.uk There are no public flights to the Isle of Jura (the grass airstrip is used for medical emergencies and other landings). Private Fly can arrange a private plane to the Isle of Islay or a helicopter journey to the Isle of Jura. privatefly.com
Islay Airport (ILY) Glenegedale, Isle of Islay; 1496 302022; hial.co.uk/islay-airport
BY FERRY Kennacraig (Mainland) – Port Ellen/ Port Askaig (Islay) Calmac operates up to five roll-on-roll-off ferry services from Kennacraig to Islay each day during the summer, docking at Port Ellen or Port Askaig. The ships accommodate approximately 60-85 cars and check-in for vehicles closes 30 minutes before departure. This is a better option than flying if you plan on purchasing a large number of bottles. For timetables, prices, and booking: calmac.co.uk
Oban (Mainland) – Colonsay – Port Askaig (Islay) – Kennacraig (Mainland) This scenic ferry route arrives south from Oban on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Island Hopping and Whisky Hopscotch tickets are available to help you see more of the islands. For timetables, prices, and booking: calmac.co.uk
ers Inc., distillery manager: Graham Logan); 1496 820385; jurawhisky.com. Open Monday to Saturday (Monday to Friday only November to February). Distillery Tour (£6) runs twice a day and includes a full tour of the distillery’s production areas. Sweet & Smoky Experience (£15, Monday, Thursday, and Saturday) includes a guided tour of whisky production at the distillery and an extended tasting of the different sides to Jura’s characterful whiskies. Discover the Uncommon (£25, Wednesday and Friday) is a comprehensive experience offered to enable the most seasoned distillery visitor to learn more about the distinctiveness of making whisky on Jura.
Port Askaig (Islay) – Feolin (Jura) This five-minute crossing on Eilean Dhuira, a landing-craft vessel operated by Argyll & Bute Council takes you across the Sound of Islay with spectacular views of both islands. This is the only vehicle access to Jura. The ferry can accommodate up to ten cars, with multiple daily crossings. argyll-bute.gov.uk/ port-askaig-feolin-ferry-timetable
Tayvallich (Mainland) – Craighouse (Jura) The Jura Passenger Ferry runs from the mainland, taking foot passengers only from the shores of Loch Sween to Jura from late March through September. The stylish rigid inflatable boat can accommodate twelve passengers and two crew members. Bikes can be taken onboard with prior notification. jurapassengerferry.com
BY BUS The distinctive yellow and blue Citylink buses will take you from Glasgow Buchanan Street bus station to Kennacraig ferry terminal in 3-3.5 hours, enroute to Campbeltown. citylink.co.uk
Islay Bus Islay Coaches runs a number of routes between the main villages, Mondays to Saturdays. See website for route schedules. The main routes are from Ardbeg to Port Askaig and Ardbeg to Portnahaven with a changeover point at Bridgend. This service can help your whole party visit distilleries to partake in connoisseur warehouse sampling tours without needing a designated driver, though it is less convenient for visiting Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, and Kilchoman, where a taxi would be better. Timetable: argyll-bute.gov.uk/sites/ default/files/islay_450-451_timetable.pdf
Jura Bus Garelochhead operates bus services on Jura from Feolin to Inverlussa, so they all stop at Craighouse, home of the Isle of Jura distillery. By bus, the journey from the ferry terminal to the distillery takes around 20 minutes. Timetable: argyll-bute.
Which bar has the most whiskies on Islay? The Ballygrant Inn is the leader, though the Bowmore Hotel collection is vast, and they are both ahead of the chasing pack. For returning visitors, The Ballygrant Inn is now home to the world famous gantry from Duffy’s Bar in the Lochside Hotel, which is carved with the names of the individual distilleries. Who makes the peatiest whisky? The parts per million (ppm) of the malted barley on the bottle does not necessarily carry over into the final spirit, so for peat’s sake, do yourself a favor and order up a few drams to undertake your own comparison. The Bowmore Hotel and the Ballygrant Inn have dozens of bottles from each distillery, so let the battle commence between Octomore 6.3 and Ardbeg SN2015 Committee Release. I’m just not sure peat is for me, so what should I drink? There are plenty of unpeated and lightly-peated whiskies to explore from Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and Jura. When you are ready, try a Bowmore 12 year old or a sweet bourbon cask Kilchoman and ease yourself in. Where can I drink Black Bowmore? There is Black Bowmore 1964 42 year old (Whisky Advocate rated 97) at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore. You can drink your way down the bottle for £250 a dram. Can you recommend any peaty Islay blends or blended malts? Sure, try Johnnie Walker Double Black, Black
Bottle, Big Peat, Elements of Islay Peat, Islay Mist, Compass Box Peat Monster, or Smokey Joe. I would like to try last year’s Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish! While it lasts, head to the bar in the back of the Bowmore Hotel. Aside from hotel bars, I just want to go to the pub. Where would you recommend? Visit An Tígh Seínnse in Portnahaven and watch the seals slide off the rocks on the shore with a pint in your hand. The whisky selection is modest, the food is fine and filling, and the atmosphere and view are truly memorable. Elsewhere, the Ardview Inn in Port Ellen is a fine establishment popular with locals, with an Islay whisky selection that punches way above its league. Where can I drink Ardbeg 1965? There is a bottle open at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore. It’s true. Go see for yourself! I’ve never tried Port Ellen whisky before, can you point me in the right direction? There are seven official releases at the Lochside Hotel, including the 11th release, and a similar number on the shelf at the Ballygrant Inn, including the 13th release, along with a Gordon and MacPhail Rare Old Port Ellen 1979. The Port Charlotte Hotel has a Port Ellen Connoisseur’s Choice 1982 and more. There are a few bottles of Port Ellen for sale in the Lagavulin distillery shop, and at the time of visit the Islay Whisky Shop in Bowmore had four bottles, including a Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask Port Ellen 27 year old.
1496 302300; carhireonislay.co.uk
Islay Taxis can accommodate groups of up to 32, and offer bespoke whisky tours; 1496 850170; islaytaxis.com
Lamont’s Taxis 1496 810449
Bowmore Taxi Service offers sightseeing
O’Brien’s Taxis 1496 850081
tours of Islay and Jura and bespoke distillery tours; 1496 810449
Bruichladdich Taxis has an eight-seater minibus; 1496 850271; bruichladdichtaxis. weebly.com PHOTO CREDIT TK
FAQ D R IN K ING IS L AY W H I SK I E S
Carol’s Cabs offers distillery and island tours and is the longest-established taxi firm in the area; 1496 302155; carols-cabs.co.uk
Fiona’s Taxis are based in Port Ellen; 7808 303200
CAR HIRE There is a limited pool of cars available to hire, so either book with the long-established D & N MacKenzie or get a quote from the newer Islay Car Hire firm. Either way, we advise you to book early.
D&N MacKenzie has a fleet of cars, vans, and minibuses and can meet you from your flight or when you step off the ferry;
Islay Car Hire Self-drive from Islay airport or either ferry terminal; 1496 810544;
BIKE HIRE Bikes can be taken free on both the Islay and Jura ferries. Keen cyclists should read thewashingmachinepost.net for essential information about cycling on Islay, links to the Ride of the Falling Rain, a challenging 100-mile route tackled each August, and the Velo Club D’Ardbeg, where the only membership stipulation is the wearing of an Ardbeg cycle jersey! WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
White Hart Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300120; whiteharthotelislay.com
Yan’s Kitchen Port Charlotte; 1496 850230; yanskitchen.co.uk
DRINK Great pubs by the seashore, fantastic Scottish beer selections, and world-class whisky selections are three good reasons why Islay’s bars are an essential part of your visit. The largest and broadest range of whisky on the island can be found at The Ballygrant Inn and the Bowmore Hotel: what they don’t have there isn’t worth drinking. You may be tempted to stay indefinitely, yet serious Islay whisky fans should not miss the bars in the Port Charlotte Hotel, Islay Hotel,
Above: Port Charlotte Hotel’s hearty full breakfast. Right: Seasalt Bistro in Port Ellen.
Bowmore Bike Hire 1496 810366
Lochside Hotel, or the Ardview Inn.
Islay Cycles has touring bikes, tandems,
An Tígh Seínnse Portnahaven;
road bikes, children’s bikes, and a children’s bike trailer available for hire; 7760 196592; islaycycles.co.uk
1496 860224 (12-15 whiskies)
Jura Bike Hire 7768 450000
EAT, DRINK, SLEEP
Golden Dragon Chinese Cuisine Bowmore; 1496 810811
The Harbour Inn & Restaurant Bowmore; 1496 810330; harbour-inn.com
The Islay Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300109; theislayhotel.com
EAT You need never be hungry due to the great range of options for lunch, dinner, or a quick snack. Are you in the mood for a plate piled high with fresh seafood, a dozen oysters chilled on ice, or a local venison steak?
An Tígh Seínnse Portnahaven; 1496 860224
The Antlers Craighouse, Jura; 1496 820496; juradevelopment.co.uk/the-antlers
Ballygrant Inn & Restaurant Ballygrant; 1496 840277; ballygrant-inn.com
Bowmore Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810416; bowmorehotel.co.uk
Bowmore Taste of Islay Bowmore; 1496 810671; bowmore.com/news/ bowmore-taste
Islay Oysters, Loch Gruinart 1496 850256; bola-na-traigh.co.uk/islay-oysters
The Jura Hotel Craighouse, Jura; 1496 820243; jurahotel.co.uk
Katie’s Bar Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend; 1496 810212; bridgend-hotel.com
Kilchoman Distillery Café Bruichladdich; 1496 850011; kilchomandistillery.com/ tour-and-events/visitors-centre Labels Coffee Shop Ballygrant; 1496 840595
Lochindaal Hotel Port Charlotte; 1496 850202; lochindaalhotel.co.uk Lochside Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810244; lochsidehotel.co.uk Munchie Box Bowmore; 1496 810669
Ballygrant Inn & Restaurant Ballygrant; 1496 840277; ballygrant-inn.com (around 500 whiskies) Bowmore Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810416; bowmorehotel.co.uk (around 400-500 whiskies) The Harbour Inn & Restaurant Bowmore; 1496 810330; harbour-inn.com
The Islay Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300109; theislayhotel.com (150+ whiskies) The Jura Hotel Craighouse, Jura; 1496 820243; jurahotel.co.uk (around 30-40 whiskies, concentrating on Isle of Jura whiskies of course)
Lochindaal Hotel Port Charlotte; 1496 850202; lochindaalhotel.co.uk
Lochside Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810244; lochsidehotel.co.uk (180+ whiskies) Port Askaig Hotel Port Askaig; 1496 840245; portaskaig.co.uk Port Charlotte Hotel Port Charlotte; 1496 850360; portcharlottehotel.co.uk (around 100 whiskies)
Old Kiln Café Ardbeg distillery, Port Ellen; 1496 302244; ardbeg.com/visit-us/distillery/ old-kiln-cafe
Strath Lounge Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend;
Port Mòr campsite, Port Charlotte; 1496 850441; islandofislay.co.uk/campsite.php
Port Charlotte Hotel Port Charlotte;
White Hart Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300120;
1496 850360; portcharlottehotel.co.uk
whiteharthotelislay.com (50+ whiskies)
The Celtic House Bowmore; 1496 810304; theceltichouse.co.uk
The Restaurant Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend; 1496 810212; bridgend-hotel.com
The Cottage Bowmore; 1496 810111
Seafood Shack Port Ellen; 7766 996360
Cyber Bistro Port Ellen; 1496 300509
Seasalt Bistro & Takeaway Port Ellen; 1496 300300; seasalt-bistro.co.uk
Burnside Lodge Port Wemyss; 1496 860296; burnsidelodge.co.uk Cafaidh Na Roinn (The Rhinns Café)
Drome Café (Morags) Islay Airport, Glenegedale; 1496 300441
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
Taj Mahal Bowmore; 1496 810033
1496 810212; bridgend-hotel.com (around 40 whiskies)
Islay has a great choice of accommodations, but it can fill up at peak times. You might cozy up in a bed and breakfast in a family home, book a luxury self-catering cottage, pitch your tent, seal the door against the elements in a
Port Charlotte Bike Hire 1496 850488
Ardview Inn Port Ellen (>80 whiskies)
storm pod, or collapse into the luxury linens on a bed in one of the finer hotels.
40 Pier Road B&B Port Ellen; 1496 300502; 40pierroad.co.uk An Taigh-Osda Bruichladdich; 1496 850587; antaighosda.co.uk
Anchorage B&B Bruichladdich; 1496 850540; anchoragebandb.blogspot.co.uk Ardbeg Seaview Cottage Port Ellen; 1496 302244; ardbeg.com/visit-us/ seaview-cottage
Ardlussa Estate Jura; 1496 820323; ardlussaestate.com Ballygrant Inn & Restaurant Ballygrant; 1496 840277; ballygrant-inn.com
Boiden Cottage Jura; 1496 820393; juraholidays.co.uk
Bowmore Cottages Bowmore; 1496 810441; cottages.bowmore.co.uk Bowmore Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810416; bowmorehotel.co.uk
The Bowmore House B&B Bowmore; 1496 810324; thebowmorehouse.co.uk
The Islay Hotel’s whisky bar in Port Ellen is an ideal spot to get acquainted with Islay’s malts.
Heather Cottage Jura; 1786 850274; escapetojura.com
Laggan Estate (Cottages and Shooting Lodge) 1496 810235; lagganestate.com
The Island Bear B&B Bowmore;
Laphroaig View Guest House Port Ellen;
1496 810375; islandbear.co.uk
1496 302514; laphroaigview.co.uk
Bridgend Hotel Bridgend; 1496 810212; bridgend-hotel.com
The Islay Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300109;
Lipachlairy Bothy Port Ellen; 7745 596984;
Burnbank Cottage Craighouse, Jura; 7816 752433; isleofjuracottage.co.uk
Islay Storm Pods Lagavulin; 1496 300129; islay-pods.co.uk
Lochindaal Hotel Port Charlotte; 1496 850202; lochindaalhotel.co.uk
Burnside Lodge Port Wemyss; 1496 860296; burnsidelodge.co.uk
The Jura Hotel Craighouse, Jura; 1496 820243; jurahotel.co.uk
Lochside Hotel Bowmore; 1496 810244; lochsidehotel.co.uk
Cala Sìth Guest House Port Ellen; 1496 302021; calasith.co.uk
Kentraw Farmhouse B&B Bruichladdich;
Loch Gorm House Bruichladdich;
1496 850643; kentraw.com
1496 850139; lochgormhouse.com
Ceol na Mara Jura; 7780 842030; wildaboutjura.co.uk
Kilmeny Country House Ballygrant;
The Lodge B&B Port Ellen; 7776 193140;
1496 840668; kilmeny.co.uk
Coillabus Ecoluxury Lodges The Oa;
Kintra Farm Camping and B&B
Octofad Farm B&B Port Charlotte;
7824 567435; coillabus.com
1496 302051; kintrafarm.co.uk
Coull Farm Bruichladdich; stay in a flat or cottage on a working farm with wonderful views overlooking Machir Bay; 1496 850317; coull-farm-holidays.co.uk
Lach Mara B&B Port Ellen; 1496 302666; lach-mhara.co.uk
1496 850594; octofadfarm.com
The Old Excise House Laphroaig; 1496 302567; theoldexcisehouse.com
Port Askaig Hotel Port Askaig; 1496 840245; portaskaig.co.uk
Distillery House B&B Port Charlotte;
Port Charlotte Hotel Port Charlotte;
1496 850360; portcharlottehotel.co.uk
Four Woodside Craighouse, Jura; 1505 612426; jura-holiday-accommodation.co.uk
Port Mòr campsite Port Charlotte; 1496 850441; islandofislay.co.uk/campsite.php
Gealach Lan Jura; 1496 820207;
Scottish Youth Hostel Association Port
Charlotte; 1496 850385; syha.org.uk
Glenegedale House Glenegedale;
Skerrols House Bridgend; 1496 810520;
1496 300400; glenegedalehouse.co.uk
Glenmachrie Guest House Port Ellen; 1496 3022560; glenmachrie.co.uk
Stonefields B&B Bridgend; 1496 810050; stonefield-bedandbreakfast.co.uk
The Grange Guesthouse Port Ellen;
Tir nan Og Cottage Port Ellen;
1496 302035; islaygrange.com
7745 596984; tirnanogislay.co.uk
White Hart Hotel Port Ellen; 1496 300120;
The Harbour Inn & Restaurant Bowmore; 1496 810330; harbour-inn.com
Comfort awaits at Port Charlotte Hotel.
whiteharthotelislay.com n WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
The People OF ISLAY’S WHISKY Islay’s whisky comes to life. This is the story of the heartbeat behind Islay whisky: the people. BY LIZA WEISSTUCH • PORTRAITS BY MARTIN HUNTER
Driving down Islay’s roads, you catch whiffs of sea spray, burning peat, cooking mash. The vintage seaside distilleries stand like monuments to Scotland’s history. And, of course, there’s the single malt and the coveted peaty left hook it delivers to the palate. But these are merely superficial details. The whisky industry on this windpummeled 239-square mile island is vast and deep, but Islay’s population, of about 3,000, is small, which means if someone doesn’t work at one of the local distilleries, a relative or neighbor does. It seems like every native of Islay, or Ileach (EE-lich), is a keeper of untold stories about whisky production, making each individual a custodian of the past; a torchbearer of tradition. Talk to them and it becomes clear that in this remote, gorgeous safe haven from modernity—where nobody locks their doors and, like the whisky, nobody hurries to get old—the people are the whisky’s terroir. 74
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
OLD FASHIONED RENAISSANCE MAN
hen I meet Arthur in Laphroaig distillery’s living room-like lounge, he removes his yellow vinyl vest and plastic safety glasses before he shakes my hand. “Health and Safety,” he grumbles, referring to the British regulatory agency, shaking his head. “They have us doing all these things.” Arthur is an honorable member of what you might call Ye Olde Guarde of maltmen. A native Ileach, he muses, “It’s hard to believe that something made on such a small island is distributed all over the world. It’s quite mind-boggling.” This from a man who’s been in the industry 44 years. The power of peat never ceases to astonish. Like many on the island, Arthur has worked at multiple distilleries. He started as a general laborer at Lagavulin in 1971 and became a console operator at Port Ellen Maltings two years later. (“A very responsible job for a 17 year old boy. It caused me many sleepless nights.”) Many other jobs followed: mashman, shift operator, production manager, and more. As you might imagine, he has plenty of stories, the kind for nights around a fire, dram in hand. As we walked through the distillery, we paused at the peat kiln, where he launched into a yarn that began, “In old days when people lived off the land, they gathered hens and pheasants.” He went on to describe how, by
emptying out a tin can, workers cooked their lunch in the kiln, which was built in 1840. But his best story is one that makes me think he’s actually Laphroaig’s unsung hero. He explained that the maltmen used small chariots (wooden wheelbarrow-like apparatus that transports malt around the malting floor) to make four runs across the malting floor. But he deemed it, “ridiculous,” and successfully lobbied for wider chariots so workers would only have to do three runs. He’s inventive and resourceful by nature, which perhaps explains his disdain for the digital world. He declares Instagram and Twitter, for instance, too time-consuming. His passions lean old-school: professional boxing (“It was my life’s ambition to watch a heavyweight champion fight,” which he fulfilled when he traveled to Cologne, Germany to see Vitali Klitschko vs. Odlanier Solis in 2011), fishing, and golf. But mostly golf. He deems the nearby, recently redesigned Machrie golf course “very impressive,” and he imagines golfing in retirement would be most perfect. He plays a handicap of five. Just one thing could hinder his plans: “Ever hear of the monkey shoulder?” he asks, yanking down the left side of his shirt collar to reveal a scar. “I had arthroscopic surgery from all the years shoveling malts, but I tell people it’s from my golf swing.”
PHOTO CREDIT TK
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
James Brown GODFATHER OF SOIL F
armer James Brown can converse with the Aberdeen and Highland cattle that roam Octomore farm, his sprawling lochside property, not far from the Bruichladdich distillery. This vast expanse is where he grows the barley Bruichladdich uses to make the ultra-peaty whisky named for the farm, which is named for the distillery that operated on the property until 1844. He beckons the majestic animals with a call: “RE-bit. RE-bit.” I can only assume that’s bovine for “Food here. Come and get it!” because the cows’ heads perk up and they trundle toward him.
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
Brown, 63, is known as the “Godfather of Soil.” In 1960, his family moved to the Octomore farm from down the road. There was no electricity on the property. (He still lives there with his wife; they rent out three buildings, including the old Octomore distillery, as holiday cottages.) His family farmed beef, but Brown dabbled in other careers. His big break came around 2000 when the long-shuttered Bruichladdich distillery reopened. “I didn’t know anything about whisky properly. It’s been here all our lives, but whisky was just whisky. We didn’t appreciate the dif-
ferent ages and peat levels and all the chill filtering and what. We farmers just used the distilleries for the byproduct,” he explains. But then Duncan McGillivray, the recently retired distillery manager who was integral in restoring the facility, learned of a spring that ran through the farm. “They came and looked in the well, smelled the water, sipped the water. They wanted barrels of it. Right from the start they were using it to reduce the whisky— and that was before they were doing their own bottling here,” he says. “But the water’s very difficult to get at, and we’d have to get the barrels down the steep, steep slope.” Transporting the liquid was a strategic endeavor. James would fill 20 barrels through the night. “A barrel takes twelve minutes to fill. You put the hose into the next one, then the next one. You just had to sit, grin and bear it in the dark.” Today, with electricity over the well, he plugs in the tanker and it fills in ten hours. He now delivers two 10,000-liter tankers to the distillery twice a week. The water is largely used for Botanist, Bruichladdich’s gin, and to cut the single malt to bottling proof. So Brown’s barley and water can be found around the globe. And sometimes he goes where it goes. He told me about when he flew first class to Los Angeles to talk during a training for Remy Cointreau employees after the company purchased Bruichladdich. “I had never spoken on a stage about anything in my life. I told them my story; couple of wee jokes. Don’t know if they understood me or not, but I quite enjoyed it. And everyone wanted to come speak to me,” he says, still casually astonished. “It’s wonderful knowing that not only the barley in Octomore goes all over, but the water in the gin as well. It’s given me a whole different way of life, of seeing the world, in a good way.”
Adam Hannett THE YOUNG TURK W hen Jim McEwan, the closest thing the whisky industry has to Mick Jagger, retired as Bruichladdich’s master distiller, he bestowed his legacy onto Adam Hannett, a local lad who worked throughout the distillery since starting in the shop in 2004. He’ll be the first to tell you he has big shoes to fill. “It’s not a bad line of work,” says Adam, 33, whose modesty and soft-spoken nature belie his gift for sarcastic understatement. We’re sitting in his office (formerly McEwan’s), overlooking a loch and Bowmore across the water. The walls where McEwan’s many awards hung are bare, awaiting documentation of a new era of triumphs. “There’s a moment
you realize ‘this is actually happening.’ The responsibility hits you. What we do here affects so many, but Jim taught me: never settle.” As a seasoned warehouse man in his midtwenties, he was training a new recruit and noticed the worker couldn’t keep up with his notes. So the next day, before work, he wrote down the mashing process, A-to-Z, in a notebook. “Nothing written existed,” he tells me. “It was always just passed down, so I wrote the way we do it, step-by-step, gave it to the boy who was learning, and it was fine. Everyone who started since then always had a read of that and made his own notes.” That notebook is a fine symbol of Hannett’s style. He’s committed to detail. He has respect
for bygone ways (he wrote pages of calculations and instructions, after all, not an app) and for the vintage allure of Bruichladdich’s old-fashioned equipment. “At one time, this was state-of-the-art distilling technology,” he says of the meticulously restored Victorianera distillery. “Now it’s a museum.” He can rattle off technicalities, but he’s quick to stress he’s not a scientist; just a steward of tradition. “Things happen with Bruichladdich—you get an extra amazing flavor. I have no idea where it came from.” But let it be known that despite his inclination for poetics, he’s not sentimental. “Whisky should follow you through life,” he maintains. “It’s for joy and celebration and everything else. We pour our heart and soul into making it in terms of scale, effort, and time. It’s not there to sit on the shelf.” WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
Douglas “Dougie” MacTaggart THE PEAT WHISPERER
t was before 8 a.m., the wind was delivering a ruthless flogging, the rain was a nuisance, and the peat bog was squishy. Dougie pulled up in his Vauxhall Corsa, finished smoking a cigarette, and stepped out of the car. He didn’t flinch at the weather as he explained that the two 60-plus year old colossal tractors with caged wheels next to the car were the only means for maneuvering through the bog. He’s been coming to this marshy plot of land for decades. His job is an ancient one: he excavates the peat that gives Islay whisky its distinctive flavor. Wielding his fal, a heavy spade, and moving along at a methodical pace, he hacks a brick-size piece of peat out of the earth, slashing it in expert fashion so its edges are smooth, and tosses it on a pile to be dried and carted off to nearby Laphroaig. Last year
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during peat season, which runs March to September, Dougie and four other workers cut 250 tons of peat like this. And that was a bad year. Too much rain kept them out of the bogs some days. “If you fall in one...you’ll see,” he said with a smirk. Today, most peat is excavated with a machine that quick-dries the material by squeezing it. Traditionally though, peat was hand-cut, allowing it to stay moist inside as it dried. Think about baking with fresh fruit versus dried fruit and you immediately understand why that matters. Dougie has broad shoulders and fingernails that appear permanently stained with earth. He’s been cutting peat since he was 11 years old. He worries about his local peat industry, and not just because of the threat of mechanization. “We had to work. If you didn’t work, you didn’t survive,” he said. “It’s a lotta work and
the boys here work hard doing it. Only thing is, it’s not easy getting locals to do it. Young ones get handed everything these days. Now there are two Romanians and a Lithuanian boy cutting. They came to the country, pay taxes, and work hard. If these boys weren’t here, there’d be no peat.” Despite the grueling nature of the work, Dougie’s devotion never flags. “You work 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the summer and that’s enough. You have to pace yourself.” he said. “I’m tired, actually, but I still like coming out here. We got wee birds—skylarks. Nobody’s around you. It’s just peaceful. You haven’t got a care in the world. To be honest, I sail through life without a care in the world. You never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. You put your own boots on in the morning, but you don’t know who’s gonna take ’em off.”
Iain McArthur THE WISE GUY I
ain remembers one morning, “many, many years ago” when a co-worker at Lagavulin distillery came to work in a wee scud. (“That’s what we call it when you got too much to drink.”) The bloke was, “capable of doing his job,” Iain recalls, but he fell asleep, at which point Iain and his mate painted a full beard on the poor fellow. “In our young days we did those kinds of things. Nowadays it’s more serious. Everything’s all Health and Safety,” he told me. “We had a thing—a free dram. Got one every day.
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And old people were too glad to do anything there was to do. And if a dirty job came around they’d say, ‘Well, if we get another dram, well do it.’ People can’t enjoy the drink they had before. Company policy.” Iain, a 47-year industry veteran, has a stockpile of things-ain’t-what-they-used-to-be tales. He’ll tell you that in the 80s, when the industry was down, he’d work in the distillery five days a week, 25 weeks per year. Not so much, now that production clocks in around 2.5 million liters annually. He’ll tell you about how, until
the malt barns at Lagavulin shut in 1972, he’d turn the floors by hand. Machines do that today. He’ll tell you it used to take four men to roll the colossal casks. Today, machines do it. And as one of the last employees laid off when Port Ellen closed in 1983, he’ll tell you that if you come across one of the few bottles of the single malt, chances are he filled the casks that held that liquid. The best setting for hearing those tales is in the antique-looking barrel warehouse, his second home, thick with angels’ share. In addition to looking after the barrels, he leads tastings for visitors and sometimes takes them to the bogs to demonstrate how to cut peat, another job he’s held over the years. He also oversees his family croft. Some days he has to hurry out by 4 p.m. to feed the cows. “The warehouse is like my family,” he confesses. “You come in here, know all the casks, you know how they should be. If you see a cask that’s leaking, you’re very annoyed, you see, because you’re in every day trying to look after the spirit, and sometimes in life, you get casks that do leak.” Iain has better things to say about his human family. After all, thanks to a chat his mum had with the Lagavulin distillery manager, he got his first job at 15, stenciling cask ends. He was on track to becoming a cooper, but then he met his wife. Better money to be had in the Port Ellen warehouses, he confides. His grandfather worked at Lagavulin; his father at Laphroaig; his brother, a 42-year Lagavulin employee. They are an Islay clan through and through—so much so that it’s incomprehensible why anyone would live anywhere else. “I was down in Hampstead a few years ago. It’s not like Islay. Everybody speaks to you on Islay,” he reflected. “Down there they would just push by ya. It’s a rat race,” he said. “I get my grandkids coming over next week. They stay in Glasgow, they don’t know who lives down the stairs from them. They get here, it’s just a different life.” n
THE BEST STUFF IN A
BARREL (THAT ISN’T WHISKEY)
Whiskey is just the beginning. Given time in a whiskey barrel some of our favorite foods and drinks take on a whole new dimension. Used whiskey barrels can take items in the pantry from staple to superb. BY JEFFERY LINDENMUTH PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFF HARRIS • STYLING BY EUGENE JHO
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
MERICA’S bourbon barrels, which can be used to age whiskey here only once, are the globetrotting alchemical vessels that keep many of the world’s spirits flowing, crossing the Atlantic to house scotch or sailing to the Caribbean to cradle rum. Brewers have also embraced these barrels to create complex and robust beers, like Goose Island Beer Co.’s Bourbon County Stout and its many imitators. Now, with the current fervor for American whiskey, barrel aging includes much more than just alcohol beverages, expanding its footprint in the wider culinary world with bold steps and new techniques that promise to bring the magic of barrel-aged flavor to fine dining, or your breakfast table.
How Sweet It Is Steven Stallard, a professional chef and whiskey lover, founded Blis Gourmet in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2004 to put his chef’s penchant for ingredient sourcing and flavor construction to work, creating specialty foods like salmon and arctic char cured over whiskey barrel staves. Struck by the rapturous sweet and boozy flavors emanating from the bourbon barrels he’d acquired, Stallard was inspired to conduct an experiment aging maple syrup in them. “At the time, the barrels were like $15 a pop, but the investment in the maple syrup was $3,000, so that was really the bigger risk. I didn’t know if it would leak out or how it would taste,” says Stallard.
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Today, Blis houses hundreds of barrels filled with maple syrup, allowed to age from 6 to 12 months before the syrup is filtered and boiled to strip away any alcohol, leaving only the lasting flavor impression of the barrels. “We want the beautiful butterscotchy bourbon flavor, but avoid taking it to a point where the wood is dominant. We have barrels that held 18, 21, and 24 year old bourbon, so we monitor and blend across them. You can get a really hot one that is throwing a lot of flavor,” explains Stallard, who notes he is particular about his barrels, requiring they held bourbon a minimum of 12 years and preferring only non-wheated whiskey. Stallard soon realized that barrels that held maple syrup for up to a year were not tapped of their flavor, but only getting better! In addition to sharing them with eager brewers, he began filling them yet again, with vinegar, then hot sauce, even teaming with Yamato Soy to import soy sauce aged for 1 year in Kanazawa, Japan before adding another year in 20 year old maple-cured bourbon barrels. “We are squeezing every single thing we can out of the barrel. We don’t use it up, but nourish it. So you just keep creating new products,” beams Stallard, whose Blis Blast Hot Sauce is the last stop for barrels that previously held bourbon, maple syrup, and Founders Brewing Co. Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Tim Burton, owner of Burton’s Maplewood Farm in Medora, Ind., is keenly aware of the effect of bourbon barrels on his homemade maple syrup, as well as the loyal whiskey
Clockwise from left: Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm; Norray’s Honey apiary; Willett barrels age Bittermilk’s Old-Fashioned; the cocktail’s raw ingredients.
lovers those barrels attract. Each of Burton’s barrel-aged maple syrups emerges from a single barrel and bears the name of its distillery; notable producers like Prichard’s, High West, Breckenridge, and Koval. Among this who’s who of American craft distillers, Burton says he has never paid for a barrel, but acquires them through goodwill, by placing phone calls or knocking on distillery doors. “It’s really been a collaborative effort. I deal directly with the owners or the decision makers,” says Burton. “I just swung by Garrison Brothers distillery [in Texas] and Dan Garrison loaded me up with like eight barrels, so you’ll see that syrup around December.” Burton has also obtained barrels from some larger Kentucky distillers interested in contributing to his maple syrup, but he says requests for exorbitant liability insurance and other onerous legal requirements ultimately prevented him from adding their names to the roster of barrel-aged Burton’s. Now, he’s content to keep things small. Like many great whiskey tales, Burton’s process includes the serendipity of a forgotten cask, a Hungarian oak brandy barrel that lay neglected for a full year near his enormous Rumford fireplace. “I thought it was empty, but what we discovered inside was amazing!
Now, all our syrup is aged for 12 months, and ‘fire infused.’ That means twice a month we heat the barrel to 30 degrees above the ambient air temperature,” explains Burton, describing a process reminiscent of that used in some American whiskey warehouses. Burton is unsure how long maple syrup can age, but a Madagascar vanilla-infused rendition he created for Virgin Atlantic remains in bourbon barrels for a full 3 years. Honey has certainly been the hottest flavor in whiskey, but could whiskey become the hottest flavor in honey? Woodinville Whiskey Co. in Washington is aging both maple syrup and honey in their used barrels and selling it at the distillery. And Tim Norray, beekeeper at Norray’s Honey in Berne, N.Y., sees barrel aging as a way to open up new opportunities for his family honey business, now entering the third generation. “It’s a simple recipe: honey and a barrel. But you have different whiskeys and chars in the barrels, and each honey is really a snapshot of the flowers that are blooming at that moment, so it’s about finding the right combination,” says Norray. Norray combines late-season, dark-hued honey with barrels sourced from New York’s
Kings County distillery, bottling the smoky, spicy sweetener under the name Black Sheep Honey. With the addition of bourbon barrel aging, Norray sees Black Sheep Honey expanding potential consumers and occasions for his honey, ideal for glazing meats on the grill or sweetening a smoky tea. Given its instant popularity, Norray anticipates he may eventually age half of his seven-ton annual production in barrels. “We see the barrel flavor start to kick in after 3 or 4 months. The whiskey guys are used to waiting. For a beekeeper, waiting is the hardest part,” he says.
Coffee or Tea? The barrel aging frontier is pushing beyond just liquids, with coffee beans leading the charge. According to Terry Patano, owner of Doma Coffee Roasting Company in Post Falls, Idaho, green coffee beans are highly susceptible to absorbing unwanted odors and flavors. So, about two years ago, he got the idea to impart the desirable flavors of whiskey and called upon Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane for some used barrels. In many ways, flavoring coffee is a bold move for a small organic roaster, party to the so-called “third wave” of coffee, which generally looks
Whiskey Barrel Coffee blends and barrel-ages their coffee beans.
STRAIGHT FROM THE BARREL The Apothecary Bitters Company Vancouver, British Columbia apothecarybitters.com Bittermilk Charleston, S.C. bittermilk.com Blis Gourmet Grand Rapids, Mich. blisgourmet.com
Burton’s Maplewood Farm Medora, Indiana burtonsmaplewoodfarm.com
Norray’s Honey Berne, N.Y. blacksheephoney.com
Doma Coffee Roasting Company Post Falls, Idaho domacoffee.com
Raaka Brooklyn, N.Y. raakachocolate.com
Fee Brothers Rochester, N.Y. feebrothers.com Marx Foods Seattle, Wash. marxpantry.com
Rare Tea Cellar Inc. Chicago, Ill. rareteacellar.com Whiskey Barrel Coffee Commerce City, Colo. whiskeybarrelcoffee.com
upon flavored coffees with the same skepticism whiskey lovers might reserve for honey-pepper whiskey. “It’s not going to appeal to the hipster crowd. To them, whiskey flavored coffee is not cool,” says Patano, while noting that Doma Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee is a high-quality flavored product that bears little resemblance to the hazelnut brew at your corner gas station. “That is usually a terrible product with a low quality bean. Here, we are using a mediumroast, single-origin Ethiopian coffee that complements the whiskey,” resulting in flavors he describes as vanilla, butterscotch, and crème brulee. Given the extra labor and expense, a 12 oz. can of Doma Whiskey Barrel Aged Coffee, their only flavored product, commands $25, versus around $14 for other Doma fresh roast. Tal Fishman, founder of Whiskey Barrel Coffee in Denver (See Whisky Advocate, Spring 2016), specializes in the marriage of coffee and whiskey barrels, having begun his exploration five years ago. According to Fishman, he was inspired by complementary flavors, but mostly by a personal passion for both beverages. “It was something missing from my life,” says Fishman. “There is a lot of similarity between coffee and whiskey. When I finish a meal, I might have a Booker’s [bourbon], but I also enjoy coffee. This is created as an after-dinner drink that satisfies that social occasion with a wonderful and unique flavor.” Oddly enough, Fishman discovered that many people who don’t like whiskey do enjoy Whiskey Barrel Coffee. Unlike coffee purists, many tea drinkers appreciate the flavoring, or scenting, of tea as a venerated art, with centuries of tradition dedicated to bringing notes of jasmine flowers or bergamot to the precious leaves. “I became infatuated with the idea of scenting tea. Tea is like a sponge, and there are many vessels in each leaf that will absorb scent,” says Rodrick J. Markus, president and master blender of Rare Tea Cellar Inc., Chicago, who has been aging fine tea in barrels for the past nine years. “People are just gaga over seeing their favorite whiskey with tea,” he says. Although barrel-aged tea represents just 2 percent of sales for Rare Tea Cellar, Markus currently has about 175 barrels in play, yielding delights like a smoky-sweet Forbidden Forest Lapsang Souchong aged in Willett rye barrels for 6 to 9 months and RTC Barrel Aged Chai, comprised of high mountain black teas aged for 3 to 6 months in a Templeton rye barrel along with $1,000 worth of Tonga Island vanilla. Peering across a palette of luxurious scenting ingredients, Markus says whiskey barrels presWHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
ent the greatest sourcing challenge. “Everyone is clamoring for these barrels, so we are just doing anything we can to get the right barrels. A lot of barrel aging is moving away from the pedigree of the barrel for that very reason, as people are forced to be more generic in their acquisition,” he says. In addition to fine tea, Markus has aged both Demerara sugar and kombu seaweed in whiskey barrels, successful experiments that were eagerly gobbled up by Chicago chefs. “Do you know how difficult it is to get a leaf of seaweed out of a barrel?” says Markus.
Put More Barrel in Your Cocktail For bartenders who age their Negronis or Manhattans in barrels, these vessels have demonstrated the ability to not only impart flavor, but also uniquely marry ingredients. Now, even amateur mixologists can enjoy the harmonious character that barrel aging brings to cocktails. Bittermilk of Charleston, S.C. ages two cocktail mixers in whiskey barrels, includ-
aging their bitters in barrels. Fee Brothers of Rochester, N.Y. includes several barrel-aged bitters in their range, and Cole Benoit, owner of The Apothecary Bitters Company in Vancouver, British Columbia recently chose an eight-gallon barrel purchased from Woodinville Whiskey Company to age his aromatic bitters. “I like their whiskey. It was also size appropriate,” says Benoit, who backed off on the sugar in his small-batch bitters in anticipation of the added sweetness of the barrel. Following 4 months of aging, he says the barrel-aged bitters emerge “more cohesive, with more of a whole flavor.” Benoit’s newly created orange bitters are aging in the same barrel now.
Buy the Barrel
not just an American phenomenon, Marx accepted Haku Iwashi Whiskey Barrel Aged Fish Sauce, which takes its name from the Iwashi sardine from the Sea of Japan, and receives its final year of aging in Japanese whisky barrels, resulting in a delicately flavored fish sauce suitable for finishing dishes. Marx also gives high praise to a peculiar vegetarian Worcestershire sauce aged in bourbon barrels by Louisville’s Bourbon Barrel Foods. Nate Hodge, co-founder and head chocolate maker of Brooklyn-based Raaka says his Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged bar, made using cacao nibs aged in Berkshire Mountain Distilling bourbon barrels, is an ideal entry into dark chocolates. “With 82 percent cacao, it is one of the darkest chocolates you can pick up and aging in a bourbon cask actually makes it
Beyond their shared flavors, the best barrelaged provisions have something else in common: premium pricing. Given the added expense and effort of whiskey barrel aging, it
Raaka Co. in Brooklyn; co-founder Nate Hodge works the grinder; Raaka chocolate in the making.
ing No.1 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old-Fashioned (aged in Willett bourbon barrels for 30 days) and No.4 New Orleans Style Old-Fashioned Rouge (aged in a Willett Family Reserve rye barrel). “We arrived at two different barrels because the bourbon imparts more sweetness. The rye is a bit drier and works well with flavors of wormwood and licorice root, while giving a nod to the Sazerac cocktail,” explains MariElena Raya, who owns Bittermilk with her husband Joe Raya. The No. 1 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old-Fashioned, which relies on the bitter-sweet-acid balance of caramelized sugar tempered by barrel aging, is the top seller. “We line price our products at $15. Each has different ingredients and expenses, but the most expensive part by far of crafting No.1 is the barrels,” reveals Raya. Bitters producers have also benefited from
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only stands to reason that the people embracing the practice tend to fill their barrels with the finest commodities. Marx Foods, a Seattle-based specialty foods supplier, offers a curated selection of some of the best barrelaged goods, including two-ounce Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate bars for $8 and twelve ounces of Burton’s Maple syrup at $39. Kim Brauer, Marx Foods’ culinary concierge, says customers are excited about whiskey barrel products and have appreciation for the additional labor and cost they entail. “I have not seen a lot of sticker shock. I think people know the flavor and they know whiskey as a premium product to start with. They understand that putting something in a whiskey barrel adds value,” explains Brauer. Marx evaluated about 700 products last year, choosing less than 5 percent to retail. Demonstrating that whiskey barrel aging is
much, much more palatable,” says Hodge, noting added flavors of caramel, vanilla, and oak. Hodge ages the nibs in cask for about 5 weeks and each barrel yields about 2,500 bars. In the past five years, Raaka has produced over 50,000 of the popular specialty. With barrels becoming increasingly expensive to source, however, Hodge has devised a clever way to get a second use from each barrel, by washing it down with a bottle of whiskey to reinvigorate the flavors. “We tried gin and rum barrels, but they did not come out very well. With bourbon we get this simulated Maillard reaction that is similar to roasting chocolate. I would not go so far as to say the exact bourbon or percentage of corn results in a difference. For us, it’s all about the barrel,” says Hodge. n
Beyond Kentucky, the U.S. is seeing a surge of craft whiskey distilleries. We take a look at some of the hottest locales in the country and explore what makes these locations prime for whiskey production. BY JAKE EMEN
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
T’S NO SECRET that there’s been an explosion
of new craft distilleries across the United States in the past decade. The exact figures are difficult to pin down, with the Distilled Spirits Council reporting 750 “micro distilleries” in 2015, up from 92 in 2010, and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) tabbing a total of 1,280 “active craft spirits producers” in 2015. The American Distilling Institute (ADI) predicts an additional 1,000 net entrants in the craft distilling industry over the next five years. Perhaps even more intriguing is that certain geographic areas have become hot spots for craft distilling. As part of its Craft Spirits Data Project, the ACSA indicated that more than half of the country’s craft distillers are located in just ten states. For whiskey that means its presence has been stretched far from the traditional home base of Kentucky. These new hot spots can be found in some cases around a particular city, such as Chicago and San Francisco; across an expansive and populous state, like New York and Texas; or spread through an entire region, as in the Pacific Northwest.
Why Certain Regions Turn into Distilling Hot Spots “Although I think one of the milestone achievements of the craft community is that there is now craft distilling in every state, there’s still certainly a skew toward certain states and I think that exists for a couple of reasons,” says Tom Mooney, former president of the ACSA and also co-owner and CEO of Portland, Oregon’s House Spirits. In addition to House Spirits and Westland, the Pacific Northwest is also home to whiskey distilleries such as Dry Fly Distilling, Clear Creek, and Rogue Spirits, to name just a few. The reasons why a state or city may become a distilling hot spot will vary from one to the next. In some cases, it can be linked to an area’s history of craft brewing. “We are in Oregon, which has a generations-long tradition of making beer,” explains Mooney. “Making malt whiskey, which begins with making beer, is a very natural thing to have in Oregon, it’s a very natural thing to have in Washington. I think you’ll find that malt whiskey as it matures is concentrated around places which have a beer heritage.” Hofmann also believes that to be the case. “Serendipitous” is how he describes the fact that they are distilling in Washington. “We have the brewing influence on us here in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. That means there’s Clockwise from top left: House Spirits product showcase; Westland distillery’s master distiller, Matt Hofmann; barrels resting in Westland’s warehouse; Tom Mooney, coowner of House Spirits in Portland, Ore.
COUNTERCLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: KEN HAYDEN; POLARA STUDIOS; JOSE MANDOJANA
There are indeed specific geographic areas where distilling has taken deep root. There are even individual states which have more distilleries than the entire country had only five years ago. “We have 118 distilleries in the state now,” says a laughing Matt Hofmann, master distiller of Seattle, Washington’s Westland distillery. “And it’s growing more all the time.”
PHOTO CREDIT TK
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
an established local supply chain that distillers can tap into, from farmers to maltsters. “It’s a big part of the ecosystem here,” says Hofmann. “Really you couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be involved. And that’s just here in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve got it good here, but there are other equivalents across the United States.” Another reason that an area may become a whiskey hot spot is something Hofmann calls “cultural terroir,” simply the attitude and approach of its people. “I think it’s all cultural,” he says. “I think there’s something in the culture of certain places that has kind of a can-do, hands-on sort of attitude.” Bruce Joseph, master distiller at Anchor Distilling Company, believes that factors into San Francisco’s burgeoning scene. “I was reading something the other day, really, about the first modern farmers’ markets in the United States that started in the Bay Area in the 70s,” he says. “There’s just this long history of food, wine, beer, and distilling. I think it’s an area where there’s tons of interest in how things are made, where they’re made, what they’re made out of. It’s just an area that is accepting and interested in new things.” Consider that the Bay Area is home to two of the very first craft distilleries in the country, Anchor and St. George Spirits. Today, it’s also home to the likes of Sonoma Distilling, Spirit Works distillery, and Stillwater Spirits. “Then there’s places like upstate New York, where you also have a great tie into agriculture,” says Hofmann. “I think, fundamentally, distilling is an agricultural endeavor.” Certainly the folks at Hillrock Estate and Orange
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
County distilleries would agree; both grow their own grain. New York State has plenty of other notable whiskey distilleries, such as Tuthilltown Spirits and Catskill Distilling Company. A trip to the city offers a number of craft distilleries, including New York Distilling Company and Kings County distillery. Once an area has proven local consumer demand and successful distilling predecessors, the next wave of distilleries follows along. “In going from 1,000 [craft distilleries] to 5,000, a driving force will increasingly be where there are local consumers interested in these products,” says Mooney. “I think when you start seeing a few successful urban distilleries in an area, other people want to get involved too,” says Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, president and cofounder of Chicago’s Koval distillery. In addition to Koval, the Chicago area is also
The Importance of Local Legislation State, and in some cases county and city-level regulations factor quite heavily in determining which areas have hot spot potential. Oregon is one of the top craft distilling states largely because of state-level legislation and regulations that make it more feasible to be a craft distiller, according to Mooney. “Where craft distillers are has more to do with statelevel legislation, so you can just survive your first year as a craft distiller.” Another challenge is getting product on the store shelves. “Oregon made it very easy for craft distillers to get distribution,” says Mooney. He identifies distribution as the biggest chal-
Westland distillery is located in an industrial district in Seattle, Wash.
TOP: ANTHONY TAHLIER (2); BOTTOM: JOSE MANDOJANA
Left to right: Chicago’s FEW Spirits founder Paul Hletko; FEW’s bourbon ready for retail.
home to FEW Spirits, Quincy Street distillery, and Chicago Distilling, among others. Beyond that, what may increasingly play a role is being able to find the correct human resources; the right people for the right jobs. “Over time there might be an effect of where the talent is,” says Mooney. “Because the sector has grown so fast, distilling talent is relatively difficult to find.... So you have a lot of interest in being in a place where there’s abundant distilling talent. Or fermenting talent; people who come from wine or beer.” That talent has to be learned somewhere, and that’s another reason why Chicago has become a hot spot. Koval offers workshops that bring people from across the country and around the world to Chicago for distilling instruction and training. “In the last six or seven years, we’ve had over 2,500 people at our workshops,” Birnecker Hart says. As the stateside representative of Kothe, a German still manufacturer, Koval has assisted with the setup of new craft distilleries.
FROM LEFT: KEN HAYDEN; ANTHONY TAHLIER
Left to right: distillery workers on the move at House Spirits; transporting by hand at Koval distillery.
lenge for any craft distiller. In Oregon, it’s less of a problem; unlike in control states, where the government has a lot of say over the distribution of spirits. “The fact is they don’t build more shelves. That means that every local product that gets distribution took the spot of something else,” Mooney explains. Another component fostering the growth of distilling hot spots is the ability to sell bottles from an on-site tasting room. “I would say states that don’t allow bottle sales out of a tasting room will tend to have very few craft distilleries,” says Mooney. “How do you even make it when you can’t start by selling what you’re producing out of your own facility? So
distillery, that’s huge to be able to sell at retail, out of your gift shop State, and in some cases county or tasting room, that kind of thing; and city-level regulations factor instead of everything you make quite heavily in determining which needing to go through a distributor,” he says. areas have hot spot potential. Birnecker Hart was pivotal in actually getting Illinois law changed to allow distilleries to offer samples and to sell you’re going to find much less craft distilling on-site. “I think that since that legislation hapactivity in a place that doesn’t allow bottle pened and allowed craft distilleries to retail sales; that’s a big one.” on-site, whether in the form of a store or in the Anchor has been a licensed distillery since form of a bar, you’ve seen an incredible prolif1993, so while the problem of startup survival eration of distilleries,” she says. “Particularly is not one they face, Joseph recognizes the those that have the distillery-bar model. That’s importance of the issue. “I think for a small WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
bution every day. So the distribution issues and the ability to sell bottles out of the tasting room are in the long run much bigger issues, and those are state-level matters.”
Jared Himstedt, head distiller at Balcone’s Distilling in Texas, inspects a barrel head.
sort of similar to brewpubs. I think as the industry grows, there will be more of a division between distilleries that focus on distribution and those that are more restaurant or bar-oriented. The nature of those businesses are different.” Mooney agrees, and believes a shift in business models will be seen. “You’re going to see some separation in terms of craft distillers with national or even export ambitions versus a much larger number of craft distillers who want to be a great local business, and those can all coexist really nice,” he says. “The average volume of a craft distiller is about 3,000 cases, which means the average revenue is
ery for $300,000 or the same distillery for $3,000,000,” offers Mooney. “That ten-time difference can come just from the city’s building services department.” Fire codes simply haven’t caught up to the distilling boom, and a key factor is the classification of ethanol. “The fire codes, and a lot of the building safety codes that most jurisdictions use, don’t have any specific provisions for distilleries,” says Mooney. “Ethanol is chemically very, very different from other flammable substances that cities worry about; that makes it much easier to manage and safer. You can put an ethanol fire out with water, you can’t do that with a chemical fire. We constantly run up
“Whiskey has a very strong sense of place.... Whiskey is a great spirit for expressing everything that’s great about craft spirits production.” —TOM MOONEY, HOUSE SPIRITS well under a million dollars,” explains Mooney. “Which makes, from a business standpoint, a craft distiller more the size of a food truck than even the size of a restaurant. So these are small businesses with primarily local appeal.” After distribution and on-site sales, fire codes and construction regulations loom as major legislative hurdles. Opening a distillery isn’t easy, but it can be more difficult depending on the local jurisdiction and safety regulations, according to Joseph. He adds, “It can run into tons of money.” How much money is “tons” of money? “It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it could be the difference between you building a new distill-
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against city officials who have to approve distillery plans, who aren’t super well-versed in the world of building distilleries, or who aren’t well-versed in the differences between ethanol and other flammables. “Jurisdictions that have gone out of their way to educate themselves on this tend to be easier to build in and much less expensive to build in,” he continues. “Jurisdictions that haven’t become as enlightened have become very difficult to open a distillery in, and sometimes people simply move away because it’s just impossible. So increasingly, that will be a factor in determining where people want to build. But I would argue you only build once, you have to deal with distri-
Cultural terroir may help spur on a particular region’s interest in and demand for distillation, but as specific areas continue to develop, distinctive American whiskey terroir characteristics will emerge. “For us, here in Washington state, one of the great things is we have a perfect barley-growing climate. Cold, Scottish, rainy, wet climate,” says Hofmann. Westland is seeking to showcase its terroir at every step of the production process. “The combination of Washington State barley, Washington State peat, Pacific Northwest oak, that’s what we have a real possibility for here,” he says. “Whiskey more than any other spirit lends itself to that regionalization,” says Mooney. “Whiskey has a very strong sense of place. It’s not just the country, it’s the land; the specific place that the grain comes from, how it’s treated, where the barrels come from, and what forests those trees grew in.... Whiskey is a great spirit for expressing everything that’s great about craft spirits production.” Across these different hot spots then, expect to find different regional characteristics taking shape. “The conditions for aging; they’re much different than a barrel that’s sitting in Kentucky,” says Joseph. Anchor’s warehouse, according to Joseph, has a fairly consistent temperature of 50 to 60 degrees year round. Hofmann forecasts that unique styles will develop from one region to another. “You can definitely see a scenario, like what they’re doing at Balcones, with scrub oak, or Sante Fe Spirits, with mesquite-smoked malt, you could see twenty years from now how you got this southwest-type smoked flavor,” he suggests. Meanwhile at Balcones, another point of regional differentiation shines through as most important. “I could see the Texas climate being a significant factor into Texas spirits because of the heat,” says head distiller Jared Himstedt. “Texas spirits are going to have a pretty heavy wood-influenced character unless you’re really careful to avoid that. So that’s a type of terroir that will affect Texas spirit.” There’s no replacing the history and size of brands in Kentucky or Tennessee, but when it comes to American whiskey, it’s time to give the rest of the country it’s due as well. n
The Development of American Whiskey Terroir
Family-owned Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Lousville, Ky. has been crafting custom stills for clients large and small since 1904.
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
BY LIZA WEISSTUCH
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KRISTINA KRUG
he noise sounds like a distant echo when you’re standing outside the nondescript building on an otherwise silent street, minutes from downtown Louisville. But the instant you open the shop door to the Vendome Copper & Brass Works, an industrial orchestra—clatter, clank, hiss, bang!—drowns out any attempt at conversation. That can be a nuisance when Mike Sherman, one of Vendome’s fourth-generation owners and its vice president, is showing you around and explaining the intricate technicalities of welding, soldering, plasma-cutting, and precision turning.
There are probably a dozen projects underway in the vast shop on this particular morning. There’s distillery equipment in various stages of being: hulking columns with gaping holes where sight ports will go, lying sideways like Doric columns of an ancient Greek building felled by an earthquake; a fermenting tank flush against the floor, its legs just a pile of copper poles beside it; shiny stacks of perforated trays. Men are putting finishing touches on a now-horizontal still for Kings County distillery in Brooklyn. Scattered around them are flanges, metal rings in sizes ranging from CDs to LPs; the name of a distillery somewhere in the U.S. is scribbled on each
The production of a still at Vendome Copper & Brass Works is hard, labor-intensive work. Artistic precision and skill are required to meet the demands of the job.
one. In the back, a young sheet metal worker is firing a skinny blowtorch to preheat copper, preparing to hand-form it into a vapor stack, which will later be welded to the top of a doubler. In a far corner, Don Evans, who’s worked here since 1999, is leveling up a nozzle on the shell of a condenser. A few somber-looking guys are gathered around a massive horizontal tube. Inside it, Rob Ross gradually shimmies on his hip WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
forged or cast,” said Rob Sherman, a vice president and project manager responsible for ensuring each job gets finished and shipped on schedule, and Mike’s cousin. (He also does sales.) But when the metal workers start shaping this raw material, what seems like the beginning of a process is actually the end result of what could amount to months of work. “In the old days, when we’d get a $1 million job, a big company would send its prints, we’d make changes, we’re done in a day,” explained Rob, a trained graphic designer. “We spend more time with a craft distillery. We’ll work with them to figure out how many barrels they want to make per day, then we can figure out
Above; left to right: Richard J. Sherman, Susannah Jaggers, Mike Sherman, Barbara Hubbuch, and Thomas Sherman pictured on the production floor of Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville, Ky. where work is a family affair. Tom’s grandfather started the company.
through the enclosed space, narrower than a manhole. He can’t hear the Van Halen tune playing on the radio 100 feet away as he welds a layer of copper onto the interior on this carbon steel pipe. “It’s peaceful in there,” he’ll tell me later. “It’s easy to get frustrated and it’s claustrophobic, so you gotta relax.” This heavy-walled structure is being customized for a chemical company; the lining is necessary because copper is more corrosionresistant than carbon steel. Vendome, like many fabricators in the United States, employs highly-specialized union tradesmen to make manufacturing equipment. Unlike many fabricators in the U.S., Vendome’s tradesmen make customized equipment primarily for a highly-specialized industry: distilling. That’s been the case since Sherman’s great-grandfather founded the company in 1904. Makes sense then that Vendome is a name as deeply entrenched in the annals of American whiskey as Beam, Dickel, and Van Winkle. Sure, times have changed since the days when Theodore Roosevelt ran this great nation, but for the most part distill-
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ing has not. And as long as people are drinking, Sherman’s cell phone, a constant companion, will continue to ring off the hook.
The Personal Touch I’m in a quiet warehouse standing next to a sixfoot stack of vast, thin wood crates, each containing copper sheets. The mass takes up floor space the size of an SUV. The sheets vary in thickness. “Everything starts as a flat sheet in the metal world, unless it’s something that’s
how many mashes they’d have to do per day, and from there you can figure out the size of the cooker and the size of the still. They give us drafts, we make changes. It takes up to three months to design. They could need 20 pieces of equipment—cookers, fermenters, bottling tanks, gauging tanks, stills. We’re doing 60 drawings for the same money as a big company’s job. The minute the print is done, we’re on the floor working.” But lest you think it’s only the dimensions that are customized, it’s what’s on the surface that matters. “You know we’re gonna lose money when I say, ‘You know what’d be really
VENDOME DISTILLED Number of shop employees: 71 Still production hours (approximate): 400 for a pot still; up to 3,500 for larger continuous system Average amount of copper used annually: 50 tons Smallest still ever produced? 37” high x 51” long x 18” deep Biggest still ever produced? 12’ 6” diameter continuous still Average number of distillery clients per year: 50, with 30-35 being new customers
cool?” Mike shouts over the whirring din. “If not for the craft boom, you’d never look at this as art. In the old days, they’d send us a blueprint for equipment and we’d ship it. Today we tell customers: ‘Be creative. How can you make yourself stand out? Customize it enough that it’s yours.’ I like the jobs where the customer is involved. Those are the fun ones.” For instance, there’s the 250-gallon copper and stainless steel batch-still system for Honey House distillery in Colorado. It looks like a beehive, down to the honeycomb pattern polished on. Then there are the high wine and low wine tanks for Maker’s Mark, which look like giant antique showpieces. But there’s a lot of administrative work that needs to be squared away before a design is finalized. A distillery owner has to sort out official and legal matters—safety inspections, building permits, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau documents, and tax paperwork. The Shermans have a roster of consultants on call when a client needs hand-
holding. That isn’t necessarily the case with other fabricators around the world. They’re capable of making equipment, but their scope of work doesn’t extend beyond their workshops. Plus, they don’t necessarily have a grasp on the process and issues that are part of the big picture. People who’ve worked with distillers for over a century do. “What people don’t understand is safety. We engineer everything. Make sure it can withstand temperature, pressure,” said Rob, who started at Vendome in 1986 sweeping floors. “Then we install it. And we stand behind everything. We’ll go out and fix it if something breaks.”
The Sweet Science In these times of smartphones, GPS, and selfdriving cars, you might think it’s tough to be wowed by a centuries-old vocation. But watch the men of Vendome make metal yield to their command and you’re astonished. In fact, as I observe them finesse copper and steel, I’m
reminded of what it means to be human. It doesn’t take long to see that welding and soldering immense equipment that weighs more than a rhinoceros, yet is nonetheless delicate, takes the temperament of an artist. Despite the hyper-focus required and the toll it takes on one’s body, the men here make it look easy. J.P. Young, a 31 year old former Army soldier, didn’t come to work one day at the end of last year because his shoulder needed a rest. He’d been swinging away on a doubler head for Michter’s new distillery in Shively, forming it by beating it out with a rawhide hammer for hours. The work he’s done since he started here six years ago has made his right arm bigger than his left. Over that time, he’s figured out tricks to make metal more submissive. It’s a matter of chemistry. “Some people keep a flame to the copper while they’re hitting it so it stays sizzling at 900 to 1100 degrees. Heat softens metal, which can only harden once you change it on a molecular level. Hitting it, rolling it, forming it WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
are all means of molecular manipulation,” he explains, demonstrating how he heats a section of metal with a rosebud, a narrow torch, so it’s red-hot. He bashes on it, forming it against a mold, laying off the heat gradually, and moving to the next section once it’s smooth. He’s careful not to apply heat the whole time, as that would risk the copper reaching its melting point. If that sounds tricky, it’s because it is. It’s byzantine enough, in fact, that computers aren’t much help. Young will work from computer-generated patterns, but only as a starting point. “I gotta come up with my own patterns and my own dimensions and everything, because when you’re shrinking and stretching metal, sometimes you wanna hit it hard, sometimes you just wanna finesse it,” he says thoughtfully, pantomiming his words. “Between the angle you hit it and the different heat applications you put on it, there’s gonna be so many variations that a computer can’t spit out a bunch of numbers and dimensions.” Sean Stevens is a union sheet metal worker. “I’ve been doing sheet metal since 1978. Most guys around here—you have to call them artists. You start with a sheet and use a hammer and wooden forms and turn it into something useful. I’m always attempting to make what I do faster, easier, better. I love the repetitiveness of it, but there’s still an artistic part to it, you have to be crafty.”
A Family Story; An American Industry’s History “Yeah, I guess I’m still president by title. To tell you the truth, none of them expressed interest in taking over the title,” says Tom Sherman, referring to son Mike and daughter Barbara Hubbuch, who oversees the company’s HR department and safety training; his nephew Rob; and his niece Susannah, who runs IT for Vendome. “I try to stay out of the way as much as possible.” Tom, who went to work for his father, Elmore Jr., in the early 1960s, has a reputation as an exhaustive storyteller with an office full of memorabilia and antiques that could be said to chronicle America’s distilling history. But the stuff is just props for Sherman’s yarns. “That’s some history up there. That’s gotta be from before Prohibition because it’s got our Main Street address,” he says, pointing to a framed letterhead tax receipt. Next to that is a framed tax stamp dated 1910 for a still they built. There’s a circa-1934 drawing of a still they made for a company in Trinidad. He
MORE GREAT KENTUCKY CRAFTSMEN No space for a handcrafted copper Vendome still in your garage? These nearby Louisville companies and artisans produce American handmade goods that any whiskey lover can enjoy.
The Rocking Chairman When you sit down with a fine whiskey, you deserve to slide into a rocking chair that fits like a finely tailored suit. Using original designs and exotic woods, master furniture maker Christopher M. Krauskopf builds bespoke rocking chairs to your measurements; $3,550-$5,750 therockingchairman.com
Louisville Golf Oak is the ideal wood for aging whiskey, but did you know persimmon wood is perfect for putters? Since 1974, the Elmore brothers specialize in handcrafting wooden golf clubs, each requiring more than 100 hand operations to complete; $160-$275 Louisvillegolf.com
Louisville Slugger Wooden baseball bats used by MLB players are on display at the museum and factory in Louisville. And, Slugger can produce a custom, personalized baseball bat for anyone, even if the closest you’ve ever come to hitting a double involved four ounces and a rocks glass; $80 and up. Slugger.com —Jeffery Lindenmuth
shares an oversize black and white portrait on poster board: a dapper gent in a suit and fedora standing alongside twelve men in work clothes—actually, many of them boys—crouching in front of a hulking horizontal column. Their scruffy appearance and sweet expressions—some dignified, some impish—call to mind “Lunch Atop a Skyskraper,” that iconic 1932 photograph of construction workers parked on a crossbeam chowing on sandwiches high above the Manhattan cityscape. Tom explains that the lads in the photo, shot New Year’s Eve 1935, are Vendome’s workers; the dapper gent is Elmore Sherman Sr., Tom’s grandfather who started the company. Elmore Sr. kept his Louisville plant running through Prohibition. He fabricated boilers and equipment for distilleries that produced ‘medicinal’ whiskey. He also spent time in Canada fabricating and installing equipment for Canadian distilleries. Then, once the 21st Amendment passed, long-forsaken distilleries needed restoration and new distilleries needed to be constructed. Things were booming so that Vendome was competing with two other
fabricators in Louisville alone. By the 1960s, there were more than 40 operating distilleries in Kentucky and 5 in Nashville, Tom recalls. The company could stay busy just with its maintenance and repair jobs, he said. But no boom springs eternal. While other copper fabricators fell by the wayside—five in Baltimore, two in Philly— Vendome diversified. As the distilling industry slowed in the 1970s, Vendome got into the confection business. Also around that time, they started working with brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Miller, which used copper kettles in their giant plants. The years of consolidation meant immediate inroads with new brands, particularly overseas, like in the Caribbean. And more new equipment meant more long-term upkeep work. He talks of how the Straub brewery in Pennsylvania used to shut for a month every fall so Vendome could send guys to replace worn-out sections of the brewery’s kettle. “By the 80s I saw handwriting on the wall and got more involved out of the region,” he said, explaining that they started working with WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
STILL NOT ALONE Forsyths, arguably Vendome’s Scottish analogue, established in 1890, and Kothe Distillation Technology, also over a century old, are other iconic still manufacturers. But in the last few years, American entrepreneurs, seeing a way to cater to their booming distilling industry’s increasingly dire need, have started welding and banging copper themselves. Since they started in 2012, Corson Distilling Systems in Boise, Idaho has worked with nearly 50 distilleries. Headframe Spirits Manufacturing, established in Butte, Mont. in 2012 alongside its distillery of the same name, makes column stills for about six commercial distilleries annually. Hillbilly Stills in Barlow, Ky. has been specializing in equipment for hobby distillers since it launched in 2012. In 2014, they formed HBS Copper for bigger jobs. They turn out 1,500 to 2,000 stills each year, from 8-gallon “home stills” to 400-gallon pieces.
huge Seagram plants in Baltimore. Around that time, industry in U.S. started shifting. Vendome also started working with grain alcohol plants. Then came the fuel alcohol boom of the late 70s. Vendome heeded its calls, too.
An Unpredictable Industry, A Guaranteed Challenge As the distilling industry continues to expand and evolve, so do the demands on Vendome, which already fabricates tens of thousands of pounds of copper annually. On average, the time from first meeting to delivery is up to a year, including the wait time. A project can take up to 6,000 man hours, and this is not a business of shortcuts. That can be a challenge for a union company with 65 workers in the
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shop, especially when you consider how long it takes to become a union welder. “It’s hard to find people to do the work. Our deliveries wouldn’t be as long as they are right now if we could find more people. You just can’t find the people with the skills,” Tom says. “I blame our education system in a way, in that they push everybody to go to college. There are a lot of guys with a lot of good ability who’d do a lot better in the trades and so forth.” And they’re not just swamped keeping up with orders in the shop. Many big facilities shut down between June and October—sometimes for months—for repairs and upkeep. It’s not uncommon for Vendome to have 24 to 30 guys in the field working on various projects during the summer.
One thing that keeps Mike on edge is the incoming flow of raw materials. “My worst nightmare is that the copper supply would dry up,” he says. “We order four times a year to keep copper coming in. Copper equipment wears out, so we can’t just count on new incoming orders to calculate the stock we’ll need.” And then there’s the matter of costs. In early February of this year, sheets of copper cost $4.50 per pound. Vendome can end up ordering nearly 3,000 pounds of copper at a time. That market price changes based on the price of raw copper, which was around $2.20 per pound at the time. Since copper is a traded commodity, prices are volatile. Last winter, prices were the lowest they’ve been in ten years. Blame it on China. No, really. Rob explained that the slowdown of China’s building boom is driving prices down. Also, copper has a long lead time. They have to order from the mill based on what they think customers will need. A lot of money can get tied up in inventory very quickly. But all in all, their scale isn’t much when you consider other metal companies that make massive industrial equipment. “We’re a small fabricator,” Rob says. “We just play here.” n
A selection of rare and vintage whiskies on the auction block at Scotch Whisky Auctions.
BIDDING TO BE THE
Online auctions are the present and future of whisky auctions. We speak to pioneers and leaders for their perspective on this flourishing industry. BY JONNY M C CORMICK
nline whisky auctions have had an indisputable impact on the world of whisky. Their phenomenal success has turned casual and serious whisky collectors into eager customers, radically altered the scale and accessibility of the secondary market, trumped the best liquor stores on choice and price, and in turn, compelled a reactive whisky industry to rethink the pricing and availability of every new limitededition whisky. The ascendancy of this young, global, multi-million-dollar industry shows no signs of slowing. With the hegemony of UK-based WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
BUYERS’ TERMS AT ONLINE AUCTION HOUSES REGIST. FEE
CREDIT CARD FEES
LATE PAYMENT FEES
Scotch Whisky Auctions
3% of full invoice after 7 days of winning bid
3% of full invoice after 4 days of winning bid
2% above Bank of England base rate (currently 0.5%) of full invoice after 7 days of winning bid
Whisky Auctions, Edinburgh
2% above Bank of England base rate (currently 0.5%) of full invoice after 3 days of winning bid
Whisky Online Auctions
NO (funds taken automatically after 3 days if not paid)
websites dominating the scene, we interview four top industry leaders representing the country’s largest online auction houses. Scotch Whisky Auctions (scotchwhiskyauctions.com) has moved to its third Glasgow location in five years to meet their ever-growing requirements for storage space. “Back in 2010, Tam Gardiner had a wee whisky shop called Tam’s Drams,” explains Bill Mackintosh, co-founder of the business, as he tells the story of their origins. “We got talking about what he really wanted to do, which was a whisky auction site.” No other company in the UK was running an online site. They initially assumed it would be illegal. “We made a couple of calls and discovered that it was legal, so long as we had an off-sales license [permits the sale of alcohol beverages for off-premise
consumption].” They went into business, the first of its kind in the UK. “We used bottles from Tam’s personal whisky collection and bought job lots from traditional auction houses to seed our first couple of auctions.” Within five or six auctions, people were knocking on their door laden with boxes of whisky to sell. The staggering number of lots they’ve handled tells of their success: in year 1 there were 2,762, by year 5, there were 34,121. In Blackpool, England, Wayne Ormerod was the owner of a successful whisky shop well known to collectors. To source hard-tofind whiskies to sell, he would travel the country to visit traditional brick-and-mortar auction houses. “We would put on a markup of 20 to 30 percent, then wrap it with VAT [UK sales tax], and put it up for sale,” describes
Graham Crane of Just Whisky inspects labels for authenticity.
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Wayne. Eventually, customers began to match up bottle numbers from their purchases with information on the Internet and drifted into sourcing their own bottles at auction. Wayne theorizes that awareness of his higher retail price would push up the realized auction price the next time a similar bottle went under the hammer. The downside for the retailer was trying to stay competitive, as he was always offering a higher price than the current auction value. As a professional appraiser of rare whiskies, Wayne realized he could deliver the best price for his customer and make more profit by offering the bottle in his own auction. Whisky Online Auctions (whisky-onlineauctions.com) was born. Iain McClune developed a love for old whiskies while he worked for ten years at Royal Mile Whiskies. “Like many people, I started using whisky auctions to find bottles that I couldn’t find at retail anymore,” says Iain. In Perth, he launched Whisky Auctioneer (whiskyauctioneer.com) in 2013. “With all this enthusiasm for iconic whiskies that you don’t see anymore and the vintage years on the older bottlings, it became apparent to me that there was a gap in the market for more auctions.” Iain calculated they could attract a sizable market share by cutting rates for sellers. “We were the first to come down on auction commissions, but we still aim to be a premium business. Our attitude is that we can bring in the best whisky collections, and ensure our auctions are visible and accessible globally.” Thirty miles away in Dunfermline, another whisky auction website was launched; a partnership between a couple of experienced whisky collectors and an IT specialist. That man was Graham Crane, the director of Just Whisky (just-whisky.co.uk), who was looking to start a
business and envisioned room for an online auction site that did things differently. “At the time, there were no 5-percent auctions [the commission rate charged by the auction house; referred to as “seller’s commission”] out there, which made a strong business case,” says Graham. “We must have had exactly the same idea as Iain in Perth, as they went live at a similar time. We thought it was viable to do lower commissions compared to Scotch Whisky Auctions.” The serendipitous decision by eBay to cease whisky trading on their marketplace after a particularly challenging case couldn’t have come at a better time for the fledgling auction businesses. The only rival online whisky auction was based in Germany, so having a UK address made it much easier for all the collectors in the distillery areas to consign their rarities. Initially, traditional auction houses preserved their reputations as the safest place to sell the ultra-premium items, given the understandable apprehension of buyers about confidently paying four or fivefigure sums on the basis of a digital image. The sensational wave of high-value Japanese whiskies sold at auction throughout 2015 swept away that last bastion of distinction from the traditional auctioneers. “We now get £15,000 bottles sent through the post!” says Graham. “Customers have seen that online auctions are here to stay. They are not a flash in the pan: they are proper established businesses, professionally run, and everybody is doing a good job.”
Cyber Bidding Confidence Online auctions offer all the excitement of a live auction, but it’s served up a little differently. One offers a ten-day courtship with potential suitors vying to win the object of their affection, while the other is a knee-trembling affair lasting thirty seconds. At an online
Bill Mackintosh, co-founder of Scotch Whisky Auctions, inspects a label. Below, Scotch Whisky Auctions’ warehouse.
auction house, few people ever physically examine the bottles, so the descriptions, condition reports, and photography have to be exact. That’s essential to give confidence to buyers bidding 24 hours a day around the world. Has it affected the existing live auction market in the UK? “No doubt at all,” affirms Bill. “Look at the number of lots that the traditional auction houses used to have, and look at the number they have now. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.” The specter of fakes and refills ensures that everyone is vigilant. “I’ve actually just opened up a box with two fake Macallan Anniversary Malts this morning,” discloses Iain. He can rely on his experience for authentication from handling bottles at Royal Mile Whiskies. An additional layer of protection
is the digital community that follows each auction, which is willing to call out suspect bottles. “We take the issue as seriously as you would expect. It comes down to our own experience. We’ve been doing this for three years, but we’re learning the best way to spot them. The Macallans stand out quite obviously, especially when there are spelling mistakes on the bottles!” At Just Whisky, every bottle is handled by at least three people when it is booked in, photographed, and the description written for the
SELLERS’ TERMS AT ONLINE AUCTION HOUSES REGIST. FEE
Scotch Whisky Auctions
Whisky Auctions, Edinburgh
Whisky Hammer Whisky Online Auctions
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
Iain McClune of Whisky Auctioneer adds a bottle to their inventory. Right: a fake Macallan Anniversary Malt is identified. A misspelling on the label and a poorly crafted presentation box are clear indications of a fake. Not all counterfeit whiskies are this easy to identify.
website. “We’re handling 1,200–1,500 bottles a month,” says Graham. “You’re aware of what something should look like and feel like, and you become familiar with anything that doesn’t look 100 percent. If we’re not sure, we go to speak to the distillery or the bottlers. We’ve not found it to be a huge problem; they are few and far between. All the Scottish auction houses are pretty friendly, and we can pick up the phone if there are any concerns.” “I’m not sure anyone could say that they’ve never sold a fake, but we’ve got a pretty good record,” says Bill reassuringly. Certainly, knowing that the auction houses communi-
cate effectively to prevent fakes from getting listed is reassuring to all buyers. Bill has a proposal: “Tam and I are very keen to set up an association of online auctioneers so that we can share some of the information that we get, set some guidelines, and ensure there is a level playing field.” Wayne believes the problem is more widespread and that not everyone is equipped to hold the line, “We’re in a bit of a rat race now, as more and more of these auction houses are springing up,” he says, exasperated. “Just because you’ve got a piece of software doesn’t make you an expert all of sudden. I’m not say-
ing I’m an expert, but I’ve had plenty of experience and I’m always willing to learn. Without all those years of experience handling bottles, how do you know what it looks like and whether it’s right or not?” he wonders. “Refills are a big issue. It’s the provenance of the customers too, because when we go out to do valuations, we know if they are an exdistillery worker, a big collector, or not.”
Variety, Volume, and Value
At Whisky Online Auctions over the past quarter of a century, Wayne has cultivated a following for older-style whiskies. “The idea was to bring variety,” he admits. “We’re slightly more sensitive HOUSE RECORDS FOR ONLINE AUCTIONS AS OF MAY 2016 about those people flipping bottles, as we’ve always tried to LOT DETAILS WINNING BID source older bottles that have never been to market. The only Just Whisky Karuizawa 1964 48 year old Cask #3603 Wealth Solutions £15,025 reason you would want to have Scotch Whisky Auctions Johnnie Walker The Directors Blend set (6 bottles) £23,000 5 percent [seller’s commission] Whisky Auction Glenfiddich 50 year old (2009 release) £10,400 is to satisfy the people who want to flip. With the modern Whisky Auctioneer Karuizawa 1964 48 year old Cask #3603 Wealth Solutions £19,000 bottles, the first two auction Whisky Auctions, Edinburgh Brora Rare Malts Selection 1972 22 year old £2,000 houses that get them in will get Whisky Hammer Flora & Fauna Complete Collection (26 bottles) £3,300 the high prices. The next one, they fall on their arse. That’s Whisky Online Auctions Springbank 50 year old 1919 £27,200 not what we wanted to build
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Whisky Online Auctions owner Wayne Ormerod. Right: recent record-breaking sales for Whisky Online Auctions: Largiemeanoch and Port Ellen Queens Cask.
this auction house for. It’s not a race to see who has the most bottles. Rather than thinking, ‘I need to get 10,000 bottles in this month to be recognized as a good auctioneer,’ it’s the unusualness that’s more rewarding for us. We were sent a photo of an old dumpy Bowmore 12 year old with a £6 price sticker on it. We said, ‘Don’t take that sticker off, we love all that type of thing,’ as people can see where the market has been and gone.” The trend for flipping bottles is disagreeable to many, both whisky drinkers and producers, but in reality, the percentage of bottles flipped is fairly marginal compared to the release volume. “The auctioneer is in control of what goes through,” Wayne reports. “The distilleries get bitter, knowing that people are queuing up at the festivals and then immediately listing the bottles on a website. People think if it’s not doubled in price by the time they get home from the Islay whisky festival, it was a bad
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
investment!” he jokes. “I’ve invested 25 years of hard work into the business, so I want a steady growth. These crazy runaway prices are dangerous for everybody, because the brakes will have to come on at some point.”
Worldwide Marketplace The auction houses may be based in the UK, but their customers are all over the world. Whisky collectors in Asia were quick to catch on, and the U.S. is the latest territory to get the auction bug. “One of our biggest growth areas is the U.S. because we can easily and legally get whisky to
all of those states that are not dry,” says Bill. “Whisky won online on a Sunday night in Glasgow can be in your house in the U.S. by the next Wednesday or Thursday. More importantly, we are doing [attending] a lot of whisky festivals and high-end tastings in the U.S., and we’re seeing more American whisky collectors and drinkers sending their bottles to us.” Reliability of delivery and excellent customer service have been the key to greater engagement with online auctions for us in the U.S. (though they cannot ship to certain states and it is forbidden in Canada). “Our customers understand the difficulties of importing alcohol to the U.S., but we’ve not had any difficulties,” says Iain. “Unfortunately, the Customs website isn’t particularly helpful, as it states you can receive it as a gift, and it’s debatable as to how far that goes. Is it a gift to yourself?” he asks rhetorically. The Japanese whisky craze has stabilized; values remain strong, but there are fewer bottles coming to market. What will be next? “I’m most excited about the emergence of a quality vintage market for American whiskeys,” says Bill. Graham agrees, “Within America, it’s bourbon that’s doing really well. It’s really in vogue right now. Pappy Van Winkle has been strong for a while, but there are other good quality limited editions coming through.” Online auctions have a lot going for them: accessibility, more frequent sales, greater convenience, more whiskies at all price points, lower commissions for buyers and sellers, quicker post-sale payments, and better customer service with faster international shipping to bring the bottles straight to your door. They have undercut the traditional auction houses, and now they are undercutting each other. Wayne believes they are in a race to the bottom, but in a contrary move, he put his own buyers’ commissions up to 15 percent and hopes others will follow. Overall, it seems like starting an auction house can be quite a rewarding occupation. “Every day is Christmas Day!” laughs Bill. “We get to open boxes that come from all over the world, and even though I’ve been doing this for a while, you don’t lose that sense of excitement. It’s a fantastic industry to work in, the people who work in whisky are pretty nice people, and the products they’re selling are fantastic. It would be difficult not to be excited by the whiskies. It’s an interesting industry too, never forced: if you want to buy an old and very expensive whisky, nobody is forcing you to do it. It’s a lovely marriage of willing seller and willing buyer.” n
LES GIBBON / ALAMY
slay’s whisky festival, Fèis Ìle, is much anticipated for the annual festival releases which are sold at the distillery in limited quantities during the event. Dave Broom reviews several of the 2016 releases. While most of the whiskies are gone from the primary market, it’s important to know what the distilleries came up with. Furthermore, they will certainly be available on the secondary (auction) markets. Jeffery Lindenmuth joins the review team, with full coverage of the craft whiskey sector.
There are some interesting and affordable craft whiskeys to be explored. We have a multitude of Travel Retailexclusive whiskies. The lot of these exclusives includes a focus on William Grant & Sons’ new blended whisky range, House of Hazelwood. If bourbon is your brown spirit of choice, we have seven rated 90 and above. The newest Lock Stock & Barrel straight rye is not to be missed by Canadian whisky fans. Buckle up and travel the world whisky pages. Finally, Stephen Beaumont joins our review team and reviews pale ales.
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Scotland United States Canada Ireland World Whiskies Beer
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 111
ABOUT THE BUYING GUIDE The Buying Guide provides ratings of whiskies from around the world. All whiskies currently available for purchase are considered for evaluation; a special effort is placed on reviewing new products and comparing them to established ones. Because we for the most part serve a U.S. audience, we prefer to review whiskies that are available there, but will also review whiskies unique to other markets. Whiskies are chosen for tasting from among those sent to our offices for review, and from targeted categories—a particular distillery, a particular age—we find of interest.
Ratings and prices Ratings are to provide a relative comparison of quality with reference to both directly competing products and whiskies in general. This is important, because some products achieve greater balance, character, and complexity than others. We urge you to keep in mind that the best way to learn about whiskies is to taste them for yourself and draw your own conclusions. There is no substitute for this; we are providing a guide for you to reach this goal. Please note that because of the number of new products on the market every month, the products listed in the Buying Guide usually reflect our most positive experiences in recent tasting. However, whiskies that score in the lower ranges will also be included at the discretion of the taster if they feel there is particular significance to that product. Prices shown reflect the suggested retail price. If that is not available, we will use a representative retail price; prices in your area and at different stores will vary. All whiskies currently available in the U.S. have prices marked in dollars; any whisky priced in other currency is not presently available in the U.S.
Featured whiskies Each issue, we choose particular whiskies
or sets of whiskies for a special focus. These may be from a single distillery, or be of a specific type, and more attention is paid to how these whiskies compare to each other. The whiskies are chosen by the reviewers and are not the result of any commercial transaction between Whisky Advocate and the producers of the chosen whiskies.
Reviewers Our reviewers cover the following territories. (Reviewers are indicated by their initials at the end of the individual reviews.) John Hansell (JH) is the publisher and editor of Whisky Advocate. He’s been writing about whisky for more than 25 years. Reviewer at Large Dave Broom (DB) has been in the drinks trade his entire working life; writing about whisky in all its forms and has written over 25 spirits books. Speyside, Islay, Japan Gavin D Smith (GS) is based in the Scottish Borders and has over 15 whisky books to his credit. Scottish Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, and Islands (non-Islay) Davin de Kergommeaux (DdeK) has been writing about Canadian whisky for over 15 years and has authored many books on the subject. Canada Jonny McCormick (JM) resides in Scotland and has written for Whisky Advocate for nearly a decade. Blended scotch, blended malts, grain, Irish whiskey, world whisky Fred Minnick (FM) is a Louisville, Ky.-based bourbon authority, journalist, author, and photographer. American whiskey Jeffery Lindenmuth (JL) is the executive editor of Whisky Advocate. He has been a writer and reviewer of spirits and wine for over 15 years. Craft whiskey Stephen Beaumont (SB) has been writing about beer and spirits for over 25 years and has 11 books to his credit. Beer
RATING SCHEME 95-100 A classic! All components are balanced appropriately, with the complexity and character expected in a classic. 90-94 Outstanding! One of the best for its style. Distinctive.
ood to very good. Plenty of G character and no identifiable flaws. Worth seeking out.
Average. No unique qualities. Flaws possible.
Below average. Major flaws. Avoid.
Editor’s Choice Our favorite in this issue, regardless of price. Value Pick Our pick, considering both quality and price.
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SPEYSIDE SINGLE MALTS
90 Glenfarclas 50 year old, 41.1%, £1,800 Just pause for a moment before tasting. 50 years. What has happened in the world during that time? How have you changed? What has it done to the whisky? Added a quiet elegance. It brings to mind elements of longdried concentrated fruit and nut, damson, even smoke. The tannins are initially dusty, but a splash of water adds a fresh potpourri perfume. Is it expensive? For something that’s spent 50 years in a cask? No, it isn’t. (937 bottles)—DB
84 Glen Grant 12 year old, 43%, £43 A new addition to the core range, this shows Glen Grant with a little more weight, but just a little. I’ve never been one for the heavilysherried versions. Here, the distillery’s signature green elements—spring flowers, fresh apple and pear notes are given a little added weight—apple syrup, toffee, and cooked fruits on the palate. If you’d like an alternative to Glenlivet or Glenfddich 12 then look no further.—DB 83 The Singleton of Glendullan Master’s Art, 40%, $160 Glendullan has reimagined itself with a trio of Travel Retail exclusives. This, the most expensive, has been given some secondary maturation in Muscat wine casks. It’s the most complex of the trio, with more citric elements, hints of hay, and some spice, while the richness and dried scented fruit of the Muscat is a good accompaniment to the sloelike side of the distillery character. A thick vanilla component helps the palate along to a chocolatey finish.—DB 82 Balvenie Madeira Cask 21 year old, 40%, $212 Another Travel Retail exclusive, but what is a highly lucrative retail sector will inevitably demand items that shoppers can’t buy elsewhere. Imagine Balvenie Port Wood 21 year old, but with more sweetness; damson jam, blueberries, and a slight singed note before maple syrup calls in from the back. It’s big and rounded and, for me, just lacking the definition and complexity of the Port Wood. For sweeter tooths (teeth?) perhaps.—DB
81 The Singleton of Glendullan Classic, 40%, $60 Glendullan has an unfortunate moniker. Any whisky with ‘dull’ in the middle of its name will always struggle in Englishspeaking markets. It’s a shame, because it’s always delivered a gentle, sweet, lightly fruity/estery style, making it an ideal lunchtime dram. This ticks all those boxes. Green apples are there, as is cinnamon, alongside a racy acidity before water brings out more scented aromas. The finish is short, but it does its job as an easy-drinking, everyday malt. (Travel Retail exclusive)—DB
80 The Singleton of Glendullan Double Matured, 40%, $89 The double maturation here is a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks finished off in what Diageo will only say is a “special” cask. That’s helpful. There’s a breakfast-style opening here of warm bagels with grape jelly, then comes citrus, before some of that dusky distillery character creeps in. It’s quite bulked-up in the center of the palate, but finishes cleanly. One for those who like things on the thick-set side. (Travel Retail exclusive)—DB
ISLAY SINGLE MALTS
90 Lagavulin 18 year old Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling, 49.5%, £125 It’s been quite a year for Lagavulin; a 25 year old is due (but no sample at the time of writing). This was a 6,000-strong bottling, aged in refill hoggies and ‘bodega’ butts. Initially restrained and mildly oxidized, it shows angelica, a spritz of lemon juice on potted shrimp, then fennel pollen and water mint. The smoke is pulled back. The palate has orchard fruits, creosote, and moss. Lagavulin’s top notes accentuated, but with the depth of age.—DB
88 Bunnahabhain Toiteach, 46%, $66 Dried peat smoke, a papery column of cigar ash, sizzling bacon fat, baked earth, and a shower of sea spray, coupled with hints of fresh peach and ripe fruits. The palate has a light, oily consistency ingrained with smokiness throughout, tasting of vanilla toffee, pick ‘n’ mix foam bananas, tangy citrus, and sweet tropical fruits, the whole arrangement given a peppery lift before succumbing to a late nuttiness. It’s not
named after the Gaelic for smoky for nothing, you know.—JM
88 Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling (distilled 2007), 56.6%, £90 A single oloroso cask bottling, so an interesting comparison with the Loch Gorm (see below). The cask has more of an influence here, with plummy fruits, fig rolls, and Medjool dates. The smoke is restrained and foggy, allowing some seashore breezes to come through. The palate reverses this, with the smoke rolling in first, then the soft dark and sweet fruits, treacle, and garam masala. Tannins are very soft. Kilchoman with heft. (637 bottles)—DB 86 Bowmore Vintage Fèis Ìle 2016 Edition 25 year old, 55.7%, £350 This was a true double maturation: a dozen years in first-fill bourbon and then 13 years in claret. In its 20s, Bowmore tends to shed its smoke and allows the soft fruits (here, persimmon, nectarine) which have always been there to show themselves. There’s a light oiliness on the tongue. The casks have added vanilla, red fruits, and spice, but the overall impression is of harmony and integration. Lovely. (200 bottles)—DB 86 Bruichladdich 2001 15 year old (2016-1881-135-PHD), 50%, £95 The official Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling. This is a mix of bourbon and wine casks given a period in virgin oak. The finish initially adds a certain sauna-like element, but then the distillery’s lemon drops and flowers come through, alongside baked apples, coconut, and a touch of smoke. The alcohol burn is negligible, allowing more estery elements, melon, and red fruits to come through. A classic Laddie, in other words. (1881 bottles)—DB 85 Bowmore 1999 PX Hand-bottled, 56.1%, £100 The mid-priced Fèis Ìle release took Bowmore off into darker than usual territory. The key here was how the cask (PX is, after all, as sweet a sherry as you can find) had been so well controlled. Rather than being a thick, sweet mess, a balance was struck between the two elements: the cask added density and raisined fruit, while the distillery gave aromatic smoke and orange, and both combine to layer on molasses, leather, and dark chocolate. A success.—DB
85 Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016 (distilled 2010), 46%, $100 The annual (albeit limited) Loch Gorm release allows you to chart Kilchoman’s development in sherry casks. Here, first-fill and refill sherry casks (oloroso to be precise) were used. The latter seem to have more of a say, as the distillery character is more apparent: sweet fruit, marine smoke, and clementine, before the golden raisin from the cask develops. The palate is smokier and also more overtly sherried. A bolder style, but very well balanced. Limited, so get in there ASAP.—DB 84 Bowmore Fèis Ìle 2016, 54.9%, £55 This vatting of three virgin oak casks and one oloroso butt was so keenly priced that it sold out in seconds, all 1,500 bottles of it. It shows Bowmore, that ever-changing, elusive Islay dram in perfumed, scented mode. I picked up vetiver (an integral part of classic male cologne), but also peach, some flamed peels, and plenty of smoke. The palate dips into the sea for a second, then again becomes scented, alongside gentle chocolate. Amazing price too.—DB 84 Bunnahabhain Amontillado 16 year old, 54%, £250 Some single malts just suit specific cask types. Such is the case with Bunnahabhain and sherry. The spirit has a soft and nutty undertow, plus a gingery note that is given weight and depth by the cask. Amontillado, with its nuttier character, is an ideal bridge between the two. This shows surprising maturity with more oxidized and mulch aromas alongside coffee grounds, and a character that’s drifting into meaty. Brooding, medium-bodied, slightly dry… but the price? Ouch! (Fèis Ìle 2016, 250 bottles)—DB 83 Bruichladdich Micro Provenance 2007 (Cask 14), 63.6%, £90 The Micro Provenance series is Bruichladdich’s web-exclusive range of single cask bottlings. This is made from barley grown on Rockside Farm (now owned by Kilchoman) and has been aged in virgin oak. The oak doesn’t dominate the nose, allowing fresh cereal sweetness to develop, along with an estery lift and some jasmine/ meadowsweet florals. The palate is where creamy vanilla and white chocolate show
through. Fresh, balanced, and bottled at the right time. (468 bottles)—DB
82 Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2009, 50%, £58 Using this ancient barley variety is a challenge for a distiller. The yields are low, the mash thick and hard to work, but I’m delighted that Bruichladdich has persevered. It adds a more overt cereal note to the whisky, taking the Laddie off into a different world of honey-nut corn flakes. There’s also a surprising rose-like perfume. It’s young, so add water to cut its more, er, bracing qualities. In fact, have it with ice and soda. (Travel Retail exclusive)—DB
80 Bunnahabhain Moine PX 12 year old, 52.7%, £95 Bunnahabhain’s peaty expression is steadily coming together. It’s been one of those drams that seems to need more time than many, but that’s true of Bunna’ in general, come to think of it. In fact, the peatiness is quite mild on the nose, adding some scent to the sandalwood elements and obvious raisined sweetness. There’s a slightly cheesy note in the background and a touch of sulphur on the palate. It’s not quite wholly integrated, but progressing well. (Fèis Ìle 2016, 833 bottles)—DB
80 Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira Cask, 51.6%, $75 The annual Cairdeas release aims to show Laphroaig in a new light. Initially I thought this too sweet and cask dominated, with the distillery battling against the wine—fresh red fruit and seaweed is a test, even for the best chef. Add water and give it time though, and there is this lightly exotic, herbal, hazelnut-like element. It lacks depth and the tarry thump beloved by many Laphroaig lovers, but is an interesting departure.—DB
HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT
89 Arran 18 year old, 46%, $100 Following the 2015 limited edition release of 18 year old Arran single malt, an 18 year old has now been added to the core range. It is uncolored and non-chill filtered. The nose is bright with freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juices, honey, and vanilla fudge, plus a fleeting menthol note. The early palate mirrors the fresh fruit-laden nose, with develop-
ing ginger, honey, malt, and milk chocolate. Slowly drying in the finish, with plain chocolate, licorice, and charred oak.—GS
89 Tomatin Cù Bòcan 1988 Limited Edition, 51.5%, £200 Tomatin released this 28 year old expression under its Cù Bòcan label. This cask strength variant was matured in refill hogsheads and refill sherry butts that previously contained heavily-peated Islay single malt. The nose is sweet and fruity, with apples and pears, background vanilla, and sweet, light smoke. The palate is voluptuous and sherry-sweet, with chili peppers and subtle, earthy peat smoke. The finish is slowly drying, with persistent spice, nuts, and smoke. (2,200 bottles)—GS
88 Glenmorangie Tarlogan, 43%, $82 Tarlogan is the third and most recent release in Glenmorangie’s Legends Collection. Some of the component whisky had been matured in virgin oak casks, while the remainder was aged in bourbon barrels. A hint of freshly-dug soil on the very early nose, then toffee apples, malt, and vanilla kick in. The smooth palate focuses on coconut and more vanilla, with kumquat and lime. Almonds and vanilla in the mildly spicy finish. (Travel Retail exclusive)—GS 88 Glenturret Fly’s 16 Masters Edition, 44%, £95 This limited edition 16 year old release is named after a collie dog that belonged to a distillery manager pictured in a 1905 photograph of Glenturret staff. Malt and milk chocolate, dried apricots, and subtle spice on the floral nose, with a hint of worn leather and, ultimately, ripe pears. Supple and rounded on the palate, with sweet spices, honey, black pepper, dark fruit, and coffee notes. Finally, bitter orange and plain chocolate in the medium-length finish. (1,740 bottles)—GS 87 Signatory Vintage 10 year old (distilled at Edradour, Cask 41), 46%, $78 Part of Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection, this was distilled on February 25, 2005 and bottled on November 25, 2015. Initially a little earthy on the nose, then more fragrant, with orange blossom, nutmeg, and a hint of polished oak. Oily and rounded on the palate, with supple sherry influences: prunes, dates, more orange, and tingling spices, plus toffee. The finish is medium to long, with a hint
of smoke and lingering spicy Jaffa orange notes.—GS
86 Douglas Laing Old Particular 1988 (distilled at Glenturret), 45.4%, £110 A 27 year old offering from Glenturret, in Perthshire, this bottling is from a refill hogshead that was filled in December 1988. Fresh mango and ripe peaches on the early nose, followed by a slightly smoky, earthy note. Viscous on the palate, with orchard fruit notes, coconut, caramel, and nutmeg. Drying in the finish, with mildly tannic oak, black pepper, and a final flourish of citrus. (264 bottles)—GS 86 Douglas Laing Old Particular 1995 (distilled at Glen Garioch), 51.5%, £80 Distilled in September 1995, and after 20 years maturing in a refill hogshead this Aberdeenshire single malt was bottled in February 2016. The nose is soft, with ginger, lots of floral notes, cinnamon, and vanilla. Sweet and malty on the mature palate, with banana, honey, milk chocolate, and cocoa, plus big cinnamon and nutmeg spice notes. Drying in the finish, with a drizzle of lemon juice and then black pepper. (254 bottles)—GS 86 Wemyss Malts Nuts about Pears 1991 (distilled at Blair Athol), 46%, £115 From Wemyss Malts’ Midsummer Single Cask Releases, this bottling from Blair Athol was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2015. Soft, sweet fruits as the nose opens—principally juicy pears. This is backed up by malt and cinnamon. Very smooth and inviting on the palate, with honey, brittle toffee, gentle spices, darker malt, and walnuts. Slightly mouthdrying in the finish, with cocoa powder and lingering spice. (312 bottles)—GS 85 Edradour 9 year old 2006 Barolo Cask Matured (Batch 5), 46%, £50 This expression of Edradour was distilled in April 2006 and was the fifth batch to be matured in Barolo wine hogsheads. Fruity farmyard aromas, spice, then developing heather honey, soft oak, and caramel. Earthy fruit notes on the palate, with walnuts, malt, and pepper. Mildly mouth-drying in the medium-length finish, with aniseed and black pepper. (2,000 bottles)—GS 85 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1997 (distilled at Tomatin), 46%, £70 Matured in refill bourbon barrels, this Toma-
tin is softly floral on the nose, with sweet fruit spices, pineapple, vanilla, and honey. The palate is fresh and fruity, with cream, milk chocolate, and nutty spice. Fruity to the end, notably ripe apples and red berries, plus more milk chocolate before slightly drying oak notes develop.—GS
84 Edradour Ballechin Sauternes Cask Matured, 46%, $135 The eighth edition of heavily-peated Edradour bottled under the Ballechin label is part of the distillery’s Discovery Series and has been aged in Sauternes wine casks. The nose yields sweet, fruity smoke, cocoa, and spice. Sweet and soft on the palate, with more fruity smoke, notably pineapple-influenced, with a hint of smoked fish. The finish is medium to long, with ashy peat and slightly bitter citrus fruits.—GS 84 Glenglassaugh Octaves Classic, 44%, £55 Glenglassaugh distillery launched both unpeated and peated expressions matured in octave casks, approximately one-eighth the capacity of a butt. They have not been subjected to chill-filtration. The nose of this unpeated Classic is sweet, with ripe apples, peaches, toffee, and buttery spice. Smooth on the palate, with more peaches and now intense spiciness, followed by vanilla, aniseed, licorice, new oak, and mild cloves in the long, slightly citric finish.—GS
84 Wemyss Malts Banquet of Fruits 1994 (distilled at Aberfeldy), 46%, £100 Distilled in 1994 and matured in a single hogshead, this 21 year old expression is part of Wemyss Malts’ 2016 Midsummer Single Cask Release. Rich, stewed fruits, honey, and allspice on the pleasing nose. Voluptuous on the palate with spicy apple and cranberry. The finish dries quite rapidly to aniseed and spicy oak. (220 bottles)—GS 83 Deanston 18 year old, 46.3%, $135 This 18 year old was matured in refill hogsheads before a period of finishing in first-fill bourbon casks. It is non-chill filtered. The nose is light and fruity with pears, melon, and mild vanilla, plus caramel and a hint of toffee. Rich and full on the textured palate, with big orchard fruits, honey, buttery spice notes, then emerging aniseed. Dries in the finish, with plain chocolate and slightly tannic oak notes, plus a sprinkling of chili heat.—GS WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 115
BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY
well-paced complexity here, with emergent little lights of spiciness. A long-lasting, deep orange buzz and dimming spice round off proceedings. A precious joy indeed.—JM
FOCUS ON House of Hazelwood William Grant & Sons’ new Travel Retail blended whisky range combines Kininvie single malt and Girvan single grain whiskies in celebration of the Roaring Twenties, when family luminary Janet Sheed Roberts (1901–2012) was in her prime. She was William Grant’s granddaughter, and opened Kininvie distillery in 1990 adjacent to Balvenie and Glenfiddich in Dufftown. Before her death, the family company celebrated her longevity in a series of Hazelwood Reserve bottlings and embarked upon a remarkable series of global charity auctions for the dozen bottles of Glenfiddich 1955 Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve 55 year old. The design of the House of Hazelwood range takes its cues from the most happening cities of
82 Deanston 20 year old Oloroso, 55.3%, $180 This cask strength bottling has been matured in oloroso sherry casks. The nose offers old leather and a slightly vegetal note, along with ginger and developing toffee. The palate features unexpectedly dry sherry, rapidly giving treacle, plain chocolate, and dark spices. Hot spices, with black pepper and raisins in the lengthy finish.—GS
82 Glenglassaugh Octaves Peated, 44%, £55 A relatively heavily-peated variant of Glenglassaugh matured in 50-liter octave casks, giving significant cask influence due to the high surface-to-volume ratio. This expression is non-chill filtered. Carbolic soap and a mineral note on the softly smoky nose, followed by apple pie and cream notes. The palate is medi116 FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
the 1920s; elegant period-style decanters draped in duck-egg blue, jade, and gold with decorative art deco typography. Brian Kinsman has created three highly-accomplished blends, each with its own personality and a style and flavor profile to fit any mood.
90 House of Hazelwood 25 year old, 40%, £115 Toasty granola, rye crackers, barley sugar sweetness, and Murray Mints make for a balanced nose on this top-of-the-range blend representing the art deco elegance of 1920s Shanghai. A gloriously thick texture of rich citrus blossoms bolstered by toffee, lime, pineapple, tropical fruits, and vanilla sugar. Mr. Kinsman has engineered methodical and
um-sweet and quite spicy, with black pepper. Now clear, dry peat notes present themselves with a touch of chili. Ashy peat and cinnamon in the medium-length finish.—GS
ISLAND SINGLE MALT
89 Jura Tastival, 51%, £85 The 2016 Fèis Ìle limited edition of Jura was triple finished in sherry casks, namely palomino fino, amoroso oloroso, and apostoles oloroso, and is non-chill filtered. The nose is soft and warming, with notes of candy, vanilla, and almonds against a sweet sherry background. The palate is rich and rounded with a significant sherry influence—dried fruits, notably raisins and prunes, new leather, and aniseed. Finally, slightly mouth-drying with prickly spices and more raisins. (2016 Jura Tastival whisky festival exclusive)—GS
88 House of Hazelwood 18 year old, 40%, £50 The style and class of the youngest was inspired by the classic elegance of Paris in the 1920s. Comprising Kininvie and Girvan married in tuns of Portuguese oak, this is pure, creamy goodness bathing in lemon meringue pie, vanilla tablet, and fresh oak shavings. A buttery-soft texture, the back of the palate kicks off with honey explosions, nougat, and toffee, backed with a distinct oakiness to remind you that it’s got much more to offer than just vanilla playfulness.—JM 83 House of Hazelwood 21 year old, 40%, £75 A spicier character to represent 1920s Bombay (now Mumbai) yields an intriguing nose of cumin, dried apple, cardamom, and roasted coriander seed, walnut shells, dry meat from the tandoor, and aged cigars in Spanish cedar. A rather gluey texture with a dominant cinnamon note, interjected by spicy fruit from the European oak and gentle cloves. A short finish leaves a reverberation of spices and chicory root. The aromas are wonderful, but it comes unstuck with the mouthfeel.—JM 88 Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask 1996 (distilled at Arran), 50%, £80 This expression was distilled during Arran’s second year of operation in September 1996 and bottled at 19 years of age. The single refill hogshead yielded 288 bottles. Sweet and malty on the slick nose, with honey, lively spices, and hints of pine. Ultimately, caramel and satsuma. Full on the palate, with juicy fruit, more malt and honey, and developing milk chocolate. Long and soft in the finish; lightly spiced, finally slightly citric, with a hint of brine and dry oak.—GS 87 Jura 16 year old Diurachs’ Own, 43%, $65 Diurachs are the inhabitants of the Isle of Jura, and this single malt named in their honor is initially matured in bourbon casks before 2 years of finishing in amoroso sherry casks. Floral and
honeyed on the nose, with caramel, pine, and spicy dark chocolate. Sweet and oily on the palate, where the chocolate changes from plain to milk, with vanilla and delicate cloves. Darkening chocolate and drying oak in the finish.—GS
85 Ledaig 18 year old, 46.3%, $115 This 18 year old variant of Ledaig from Tobermory distillery on Mull was released in spring 2015 and is finished in oloroso sherry casks. Old warm leather predominates on the early nose, with salt, pencil shavings, a suggestion of asphalt, and dried fruit. Big fruit and spicy peat notes on the robust palate, which features sherry and a sprinkling of brine. Drying slowly, with licorice and marginally tannic oak behind persistent smoke.—GS
84 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1999 (Ledaig, distilled at Tobermory), 46%, £60 This peated expression from Tobermory distillery has been aged in refill, remade hogsheads. The nose offers earthy peat, citrus fruit, vanilla, and smoked haddock in butter. Big, sweet peat notes on the peppery palate, with marshmallows and lively spices. The spices linger to the close, with peat embers and a hint of brine on the lips.—GS BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY
92 Compass Box The Circus, 49%, $275 Ringmaster John Glaser’s latest Big Top attraction: the nose juggles dark marmalade, almonds, sweet sherry, dates, and dried pineapple. Flavors swing like a trapeze between deep orange, dried tropical fruits, nuts, and chocolate, with the silky composure of a seal balancing a ball on its nose. Ridiculously smooth; if you’re looking for burn, try fire eating instead. Knife throwers accurately pinpoint the finish: fruit, (thud) chocolate (thud), spice (THUD). In this manner, Mr. G. will challenge the world! (2,490 bottles)—JM 92 William Grant Rare Cask Reserves Ghosted Reserve 21 year old, 42.8%, $140 A purity and fragility rarely encountered, with aromas as fleeting as footprints on wet sand: marshmallow, meringue, honey, and rose petals. A delicacy to the structure brings banana, caramel, spun sugar, and orange peel. The oak spices build slowly, making the lips throb from the inside. It’s an elaborate maze
SINGLE GRAIN SCOTCH WHISKY
FOCUS ON The Exclusive Malts
Single Grain Whisky
It is hard enough to find single grain whiskies in the U.S., so thank goodness for ImpEx Beverages Inc., who works with the Creative Whisky Company to import this range of single cask grains to our specialist liquor stores. The trusted nose of David Stirk is responsible for every cask picked and the company looks to bring the best to the market, whether that’s Irish whiskey, a cracking blend, or a sumptuous grain. With choices from closed and active grain distilleries, here’s a chance to become better acquainted with grain whisky styles from the 1970s and 1980s.
89 The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 42 year old 1973, 51.1%, $255 Lush caramel, red apples, sanded oak, and olive oil first pressings with herbal overtones, this ancient grain has managed to retain its distinctive character. The palate is initially mouth-drawing with an oily structure, the flavors are a pleasing tangle of caramelized apple, toffee, and sultana, with a noticeably long finish. Banish any notion you might have of adding water right now. It’s welcoming to have a great aged grain unafraid to show its true colors. (248 bottles)—JM
86 The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Girvan) 27 year old 1988, 53.4%, $180 An uplifting nose of golden honey, linseed oil, vanilla, sanded oak, and wheat biscuits on this west coast grain. Neat, it is mouth of ethereal suggestion and an apparition of calm beauty. It atrophies reluctantly, leaving tangy peels and lengthy sweetness anchored by spicy base notes. (12,000 bottles)—JM
88 The Exclusive Blend 35 year old 1980, 46%, $200 If you like sherried malts, you’ll love this! Bottled at a respectable strength too. Red apple, cherry skins, strawberry, raspberry, Eccles cake, malt loaf, and warming spices; there’s a lot to get your nose into here. A finely structured dram, with soft leather, rhubarb, Bramley apple, cherryade, fresh Victoria
drenching. Banana and ripe fruits are followed by juicy orange before a snarling pepper onslaught ensnares the tip of the tongue, igniting a glowing ball of white heat underneath. You can bask in this experience for minutes with each sip. Water emphasizes the oak and mellows the dram to the flavor of almond-sprinkled custard. (180 bottles)—JM
82 The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Caledonian) 28 year old 1987, 52.1%, $191 Overripe cantaloupe, green apple, banana custard, and whole almond are the main soloists, though they are accompanied by a linear grain overture running through it. A quartet of golden sultana, mint, ginger, and pepper play the opening movement, then sit back as toffee-dipped banana flavors orchestrate a delicious climax before a diminuendo into minor chords, with sour gooseberry and herbal notes to finish. Water works well, elevating bright notes of lemon sponge on the palate. (238 bottles)—JM
plum, pepper, and muted ginger deliver sustained flavors. A long, spicy, and peeled fruit finish. Given the distillery closures in 1983, there could be some interesting components in here. (464 bottles)—JM
BLENDED MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
89 Peat Elements of Islay, 59.3%, £35 Roasted spices, more peat than smoke, coastal breezes, lemon creaminess, bacon-flavored chips, and carbolic soap. Disarmingly, it starts with lemon, apple, and honey before, WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 117
SINGLE GRAIN SCOTCH WHISKY
90 Evan Williams Single Barrel 2007 Vintage (Barrel No. 724), 43.3%, $30 Aged slightly more than 9 years. (The annual single barrel releases jumped last year from approximately 10 years old to 9 years old, with both a 2005 and 2006 vintage released in the same year.) A mélange of fruit (apricot, candied citrus, pineapple, golden raisin) spiked with fresh mint and cinnamon on a bed of caramel and vanilla. In true form, this bourbon is flavorful and well-rounded.—JH
brilliantly, the pepper and chili heat slams into you like an Acme grand piano falling from the sky. Bitter chocolate notes, velvety cocoa, and dry orange peel, with morningafter cigar smoke, settling ash, and roasted meat juices. Seriously impressive delivery of flavor from Oliver Chilton, who has concocted a versatile dram at a terrific value.—JM
88 Douglas Laing Rock Oyster Cask Strength, 57.4%, £47 A dense, suffocating fog of peat smoke, sea salt, dry seaweed on the high tide, and lemon-scented candles. Remember to come up for air once in a while. A supple, silky texture of lemon mousse, baked apple, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and a massive rush of pepper. Hold this in your mouth for as long as possible; the flavor delivery is impressively long and constantly evolving. Hot, drying finish, and, frankly, a relief from the peppery assault on the palate.—JM 87 Compass Box Enlightenment, 46%, $80 This torchbearer for the Compass Box Scotch Whisky Transparency campaign is looking for your support. A fruit medley of lemon, lime, gooseberry cream, and soft pineapple chunks. Ripe apple and pear from the orchard are given a fresh, spicy lift and integrate with the vanilla and sweet toffee notes. It makes a clean exit with lengthy spices and juiciness, never becoming bitter. One thing is clear, it’s a finely structured dram worthy of your vote. (5,922 bottles)—JM
80 The Epicurean, 46.2%, £34 This is the Lowland entry into Douglas
118 FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts collection, and on approach the nose is like sipping lemonade in a malt hopper: gristy malt, lemon, lime, honeydew melon, vanilla pods, peach, and apricot. A similarly juicy palate, gaining sweet grassy notes, Spangles, and confectioners’ sugar, before ending on a finish of dried citrus and fizzy Refreshers. True to the region, but the Epicurean makes the rest of the range look brighter, quicker, smarter, and tastier in comparison.—JM
86 Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Girvan) 27 year old 1988, 62.6%, £96 Buttery croissants, golden honey, peach stone, rye cracker bread, royal icing, vanilla essence, and dry oak. It’s sweet and sticky with icing sugar and yellow fruits before a scorching alcohol burn kicks in, lasting 30 seconds. It settles down to banana custard and vanilla, becoming tangy with candied peel, Turkish delight, and Edinburgh rock. The gum-tingling finish evaporates quickly. Careful—water disables the flavors all too easily, though adds some toasty spice and warmth. (192 bottles)—JM 84 Douglas Laing Xtra Old Particular (distilled at Carsebridge) 50 year old 1965, 40.1%, £267 This was distilled the year before Carsebridge joined Scottish Grain Distillers under Distillers Company Limited (DCL). It brings a nose of toasted muffins, whole lemon, light honey, vanilla, pencil shavings, and a slight herbal hit. Smooth, thick, and viscous, with light lemon, honey, gentle spices, peach melba, and toffee. The finish is silky and mouth-coating; rich and luxuriant. A venerable, pleasant old grain,
FOCUS ON Buffalo Trace Experimental
Collection Infrared Light Waves Before they were charred, eight experimental barrels were exposed to short and medium-wave light: four barrels at 70 percent power for 15 minutes and four barrels at 60 percent power for 30 minutes. The goal was to determine the effect of infrared light on flavors that are drawn from the oak. There is indeed a difference in impact, with the 30-minute experiment producing richer flavors and darker sugars, along with more oak-driven notes. (Both bottlings were aged 6 years, 5 months.)
90 Buffalo Trace 15 Minute Infrared Light Wave Barrels, 45%, $47/375 ml Nicely rounded and very drinkable. Warming cinnamon, vanilla bean, and dried fruit, wrapped up in creamy caramel and light toffee. Pleasant, gently sweet finish. Great anytime.—JH
89 Buffalo Trace 30 Minute Infrared Light Wave Barrels, 45%, $47/375 ml Toffee and maple syrup, cigars aged in cedar, along with polished leather. Resinous grip on the finish balanced by dark, caramelized sugars. Tastes older than its true age.—JH
but it lacks the zing to become truly exceptional and distinctive. (101 bottles)—JM
84 Wemyss Malts Rosy Apple Brûlée (distilled at Invergordon) 1988, 46%, £89 Perfect for fall; like strolling through an orchard polishing a windfall apple before crunching into its juicy fruit. Nose of caramel, dry worked wood, banana chips, cinnamon, and Indian spices. The palate is warming, with apple juice backed by a slowly growing spice note, later caramels, and a slight oxidized apple and brown peel note to end. The finish has a mildly bitter apple tinge and buzzing spices. The apple sings out with a dash of water. (494 bottles)—JM
83 Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Invergordon) 28 year old 1987, 56.5%, £85 Sweet top notes of brioche loaf with baking spices, but there are savory flavors of pastrami bark lurking deep in the glass. Flavors of golden syrup and butterscotch unfurl beautifully from within the thick texture at cask strength. Roasted spices explode, but as it dilutes, stewed fruits and sucked boiled candy notes are found. Water emphasizes confectionary elements and purple fruits, but kills the spices stone dead. Dry, spicy heat on the finish. (490 bottles)—JM 78 Douglas Laing Old Particular (distilled at Strathclyde) 10 year old 2005, 50.9%, £44 One might speculate about the initial qualities of this young grain prior to its sherry cask finish. While it boasts a richer color, the nose is reminiscent of roast beef, plasticine, wet dog, and bruised raspberries. In the mouth, it has good weight, though mouth puckering, with some brief rubbery notes early on before showing strawberry bubblegum, sugar crystals, black cherry, rhubarb, faint coffee notes, and an ever-growing pepperiness. An enjoyable finish of baked apple and star anise. (727 bottles)—JM
United States BOURBON
92 1792 Full Proof, 62.5%, $45 No age statement on the label, but aged for 8 1/2 years. Bottled at the same ABV as its entry proof into the barrel. Lush and mouthcoating. A pleasingly sweet bourbon, with caramel, nougat, and chewy toffee, mixed
92 Booker’s Rye, 68.1%, $300 Is this perfect? From the look and nose, yes. Rich caramel and campfire smoke early on; it’s robust, but balanced. Crème brûlée with a sultry smokiness, raw honey with a dusting of nutmeg and a Scotch ale malt profile that’s creamy and mouth-coating. Alas, a heavy bite hides much, needing water to open up. A drop adds complexity, spice, vanilla, chocolate, and licorice.—FM
with ripe orchard fruit, golden raisin, and creamy vanilla. Soothing finish. A wonderful way to end a meal. (With a cigar, perhaps?) This is a beautiful bourbon and a great value given its quality, ABV, and price.—JH
pumpernickel rye with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. Based on the taste, I’d think this flavorful beauty would offer a long finish, but misses the mark. Thankfully, spice over the medium finish is quite pleasant.—FM
92 Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (No. 3405), 60%, $47 Think caramel bomb. Once you pass the crème brûlée, caramel chew, and other variations of the confectionary, vanilla custard, pumpkin, toasted pecan, raisins, light German chocolate cake, praline, tobacco, cigar box, sandalwood, and earth surface. It’s mouthcoating, covering every inch, tingling from the palate’s roof to the back of the neck. The incredibly long finish sits there with caramel. The only knock here is that caramel can be overwhelming, but it’s also bourbon’s staple note. (New Hampshire only)—FM
89 Bulleit Barrel Strength, 59.7%, $50
90 Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel Elliott’s Select, 58.4%, $125 There’s a certain complexity here that you just come to expect in limited edition Four Roses. This one doesn’t disappoint. Rose petals, honeysuckle, caramel, roasted pine nuts, cotton candy, dark coffee, and vanilla. The creamy mouthfeel delightfully brings in warm cinnamon roll, chocolate truffle, and honey taffy, balanced by herbs and subtle earthiness that settle with a long-lasting cinnamon-forward finish.—FM
90 Rhetoric 22 year old, 45.2%, $110 Delightful opening of fruit, praline, caramel, maraschino cherries, and spice, with a burst of smoked paprika and a hint of leather. It’s soft on the palate, easily gliding down the jawline, filling with flavors of caramel chew, saltwater taffy, coffee, and a rich, toasted
High rye is evident, with rounded baking spices up front, leather, muted caramel, vanilla, and a hint of tobacco. This ABV beast coasts with the warmth and richness of crème brûlée, toffee, cinnamon rock candy, fruit, and nutmeg. Oh wait, there’s more. Smoke kicks in toward the end with marshmallow undertones and more cinnamon, finishing strong with lasting spice. This is a cask strength sipper or a lovely bourbon on the rocks.—FM
89 Deceptivus Bourbon (Batch No. 2), 42.5%, $52 Aged in new American oak barrels for 1 year and then port barrels for anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Roasted corn, pine nuts, vanilla, cinnamon, and sweet oats. Oak surfaces for a second, then is quickly replaced by lovely brown sugar followed by taffy and bread pudding. This certainly is more rich and pronounced than most young bourbons, with a decent finish of cinnamon pastry. Kudos for making 1 year old bourbon taste well beyond its year. Sourced whiskey.—FM
88 Blood Oath Pact No. 2, 49.3%, $100 A combination of 7 year old year rye finished in port barrels and 11 year old wheated and rye bourbons. It presents exceptionally fruity aromas, with prominent plum and floral hints, fresh-cut grass, toasted pecan, burnt butter, brown sugar, and a touch of chocoWHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 119
late. On the palate there are warm cinnamon apples, fried donut with caramel icing, and a hint of dry popcorn. The medium finish offers lovely toffee. Sourced whiskey.—FM
87 Barrell Cask Strength Straight Bourbon (Batch No. 7) 5 year old, 61.2%, $85 5 years is when bourbon really starts developing complexity, and you find the beginnings of greatness here, with saltwater taffy, vanilla custard, citrus, corn pudding, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. Its proof offers satisfying warmth that quickly turns to spice. Medium finish gracefully gives a hint of warm vanilla icing. In an age of barrel strength bourbons, this is a good one, but lacks complexity for higher praise. Sourced whiskey.—FM 87 Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (No. 3403), 60%, $47 There’s a marriage here, one of perfect harmony; fruit, floral, spice, sweet, and expressive toasted oak. Then the broad genres become specific: the fruit is cherries; the floral, a hint of lavender; the sweet, an array of toffee, caramel, and vanilla, until its spice complexity kicks in, showing allspice, white pepper, Spanish anise, and nutmeg. Its proof never shows, but the medium finish is just a touch short to make this truly special. (New Hampshire only)—FM
85 Trail’s End, 45%, $50 An 8 year old Kentucky straight bourbon finished in Oregon oak that apparently brings about vanilla cake batter, caramel, hints of coffee, and citrus. Soft and delicate to the taste, with exploding French toast notes, cinnamon, allspice, and a hint of blueberry jam. The finish comes and goes, but leaves an impressive watermelon Jolly Rancher-cinnamon combo at the end. This one is meant to be sipped without the addition of water or ice. Sourced whiskey.—FM 82 Cooper’s Craft Straight Bourbon, 41.1%, $29 You can actually smell the cooper toasting oak here, so the name carries real meaning. Then cotton candy, fresh-baked rye, vanilla, apple, and caramel come to life. A slight hint of grain becomes more expressive on the tongue, offering bread-like flavors with hints of brown sugar and honey. Short finish with a hint of grain. If you like light-bodied bourbons, this is right up your alley.—FM 120 FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
82 Knob Creek 2001 (Batch 1), 50%, $130 Highly anticipated, this release offers freshlypopped kettle corn, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, hints of fruit and floral. Then it feels unbalanced, a bitter woodiness hiding hopeful flavors. Once the wood disappears there’s caramel, vanilla, and baking spice over heat. A drop of water corrects the dominant oak and gives this a sipper’s chance.—FM 81 Bib and Tucker Small Batch 6 year old, 46%, $55 With its straw color, this looks nothing like a 6 year old, but its aroma and taste justify the age statement. Caramel-covered popcorn, cooked grains, Nutella, honey, and toasted rye bread. No one flavor overpowers another as an assortment of sweet and spice project over a chewy mouthfeel. The medium finish shows decent caramel. This is nice, but doesn’t wow the palate. Sourced whiskey.—FM
80 High West American Prairie Bourbon (Batch No. 16B16), 46%, $35 A blend of straight bourbons. Light straw color. An expressive dark cherry, cooked grains, and wood nose opens up to a bevy of custard, roasted pine nuts, and herbs, with hints of tobacco and smoked hazelnuts. A grain-forward approach leaves it slightly unbalanced, until roasted nuts save the day with a tinge of vanilla and caramel-flavored popcorn. Sourced whiskey.—FM
79 Straight Edge Bourbon, 42%, $55 A composite of 5, 7, and 8 year old Kentucky and Tennessee bourbons. It offers exceptional color at this ABV, but the grain and oak-forward nose suggests youth, with hints of medicinal boiling oatmeal and cinnamon. Slightly dry to adhesive mouthfeel is followed by menthol, heavy smoke, cinnamoncustard pie, licorice, caramel, and a hint of cherry cough syrup. With the stocks selected for this batch, I’d hoped for more, but it tastes unlike traditional bourbon. Sourced whiskey.—FM RYE
87 Michter’s Limited Edition Barrel Strength Rye, 55.9%, $75 Think of sitting on the front porch swing, legs up, a good song playing, and this smooth barrel strength rye. It’s an easy sipper, from the allspice and old-style licorice to the cadre of
caramel and vanilla expressions that intertwine custard and German chocolate cake. You don’t expect sweetness, but it’s here, and lasting. If it has a weakness, it loses its intensity about mid-palate, but rebounds with a healthy medium-length finish.—FM
82 Cascadia Rye (Bottle No. 97), 43.45%, $52 Chocolate, honey, vanilla, cotton candy, smoke from barbecue coals, and a big whiff of brown sugar cooking in butter. Then oak shows, softening to vanilla and an explosion of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. You’re thinking this is a nice mid-range rye, but a short finish really disappoints. Its finish is saved by a nice hint of dill. Sourced whiskey.—FM
90 George Dickel Distillery Reserve 17 year old, 43.5%, $75/375 ml Tennessee whiskey shall not be undersold in this flavorful version. Rich notes of caramel and vanilla developing in yellow cake batter with dark caramel, brown sugar, leather, toasted pecans, and hints of walnut, smoked apple, and honey. Then red fruit, baking spice, and complex butterscotch over a palate-coating mouthfeel that’s perfectly warm and balanced all over. As good as it is, it could be better with ten more proof points. Its light proof shows in a shorter-than-desired finish. (Tennessee only)—FM
89 High West Light Whiskey, 46%, $100 This is a batch of 100 barrels of MGP light whiskey, an American whiskey using higher distillation proofs and used cooperage. It reminds me of 1980s Crown Royal, with floral vibrancy, honey, and a slight hint of chocolate, followed by licorice, allspice, and vanilla. Its spice hits early and often with balanced black licorice. Blackberry, blueberry, and ginger come down the final stretch for a nice medium-length finish. Sourced whiskey. (Distillery only)—FM
86 Slaughter House American Whiskey, 44%, $40 Blend of 5 and 9 year old whiskeys aged in American oak and finished in Papillion (a French oak-aged red wine) barrels. There’s something to this, with orange zest, rose pet-
als, honey, vanilla, and cotton candy. Then, a contradictory array of flavors abruptly changes the conversation. Think smoke: charcoal, campfire marshmallows, cinnamon, with hints of white pepper and tobacco plug. Its mediumspicy finish captivates me, even though palate and nose seem to be two different whiskeys. Very interesting. Sourced whiskey.—FM
84 Barrell American Whiskey (Batch No. 2), 61.9%, $65 Two things show almost immediately: alcohol level and sherry cask. Heat and salty nuttiness really express themselves early on, eventually followed by flavors of caramel chew, graham cracker, nutmeg, and cinnamon, with an unwanted bitterness. Walnut shell and smoked meat come along too, for a medium finish that tingles. With a drop of water, its bitterness turns to oak, making it the preferred way to sip its hefty proof. Sourced whiskey.—FM 83 Boondocks 11 year old, 47.5%, $40 Light straw color, but its rich aroma contradicts its youthful color. Marshmallow and cotton candy really come out strong, quickly followed by decadent bakery aromas. Freshbaked muffins, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla icing, with hints of caramelized barley and nutmeg. Its weaknesses are a slightly adhesive mouthfeel and short finish, but the pronounced flavors still make it a borderline sipper or a just-add-water whiskey. Sourced whiskey.—FM 80 The Hilhaven Lodge, 40%, $50 Straw to light tawny. This blend of straight American whiskeys comes alive with wood, floral, citrus, and cola. The taste presents a heftier body than the 40% ABV suggests, with hints of coffee, nutmeg, and cornbread. This has a warm, astringent finish that gives cinnamon, caramel, and grain. Leaves me wanting more from the experience. Sourced whiskey.—FM
78 Boondocks 11 year old Cask Strength, 63.5%, $60 There’s promise here, with peach, dried apricot, baking spice, and vanilla delighting the olfactory, and a slight hint of coffee just in case you needed it. But the intense heat shows itself and grain covers subtle sweetness and spice. The best high-proof whiskeys are actually quite smooth; this needs water to find its sweet spot. Sourced whiskey.—FM
60 Woodford Reserve Master’s
86 John Myer New York
Collection Five Malt, 45.2%, $50/375ml Four barley types—two row, pale chocolate, kiln coffee, and Carafa—and malted wheat; aged 6 months in used Woodford Reserve Double Oaked barrels. Initial pungency and varnish. Then freshly-cut grass, petrol, wood shavings, and a slight hint of chocolate. New make mouthfeel. A hint of honey and milk chocolate is quickly overtaken by an astringent finish. In another few years, maybe this will become more palatable, but this is far from ready, and bourbon remains this distiller’s strong suit.—FM
Straight Bourbon Single Barrel, 45%, $42/375 ml Crafted from estate-farmed organic grain and aged for 2 years. The flavors are impressively seamless, with nice complexity and everything neatly in its place. Fresh oak is well integrated with notes of orange rind, rosewater, sweet corn, and red fruits. The slick, buttery palate sizzles with peppery spice—cinnamon hearts candies and ginger. Robust in flavor, while showing impressive craftsmanship and polish.—JL
89 Bainbridge Yama American Single Grain Barley Mizunara Japanese Oak Cask, 45%, $495 This high-end whiskey exhibits restrained oak, elegance, and delicateness, with wonderful poached pear, cereal, crème caramel, floral, and lemon chiffon cake aromas that yield to a bright beam of tart, mouthwatering citrus—clementine, lemon, and yuzu—tingling with allspice. Bright, light, and lively, but not lacking in complexity, finishing with marshmallow, toasted almond, and marzipan. Very pretty! American single grain whiskey aged in Japanese Mizunara oak casks.—JL
87 Grand Traverse Ole George Double Barrel 100% Straight Rye, 46.5%, $64 The quality is instantly discernable, even as the rye grain takes a back seat to layered aromas of cherry and dark currant, coupled with sweet notes of brown sugar and treacle underscored by fresh oak, toasted spices, and dark chocolate. Beyond its richness and depth, this beams bright and lively on the palate as grapefruit zest meets rye bread, followed by a finish of harmonized sweetness and spice. Aged 3 years in American oak; finished in French oak. (Distillery only)—JL
86 Grand Traverse Islay Rye, 45%, $49/375 ml Once you get over any initial disappointment (there is no peat smoke), this is one engaging and mouthwatering whiskey; clean with malty cereal notes, golden raisins, bread dough, and freshly-sawn oak. The real clincher, however, is the captivating wisp of saline sea breeze echoing across a warming finish of cherry hard candies, rye spice, and salt brine. Medium-bodied, fresh, and delicious. (Distillery only)—JL
86 Middle West Spirits Double Cask Collection OYO Oloroso Wheat (Batch 2), 51%, $80 Lavish red fruit and sherry blanket this whiskey, initially aged in American oak barrels followed by 12-18 months in oloroso sherry casks, to approach 5 years age in total. It may be the light toast of the initial barrels that allows this wheat whiskey to stand up exceptionally well, developing seamless flavors of figgy pudding, walnuts, chocolate-covered raisins, cacao nibs, and maple candy, culminating in a finish that nicely balances fruit and leathery oak. Carries its proof nicely.—JL 85 John Myer New York Straight Rye Single Barrel, 45%, $42/375 ml Fresh oak, sweet malt, caramel, and spiced cherries flirt with cracked pepper on the nose, while the smooth and sweet palate offers up clean flavors of citrus zest, butterscotch, drying oak, and saddle leather. Pleasantly herbal and licoricey on the palate with a perky cinnamon-spice finish. Nicely executed. 70% rye with certified organic grain.—JL 84 John Myer New York Straight Wheat Single Barrel, 45%, $42/375 ml Soft and sweet; ripe apricot, honeyed porridge, and sweet vanilla take the lead, with a palate that elicits warm peach cobbler sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. There is lots of freshly-sawn oak apparent throughout, but ample fruit keeps this whiskey juicy right through a pleasantly spicy finish. Fruit forward, smooth, and lovely; a real eye-opener for a whiskey of 100% soft white winter wheat.—JL 84 Two James Spirits Catcher’s Rye, 49.4%, $60 Cereal grains, flour-dusted breadboard, fresh cut hay, horehound lozenge, and apple pie. WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 121
The appearance of Fig Newtons cookie and toasted rye bread flavors nicely complements green peppercorn spice and an herb garden edge, with good length to the salted-caramel and sweet maple finish. Pot distilled from 100% Michigan rye and aged in full-sized barrels. It’s just a touch green, but drinking nicely and totally on track. More patience will pay dividends.—JL
83 John Myer Four Grain, 45%, $45 Mashbill of 47% corn, followed by rye, wheat, and barley. Aromas of golden fruit with grassy freshness (hay and floral notes) turn a bit more plump and juicy on the palate, with apricot, raspberry, and some tropical fruit—pineapple and mango—emerging. Orange-peel citrus character is lifted by white pepper spice before the oak-laden, leathery, drying finish.—JL 83 Sons of Liberty Uprising Pedro Ximénez Sherry Finish (Batch 2), 46%, $30 The nose of this mahogany-hued ‘singlemalt’ portends dense and chewy flavors of brown sugar, dates, and toasted walnuts. It’s a bit fiery on the palate, where it unleashes a rush of dried fruits, smoke, and spice. While some raw spirit character peeks through, this unconventional whiskey holds appeal for its originality, with a stout-like crescendo of coffee and mocha on the very long finish.—JL 83 Union Horse Distilling Reserve Straight Bourbon (Batch 1), 46%, $37 Aged up to 5 years, this whiskey serves up lots of fresh, oaky sawdust with its caramel and toffee, along with some varnish notes. Aromas of spice and smoke lead to a palate of butterscotch, smooth and oily in texture, with robust, warming spice and a dry, leathery, and tannic finish. Nice maturity and polish for the price.—JL 82 Painted Stave Diamond State Bourbon (Batch 2), 47%, $40 A coppery, auburn color betrays small barrels, in this case just ten gallons. The distinctive aroma of sassafras recalls rolling in a pile of autumn leaves, then quickly gives way to the apparent spice of a high-rye mashbill. The earthy and spicy qualities meld nicely, developing cedar box and sandalwood, wrapped in the sweetness of maple syrup, while the palate feels slick and buttery before a finish lingering with cinnamon and warm oatmeal cookie.—JL 122 FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
82 Sons of Liberty Battle Cry Oloroso Sherry Finish (Batch 2), 46%, $40 Deep golden in color with a pinkish cast, this shows good purity of fruit, with red berry, black cherry, toasty oak, and some oxidative nutty notes layered across a creamy, malty palate. A nice grilled-fruit palate echoes with sweetness and charcoal smoke on the long finish. The sherry contributes a lot of nice character, but without more overall maturity feels a bit like window dressing.—JL 82 Union Horse Distilling Reunion Straight Rye (Batch 2), 46.5%, $40 Made with 100% rye aged up to 5 years, this starts off surprisingly fruit-forward, with poached pear and zesty, clove-pierced citrus, though the wood is beginning to dominate. The palate fires up the rye spice, underscored by cocoa, turning hot with some adhesive notes and finishing with fresh cereal grain and bitter oak tannins. A wood lover’s whiskey.—JL
82 Vapor Boulder Bourbon, 42%, $40 Pretty fruit gets swept up in distinct anise and fennel-bulb aromas, with hints of mint and quinine, backed by vanilla. Very soft, creamy, and rounded on the palate, the peachy stone fruit comes nicely balanced with oak, sweet vanilla, and glimmers of nutmeg and clove spices before the cocoa powder finish. Wellconstructed, smooth, and easy-drinking with a pleasant persistence of fruit.—JL 81 Palm Ridge Rye Whiskey, 50%, $49 Starts off quite confectionary, with sweet top notes of vanilla, crème caramel, and violets. The palate flaunts its brash youth, showing lots of primary, new make whiskey character, while carrying its 100 proof surprisingly well for such a young whiskey (aged less than 1 year), as the cereal grain, cinnamon spice, generous sweetness, and charcoal power through the palate. Young, potent, and unapologetic.—JL
81 Wood’s High Mountain Tenderfoot (Batch 29), 45%, $40 Despite the orange-amber color, green, stalky corn husk and bramble notes dominate this youngster, with secondary flavors of fruitwood smoke and warm cereal. The flavors are beginning to evolve nicely on the palate, as the fresh malt meets lots of dark chocolate before a savory snap of green stick returns on the finish. Malted barley, malted rye, and malted wheat.—JL
80 Cooper River Rye, 43%, $65 Rich copper in color, following just 55 weeks in a 17-gallon barrel at low proof (106.2), this whiskey is caught between youth and ambition, as flavors of leathery oak, earth, dried apple, and dates emerge to meet green twigs and briar, and some musty basement. Generous and broad-shouldered, this rye aims high, with solid structure and robust spice, but is overwhelmed by dusty, bitterly tannic oak on the finish.—JL
79 Chambers Bay Greenhorn Bourbon (Batch 1), 44%, $27/375 ml Initial aromas of boiled corncob, sugarcane stalks, and burnt sugar give a suggestion of youth and slight bitterness. Dig a little deeper and the secondary flavors of honeyed fruit, green apple, lavender, vanilla, and fresh oak reveal potential. While clearly young, there is still a lot to admire in this soft and delicate wheated bourbon, with its hints of smoke and a mouthwatering saltwater taffy finish, possibly derived from aging in floating boathouses on Puget Sound.—JL 79 Palm Ridge Reserve, 45%, $55 Distilled from corn, malted barley, rye, and flaked rye, and aged in small barrels with toasted orangewood chips. While this whiskey smacks of its youth, with green flavors of burnt cane stalks wrapped in orange blossom honey and charred marshmallow, there is something compelling about its primary spirit quality, freshness, and sincerity. A fine example of what it aims to be—young small-barrel whiskey.—JL 73 Rogue Oregon Single Malt, 40%, $45 Showing its youth through an obvious green character that peers from beneath a cloak of campfire and applewood smoke, with banana as the prominent fruit, along with secondary apple, citrus, and a peculiar rubber tire note. The palate is light-bodied and overtly sweet, with grass, marshmallow, and vanilla. Reminiscent of a Lowland malt, which only contributes to the disjointed feeling of the whole package.—JL
Canada 92 Lock Stock & Barrel Straight Rye 16 year old, 53.5%, $150 Another Lock Stock & Barrel all rye-grain whisky from the pot still at Alberta Distillers. To the sweet oak caramels, vanilla, and potent
spiciness of new charred American oak barrels, it adds spring flowers, blistering black pepper, and blackstrap molasses. Firewood, Smith Brothers black cough drops, and new leather bring dimension to ever-present cloves and egg-noggy nutmeg. Canada balsam, licorice, cherries, clean oak, and the heat of high proof, then a long, hot, sweet and spicy finish with vegetal undertones.—DdeK
89 Shelter Point 2016 Inaugural Run, 46%, C$70 Vancouver Island grain farmer Patrick Evans built Shelter Point distillery in Oyster River on one of the last remaining seaside farms in British Columbia. Distiller James Marinus has been crafting traditional single malt whisky there since 2011. Barley sugar and a sweet waxiness lead into ripe red fruits and soft peachy sweetness, with mild spices and hints of mealy halva. Malty and mature well beyond its years, rising peppery notes introduce a long, sweet, grassy finish. Nicely balanced.—DdeK
a good job of it. Round, leafy, cereal notes on the nose give rise to a granular fruitiness, delicate oak, caramels, and glowering peppers on the palate. It’s beautifully balanced, lush, and mouth-filling, and though delicious now, with a few more years it would be stellar. Lovely hot peppers, sweet grassiness, yellow fruit, and a long spicy finish.—DdeK
punchier than the Stalk & Barrel White Label blend it replaces. Clear malt notes, soft caramels, apple juice, and mild sweet flowers on the nose. The palate shows oak caramels, vanilla, and some mild white pepper. Becomes very zesty in the mouth, with a long, peppery, pulling finish. A pleasing but fairly simple whisky, more for mixing than sipping.—DdeK
86 Stalk & Barrel 100% Rye (Cask 82), 46%, $70 Seven years after distilling their first drop, Still Waters can barely keep up with demand. The single malt distillery took a giant step forward when partners Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein decided to mash some rye grain. Rye is now more than half of their production. Waxy, sizzling-hot spices and a lovely leafy sweetness lead to softer peppers, hints of vanilla, and a mildly floral palate. Linseed oil and a slippery palate suggest chocolate, but only just.—DdeK
81 Willie’s Genuine, 40%. $28
Cask Strength (Cask 34), 61.4%, $100 As time goes by, Still Waters is developing a recognizable house style. Acetone, fruit esters, and floral notes on the nose, with lemon biscuits and a hint of graham crackers. Hot, sweet, and lively on the palate, with blistering spices soon cooled to sweet dark licorice. Hints of Cheerios and roasted grain are Still Waters’ signatures, as this all-rye whisky shows. Clean dry grass, pears, and sweet barley sugar on a medium finish.—DdeK
85 Stalk & Barrel Red Label Blend, 43%, C$40 Raising the bar a little higher, Still Waters is introducing Red Label, a blend that is rich in 100% rye, all-corn, and single malt whiskies. The undisclosed base whisky is sourced, the rest made in-house. Luscious with sweet esters, lilacs, white clover blossoms, oak sugars, vanilla, and a brace of warming spices. Round, mouth-filling, and creamy on the palate, and after a second, pleasing rye spices emerge. Hints of barrel notes with glowing pepper and citrus pith. Mix or sip.—DdeK
88 Gibson’s Finest Bold 8 year old, 46%, C$29 With NAS, 12, and 18 year old versions longestablished as Canadian favorites, Gibson’s master blender, Brian Kinsman (of Glenfiddich), turned his hand to an 8 year old specifically intended to be mixed with Coke. Why? That’s how 40% of Canadians prefer their whisky. Rich in dark rum notes, kola nuts, vanilla pods, and sweet rye, it bursts with ripe black fruits and sizzling hot spices. Sip slowly to uncover black licorice, a touch of tannin, and the classic Canadian hot, bitter pith finish.—DdeK
85 Two Brewers Yukon Release 03 Peated, 46%, C$95 Distilled and matured under the midnight sun in Whitehorse, Yukon, Two Brewers whiskies benefit from having a brewery to keep the cash flow positive during the 7 year maturation period, and a brewer to manage the fermentation flavors. Peat smoke, freshly-washed hospital garments, antiseptic—typical Islay with a lot more fruitiness. Sweet canned fruit cocktail and persistent smokiness all wrapped together in a neatlybalanced unit. Hot peppers, hints of green licorice, and caramel.—DdeK
87 Stalk & Barrel Single Malt
83 Stalk & Barrel Blue Label Blend, 40%, C$33 This mingling of Still Waters’ own mature corn, rye, and malt whiskies with undisclosed, sourced base whisky is sweeter and
89 Stalk & Barrel 100% Rye
(Cask 83), 46%, $70 A growing number of Canadian craft distillers are making Scotch-style single malt whisky, and several, including Still Waters, do quite
Willie Blazer imports 100% rye whisky from Alberta, then brings it to bottling strength at his Ennis, Montana distillery with water from the nearby Madison River. Canadian whisky figured large in the history of the West and Willie’s is a local bestseller. Caramel and rye spices on the nose, toast and plum jam, sweet yet bracing spices, a long, lovely glow deep in your chest. A simple sipper or a monster mixer with cloves, fruitcake, white pepper, and gentle pithiness.—DdeK
Ireland IRISH SINGLE MALT WHISKEY
89 The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Cooley, Cask 20024) 13 year old 2002, 54.2%, $130 The golden sweetness of the wine cask is apparent, with light floral notes, baked almonds, warm flapjacks, and golden syrup. Initially, it lands light as a feather, introducing melon and green apple, becoming textured with cinnamon spices and nutmeg, and swirling with caramelized sugar sweetness. Complex, with fruit sourness and gooseberry notes adding depth to the flavor progression, leading to a dry and pure finish. Water adds sugariness: it’s preferable in its full-strength fighting Irish guise. (K&L Wines only, 380 bottles)—JM
88 Tullamore D.E.W. 18 year old, 41.3%, ¤110 After 18 years maturing in traditional oak, this triple distilled whiskey undergoes a four-cask finish in bourbon, oloroso sherry, port, and madeira casks. Following a 6 month period of finishing, molasses, raisins, chocolate ganache, malt loaf, and solid oak notes have emerged after careful blending of the component whiskeys. Smooth, yet thick and mouth-drawing; black fruits, treacle, wrinkled vanilla pods, chocolate chip muffins, and sticky dates. There are less than 2,500 bottles of this attractive, resinous whiskey WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 123
that slips away leaving sweetness, dark fruit, and cinnamon.—JM
FOCUS ON Limeburners
87 Tullamore D.E.W. 14 year old,
Cameron Syme formed the Great Southern Distilling Company in 2004 and based his distillery in Albany, at the southern tip of Western Australia, where humpbacks and blue whales swim off the coastline. Hardy Europeans settled Albany in 1826 and scraped out a hard-bitten existence: a tough history of whaling, settlers, and convicts. In fact, the convicts used to work in the nearby lime-burning kilns that gave the whisky its name. Limeburners whisky is produced in small quantities, with a focus on exceptional quality and local raw materials. Great Southern has two Knapp Lewer copper pot stills with slightly downward-sloping lyne arms; the spirit still has a capacity of just 580 liters. While Ben Kagi, the master distiller, primarily produces classic sherry, port, and peated whiskies, Syme opened a second distillery last year in Margaret River, where they make Tiger Snake, their take on an Australian-style sour mash whiskey.
92 Limeburners Barrel Strength Heavy Peat, 61%, A$700 Burning driftwood, crisp bacon fat, and melting asphalt in a heat wave cut through with vanilla cream, butterscotch, and chocolate ganache. Great Southern distillery has unleashed a multidimensional beast that opens innocently with vanilla and honey, quickly blown away by a blast of salt and pepper before a deep, primeval base of peat and spice well up from the depths of your soul. Amazingly, great tenderness even at this strength, with a long, complex finish of smoke, sweetness, and spice.—JM 90 Limeburners Port Cask, 43%, A$135 Aromas of black grape, sultana, fresh plum, and fennel seed arouse the senses. The Australian port-cask finish coats the bourbon characteristics, enriching rather than saturating, draping raspberry and cherry around caramels and runny honey. Sultana notes pull ahead, the whole experience becoming buttery in the final stretch as the spices balance out. More spice to the fore on the finish, pumping in the pepper while serving up rich cooked fruit. A highly respectable effort.—JM
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88 Tiger Snake Sour Mash, 43%, A$130 It’s not bourbon, but the mashbill contains corn, rye, and malted barley sourced from western Australia. It has zippy vanilla, whole hazelnut, hints of rye spiciness, overlaid with taffy candy and fresh fruit. Syrupy sweetness drenches the taste buds, peeling back honeyed layers to reveal vanilla, melon, ripe banana, citrus, and tropical green fruits, diluting to delicious coconut creaminess. A moreish small batch whiskey with a finish of custard cream biscuits that sticks it to those boys in Tennessee.—JM 85 Limeburners Sherry Cask, 61%, A$220 Brace yourself: the marauding alcohol vapors will slap you across the chops within inches of the glass. The finishing vessel, a small sherry cask, exudes sweet red fruits; Fragola Fabbri candied strawberries, stewed apples, and brandy characteristics. Diving in neat, become immersed in a sweeping intensity of fruity plum, crabapple, and fig. Taming with water unlocks flavors of honey, caramel, green fruits, and vanilla, though it retains that plum leitmotif throughout. Finish of black pepper on stewed fruits.—JM
41.3%, ¤70 Following a 6 month period of finishing in the same four cask types as its older sibling (see above) we get a fruity nose of cherry lips, black currant juice, brambles, Cox’s orange pippin, taffy candy, and the citrus acidity of oils squeezed from the peel. Oh, it’s sweet, syrupy, and spicy; a fruity cocktail of apple and strawberry. Diminishing spice and bright rustic apples usher in a rewarding finish. A complex and distinctive recipe, for sure.—JM
84 Bushmills Sherry Cask Reserve, 40%, £65 This first release in the Steamship Collection was matured in oloroso sherry butts and enticingly smells both oily and jammy. Dried fruits, such as cranberry, cherry, and raisin, with Brazil nut oil, wood spice, and light pepper. A soft dram, tasting of stewed apple, plum, cherry jelly, spiced orange, dark chocolate, and ending with spices, pepper, fading fruit, and carob nibs. It’s not all at sea, but just needs more body, especially mid-palate, to ride the waves of oloroso influence. (Travel Retail exclusive)—JM
IRISH BLENDED WHISKEY
88 Flaming Leprechaun Special Reserve, 46%, $27 Cinnamon-roasted pecan nuts, cedar sticks, maple cookies, and cracked black pepper make for a parched, dry nose with alluring touches of sweetness and spice. Smucker’s Magic Shell chocolate, warm fruity notes, maltiness, and pepper on the tongue. It’s so succulent, with long spices and cocoa notes concluding a sophisticated experience. Quick, go now, before the stores close.—JM 88 Tullamore D.E.W. 15 year old Trilogy, 40%, $80 Here they take a triple distilled blend of pot still, malt, and grain whiskey matured in bourbon and oloroso sherry and finish it in golden rum casks (a favorite finishing vessel at Wm. Grant). A soft, relaxing sweetness emits from the glass, showing barley sugars, lemon bonbon, vanilla, and freshly-planed oak. The oloroso has been used sparingly, but rounds off the lemon, light fudge, and hazelnut flavors. There’s a spicy last stand that burns brightly. A terrific composition.—JM
78 Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish, 40%, ¤54 Hands up if you’d ever wondered what would happen if you seasoned old bourbon barrels with fermenting Irish cider, then added a triple blend of whiskeys? Anyone? Fizzy sherbet, green foliage, and cider (not apple) notes, that’s what. Seasoning suggests the cask occupants are less than good mates, the cider more a lingering tenant. Pot still surfaces through the saccharine cider flavors, with coiled Bramley apple peels, citrus strands, and a nippy spiciness. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.—JM
World Whiskies FRENCH SINGLE MALT WHISKY
84 Brenne Ten, 48%, $120 Brenne’s first age statement whisky, this was matured in virgin French Limousin oak and cognac barrels. It’s a fruit salad of nectarine, white grape juice, watermelon, and pear, with touches of light vanilla and black tea. A cool, clean sip delivers apple, pear, peach, and apricot, followed by an intense wave of citrus, Fruit Pastilles, spice, and orange butter icing. Those spices fade slowly; the residual flavors are fruity rather than sweet. Clear evidence that Brenne is improving all the time.—JM FRENCH BLENDED WHISKY
82 Moon Harbour PIER 1, 45.8%, $59 Named for the Port de la Lune, of course, the crescent arc of the Garonne flowing through Bordeaux. The company expects to start single malt production in 2017 in their new distillery, but meanwhile enjoy this Sauternes cask finish with its white grape, light honey, floral, and peach aromas. Flavor delivery is all up front; peach syrup and soft toffees, with some burnt spices on the finish. A character of its own, certainly not an imitator.—JM SWEDISH SINGLE MALT WHISKY
85 Box The Early Days (Batch 002), 51.5%, ¤124 Two-thirds malt smoked with Scottish peat, the remaining third is unpeated Viking malt, all filled into first-fill bourbon quarter casks, achieving 30ppm. Peat smoke, lobster pots, pine forests, smoked fish, and some zesty lemons. A beautiful, dense texture of candied peel and sweet lemons; smoke flaring briefly before
dying back to a honeyed conclusion. Water picks out an almond and nougat note with lemon sherbet. If you are new to Box, this is a fantastic place to begin. (2,000 bottles)—JM
SWISS SINGLE MALT WHISKY
91 Swiss Highland Ice Label Edition 1, 58.5%, CHF179 Inside an ice palace located 11,332 feet up the Jungfraujoch, this American oak oloroso butt matured gracefully at a chilly but constant 25°F. A rich vista of currants, red Anjou pears, pecan brittle, musty spices, and saline, with a rootsy, earthy vibe. Flavors climb through intense vanilla, fleeting balsamic notes, a ridge of succulent cherry, sherry, and sultana. Orange and grapefruit at the summit. Drawn-out spice and oak finish, then clove and peppermint. A pinnacle of Swiss whisky making. (981 bottles)—JM
87 Swiss Highland Classic, 46%, CHF119 From the Rugen distillery in Interlaken, this was filled into American oak oloroso sherry butts and rolled into the Rugen Mountain rock cellars that were built in 1875. Almond, glacé cherry, apricot, wood spices, and nougat create a very active nose. A lightness of touch, with vanilla, honey, strawberry, and raspberry make for a juicy mouthfeel, despite a swell of black pepper and ginger. It just grows and grows. The fresh fruits seem impervious to the dying spices.—JM
84 Whisky Castle Vintage (Cask 485), 43%, CHF89 Ruedi Käser has made Whisky Castle one of the best-known Swiss whiskies, and he actively experiments with different grains and cask types. This single-cask expression was produced from corn and 20% peated malt. Herbal notes, fruit jelly on toast, dry oak, cinnamon, warm toasty spices, and a little smoke. A nice silky texture; red fruits, apple, plum, ground ginger, and peppercorn. Pleasant sweetness to begin, then a growing bitterness decaying to a dry and spicy finish.—JM 82 Whisky Castle Oloroso (Cask 494), 48%, CHF89 Another creation from Elfingen, Switzerland, this rich, dark, chestnut-color dram combines their Smoke Barley with oloroso cask maturation. The nose is a merry mix of sweet peat smoke cushioned by Serrano ham, dried fig, and fish box reek. Berry fruits and sultana
initially, though the texture is quite tannic with the stronger alcohol showing through. It develops a bubblegum note, with over-boiled fruit and some savory meat juices rounding off a short, dry finish.—JM
79 Ourbeer Tokaji Finish 3 year old, 43%, CHF79 The makers of Unser Bier in the Gundeli district of Basel produce this young whisky and host an annual seminar in November, where guests learn about distillation and maturation from the master brewer. The nose has honey and melon, but it’s drenched in the sweet wine notes. The palate mingles the melon and honey flavors with sugared sultana until the sweetness abates, bringing out more fruit skins, then a surprising spearmint note on the finish.—JM
Beer PALE ALE
95 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 5.6%, $10/six-pack The granddaddy of American pale ales, this classic remains the standard by which others should be judged. Bright copper-gold with a perfumey aroma that is not as citrus-charged as you think you remember, but instead more floral, with an orange-lemon edge. It begins with soft and caramely candied-orange notes, proceeds to a round, grapefruit and lemon zest-accented body with drying and slightly leafy bitterness, and finally finishes with a squeaky clean and bitter mixed citrus finish. Simply outstanding.—SB
90 Coronado Easy Up Pale Ale, 5.2%, $11/six-pack Described as a “California pale ale” on its label, this highly quaffable canned brew entices with a dry aroma that is equal parts autumn leaf and candied citrus peel, with just a hint of yellow plum. The body is medium-weight, with a seamless progression from modestly sweet peach notes up front to a drying, lemony mid-palate with nuances of black pepper, and finally a dry, moderately bitter citrus zest finish. All in all, a wonderfully balanced and refreshing ale.—SB
88 Jopen Haarlem 1501, 6.8%, $4/12 oz. bottle This hazy golden Dutch ale is brewed to a recipe dating from when herbs gave way to WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016 125
hops in brewing, hence its European name “Hoppenbier.” The nose mixes peach and pineapple notes with hints of thyme. The palate takes a caramel, fruit salad base and accents it with bright Meyer lemon and faintly herbal notes in a rich, very rounded body. The finish is dryly bitter and a bit grassy. A decidedly different but very tasty sort of pale ale.—SB
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WhiskyAdvocate.com 126 FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
85 Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale, 5%, $11/four-pack If the pale ale you seek is filled with citrusy hop bitterness, you’d best look elsewhere than to this Yorkshire classic. It is copper in color and has a dry and flinty aroma of caramel and gentle brown spice. The body is where you’ll find more of its hoppiness, but even then this character is muted by U.S. standards, with an off-dry, faintly raisiny start leading to a leafy, mineraly, vaguely walnutty mid-palate and a bone dry, lightly bitter finish.—SB 82 Shmaltz Brewers Wanted Pale Ale, 5.5%, $8/six-pack An oddly non-kitschy beer from the masters of punny Jewish humor, portions of the revenue from this ale will go to support a new brewer training program. Copper colored with a faint haziness, it has a spicy orange aroma, perfumey rather than sharp, with a correspondingly mellow and gently fruity entry to its flavor. Hop bitterness arrives in the middle, but gently so, drying the slightly muddled caramel apple body to a quenching, fragrant citrus peel finish.—SB 81 New Belgium Glütiny Pale Ale, 6%, $10/six-pack “Crafted to remove gluten” rather than certified gluten-free, this is part of New Belgium’s first foray into beers for the gluten-sensitive. It pours a bright gold, with a fragrant, floral, and slightly angel cakelike aroma; sweet but not sticky. The body is quite full, considering, with apricot and peach notes up front, a more bitter and citrus zest mid-palate and, where it finally falls apart a bit, a thin and vanishing finish that leaves an oily bitterness behind.—SB n
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We’re honored to have been part of the inaugural meeting of the Whisky Club for members of the Anesthesia Department at Fort Benning, Ga.
Joe Durbin of Coeurdalene, Idaho is a selfproclaimed, “whiskey-obsessed collector.” Rightfully so; he’s converted his den into a whiskey bar. You’ve earned the title, Joe!
With the spring issue of Whisky Advocate in hand Paul McKendree of Indianapolis, Ind. recently visited Four Roses distillery. Thanks for the tour! Whisk(e)y Wednesday members of the Loch & K(e)y society at Julio’s Liquor in Westborough, Mass. proudly display the spring issue of Whisky Advocate. Thanks for allowing us to be a part!
Meet Kim Gilbert of Louisville, Ky. She and her husband Dick have turned their love for bourbon into art. They commissioned artist Tyler Robertson to capture their collection of bourbon memories.
Now this is living: snorkeling, beach time, and Whisky Advocate. Jay Lodico enjoys some “R and R” at Little Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.
WHISKY ADVOCATE FALL 2016
A LIGH TE R DRAM
This One’s On Me
FALL 2016 WHISKY ADVOCATE
the White Horse Tavern. I took this as a sign. Inside, a nice man behind the stick drew me a good cold one. It took three, I believe, to restore my spirits, and I slid him some money to settle up. He took out the price of two beers and I said (and believe me, this is not like me) that I’d actually had three, and he said, “Yeah,
but you looked so freaking hot when you walked in, I bought you the first one.” Which is what this is about—the fading of the honorable tradition of the buy-back, not to mention to buy-ahead, which I’ve experienced only that once. I grew up secure in the knowledge that if you behaved yourself and poured a respectable amount of hooch down your
throat and your guests’ throats, the publican would buy you one every so often. This was generally every third or fourth in my old neighborhood, depending on how much of a regular you were, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the magic words, “this one’s on me” from a stranger. I have, of course, always depended on the kindness of strangers, but that’s apparently over, or nearly so. It’s not dead, but it’s face down and whimpering. There are one or two owner-tended places where I live in Chicago, and there’s one Manhattan joint where I can still depend on it, and no, of course I’m not going to tell you where it is. Mostly, however, you can buy any number of $18 cocktails and you’re going to be paying for every ounce. I hear that this is because there are fewer owner-operated saloons, and that so many places are owned by corporations. Why a corporation should be so much cheaper than someone in a bow tie and an apron who actually owns the mahogany is a mystery. Corporations, we’ve been assured, are people—so would it kill them to buy a round every once in a while? It doesn’t bother them to offer Blueberry-Pomegranate Long Island Iced Teas or Salted Caramel Appletinis, but popping for a round now and then is completely out of the question? Aren’t our lives hard enough? Phew. Takes it out of you, ranting. Thanks for listening. So what’s to be done? I recommend frequenting places where the owner can be found in attendance with some regularity. And please try to drink in places where I do, so you could maybe buy me one if nobody else will. n
PORTRAIT: JOE MCKENDRY; ILLUSTRATION: GARY HOVLAND
anhattan, mid-July in a year gone by. Ninety-six degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon, and I’m fresh from peddling my little stories to editors, including “senior editors” whose skin hadn’t cleared up yet, but that’s another story. On this day I’d managed to trade the promise of some amusing prose for the promise of some American money, which is always a good day in the scribbling business, so I was in a dandy mood. My last meeting was near Union Square and I was early for a birthday party for a favorite editor of mine in the west Village. (If I were cyber-savvy, or a senior editor, this sentence would include a link to a map of my starting point and destination, but you can groogle it yourownse’f, as they say in the south.) Where was I? Yes, Union Square, needing to go to Hudson Street, which any New York pedestrian will tell you is a quite manageable stroll, and I was early, remember? A block after I set off strolling, I remembered that when Manhattan gets to those temperatures the humidity rises dangerously, due, I’ve been told, to 350 years of horse, dog, pigeon, and human urine leaching out of the asphalt in the hot sun. It will wilt a linen sport coat quite quickly, I assure you, and it did, along with the writer inside it. I persisted, however (I’m persistent; you could ask anyone who’s tried to change a hyphen on me) and by the time I got to within a block or so of the party, I was exhausted and wet and thirsty, but my guardian angel had guided my size-fifteen feet to a spot directly in front of
by TERRY SULLIVAN