June 13, 2013 § 20 Comments
This post could have also been titled:
Whisky Love Affair: Suntory
There isn’t one particular reason that I love Suntory – but more a collection of experiences gained over the years. The first, and perhaps most important, being that they are the producers of “the dram” that set me down this path of total Whisky geekdom, which I will always attribute as being Suntory’s Yamazaki 18. The second being that we always have a bottle of the Yamazaki 12yr on hand – always (which I have reviewed in the past HERE). I have long admired the Japanese esthetic – and when it’s applied to luxury, it doesn’t typically come across as being ostentatious or glitzy glam – but instead clean elegance.
And it was this minimalistic elegance that was on magnificent display a month ago on Tuesday, May 14th, at the Art of Suntory event at the Noguchi Museum in New York. This was no ordinary tasting, mind you, but an experience to not be quickly forgotten. No attention to detail was spared – from the sleek slate gray invitation with the carefully commissioned muted gray cheery blossom photo stamp – a detail so quiet it was not done to stand out on its own but rather aid in setting the tone for the pending event – to the exquisitely chosen location; the striking Noguchi Museum.
Entering the museum, we were greeted by a row of adoring fans … er … no, that’s not right …. rather a group of cheerful servers with delicate delicious amuse-bouches prepared by the renowned chef, David Bouley paired with a Hakushu 12 Highball. Delightful!
And don’t think for a second that you were able to just “show up” … no, when I say they took care of everything – they did. We were given a choice to 2 convenient meeting points in Manhattan – where we then boarded luxury shuttle buses to be driven off to (and from!) the event in Queens. Talk about an entrance. We were first welcomed by being handed a printed Suntory silk scarf – the color of which signified your level as a guest (red was press!) which was folded origami style into a pouch containing the program for the evening, a press packet & whisky menu. Classy. After walking past the line of servers above, we strolled outside to connect with #WhiskyFabric friends new & old. You could feel the excitement building in the air. No one knew quite what to expect but the foundation for a stellar evening was laid.
It kicked off outside with an impressive showing of whiskies and Suntory personalities, including CEO Toshi “TJ” Kumakora, Master Distiller Mike Miyamoto, USA East Coast Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn and USA West Coast Brand Ambassador Neyah White, all of whom played an important role of guiding us through the evening.
Neyah White kicked us off with a Japanese word (sounded like “omo”) that means: opening up barriers. This can take on so many forms – from our zen garden settings in the midst of urban NYC to the overall fact that the world whisky category is here to stay. We heard from Mike Miyamoto (pictured below) who took us through the tasting and chef David Bouley who shared his own experiences of whisky + food coming together to enhance each other.
THE TASTING (photographed above):
YAMAZAKI 18YO | Nose: caramel, vanilla rooibos tea, sweet herbal notes | Taste: Herbal sweet & warming spice tea notes continue, long smooth finish. Heaven in a bottle.
HAKUSHU 25YO | Nose: burnt orange peel, mild sweet smokiness, fresh flowers … lilies, bit of evergreen forest | Taste: Spicy! Dark earthy tones – not piny but more of moss/mold in a good way!
HIBIKI 21YO | Nose: pear, honey, smoke | Taste: very balanced, not too many individual tastes popped out at me. Plenty of complexity.
The weather was perfect for such an event which flowed seamlessly between the indoors & outdoors areas. In hindsight, I don’t remember ever consciously walking to a place because it was indoors or out – but rather because the mood (or, let’s face it, WHISKY!) was calling me!
In the photo above on the right is William O’Donnell of The Men’s Collective and my husband, Nital Patel (which was a huge treat for me as it’s often hard to align schedules and actually attend a whisky event together!).
After the guided whisky tasting – they opened up the other “stations” around as more guests joined in the fun. The food, which started flowing out of the hidden kitchen, was a collection of delicate little morsels of goodness made with the intention of bringing out a particular aspect of the Single Malts or Blends.
We strolled, tasted, sampled, chatted and enjoyed ourselves for hours. Having particular joy in chatting with G-LO & Limpd of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing Blog, Josh Feldman, of the Coopered Tot blog (photographed below) and Stephen from The Malt Imposter.
Below, East Coast Suntory Brand Ambassador Gardner Dunn quickly shaves large cubes of ice down into perfectly rounded spheres and Suntory’s not-for-sale sparkling water bottled at the Yamazaki distillery used in the Hibiki 12 Highballs.
We ended the night strolling through the garden one more time – enjoying the sunset, whisky, food and company. But just when you thought they couldn’t pull out any more surprises, as we wound our way back through the museum to board a return bus home, there were YAMAZAKI TRUFFLES!!!!! I got so excited mine jumped from my hand and proceeded to roll across the floor at such a pace (leaving a little trail of dusted chocolate as it went!) I thought someone might have been controlling it via remote! Well, I can only be classy for so long, I’m surprised my bus didn’t turn back into a pumpkin halfway along the journey!
HUGE THANKS TO: Suntory & Exposure USA PR Company for hosting & inviting us to such a wonderful event. Particular thanks to Exposure’s Danielle Katz & Nicholas Rotondi for your generosity & going above and beyond to make us feel welcome. And BIG THANKS to the #WhiskyFabric crew who also attended and made this event feel far more personal than any event could.
APOLOGIES to Suntory & Exposure for my month-long delay in writing this post! I wanted this to be as perfect as the event has been preserved in my head … but then realized that would be impossible and it was more important to just get this done! 😀 Sorry for the writer’s block!
August 7, 2012 § 7 Comments
If you live in the New York area, consider me your genie and the information in this post being your wish granted. Dramatic you say? No, just honest. Camp Whiskey – in all it’s calm, cool, educational and surprisingly well sourced whiskies (aka, not available in this country – nor will most of them ever be) glory was the highlight of my summer thus far.
Every Wednesday evening this August on a rooftop in Brooklyn, Camp Whiskey assembles. It’s a great crowd of novices & educated drinkers who are all easy going and excited to be a part of the group to learn, meet & taste great whiskies.
The first official event was last Wednesday, August 1st, titled “Irish Whiskeys That Aren’t Jameson.” Starting with the most comprehensive history on Irish Whiskey I have ever heard, it wasn’t long before we were diving in to the liquid gold. On the menu:
Locke’s 8yr, Single Malt, Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey (in the ceramic jug) was the new release this year from the Cooley Midleton Distillery. Originally produced, however, by John Locke’s & Sons distillery near Kilbeggan, it’s bottled at 40% abv. This single malt is a pure pot still, a procedure unique to Ireland whiskey. Mistakenly, I erased my tasting notes on this one but I easily remember it as simply being wonderful. 😛
Bushmills 10yr, Single Malt this is the hearts-only of the distillates (meaning only the middle cuts) with a goal of creating an even smoother Irish whiskey. From what I gathered, this one will NOT be making it to the US. NOSE: More bland than the Locke, harder to analyze in that particular environment for me – even when I stepped inside. Seemed less interesting then the previous dram but would love to revisit in a quiet, neutral-air environment. PALATE: Sweet first, cacao, a funky malt, salty, very short sherry finish.
Yellow Spot 12yr, Single Pot Still Whiskey aged in 3 different casks: American bourbon, Spanish Sherry Butts, & Spanish Malaga Casks. This is a very limited release of only 500 cases, bottled at 46% abv. NOSE: Sweet cinnamon, basil, sage & peppermint. PALATE: Bold, tingly, very long finish with an intense bite. Awesome.
Kilbeggin 18yr – this is also extremely limited (4,000 bottles) – After being closed in 1957, the Old Kilbeggan distillery and its whiskey recipes were purchased by Cooley’s founder John Teeling in 1988 and finally reopened for production in 2007. Whiskey using the Kilbeggan recipe (like this phenomenal 18 year old) was being produced at the Cooley distillery in County Louth, between Dublin and Belfast. This is a beauty. Unfortunately for me (& my empty wallet), it was my favorite of the lot! Extremely interesting – I kept taking it inside to smell and analyze away from the fragrant rooftop plants. NOSE: Caramel & cotton candy, sweet corn, salt water taffy. PALATE: Mild and smooth beginning, wave up to tannins and spicy charred oak. I love the influence of the corn in the mash bill.
Redbreast 12yr, Cask Strength Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey – “Irish Whiskey of the Year” I love a good cask strength whiskey. (Explained how to enjoy cask strengths in an earlier post here). It’s important to remember that not just any barrel is used for a cask strength bottling. Typically, it’s the cask that is aging differently from it’s sisters. As a fellow camper so eloquently put it; often it’ll be the barrel that, due to a crack in the ceiling boards was exposed to sun or the first few barrels by the door to the rick house that got the rush of outside air every time someone went inside. These things over a collection of a few years to a decade can make a real impact on that single barrel. It’s so unique that the distiller decides to bottle those barrels as they are. This particular one is full of life. NOSE: fermented fruit & soil/earth(?). PALATE: tons of fruit, chocolate, pears. A lovely dram for sure.
Wish you were there?! Don’t miss another week! See below for details.
…And here are some pictures from the event…
Great job guys – can’t wait to attend the next Camp session!
July 27, 2012 § 7 Comments
Considering all of the Bruichladdich news going on this week, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in and refocus on what I’m most interested in: the WHISKY!
(But in case you missed it, the fiercely independent Islay distillery just confirmed that they are selling to Remy.)
So today I am reviewing one of my favorite Bruichladdich expressions, the Second Edition 12 year Islay Single Malt, 46% abv aged in Bourbon barrels.
NOSE: Cinnamon bark, cherry (black? fresh?), Red Hot candies, caramel, black licorice mixed with a magic marker, peat is there but quite light and masked by the spicy candy notes
TASTE: Sweet cherry candy (jolly rancher?), cherry morphs into cinnamon, starts medium-strong and balloons up to the peat
FINISH: Bold and very strong, move through the pallet, nice tingling that lingers on lips & tongue for quite a while
What’s your favorite ‘laddich?
April 20, 2012 § 19 Comments
A couple of weeks ago I had the ultimate whisky-geek experience of being temporarily uprooted from my busy life in NYC to partake in the more relaxed lifestyle of the Scots in Speyside, Scotland. One of the highlights being a very personal and memorable visit with David Steward at the Balvenie distillery (see my post on that visit HERE).
While there, I tasted some very rare and exceptional drams which I’ll continue to write about in upcoming posts. The first of which, however, was their new make (also known as “white whisky”) which is the distillate prior to any aging. It’s clear, fresh and bright and is the important base of all of their beautiful variations. This is not something that is ever bottled and sold by Balvenie, despite a trend across the pond by the American craft distillers who have been releasing their white whiskies & moonshines over the last few years. Sometimes these new makes can be a bit hard to drink, but I assure you, Balvenie never does anything rough.
NOSE: Sweet grass, malty, pungent sweet, celery salt, salted honey
PALATE: Eucalyptus, rich, complex, sweet after taste, bright, yummy esters (yup, I did just write that!)
WITH H2O: Eucalyptus is still present with white pepper introducing itself, still sweet, beautiful and something I wish I could buy to have on hand always!
I love a good un-aged whisky and this one is particularly delicious (in fact, I wish I was sipping on this right now as I write this post!). But if you can get your hands on one, and I’m talking about a good one, try it chilled in the summer or, my favorite way, paired with some kind of citrus dessert (think lemon bar or a crème brûlée seasoned with orange zest).
What about you? Do you have a favorite un-aged whisky or a preferred way to enjoy this kind of spirit?
April 13, 2012 § 6 Comments
Anyone who knows me or who follows me on twitter probably knows that I attended the WhiskyLive NYC show this past Wednesday as I was practically jumping out of my skin with excitement! And this year surely did not disappoint.
It’s one of my favorite nights of the year – a time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and drink some seriously stand-out drams. And may I just give my sincerest apologies to everyone who I either didn’t mention here or didn’t have a chance to visit. I could have easily used another 4 hours!
My first stop was quite intriguing … Notch Single Malt Whisky from Nantucket. Notch partners with Cisco Brewers who makes a special beer for them from Maris Otter malt (which has an interesting history for a grain & according to Wikipedia, is “acknowledged right across the brewing world as the finest-quality malt available”). This beer, or wort, is then moved to the Triple Eight Distillery to distill in a small copper pot still where just the heart cut of the distillate is used and aged for 8 years in ex-bourbon and finished in French oak Merlot wine casks from local Nantucket wineries.
Now, this was a really enjoyable dram but what I can’t understand is the price. $888 for a 750ml bottle. I am sure they didn’t have the price match the name of the distillery to be cute … but I just can’t get my head around this! Remember, this was my first stop so I know my brain was still quite sharp – but I didn’t hear them mention the addition of 24k gold or a unicorn horn as a “gift with purchase” so not wanting to further interrupt the interview they were doing with Gregg from DistilleryAge.com, I snapped the above photo promised them I would be following up … and you bet I will be! Asap.
Next stop, Balvenie!
Now you know you’re a #WhiskyBadAss when you show up to an event with your own malting floor! David Stewart and team, you guys are my heroes. (If you missed it, check out my earlier post of my visit to this distillery HERE)
I always enjoy my time with the happy and wonderfully talented Balvenie crew. David and I caught up over a beautiful glass of their 14yr Caribbean Cask Single Malt which was divine. They actually bring rum over from the Caribbean in tanks – not in casks – and fill their casks with the rum for 6 months. Once they have their barrels perfectly seasoned with the rum, they remove it and replace the rum with their 14yr single malt to finish for 6 months prior to bottling. Pretty cool, huh?
Hey – are we taking each others photo!? Silly social media whisky geeks (myself included)! Smile!
The Whisky Peddler. Only available online HERE out of the World Of Liquor store in New Jersey. Unbelievably yummy. Patrick is smart. He purchased two very interesting casks from notable distilleries in Scotland; one from Glen Grant and one from Highland Park. You may ask (as I did) why buy his whiskies over buying a 14 year directly from the producer? Because for both of these malts, he purchased the casks and kept them aging only in their ex-bourbon casks – no sherry finish on these beauts – and let me tell you simply – wow. I was really happy standing here. And at $52 or $60 / bottle, it keeps me baffled by the $888 price tag on the Notch …
Off to the Cocktail’s Live area!
A toast with Kat Valentina – the fab mixologist from LA who was brought in to serve up a very tasty creamy-whiskey cocktail:
2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey, .5 oz Sambuca, .75 oz Rum Chata & 2 oz of chilled coffee
… can we say mid-show pick me up?
Whisky & chocolate – a great pairing. Lucky for us, the hyper-talented chocolatier, Roni-Sue, was there serving up her unique bonbons and pairing them with such lovelies as Laphroaig and Basil Hayden! I loved their Dark & Stormy truffle: dark chocolate ganache that features Goslings dark rum, fresh ginger and lime zest – all I tasted was pure deliciousness.
Glen Garioch paired up with Murray’s Cheese, an excellent cheese shop in NYC (and luckily right down the street from me!) to create a cheddar that pairs specifically with the Glen Garioch whiskies. HOW COOL IS THAT!? I’ll be there tomorrow picking up a good wedge for this weekend! The whiskies are great – balanced, smooth and perfectly complimented by the tangy-creaminess of the cheese. At this point, though, it was too crowded and my glass was too coated with other whiskies to get accurate tasting notes but I’ll definitely be picking up a bottle on my next Scotch-run.
Finish off with hug, dram and special (secret) Bourbon-Ball (a dark chocolate & Smooth Ambler bourbon bon-bon) from John Little, head-distiller at Smooth Ambler, and it was time for the after party!
Now I don’t know how you travel to an after party … but I’m the kind of gal who likes to arrive in style so if that means negotiating a limo ride for some whisky for myself and my beloved whisky-family, like Balcones’ Chip Tate, Compass Box’s Robin Robinson and Kat Valentina … then so be it! 🙂
Off to Ward III we went! It was another amazing night! Congrats Dave Sweet for organizing yet another stellar event! Slainte!
March 14, 2012 § 8 Comments
In preparation for my fast-approaching trip to Europe where I’ll be attending the World Whisky Conference, the Icons of Whisky awards, Whisky Live UK and doing a few days in both Scotland and France, I thought it best to do a pre-trip detox. Limiting myself to only the necessary sips of spirits and events that my life requires.
…But then again – I AM a whisky blogger…
I can’t totally abandon all fun drinking for a week, can I? I say no. So I have found myself wishing to revisit a beautiful bottle of Kornog that was gifted to me by the ever-talented head distiller, Jean Donnay, of the Celtic Whisky Compagnie. And since I already published my post about my visit to his picturesque distillery (click HERE for Part 1), I thought today was the day to abandon my carrot+kale+celery concoction and reunite myself with my trusty Glencarin glass. Here it goes!
ABOUT: 46% abv (92 proof), Peated Single Malt Whisky, twice distilled in copper pots over live flame, wooden washbacks, aged in French Oak on an earth floor where it rested in the salty-air climate of Brittany, France for at least 3 years
NOSE: Definitely classic, pure “peat” (think Sharpie marker), toasted cereal, hint of dried tropical fruit, ripe banana
PALATE: Sweet, buttery grain, smooth approach in the beginning, obvious peat appears in the middle which morphs into the black pepper that cuts through the buttered grains
FINISH: Happily strong, travels nicely through the mouth with a long, lingering finish. Black pepper re-appears on the tip of the tongue at the very end.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The little time in the barrels makes it very light and approachable and gives space to let this whisky’s classic peat notes shine through. If you’re new to whisky and want to find out if you like peated malts, this is a GREAT place to start. Not many barrel notes – which is expected. Very enjoyable. A PERFECT whisky to drink during the transition from Winter to Spring. The peat is there to add a little warmth while the lightness is refreshing.
February 22, 2012 § 13 Comments
I had the most unique experience the other night that still, 2 days later has me a bit perplexed.
Sitting at the bar of an Italian restaurant around the corner from my home (Centro Vinoteca) I found myself peering quite intently at a lightly colored whisky sitting quietly between the Balvenie Double Wood and the Chivas Regal 12yr.
Can you see it? 🙂
Towards the end of the meal, I asked the bartender if I could just see the bottle. Realizing that it had never been opened, the gentleman sitting to my right said, “Let’s open it up and have a taste!” At which point I learned that he was one of the owners. He kindly poured a taste for me and one for himself and then quickly drank his like a shot. I, like the whisky geek that I am, sat there for what seemed like 30 minutes but was probably more like 5 smelling, examining and as best as I could, keeping track of the delicious experience.
Here’s what I wrote down:
ABOUT: 21 year old blended Scotch, 40% abv (80 proof), this is the house blend of the Springbank distillers in Campbeltown
NOSE: maple honey comb, hint of geranium, jasmine black tea, wet spices (clove, cinnamon)
PALATE: water, tire and sweet tobacco leaves on the front, perhaps a bit of toned-down cereal milk which lent a pleasant sweetness in the middle, toffee with grapefruit crème brûlée
FINISH: very smooth, lingering black tea, tobacco, leather and a lovely hint of peat
Coming home, I realized just how rare this bottle might be. I found it sold out on the UK site, Master of Malt, and haven’t yet found anywhere else (IF YOU DO, please share a link in the comments section below!). The only review I found was by the beloved Ralfy. I’ve included his video below. He gives a lot of history about this particular bottling. ENJOY and let me know if you can find it!