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 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!
February 10, 2012 § 8 Comments
On one of Brian McKenzie’s, owner of Finger Lakes Distilling, recent trips to NYC, we had the chance to meet up for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Joseph Leonard, where, much to my surprise, he revealed the latest in his whisky collection; the McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey. Before anyone could say another word, we had popped the top and was sipping this bright, smooth, happily curious spirit and of course, passing it around to anyone with a willing palate.
In a matter of … oh … probably 10-15 minutes we had easily polished off 1/2 of this bottle. Rightfully so. This is smooth, and interesting, and it has this flavor-balloon effect in the mouth that is so compelling you keep going back for more … and a little more … and …
As soon as you open this bottle, the air around you starts morphing into the most beautiful fruit/oak/mash combo smell. I wish Brian could figure out how to make a candle like this!
Here’s what I have to say about this beauty:
The stats: 100% malted & unmalted barley grown in the fields surrounding his New York’s Finger Lake region distillery. Distilled in just the copper pot part of his German Holstein pot & column combo still (talk about having the ultimate in distilling flexibility!) bottled without caramel coloring or chill filtration (floaties & chunks are a GOOD thing!), 40% abv/80 proof in standard 750ml bottles.
NOSE: copper drinking cup/metallic, corn husks, honeysuckle flower, honeysuckle juice, leather, sweet tobacco, dried granny smith apples
PALATE: mild front, a slight “water in copper cup” metallic flavor on the tip of tongue, moves into a strong dried apple & apricot middle with rye-like spice on back-end and top back of the throat. It balloons and swells as moves back which is very intriguing.
FINISH: tip of the tongue is left with that copper-meets-clove spice that lingers a bit, middle to back of mouth is left pleasantly refreshed
Overall: I would say this is a medium bodied whisky that is very smooth & approachable. A happy choice … if you are lucky enough to find it!
Thank you, Brian, for leaving the bottle in my excited hands. It’s a pleasure to keep revisiting!
December 21, 2011 § 8 Comments
I just spent a full week checking out the whisky scene in the sunny city of Los Angeles, California. On my last day, I was driving around like a crazy person (as you do in LA) trying to squeeze in a few last store visits.
Up until then, I had really only be focusing on specialty shops (K&L for example) and authentic whisky bars (hello, Seven Grand) but I found myself sitting in a parking lot in Beverly Hills staring at a somewhat dingy looking store that, for whatever reason, I felt I was being gravitationally pulled to enter.
Sigh. Ok! I hop out of the car and go into what I would describe at first look as being a pretty standard American liquor store. Neon signs, branded posters, old linoleum floors complete with a faint smell of cat (or is the cat smell only in my memory?).
A quick overview of the room tells me the liquid gold that I’m looking for is in the center of the store (interesting … whiskies are usually along the sides or back walls). Hmmm. I keep walking.
At the start of the aisle, there is a cheap, locked display case that I’m quite sure was been held together with discretely placed duct tape. Now, here’s what I didn’t expect to see in it:
1 beautifully displayed 750ml Baccarat crystal decanter holding non-other than the Louis XIII cognac for around $2500 (see earlier post about this spirit HERE)
1 box (on the bottom shelf, tucked off to the side) of a Compass Box 50ml Sample Gift Set.
Gasp. WHAT!?! I have never seen this kind of set in the States before… ever. SOLD!
This is the perfect way to familiarize oneself with a brand, style, region, etc. I picked up a few sets like this from La Maison du Whisky in Paris back in July (see earlier post HERE, reviews of the sets I bought to be posted in 2012).
In this Compass Box set, it contains five 50ml tubes, one of each of the following:
-1 x Hedonism
-1x Peet Monster
-1x Spice Tree
-1x Oak Cross
I also really appreciate the pull out information card that is secured on the underside of the box lid. This is beautifully done, clean, well organized and a perfect gift … for oneself or someone special!
Sadly, a quick google search produced only one place online with stock and that is a single sellers on eBay (click HERE) but I’m not even sure that’s legal and that guy is selling his box for $89.99 (compared to the $49 I paid at full retail).
IF you can find one – I encourage you to buy it. It’s a great set. I’ll definitely be asking my local store later today to see about getting a few in stock!
Lastly, here’s the information for the store from which I purchased this awesome set:
Vendome Wine & Spirits9153 W Olympic Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Hopefully they can ship to you!
1 ADJUSTMENT SINCE I FIRST PUBLISHED THIS POST: I HAVE SINCE HEARD FROM COMPASS BOX AND THEY OFFER THIS SET FOR SALE IN THEIR ONLINE SHOP HERE: http://compassbox.specialitydrinks.com/
WITH SHIPPING TO THE USA (FROM THE UK) YOU CAN GET IT HOME FOR AROUND $64 USD.
December 12, 2011 § 20 Comments
Earlier this year, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the distillery of perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the whisky world (but not for long!).
Celtic Whisky Compagnie’s most popular brands are Kornog and Glann ar Mor. (Specific product reviews in part 2 of this series). On the heels of the Winter issue, before you send your 1st edition Fall 2011 Whisky Advocate magazine out to the recycling bin (or storage bin), check out their nice mention!
Stepping off the train from Paris to Brittany, you arrive in this beautiful, small, sunny, sea-breeze soaked town where it’s easy to start imagining ones’ early retirement. Shortly there after, we were graciously picked up by my dear friend and head distiller, Jean Donnay. As he drove us down the windy coastal streets, we watched the tide quickly retreat and the oyster farmers rushed in to collect their crops. After a blissful tour of the distillery, we shared the most delicious seafood lunch on the top floor of the distillery where we talked about and drank Jean’s amazing whiskies.
And amazing, they are. This is truly a labor of love. Everything they make is hand-crafted and produced by Jean and his wonderful wife, Martine. They do everything right; 100% Scottish malt, live fire, slow distillation, wooden washbacks, worm tube copper stills … but still, given the right skill, patience, investment and knowledge, all of that can theoretically be duplicated anywhere. However, in addition to their passion and drive, what Celtic Whisky Compagnie has that you can’t copy is their perfectly strategic location for “Seaside Maturation.”
Remind you of somewhere? Starts with an “S” ends with a “land”… exactly.
This carefully produced spirit comes off the stills and relaxes on the earthen floor right by the sea. The warehouse is on the tip of a peninsula so you get the wonderfully moist, salty sea air continuously swirling around the aging whiskies. When you sip Jean’s products, you are transported to this place and the amazing journey for your senses begins.
Those of you in Europe – get your hands on a bottle or two (if you’re lucky!). As for us Americans, definitely pick up a bottle on your next pass through Europe! You’ll be glad that you did!
October 25, 2011 § 26 Comments
To say I’m a fan of Japanese Whisky is a huge understatement. Unfortunately for me, I live in the US where our options for Japanese Whiskies are very limited. Luckily, we do have access to a few product by Suntory.
While I’m a bigger fan of their Yamazaki single malts (see my earlier post HERE), I do also try to keep a bottle of the Hibiki 12 on hand, despite it’s somewhat higher price tag (between $60-$70 USD). The Hibiki series is a blend of more than 30 different single malts and grain whisky from the Chita distillery. The oldest of the malt being a 75 year old Yamazaki that has been aged in 100% Japanese oak casks. Once the whiskies have been combined, Suntory finishes them for 1 year in matured umé (plumb wine) barrels.
Ok, let’s get down to business!
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
NOSE: lavender floral, burnt sugar, honey, fresh apple, maturing cask “dust”, a light apple cider vinegar next to the rooibos tea notes
TASTE: Beautifully balanced and changes evenly through the various flavors like the changing of the seasons. Crème brûlée, caramel apple to lemon peel, then moves into some spiced earthy tea and light wood flavors
FINISH: Long and lingering, rounded oak, rich earth under the lighter notes, ends with a bit of fresh ground black pepper on the tip of the tongue and lips
Have you tried this before? What do you think?
September 28, 2011 § 21 Comments
That’s quite a long name for a whisky with a relatively short finish… But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
The Glendullan Distillery is located in Speyside and is currently owned by Diageo. It was established in 1897 and was apparently King Edward VII’s favorite whisky (you remember him; the “Edwardian” period and the peacekeeper in Europe …4 years after his death was the start of WW1 and the end of his era, so long corsets!).
I am no King, or Queen for that matter, but I will say that the Singleton 12yr is a nicely balanced, well rounded Single Malt that, for $30-$40USD could easily be one’s great daily dram.
FACTS: 40% abv, aged for 12 years in sherry & bourbon casks.
NOSE: Vanilla birthday cake and brewed black tea, definitely some rum notes and a bit of green apple.
PALATE: A good, smooth start with nice bright tannins in the middle. There is some burnt sugar in the taste too. There is also a faint spice that I can’t quite put my finger on. I tried adding a bit of water but it went too flat too quickly.
FINISH: The oak and burnt sugar linger for just a bit on the sides of the tongue.
Overall, I think this is an easy Single Malt to have around … for both your senses and your wallet.