husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

average Joes on a whisky journey...all views are our own







Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Canadian Whisky Twitter Tasting Primer


Sometimes I think of my whisky knowledge in terms of the show Jeopardy.

I picture the wall of categories, and start to think of my strengths and weaknesses.

“I’ll take Islay Distilleries for $1000 Alex” (feeling confident)

“I’ll take Mothballed Distilleries for $700 Alex” (feeling pretty good)

“I’ll take Bourbon Companies Supplied By LDI/MGP for $1500 Alex” (Giddy)

But then things take a turn.

In a classic condescending tone, Alex Trebek says, “For the Final Jeopardy question…the topic is…Canadian Whisky.”

For the first time in the show, beads of sweat dot my brow.  Nervousness sets in.  On the brink of panic, I lay down my buzzer, and listen to my stomach churn during the commercial break.

NOT ANY MORE. 

I am now fully armed and prepared for my fictional encounter.

For those of you that got to read my previous WhiskyFest post, you know that I had the distinct pleasure of running into the one and only Whisky Lassie Johanne McInnis.

Shortly thereafter, we had a nice chat (& some laughs) with Davin de Kergommeaux.

Johanne was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to be a part of the second Twitter Tasting featuring Davin’s book Canadian Whisky:  The Portable Expert. 

Fast forward to late November, and we are on the cusp of a very exciting whisky book review/twitter tasting!  #DavinTT2

I have an insatiable appetite for all information pertaining to whisky.  I can’t get enough.  Whether it is reading other peoples blogs, periodicals, or books, I am all in.  Being a part of this experience is a perfect marriage.

Please join myself (and some other lucky folks) in an International Twitter Tasting! Sundays in December are not just about the NFL anymore.   I am honored to join my fellow Whisky Fabric friends across the Globe from Sweden to Alberta as we go on a true whisky journey.

We will be blind tasting four Canadian Whiskies (one each Sunday), we will discuss Davin’s outstanding book, and there will even be a question based Scavenger Hunt with the winner earning a Canadian Goody Basket!


Do you want to learn more? 

Do you have a weak spot in your Whisky Jeopardy arsenal?

Join us and follow #DavinTT2 on Twitter, Sundays in December.  (more details to follow)

Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert is available at many fine bookstores, or on-line at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey & Salted Caramel Whiskey


Eastern Tennessee is home to many great things.

Two of the coolest are the Great Smoky Mountains and Davy Crockett.

In Gatlingburg, TN there is a small distillery, and they are cranking out some cool stuff.  Chuck Edwards is at the helm, and in addition to the range of Ole Smokey Moonshine products his family is creating some other whiskies worth taking a look at.

There is actually a pretty cool interview with him right here. 

It is a shame that you can only get this product in TN as of this writing, but something tells me it will be made more readily available soon.

A special thank you to the great folks in Gatlinburg that sent me a sample of both their Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey and Salted Caramel Whiskeys.


two guys named Davy walk into a bar...

Normally I do not review (and usually dislike) flavored whiskeys, but we will make an exception here as they have been so kind as to send some.

First thing right off the bat is how unique these labels are.  These labels are so cool.  They emulate the style of the late, lamented YeeHaw Industries, formerly of Knoxville. They were famous for their letterpress artwork. I have heard that several YeeHaw reprints are actually being sold in the gift shop section of the Barrelhouse.

Friendly recap for those that may not know is that ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ usually means that the whiskey went through a charcoal maple filtration process.  (Lincoln County Process)  This extra step is a defining thing for Tennessee Whiskeys (like Jack Daniel’s) and it claims to ‘mellow’ out the whiskey a bit.

Let’s give these a try!

DAVY CROCKETT TENNESSEE WHISKEY

Appearance:  Fairly dark amber

Nose:  Char smoke, a little maple syrup, beef jerky

Palate: more smoky beef jerky, bacon, char, nice sweet notes and spices, slight bite

Finish:  More spiciness and a smoky-sweet

Score:  86

DAVY CROCKETT SALTED CARAMEL WHISKEY

Appearance:  Golden Amber

Nose:  Super sweet

Palate:  Sticky sweet, certainly Salted Caramel-esque

Finish:  Short to medium

Overall:

The Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey is made from Rye, Barley and Corn.  That sugar maple really mellows it out, and it is pretty smokey good, just a bit too hot at first.  She needs to breathe a bit, or be put on ice.  I am super stunned by the incredible smoked meat kind of flavor.  I have only experienced it this strongly once before, and that was with Balcones Brimstone.  Brimstone was a different animal, but they both certainly unique and off the beaten path.

The Salted Caramel is certainly more of a liquor to me, thus I will not give it a formal score.  I know, I know, I am a bitter old traditionalist at times.  That being said, I am open minded, and if were to ever throw a whiskey over some ice cream...that Salted Caramel may be the one!  They also have a vodka, other flavored whiskeys, and more...keep up the good work guys.

That cured meat flavor was amazing...fun with char...give the Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey a chance if you can find it.

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wemyss Malts (Three for One Special)


 
Wemyss Malts is a boutique whisky company with ties to the Industry dating back to the turn of the 19th century.  The founder of Haig’s (John Haig) built a distillery on Wemyss land, knowing that the barley produced on the Wemyss Estates is highly coveted among many leading distillers.


Wemyss (pronounced ‘weems’) is Scottish for caves.  They offer a range of malts and blends that have been making some noise in the industry lately and certainly interesting to say the least.  From their cool names, to the quality inside the bottle, it is no wonder that Wemyss has been winning awards lately, and making a name for themselves.

Mr. MacLean has an eye (&nose) for good whisky

Another key to their success has been the fact that they are armed with a virtual legend in the industry, Charlie MacLean.  Known for his passion for Single Cask selection, he is the perfect gentleman to help them with their single cask line that is broad in range and cleverly named.  Their single casks are usually limited to about 300-600 bottles and of very high quality.  Something I enjoy especially is that they are rarely less than 43% ABV…usually up around 46%-full on cask strength.  I like that.

At a recent New Jersey Whiskey Society meeting, we decided to try some of the Wemyss blend range to start our journey.

We sampled the 8 Year Old ‘Smooth Gentleman’, the 8 Year Old ‘Peat Chimney’, and the 12 Year Old ‘Spice King’.  While favorites and scores varied, all of us agreed that this is a fine line of blends, and worth picking up a bottle or two for the collection.  We must pursue some of their Single Casks now!

Tasting Notes on Three:
 
Hello aptly named whiskies
 

8 YEAR OLD SMOOTH GENTLEMAN

Appearance:  Amber -1

Nose:  Fresh and clean, cinnamon toast crunch cereal

Palate:  A little bit of everything & definitely smooth, malt, spice, fruity

Finish:  Smooth and easy drinker

Overall:  Smooth but no chump…this is not a lightweight.  Score 83

8 YEAR OLD PEAT CHIMNEY

Appearance:  Golden Honey

Nose:  Smoke, malt, citrus

Palate:  Peat & smoke, sea salt, oily, orange peels

Finish:  Gentle & subtle

Overall:  I kind of like this one, I like my peaty drams young…Score 84

12 YEAR OLD SPICE KING

Appearance:  Amber +1

Nose:  Cinnamon sticks, spice rack, sherry, faint smoke

Palate:  Warming, nutmeg, peppery, baked apples with cinnamon sugar crust

Finish:  Still warming and rich, drying, medium to long

Overall:  This one is pretty spicy indeed!  Score 85

Conclusion:

All in all, I have to say that I love what Wemyss is doing.  I have had the luxury of trying a couple of their Single Casks, and they have been quite impressive.  Overall, I continue to preach the value of quality blends like Compass Box and Wemyss...for those that turn their noses up to all blends are missing out on some outstanding whisky.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Whisky Fest NYC 2013 - Part Three - The Favorites


After touching upon the fantastic people involved in this event, and some of the cool surprises they brought with them, I am now going to take on listing out a few favorite drams/booths of the night.

This is not an easy task. 

Picking your favorite whiskeys from WhiskyFest NYC 2013 is like picking your favorite child.

That being said, I will step up to the challenge and select a few that really stuck out to me.

Please note, there are a few fantastic ‘standard’ offerings that I will not list here.  Everyone that knows me is aware that I think Lagavulin 16 is the bee’s knees, and that I feel the Balvenie 21 PortWood is divine.  In this post, I’m going to focus on items that stood out and that are kind of off the beaten path.

EVERYTHING AT THE NIKKA TABLE

I was really hoping to get to sample a bit more of the ‘World Whiskeys’ this year, and I feel that they were slightly underrepresented overall.  Perhaps I missed a table that was there, but I didn’t see too many things like Mackmyra or anything from Tasmania.



Nikka's Fantastic Expressions


However, I did get to frequent both the Kavalan and Nikka tables.  (Kavalan had some really nice items too, but Nikka just hit the spot for me on many levels)
Tadashi Sakuma, Chief Blender, was at the Nikka booth, and I have to say that every single dram I had there was stunning.  I mean literally every single one of them.  Brilliant.

The two here that really stood out above the others? 

The Taketsuru 21YR was absolutely stunning.  Very well rounded.  It gave my nose and mouth everything from fruits (plums) and cinnamon to Hershey's Chocolate.

The Yoichi 15YR was also a scene stealer.  This one has the potential to grow into a 'daily dram', it is that fulfilling.  Nutty and creamy, this one was rich and gorgeous.

WILLIAM GRANT & SONS (BALVENIE & GLENFIDDICH)

For Balvenie I am going to have to go with the TUN 1401 Batch #9.  This was just so silky and exquisite that it has to make this list.  Phenomenally complex, and when you have a living legend like David Stewart presenting it to you, alongside the charismatic David Laird, it is tough not to be blown away.

For Glenfiddich I am going to applaud the first effort by new Malt Master Brian Kinsman.  Their Malt Master Edition was wonderful and smooth, and much more rich than I had envisioned it to be.  If this is his first effort at a special bottling, something tells me we have a lot to look forward to from Glenfiddich's sixth Malt Master in the future.

BUFFALO TRACE ANTIQUE COLLECTION


An Epic Lineup
 
Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite US Distilleries.  Again, this is a list full of winners.  There is simply not a bad whisky in this lineup.  It is a virtual ‘who’s who’ of bottles that collectors and imbibers alike chase after.  For me, it was a neck and neck race to #1 between Stagg and Weller.

Let’s call it a draw.  A mouthwatering & breath taking draw.

WEMYSS MALTS ‘HEATHERY SMOKE 30YR OLD’

Another successful bottling from Wemyss.  It is my understanding that this is essentially 30YR old Caol Ila, and man it is a stunner.  Smoky and deep in all the right places.  As the name implies, there was a delicate floral cloud lingering the whole time.  Really nice dram.

COMPASS BOX PEAT MONSTER 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

John Glaser is gifted.  Period.  While there are some folks that turn their noses up at blends, I really applaud them as a craft unto itself.  It is an art form that can be squandered and cut with other things leaving me disappointed (most Johnnie Walker expressions), or can be blended together seamlessly creating a sum greater than its parts.

Cue Compass Box and their excellent lineup of bottles.  Towards the end of the evening, having already swam in the seas of the light and delicate whiskeys, I was ready for peat.  The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary edition did not disappoint.  I’d love to try this side by side with the original Peat Monster, but needless to say, if you are a peat-head you should seek this out in either form.

DANFIELD’S LIMITED EDITION 10YR & 21YR

A quick nod to our neighbors to the North.  While I love me a nice Canadian Rye whenever I can (see also WhistlePig) there is a wide array of great whiskeys up there.  I was really impressed by how Oaky this one from Black Velvet was, while still being quite balanced.  The Oak just kept departing and returning, I love the depth.

I could keep going on and on forever about some of the great things I got to sample that night, but please accept the above as some of the finest I was fortunate enough to enjoy that evening.  It is worth noting that there were a couple mentioned in earlier posts that could have been here.  Both the HighWest Bug Juice and SamaroliTomintoul 1967 deserve a place here too. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, these types of events are a great way to broaden your palate, and to experience some truly unique and rare items.  When it comes to trying out some new whiskeys I also highly recommend visiting a nice bar close to home and trying some things you’ve never had before…you just may be surprised how much you like them.

Perhaps I will get to see some of you at WhiskyFest next year, I can’t wait!!!