Friday, February 12, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Chivas and Bulleit

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Pernod Ricard cleared a label for Chivas Regal Ultis, a blended malt made from five single malts.

Diageo cleared  a label for a barrel strength expression of Bulleit Bourbon.

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Four Roses 2015 Small Batch

The Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is increasingly hard to find but is often one of the best bourbon releases of the year. Last fall's release was a combination of the following four Four Roses bourbons: 16 year old OBSK, 15 and 14 year old OESK, and 11 year old OBSV (the B recipes have a higher rye content than the Es).

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015, 54.3% ($100)

The nose has deep rich caramel with some orange rind and lots of oak. The palate opens with huge caramel, then oak, followed by some tannic notes. The finish picks up anise, rye and some medicinal notes.  There is some astringency on the late palate, but it fades with air. 

This is a very nice, well balanced bourbon. It has a degree of complexity that was lacking in the 2014 Four Roses Small Batch, though I wouldn't say it rises to the level of the stellar releases of 2012 and 2013. Still, it's very good and worth buying if you can find it at a decent price (which I know is a challenge).

Monday, February 8, 2016

Accident Whiskey: a Stupid Genre

Diageo recently released its latest whiskey in the Orphan Barrel series, the Gifted Horse, in which a young corn whiskey and bourbon were "accidentally" mixed with some older bourbon. Wow! How lucky for the largest spirits company in the world that some corn whiskey (which usually sucks) was poured into a 17 year old bourbon...and now it's $50 a bottle.

Unfortunately, the "accident whiskey" seems on the way to becoming a genre of its own. First came Serendipity, a blend of Scotch in which someone poured young Glen Moray into old Ardbeg.  How...serendipitous. Then Wild Turkey introduced Forgiven, in which someone dumped rye into the bourbon.

Just like those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials in which someone eating a chocolate bar collides with someone eating a jar of peanut butter and makes a delicious discovery, the Accident Whiskey backstories are silly and seem implausible. (Who the hell walks around eating peanut butter right out of the jar?)  Then, the company bottles it and gives it a name like WTF Whiskey which emphasizes the accidental nature of its creation.

The prevalence of these Accident Whiskeys would lead one to believe that either these stories are marketing fluff or whiskey distilleries are run by total idiots who randomly dump barrels together. The whiskey companies can let me know into which category they fall.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Even More Whiskey Festivals

Over the past couple of days, I received even more suggestions for the list of the best whiskey festivals in the US, so here are some additions.

  • Bourbon Classic. This Louisville, Kentucky event sponsored by the Bourbon Review will take place February 26-27. The price ranges from $269 to $375.
  • Go Whiskey Weekend. Sponsored by Julio's liquors in Westborough, Massachusetts, this year's festival runs from February 24-28. You can pay for events separately or buy a VIP ticket for $150. 
  • Kentucky Bourbon Affair. Another Kentucky bourbon festival, this Louisville event will be June 14-19. The general tasting is a WhiskyLive event which costs $129, but the bulk of the festival consists of masterclasses which range from $35 to $275 per class.
  • Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Located in Bardstown, Kentucky, this year's Kentucky Bourbon Festival will be September 13 to 18. Prices vary by event.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Best Whiskey Festivals

On Monday, I asked folks for their favorite whiskey festivals excluding the most well known (WhiskyLife, Whisky Fest and the Scotch Malt Whisky Extraveganza).  I got a lot of interesting replies for events big and small:

  • Binny's World of Whiskies. There was lots of love for this event sponsored by Chicago liquor chain Binny's. It takes place annually just before WhiskyFest Chicago (March 16 this year). Price looks to be around $40.
  • The Nth Universal Whisky Experience. This Las Vegas show is known for it's high-roller crowd. This year's Nth will be on March 4. Ticket prices range from $525 to $2,495 for a package that includes super pours of rare whiskey and "whisky speed dating" with "whisky celebrities." 
  • Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival. The Pittsburgh festival happens every fall and costs $102. They do not appear to have a date yet for this year's event.
  • Tales of the Cocktail. America's premiere cocktail event takes place every July in New Orleans. While it's not a whiskey festival, there are plenty of whiskey related tastings and events. This year's Tales is set for July 19 to 24. Tickets are sold per event so there are many options.
  • Victoria Whisky Festival. This is one of the big ones. It's not in the US, but it is US adjacent in Victoria, British Columbia. It takes place over a weekend in January. There are various events and classes, but the main tastings seem to run from $110 to $175.
  • Whisky Jewbilee. Sponsored by whiskey bottler Single Cask Nation, the Whisky Jewbilee started in New York five years ago. This year, they will be in Seattle (March 8, $95), New York (June 15, $130) and Chicago (Sept. 1, price TBA).
  • Whiskey Obsession Festival. This festival takes place in Sarasota, Florida. This year, it will be March 30 to April 1. ($50-$211).
  • Whiskey on Ice is a Minneapolis tasting that started last year. This year's event is on April 10 ($85-$125).
  • Whiskies of the World is another travelling event. This year they have shows in San Jose (March 24, $80), San Francisco (March 26, $130-$185), Austin (Sept. 29, price TBA), Houston (Oct. 1, price TBA), and Atlanta (Oct. 22, price TBA).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Best Whiskey Festivals

There are a growing number of whiskey festivals throughout the U.S. Three of the oldest and most well known festivals are Whisky Advocate's WhiskyFest, Whisky Magazine's WhiskyLive, and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Whisky Extravaganza, all of which travel to multiple cities.

In addition to these established festivals, in the last few years, there have been many newer, independent single-city festivals. Whiskey festivals can be a great way to taste a variety of whiskeys, so I'd be interested in knowing about these newer festivals and putting together a list of the best.  So....

What is your favorite whiskey festival (other than those mentioned above) and why?

Friday, January 29, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Ice and Circus

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Compass Box cleared a label for a new blended Scotch called The Circus. Per the back label, they found "old parcels of Blended Scotch and Blended Grain whisky" which had been aged in sherry casks. They added some sherry aged malt to the blend to make The Circus.

Edrington cleared a label for Highland Park Ice Edition, a 17 year old.

And for those of you who are mixologically challenged, here is a label for pre-mixed Jim Beam and ginger ale. By the way, I've heard this product used to be available in the US in the '90s; I don't know if they took it off the market completely and are bringing it back or if it has always been available in some regional markets.

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.