Friday, June 13, 2014

New Whiskey Labels: Four Roses Limited Small Batch, Cask Strength Maker's, Willett's Own Rye, and More

Starting this week, the title New Whiskey Labels replaces the geeky This Week in COLAs.  Same information, more understandable name...and we had a lot of interesting new labels this week.

Four Roses revealed its 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch, a blend of  9 year old OBSK, 13 year old OBSV, 12 year old OESV and 11 year old OBSF.

Maker's Mark cleared a label for a cask strength expression. Interesting stuff coming from a brand that only last year was trying to drop proof.  According to the an email sent to members of Maker's ambassador program, this will be a limited release for bars and possibly, the distillery gift shop. The proof will range from 108 to 114. (Ignore the 100 proof notation on the label. Proof is one of the label elements that can be modified, so it's common to use a placeholder for the COLA).

Willett's own rye. Since KBD opened the Willett Distillery in 2012, whiskey geeks have been waiting for the first Willett release from thenew distillery (as opposed to the traditional Willett bottlings of sourced whiskey).  It looks like that moment is growing nearer as Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has released a label for a Willett Straight Rye that is "distilled, aged and bottled" by the Willett Distillery.  The whiskey is two years old and bottled at cask strength. 

Alberta Rye Dark Batch. Numerous independent bottlers have been doing good business bottling rye from Alberta Distillers and selling it in the US.  Given that Beam owns the distillery, it makes sense that they would finally get in on the action with a rye, but unlike the straight ryes bottled by companies like WhistlePig and Masterson's, this rye is blended with "high-rye bourbon & a touch of sherry."

In the world of Scotch, William Grant cleared a label for a Ladyburn 40 year old.  Malt from the long closed Ladyburn Distillery is some of the rarest whiskey out there so expect this to cost a pretty penny.


Andrew said...

You've got to be kiding me! Alberta Rye Dark Batch? ADL already makes a product in its Alberta Premium line, Dark Horse, which is a 91% rye, 8.5% Canadian "bourbon", and 0.5%, and pretty tasty too. I just find it hilarious that Beam would produce a basically identical product under a comically similar name for the American market. We here in Canada are looking forward for the upcomming release of Kentucky Bourbon Taker's Park.

Andrew said...

I just saw the label, it's even got the same proof! Now I'm sure that it's the exact same product, just with a bolder label for you hardcore Americans.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the one difference will be a higher price for the American Market. That will be a sweet sight for Canadians used to paying 2-3X for bourbon.

sku said...

Andrew, we're happy to get anything that would have any Alberta Premium. I don't think we've ever gotten a bottle for sale in the states.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, sku. Have never seen an Alberta product here in the States. Have had friends bring it down from Canada for me. Not had the Dark Horse but others I have had were very good. Hope the price is not too high and that it makes it here to FL as we do not get the widest selections down here.

EllenJ said...

A few comments, including that I appreciate the name change of the subject title.

Four Roses' 2014 Limited Edition Small Batch -- And once again Jim Rutledge proves that he is truly a Master Blender (to me, at least, a far greater acheivemment than the often-misused "Master Distiller). Congratulations to Jim, Al Young, and whole Prentice gang.

Maker's Mark's cask strength expression -- Interesting, especially in light of what you brought up. But I'm curious about the range of "cask strength" proofs. Maker's isn't a single-barrel whiskey; it's a vatting. So one might think the "cask strength" would refer to the ABV of the vatted product for a given bottling run. That's what Wild Turkey does with Rare Breed. And it does vary, but only by a point or two. 108 to 114 proof seems a little wide a range for a product whose ABV can be easily tweaked by simple varying what barrels are being dumped into the vatting. Does MM have that little control over their bottling line staff?

Willett's 2-year old "D, A, and B" -- This rye will be a welcome addition to whiskey geeks' collections, but it's good to remember that it takes years to learn the little tweaks and ideosyncracies that make your product acheive the perfection you had in mind when you started out. It's not just the additional two years (or ten years, for that matter) of aging. It's all those things Drew and the gang have learned about operating the still since that particular juice was barreled. A great curiosity, but I'm expecting some really, REALLY great whiskey from Willett and I sure hope folks don't write them off if the first issue isn't as wonderful as some of the fine products they've sourced for years.

Alberta Rye -- I've had a bottle of Alberta Premium 100% rye whisky since at least the late '90s, but I'm pretty sure I bought it in Canada. Not bad, but certainly not great. A good friend of ours from Toronto brought us a bottle of Dark Horse last year. It's a whole lot better. It has a nice strong flavor, which I like and which is not present in most Canadian whiskies, but that flavor just seems to slam shut about ten seconds or less after you swallow. In that respect (if no other) it bears a somewhat disturbing resemblance to Cleveland. Go figure.

Alex said...

Am I correct in remembering that Maker's Mark batches are only about 6 barrels in size? Maybe that explains a wider range. 57% ABV is only about 5% more than 54%, so a plus or minus of 2.5% (not absolute percentage points) sounds good to me.

But I guess that depends on what a typical barrel-to-barrel variation might be (assuming the barrels are the same age, which isn't necessarily the case for MM). It could be quite high depending on how many barrels are averaged over a batch, and I forget if MM moves their barrels around during aging.

Andrew said...

I've heard Maker's' batching described as both 19 barrels and under 1000 gallons on different occasions. And the Maker's website describes their barrels as "exposed to consistent temperatures throughout the warehouse", although don't trust everything you hear from the marketing department.

danz said...

Re: Maker's abv variation. Surely they could target a narrow range of abvs if that was the goal. However, hopefully they will target a desired or interesting flavor profile, rather than abv. 108 to 114 proof actually seems like a pretty tight range compared to the ranges for, say, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Stagg Jr. or G.T. Stagg.

Patrick said...


It actually is literally the same product as Dark Horse. Beam could not call it that same name here in the states due to trademark issues with Dark Horse Brewery in Michigan. They've had this in the works for at least 6 months, but must have finally settled on branding. If you like the Alberta Dark Horse, you'll like this stuff too. I'm just excited to finally try some, especially this unique blend!

Patrick said...

Quick clarification:

Beam owns Alberta Distillers Limited, so it's just porting its product across the border.

Justin said...

Whiskycast is reporting that the barrel proof Makers is going to be "distillery only".