Friday, April 24, 2015

New Whiskey Labels: Four Roses Small Batch, Brora and More

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

Four Roses cleared a label for this year's Limited Edition Small Batch.  This year's Small Batch will be a blend of  16 year old OBSK, 15 year old OESK, 14 year old OESK and 11 year old OBSV.  That makes its components quite a bit older than last year's release.

Brown Forman cleared a label for this year's Woodford Reserve Master's Collection, a bourbon called "1838 Style White Corn." There are no further details on the label.

You don't see many independently bottled Broras these days, but this week, a label cleared for a 35 year old Brora from Gordon & MacPhail. 

Three labels cleared for Japanese whiskey but not from any of the usual suspects.  They are from distilleries that make shochu, an unaged rice spirit.  Apparently, they are barrel aging their shochu to make rice whiskey. Two are from the Ohishi Distillery, distilled from malted and unmalted rice. The labels include a brandy cask and a sherry cask with no age statements. A third, is from the Fukano Distillery and is made from malted rice. None of them have age statements. Hmm, perhaps Japanese rice whiskey is the next big thing.

Old Pulteney cleared a label for a 26 year old lightly peated whiskey distilled in 1989.

Lastly, it's always good to see a label honoring one of our great American presidents so thanks to California based Alambic Inc. for Millard Fillmore brandy, a blend of pot distilled brandy from Germain-Robin and a column distilled California brandy. Now I'm looking forward to Franklin Pierce Rum!

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, April 22, 2015

Glenfarclas 1990 from K&L

This was a 2014 release from K&L composed of a vatting of two first fill Oloroso sherry casks.

Glenfarclas 1990, 24 years old, 50% abv ($170)

The nose has bright fruit and sherry notes with a touch of sulfur. The palate starts with a moderately sweet sherry note; as with the nose, there is very light sulfur and milk chocolate in the late palate. The finish is sweet and fruity on the nose but dry on the palate with some nice spice on the palate.

This stuff is great, balanced and drinkable as hell. I wouldn't call it a sherry monster, but it's one of those malts I just find myself reaching for over and over. If you're a sherry fan and certainly if you're a Glenfarclas fan, I'd definitely recommend it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The State of American Whiskey Distilleries 2015

Every year, I do a brief summary of the American distilling scene based on my Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries & Brands.

The rapid growth of distilleries continues. By my count, as of 2015, there are 517 distilleries in the United States that are currently making whiskey, up from 325 just a year ago.

Whiskey is being distilled in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  Hawaii is the only no-show, though they do have a rum distillery.

Washington State continues to lead the way with 47 active whiskey distilleries, followed by New York with 43, California with 36 and Colorado with 29.  Four other states have twenty or more whiskey distilleries: Oregon (24), Kentucky (23), Texas (21) and Ohio (20).

The expansion of distilling really is amazing over the years if you look back at my reports from 2014 and 2013.

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Whiskey Labels: Scotch and Garlic

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

Independent Scotch bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company may be most known for their comic book inspired labels.  Their whiskeys have not previously been available in the U.S., but this week the cleared labels for two blends (#1 and #2), a blended malt and single malts from Alt A Bhainne, Glentauchers, Glenburgie and Tormore.   All labels were for 375 ml bottles and are NAS.

Glenrothes cleared a label for a 1995 vintage whiskey.

How will we know when the flavored whiskey thing has jumped the shark?  Hmm, maybe when people start making garlic flavored whiskey.

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, April 15, 2015

Jim Beam Gets Some Color: Brown Rice & Red Wheat

Last year, the Jim Beam released two bourbons as part of their Signature Craft series which used alternative mashbills, one with soft red wheat and one with brown rice. They are planning to release more using oats, triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid), six row barley and a high rye recipe.  Of course, these are all bourbons so they all are at least 51% corn, but these alternate grains are used in the mashbill.  The first two are both eleven years old, 90 proof and go for around $50 for a half bottle (375 ml).

Jim Beam Signature Craft Soft Red Wheat, 11 yo, 45% abv ($50)

A Jim Beam bourbon with soft red wheat instead of rye isn't very revolutionary since that's pretty much what Maker's Mark is.  In fact, given that there is no requirement that the distillery be listed on a whiskey label, this could well be 11 year old Maker's Mark, which would be interesting since Maker's has never carried an age statement and is reputed to be much younger than 11 years old.

The nose has sweet caramel with, strawberries, raspberries and red licorice.  The initial palate is intensely fruity with apple candy, then it picks up some spice, but it fades quickly, leaving a sweet, fruit candy finish on the nose and some pepper on the tongue. This definitely has some of the Maker's style candy sweetness, though more fruit comes out than in Maker's. It's a decent bourbon, candy sweet to be sure but not overwhelmingly so, and the spice adds some nice balance. 

Jim Beam Signature Craft Brown Rice, 11 yo, 45% abv ($50)

The only other rice bourbon I'm familiar with is the 2012 Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection "Made with Rice."  Let's see how Beam's version compares.

The nose on this one is pretty traditional bourbon with caramel notes, but it has a sweetness that's reminiscent of old, dusty bourbons.  The palate is very unBeam.  It's got strong mineral notes, almost like a Dickel (and tasting blind, I would definitely have guessed Dickel), which give it a lot more texture and depth than a typical Beam. Those mineral notes really blow up on the finish, which is quite long.  It's quirky, but I like it.

These are well crafted bourbons, and it's nice to see Beam doing something truly innovative, but I wish they were about $20 cheaper. While I'd happily drink either of them, I don't think I'd plop down a US Grant for a half bottle of one of these.

Thanks to John Burlowski for the samples.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A New Technology to Miraculously Age Whiskey

Like Ponce de Leon searching for the fountain of youth, whiskey makers have spent years on the quest for a method that will allow them to age whiskey more quickly.  There have been countless theories and experiments, but now one man says he has the answer.

Larry Shihtzu of the Happy Kennels Distillery says he has a fool proof, tested method for aging his whiskey at lightning speed.  According to Shihtzu, "We opened our distillery inside of a working kennel so it actually ages in dog years.  For every year of aging, it tastes like it's aged for seven, so in two years, it will taste like a 14 year old whiskey; in three, it will taste like a 21 year old. When this hits the market, it's going to be huge!"

Shihtzu explains that the presence of dogs changes the composition of whiskey. "It's like how whiskey aged on the coast or on a boat has those sea notes. At the kennel, the dogs play with the barrels and roll them around; the whiskey acclimates to its surroundings and ages accordingly."

But can storing whiskey with dogs really speed up the aging process?  We took Shihtzu's theory to a chemist at a nearby university. Speaking off the record, he was skeptical, saying that from his observation, the theory appeared to be "total bullshit." Responding to the chemist, Shihtzu was undeterred, "Look, we have graphs...and charts. This thing is legit. We even submitted an article to the Journal of Veterinary Medicine."

In the end, as with any whiskey, the proof will be in how it tastes. According to Shihtzu, the distillery isn't providing samples of their work at this time. "Right now we're just doing press. You don't want to rush these things." 

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Whiskey Labels: Royal Brackla and Brenne

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

Bacardi cleared labels for three new original bottlings from the Royal Brackla distillery, a 12 year old, a 16 year old and a 21 year old.

Brenne cleared a label for a ten year old expression of their French single malt.

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.