Aug 29, 2013

Glenfarclas Movember 2011 Redistilled...

Glenfarclas Movember 2011 Redistilled (53.0%): So, this sample is a part of the geeky experiment Master Of Malt folks did last year. They basically re-distilled five Scotch whiskies, created a small batch and sent the samples to whisky bloggers to start a discussion. I wasn't lucky enough to get the batch but followed the buzz online. A few weeks ago Gal from Whisky Israel sent me one of the wee samples so I can have a taste of it as well. I wish I had the original Glenfarclas Movember 2011 to compare it with but at least I know that it was a nine year old whisky matured in two different Oloroso sherry hogsheads. Color: Duh... Clear... Nose: Candle wax, Granny Smith apples and fresh green figs. The spirit noses like rye vodka or malt jenever and a few drops of water made it even more so. Now it noses like a piney gin. I believe it wouldn't be unfair to say that not so much stuff going on here. Palate: Surprisingly creamy and thick mouthfeel. Actually very drinkable at this abv. Herbal and malty: juniper berries, pine nuts, rosemary and oregano. Water amplifies the herbal notes. Finish: Short(ish) to medium long with sizzling white pepper and dried malt. Overall: Like I said it would be very cool to have the original Movember because now I wonder if you could detect all these gin notes in it as well. I am curious if these notes are added somehow during the re-distillation or they were hidden and are exposed now after the whisky is stripped. I think "stripped" is the right verb here. It doesn't taste like a new spirit, it has definitely more character and depth but you are also clearly aware that you are missing some stuff... It is so obvious that the whisky is peeled off naked. Pretty unique experience I have to say. By the way I nosed the empty glass again after a minute: Nothing! All gone into the thin air... Nosing like the water glass. Odd... Thanks again to Gal for the sample.

Click here for the review of the original Movember 2011 from The Malt Impostor.

Aug 25, 2013

No good rakı night should end without singing...

Even when I was a kid I was a romantic I guess... I loved watching my favorite actors on the black and white TV screen, sometimes drowning their sorrows in a glass, sometimes celebrating an occasion, but every time sitting around a small table with their best friends, listening to music and always with a bottle of rakı. As they were getting drunk I watched them forgetting their problems for a night only, getting merrier, filling each other’s glasses with an instinctual choreography learned and perfected in years, and singing together.

Ilyas Salman and Şener Şen in a scene from "Çiçek Abbas" (1982)
All the people I admired drank rakı. Not only my favorite actors, musicians I adored, my favorite poets, our Armenian grocer on the street Elvan, my buddy’s big brother and his friends, the founder of our country Atatürk, my father and of course my grandfather. I simply couldn’t wait to get older and go out with my friends, sit down in a meyhane (restaurant which serves rakı), order a bottle of rakı with beautiful mezes (special tapas to accompany rakı) on the table and spend the entire night singing our favorite tunes together. I believed that no good rakı night should end without singing…

crew party after the last show of the Istanbul Theatre Festival
at Ataturk Cultural Center (mid 90's)

Then it all started to be real during my high school years. My school was in Beyoğlu, an old multi-cultural neighborhood famous for its meyhanes, bars and nightclubs and most importantly for its diverse population. And I started to fool around at night with my friends, discovering our own Istanbul. We were not in a romantic movie anymore—it was the real deal. Throughout the years I shared my table with directors, drug dealers, street musicians, workers, soldiers, fishermen and prostitutes. Every night I witnessed the wonder of this milky, heavenly smelling spirit bringing people together sometimes to laugh, sometimes to cry, most of the time to argue about politics and soccer and of course always to sing-along.

Aliye Meyhane, Cihangir - Istanbul
Almost every nation on the coast of the Mediterranean has their own anise-flavored spirit: pastis, absinthe, chinchon, sambuca, ouzo, arak and many more. But the word rakı is derived from Arabic arak, which actually means “sweat”, referring to the condensation process of the distillation. Basically, rakı is a distilled grape spirit flavored with anise seeds. There are many different styles of rakı, depending on mash bill, flavoring ingredients and the geography they are produced in, but Turkish rakı has some distinct characteristics and is also nowadays protected by law to keep its consistency and quality. Traditional Turkish rakı starts with making the mayşe (mash). Mayşe is made from either raisins or fresh grapes harvested pretty late to have a higher sugar ratio. If fresh grapes are used they are pressed, if raisins are used they are chopped to break their skin, mixed with water and left to ferment.

After the fermentation mayşe which contains 8-9% alcohol is fed to the first distillation column to produce suma which contains no more than 95.5% abv. If the rakı being produced is not a single varietal rakı, at this level raisin suma and fresh grape suma can be mixed in any proportion. Also agricultural ethyl alcohol can be added at this step, but not exceeding 35% of the suma by law. Adding ethyl alcohol was a practice brought into the process during WWII years purely to bring the cost down but has remained in the recipe since then.

lunch stop on our way to Balıklı, Çamlıhemşin - Rize
To the mixture suma and ethyl alcohol anise is added, diluted with water not lower than 45% abv., fed into 5,000 liter or smaller copper stills and distilled for a second time. After the master distiller takes the hearts he wants from the distilled spirit, it is diluted with water and sent to rest in stainless steel tanks, or for some rare expressions in giant oak barrels, for three to four months before it gets bottled. Then you add some water, its color turns milky white and then top it with ice.

And the table…

Ortan Village, Çamlıhemşin - Rize
In spite of rakı usually having an abv. of 43% - 50%, it is consumed when dining. The dinners are long in Turkey. Usually your first glass of rakı is accompanied by feta cheese and a few slices of melon like an aperitif. That’s when you sip and wait for the rest of your gang to arrive at the meyhane. When everybody is present and has their first glass in front of them, the first “Serefe!” (pronounced “sherefay” “cheers” in Turkish, which means, literally, “To Honor!”) brings the glasses clinking together. You have to remember that it is the custom that a rakı glass never stays empty, somebody at the table will be filling your glass without even asking you. Adjusting your pace without getting drunk in the middle of the night is a practice learned in years. Don’t get discouraged if you fail for the first few nights since you will.

Ada Keyf Meyhanesi, Burgazada - Istanbul
Around when you start with your second glass cold mezes start to arrive showing all the varieties from former Ottoman Empire territories: various fish dried and brined, tarama (fish roe salad), fava bean puree, Circassian chicken (shredded chicken breast with garlic and walnuts), hummus, pilaki (white beans cooked in olive oil), haydari (yogurt with garlic, mint, dill, parsley, etc.), topic (Armenian chickpea mash), stuffed grape leaves, fried eggplant and zucchini slices with garlic tomato sauce and more. After spending a good amount of time with these, it’s time to have your warm mezes such as fried calamari, fried liver cubes, grilled octopus, pastries stuffed with cheese and meat, meatballs, stuffed mussels, etc.

If you still have space in your stomach after the warm mezes, it will be a good time to order your fish, simply char-grilled to perfection and served with a half of a lemon and rocket leaves. The night ends with fresh fruit and Turkish coffee. I have to admit I think this scene by itself can be easily the sole reason for me to fly all the way back to Istanbul every year…

lunch stop on our way to Balıklı, Çamlıhemşin - Rize
After I moved to the States I never had difficulty finding rakı. It is sold almost in every big liquor store and, especially after the biggest producer in Turkey Mey was bought by Diageo, I can even find not-so-common expressions around. What I cannot find is the table covered with a starched tablecloth countless mezes on top and surrounded with friends. I miss people stopping by to say hi, sitting at your table randomly to sip a little rakı from your glass, other customers from the table next to yours offering to swap some mezes, street musicians playing your favorite tunes next to your table so you can sing your lungs out totally out of tune with your glass in your hand. This summer even when we hiked to a crater lake in Çamlıhemşin, close to the Georgian border of Turkey, we ended up carrying three bottles of rakı with a pretty good selection of mezes all the way to 6000 ft. just to have a decent meal. Where else can you share your brilliant plans to save the economy or to improve the foreign affairs of the country and convince your buddies how you could manage your favorite soccer team a hundred times better than the current coach? Everything is appropriate around that table: no judgments, no shame, no down looks by anybody…

[edited by Teresa Hartmann]

*Originally written for and posted at The Alcohol Professor on August 18th, 2013.

Aug 23, 2013

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003...

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 (43.3%): It's that time of the year. I managed to score a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel, sat down on my couch and about to taste it... One of my favorite yearly releases. You don't have to do evil things to find a bottle, you don't have to spend a small fortune, it always shows beautiful differences from year to year and to be honest I didn't taste any vintage that I hated. First one came in 1996 and it's released every year since then. This year my bottle's barrel number is 444. It is distilled on May 15th, 2003 and bottled on May 10th, 2013. It's been a long time since I tasted a bourbon on tire-bouchon. So, here we go... Color: Dark amber, polished old copper kitchenware with visible legs. Nose: Vanilla, salted caramel bites and maple butter cookies. Tangerine peel with cinnamon dusting. Very expensive leather laptop bag and varnished vintage hard wood furniture. It is so calm, mature and subtle. Palate: Sweet maple liquor, candied brown sugar, honey pecan pralines and cinnamon. Citrusy notes I detected on the nose are more present on the palate. Pink grapefruit juice, kumquat marmalade with some dried sour cherries. Beautiful balance of sweet and tart qualities. The whole time everything is accompanied by warm oak notes from a close distance. You can feel its firm presence but not taking over the profile. Finish: Medium long. Creamy with slightly burned creme brulee topped with raspberries, toasted cereals and candied blood orange zest. Overall: Another great release with an incredible price tag. It's perfectly balanced with citrus, burnt sugar and oak notes in a very hard to achieve harmony. Would it be too much to ask to have it at a slightly higher abv next time? Just a notch... Anyway, if you still can find a bottle get one. I will definitely look for another because this bottle won't last too long.

Aug 22, 2013

Single Cask Nation Glen Moray 12yo...

Single Cask Nation Glen Moray 12yo (56.1%): And the third sample from Single Cask Nation... The spirit is distilled in June 2000 and spent its entire time only very in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel. Sounds like a good promise to my ears. It is bottled in August 2012 at 56.1% abv. and the cask numbered 797 yielded only 148 bottles. I wonder why if they paid half price for it. Color: Polished brass, like a fine chardonnay. Nose: In spite of being pretty hot before the water addition I can nose how sweet it is at the background. Unripened peaches, sour gummy worms, vanilla bean seeds and chopped spearmint leaves. After a few drops of water the fruit bowl in front of us gets even more exciting: nectarines, apricots, cantaloup slices and damson plums. Catalan flan and coconut macaroons notes follow the fruit parade. Marvelous... Palate: More citrusy and chalky than the nose but still incredibly sweet and creamy. A little muted in the beginning. With water it opens up: lemon creme caramel, peach ice tea, advocaat liquor, very subtle maple syrup and mint. Like walking in a pastry shop early in the morning in France and loosing your s#*t: pain au raisins, elephant ears, apricot danishes on the counter, passion fruit mousse cake slices, mille-feuilles and éclairs with vanilla and strawberry cream fillings behind the glass in the display. You want to buy everything but you are supposed to get your baguette and leave... Finish: Long with tangy, fruity custard. Sour and sweet. Overall: Oh, boy... I really got upset and angry about sample bottle being so small. Such a beautiful whisky. So many unrelated resemblances spinning in my head now: Thick and sweet homemade marmalade, lavender fields, long vacation breakfasts in the country, candied figs, fruits stalls in a food market somewhere in Southern Europe, flower shops... There is no secret about me favoring exclusively ex-bourbon aged whiskies lately but this one is really good I have to say. Fruity, juicy, thick in texture and aromatic. Absolutely my favorite among the three new expressions of SCN. So... Long story short I think I made my choice: I am getting this bottle. I might go for others later but one at a time.

Aug 21, 2013

Single Cask Nation Laphroaig 6yo...

Single Cask Nation Laphroaig 6yo (57.8%): And the second sample from Single Cask Nation. It is distilled in November 2006 and aged in a refill bourbon hogshead. The cask which was numbered as #119 was bottled in April 2013 and yielded 269 bottles in total. Color: Very pale, dry hay. Nose: Doesn't show it's young age or high abv., pretty mellow (for now). Nice refreshing cold ocean breeze at your face on an early morning at the beach. You throw the stick, the dog brings it back, etc... And if you also happen to be the guy/gal who will prepare the barbecue at the very same beach later that afternoon probably your hands and your sweater would smell more or less like this: struck matches, charcoal, diesel fuel and soot from the newspaper pages you used to start the fire. On top of these maybe also the rubber band ball the dog was playing earlier with and candied bergamot peel. Adding a few drops of water starts a whirlwind! The alcohol explodes and finds its way through your nostrils and then to your brain. Didn't see that coming to be honest... After it calms down bitter green aromas appear: mizuna greens and dandelion leaves. Now it noses like the kitchen of a vegan restaurant. Palate: Almost like licking the ashtray on your bedside table you didn't empty for a week. Banana peppers and green asparagus you put and forgot on the grill for your vegetarian friends half an hour ago. Very grassy with purslane and watercress leaves. Water addition pushed it even to a greener and bitter side. Now we have something very beautiful and unique here: Mustard greens, rocket leaves and stinging nettle tea with a gentle sprinkle of sea salt. Finish: Endless. Sea salt, inner tube river ride and tincture of iodine. Overall: Score! I love underaged Islay whiskies but this cask is really good! Actually pretty close to their four year old Kilchoman they released before but way more grassy. It is kind of amazing that I expected their Kilchoman would be grassy but it happened to be very coastal at the end. And here I thought that this bottle would be coastal but showed amazingly nice green and grassy qualities. I loved that mustard green note, made my day today... Let's see what the Glen Moray will taste like.

Aug 20, 2013

Single Cask Nation Dalmore 12yo...

Single Cask Nation Dalmore 12yo (46.1%): After their amazing start with three great expressions last year it looks like the member only Single Cask Nation want to raise the bar even higher this year. They just released three more new bottlings: a twelve year old Dalmore, a twelve year old Glen Moray and a six year old Laphroaig. I will taste all three of them within this week and try to decide one (hopefully only one...) bottle to order for myself. Let's start with the Dalmore today. The spirit is distilled in June 2000 and aged in a refill bourbon hogshead for twelve years before being transferred into a Pedro Ximenez hogshead for an additional ten months. It is bottled at cask strength at 46.1% abv. from the cask numbered 6951 which yielded 238 bottles. Color: Flower honey, yellow gold. Nose: Soft baked white chocolate cranberry cookies, nail polish and cardboard boxes. Honey, dried sour cherries and vanilla. A few drops of water add sour milk and green almond aromas. Palate: In spite of its relatively low abv it's pretty hot on the tongue. St. Dalfour style black currant marmalade, sultana raisins, cherry punch and artificial almond extract. Creamy but pretty dry mouthfeel. Water doesn't take the alcohol burn away like you would expect but brings green notes to the palate: wet grass, bitter greens and fresh cut tree branches. Actually I got some wood notes you usually get from young whiskies aged in small barrels. Finish: Long with sweet spiciness you taste forever after eating Greek cinnamon baklava with thick sweet syrup. Burnt brown sugar and toasted oak. Overall: Wow, those ten months in Pedro Ximenez cask really counted. I was prepared to taste a more American oak influenced whisky but it happened to have a palate almost like a fine aged grain whisky instead. A dram for the whisky lovers with a sweet tooth. Would pair great with chocolaty desserts after dinner at a cold winter night... Yummy stuff. Cannot wait to taste the others...

Aug 18, 2013

Canadian Whisky Tasting with Davin de Kergommeaux (Part II)...

Continuing the Canadian Whisky Tasting hosted by Whisky RI and moderated by Davin de Kergommeaux from where we left off (click here for Part I) :

Pike Creek Double Barreled (40.0%): Distilled in small copper column stills, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in vintage port pipes. Color: Shiny copper with a rose hue. Beautiful color... Nose: Sour cherries, milk chocolate with roasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Palate: Port..! Black grapes and cranberry juice. Ginger dust, cherry pie and cacao. Fantastic... Finish: Long but subtle with dried cherries. Overall: Loved it... Very different, juicy and yummy.

Alberta Premium Dark Horse (45.0%): A mix of 12 year old and 6 year old rye whiskies, a small amount of aged corn whisky and 1% of sherry added on top. Color: Dark amber. Nose: A fruit bowl with ripe bartlett pears, nectarines and strawberries. I nose a good amount of green gummy bears, Italian tutti-frutti cookies and memories of fruit scented erasers. Palate: Fruit genever, liquorice, rose flavored Turkish delight and hint of nail polish remover. Finish: Long with black pepper. Overall: Great after dinner dram... Complex and multi-layered.

Wiser's Legacy (45.0%): Distilled from a rye rich blend matured in toasted, not charred barrels. Color: Polished copper. Nose: German rye bread, zante currants and medicine cabinet. Palate: Bitter rye, rye IPA, freshly ground pepper mix, hard ginger candy and heavily burnt caramel. Finish: Not long but with pepper and oak notes. Overall: Exactly what I expected; not less, not more. Another big butch satisfying whisky from Wiser's.

Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still 2012 release (43.0%): Resurrection of the famous Lot No. 40 which is lost almost a decade ago. Color: Dark amber, clover honey. Nose: Very perfumy. Blueberries, pumpernickel bread and damp compost rich garden soil. Palate: Warm rye bread, cooked raisins, star anise, cloves, all spice and toasted oak. Finish: Medium long with burnt sugar spiciness. Overall: Beautifully balanced and powerful. I would love to have a bottle at home.

Great tasting... At the and I think my top three were Pike Creek Double Barreled, Alberta Premium Dark Horse and Lot No. 40 (not necessarily in this order). Many thanks again to Thom Mitchell of Whisky RI and Davin de Kergommeaux for an awesome night of whisky...

Aug 16, 2013

Canadian Whisky Tasting with Davin de Kergommeaux (Part I)...

Last Tuesday, August 13th I attended a fantastic Canadian Whisky tasting event hosted by our friend Thom Mitchell of Whisky RI and moderated by Davin de Kergommeaux from, writer of one of the best whisky books of the year; Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert. I had tremendous fun the whole night with Stephen Matis from The Malt Impostor, Shane Helmick from How to Drink Whisky, his wife Jennifer and a great crowd of attendees.

We tasted eight different whiskies throughout the night and I tried my best to take short notes for each of them. During these kind of events rushed notes neither give the accuracy nor the satisfaction I would like to achieve for a nice review but at any rate here they are... Thanks to Stephen, Shane and Jennifer for their contribution. I might have stolen their notes without even realizing.

Still Waters 1+11 (40.0%): A blend of different whiskies sourced from other Canadian distilleries and their own production. Color: Pale, light amber. Nose: Sweet toffee, nutmeg and cinnamon. Palate: Caramel, cloves with strong sizzling white pepper. Quite hot. Finish: Not so long but pepper notes are even more dominant in form of crushed black pepper corns. Overall: Pretty spicy... Adding water opens up the nose a little more but doesn't help the palate. It will satisfy rye whisky buffs for sure.

Still Waters Stalk and Barrel Cask #3 (46.0%): Second expression from Still Waters Distillery: a single malt. Distilled all from Canadian barley and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Color: Pale straw, like pinot grigio. Nose: Noses like Calvados! Red apples and black tea. Palate: Very young - Amplified wood notes which I usually identify with those ultra-small barrels. A little paprika and black pepper. How odd that the nose doesn't have anything in common with the palate. Finish: It fades out with a noticeable alcohol burn and black pepper. Overall: Pretty good spirit in core but a little rushed. I will be looking forward to taste their coming releases.

Century Reserve 21 (40.0%): 100% corn whisky with an elegant bottle looking like straight from a eighties movie. Color: Bright polished copper. Nose: It even noses like eighties: Brown rock candies..! Nice warming oak aromas which reminded me aged Scottish single grain whiskies I tasted before. Very sweet and mouth watering. Palate: Sweet... Aunt Jemima syrup, vanilla and burnt sugar. Thick and nice mouthfeel. Finish: Long with sweet caramelized sugar burn. Overall: A little bit one dimensional but tasty, sweet and packed with flavors.

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (40.0%): The famous Confederation Oak Reserve form the John Hall's Kittling Ridge Distillery. It is a blend of separately aged corn, rye and barley (malted and unmalted) whiskies matured in American and Canadian oak barrels. Color: Shiny copper, orange blossom honey. Nose: Baby bananas, light caramel, vanilla, cloves and cinnamon all in a carpenter's work shop. Palate: Ripe bananas, canned pineapple (Dole) and vanilla. Candied walnuts and burnt baklava syrup. Finish: Not so long. Very dry but very balanced with equal portions of oak, pepper and vanilla. Overall: I wish I had more time with it. Great dram... be continued

Aug 15, 2013

Whisky Jewbilee(s)' 2013...

They have two of them this year! God knows what will happen next year..!

The unstoppable boys of The Jewish Whisky Company and Single Cask Nation are hosting two Whisky Jewbilee Events in October: Wednesday the 9th in Mount Kisco, NY and Thursday the 10th in New York, NY... 

They have an unbelievable pour list... Click on the banners below for checking the list and to purchase your tickets before they sell out but! hold your horses for a second: Write down somewhere your personal "tire-bouchon" discount code "TB13" for both of the events. 

Now rush, they do sell out pretty quick!

Aug 13, 2013

"Joe will take care of you..."*

Last fall when I was hectically trying to finalize my move to the Boston area in an insanely short period of time I was also desperately trying to get every piece of information I could get from my friends in the whisky community before leaving NYC about where to go, whom to meet, what to follow—basically how to step into the whisky scene of Boston. Almost everybody told me: “Relax, don’t worry. Go to Joe, he will take care of you…”  After hearing the same phrase over and over literally the next morning after I officially moved to Boston I found myself standing in front of the narrow door of Federal Wine and Spirits. I walked in, introduced myself to Joe, immediately started to geek out about whisky for hours and voilà: I instantly made my first friend in Boston. Now going to Federal to chat about whisky and taste new drams every Saturday is a part of my routine… So, meet Joe Howell:

BK: First of all, what exactly does “Go to Joe, he will take care of you…” mean?  Why do you think that people are referring you like this?

JH: I really wasn’t drinking whisky when I started at Federal and whisky was kind of neglected because the store was really focused on wine. I was watching people going out of the door buying expensive bottles, smiling. With that smile they were going home to pull the cork or to give the bottle away to their loved ones. And that’s where I actually started to think about that smile more. In the meantime I started to taste some whiskies just coming into the US, older Scotches basically. They just blew me away and I knew after that there was no looking back, whisky it is…

To be honest I was being given a lot of opportunities and chances to try and taste things that a lot of people don’t get and that’s where I said: “Treat people the way you wanted to be treated,” and I started to look at the other side of the counter as well. The customer is the person who pays my salary and so many others, but they usually get neglected and they don’t get the opportunities to taste, try and enjoy different things. You are working way too many hours, you don’t have enough time, and when you do have a little to sit down and enjoy, you should be doing it. Any purchase to me is a significant one. Whether it is a $35 or a $1000 bottle, it doesn’t matter. That’s where gifts come in as well. It doesn’t matter what price was paid. I want them to think of the person that bought the bottle for them when they drink it, not just to have the bottle that they didn’t have to pay for.

Yes, the short side; that’s why it’s “Go to Joe…” I don’t always look at it as dry business, it’s a personal relationship with everyone. You can go to a big shop and grab a bottle from the shelf. That’s fine if you know what you want. There are a lot of stores selling whisky but if you are looking for something that’s going to be worth it I really want that happen and not just be a bottle of whisky.

B.K: What is your take on the craft distillery movement? How do you see the future of it?

J.H: There are an awful lot of small distilleries working and we have seen a lot of good products coming out. I think it’s going to be a shake-up in a few years where the guys that are able to put a good product in the bottle and get it out to the market will continue. There will be also people who can make good juice but will have an issue with distribution. I mean right now I am sort of getting overwhelmed by a lot of the small distilleries. I like to support them all but we can’t. I do try to look at all the products but I’m also trying to figure out where the quality is and if it’s going to be a product or not. Now also bigger companies are looking at the smaller companies. And it is nice if you are able to make money in a situation like this. But I also think that it takes them out of the “craft distillery” and puts them in another category. Even if you are making a quality product it’s a very tough industry.

Steve McCarthy from Clear Creek said to me: “Joe, It’s been a little over twenty-five years and I am just starting to get comfortable with distribution.” And that says a lot… It’s not as easy as making a good product. To open a distillery is a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort but even if you can get by those and have a good juice aging (if we are talking about whisky), it’s still a matter of getting your product out and continuing to do so.

B.K.: Do you have a tendency to favor the local producers?

J.H.: I mean, I try to look at it. I’d rather give the opportunity to a local guy but it’s more the juice in the bottle for me. I was really pleased when Bully Boy from Boston put a brown juice in the bottle because I was very nervous the direction they were going in. That gave me a little foundation, gave them a little foundation in my eyes. Because for a two year product I thought it was very nice and there was light at the end of the tunnel. One of the others that I really appreciate is Berkshire Bourbon. They are doing great work, it’s a really nice product and also local. I say to customers: “I don’t sell it because it’s from Massachusetts, I sell it because of the quality.” I love it that it’s from the state without a doubt but it’s the juice in the bottle that makes the difference.

B.K: What was the most impressive and/or surprising dram of last year for you?

J.H.: First thing that comes to my mind, and I actually like what came to my mind for the fact that it’s not too pricy for a bottle, is Benriach Pedro Ximenez Single Cask. It was an outstanding bottle, great whisky, fair value and just a wonderful dram. Another bottle I really enjoyed was the Clynelish Distiller’s Edition. I was surprised to see it in US this year. I don’t think that a lot of people drink that whisky, I don’t think that it is seen a lot but it has a great price and I hope they will continue with it. It had a drier sherry cask finish and it worked very well.

B.K.: What is the most underrated whisky you have on your shelves you would like to encourage people to give a chance?

J.H.: There is an awful lot of those. I will name it again but the regular bottling of Clynelish is known by those who know but doesn’t get picked up and sampled by those who don’t. Not too many people steer towards it. It’s a great everyday whisky without a doubt. Also Benromach 10 is a great whisky with a great value which is not seen around enough. I think Glenfarclas has to ring the bell more on their 17 and 21 year old bottles. Great values, great qualities and you cannot go wrong with those. Cardhu 12 has also never taken off after it came back to US. It’s very nice dram.

B.K.:  What is the next bottle you will uncork at home? What is the mood you are in these days?

J.H.: That’s a really tough one… I do look at the weather and things like that but if I am in the mood I am in the mood. I am really looking to open a very nice Highland Park or Port Ellen or actually the Talisker 30 I have. I mean, this is the thing: I drink whisky. I don’t hesitate. Everybody should enjoy whisky and I only enjoy a little more than most of them.

*Originally written for and posted at The Alcohol Professor on June 26th, 2013.

[re-edited for tire-bouchon by Teresa Hartmann]

Aug 12, 2013

Tamdhu 10yo...

Tamdhu 10yo (40.0%): When I reviewed the 8yo Tamdhu bottling of The Macphail's Collection back in December I was really hoping that the distillery will be up and running soon under the new management and in less then six months Ian Macleod Distillers announced their first two new 10 year old expressions. The limited edition is aged exclusively in first fill sherry butts and the wide release is a mix of different sherry casks, both in new revamped bottles. When I first saw the bottle I was kind of skeptical about it though. It looked like a Victorian syphon soda bottle from one angle and like a Parisian perfume bottle from the other. I don't know, I thought that it was designed a little too much for hipsters... Ok, I admit: I hated it... But now it slowly grows on me; seriously... Color: Clean and bright copper. Nose: Orange zest, brown sugar syrup and vanilla. Doughy and sweet. Oatmeal honey raisin bars and warm banana crumb muffins. I am definitely getting the rubber band ball and damp compost aromas everybody is referring to at the background especially after adding water but not in a disturbing way. A sweet and delicate nose in general. Palate: Sweet citrusy notes like a marmalade and also some cookie dough. Light cocoa dusting or more like in the form of milk chocolate maybe with raisins and hazelnuts. I wish it was bottled on a tiny bit higher abv though. I think I would enjoy a slightly thicker mouth feel. Finish: Medium long with the sweet spiciness of brown sugar. Still fruity but less citrusy here, more like juicy red fruits. Overall: I am sold... Liked it. Not drowned in sherry casks which probably made me happier since I really liked to taste its delicate spirit at the core. Great balance of using older casks with first fill ones. Incredibly easily drinkable... It goes down so smooth even the bottle looks prettier to my eye right now. By the way many many thanks to Gal Granov from Whisky Israel sending me the sample literally from the other side of the world.