Nov 25, 2015

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15yo...

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15yo (43.0%): If I am not mistaken it was sometime in the beginning of 2012 when Diageo announced that they will be discontinuing Johnnie Walker Green Label. And they made it clear that what we had on the shelves in liquor stores were the last bottles available to purchase if we wanted to keep a couple bottles for old times sake in our cabinets. In following months instead of hoarding a few bottles for myself I patiently started to savor the dusty bottle hidden in the corner of my favorite watering hole (I was eyeing it for quite some time anyway...) in the neighborhood every night I stop by little by little without drawing anybody's attention. Then later in 2015 all of a sudden some new bottles resurfaced in North America... People thought that Diegeo changed their mind but apparently they were celebrating the "10th year Anniversary" of Green Label with a limited time offer bottling. I still think that they were only trying to liquidate the last batches of their 750ml bottle stocks they suddenly ended up with in their warehouses. They have only American and South African market to be able to do so after all. Anyway, lucky us... So, finally before the the year ends I decided to get one bottle for myself for the holiday season and now that's how it is sitting on my desk waiting to be opened. The vat is still the same old blend of malt whiskies distilled in four distilleries only: Talisker, Cragganmore, Linkwood and Caol Ila. Youngest component is 15 years old. Color: Clear gold, amber. Nose: Yellow grapefruit, meyer lemons and marinated herring in a jar. Hint of coastal peat and seaweed. Ripe Concorde pears, honeysuckle and jonquils. A few drops of water pulls that delicate peat a little more to the front: Dried salted cod, wet beach sand and ocean spray. Palate: Pretty thick and mouth covering. Heavy wool scarf you like to chew occasionally when you are walking on the streets of the city on a pretty cold winter night. Semi dark chocolate, strong cortado and crisp malt. Thick chestnut honey, sweet peat and apple compote. Water thins the texture but also adds some nice Asian pear, cooked prunes and milk chocolate notes. Also orange peel jam with whole cloves in. Finish: Longer than I expected. Dry sherry finish with walnut and simple cinnamon syrup notes. Maybe hint of white pepper. Overall: In spite of its relatively low abv at 43.0% adding water definitely helps the whisky on the palate. A nice old school blend, exactly like I remember. Not young, not restless and/or edgy like the new style of blended Scotch whiskies. Instead it tries to win the older clientele mimicking the style of well aged sherry cask matured single malt whiskies like Aberlour, Macallan and/or Cragganmore and I have to say it kinda nails it. Maybe that's why actually Diageo decided to take it out of the market. Nobody thinks that it is worth the effort to try to reach middle aged and older consumers anymore... The market spread out way wider than that and everybody is trying to get a piece of the younger market nowadays. They basically want to spend less, price it higher and sell more. That's what Double Black is for and doesn't make any sense financially to keep a 15yo blended malt at this price range with a way lower profit margin and a smaller market share. Anyway, to keep it short: It is a great bargain if you still can spot a bottle on the shelves before it completely disappears from the surface of the earth and a nice nostalgic journey... I definitely felt like in one of those ads in National Geographic magazine's glossy pages from 1980's. It will accompany me just great during Holidays. Happy thanksgiving everybody..!

Nov 22, 2015

Marie Duffau Napoleon...

Marie Duffau Napoleon (40.0%): Well, this household needed an everyday Armagnac for a long time... I picked this bottle at K&L Wines last week and pretty amped to taste it. The bottle is labeled as "Napoleon" which means the youngest component in the blend is at least six years old. Marie Duffau uses grapes from a twelve hectare vineyard in Bas Armagnac region and their Armagnac is distilled only once at an incredibly low temperature (129F-136F / 54C-58C) at a very slow rate before it is filled in Gascon Oak (10%) and Limousin Oak (90%) casks. Color: Medium dark amber, wildflower honey. Nose: Old hardwood furniture, chestnut candy (marron glacè) and burnt sugar. Black currant jam, cooked prunes and dried apricots. Old leather upholstery and spiced apple cider. Palate: Roasted almond, walnuts and toasted oak staves. Baked quinces and baked apples, allspice, juniper berries and cinnamon. Roasted chestnut shells... Warm with black pepper and vanilla bean scrapings. Raisins, eucalyptus, roasted pine nuts and rosemary. Finish: Medium long with more roasted and salted nuts and cracked black peppercorns. Overall: Rough, a little fierce and restless on the palate but if you are ordering a relatively young Armagnac you should be ready for this kinda spirit anyway. Actually it really taste like an Armagnac you would get if you order one in an ordinary neighborhood café in southern France. On the other hand the palate carries interesting juniper berry and rosemary notes which made it taste slightly like a cask aged genever or even like a young marc brandy in this case. I very much enjoyed the ride. I have to admit that it is a great buy with a price tag in mid thirties. Cannot wait to have a sip every time I brew a late night coffee in coming winter months. Well, I wanted to have an everyday Armagnac and I pretty much nailed it. Highly recommended in this price range...

Nov 21, 2015

The Whisky Extravaganza Los Angeles 2015...

The Whisky Extravaganza Los Angeles, Millennium Biltmore Hotel

22nd Annual The Whisky Extravaganza happened on Thursday at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The event was my first major whisky event in town after I moved here four months ago, it was the first The Whisky Extravaganza I attended without Malt Impostor crew being around (yes, I do miss them...) and again it was the first SMWSA event I remember being a part of without carrying fifteen layers of clothing (no, I don't miss the East Coast autumns).

Matthew Hofman from Westland Distillery
Like every The Whisky Extravaganza it was well organized, relatively short in duration compared to other big whisky events (means way less drunk people at the end...) and again very well catered. Actually I have to say that the timing of desserts coming out was so perfect I was almost in tears... Alan Shayne was a great host of course like every time and it was great to see Aaron Krause of Booze Dancing fame, the one and only Michael Neff and old friend Simon Brooking from Beam Suntory to share our favorite drams of the event as well as a few jokes.

Middleton Distillery gems...

I don't like and also don't believe taking tasting notes during these kind of events. It never works. There is no time to concentrate, sit down, take your time and write down decent notes. It always ends up rushed and to trying to decipher your notes the next morning is almost impossible. Instead I try to taste as many new drams I possibly can and enjoy the night. That's exactly what I did on Thursday and ended up with a list of my favorite whiskies I tasted for the first time. I am looking forward to spend more time with these gems later when I have a chance but for now here is a list below. You should definitely keep an eye on these bottles:

- SMWS Cask 93.64 13yo (I ordered a bottle right away...)
- Bowmore Devil's Cask Batch #3
SMWS Cask 50.62 24yo
Westland Distillery entire line-up: Westland Whiskey, Sherry Wood Whiskey and Peated Whiskey
- The Classic Cask Bunnahabhain 22yo
Glenrothes 1995 Vintage
- The Classic Cask Glenlossie 21yo

Thanks again to Alan and Gabby Shayne for a great evening..!

Alan Shayne, President of SMWSA

William Grant & Sons, Girvan Patent Still line-up