Saturday, September 20, 2014

Whiskey for Idiots: Kentucky Hummingbird

Do you like to pay a premium for whiskey you know nothing about and have never tasted?  Do you believe the more expensive a whiskey is, the better it will taste?  Are you an idiot?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Kentucky Hummingbird is the whiskey for you!  Kentucky Hummingbird is a mixture of barrels of Kentucky bourbon.  Each barrel is being used exclusively for Kentucky Hummingbird, so this is your only chance to taste this special bourbon.

Some folks have said Kentucky Hummingbird tastes suspiciously like Pappy Van Winkle.  Others swear it could be Four Roses.  A prominent Master Distiller tasted it and said, "to be frank, I've had worse bourbon."  Will you agree?  For $200, you can decide for yourself.  And keep in mind, if you don't buy it, some other idiot will buy it and try to sell it to you for $400, so this is a bargain!

Kentucky Hummingbird:  It's so expensive, it's got to be good!

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Whiskey Labels: Diageo's Special Releases and More

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

Beam cleared a label for Ardmore Legacy, a no age statement mix of peated and unpeated whisky.

Diageo announced it's new special releases this week after they cleared a number of the labels with the TTB, which include:  Clynelish Select Reserve, a cask strength release; the 14th release of Port Ellen, a 35 year old distilled in 1978; Strathmill 25 year old; Caol Ila 30 year old; Cragganmore 25 year old; Benrinnes 21 year old; Rosebank 21 year old and Brora 35 year old.

Joining the ranks of Glenfiddich's storm surviving Snow Phoenix and E.H. Taylor Tornado Surviving Bourbon, Hudson steps into the disaster-whiskey genre with Double Charred, a fire surviving whiskey.  Of course, Hudson is owned by William Grant, who also owns Glenfiddich, so they know their disaster whiskeys.

Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky is a South African single grain whiskey.  It's been around for a while, but as far as I know, we haven't yet seen it in the US.

Label BS Award: According to the label, Homestead Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon (I love when they are single barrel and reserve!) is a "small batch handcrafted rare that only four barrels of it exist and there will not be anymore of this special juice for at least 4 more years."  And, of course, it was distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, home of all of that really rare, handcrafted bourbon in short supply. 

But that's not all.  The same company brings us William Walker Reserve Bourbon (also distilled in Indiana), a bourbon named for the man most famous for trying to create a massive slave state in Central America.  These guys are winners!

And speaking of winners, Templeton Rye, under massive pressure, agreed to disclose the fact that it is distilled in Indiana on its labels.  The new label indeed makes that disclosure, though it still contains the origin myth that it was Al Capone's favorite whiskey and is now "available legally for the first time ever." 

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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More Bourbon from Japan: Martin Mills 24

This is another legendary bourbon for the Japanese export market. Japan became interested in aged American whiskey about a decade before the US, so there were many aged whiskeys that went to the Japanese market that we never saw in the US.

Martin Mills was a Heaven Hill bourbon distilled in 1974 and bottled in 1999.

Martin Mills 24 yo, 53.5% abv

The nose is deep and rich with espresso notes.  The palate is both rich and savory with red wine notes, and the finish is sweet and candy like.  This one is terrific, changing in flavor from nose to finish with the emergence of sweeter notes toward the end.  It's really well done and quite wonderful.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Darker Still? Highland Park Dark Origins

In the world of Scotch, the first decade of the twenty-first century was all about peat.  Everyone from Speyside to the Lowlands was dumping peat into everything they could while traditionally peated whiskeys competed for the title of highest ppm.

But the century's second decade has seemed much more focused on sherry.  Everyone seems to be putting out big rich sherry cask whiskeys.  Jim Beam even skipped the middleman and dumped sherry directly into their last Distiller's Masterpiece release.

Now comes Highland Park with Dark Origins, a no age statement whiskey composed of a higher proportion of first fill sherry cask aged malt.  It comes in an opaque black bottle reminiscent of some of Bruichladdich's bottlings.

Highland Park Dark Origins, 46.8% ($85)

The nose is heavy on the sulfur with sherry notes underneath.  There's some fruit under there but it's hard to get at with all of the big sulfur notes.  The palate is pretty similar to the nose with a big blast of sulfur up front followed by some much lighter, sweeter fruit notes (mostly grape).  It tastes strong for its abv.  The finish has a bit of sweetness, especially on the nose but a lot of sulfur on the palate, and after a few seconds, it develops a strong bitterness.

Highland Park usually keeps the sulfur in check in their distillery bottlings, but I've definitely had some independent HPs that were over the top with sulfur notes.  This one goes more in that direction.  I imagine there will be some folks who will really love this.  I tend to be very sensitive to sulfur notes, so, while it's certainly drinkable, it's not something I would reach for very often.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Whiskey Labels: Lots of Scotch

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

Pernod Ricard cleared a label for a 50 year old Glenlivet.  Distilled in 1964, it is a cask strength release entitled "The Winchester Collection."

Highland Park cleared the label for Odin, a 16 year old whiskey that is the latest in its Norse God themed Valhalla series.

Glenmorangie cleared a label for its latest Private Edition release.  Tusail is made using Maris Otter barley.

Edrington cleared a new series of Glenturret distillery bottlings, including a 10 year old, a 25 year old, and a 27 year old.

Gordon & MacPhail cleared a label for a 34 year old Port Ellen as part of their Rare Old series of bottlings.

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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dusty Thursday: Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece 18 yo Cognac Finished

It's been a while since I did a Dusty Thursday, so I thought I'd crack open one of the earliest really high end bourbons.

Back at the dawn of the bourbon craze, Jim Beam was a leading innovator in American whiskey. They helped kick start the craze with their small batch collection. Then, in 1999, they became one of the first distilleries to try to move bourbon into the super premium direction.

That year, they released the Distiller's Masterpiece collection, an 18 year old bourbon finished in Cognac cask.  This was the first cask finished bourbon that I know of.  It went for the then startling price of $250. They followed up with a 20 year old bourbon finished in port casks.

Reviews of the series were mixed at best and the collection faded. Recently, now that finishing has caught on, Beam has brought back the Distiller's Masterpiece label for some new bourbons.

Today, I'm going back to the early days to try a slice of bourbon history: the original 18 year old, Cognac finished Distiller's Masterpiece.

Jim Beam Distiller's Masterpiece, 18 year old, 49.5% abv

I need to start this one out with a disclaimer.  I am not a fan of Beam bourbon, and I'm generally not a fan of finished bourbon.  Based on this, I definitely did not have high expectations for this bottle.

The nose on this has some rye spice and then sweet, almost sherry like notes.  The palate has brown sugar and vanilla with lots of candy notes.  The finish is minty.  This stuff is just delicious.  It's sweet without being cloying, and the wine finish really comes through.

Given my dislike of Beam and finished bourbons, this one really surprised me. It just goes to show that you should always keep an open mind.  Now I'm interested in trying the port finished version.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You...

There are lots of books and on-line sources that tell you which whiskeys to try.  For instance, if you're a novice, you should definitely check out this recent list of recommendations from acclaimed whiskey writer Ian Buxton, all of which you should find at your local liquor store.  While it's great to have lists of hundreds of whiskeys that you should try before your inevitable demise, it's just as important to know what not to try.  That's why I'm proud to announce my new book:

101 Whiskeys That Are Crap You Shouldn't Bother With

In this well researched volume, Sku takes you on a whirlwind tour of the 101 whiskeys you should do everything in your power to avoid.  From 1980s Bowmore, to the latest two month old craft whiskey, to anything from Woodford Reserve, Sku saves you time and money so you can save up for the 5,000 whiskeys recommended in all those other books.

And if you buy now, you will get a free bottle of Ardbeg Galileo!  Operators are standing by.