Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are There Any Underrated Distilleries? Part 2

On Monday, I asked if, in this whiskey crazed age, there are any distilleries that still could be considered underrated.  People had numerous suggestions of underrated Scotch, including Glenfarclas, BenRiach, Glen Ord, Fettercain, Ardmore and many others.

Major American distilleries that got mentions included Wild Turkey, Brown Forman and A. Smith Bowman, along with a slew of craft operations.

And Canadians were represented with Forty Creek, Alberta Distillers and Hiram Walker, where Lot 40 and the Wiser's whiskies are made.

There were no entries from Ireland, Japan or elsewhere (though there was some discussion of whether the category of Japanese Whisky is underrated as a whole).

While I'd quibble with some, I agreed with a number of the suggestions, so there still are a few underrated distilleries out there.

It was a spirited discussion, so be sure to check out the comments, and join the discussion.


Anonymous said...

If we aren't limiting underrated Distilleries to whiskey Laird & Company should get a mention.

Anonymous said...

With the popularity of Japanese whisky and the ridiculous prices any single cask of any distillery is getting in auction I think labeling them as underrated is fairly hilarious

EllenJ said...

Notwithstanding your excellent pair of articles, it should be noted that both Wiser's and Lot No.40 (along with Pike's Creek and Gooderham & Worts) are Hiram Walker imitations of brands originally developed and made famous by Corby's. The Corby's distillery closed in the early '90s and the product coming out of Windsor today bears about the same relationship to those brands (not to mention Canadian Club and others) that Chatham Michter's has to Pennco Michter's. That said, I've tasted the new Lot No.40 side-by-side with the Corby's product and it's really pretty close. Then again, Michter's U.S.1 Sour Mash is pretty close to the old Michter's. Probably closer than today's Lot No.40 is to the Corby's version.

Alex said...

Interesting. Thanks for the history and your evaluation of their similarities, EllenJ!

Andrew said...

A second note about the Canadian whiskies. Both were and are currently produced by Corby Distilleries, which is the majority owner of Hiram Walker and Sons Corp. Both are currently under the larger umbrella of Pernod Ricard. The whiskies were originally created in the late 1990s by blender Mike Booth at the Corby-affiliated Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor, as they are today under the supervision of Don Livermore. The two brands were ressurected in 2011 to capitalize on the current whisky boom whose lacking in the late 1990s led to the failure of the brands.

In short, they've always been made at the same distillery by the same owners, nothing like Michter's.

Rich Thomas said...

Given all the press the Japanese have been getting lately, I don't think their whisky could be described as underrated anymore. As for Brown-Forman... it's a corporation, not a distillery, and past that it owns some of the biggest names around.

I think Pernod Ricard neglected Wild Turkey very badly during the '00s, doing next to nothing with them as the bourbon boom got going and built up steam. All that is changing, though. Of all the big players in Kentucky, they are certainly the most overlooked. Wild Turkey 101 in particular, their classic expression, is severely underrated.

sku said...

Thanks all for the great comments.

Rich, Brown Forman is a company and a distillery. Brown Forman Distillery refers to the Shively distillery aka Early Times. I had thought they had changed the official name of that distillery to BF, but even if they didn't, it's often referred to that way.

Sam Komlenic said...

The Shively distillery also produces what I consider to be Brown-Forman's best whiskey by a long shot, Old Forester.

EllenJ said...

@Sam - not to mention the bulk of what's in that bottle of Woodford Reserve.

Brown Forman is, as Rich notes, a corporation which (at least at one time) also markets fine leatherware and porcelein, as well as many alcohol beverages, but they were always first and formost a whiskey company, whose "corporation" consisted well over 50% of members of the Brown, Thompson, and other seminal Kentucky whiskey families... and still does. From a whiskey point of view, you can consider it a family business; Garvin Brown IV is chairman of the board of directors.

Sometimes it's easy to forget just how involved some of the original players or their families tend to remain in this industry. Thank you, Andrew, for those enlightening comments about Corby/Walker/Windsor. It makes me feel better (and also feel better informed) about some of my favorite Canadian whisky.