Monday, January 16, 2017

Whiskeys to Watch for in 2017


There are lots of great whiskeys that will be coming out this year. Here are a few to watch for.

Compass Box FUSWA. The FUSWA is a blend of 8 year old Clynelish, Caol Ila that's been aged for 2 years and 364 days, Irish Whiskey and Bourbon. It was aged in French oak with plastic staves, will be released at 39.9% abv and John Glaser will personally spit in each batch.

Booker Van Winkle. According to Beam Suntory, the new Booker Van Winkle Bourbon will "have the same great taste as Booker's but at triple the price." Booker Van Winkle will be sold exclusively by assholes on Facebook.

Highland Park Wood. Following up on Fire and Ice, Highland Park Wood celebrates the mysterious forests of Scotland and features a lovely, polished wooden box. When asked about the whiskey inside the box, an Edrington Group spokesman replied, "Crap, I knew we forgot something. There was supposed to be whiskey in there. Oh well, people will buy it anyway."

Trump Whiskey. A follow up on the really, really tremendous Trump Vodka that was just so successful, this is a terrific whiskey; it's going to be amazing, much better than Hillary Whiskey, which was a disaster. Trump Whiskey is made in Russia and it's going to be free because Mexico is going to pay for it.

Good luck on your hunt for these great new whiskeys!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whiskey, er Brandy, er Rum of the Year


I discussed some of my favorite whiskeys of 2016 in my review of the Year in Whiskey, but I realized I didn't do much of a wrap up of all of the other spirits I tried, so here it is, better late than never.

For the last two years, the best spirits I've tasted have been brandies. In 2016, I had some good whiskeys and some great brandies, but the very best stuff I tasted was rum.

Rum

The best current release spirit I had all year was, unfortunately, a European only release of 24 year old, cask strength Hampden rum under the Douglas Laing Kill Devil label. It was probably the best rum I ever tasted, and maybe one of the best spirits I ever tasted period. It has this marvelous funk that you get in those Jamiacan rums. While it wasn't quite in that league, the similar, 24 year old Hampden that K&L brought in under the Golden Devil label was also excellent with a lot of those same notes.

I also loved the 2004 Foursquare and the cask strength Clement that K&L brought in (which is still available).  My rum rule of thumb lately is buy anything from Hampden or Foursquare.

Brandy

While my favorite 2016 spirits were rums, I drank plenty of good brandy, especially apple brandy. Highlights were the Pacory Reserve and Pacory 15 year old Calvados and the pricey but tasty Domaine Du Tertre Calvados. And I absolutely loved the Double Zero apple eau de vie from Cyril Zangs, one of the best unaged spirits ever.

Armagnac-wise, my favorite new release was a Europe only release, the fantastic Lous Pibous from L'Encantada, though I'm told we may see some of this in the US this year.  If you do, buy it! And K&L brought in two great Baraillons, the 1986 and the 1988 Folle Blanche.

All in all, it was another great year for brandy and a phenomenal year for rum.  Hopefully, more of that great rum will come to the US.




Monday, January 9, 2017

New Armagnac: Domaine de Baraillon 1988 Folle Blanche


Today I taste a 1988 Folle Blanche Domaine de Baraillon. I enjoyed a similar 1988 Baraillon that came out two years ago. This one is available now at K&L.

Domaine de Baraillon 1988, Folle Blanche, 28 yo, 46% abv ($120)

This one has a really wonderful nose with nutmeg and roses. On the palate it's spicy, woody and earthy with a thick mouthfeel.  There's just a touch of fruit underneath. The finish is dry and earthy with a slight bitterness.

These Folle Blanche Baraillons tend to be drier and earthier than those made from Baco and Ugni Blanc grapes. The Folle Blanche barndies may not be as balanced, but they pack a lot of flavor in a profile I really enjoy, and this one is a great example of that with a lot of punch. I would definitely recommend it.


Friday, January 6, 2017

New Whiskey Labels: Black Bowmore, Inaugural Whiskey and More


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

Beam Suntory released a label for its new expression of Black Bowmore. Black Bowmore The Last Cask was distilled in 1964 and is 50 years old. Look for it soon at your local supermarket or the bargain bin at your liquor store.

In case you want to celebrate...or drink yourself into oblivion on Inauguration Day, Strong Spirits cleared labels for two inauguration day themed MGP whiskeys: The Presidential Dram 4 year old rye and the Presidential Dram 8 year old bourbon (the ages are listed as one term and two terms - get it?)

Here's a label for Southern Pride Double Barrel Tennessee Whiskey. What does Southern Pride mean to them?  Well, the label includes the Confederate Stars & Bars flag so draw your own conclusions. The label also notes that the whiskey is "made with our multi family recipe" whatever that means.

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.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Louis Roques Prune Brandy


This prune brandy hails from Armagnac country. While Americans often use the term prune to refer to dried plums, in this case, prune refers to a variety of small, purple plums, sometimes called French prunes in the US.

Louis Roque La Vieille Prune Reserve, 42% abv ($45)

The nose has a strong plum note with some floral notes as well. This is very sweet on the palate, almost liqueur like with a strong plum flavor.

This has good plum flavor and is easy to drink, but it's too sweet for my taste.

UPDATE: Serge Valentin from Whiskyfun provided some interesting background on this brandy:

One thing that you might find interesting is that they started to distill these plums after the phylloxera devastated the vineyards. A kind of temporary ersatz if you will, but people started to like this brandy around the beginning of the 20th century and so they went on making it even after the normal production of wine brandy resumed (Armagnac actually lies around 150km away from Souillac, towards the south-west).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Calvados Lemorton 25


Lemorton is probably the best known producer in the Domfrontais region of Calvados. Today I'm tasting their highly regarded 25 year old.


Lemorton 25 yo, 40% abv ($125)

This has a beautiful nose with sweet apple notes and some floral notes. The palate is slightly acidic with apple and then spice fading into a spicy finish which develops a nice, light apple note.

The nose on this is the strongest element. The palate is a bit mundane and it feels a bit watery, though it has a nice finish. While $125 is not an unfair price for a 25 year old Calvados, I don't think I would buy a second bottle of this.


Friday, December 23, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Jefferson's, Deanston, Tobermory and More


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

Kentucky Artisan Distillers issued two new bourbon labels for the Jefferson's label: Jefferson's Jounrey and Jefferson's New Fill. Both appear to be distilled by Kentucky Artisan.

The importer for Burn Steward whiskies cleared two new labels for distillery bottlings: a 10 year old Deanston with a Pedro Ximenez finish and a 21 year old Tobermory with a Manzanilla finish.

Here's a mysterious one. Pennsylvania bottler Charles Jacquin cleared a label for a new expression of Hochstadter's Rye, a 15 year old straight rye made from 100% rye. Normally, 100% rye mashbill on a sourced whiskey points to Alberta Distillers in Canada, but this label does not state that the whiskey was imported. So, what do we think it is?

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.