Here's what we're drinking, and you should too.
Here's what we're drinking, and you should too.
With Chicago WhiskyFest this weekend, I realized I never posted about some of the giveaways from the 2010 WhiskyFest. Last WhiskyFest, I posted about all the SWAG (stuff we all get) I got in 2009. And there was a LOT of really great stuff to be had. Obviously these festivals are more about the whiskies (which I do think took the highlight this year), but it still doesn’t hurt to give away some stuff to establish a brand connection with your consumer. For this year’s WhiskyFest, I aimed to collect SWAG again, but really wanted to do it in more of a laid back way (I do believe I drank too early and drank too often back at the 2009 event - it made me anything but laid back). So, this year I actually got less SWAG. Is it a sign of companies cutting back? Or maybe it’s just a sign that I probably made a big fool of myself back in 2009. Either way, the take from the evening is below, using the same categories from last year’s post.
The 2010 SF WhiskyFest Awards are - 1)The Most Creative Swag, 2)The Most Useful Swag and last but not least, the highly sought after 3)The Best Swag of WhiskyFest 2010. Now without further ado…
The Most Creative Swag of SF WhiskyFest 2010 Award Goes To…
Dalmore / Whyte and MacKay for their Fake Nose/Eyeglasses.
So, though this is a pretty useless piece of SWAG, it’s dead on with message. Whyte and Mackay have been doing some great things lately (see Shackleton’s whisky, the Dalmore MacKenzie) and their brand at this point revolves around the charismatic Richard Paterson, or “The Nose”. Their master blender is a force with which to be reckoned in the whisky world, and drawing attention to it while providing some levity is quite creative. Congratulations to you on your award for The Most Creative Swag of SF Whiskyfest 2010. The other item pictured here is the tote bag from Malt Advocate magazine that come with entrance to the festival.
The Most Useful Swag of SF WhiskyFest 2010 Goes To…
Dewar’s for their Cigar Case, Cigar Cutter, and branded Zippo lighter.
Apparently Dewar’s wants to be known as a cigar malt. They really want you to smoke cigars while you drink their malt. Maybe it’s me, but I think that represents a bit of the old guard mentality as to who is actually enjoying and drinking whisky. However, giving this out as SWAG at a festival is pretty awesome. A real zippo lighter as a giveaway (and not even a sign your name for some marketing type giveaway) is quite generous. I don’t even smoke and I’m psyched to have this - it went right into my camping gear bag (with, obviously some lighter fluid and extra flint). Congratulations to you on your award for The Most Useful Swag of SF Whiskyfest 2010.
The Runner-Up for The Best Swag of SF Whiskyfest 2010 Goes To…
Malt Advocate for giving every registered user a Glencairn glass from which to drink (2 Years Running Award Winner)
When you’re running around trying to appreciate different whiskies, it really makes a big difference to have something appropriate from which to drink. MaltAdvocate giving every attendee a respectable glass from which to drink really draws a stark differentiation between it and other festivals. It’s fun that I now have a glass that says WhiskyFest 2009 and one that says WhiskyFest 2010. I feel it helps me remember my time there and shows that the festival appreciates my attendance as much as I appreciate the festival. MaltAdvocate should continue to be recognized for taking this step at their festivals, and that is why they are the Runner-Up to the Best Swag of SF WhiskyFest 2010.
And The Best Swag of SF Whiskyfest 2010 Goes To…
Ardbeg, for Providing Everyone Attending their Free Masterclass with Ardbeg New Make.
Should whisky really be considered SWAG at a Whisky Festival? Well, when Ardbeg brings the goods like they did, then I would say yes. At their workshop, they let everyone try a single cask from 1974, and some Ardbeg New Make. New Make?!? 68.7 percent New Make right off the still?!?!? When else would we ever be able to try something like that in America? The fact that they freely gave it out, along with tastings of a single cask offering from 1974 really stands out. Most other companies just taste you through their standard lineup. Ardbeg changed it up in a very unique and generous way for the American market. For this, they win the Best Swag of SF Whiskyfest 2010.
There were other SWAG items (pictures below) including pens and keychains (worthy repeats from the Glenrothes and newcomer Amrut), but overall less SWAG than last year. One has to think that companies are putting their money into making better whisky, or I covered a lot more ground and got a lot more stuff when I had more to drink.
I look forward to the next one in October. Thanks to all the whisky companies and Malt Advocate for providing such a great event.
One of the bars in San Francisco that knows how to make a cocktail is Bourbon and Branch. They invented the Laphroaig Project there, and the bar is actually housed in what used to be a speakeasy. There’s a back “library” that houses a second bar that you need to enter through a fake bookcase. You need to make a reservation and know a password to get in, the bartenders and staff are all dressed up old-fashioned like, and the quality of their drinks is only matched by the prices they charge.
Recently they expanded. Next door houses “Wilson and Wilson Private Detective Agency”. It’s a bar that is supposed to give you a higher level of service and ostensibly it does. It’s another speakeasy type thing, and you can read a good review and the backstory here from The Tender. I didn’t have an awesome time there (the seats are REALLY uncomfortable and our waitress was pretty awful), but the drinks were good.
The reason I write this post is that they have some extremely interesting whisk(e)y drinks. The menu is arranged by apertifs, main courses, and digestifs (they have a prix fixe menu where you get three drinks for the price of two and a half, or really the price of a decent meal anywhere else).
The three drinks are:
Clove infused cognac, Glenrothes Alba Reserve, Cocchi Aperitivo, Lemon Juice, Cacao and Vanilla Syrup, Orange Bitters
Highland Park 12, Amaro Nonino, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup, Sasparilla Aromatic Bitters, Licorice Root Tincture
Knob Creek Bourbon, Coffee Syrup, Cranberry Infused Angostura Orange Bitters, Tobacco Bourbon Tincture
I had the Truth Serum and really enjoyed it. It wound up being way smokier than I expected from HP 12, and was really delicious. The flavors were balanced and I even got some of the sarsparilla. Not sure it was worth the cost, but definitely an experience.Comments
Isle of Jura is that Orwellian neighbor of Islay that has neither the fame nor the number of distilleries of the latter— it has just the single eponymous facility, situated along the island’s only road. Though it celebrated it’s 200th anniversary just last year, the most recent period of ownership began in the 1950’s and saw the addition of some tall stills that help define the light, flavourful Island style of Jura. They produce both peated and unpeated expressions, and this 10 year old is in the latter style. Thank you to Laura Baddish and The Baddish Group for providing this free sample.
Isle of Jura “Origin” 10 years old
Retail: about $43.
Abv: 43% Color: honey-gold.
Legs: big but slow and viscous; all akimbo.
Nose: boat fumes, bread pudding, orange blossom, touch of honeysuckle, subtle white chocolate, wet diapers. Another go had sultanas and other fruit coming up big.
Palate: I really like this, and moreso than on the nose. Light and delicate vanilla and honey at first, with a cocoa-and-butter mixture following; then faint notes of toasted oak as it gets closer to the sea.
Finish: sea-salt, white pepper, and a hint of mead.
Overall: a very enjoyable basic Island whisky, with more distinction than is generally noted. The nose occaisonally had some odd notes, but if you go with open-form glassware, or add some water, you’ll probably dodge them. There is some oak, yes, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the dram. Overall, I like the combination of light honey, sherry-seasoned wood, and ocean saltiness as an alternative for everyday dramming at a reasonable price.
Other Opinions: depending on the bottling (the newer releases have been better, it seems), folks either find it to be “okay,” or quite good.
Wow. WhiskyParty got hacked. The hackers used us like Dewar’s White Label at a wedding. It wasn’t pretty. It took us offline for a while (about 5 days), and whenever we (or you) visited our website we (you) got notified that our site was malware and vicious. That’s all fixed now. The internet is full of some nasty people, though. Again, wow.
Thanks to all the well-wishers out there while we were figuring this stuff out. Big thanks to Michael VanDerMar for really helping us get rid of the virus, all the compromised pages and believe it or not, backdoor entry code that the hackers created to take advantage of our site (third time: Wow.). Most of all, thanks to Michael V. and Mike C. for helping us to get our site back up.
We’re dealing with a backlog of content to start putting up while we also pay attention to our regular jobs that we disregarded while we were figuring out the hacking issue. Thanks for your patience. We’ll be raising our glasses to all of you this week.
- Mike C., Mike F., and Dan D.Comments
It’s really great that the famous Gordon & Macphail shop and indie bottler has revived their Macphail’s Collection range of generally younger, cheaper, but high-quality single malts. Their Highland Park 8 year old was excellent (for the price; good either way), and I was excited to see this Islay malt for under $40.
Macphail’s Collection Bunnahabhain 8 years old
Legs: medium in speed and size.
Nose: underripe pears, overripe honeydew, a sharp floral sweetness that might need some time in the cask to chillout.
Palate: tobacco leaves and a bit of that underripe pear from the nose give way to a burnt malt flavour; there may also be a note of honeydew here.
Finish: as various girlfriends have described some very decent whiskies—“burn-ey and sting-ey.” Has an interesting baked cinnamon-and-apple flavour to it, but it’s a little overpowered by a prickly mouthfeel that lingers.
Overall: It honestly took a few pours and some time left out to turn from a highly metallic style toward something reasonable to drink; the burnt-malt note was consistent, however. And while this doesn’t resemble the more developed fruits, vanilla, and smoke of the distillery-released 12 year old, to a certain degree it has its own charm. I’d get it if you really like Bunnys and want another angle for a lowish price. Or if you’ve got every other 40/40 bottle on our list and are keeping your own notes on the best bargain Scotches. But for a cheap, smokier Islay, I’d go with Finlaggan every time. I don’t really think it’s great as a light, subtle whisky, either.
Other Opinions: um, not many. In fact, there’s none that I could find. Just this DUNY blurb:
I wanted to share with you an email I received from Ralph and Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown Distillery, and the American Distilling Institute. It appears that Congress is set to consider a bill - the Small Spirits Makers’ Equal Tax Act - that would significantly decrease taxes on small American distilleries, increasing their economic viability and making them more able to compete in the market.
If you enjoy craft whiskies like Stranahan’s, McCarthy’s, St. George, Koval, and many others, use the sample email provided to write to your local congressman in support of the legislation. Full text and sample email below. You can find your local congressman’s contact information here.
Small Spirits Makers’ Equal Tax Act Distillers, Distillers-to-be, Industry Supporters The Bill which we have all been working so hard on has finally been introduced to Congress and assigned #777. At this point we ask you all to contact your local Congressman and Senators requesting their support of this lucrative Bill. For your convenience I have prepared a letter which could be used when reaching out to your representatives.
Feel free to use the letter as written, specific excerpts, or your own wording entirely, but please do circulate this letter in order to garner as much support as possible to keep the momentum going on this very important legislation.
Thanks, Gable & Ralph Erenzo
The United States is in the midst of a resurgence in distilling, a craft that began with our founding fathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others whose early 19th Century whiskey production helped revitalize the colonial economy following the Revolutionary War. Prohibition drove hundreds of distillers out of business or underground in the 1920s, and following repeal, only a few smaller operations were able to reestablish viable businesses in the face of competition from larger U.S. and international distillers.
That situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Americans have built more than 150 craft distilleries in 40 states, learning the lost art forms, producing some of the world’s finest spirits, and complementing other regional small businesses. Many small distillers are now building distribution networks with licensed wholesalers throughout the nation.
One of the biggest impediments to our ability to grow and succeed is the federal excise tax on distilled spirits, currently at $13.50 per proof gallon. This regressive tax dates back to the second bill enacted by the U.S. Congress, which levied taxes on domestic and imported alcohol beverages. The tax applies to distillers of all size regardless of their profitability, making it a tremendous challenge for startup companies with limited capital and high initial costs for equipment, ingredients, and other business necessities.
To provide some relief to this new class of American entrepreneurs, Congressman Hinchey of NY State has introduced H.R. #777, a bill that would reduce the federal distilled spirits excise tax rate to $2.70 per proof gallon for distillers that produce fewer than 65,000 gallons annually. This tax reduction will enable these companies to invest in new equipment and provide new and sustainable jobs in communities across the United States.
If you are interested in joining in this effort to provide needed tax relief to these new American enterprises or if you would like additional background information, please contact Kristin Cook at Congressman Hinchey’s Office. Kristin.email@example.com Office of Congressman Maurice Hinchey 2431 Rayburn Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Phone: (202)225-6335Comments
I picked up a bottle of Old Weller Antique 107 after reading about the recent comparisons to the William Larue Weller bottle from this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. I was not disappointed by the bottle or the value it offered.
Old Weller Antique Original 107 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price Paid: $22
ABV: 53.5% (hence the 107)
Color: Golden Mahogany
Legs: Slow to form, impossibly slow to fall. Medium sized.
Nose: A little one note, but you can work your way through it to find sweet butterscotch candy, caramel popcorn, banana runts. I don’t get much vanilla, which for a bourbon, strikes me as odd. It really is a sweetened fruit nose. With water the vanilla comes out a bit more.
Palate: Lots of sweets. The nose doesn’t lie. There’s the vanilla caramel. Honey. Almost a sweet floral taste. Really smooth with only a tinge of alcohol burn. With water, it becomes a really sweet forward with a bitter behind it.
Finish: A long, good and warming burn. Stays sweet, not drying or cloying. It ends up with actually a nice little bit of spice which I didn’t expect.
Overall: This is a wonderful bourbon. You can drink and drink and it won’t offer any disappointment or hit your bank account hard for that matter. The juice is also pretty wonderful just because you can water it down (or not) to whatever your pleasure - at 53.5% alcohol, it’s a little strong (though manageable) but gives you enough room to alter it for those who aren’t used to anything above 40%. The one issue I have is that because it’s a red plastic screw cap, it makes me feel like I have to apologize when I offer it to guests - when I have all these nice corked bottles sitting next to it, it makes it seem cheaper than it really is. Regardless, for taste and value, I wholeheartedly recommend it for a sipper and as part of your cabinet.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “First Class pays for Coach.” It’s a metaphor to describe a business model in which more expensive, exclusive products help defray business costs for cheaper, higher volume products enjoyed by the “rest of us.” Is that how the whisky industry works?
Are all those diamond encrusted, Lalique-contained, 50 - 70 year-old drams really helping foot the bill for high-quality but more middle of the road products like Glen Whatever 15 year old? Is first class footing the bill for what many have declared to be a current Golden Age of Whisky?
Or does “steerage” class pay for coach (to continue this metaphor, unfortunate Titanic references aside)? Does the sheer volume of low-cost blends offered by major drinks conglomerates pay the way for the many quality whiskies we enjoy and blog about on this site and dozens of others?
As a Scotch lover, I’m genuinely interested in knowing who’s footing the bill for this wild whisky party we are all engaged in. Is it the frat boys throwing down shots of Jameson? Or is it the titans of industry blowing their cash on outrageously packaged, outrageously rare drams?
Anyone else game for a conversation on how the industry actually works from an economic standpoint?Comments
Here’s another installment of our ongoing series, 40 Under 40, but this time we’ve chosen our first American product for the list— the truly classic style of a bonded rye whisk(?)y (yeah, Rittenhouse uses the British spelling, oddly enough). Although we love all kinds of American whiskey at WhiskyParty, we typically do not include them in our 40 Under 40 list because there are so many that would qualify price-wise. We will, however, try to review some of the better bargains in those categories (bourbons, ryes, etc.), and at around $20, Rittenhouse 100 proof is certainly that.
Rittenhouse Rye, distilled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KY, comes in two varieties, the standard 80 proof and the bottled-in-bond 100 proof. If you’re curious as to what “bonded” means exactly, it legally ensures that the whiskey was distilled at a single distillery in a single season, has been aged for at least four years in a federally bonded and supervised warehouse, and is bottled at at least 50% alcohol-by-volume.
Rittenhouse 100 Proof Straight Rye Whisky, bottled in bond
Legs: decently slow and viscous, but slightly larger than you’d expect, given the abv.
Nose: taken neat there are aromas of cashews, a berry marmelade, and perhaps something like cherry-flavoured fruit leather.
Palate: unwatered, it is intensely sweet upfront, on molasses and macadamia-nut cookies; then come the mellow rye spices overlying the almost candy-like sweetness. With water, the oak and spices (ginger and cinnamon but more like Atomic Fireball candies than the actual spice) come through, with some seville or sour orange.
Finish: leathery and long; where the alcohol really shows through.
Overall: this is a no-joke straight rye whisk(?)y. Totally enjoyable if you’ve got the guts to just drink it. But if you sip it nice and slowly, you’ll find a warm, sweet underbelly and lots of unexpected complexity there. This whisky will take on different forms depending on how you approach it, but no matter what it’s a great buy at (or under) $20. It might also be good to note that it goes great in a variety of classic cocktails.
Other Opinions: while there’s not as many thorough reviews as you’d expect, everyone’s on various sweet flavours balanced with cinnamon and ginger; (almost) everyone likes it.
As with most whisky websites, if you visit the site of Hankey Bannister you can read all about the heritage of this blended scotch whisky. Somewhat curious is that the accounting of said heritage seems to have been written in the first person by Mr. Hankey himself, a self-described “man about town” who probably died sometime in the late 18th or early 19th C after founding Hanky Bannister with Hugh Bannister in 1757. What’s more, despite his all but certain demise, Mr. Hankey continues to regale us with the history of his whisky straight into the 20th Century, when this blend became a well-known favorite of Winston Churchill. For those who prefer the scribblings of Hugh Bannister, you can find him alive and well - a spry 300 or so years young - on the pages describing the production process.
But all joking aside, Hankey Bannister is a serious whisky, and I’m seriously glad I tried it. The Hankey Bannister company is one of the first to blend scotch whisky and, according to our friends at Whisky for Everyone:
The(ir) whiskies are based loosely on Hankey and Bannister’s original recipe and contains around 30% of single malt whisky (predominantly from the Balblair distillery but also Balmenach and Knockdhu). The remaining 70% is grain whisky mostly coming from the North British and Port Dundas distilleries.
Thank you to Alembic Communications for providing us with a free sample. Now on to the drinking!
Hanky Bannister 12 Year Old Regency
Color: Amber like the Dr.’s cane in Jurassic Park (but no flies encased in the bottle).
Nose: Dark dried fruits - raisins and figs. Very rich and heavy.
Taste: Sweet and thick - more raisin and fig. Seems very sherry influenced. That fades more towards malt and oak flavors, including some vanilla. Finish: Medium to long, highlighting the maltiness and fading into a slight bitterness that is not at all unpleasant. Overall: Interesting and highly drinkable. I would consider making this a go-to blend out at the bar, or when a big crowd comes over to play some cards, unfortunately it is not available here in the states. Hopefully that will change. For those whose curiosity is piqued, the no age statement expression of Hankey Bannister should be available on your local shelves. Other Opinions:
Update: American Craft Spirits just posted an interview with the owners of Kings County. Go check it out.
Kings County Distillery is the oldest operating distillery in New York City. While that may sound impressive, you should know that it first received its license in April of 2010, making it less than a year old at this writing.
The New York craft distillery scene is indeed young, but thriving. Thanks to a 2007 New York law that loosened regulations and fees on licensing and operating a distillery in the state, there are now twelve craft distilleries operating across New York State (the most famous being Tuthilltown, maker’s of the Hudson Whiskey line). Among this dirty dozen, King’s County Distillery is officially the first legal distillery operating in New York City since Prohibition.
The “distillery,” such as it is, exists in a 330 sq. foot studio on the second floor of a warehouse in Williamsburg. As a condition of the license, their whiskey is distilled using corn grown in New York State. Using five, ten-gallon pot stills and induction burners, Kings County is able to produce about 48 flasks worth of whiskey per day. And when I say flasks, I’m dead serious. Kings County’s whiskey bottles are literally shaped like hip flasks.
In addition to moonshine, Kings County has a bourbon that is currently available for tasting at the distillery, and should be on the shelves at local liquor stores in NYC later this year.
Color: Clearer than water - this is white dog!
Nose: Sweet corn.
Taste: Heavy on the corn, but alsolightly fruity. Stone and red fruits are apparent rather than citrus fruits.
Finish: Surprisingly long with the fruits coming to dominate the sweet corn more and more until it fades.
Overall: I’m not a huge moonshine drinker, so I have few points of comparison. I’d say this is surprisingly smooth considering moonshine’s reputation, though at only 40% ABV I’ve certainly had many whiskies of much higher strength. I think the true test here is how well it mixes into cocktails, and what the hangover is like if you drink it neat, neither of which questions I have answers to at the moment.
Other Opinions: Kings County is still young enough that these are basically nonexistent, so here’s what I could dig up in terms of supporting articles about the growing white dog/distilling industry in Brooklyn, and across New York State.