For a good time, make it Suntory time.
Weller 107. Captivating, and fit the amount of birthday money I had left to spend. I like venturing into the world of 40+%, and this really works, particularly iced a bit. Compares favorably with WT101, which I like for another set of reasons.
Today, Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Inc. (BMD) and Samuel Adams officially announce their collaboration in a multi-year project to distill two world-class craft beers into two never-before-tasted spirits, further pushing the boundaries of beverage innovation. The two brews – flagship Samuel Adams Boston Lager and smoky, complex Samuel Adams Cinder Bock – will both be triple distilled at BMD’s distillery in Great Barrington, Mass., then barrel-aged in wood. The aging of whiskey is a very complex and multi-faceted process making it difficult to pinpoint an exact release date; however, BMD feels that they should be ready for release by 2015.
Welcome to the Whisky Round Table! Whisky Party is happy to have our second chance to host a conversation among our fellow bloggers. We hope you’ll join in the conversation!
The Parting of the Sensory: Scotch has long been thought of as a drink for rich old men. Although that’s changed over the last decade, scotch is still something of an older man’s drink. However, as humans get older our senses start to fade and our acuity decreases.
Is a 1959 Bunnahabhain wasted on a man whose taste buds are starting to forget the difference between green fruits and grapefruit? In other words, is well-aged whisky wasted on the old?
Is this the wrinkled old man in the convertible, or is it the much deserved reward for having achieved success in life? Can our palates retain sensitivity throughout middle age, or does experience more than make up for any loss?
Good article on Popcorn Sutton from the NYTimes.
Will love the new products that will come out of the new legalisation.
When we started this blog we intended to focus on Scotch whisky, and primarily that is what we have done. All three of us, I’m pretty sure, prefer to drink SMS (single-malt Scotch) over other types of whisk(e)y, but still thoroughly enjoy just about any brown liquor. Dr. Whisky, one of my early and heavy influences on what to drink, how to think about it, and how to write about it, has just recently been in the middle of a “week” long run of reviews featuring whiskies other than scotch. Some of them have been single-malts more-or-less modeled after scotch whisky, and some of them have been regional whiskies in styles all their own. But its been an eye-opening reminder that there is a lot of whiskEy out there beyond the UK horizon.
With John Hansell posing the question, “is the Scotch whisky industry in decline?” (emphasis mine), I have been thinking about the primacy of SMS, at least within our little corner of the blogosphere, over its Irish, American, Canadian, and perhaps even Japanese cousins, not to mention Indian, Syrian, European, or other regional whiskies.
Well, one of my personal reasons for focussing on SMS (and giving up on my youthful pursuit of mastering the world of vin rouge) was that Scotch whisky, in particular, offered a much more easily-mastered assemblage of styles, manufacturers, and bottlings (or seemingly so). SMS features a legally enforcible restriction of its ingrediants to just barley, yeast, and water. True, flavor-diversity and nuance are achieved through a complex but subtle combination of terrior (soil, water, air, etc.) and method of manufacture (eg, peated maltings, fat or slim stils, and various wood types). But one not need to know anything about the ingrediants of a single-malt scotch in order to appreciate it.
With a nice wine, on the otherhand, if one knew not its varietal or blend, it would be a strange thing to have any kind of real appreciation for it. And within those two categories there are a myriad of possibilities. The same might be true, to a lesser degree, of the world’s other whiskies. And because there is not the same kind of stylistic distinction (in my mind, anyway) between, say, Italian wine and French, or Californian wine and Australian, focussing on just one country, let alone one region of one country, doesn’t lend one the same kind of mastery and sense of satisfation as being a Scotch malt expert (who can easily ignore the rest of the whisk(e)y world).
And even though Scotch sales are down per capita, the industry continues to make money and forge ahead with new and exciting projects and products. Ardbeg, which has produced some of my favorite whiskies (10 yo, Uigeadail, Airigh Nam Beist), lights up the tasting charts with new expressions seemingly every few months. Its bretheren on the other side of Scotland, Glenmorangie, operates similarly. There have been no shortage of expressions from Bruichladdich, and even my personal favorite, Highland Park, has been releasing older and older expressions (the 40 and soon a 50 yo). While many of these were planned decades ago, the current trend within the Scotch industry is certainly premiumisation. With less people purchasing Scotch, and the price per bottle increasing, it seems to be returning to its older status as an elite, luxury item just around the time the younger (and perhaps, at the moment, less wealthy) generation was starting to accept it.
So if the question is whether we at the Whisky Party should branch out a little bit during this odd sub-phase in the Scotch industry, a recent notice from the Friends of Laphroaig indicates that an answer may be forthcoming (to Chicago, anyway). Simon Brooking, brand ambassador and all-around interesting dude, is headed to Lincoln Park’s Faith and Whiskey
to defend the honor of our fine Scotch whisky at Chicago’s Great Whisk[e]y Debate. I’d be honored to have you cheering me on as I go head to head with Knob Creek® Whiskey Professor Steve Cole and Canadian Club® Master Ambassador Dan Tullio in a no-holds-barred showdown for whisk[e]y supremacy. Of course, after going a few spirited rounds, we’ll be ready to share a few rounds with friends like you. It’s going to be an educational and entertaining evening you don’t want to miss.
I’ll be sure to attend the bout and blog the results. And irrespective of those, we’ll be sure to pay more attention to whiskEy around here in the near future, if for no other reason than it rocks.
As Michael Jackson notes in the Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, at some point every whisky drinker becomes something of a collector.
Every lover of malt whiskies sooner or later becomes to some extent a collector. It may not be a conscious decision. It can just happen. A few casual purchases, the odd gift. For the collector’s friends, birthdays and Christmas are suddenly easy.
After two years drinking scotch, I think I’ve now found myself in that position. When I first started, it would be rare that I would have more than one bottle in my house at a time. Then came Christmas, an anniversary, and suddenly I found myself with 5 or 6 bottles on my dining room table. Over the course of a year, those bottles were killed off, but I started buying a little more. Then came Christmas again, and another anniversary, then my wedding followed by a birthday, and all of a sudden my collection looks like this:
- Laphroaig Quarter Cask
- Laphroaig 15
- Laphroaig 11 (Scotch Malt Whisky Society Bottling)
- Laphroaig Cairdeas (2009 Feis Ile Bottling - in the mail)
- Ardbeg 10
- Springbank 10
- Mortlach 17 (Malt Trust)
- Talisker 10
- Tullibardine 1993
- Glenkinchie 10
- Michel Couvreur 12 Pale Single-Single
- Glen Elgin 12
- Port Ellen 7th Annual Release
- Longmorn-Glenlivet 1967 (Scott’s Selection)
- Lagavulin 12 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)
- Lagavulin 16 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)
- Caol Ila 12 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)
- Caol Ila 18 (200 cL Islay Gift Pack)
- Black Bottle
- Famous Grouse
So in the span of about 7 months, I’ve gone from almost no bottles, to almost 20 in total. The vast majority of these bottles are opened, and run under $100, but a few of them are closed and are actually quite expensive. The Port Ellen and Longmorn-Glenlivet in particular are both very expensive bottles that are likely to appreciate over time as stocks dwindle.
Should I drink these, or should I save them?
On the one hand, I’ve tried both of these bottles before. I had a small, 200 cL of the Port Ellen as party of the Islay gift pack, and I had a couple glasses of the Longmorn-Glenlivet at a local tasting. So these are not just expensive bottles that are collecting dust - they are both scotches that I have tried and genuinely enjoy. I would LOVE to drink these scotches.
But on the other hand, they are both bottles that are likely to become exceedingly rare as years go by, and they actually represent an not insignificant investment - especially if they are the anchors of a growing collection, which is a distinct possibility. Even if I receive two scotches of similar value per year as gifts, in 15 or 20 years, that will become a sizable investment …
Two of my favorite scotches - Laphroaig 15 and Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist - are soon to be discontinued. Do I stock up on a few extra bottles of those, as well? One to drink, and one to save? Just to drink? Just to save? Are those going to be good long-term investments, or are they so common at the moment that they won’t appreciate over time?
Not sure that I have any of the answers to these questions at the moment, but I’ve definitely hit a point where it’s something that’s on my mind. For the moment, it’s not like I’m buying scotches and not drinking any of them. The vast majority of my collection is open and drinkable. So I’m certainly not depriving myself of good scotch just so I can have a few bottles gathering dust … but in a few years, I’m going to have enough of these “collectible” bottles that I may need to make a decision. Not sure what I’ll decide when that day comes …