Scotch of the Month, September - The Balvenie 15 Year Old

Mack McConnell
on August 30, 2012
with 0 comments

 The Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Speyside Single Malt

Age: 15 years
Proof: 95
Color: Light amber

I'm a big fan of this one. This version of Balvenie is drawn from a single bourbon cask of a single distillation. Each cask forms a limited edition of hand-numbered bottles - there's a maximum of 350 bottles from any one cask - so each bottle is unique and unrepeatable. There is a bit of difference between casks, but not a lot. 

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla fragrance is strong, honey sweetness, dry oak. When watered down, expect sweet fruit and malt tones to be more apparent.

A rich and complex flavor - indicative of a good, long aging process. You’ll notice tones of honey and malt mixed together with vanilla and oak at the forefront. I also got flavors of toffee and cream.

The finish is long. It has a touch of licorice and almond and perhaps a bit of coconut. Warming until the end. There’s a pleasant smokiness and a bit of moss.

The flavors are clean, well defined, confident, and beautifully balanced.
John Hansell, The Whisky Advocate

Winner at World Whisky Awards 2010

Bourbon of the Month - Booker's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Mack McConnell
on August 30, 2012
with 0 comments

Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Age: 6 - 8 years
Proof: 121 - 127
Color: Deep, rich amber

You’re in for a treat. Booker’s is the first bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, uncut and unfiltered. Today, it remains one of the only bourbons bottled straight out of the oak. It’s bottled at it’s natural proof of between 121 and 127 and aged between 6-8 years. Add some water to this unleash different aromas and flavors! A true connoisseur's sipping bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

Right off the bat you’ll notice a big smell of oak and strong vanilla. You may smell brown sugar, and a woody spice along along with some smoking charcoal. Overall, the smell is clean and pure - not a heavy dose of alcohol scent.

The vanilla and brown sugar have a strong presence in the scent. There is also a bit of burnt caramel, oak and leather.

Dry and hot. For having an ABV this high, it’s surprising the alcohol taste is so hidden. Oak flavors linger after the taste is long gone. Leaves you with the brown sugar and spicy leather as the flavor rides out.\

“A tasting of Small Batch Bourbons left me in awe of Booker’s” 
The Chicago Tribune

Gold Medal Bourbon
Wine Enthusiast

State of California Whiskey

on August 08, 2012
with 0 comments

California is known for a lot of things. Some of them are pretty good (San Francisco, The Beach Boys, craft beer); some aren’t so great (Hollywood, bankruptcy, Kim Kardashian). Whatever comes to your mind when you think of California, I’m guessing it isn’t whiskey. After all, the American whiskey reputation has been snatched up by Kentucky, Tennessee mostly. But this unfortunately leaves some great whiskey action happening right here in California that needs more attention.

Full disclosure: I’m a California-dweller (San Francisco to be exact) and am very much in love with my state. Maybe it’s for that reason that I thought it was important to bring the spotlight over here for a second.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some really cool distilleries and whiskeys coming out of the Sunshine State recently and thought I’d spread a bit of the love around. "We certainly have the knowledge here because of the number of Scots who settled here and have brought their skills with them. Rye and bourbon were originally made by Scots and Irish immigrants," says Phil Elwell, from Ye Olde King’s Head pub in Santa Monica, a whiskey haven for southern Californians. The west coast is known for its wine and beer, which is precisely why many believe locally distilled whiskey is also catching on.  For some, it seems like California is ripe for such a movement, which is why it’s achieved a few drams of success - "People in California have grown up with wineries and microbreweries so they are already receptive to craft whiskeys," says Elwell. What you can find here are whiskeys with very distinct personalities, whiskeys you don't find anywhere else.

St. George Whiskey

Alameda, CA

Jorg Rupf comes from a line of eau-de-vie distillers in Germany. Lance Winters has a brewing background, which is what did before coming to St. George in 1995. Together they run St. George’s Distillery.

St. George’s distillery is on the same premises as that of Hangar One Vodka, which is in an isolated airplane hangar in the old Alameda Naval Air Station. Rupf and Winters bring certain beer techniques to their whiskey. For example, St. George uses a mixture of the toasted malts on their whiskeys that lend a rich, dark color to porters and stouts; they're the only West Coast distillers to do so. Some say this is why their whiskeys have such striking fruit aromas that make it so distinctive. Their Bourbon barrels also contribute to their signature fruitiness.

They are also known to use smoked malts – smoked over hardwoods like beech and alder. The product of their collaboration is like no other whiskey ever -- it has a rainbow of sweet fruit and flower aromas you can scarcely believe come from grain, and an amazing smoothness on the palate. Yes, it’s a single malt. Or, the “whiskey that wants to be a whisky” (2).


Charbay Distillery

St. Helena, CA

Charbay is known for it’s high-end brandies and eau-de-vie and produced near Napa Valley. More recently they got into the whiskey business and started to get wild. When deciding how to build a great whiskey, they had a rather radical idea – embracing hops at a new level, featuring it in a similar way as some American beers. This, combined with aging in American White Oak barrels, creates a unique flavor profile. Charbay Double Barrel Hop-Flavored Whiskey is impressive. Its aromas are vegetal – like grass and hay – and has a bitter finish (props to the hops).  Heady, dry-grass aromas.  More recently, Charbay has announced R5 Aged Whiskey, which is a new experimental whiskey distilled not directly from grain, but from Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA Beer, typically known to please very strong hoppy-beer fans across the west coast. It’s then aged for 22 months in French Oak.


Anchor Distilling:

San Francisco, CA

In true American fashion, Fritz Maytag, the founder of Anchor, wanted to rediscover the way whiskey was originally made in America, the same kind George Washington used to make - 100% rye, sold straight from the still without barrel aging. He calls it “Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey”.

However, laws that still linger in America after Prohibition don’t allow him to sell it without aging it (which surprised me), like he originally planned. He does release one version aged for only two years – but he’s not allowed to call it “whiskey” due to California laws, and settles for “spirit” instead.

Another version he makes is aged three years in charred Bourbon-type barrels. In a tasting panel conducted by the LA Times, it was said that Old Potrero’s aroma is reminiscent of brandy-based liquer such as B&B. When water is added, notes of fresh hay come front and center.

Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey
45% ABV

Nose: Very smoky and Scotch like. Old leather and molasses with a hint of Alspice.

Taste: Molasses, spice. A bit of vanilla and leather. Finish: Very sweet molasses and spice that lingers for a minute and then simply becomes a bit smokey.

*tasting notes from Bourbon Enthusiast

Perhaps it’s because California doesn’t have a strict whiskey tradition to limit experimentation, or maybe it’s thanks to typical California craziness, but it needs to be noted that there are unique and seriously interesting whiskeys being created right here in the Sunshine State.  After all, if we elected this guy to be governor, isn’t anything possible?

Citations: 1: 2:

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Whiskey Blog

Scotch of the Month, Septem...

August 30, 2012

 The Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Speyside Single Malt Age: 15 years Proof: 95 Color: Light amber I'm a...

Read more →

Bourbon of the Month - Book...

August 30, 2012

Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Age: 6 - 8 years Proof: 121 - 127 Color: Deep, rich amber You’re in...

Read more →

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