Arran Sassacaia Cask – Limited Edition Bottling

Islands region – 55%ABV – $90 | £43

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed and Arran (and G-d knows, I’ve reviewed quite a few Arran whiskies).  I’ve had a bottle of this Arran Sassacaia on my  shelf for a while and have been slowly, but surely, chipping away at it.

The first time I tried it was when I was in Scotland doing the JSMWS whisky tour with Jason Johnstone-Yellin and our two guests Meg & Mike.  Mike was the one that turned Jason onto the stuff and it was he, Mike, that turned me onto the stuff during a stop at the Craigellachie Hotel just outside of Elgin.

We put this Sassacaia cask whisky up against another distiller’s Sassacaia cask whisky and this Arran one blew the other one out of the water.  There was no real comparison.  This Arran is big and fresh and vibrant.  The other?  Not so much.  While I will not name the other whisky, I will tell you it was *not* the new Glenmorangie Artien – that whisky wasn’t even released when we did this side-by-side.

Here are the details on the Arran Sassacaia  Cask:

On the nose –  Like bathing your nose in a tub full of deep/dark tropical fruits (think passion fruit, persimmon, over-ripe cantaloupe and then a good bit of cherry which I know is not really tropical…).

A bit of a malty backbone.

Juicy juice grape juice (if there were a not so sugary version of it).

Some notes of rubber birthday ballons too.  That’s said in a very positive way.

It’s like a party in my nose.

A very vibrant smelling whisky.

On the mouth – Thick, deep and honied mouthfeel.

Noticeable notes of, you guessed, Sassicaia wine – cherries, cedar wood and even a bit of chocolate in there.

Cinnamon spice which quickly becomes drying.

A couple of sips later reveals an interesting hint (a tiny hint) of swimming pools on hot summer days.

Finish – Drying, long and filled with cherries and chewing tobacco.

In sum – Not a very Arran, Arran if you ask me.  Nice, well balanced and overall a very satisfying whisky.  However, I did not detect much of the Arran character that made me fall in love with their whiskies.  Not a complaint… it just makes me think about what percentage influence wood *really* has on whisky and what makes that percentage change from cask to cask.  This aside, when should you enjoy this one?  Well, I’d try to do it soon.  These bottles are hard to find!!

Big thanks goes out to Mike A for suggesting the whisky – big thanks goes out to Merwin’s for selling me their last bottle!

High West Whiskey – Bourye vs Son of Bourye

Park City, Utah – Both bottled at 46%ABV (or 92 proof)

“Oh, how cruel!!  Oh, the humanity!  Yossi is pitting father against son!  How could he do it?  Does he have no heart?!  Isn’t he, himself, a father?!”

Sheesh!

Like I’m the first to have even put a father vs son (or vice versa) in a story before.  Have you never heard of the binding of Issac?  Abraham was totally going to knife his kid!

Then there’s the misunderstanding between fathers and sons. Let’s think of Cat Stevens “Father and Son“…

Or even, the story from Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” – talk about a tear jerker!

What about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker?!

Nah, what I’m offering up is not as intense as the aforementioned daddy-issue, issues.  Today we have a couple of very interesting bourbon/rye blends from High West.  First up:

High West Bourye – 46% ABV$55

Details on this whiskey from the High West folks:

“Bourye’s unique blend features three whiskies: a 10-year-old bourbon with a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 5 percent barley malt; a 12-year-old straight rye whiskey that’s 95 percent rye and five percent barley malt; and finally a 16-year-old straight rye with 53 percent rye, 37 percent corn and 10 percent malt. “

On the nose –  Much softer than previous High West Whiskeys I’ve tried but that lovely pickley-dill (piccadilly palare?) quality is wafting about.

Fresh cut grass and shots of wheatgrass.

Fennel seeds (again, like other High West).  Charred oak is obvious.

There is a corn-like quality here though, sweet creamed corn.

On the mouth – VERY much a bourbon.

The sweetness is here and the spice is slight.  Soft in the mouth, not very aggressive.

The second sip reverses the preceding sentence.

Pumpkin spices: Cinnamon, cardamom (slight), nutmeg, allspice (what the heck is allspice anyway?).

A very present and attention demanding whiskey.

Finish – Shortish with lingering vanilla and wood.

High West Bourye – 46% ABV$42

Details on this whiskey from the High West folks:

“Not chill filtered, not carbon treated. Whiskey #1: 5yr Old Bourbon- 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% barley malt, Whiskey #2: 3yr Old Rye – 95% rye, 5% barley malt. The ratios of whiskies are top secret! However, no bourbon today has more rye in the final product!”

On the nose –  Quite a different animal as compared his pop – peppermint and floral air fresheners.

Much more “clean” smelling than Mr. Bourye Senior.

Laminated cardboard candy boxes (that once held candy).

Cut greens yet not like grass – sweet spouts perhaps.

Pencil shavings and wood char.

On the mouth – If Bourye is taking the low road, Son of Bourye is taking the high road.  Not sure how to put this into words but this is light and airy compared to Bourye.

Very grassy which is not something I often get in American whiskeys.  Vegetal and garden like but not garden variety.  Focusing on greens, sweet greens.

The rye in present here, seemingly more so, in comparison with the Bourye, with some added citrus and spice.

Quite fresh and almost palate cleansing (yet full of flavor).  This is a kooky lil’ guy!  Me likey!

Finish – It’s all about subtlety here.  If you pay attention, the finish is long with a slight sweetness.  Spice & citrus all along the edges.

In sum – This is a tough one.  If you like the more fierce bourbons with a high-rye, slightly spicy type quality, then Bourye is for you.  I quite enjoyed the off-the-beaten-pathedness of the Son of Bourye.  It’s a wholly new experience — one that has won my heart.  Son of Bourye had me at Hello.

**As a note: these older whiskeys from High West have not been distilled at their location. Rather, they have purchased this whiskey and, as you can see, are making some amazing blends from that stock. The good news for you is two fold: 1) They have a good deal of this older, purchased stock and 2) High West is also now a true distillery and has been for a few years so we should be seeing some younger stuff come from them very shortly!!**

Special thanks goes out to David Perkins and Erik Fitchett for the samples!!

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society launches with an IPO (Initial Public Offering)

Well, sort of.

I can not tell you how excited I am right now.

What you’re to read about is something that Jason Johnstone-Yellin (of guidscotchdrink.com), Seth Klaskin (our good friend) and I have been working on for about a year and a half (if not longer)…

If you’re been around the blogosphere you might have seen Peter from The Casks talk about it.  Nathan, the ScotchNoob posted about it as did Lawrence who runs Whisky Intelligence.

What they’re talking about is the launch of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society as a true whisky society and Independent Bottler for the US market.  We had a quiet launch that lasted two weeks and brought in many dozen members.

Beginning today, the doors to the JSMWS are wide open to the first 250-300 members that sign on/buy in.

The Society is all about Whisky and we welcome you with open armsTo check us out and join in on the fun, click here!

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society will now offer (exclusively) to its members a wide range of what we feel are the finest Single Cask, Single Malt, Natural Cask Strength bottlings under the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society Label.

See the product image below:

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The details of the press release are/were:

February 8, 2012

Announcing the launch of The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society (and their accompanying website, www.jsmws.com) as a US based independent bottler of the world’s finest single cask, single malt, natural cask strength whiskies:

Operated as a members-­‐-­‐only Society, founders Joshua Hatton (author of a blog by the same name, jewishsinglemaltwhiskysociety.com), Jason Johnstone-­Yellin (author of guidscotchdrink.com) and Seth Klaskin conducted a quiet launch on February 8th, 2012, inviting 150 loyal readers of both whisky blogs and many people in whisky enthusiast circles, Jews and non-­Jews alike. Public roll out will commence on February 20th, 2012.

With the initial membership drive in early 2012, the Society will be capped at 250-­300 members. Later this year, the Society will have an initial release of up to 5 single cask whisky expressions. Soon thereafter, the Society will open its doors to another 250-­500 members.

There will be three levels of membership available. Those that choose to join in on the base, or “White,” level can expect to enjoy the following for an initial $180 membership fee:

  • 1 complimentary 750ml bottle of one of the Society’s single cask single malts (to ship in Summer, 2012) 2 Urban Bar tasting glasses bearing the Society’s logo
  • 1 Society T-­‐-­‐shirt bearing the Society’s logo
  • A one year subscription to Whisky Advocate Magazine, a premier industry periodical
  • A laminated membership card – individually numbered
  • The very low $36/yr. renewal fee (due on the one year anniversary of receipt of the welcome bottle) The ability to invite a friend to join the Society

Late 2012 -­ early 2013 will see the release of the second set of 5 exclusive bottlings and the introduction of the Society’s first non-­Scotch single malt whisky.

While faithfully dedicated to independently bottling the finest and rarest single cask whiskies for their diverse membership, the JSMWS will aim to respect the needs of the religious, while also providing varied and new experiences for those who are less restricted in their Jewish expression. For example, they may release some bottlings of other spirits besides malt whisky in order to provide observant Jews with alternate fine spirits to accompany their Passover Seder, when malted grains are not permitted for consumption. (Many Jews observe Pesach Kashrut laws during Passover even if they do not observe Kashrut generally.)

At the same time, the Society will regularly offer whisky expressions that are aged in ex-­wine casks so that members who are not restricted in their consumption can enjoy the full range of flavors and characteristics that the malt world has to offer. Because bottlings are inherently separate and self-­contained, the Society will have the freedom to release some wine‐finished expressions without contaminating the kosher-­styled expressions.

By managing this issue thoughtfully, the Society aims to support and maintain the widest range of Jewish and non-Jewish, and observant and secular-­‐-­‐minded whisky enthusiasts in their Society. The Society will always post detailed cask notes on the website and on the bottle labels. Members are urged to utilize these notes to make purchase decisions in line with their own dietary restrictions.

Members of the Society will enjoy members-­only web content on www.jsmws.com. Such content will include, but will not be limited to, regular blog updates from Society founders detailing tasting notes, distillery visits and cask selections -­ all provided through both text – based blog entries and robust video content.

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society is a genuine Society – with their website (www.jsmws.com) acting as a virtual space for folks to meet and advance their mutual affinity for finely crafted malt whiskies. It is a place for diverse people to identify with others who share an interest in the craft, the allure, the aesthetics, and the incredible depth of single malt spirits. Members will be able to learn new things and mingle in a virtual community with others in a supportive and fun environment. The Society is a place that welcomes everyone, and extends hospitality to all. It is a place where members can shed the stress of the day and achieve relaxation by exploring exceptional spirits among friends. It is a club that promotes social justice and consideration of others.

Furthermore, while primarily built upon a solid foundation of premium cask selection for their members, the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society pledges to enact its commitment to social justice and philanthropy by donating 1% of all profits from the sale of their exclusive whiskies and merchandise.

The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society invites members to enjoy their whiskies, their community and all of the growing programs it has to offer.

For more information, contact the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society here:

Phone: 203.689.5163

Toll-Free: 866.883.7528

Email at: info@jsmws.com

High West Rocky Mountain Rye 16yo vs 21yo

Park City, Utah – Both bottled at 46%ABV (or 92 proof)

What do you think of when you hear “Utah?”

Some people think of the beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

Some think of Mormons.

 

 

 

 
Some, Polygymists.

 

 

 

 

Me, I always thought of Crispin Glover’s character in Rubin and Ed.

(I effing LOVE that movie!)

 

 

 

 
I think it’s time to get a new image in our heads – WHISKEY!
Today I’m putting up two really nice Rye Whiskeys from Utah’s High West up against one another.  A 16yo vs a 21yo.

Who will be the victor?  Generally, I’ve always found that Victor remains the victor so let’s try to find a winner instead:

High West Rocky Mountain Rye – 16yo, 46%ABV $80

Details on this whiskey from the High West Folks:

“This is one of the most intensely ryed rye whiskeys we’ve ever had the chance to taste. That’s because of its very unusual mash bill, which boasts 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% barley malt. Almost all rye whiskeys on the market today contain just over 51% rye because that’s the minimum the U.S. government requires for the label to say “rye whiskey”. Distilleries today tend to use more corn because corn costs less and they think consumers don’t like rye’s spiciness. We disagree. With its high rye content, this 16-Year-Old gem is one of the most intensely flavored sipping whiskies out there.”

On the nose –  First impression? A wonderful mixture of blueberry tarts, dill weed and funyuns.

Quite the spicy drop yet honied nonetheless.

Model glue is in here too (along with the burn you get from huffing it. (Hey, I was young and impressionable.  Don’t judge me.)

Cinnamon and other, yet spices — anise seed, fennel seed & licorice.

On the mouth – Nice & satisfying mouthfeel.

Spicy… similar to what we get on the nose.

Lots of dill, honey and now some vanilla helping to balance it all out a bit.

Orange slices & clove powder.

There’s something a bit plastic & artificial feeling about this… in a good way. (Reminds me of old action figures.)

Warming and very easy going down.

Finish – Long & with orange spice toward the back of the tongue.

High West Rocky Mountain Rye – 21yo, 46%ABV $118

Details on this whiskey from the High West Folks:

“The Federal Government term for this is “Whiskey Distilled from Rye Mash Stored 21 Years in Re-Used Cooperage.” Translation: This is very rare whiskey aged in USED barrels. All were aged on the lower three tiers of the rickhouse. Mash bill is 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt.”

On the nose –  Much more of a shy guy as compared to the 16yo.  Lighter in color too. (Less active, refill casks here.)

After spending a bit more time with this whisky, I’m finding that the notes are similar to the 16yo.

Just a bit more subdued.

On the mouth – Some fresh yet dusty here, lively yet timid…

Fresh blueberries dance around the palate doing a two-step tinned fruits (heavy one the orange slices and pear).

After a few minutes, this one quite right up.

You know?  This is quite fantastic.

Fruits are massive and there’s a delicious underlying spice to this 21yo.

Finish – Wonderfully long & fruity with vanilla & cinnamon ribbon candies

In sum – Ding ding ding!!!  We have a winner!  The 21yo is glorious, through & through.  The 16yo is no schlub and it has retained its youthful spunk.  Both are great examples of great rye whiskey but dang, that 21yo is a cracker!!

**As a note: these older whiskeys from High West have not been distilled at their location. Rather, they have purchased this whiskey and, as you can see, are making some amazing blends from that stock. The good news for you is two fold: 1) They have a good deal of this older, purchased stock and 2) High West is also now a true distillery and has been for a few years so we should be seeing some younger stuff come from them very shortly!!**

Special thanks goes out to David Perkins and Erik Fitchett for the samples!!

Kininvie Hazelwood Reserve 17yo bottled at 52.5%

Speyside region – 52.5%ABV – £650

Who in the who is Kininvie?!  If you’re an American, chances are, this is a very valid question.

Kininvie is a distillery owned by William Grant & Sons (same folks that own The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Hudson Real American Whiskey, Tullamore Dew, Grant’s blend and a few other whiskies & spirits companies).  Kininvie is one of the key components in the Monkey Shoulder vatted malt, I mean, blended malt whisky.

It’s pretty rare that the Kininvie distillery releases a single malt.  In fact, I think there have only been about 3 or 4 bottlings to date (Mr. Sammy Simmons, if you see this post, feel free to correct me here…).  So, when they do release a single malt, being the rare birds that they are, you can imagine that they’d command a high price like the one given here (£650!!)

A big thanks goes out to Marshall N and a few others at the LASC for getting me this sample!  These guys are always treating me to some fine stuff and they need to be thanked.  So, consider yourselves thanked (and expect some more thanks down the road).

Matured in first fill sherry (type of sherry is unknown to me) casks – let’s taste this one…

On the nose — Here we have all things one might associate with autumn – roasted nuts right off the county fair nut kiosk.

Carrot cake less the cream cheese frosting.

Dried fruits (apricot, sugar dried dates) and brazil nuts (N.V.T.S., NVTS!).

French vanilla latte with a cinnamon dusting on the frothy head.

Very drying nose – some woody influence here as well.

On the mouth — Intensely drying entry that makes the mouth water to counteract the dry.

Fresh cocoa beans.  Spicy, woody and now even more spice.

A touch of orange peel and also a lot of what I got on the nose.

Creme brule, burnt sugary top and all.

Finish — A touch of clove, vanilla a sugared carrots

In sum —  Insanely lucky to have had a chance to taste this stuff.  All of the scents and flavors did a good job of playing to the yearly Fall-Fever I get (most people get Spring-Fever, I get Fall-Fever…).  The one detractor I found in it was the dry attack right from the get-go which affected the mouthfeel.  This aside, the smells and flavors were so, so nice.  Good luck finding a bottle!  I’ve found a source with The Whisky Exchange: they’re both rare & expensive (£650!!)

In the end, this made me really want some Balvenie 21 Portwood (one of my faves) so, I poured a bit, relaxed and discovered that life can be good.