anCnoc (pronounced a-NOCK) is the whisky produced by the Knockdu distillery, presumably called thus because “Knockdu” was too easy to spell and pronounce.*
anCnoc, a Highland producer right on the edge of Speyside, is known for its unpeated spirits, but now it’s hitting the market with a quartet of peated expressions. These whiskies, all named after peat cutting and working tools, are known as anCnoc’s “peaty range.” The two not reviewed here includ Cutter and Tushkar (which is only available in Sweden). Rutter and Flaughter, which we sampled, are the two least-peated whiskies in the range.
No age statements on these, just pictures of funky shovels, which are just as good. Thoughts follow.
anCnoc Rutter Highland Single Malt – Peated to 11ppm, giving this a sweetly smoky toasted-marshmallow character on the nose. Initially quite sweet on the palate, it also offers notes of red bell pepper, almond, and plenty of candy bar nougat. It’s a simple spirit, but fun enough for an evening tipple — and well suited for fall drinking. 92 proof. B+
anCnoc Flaughter Highland Single Malt – Peated to 14.8ppm, but I find this to be a softer expression of peated malt. The nose is milder, with more cereal notes than smoky ones. The body brings that peaty character to the forefront quickly, offering a classic island-style composition that blends wood fire smoke with a fruity, almost tropical finish. Touches of iodine on the back end. 92 proof. B+
each $85 / ancnoc.com/peaty
* Actually to avoid confusion with Knockando.
Faust’s latest Cab is ready to go today. Gentle menthol notes mix with overtones of rhubarb and a touch of vanilla. The body starts off with a touch of vegetal character, but this dissolves into more classic Napa Cab notes: rich currants, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry on the back end. Long and fruit-forward finish, with those vanilla notes working remarkably well with the wine’s minty menthol character.
Faust: It’s Goethe stuff!
A- / $40 / faustwine.com
Benessere is a small, family-owned vineyard and winery in St. Helena, where it focuses heavily on estate-grown grapes. Specifically, Italian varietals and Zinfandel dominate the bill. Today we look at a selection of five wines from the company. Thoughts follow.
2013 Benessere Rosato di Sangiovese Estate St. Helena Vineyard – Let this rose warm a bit before tucking into it. Straight from the fridge you’ll find it overbearing with astringency and hospital notes. With some air and warmth it reveals lots of strawberry, lychee, green banana, and mandarin orange notes. The finish is off, but it still works well enough. B / $18
2012 Benessere Sangiovese Estate St. Helena Vineyard – Lush and exciting, this is an easy-drinking wine that’s stuffed with sangiovese’s signature cherry notes, but also vanilla notes, wet earth, and gentle tannins to give it structure. A- / $32
2012 Benessere Zinfandel Collins Holystone St. Helena Vineyard – An old vine Zin, this wine initially attacks the palate with overwhelming sweetness, but eventually it settles into a highly drinkable rhythm, lush with jammy plums and raspberries, tempered with chocolate sauce notes, but it pulls out enough refinement enough to work with a hearty meal. B+ / $35
2012 Benessere Zinfandel Black Glass Estate St. Helena Vineyard – A more vegetal showing of Zin, its fruit demolished by a thin body that has a weedy, earthy funk to it. B- / $35
2012 Benessere Moscato di Canelli Napa Valley “Scintillare” – Standard-grade sweet moscato, orange oil studded with some hospital notes. Lots of honey, short finish. B / $25 (375ml)
Shanken reports that the flavored spirits trend continues to migrate from vodka to whiskey with brisk speed. Those zany folks at Diageo are really amping things up with Sasparilla and Spiced (cinnamon & clove) flavored Jeremiah Weed bourbons, a new flavored whisky line called Pie Hole (Apple, Cherry and Pecan Pie flavors), and a Gala Apple Crown Royal expression in the coming months. [Shanken News Daily]
Is Beam master distiller Fred Noe considering a retirement? Not so fast. He’s starting a very slow transition into the phase, and Business Week takes a look at what he’s been up to, what’s next and what the Jeter-like final trip around the distillery might look like. [Business Week]
In other bourbon news, Brown-Forman is looking to break ground on a new $30 million distillery in downtown Louisville. The Courier-Journal is reporting that the new Old Forester distillery will contain a visitors center, fermentation, distilling, barrel-making, filling and dumping, and bottling. Look for it to be open around the fall of 2016. [Courier Journal]
Two long reads for consideration: The Chicago Reader takes an in-depth look at the recent controversy surrounding Templeton Rye, transparency, and whether or not it matters (it does). The second comes from the Denver Post discussing local craft spirits, popularity, and (again) transparency.
If you had any question about how little that football team in Washington DC thinks of its fans, consider this: they sold expired Budweiser to its fans at the game on Thursday night. Someone get the Goodell bot up and running for commentary. [CBS Sports]
And finally today, for those who are a fan of nighclubbin‘, pull up to the bumper for this one: a cocktail created in London for a mere £9,000 (that’s about US$14,000) named after legendary singer/artist/Bond villain Grace Jones. Consisting of a 1990 vintage Cristal and 1888 Samalens Vieille Relique Vintage Bas Armagnac brandy, the drink is topped off with gold leaf, Angostura bitters, and sugar. No word on whether or not the drink comes served in a coozie made of warm leatherette. [Daily Independent]
We’ve been getting hit with several recipe ideas to share for fall, so we figured we’d pass them along as an alternative to all of the pumpkin stuff that seems to be quite the craze this time of year. Enjoy!
Spicy Cutty Pear Cooler
1.5 oz. Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
0.25 oz. Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
0.25 oz. lemon juice
0.25 oz. honey
2 oz. ginger beer
1/8th of a ripe pear
In a mixing tin, muddle the pear with honey and lemon. Add the Cutty Pro and Ancho Reyes and shake. Double strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a pear slice.
(Created by Julie Reiner, New York)
1 ½ oz. Hangar 1 Straight vodka
1 ½ oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
¼ oz. Ramazzotti Amaro
2 dashes orange bitters
1 lemon twist (for garnish)
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
1.5 ounces Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve bourbon
½ teaspoon Hiram Walker white crème de menthe
½ teaspoon Cointreau
Fresh mint, twist of orange (for garnish)
Fill glass with ice, then add each ingredient. Stir to mix and garnish with fresh mint or a twist of orange.
(Courtesy of the Warehouse, Charleston, SC)
2 oz Espolon Reposado
1 oz cinnamon syrup
.5 oz fresh lemon
2 dashes Tabasco
4 oz spiced apple cider
Stir ingredients together and add Tabasco to taste (note: the recipe calls for 2 dashes, but we added a bit more for extra kick).
2 oz Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1 oz Myer’s Dark Rum
½ oz heavy cream
Fill a low ball or rocks glass with ice. Add each ingredient and stir until the cream is mixed. Serve with a plate of cookies if desired.
I was privileged enough to score a dram of this through a recent trade with another local fellow who enjoys the Laddie just as much as I do, if not more. Lately I’ve been revisiting some of the Bruichladdich I have in the cabinet, just to see if time away has altered my enjoyment of the brand. It hasn’t. I still quite fancy my remaining ounces of Octomore, and Port Charlotte and “The Organic” are still just as satisfying as the first time. This expression of Bere Barley is of 2006 vintage and was bottled last year in an edition of 15,000. As usual with Bruichladdich, the packaging is modern and quite lovely. But let’s not judge a book by its cover.
The color is a gorgeous summer yellow, with a nose that’s heavily floral mixed with a blast of barley that opens up after a few drops of water (best to let it sit for a few minutes in the glass). There’s an immediate bit of crispness to the taste, almost acidic before giving way to soft citrus and traces of honey and pepper. By contrast to other expressions in the stable, it is surprisingly light, almost summery. The finish is lengthy and pleasant, with a mild tinge of smoke and sweetness. It’s surprisingly complex, given its relatively young age of 7 years, but at $60 it’s a reasonably good buy. Had I the opportunity to pick up a full bottle, I would strongly consider it. It’s not the best in Laddieland, but it’s certainly far cry from the worst.
B+ / $60 / bruichladdich.com
Monday, September 29th is National Coffee Day; a holiday which all folks in love with the caffeinated bean can most certainly get behind and celebrate. We’ve received a few recipes to celebrate this festive occasion, although we suggest maybe not drinking them around the office (unless your boss is cool with that sort of thing).
Rose Without Thorns
1.5 oz Hennessy VS
2.5 oz cold brew coffee
.5 oz ruby port
.5 oz simple syrup
Raspberries (for garnish)
Place 4 raspberries in a shaker tin, muddle, add other ingredients add ice and chill shake. Fine strain into a rocks glass (also works with Martini and Coupe glasses).
The Bold & Fresh
1.5 oz Hennessy
.75 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
1 splash Chambord
2.5 oz cold brew coffee
Muddle raspberries in a shaker tin and add all other ingredients with ice and shake until well chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass with ice, and garnish with a mint sprig.
1/2 oz. espresso
1/2 oz. Amaretto di Saronno
1/2 oz. cognac
1 bowl vanilla ice cream
Prepare in a shaker, serve in a cocktail glass, and top with grated bitter chocolate.
Good Morning and Goodnight
1.5 oz coffee-infused Hennessy VS
.5 oz Tia Maria
.5 oz Madeira
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash cherry bitters
Coffee beans (for garnish)
For infusion: let espresso beans sit in Hennessy for an hour. Add all liquids to a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and garnish with 3 coffee beans.
Craft Distillers has made just 120 bottles of this brandy under the Germain-Robin label, all from a single cask of 26 year old spirit of 100% pinot noir — grown in a Mendocino vineyard that no longer exists. In its online notes, Germain-Robin calls this perhaps its “finest distillate” and notes its “almost feral intensity.”
That’s a completely apt description of this complicated spirit, a brandy that drinks with impressive complexity and depth. The nose is restrained fruit — apricots, peaches, and plums — tempered with austere oak and notes of what might pass for apple cider vinegar. Things rachet up as you tuck into actually drinking the thing. The body is downright beastly with intense notes of wood planks, caramel sauce, baked apples, and flamed orange peels. Dark chocolate and some nutty notes emerge as the finish develops, with this brandy’s intense, old fruit character ultimately taking another complex turn toward the dark and brooding.
A small sample will never get to the complexities of this spirit, and it can initially be so daunting that it’s off-putting to really dig into. Give it the time to show you it’s charms. After all, you will have paid dearly to see them.
A- / $600 / craftdistillers.com
Tapatio 110 isn’t the only overproof tequila in the game. Now comes El Luchador, a tequila from David Ravandi that also hits the 110 proof mark.
El Luchador (“the wrestler”) is made from organic agave, single estate grown. Grown at 4,200 feet, the agave hails from the upper reaches of what is considered a Lowlands spirit. Individually numbered and bottled in antique-looking recycled glass bottles, the masked Mexican wrestler on the label makes quite an impression before you ever crack into it.
This is heavily overproof tequila, so naturally it’s appropriately racy on the nose, stuffed with agave, lemon pepper, and fresh sea salt. On a second sampling, I found a lot more citrus than I’d originally expected. (Citrus notes are a hallmark of Lowlands tequilas.)
The palate is rich and powerful, as you’d expect from a 110 proof spirit, but also silky-sweet with notes of nougat and coconut — with a growing character of cinnamon-inflected horchata. It is not “too hot” at all, and drinks surprisingly easily with no water added. The agave notes build on the finish, offering white pepper, lemongrass, and soothing touches of mint as it fades. The cinnamon sticks around for quite a while, helping to spice up the finish.
Altogether El Luchador offers a lovely, creamy complexion with a nice balance of the sweet and savory, making it both exciting and quite complicated for a blanco.
Arriving this fall.
A- / $45 / website under construction
Chieftain’s is a venerable independent bottler operated by Ian Macleod (which owns Glengoyne, Tamdhu, and many other whiskey brands). This is our first review of a Chieftain’s release, an 18 year old Tobermory, from the Isle of Mull. Thoughts on this overproof limited edition follow.
A well-aged dram, this whisky is showing well, with a nose of orange and grapefruit peel that’s integrated with menthol and a bit of bacon drippings. The body’s a bit tougher. Here the more burly essence of this island whisky comes to bear, offering some sea salt and seaweed notes, plus a core of stewed fruit. Hints of smoke come along, which meld well with the inevitable cereal notes that seep forth in the finish. For all its oddball character, this all comes together in a remarkably cohesive way, drinking pretty well in more of an everyday-dram fashion than a special occasion whisky.
B+ / $110 / ianmacleod.com
What’s Liam Neeson’s favorite wine? Taken!
Taken Wine Co. is a five year old winery that bottles under two labels — Taken and Complicated. Part of the Trinchero empire, these are most affordable wines designed to be crowd pleasers. Thoughts follow.
2011 Taken Red Wine Napa Valley - 60% cabernet, 40% merlot. A soft and ready-to-go red that balances fruity plums and currants with touches of leather, chocolate, and hints of balsamic. Well balanced and supple. Probably not called “Complicated” because it’s anything but. B+ / $30
2012 Complicated Chardonnay Sonoma County – Slightly floral on the nose, with hints of sugar cookies and almonds. The body plays up the sweet side of things — apple butter and brown sugar — but notes of sage and pine add curiosity. The incredibly long finish is surprisingly sugary, which isn’t the way I’d like to see this wine end up, but give it time to warm up a bit and things settle down. B / $18
2012 Complicated Red Wine Central Coast – A mash-up of grenache, syrah, and carignane. Quite drinkable, full of fruit but far from jammy. Restrained, even, showing notes of tea leaf where you’d otherwise find chocolate syrup. Nice balance between raspberry (lots), strawberry, and even some citrus notes. An easy, affordable drinker. A- / $20
The problem here is twofold: there’s perception and then there’s reality. When in the kitchen, I often fancy myself as an avant-garde foodie supreme. I daydream about and attempt to make gastropub delights and fancy myself in the same limelight as my particular chef of idolatry, Homaro Cantu. The results are certainly avant-garde, but just not in a good way. Often my well-intended attempts at something cutting edge would be worthy of inclusion on a Buzzfeed “Nailed it” meme, with friends powering through dishes with puckered faces and compliments in the form of ambiguous grunts and phrases like, “I like how the burnt ends really add a smoky texture to this” (it was a key lime pie).
So when the University of Kentucky Press (full disclosure: I also work for UK. Go Cats.) sent me an advance copy of recipes one can cook with bourbon, I was beside myself in utter delight. The rest of my household, not so much. For everyone would know that the end result would be an assault on their taste buds with a litany of bourbon-infused recipes gone horribly wrong — mutations in a mad scientist’s laboratory who has no right even calling himself a cook.
Thankfully Lynn Marie Hulsman’s book steered me in the right direction courtesy of her straightforward, relatively easy to follow recipes. The bourbon poundcake was devoured by test subjects, as were the bourbon infused marshmallows at a separate potluck. One of my favorite parts of the book was experimenting with different bourbons to get different flavor profiles in the finished product. I’m looking forward to revisiting a few of these to see the difference between Maker’s Mark, Weller, or Bulleit and each brand’s contribution to the end results. (Note: probably best not to use that Four Roses Limited Edition for this adventure.) Novices, experts, and destructive cooks alike can approach this book with confidence knowing that in the end, bourbon makes everything taste better.
A- / $15 / [BUY IT NOW]
Here’s a harmless but quite food-friendly Languedoc rose composed of 40% syrah, 40% grenache, and 20% mourvedre. Light strawberry notes on the nose become more evident on the palate, overcoming some bitter root and grassy notes that tend to dominate when the wine is very cold. A touch of floral character — roses and violets — emerges as the wine develops in the glass.
B+ / $17 / domaine-de-nizas.com
Ardbeg’s Supernova, alongside Bruichladdich’s Octomore, is one of the legends of super-peated whiskies. Originally issued as a special edition “Committee Release” in 2009, it was so popular Ardbeg did it again in 2010. And then… nothing.
For the last four years peat freaks have been wondering what happened to Supernova. Well now it’s back, as the official 2014 Committee Release edition, launched in part to commemorate Ardbeg’s historic whisky-in-space experiment and the liquid which just returned to earth from three years in orbit a few weeks ago. The space-centric “Supernova” name seems just about perfect.
Ardbeg doesn’t reinvent the wheel with Supernova 2014 — the primary difference from the prior bottlings being the addition of more sherry-cask matured spirit to the mix.
It’s a good move. Supernova 2014 is sweeter on the nose than you’d think, battling the peat back with fresh sugar notes. On the palate, my immediate remark is that I’ve had far peatier whiskies before. Has Ardbeg given up the ppm race? I’m not really complaining… but at “just” 100ppm this is surprisingly gentle compared to some other Ardbegs out there.
The sherry makes a real difference here, bringing juicy orange notes to the forefront when the whisky first hits the palate. Keep it on the tip of your tongue and Meyer lemon notes emerge. But once the whisky slides back to the throat, it’s all over. The smoke takes root and everything dries up. If nothing else, it definitely doesn’t drink like it’s at 55% alcohol. It’s completely approachable at bottle strength — almost to the point of simplicity — though that may not be such a great thing for the target audience of this spirit.
Those familiar with ultra-peaty whiskies will know what’s in store for them here, for the most part. Supernova 2014 doesn’t reinvent the 100+ ppm wheel, but it does tweak the form a bit with the addition of additional sherry-casked malt. Compare against what you have left of 2009/2010 for extra fun.
B+ / $180 / ardbeg.com
Despite recent rumors to the contrary, Pabst Blue Ribbon, that iconic brand of beer and bearded hipsterdom, is not moving to Russia. In a press release issued Monday, Pabst spokesrobots reiterated:
Eugene Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners have made a major commitment to the Pabst Brewing Company and its iconic brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Old Milwaukee, and others. The goal is for the company to remain vibrant through consistent product and marketing innovation.
We look forward to working with our new colleagues and to continuing our 170-year old tradition. PBR is a very strong brand with a rich heritage and authentic American values. Our new colleagues will remain vigilant in staying true to the brand’s identity and will look to loyal customers for guidance.
Rest easy, Pabst patriots. We haven’t been invaded and your beer is still safe to drink.
So it seems as if with its aggressive new push in the Scotch market, Bacardi is getting ready to buck a contemporary trend. The Spirits Business reports that Bacardi and its global manager for malts, Stephen Marshall, are pledging not to release expressions without an age statement (also known to booze nerds by the acronym “NAS”). It’s a refreshing change for sure, but it will be interesting to see how long the pledge lasts. [The Spirits Business]
In other scotch news, Glenlivet’s first series of rare 50 year old malts is here. The Winchester Collection will start off with Vintage 1964 and can be all yours for $25,000 — or about 35,000 cans of PBR. It will be available in a limited edition of 100 bottles per expression through global luxury shops such as Harrod’s starting in October.
In science news, it appears that our genetic makeup also determines our flavor and drinks preferences, more people are drinking on days when they exercise, the ancient people of Teotihuacan drank a milky alcohol substance, and Consumer Reports publishes another article on the science behind what happens during hangovers.
And finally today, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that four out five heart attacks could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle including maintaining a healthy weight and diet, exercise, not smoking, and moderating alcohol intake to 1-2 standard drinks a day. We’ll drink to that. [DISCUS]
2014’s autumn of whiskey releases continues with this new release from Speyside’s Glenfiddich, a permanent addition to the distillery’s portfolio.
Nothing fancy here: Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Years Old is aged entirely in American oak ex-bourbon casks, with no finishing. It’s actually the first whisky in the company’s permanent collection to be entirely aged in ex-bourbon casks.
While it’s got Glenfiddich DNA through and through, this is a powerful spirit from the Speyside giant. The nose is intense with fruit — pears, apricots, and a dollop of orange blossom honey to sweeten things up. Fairly light oak notes emerge here as well. The body is a powerhouse to match the big nose. Intense honey character gives this the impression of a Sauternes-finished whiskey, with notes of vanilla, almond, charred wood, and roasted cereal grains coming along toward the finish. The body is rich and viscous, which adds to the depth of flavor and a quite lengthy finish. It’s not the most complicated whisky in the world, particularly considering its age, but its power and deep honey notes make it compelling in its own right.
A / $500 / glenfiddich.com
Glenrothes Brand Heritage Director Ronnie Cox descended on San Francisco the other day, and I was fortunate to enjoy dinner with him alongside a sampling of a variety of Glenrothes vintages. Included in the lineup were the straighforward, almond- and orange-driven Glenrothes 1998 (paired beautifully with a chicken liver mousse and almond praline spiced toast), the introspective and sandalwood-fueled Glenrothes 2001, and wrapping up with Glenrothes 1995, a 14 year old expression that I hadn’t encountered before. (It’s a racier expression of Glenrothes, begging for water to temper its sherry, toffee, leather, and coffee bean notes, but a compelling dram.)
Cox regaled us with tales of whiskydom — did you know that Chivas Regal invented the age statement? that Glenrothes was originally designed to be a “fruitier” version of Macallan, which is located next door? — but the real reason for our dinner was to crack open a bottle of The Glenrothes 1992 2nd Edition, which had been flown in from Scotland that very afternoon, the first time it would be served outside of the offices of Berry Bros. & Rudd, which owns the Glenrothes brand. (More fun facts: Berry Bros., located in London, is the oldest spirits merchant in the world.)
Glenrothes regulars may find this vintage familiar — a 1992 Glenrothes was released back in 2004 as a 12 year old. That vintage is long since sold out, of course, but the company found after revisiting the remaining casks that 1992 was worth revisiting. Now matured to the ripe old age of 22 years old, The Glenrothes 1992 2nd Edition has launched.
Aged in both sherry and bourbon casks (in keeping with Glenrothes’ standard protocol), this expression of the whisky offers lots of intensity, showing notes of chewy molasses cookies, dark chocolate, and baked apples. There’s some ashiness to the finish, which is long and lingering with more of those chocolate and caramel notes. The American/bourbon oak influence is stronger here than the sherry, which is a bit unusual for Glenrothes, but probably more of an indication of how well-aged this release is on the whole than how much of it has seen time in sherry casks. All in all it’s drinking beautifully and shows off how an older expression of this Speyside classic can really shine.
A- / $250 / theglenrothes.com
Prices are going up, and we’re drinking less scotch. According to an article published in Harper’s, scotch exports declined 11% in the first half of 2014, with “economic headwinds and uncertainty” being cited as the main reason. Has the bubble burst? We’ll see if scotch rebounds in the second half of the year. Elsewhere in the pages of Harper’s, advertising icon Sir John Hegarty takes some pretty harsh shots at advertising in the wine industry, claiming that the means by which the wine industry communicates to consumers are “pathetic” and “daft.” [Harper's UK]
The Filson Historical Society in Louisville is about to open up some of the world’s rarest and oldest bourbons in celebration of Repeal Day. Most of the bottles to be opened were manufactured during the era of Prohibition. Hopefully this will bring more attention and money in the direction of what Mike Veach and crew are doing to preserve a rapidly fading piece of important history. Because we’re drinking it! [Business Insider]
Lately there’s been much ado surrounding transparency (or lack thereof) and Templeton Rye, which has resulted in a flurry of criticism and threats of a class action lawsuit being filed on behalf of consumers. Richard Thomas and his intrepid band of reporters at Whiskey Reviewer offer up this excellent summation of events thus far, and Cowdery chimes in on flavoring in whiskey in his own inimitable way.
In other legal news, Diageo has settled its lawsuit with the Explorers Club of New York. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but this finally ends the year and a half long dispute between the two. Diageo will be able to continue to sell whiskey under the Explorer’s Club name and no doubt the Club itself will be getting a share of the profits. [The Spirits Business]
And finally today, a special shout out to Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast, who is getting ready to celebrate his 500th podcast in the coming weeks. Doing 500 episodes of any show, let alone one based on spirits, over the stretch of a decade takes a heck of a lot of sweat equity and love. If you don’t have his podcast earmarked for regular listening, you most certainly should. Sláinte, Mark! [Whiskycast]
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is a literary classic, but even die-hard sherry drinkers don’t knock back much of this expression of sherry, which lies between the pale, dry fino and the well-regarded oloroso — the latter of which finds its spent casks used heavily as whisky finishing barrels.
For its 2014 release of the Laphroaig Cairdeas limited-edition whisky, the Islay classic turns to amontillado sherry casks for finishing — the first time I’ve encountered such a spirit. The base spirit is 8 year old Laphroaig from bourbon casks that then finds its way into amontillado hogsheads for one additional year. A lovely shade of amber, here’s how it shakes out.
Laphroaig Amontillado starts with a classic oily and peaty Laphroaig nose, tempered with Christmas spice and cedar wood — a promising start. But on the palate, it’s surprisingly mild — more easygoing and, dare I say, simplistic than almost any other Laphroaig expression I’ve had. Primary components of the body include classic sweet-peat Laphroaig, tempered with ground coffee, menthol, and campfire smoke. Yes, the expected citrusy sherry notes are there, but they’re surprisingly understated, driven into the background. While all in all the whisky’s components work well together, they ultimately just lie a bit flat, unfortunately failing to add up to a powerfully compelling whole.
B / $75 / laphroaig.com
Another new addition to Alaska’s Pilot Series: Imperial Red Ale, complete with an ominous looking snow crab on the front of the label.
This limited edition red ale combines lots of hops with lots of malt, ostensibly to bring you the best of both worlds. It’s certainly got plenty of things to talk about: Bracing, forest-driven hops hit you first (particularly on the almost floral, aromatic nose), then the caramel-fueled silky-sweet malt joins the party. The end result isn’t so much a balanced sweet-n-bitter as it is a bit of a mudball, these burly elements dueling each other so effectively they cancel each other out. What’s left behind is a bit woody and more than a little muddy, a rather unbalanced brew that never quite finds the footing that the initial rush of hops provides.
B- / $9 per 22 oz. bottle / alaskanbeer.com