Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pappy van Winkle family Reserve 20 years old

Pappy van Winkle family Reserve 20 years old 45.2%

Pappy van Winkle

This whiskey is made at the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Stitzel-Weller closed in 1992 and has among bourbon drinkers reached the same mythical status as Brora and Port Ellen has for scotch drinkers.

Pappy van Winkle worked for a wholesale company named W.L Weller and Sons in the beginning of last century. He eventually bought it with a partner, and they also purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery , with brands like W.L Weller, Old Fitzgerald and others. In 1935 they opened a new distillery and named it Stitzel-Weller.

Stitzel-Weller was sold (to what is now Diageo) in 1992, Weller brands was sold to Buffalo Trace, while Old Fitzgerald followed the distillery. The distillery was closed as Diageo moved all their production to Bernheim. Bernheim was sold to Heaven Hill in 1999 and Old Fitzgerald is today a Heaven Hill brand. The Weller brands is owned by Buffalo Trace.

Traditionally, bourbon was (and is) made from corn, rye and barley, but Weller is known for being a wheated bourbon, made from corn, wheat and barley. This gives a softer, smoother, no rye spice, bourbon, very different from other bourbons.

Originally van Winkle whiskies were sourced from old Stitzel Weller stock, but production has moved to Buffalo Trace. Today, both Buffalo Trace and van Winkle is owned by the Sazerac Company. The van Winkle company is still run by 3rd and 4th generation van Winkle. Stitzel-Weller closed in 1992, it only takes a bit of math to figure out if van Winkle whiskies are from Buffalo Trace or Stiitzel-Weller. 20yo released in 2012 should still be from Stitzel-Weller stock as far as rumours goes.

(An exception to this is the van Winkle rye which was sourced from other distilleries, at least originally)

Nose : oranges cakes, delicate wood
Palate : Bitter oranges, nutty, creamy, with the wood not being overpowering at all. This is smooth, soft and delicate. Very drinkable, the is absolutely no need for adding water
Finish : Medium intensity, but long, very very long. The orangewood lingers forever. Fantastic

This is just not like any other bourbon I have tried. So delicate and subtle, and the first bourbon where I get nutty flavours.

This is one of those whiskies that puts a quiet happy smile on your face

So should we be worried that future bottlings of this will be from a different distillery. Yes and No. It will most likely not be same. Time will tell. But if you have tasted 12yo Old Rip van Winkle and BTAC's William Larue Weller, you know that these whiskies are also great.

As a whisky entusiast I am only excited to see what kind of Pappy 20's the future will give us. Just to be safe I have stocked an extra bottle of this

Rating 92

I reviewed PvW 15 last year here :

Monday, April 16, 2012

A couple of Rittenhouse 100's

Bottled in Bond, now what is that ?

To be labeled Bottled in Bond the following requirements have to be met (from Wikipedia) :

To be labeled as "Bottled-in-Bond" or "Bonded," the spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been stored (i.e., aged) in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product's label must identify the distillery (by DSP number) where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled.

Rittenhouse is the rye brand label of Heaven Hill. They have a range of different Rittenhouses, I've reviewed a 25yo before here.

I got a couple of bottlings. The standard, reddish label and a single barrel bottled by The Whisky Exchange in London, greenish label.

The first thing that hits me is that the back labels states "Distilled by DSP-354". This is actually the Early Times distillery (owned by Brown-Forman). So Heaven Hill must be distilling their Rye at one of their competitors distilleries. Brown-Forman is the owner of Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Old Forrester etc)

Now on to the whiskeys. They are very similar, but not the same

These are sweet fruity ryes, with the typical rye spicyness being well hosted by the sweetness. I get a dominant banana flavour, which for me is typical Rittenhouse. Loads of floor varnish which always hits me in bourbons, the huge new wood impact on the sweet corn I guess. This is a rye, yes, but the mashbill contains a lot of corn, Rittenhouse is reckoned to be close to 51% rye, some barley (10%-ish?) and the rest is corn

The single cask is more fullbodied and rounder and slightly less rough and less woody in its expression. The rye spicyness of the singlebarrel reminds me of classical gin flavours

Finish : More Bananas

Rating 83
Rating 88 (TWE single Barrel)

This just proves that single barrels is something that needs to be explored with bourbon and ryes as I have been doing for years with single malts

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Arran Eagle

1. Arran The Golden Eagle 1999 46% bottled 2012

I grew up with with Arran. Whiskywise that is. They started operating just a few years after I got aware of the higherqualities of malt whisky. Since then, I've been following this distillery since it's firsts bottlings. For good and for bad. They made a lot I didn't like, like their finishes or the whisky was simply too young still for my taste. But I don't like finishes in general, nor whisky that is bottled before it should be. The first time I reckoned something worthy came out of Arran was some single cask bottlings bottled a few years, then the magnificient Peacock, followed by the 12yo and the 14yo

The Eagle is the 4th and final of the Icons of Arran, which so far has given us Peacock, Rowan Tree and Westie. They have all been named after animals (or a tree) that has close relations to the Arran Distillery
The Golden Eagle

Nose : Sweet candy mixed with wood spices
Palate : Very complex for its age, a mix of tropical fruits, like peaches, mango and pineapple topped with candies, with plenty of sweet vanillaed wood spices. There is also a layer of fresh youthness in this whisky which reminds me of earlier Arrans
Finish : Medium

This is a remarkable whisky for two reasons. It has candy like flavours I usually only find in a lot older whiskies. It also has a sense of freshness, like something poured straigh from the cask. It's excellent value for money, and I am sure this, alongside with the Peacock will be a bottle you wished you bought when you sit without one next year!

Rating 86

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


"This Whisky is sulphured, it's horrible"
"I don't get any sulphur"
"I like it"

When it comes to sulphur in whisky, opinions gets divided, and thats on every level imaginable.

 There's two origins of sulphur in whisky. At least to what I know of. One is from the wash. Distilling with copper equipment helps removing these sulphur compounds. Everyone who has been to a distillery might have noticed the blue coppersulphate crystals in the spirit safe. This is the copper reacting with the sulphur, and the result is a solid - coppersulphate which crystallises where the spirit runs.

Springbank is clearly unlikely to contain sulphur :-)

 The other source of sulphur is from various wine casks that for some reason or the other can be "contaminated" with sulphur compunds. Sulphur candles can be used to sterilize casks or sulphites can be added to wines for preservation effects. Most notable ex-sherry casks, but this might be due to ex-sherry casks being the most common alternative cask to ex-bourbon casks. 

 Here's a list of observations I have made drinking whisky, talking whisky and watching others talking and drinking whisky. Where sulphur is involved that is. Here we go :

1. Not all ex-sherry whisky is sulphured. Most likely they are not.
2. Some people hate sulphur in any disguise. Some people like it, or can accept it to a certain degree. 
3. We have different sensitivity to sulphur. Some people can easily detect it, some can not detect it all.
4. There are different kinds of sulphur. The sulphur in a whisky can result in a range of different flavours. It can emerge as flavours which for me has given associations to rubber, plastic, spent matches, rotten eggs, an ashy sandy dry kind of sulphur and I've seen cabbage notes being grouped as originating from sulphur  as well. So sulphur is not just sulphur, it is expressed as a great range of various tasting notes and associations.

 People also experience different sensivity to all these different kinds of sulphurs. I do for sure. I have a harder time picking up the stroke match kind of sulphur than most others, but an easier time finding any rotten sulphur or any rubber/plastic sulphurs.

 This has put me in situations where I am having a whisky which everyone saying "noooooo don't buy it. It's horrible, sulphured and disgusting." When I tasted it, I couldn't find anything wrong with it. 
 I have also been accused of being oversensitive to sulphur, quite often actually. Detecting sulphur in a few bourbons didn't help me as I seem to be almost the only one doing that :-)

So everybody more or less has to make up their own mind how they will react to a whisky that is said to be contaminated by sulphur. Just because another person finds a whisky sulphured, you might not. Or you might like it. Or you might not :-)

Do I like sulphur? Usually No. 

But sometimes a slight rubber/latex hint is a very positive tasting note to me. Two of my all time favourite whiskies had a slight rubber/latex hint. They were both peated-sherried whiskies, one being a Benriach 1984 cask 1048, and a Port Charlotte cask 895

But it has to be a hint, if it gets too much I am done as well. 

Tasting whisky and picking up flavours is often about associations. When I pick up a faint hint of latex/rubber, I always get a picture like this on my mind. No wonder I like that :-)

Finally a little advice. If your bottle of whisky is sulphured and you have a little trouble with it, try leave it for a bit. The content can improve and the sulphur can disappear or diminish. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Whiskybase part III of III

1. Clynelish 1997 Archives 53.9%
Bottled 2011, 14yo, bourbon hogshead
Whiskybase link :

Nose : Fruity, some apples on the lemony side
Palate : Waxy, Spicy, more wax. Oil infused whisky
Bitter : Medium and tad bitter

Rating 84

2. Caol Ila 2000 Archives 59.1%
Bottled 08/2011, 10yo, bourbon barrel

Nose : peaty, as expected! The nose is simple with a hint of citrus
Palate : The simplicity of the nose is followed by a surprisingly delicious palate for a younger Caol Ila. It's not a smack in your face peat, it's a sweet, but dominant peat with a quite a lot of citrus. It's rough but the ABV is high
Finish : medium-long and the peat is still layered with sweet lemon fruits

Rating 86

A simple young Islay that can easily match anything else on the market

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Beginner's Guide to Whisk(e)y part 2 : Peated Whiskies

Peated Whisky...

Amateur peat digger on Islay..

It's whisky with a smoky flavour. Medicinal flavour. It's very different. It's an acquired taste. Some love it, some hate it.

The flavour origins from peat being used as fuel to dry the malted barley. The peatsmoke infuses the barley with these characteristic flavours. The barley is then used to brew a beer which is distilled into what becomes whisky!

Here's a small guide to help you find peaty and smoky whiskies!

There is almost 100 distilleries in Scotland. Of these just 7 distilleries makes a peated whisky as their main product. Yes, just 7!

They are :

Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Kilchoman and Talisker

The first 6 are located on the isle of Islay, Talisker is on the isle of Skye

Islay, Queen of the Hebrides

Kilchoman on Islay started production recently, in 2005.

Port Ellen on Islay closed production in 1983, but whisky from this distillery is still available. It's old by now!

The last two Islay distilleries are traditionally making non-peated whisky. Bruichladdich has a side production of various peated versions (They call it Port Charlotte and Octomore). Bunnahabhain also has made smaller productions of peated whisky. But do assume that Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain is NOT peated unless you can read so on the label.

Two more distilleries could be added to this list. Ardmore, from the East Highlands, is somewhat peated but harder to find. Highland Park is also moderately peated but not much in my opinion. These are not peated on the same scale as the others mentioned here, but occasional you find bottlings from these distilleries where the peat is dominant

A lot of distilleries uses tiny amounts of peat in their production, but if you are searching peaty whiskies this is not really what you are looking for.

Just like Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain, quite a few distilleries have been or is making smaller productions of peated whisky. This has been done both to accomodate blends, but also as a part of a general peated release from the distilleries.

The more well known of these are Tobermory (Ledaig), Springbank (Longrow), Edradour (Ballechin), Tomintoul (Old Ballantruan), Isle of Jura, Arran, Benriach and Benromach.
Harder to find, there are peated versions of Caperdonich, Bladnoch, Glen Garioch, Fettercairn, Glen Scotia, Loch Lomond and probably more. You never know what distilleries have hidden inside their warehouses over the years.

Outside Scotland, you can find peated whiskies from Japan (Hakushu and Yoichi to name a couple, but read labels, these are not peated by default). Cooley from Ireland and Amrut from India has also been making peated versions. McCarthy's from Oregon is a peated american single malt whiskey.

The ones I high-lighted in red should be part of any aspiring whisky entusiasts whisky eduction and if you are really ambitious I would try to source out some Brora from 1970-1972 or so, but it will cost you


PS There's is so much more to be told about peated whiskies, there has been written full books on the subject, I can personally recommend Peat, Smoke and Spirit by Andrew Jefford

PPS Phenols, which is the molecules responsible for the peaty flavours are broken down as a whisky matures. Peaty flavours are slowly lost as a cask matures

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Whisky Round Table April

The host of April's Whisky Round table is
Gal Granov :

of Whisky Israel asks us the following question :

"Lately we’ve seen a few examples of distilleries aging their whisky in two (or more) locations until full maturation. Amrut has done quite a few of those with their "Herald" aged on Helgoland (a wee German island) and the "Two continents". In Israel the IWC has bought a few casks from the Arran distillery and aged them on holy land for periods of 2-3 years in various locations (Tiberias, Jerusalem etc).
What are your views on those methods? Do multiple maturation locations (of the same cask) something that makes whisky better or is it a PR stunt?"

See our answers HERE :
Danish Whisky Blog