On April 11, Whisky Live took place at Pier 60 of Chelsea Piers. Among the tartans, the bagpipes and the craft cocktail slingers, an impressive gathering of whisk(e)y producers showed up to show off their products, many of them presenting new and shiny things for the spring season. Here is a roundup of a few standouts.
Four Roses Single Barrel 2012 is a limited edition whiskey that has been aged for 12 years. For each release in this series, Master Distiller Jim Rutledge selects one of 10 warehouse recipes. This one is known as recipe OESK, a spicy mix of flavors quite different from the standard FR bottlings. It is released between 100.6 and 114.4 proof, depending on the bottle you get. This is a bit on the smoky side, with peachy-fruit flavors, vanilla, hot cinnamon/clove spice and a honeyed finish.
Photo courtesy ngarkat via Flickr/CC
Corsair Distillery’s tagline is “Booze for badasses.” This is because the spirits are made from very atypical grains, ingredients and/or finishes. Think of these as the artsy liquors that hung out back in high school and listened to Bauhaus. Their Quinoa whiskey is one of the few spirits I’ve tasted that tastes just like the actual food it’s made from - slightly nutty with a downy and chewy mouth feel. The Triple Smoke, a blend of malted barleys that are each smoked by different fuels (cherry wood, peat and beach wood), reminded me of the more out there Amari I’ve tasted (not a bad thing). It’s somewhat cloudy and bitter, with a hint of sweetness at the end. The Rasputin Hopped Whiskey is made from distilled Imperial stout and actually tastes like a whiskey version of chocolate stout beer with a little spicy kick.
I was lucky to get a sneak preview of the new rye from Knob Creek, which will be available this summer. Many distilleries have jumped on the rye bandwagon, but too many rush products out before they’ve barrel aged enough to mellow what can be somewhat harsh characteristics. These guys are showing ‘em how it’s done. Though this is high in proof (though lower than their standard Bourbon), it has a very smooth, rounded finish with a somewhat sesame/peanut butter flavor. It does still retain its inherent earthy rye-ness.
Bruichladdich An Turas Mor (Gaelic for “the great journey”), is a multi-vintage blend of their beloved Port Charlotte series single malts. This is bottled at 92 proof, a bit lower and more instantly approachable than the other PCs. Some may argue this is PC with training wheels, but it gave me a newfound appreciation of the whisky’s characteristics - a well integrated mix of peat, vanilla, lemon zest, browned butter and even a little salt and pepper. Pleasant to sip without all that high proof heat getting in the way.
People complain that good Scotch is too expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve is a nonvintage, single malt which captures all the best things about their whiskies in one affordable product any whisky drinker can appreciate. Green and gold apple flavors with dark caramel, butterscotch, citrus peel and a little Grapenuts cereal earthiness to round it out.
Balconnes Distillery out of Texas is doing some really cool stuff. Mainly American style whiskies with some twists, they also make Rumble, a rum-type spirit made from wild flower honey, mission figs and turbinado sugar with Texas spring water. This is now available in a very limited edition Cask Reserve, a blend of Rumbles from select barrels. If you can’t get your hands on this, definitely look out for the Scotch-like Texas Single Malt Whisky (aged in a succession of barrels) and the Brimstone, a corn whisky that tastes of all the great things you love about BBQ char. Chip Tate oversees this groundbreaking American distillery that not only makes its own equipment, but uses direct flame (as opposed to steam heat) on the stills.
The most interesting takeaway for me from this event was the realization that even well established pillars of the whisky community are taking cues from small craft distillers and releasing new products made with more care and attention, instead of just throwing some liquid in new wood finishes. More consideration is being paid to what goes into the spirit itself prior to aging, without the need to hide flaws behind fancy wood. I look forward to tasting more like this. Cheers!