Whisky Live NYC is coming! Mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From the desks of WhiskyLive…

Whisky Live New York

Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Early Bird special is still available until Tuesday, January 31st. Tickets on sale now at the New York Whisky Live website!

Whisky Live New York, in its 7th year, continues to offer an incredible range of whiskies for you to sample from Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada, and abroad. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to taste over 200 of the finest Scotches, Bourbons and whiskies from around the world.

With a delicious buffet, live entertainment, The Ward III Lounge, micro-distilleries, cheese pairings, chocolate pairings, cocktail demonstrations and tastings, master classes by the experts, and so much more; Whisky Live New York just keeps getting better. It’s a complete night out! Stay tuned to the website for continual updates of new whiskies along with master class information by mid-February.

Introducing Cocktails Live, the exciting new international drinks experience. It’s all about the cocktail. Watch and sample as some of the best mixologists make the ultimate whisky cocktails in New York.

The VIP ticket offers early entry to allow more time to speak to the exhibitors and unrushed VIP samplings. For full show information and ticket options, visit New York Whisky Live website.

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As a warm-up to Whisky Live – We are proud to share a wonderful opportunity from our cheese sponsor, Artisanal Premium Cheese.

Join Artisanal’s Max McCalman for a night of hand selected premium Scotches and Cheeses!

Fly “across the pond” to the land of tartans, bagpipes and of course SCOTCH! As you journey through the Highlands, Isles and cities of Scotland tasting the land’s most exquisite whiskies, Max McCalman will show you how these malts complement the world’s best cheese.

Upcoming Dates:

Wednesday, January 25th from 6:30-8:30pm

Thursday, February 23rd from 6:30-8:30pm

Wednesday, March 21st from 6:30-8:30pm

Artisanal Cheese Center:

483 Tenth Avenue (between 36th & 37th Street)

New York, NY 10018


Whisky Live New York promises to be a fantastic evening out. Don’t miss it.

Hakushu Heavily Peated

Japan – 48%ABV – £64

I’m currently stuck at my “favorite” airport in Philadelphia.  I swear, it seems every time I fly through this airport I get screwed by something.  Gosh dang it.  At least I can count on it though, right?  Maybe I should be happy that I can rely on unreliable flights that go in and through the Philly airport.

It is, however, nice to commiserate the reliability of a delayed flight with your bar mate over a nice beer – even if it is 10:30am.  Don’t you feel that your having been inconvenienced on your way home warrants a beer?  I do.  Hello Dogfish Head 60 Minute!!

Misery aside, one thing I do rely on is the quality of Japanese whiskies.  While I can honestly say that I’ve only had 20-25 expressions of Japanese whisky, I can also attest to the fact that there was ever only one that I found to be unpalatable.

The whisky I am reviewing today falls easily within the “wow, this is a damn nice whisky” column.  Hakushu Heavily peated.  This is a NAS (no age statement) whisky that has been matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Special thanks goes out to Yoshi M for the sample!

Let’s give this one a go:

On the nose –  Some interesting stuff going on here: plastic air mattresses, smoked sugar, lemon whoopee pies and imperial hops – a fantastic multi-layered nose.

Let’s press on and see what else we can find:

Distant ashtrays and a good deal of pepper (green peppercorns to be specific).

Baked apples and spice, honied hot water and more lemon.  After a bit, the fruitiness really makes itself known as does some vanilla influence.

On the mouth – As expected, fantastic mouthfeel.  Oily yet lively, bright and satisfying.

In the flavor department, we’ve got all things burned – twigs, elastic waistbands (or gym socks), band-aids and scotch tape.

Antiseptic for sure but not in the way Listerine is; this whisky is really delicious.

There’s a malty (and yet, almost rice-like) quality here to and I reminded of a bit of a Hitachino Nest beer I had last year…

I chugged and finished it 18 minutes before Pesach (Passover) started; just to stay kosher 🙂

Finish – Decent length with a touch of the baked apples I got on the nose and a slight pepperiness (on the sides of the tongue).

In sum – While not as elegant or fruity as the Hakushu 12yo (one of my favorite whiskies, by the way), the extra 5% ABV points and the heavy peat levels on this whisky makes for a fun ride!  Complex and balanced, clean yet smoky, I could find myself pouring this whisky in many situations… even on a summer day (perhaps as a kiss-@$$ peated Mizuwari).

The Hakushu Heavily Peated was a limited release and not available in the US.  Thankfully, if you do want to try Hakushu and want to pop into a US store, you can find their 12yo available in the states now.

Tasting three Glenglassaughs – 28yo, 36yo and 37yo single cask, cask strength whiskies

There are many whisky writers/bloggers and statisticians that will tell you that we are in a golden age of whisky.  Sales of the Scotch whisky have soared in 2011 over 2010.  Micro-distilleries are popping up all over the place in the US.  Sales of both Irish and Canadian whiskies are growing by leaps and bounds AND more and more countries are starting to distill and sell their whiskies worldwide (France, Taiwan, Sweden, New Zealand, South Africa… just to name a few).

If you’re a whisky geek/anorak like me, then perhaps you’re equally excited about another aspect of whisky growth – specifically in Scotch Whisky – and that is the reopening of previously closed or “moth-balled” distilleries.  I am, of course, referring to Glenglassaugh today.

Mothballed in 1983, Glenglassaugh was reopened in 2008 and is about to launch their first Whisky expression later this year.  It’s a NAS (no age statement), yet 3yo, whisky simply called “Revival”.  (a review of that is forthcoming)

Three years ago when Stuart Nickerson bought the distillery, along with the facility, equipment, buildings, warehouse buildings, etc… he got just over 400 casks of whisky as part of the deal.  Think about it, just over 400 casks of whisky.  Compare that to some of the larger warehouses that have up to 80,000 casks… only 400 casks?!  Talk about hens teeth!!   And all of those cask are holding older whiskies (doing the math — moth-balled in 1983 and there’s nothing younger than 28/29 years old in that older stock).

Today we’re reviewing some of that old juice  With such limited stock and all of it being “older” stuff, you can imagine that it’s going to be quite pricey.  We’ve got a 28yo, 36yo and a 37yo – all are single cask, cask strength bottlings.  Let’s see what we get from them:

Glenglassaugh 28 year old “Master Distiller’s Select 1983 Sherrywood” – 49.8%ABV£180

On the nose –  A bit shy on the nose.  I’m going to give this one a little time to open up.  Maybe swirl it around in the glass a bit…

Lightly sweet and a bit peppery and even a tad herbaceous.  This is now opening right for me. That pepper is really coming through and there’s a very jam like quality to the nose (red fruits?).

Added to that are notes I usually associate with Japanese whiskies (mizunara oak and a high sweet note) like green tea (sweetened, however) and pipe tobacco.  Sweet tobacco leaves – fresh.

Some late autumn apples and soft notes of smoke in the background.

On the mouth – Oily and mouth coating.  Warm and melty – reminds me of salted caramels.  Very chewy stuff.

Baked apple is here too (macintosh).

Plastic cafeteria trays and freshly opened CD cases – picking that a part a bit and it’s a flavor that matches the smell of fresh paper and hard plastic (I do like the smell of fresh, new paper).

Imitation chocolate (slight and somewhat spicy like a chocolate Necco wafer).    Also, and I don’t know how I did not find it from the get-go, black grapes.

Finish – Medium long with notes of… taking that back, long!!  The flavors burst back with notes of oak and vanilla and spice.

In sum – Take time with this one.  If I just jumped into it I would have been a bit let down.  Some patience let this one open up in a very nice way.  This is 28 years old so, give it time.  Show it some respect and you’ll be rewarded.  Take a big breath.  Let the crap of the day roll over you.  Pour some of this.  Take another breath and start to enjoy.


“Aged of 30 years”, 36 year old – 43%ABV (spending 34yrs in a refill hogshead then 2 years in an ex-Sauternes barrique) £400.

On the nose –  Savory and comforting with loads of marzipan, flaky pie crust and even butternut squash soup.

Autumn leaves both burnt and freshly fallen.

I’m also picking up notes of Naugahyde (pleather) and water balloons.

Menthol too?  There’s some serious notes of 1974.

I’m now getting notes of baked potato, white pepper and chives – This is a very “foodie” whisky.

On the mouth – A bit watery on the attack (sort of like one of those water balloons I detected popped).

Soft in the mouth and less watery on the second sip – spicy too.

Sweet spiced chocolate covered marzipan (almond paste).

Rhubarb pie (minus the strawberries) – sweet and buttery.

Finish – Short finish yet drying.

In sum – No doubt about it – an absolute killer nose.  A joy to jam my sniffer in the glass.  The attack and over all experience on the palate seemed a bit restrained though, at 43%, it is at natural cask strength.  This would be a good one to to enjoy on a cool fall night by the fire with some John Fahey playing in the background.  I’m still thinking about the nose of this whisky.  Stunning.


Glenglassaugh “Master Distiller’s Select” 37 year old, Sherry Cask – 56%ABV (exclusive to the North American Market)$599

On the nose –  Aggressive (well, it IS 56% ABV).  Hot, hot tea with a side of biscuit and Seville orange marmalade (course cut).

Balsamic vinegar reduction and a used bookstore.

Some nice bourbon qualities come through – vanilla, pencil shavings (I know I use this note a lot but it’s the first that comes to my mind).

A bit hot on the nose but not overly so.  Just enough to notice (similar to the slight burn I get when nosing Knob Creek 9yo which is bottled at 50%ABV).

On the mouth – Amazing mouthfeel – oily and warm but the flavor is like licking some of those used books I smelled earlier.

Sort of heavenly for me!!  Used book is in my top 5 for favorite scents.

There are other flavors in here to be discovered, however.

Big, bold and spicy, this whisky seems to demand your attention.  A bit winey/tannic and oaky yet still vibrant and engaging with a bit of effervescent zing on the back of the tongue.

Finish – Medium in length, drying in effect and winey and spicy in flavor.

In sum – A massive whisky.  Perhaps my favorite of the three on the whole.  This hits all of my high points and I would love to sip on this then next chance I get.  That being said, I’m currently taking donations.  No amount is too small.  Thanks 🙂

Special thanks goes out to RR for the samples!

Jason over at guidscotchdrink.com also had the 36 & 37 yos and seemed to enjoy them as well.

Smokehead vs. Smokehead

You know, when I first thought about what I could say before reviewing these whiskies, my initial thoughts were to make comparisons to the subject of this post to Kramer vs. Kramer (the 1979 movie with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman).  I haven’t seen that movie since… I don’t know, 1979?  After watching the trailer, I saw that there was no way I could tie Smokehead vs. Smokehead to Kramer vs. Kramer so I decided to abandon the idea altogether.

Sure, I could then get all silly and give you links to Kramer vs. Predator or Modern Day Jesus vs. Santa or even Bobby vs. The Devil.  But I won’t do that.

Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and tell you about these two whiskies bottled under the “Smokehead” name.  Smokehead is a single malt Islay whisky bottled by Ian MacLeod.  If you know your Islay distilleries then you’ll know that there is no distillery on Islay that goes by the name Smokehead.  Similar to Port Askaig, Smokehead is a whisky distilled by an Islay distillery but bottled under a different name.

While some people are ardently opposed to bottling whisky under a secret name, I beg you to look at the quality of the whisky inside as you might be getting a fine whisky for a great price – regardless of what it says on the bottle.  Speaking of bottles, I’ve got to say I dig the Rock and Roll quality/look to their packaging.  I feel like I’m drinking whisky bottled by the Hard Rock Cafe.

Let’s have a taste.

Smokehead NAS (no age statement) – Islay region – 43%ABV$45

On the nose –  Well, it is called Smokehead for a reason.  Initial blast of smoke upon first sniff.  However, that is quickly peeled back to reveal lime popsicles; stick and all.

Bright and fruity (citrus and rhubarb) with a smoky and biscuity backbone.

A nice malty/beer like quality shines through.

A really nice nose – not over the top complex but one that’ll make the peat heads happy.

On the mouth – Here’s where the smoke REALLY comes into play.  A bit of an ashy-doosy.

Diesel engines, construction sites and construction paper (burnt or burning).

Burnt toffee and apple crisps inside manilla envelopes and packaged up nicely with some industrial packing tape.

Interesting mouthfeel – this whisky benefits from the high phenol content which seems to be forcing my mouth to water which makes the somewhat thinnish mouthfeel turn to a more oily one fairly quickly.

This really is a smoky monster with a bright sweetness that tells me there must be some younger whisky in here.

Finish – Short to medium finish with some of those popsicle sticks I got on the nose.

In sum – A powerhouse in the smoke arena.  One to help get your more thrill-seeking friends into Scotch Whisky.  There is a bit of a wow factor.  Also one that can be used as a warmer upper in the winter time for sure.

Smokehead 18yo – Islay region – 46%ABV£86 (due to short supply, not available in the US but Master of Malt has it)

On the nose –  Big smoke and brine and cups of over-steeped orange pekoe tea and a few shakes from a jar of Bacon Bits.

This might be 18 years old but there’s a youthfulness here that comes through in spirity version of almond brittle and butterscotch.

Red flecks of hot chili pepper sprinkled over salted lemon wedges.

For 18 years old, the smoke & peat is not as tamed as I would have expected.  Again, there’s a youthfulness here…

On the mouth – A bit of a weak entry; not what I expected after all of the smoke, spirit, red pepper, salty lemons I got on the nose.  I guess the age is now showing; rounded peat.

Decent mouthfeel and, wait a sec, there’s a bit of an evolution in flavors here.  The strength gets… stronger, which counteracts the the bubbe-grannykins “attack” from the get-go.

Smoke, coffee, burning coffee grounds.

Turmuric (?) and paprika laced chocolate shavings.  Lemonade and, again, red pepper flecks.

Finish – Drying now in the finish.  Decent length, smoky, oaky and chocolatey.

In sum – A decent whisky.  Expensive but tasty.  Well balanced and would satisfy many an Islay worshipping, peat loving Smokehead.  You might think me an odd duck but, as smoky as this is, I could easily pour a dram in the summertime…  Perhaps after mowing the lawn or gardening the… garden.

Special thanks goes out to the good folks over at Impex Beverages for the Smokehead NAS sample!

Special thanks goes out to David H for the sample of the 18yo!

Kilchoman Spring 2011 Release – Very mature for its age.

Islay region – 46%ABV – $41 – $60 (another crazy spread in US prices.  And believe it or not, some places sell for more!) | £39

Kilchoman is a very young distillery on Islay in Scotland (young, like only 5 years old, young).  Surely they fall within the peaty style of the island.  With regards to Islay whiskies, only Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain have non-peated whiskies as part of their standard range and as flagship whiskies.

With regards to Kilchoman, from the moment of their inception, Islay whisky-philes have been watching this little farm distillery with a keen eye.  Since their inaugural release, their first REAL whisky (aged at 3 years and 1 day), people have had nothing but good things to say about their products.  The list of people with good reviews is seemingly endless.

As of a later last year, Kilchoman stopped doing their various releases (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and have launched a 2006 vintage – basically a five year old whisky.  To my knowledge, there has been only one indy bottling of Kilchoman and that was put out by the Whisky ExchangeI have had two of their OB single cask bottlings and really enjoyed them (I still had a tiny bit left from my Binny’s Exclusive bottling).

This is my first run-in with a non-single cask Kilchoman.

On the nose –  Only four years old, eh??  Bright and fresh with some smoke and peat and interestingly enough light notes of juniper (charred as it were).

OK, now some of those younger spirity notes creep through – pear drops, fresh apple too.

Some apple bread joins in on the fun as do some brine/coastal notes but it’s not very intense on that front.

Cinnamon over bread pudding.

Paraffin wax and a brininess as well.

On the mouth – Big, mouth coating, oily, smoky, lemons, limes.

There’s nothing young about this.  One could confuse this for a single cask 10yo Ardbeg.

Cooked apples, baked pears, old and heavily used rubbers/wellies.

Lots and lots going on here.

Finish – A lasting fizziness on the tip of my tongue.  Citrus notes remain.

In sum – This is a fine, fine whisky.  While I think I enjoyed the full throttle experience of 60%+ ABV on the two single cask Kilchomans (or would it be Kilchomen at that point?) a bit more, Kilchoman is showing some great promise.  If their whiskies are this good at only 4 years of age, I can’t wait to see what happened when they release a 10yo!  This is a winter warmer-upper.

Special thanks goes out to the good folks over at Impex Beverages for the sample!