Things that’ve impressed the hell out of me this year.


Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Things that’ve impressed the hell out of me this year?

Almost nothing.

2016 has be a crap year with too many good people dying and various tragedies that there just doesn’t seem to be an end to (take your pick).

Thankfully, there is whisky.

This single cask of Fukano Japanese whisky (distilled from rice), however, impressed the hell out of me.

Region – Japan – ABV – 41.8% (natural cask strength)

On the nose — Say what?! Nose this blindly and I would have guessed/assumed this was a 20+ year old Willett Rye.

Wonderful oak framing with a spiciness that is so rye-like.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Chocolate, Vanilla (with hints of raspberry) tarts and seasoned oak. Top note of acetone that plays well with warmed dill sauce.

Crisp starfruit that leads into notes of Mexican chocolate, deep vanilla and fresh coconut.

A better nose than most American rye whiskies I’ve had. Wonderful to find this profile in Japanese hooch. I could just smell this for 20min straight.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300In the mouth — Easy and oily entry with a growing waxy mouthfeel.  The palate is very similar to the nose but somehow, warmer.

Nutmeg and chocolate come to the fore but so does a great deal of vanilla bean.

Mild pickling spices, gentle yet rich red fruits, boozy butterscotch verging on Werther’s Original candies.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Finish — Long and lovely (that’s what she said?) with lasting notes of a spiced vanilla latte.

In sum — I am massively impressed with this whisky. There have been some stand-offish nay-sayers when it comes to whisky distilled from rice.

I say – take the Pepsi challenge. Taste this blind and you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

At only $69/bottle, I suggest you grab one and drink the shit out of it.

Crazy good Balblair from 1993, matured in a first fill sherry puncheon, bottled by Gordon MacPhail


Region – Speyside – ABV – 53.4% ABV – Cask 1962 – First Fill Sherry Puncheon – This was around $150

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962It wasn’t long ago that I had a chance to sit down with my good friend Jonathan Bray to review this Balblair.

Actually, yes, it was quite some time ago…. back in May/June based on my tasting notes and the published date of Jonathan’s review. Ugh.

♬ Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, no it isn’t! ♬ Where does the time go?!

My apologies to you, dear reader, and my apologies to Jonathan, for not getting this review up sooner.

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962On the nose — A host of notes you’d come to expect from a heavily sherried whisky: pickled walnuts, cherry pits, German brown bread, cola syrup, and dark bitter chocolate.

What you’d not expect (or maybe you would) is a quite present phenolic component giving off notes of a fireworks finale, burning cardboard, and what I can only assume is the scent of the Heaven’s Gate cult compound living quarters. They kept quite clean, as I understand.  You know, before the end…

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962A-a-a-a-a-nyway, I’m also detecting sulphured figs and dried papaya, too.

In the mouth — Chewy, unctuous, moreish, dare I say massive.

Tasting notes aside, my initial reaction is “damn, this is good tasting juice!”

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962Deep and dark fruits (insert Landry list here) which is countered by Balblair’s natural tropical fruit notes but they’re dried (more papaya, candied medjool dates, black currant, and interestingly some raw coconut flesh).

This is near flawless on the palate.

Finish — Perfectly timed tannins, sweet Thai chili sauce, decent length

In sum — While the nose presented some slightly off/sulphuric notes, the palate delivered in a way that few heavily sherried whiskies do. Stunning delivery of flavors and a finish that makes you want to sip more. Without getting into too much detail, the addition of water turns this into a vorpal +4 whisky of drinking. You basically roll a natural 20 on a d20 when adding water and the fruits just multiply.

Oy, Oi, Oy, this is a cracking good dram and if you can still find a bottle, you could consider yourself *very* lucky.  Not convinced?  Be sure to check out Jonathan’s review of this gem.

Kilchoman US East Coast Tour Itinerary



From September 26th to October 9th, the whisky-loving Wills brothers will embark on a tour down the East Cost of the US spreading the word of Kilchoman, Islay’s Farm independent Distillery. James and Peter Wills, sons of Kilchoman Founder Anthony Wills will travel from Boston to Washington DC in their custom Land Rover making stops along the way to share a few drams and a story or two of Kilchoman, Islay and growing up in a distillery.

A special edition cask strength, 58.9% ABV, US Tour bottling of the distilleries flagship expression Machir Bay has been created especially for the tour. Just 840 bottles of the special edition will be available exclusively from stops made on their journey.

Recently awarded Best No Age Statement Single Malt Scotch at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and Best Peated Scotch Whisky at the International Whisky Competition, Kilchoman has quickly established itself in the whisky world. Tasting during the tour will feature all the latest Kilchoman releases as well as one or two surprises.

Check here for more information on Kilchoman. We’ll keep you posted about the Kilchoman tour and other ImpexBev brands on Facebook and Twitter.

Kilchoman US East Coast Tour Itinerary



6pm – Brandy Library private room event
Address: 25 N Moore St. New York, NY 10013
Phone: 212.226.5545


7pm — Park Ave in-store Seminar
Address: 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212.685.2442

9:30pm — Bar St. Andrews event
Address: 140 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212.840.8413


2:30pm to 4:30pm – Federal Wine & Spirits Bottle signing event
Address: 29 State St, Boston, MA 02109
Phone: 617.367.8605

7pm – Julio’s Liquors Exclusive Whisky Wednesday event
Address: 140 Turnpike Rd, Westborough, MA 01581
Phone: 508.366.1942


7pm – Town Wine & Spirits Dinner event
Address: TBD
Phone: 401.434.4563


1:30pm – 2:30pm – Mora’s Fine Wine and Spirits
Address: 280 Main St East Setauket, NY 11733
Phone: (631) 941-4458
Bottle signing event

7:30pm – Cambridge Wines and Spirits Seminar
Address: 10 Lafayette Ave #2, Morristown, NJ 07960
Phone: 973.984.9463


1pm-3pm – The Wine & Spirit Co. of Greenville tasting
Address: 4025 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE 19807
Phone: 302.658.9463

5pm – Stoney’s British Pub dinner event & tasting
Address: 3007 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803
Phone: 302.477.9740


6.30pm-8 pm – Frank’s Wine tasting
Address: 2216 Pennsylvania Avenue, Wilmington, DE 19806
Phone: 302.429.1978


Whisky Blasphemy – Private tasting by invitation only
Address: Langhorne, PA


7pm – Judge’s Bench private tasting
Address: 8385 Main Street, Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 410.465.3497


4.30pm-8.30pm – Petite Cellars open tasting
Address: 11079 Resort Road, Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 410.750.0562


7pm – Stateline Liquors tasting
Address: 1610 Elkton Road, Elkton, MD 21921
Phone: 410.398.3838


1pm-2.30pm – Restaurant RIS (Arrowine) tasting
Address: 2275 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202.785.0785

3pm – Jack Rose Dining Saloon event
Address: 2007 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.588.7388

Westland Garryana – a new and true innovation in the world of single malt


Region – Seattle, Washington – 56.2% ABV

Not to be confused with Gary, Indiana…

Westland GarryanaWestland’s new Garryana single malt is a deep dive into the exploration of a new type of oak that few have used before. That oak is conveniently named after the whisky at hand (or is that vice versa? I think it’s vice versa. I’m sure of it. Yup, vice versa).

All single malt producing countries have access to  oak casks for maturing their whisk(e)y. The good bulk of those oak casks comes from right here in the US of A. The oak used to make said casks is called American White Oak.

(There’s a fancy schmancy Latin name for it, too, but I’m not that fancy schmancy so I’ll just stick with “American White Oak.” Plus, I failed Latin in my senior year of high school – Mrs. Whatsherface had it out for me. I didn’t want to fish for Carpe in that Diem pond, I told her!)

European Oak casks are quite common, too. You’ll find those are more widely used in whiskies that were matured using sherry casks (though there’s a lot of sherry matured in American White Oak, too).

Now, Japan is lucky. They have their very own Mizunara Oak which is quite loverly but who the heck can afford Japanese whiskies these days, not to mention Japanese whiskies matured in Mizunara Oak which is VERY leaky.

The French have their oak, too. That’s called French Oak. How convenient. That oak offers up nice, spicy flavors to whiskies.

Because we’re America, and apparently the winningest (or so we like to say over and over and over again) we’ve got another type of oak that grows specifically in the Pacific Northwest that is suitable for maturing whisk(e)y.

This oak is called Garry Oak, or, Garryana.

Having visited the Westland distillery a few times, and having once been in their warehouse, I had the luxury of tasting some single cask Garry Oak matured Westland. It was intense, for sure, but damn unique and quite delicious.  Westland has now been maturing single malt in a good number of Garryana casks and this release is the result.

Given the intense flavor profile of Garryana matured single malt, it makes sense that the use of this component makes up 21% of the over all mixture. The malt used in the Garryana casks, btw, is Washington Pale Malt. The rest is:

  • 26% Peated Malt (New Charred American White Oak)
  • 10% Washington Pale Malt (used American White Oak)
  • 43% Five Malt blend (New Charred American White Oak)

If you want to learn more about this wonderful single malt whiskey and the process of Garryana discovery, be sure to check out this Podcast:

Also, if you have a few minutes, be sure to watch this video (it’s beautifully shot, cool, informative, and fun):

Finally, without any further ado, my review of this new whisky from Westland Distillery. ***Spoiler Alert — it’s fantstic through and through***

On the nose — Chocolate, to be sure, but I expect that note given Westland’s use of Chocolate malt in their Five Malt mashbill.

Westland GarryanaDeep sweet notes of burnt sun dried tomatoes, crushed raisin with sugar and balsamic, sticky smoke, and herb rubs – like cleaning the BBQ sauce off your grill at the start of Grilling season.

Back to the more chocolatey notes, hints of mocha or cappuccino with a side of red velvet cake. Newly opened tin of oil paint tubes.

Also a swirl of melting and toasted, yet milky caramel.

Westland GarryanaIn the mouth — We’ll begin with the smoke but that’s immediately followed up with German brown bread and a side of carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all.

Sweet meets ashy meets savory meets sweet again. The mouthfeel is oily verging on succulent – it’s big.

Westland GarryanaOn to the spices of ginger, nutmeg, and clove. I want to say smoked paprika but I wont. Forget I typed that, forget you read it. No, put it back in there. Smoked paprika.

White pepper, too.

Westland GarryanaAs we near the finish, that German brown bread makes it self be known again. This time with a raisiny fervor!

Finish — Long with a sweet yet smoky – like BBQ sauce with an umami-esque goodness.

In sum — This is one of the finest single malts I’ve had this year, hands down. Top 5 for sure. This is not only ticking all of the boxes as far as what I long for in a single malt, this has created new boxes I never even thought to look for.

**Special thanks to the good folks at Westland Distillery for the sample!!

Westland Garryana

Four Kings Rye 2014 Edition – A collaboration between FEW Spirits, Journeyman, Corsair, and Mississippi Distilling


Region – Four different ‘Murrican locations – ABV 40%

Image stolen/pilfered/thieved/snatched from Jonathan Bray’s Single Malting blog

My life, for the past 12 years, has brought me to Chicago for various and sundry reasons. Mostly, it was my previous life in the world of Industrial Storage Supplies and the sales thereof. Yessir/ma’am, sexy, sexy stuff, that; Industrial Storage Supplies. Don’t hate it until you’ve hated it. The people were great though. Nay, amazing. But… it’s Industrial Storage Supplies. Industrial. Storage. Supplies.

As of late, my reasons for visiting the Windy Apple are those more related to whisky. Be it the education and sales of Arran/Kilchoman/Tamdhu and some of my favorite independent lines and/or Whisky Jewbilee and/or Single Cask Nation. My visits to Chicago will continue on for some time and for that I am happy.

This most recent trip to Chicago (which has now been many weeks ago, damn my being too busy to write these days!) had me bumping into my friend (or should I say “mate,” but not in the “mate for life” sense of the word. My friend is an “Aussie.” But not in the shampoo sense of the word — an actual, honest to goodness man from Australia.) Jonathan Bray.  Some of you may know him from his fantastic “” blog.  

This most recent bump into Jonathan gave us the good and cheap excuse to try our hand at blogging together. The result will be two different whiskies reviewed on two different blogs for the total of four posts (two from me, two from Jonathan).

Today’s post covers a fun collaboration between four major craft whiskey producers: FEW Spirits, Journeyman, Corsair & Mississippi Distillery.  This is their “Rye” collaboration (four 30 gallon casks from each of them blended together for a 40% ABV trip into rye craftism).

The following is my take on the result (you can read Jonathan’s review of the whiskey HERE):

Four Kings Rye Few Spirits Corsair Journeyman Mississippi DistillingOn the nose — Perhaps one of the more odd notes I’ve detected in a whisky: imitation watermelon bubblegum verging on jolly rancher.

Yup, you read correctly. 

Breath deeply and some more chocolaty notes come to the fore.  I could fool myself into thinking I smell some malted rye in here but I can not say for certain. If so, the presence is slight (which I am thankful for as it’s only adding to the nose).

Four Kings Rye Few Spirits Corsair Journeyman Mississippi DistillingBanana milk shakes and circus peanuts.  Seems to be more spirit & yeast driven rather than cask driven.

In the mouth — There’s the rye spice you’d expect though it’s *immediately* offset by notes of circus peanuts and Four Kings Rye Few Spirits Corsair Journeyman Mississippi DistillingFortune bubble gum – cheap penny candy store candies that bring me back to 1985. 

Mouthfeel is lightly oiled and the heat is spot on.

Somewhat unidimensional with the candied notes but I like this dimension. It’s quite tasty and perhaps a little *too* easy.

If you’re looking for the pine/fennel/spicy/rye bread notes you’d come to expect in a rye, look elsewhere. It’s an entirely different kind of flying rye whiskey all together.

Finish — Shortish finish, slightly drying, banana laffy taffy.

In sum — This is a great little blend of a whiskey. It’s a no brainier whiskey.  I was afraid the ABV would feel al little too low but it does not. Still, I wonder, at 46% or higher…

I drink booze, and sometimes I talk about it.