Posted on

Powerscourt Distillery lodges plans for €10m whiskey investment

Powerscourt Distillery founders Gerry Ginty & Ashley Gardiner with Sarah Slazenger, MD at Powerscourt Estate
Powerscourt Distillery founders Gerry Ginty & Ashley Gardiner with Sarah Slazenger, MD at Powerscourt Estate
Powerscourt Distillery is to lodge a planning application for the construction of a craft distillery and visitor centre at Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

Entrepreneurs Gerry Ginty and Ashley Gardiner are planning a €10m investment that will create 30 jobs in the construction phase and 18 full-time jobs once the business is fully operational.

The project plans to refurbish the estate’s old mill house into a distillery. At full production the distillery will have the potential to produce over a million bottles of whiskey per year.

Bord Bia has forecast that demand for Irish whiskey will quadruple in size to over 24 million cases worldwide by 2030.

Posted on

Ben Nevis, four of them



Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars Long time not tried this baby, if I’m not mistaken. The packaging is so reassuringly unchanged (when did Pétrus or Yquem last change their packaging?) but I remember older bottlings were rather ridden with caramel. It’s not always the case that you may ‘feel’ caramel, but in the latter case, you really could. But… Colour: gold. Earlier BN10 were really dark. Nose: fusel oil, paraffin, iron, and green walnuts, what’s not to enjoy? And then, eucalyptus, coal smoke, and raw malt, plus a touch of passion fruit that I had never found before. In Ben Nevis 10, that is.  Mouth: what’s the distance between Fort Williams and Campbeltown? Because there is a Springbankness to this, these fatty oils and waxes, this metallic leafiness, the coal tar… Now what’s not in Springbank are these curious chocolaty lemon biscuits and the triple-sec. All that makes this a singular malt whisky. Loud applause please! Finish: rather long, and rather orange-forward. Comments: I’m pretty amazed, Ben Nevis 10 is becoming a star! Let’s just hope they won’t do any silly rebranding/repackaging. SGP:551 – 87 points.

That’s interesting, I remember fifteen years ago, not many people were caring for Ben Nevis. And then, it became a hidden gem. And now, it’s become many people’s favourite. Well, one of the favourites. It’s true that Ben Nevis is a characterful whisky, and that blandness, homogenisation and uniformity kill.


A lot of good things happening on the West Coast! Let’s try another 10 yo…

Ben Nevis 10 yo 2006/2016 (51.3%, Le Gus’t, Selection VI, sherry, cask #3, 763 bottles) Ben Nevis 10 yo 2006/2016 (51.3%, Le Gus’t, Selection VI, sherry, cask #3, 763 bottles)

Ben Nevis 10 yo 2006/2016 (51.3%, Le Gus’t, Selection VI, sherry, cask #3, 763 bottles) Ben Nevis 10 yo 2006/2016 (51.3%, Le Gus’t, Selection VI, sherry, cask #3, 763 bottles)

Ben Nevis 10 yo 2006/2016 (51.3%, Le Gus’t, Selection VI, sherry, cask #3, 763 bottles) Four stars763 bottles? That’s a butt! Colour: amber/caramel. Nose: used gunpowder and walnut wine. You see what I mean. Then cigars and burnt bread. With water: umami, soy sauce, more walnuts. And even more walnuts. Mouth (neat): quite a bomb! Erm, so to speak. Gunpowder and rather bitter oranges this time, artichoke liqueur, more old walnuts, cream oloroso (you may still find bottles at flea markets), and spinach cooked in beef sauce. Not quite Marmite, but… With water: careful, don’t add too much water, not all sherry monsters like water anyway, that can make them lose their stride. Gets very dry, very oloroso. Finish: rather long, with oranges and cloves now. Another touch of leather in the aftertaste. Comments: this is funny, this baby reminds me of many an old official Ben Nevis. I mean, the sherry bombs. Classic and very good – if you like this style, of course. I do. Same high level as the OB. SGP:361 – 87 points.

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2015 (48.9%, Bar du Nord, refill hogshead, 150 bottles)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2015 (48.9%, Bar du Nord, refill hogshead, 150 bottles)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2015 (48.9%, Bar du Nord, refill hogshead, 150 bottles) Five stars This by some crazy Swiss. Not sure I get everything on the label, but I’m finding it rather Plonk & Replonk-ish. Check them out, I’m a fan! Colour: white wine (uh-oh)… Nose: there, this Springbanky metallic minerality again. There’s even some lapsang souchong tea and quite some coal, new engine, sunflower oil… And behind that, greengages and other ‘shy’ plums. Mouth: splendid naked westerner. I’ve got a disease, I can’t avoid thinking of Campbeltown today! Orange zests, oils aplenty, silver spoon, black pepper, even horseradish, bitter chocolate, raw rhubarb… And even a salty touch, mind you. Finish: medium, dry, mineral, saline, and even smoky… Comments: nonante points in my book. A very great dry/austere Ben Nevis. SGP:362 – 90 points.

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2015 (50.1%, Whisky-Fässle)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2015 (50.1%, Whisky-Fässle)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2015 (50.1%, Whisky-Fässle) Four stars and a halfFair prices, excellent selection, cool people, and great passion. What could go wrong? Colour: bronze. Nose: it’s rather got this kind of tropical transmutation (my god my English is bad), around metallic tropical fruits mingled with engine-y notes. A blend of passion fruit juice with engine oil and mint sauce, perhaps? Apologies… And flints. With water: swims like a champ. Savagnin and damp black earth. Mouth: characterful and very spicy/chocolaty. Sour cream, sour fruits (not too ripe mangos?) and chicken soup. There’s always something happening with Ben Nevis, and while I’m sure some whisky orthodoxes would find a few flaws, I find this as funny as an Italian softporn movie from the late 1960s. With water: gets very leathery. Extreme walnuts as well. Totally oloroso-ish, which the colour had not quite suggested. Finish: quite long, as long as you don’t add too much water. Comments: only minor flaw with these styles, you wouldn’t quaff more than one glass at a time, because they can get a little tiring, in my opinion. Totally non-commercial whisky (but you should buy a bottle!)

Posted on

Whiskey Can’t Hide Its Age Either

Anxious distillers are trying to make bourbon old before its time.


In case you haven’t heard, doomsday is coming—more droughts, floods, famine, class warfare, entitled children, and, brace yourself: a bourbon shortage! Yes, traditional Kentucky distillers didn’t predict or prepare for this Mad Men-inspired mixology epoch. And if it continues on this trajectory, thousands of years from now geologists and archaeologists will be able to identify the bourbon-free era in the absence of fancy rectangular bottles in the remains of fallen civilizations.

That is, unless scientists can build a whiskey time machine, a way to gracefully cheat the slow aging process that offers bourbon its rich oaky tones and sweet and smooth finish.

The popularity of bourbon in the past decade has been a major high and hangover for American distillers. (The name “bourbon” is reserved for barrel-aged whiskeys made primarily of corn in the United States.) In 2002, the U.S. sold 13 million cases of bourbon; in 2014, 19 million cases, generating $2.7 billion in revenue. But the popularity and the time bourbon takes to mature, paired with a shortage of new American oak barrels that traditional whiskeys are aged in, means there simply isn’t enough of the good stuff to go around. Evidence of a shortage is generally delivered in anecdotes, but in an independent opinion survey taken this year by Fred Minnick, booze blogger and author of Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey, 82 percent of 149 high-end bourbon drinkers said they have been unable to find bourbons they once found.

Scientifically savvy distillers have already squeezed the slow aging process into months and weeks.

It is the finest bourbons, those that are produced in limited supply and aged for 12, 18, or more years that have been the hardest to find in the past several years. Drinkers with deep pockets have bought up much of the limited release bourbons from well-established companies—Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Four Roses Limited Editions—explains Lew Bryson, the managing editor of Whisky Advocate magazine. “Having cleared them off the market, they’ve now started in on lesser-known bourbons, almost in a panic-buying mode, buying multiple bottles of whiskeys they feel sure will simply disappear.”

It’s a frightening prospect.

Enter entrepreneurs with start-up spirits and a potential solution. Through a variety of unconventional aging methods, drawing on chemistry, they have already squeezed a two- to more-than-20-year process into days, weeks, and months, much to the chagrin of whiskey connoisseurs, who will tell you the secret to a refined bourbon is time. While some companies have taken age labels off their bottles to get products to market sooner (bye-bye 12-year-old premium bourbon; hello ambiguously aged premium bourbon), new distilleries are experimenting with smaller barrels and rapid oxidation.

The magic that turns harsh ethanol, the product of distillation, into a sophisticated sip of smooth bourbon with undertones of vanilla and caramel happens when young alcohol meets oak barrel. Whiskey aging traditionally starts when an oak barrel is charred, breaking down the lignin in the wood into organic compounds called aldehydes, explains Scott Spolverino, an industry consultant with a degree in brewing and distilling science from Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland. “These are the main building blocks of maturation.” When you add alcohol to the barrel, oxidation transforms the aldehydes into acids—syringic acid (from syringaldehyde), ferulic acid (from coniferaldehyde), and vanillic acid (from vanillin). During the aging process, changes in heat and pressure push and pull the alcohol in and out of the wood. There is a constant back-and-forth between aldehyde and acid, until the acids accumulate en masse and turn permanently into esters, adding complex character and deep flavors.

“Time in the barrel is like sandpaper, smoothing out the rough edges,” says Liza Weisstuch, who writes regularly for Whisky Magazine and the Whisky Advocate.

But a host of new distillers don’t want to wait years to start cashing in on their hefty investments. One entrepreneur trying to cheat Father Time is Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, New York, makers of Hudson Baby Bourbon and Hudson Four Grain Bourbon. When it opened in 2003, Tuthilltown started experimenting with accelerating the maturation of single malt, rye, and bourbon whiskeys by letting the alcohol settle in 2- to 5-gallon oak barrels, instead of the industry-standard 53- to 55-gallon oak casks, increasing the alcohol-to-barrel-surface ratio.

“The small barrels sped up aging significantly; we could get to market in months, instead of years,” says Tuthilltown co-owner Ralph Erenzo, a rock climber who originally wanted Tuthilltown to be a climbers’ ranch. Erenzo and his crew were able to get their whiskey to market in about four months, and they discovered they liked the more pronounced vanilla flavor they were getting by using small barrels. Ten years out, and with the luxury of time, they have grown into bigger barrels—using, for the most part, a mix of 10-, 26-, and 53-gallon casks. But they still have a reserve of 3- to 5-gallon whiskey that they blend with bigger batches so they can “get that character profile that people liked all along,” Erenzo says. In 2010 Tuthilltown sold its Hudson line to William Grant & Sons Distillers, makers of Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whiskies and Hendrick’s Gin.

Spirits aged for short amounts have an edgy taste often described as “hot,” “raw” or “aggressive.”

At Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia, makers of Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky and Copper Fox Rye Whisky, head distiller and owner Rick Wasmund adds toasted oak chips to his 53-gallon barrels, agitating them to increase the alcohol-to-surface ratio and exposing them to heat and cold. You can try your hand at similar bourbon aging methods at home with something called Time & Oak—an oak stick with comb-like grooves that activates “accelerated transpiration through capillary action”—the same theory behind smaller barrels and oak chips.

Terressentia, near Charleston, South Carolina, which specializes in bulk bourbon (sold in 6,000-gallon tankers), uses increased oxidation to mimic aging and take impurities out of young whiskeys, explains Terressentia CEO Earl Hewlette. Terressentia starts with undrinkable 4- to 6-month-old whiskey because they want their whiskey to be brown—something you can’t get without time in an oak barrel. They filter it in plastic tanks with a technology that expedites the aldehyde and acid dance, creating drinkable esters—chemical compounds—in just eight hours. According to Hewlette, the process has the added benefit of turning some of the fatty acids from the original fermented grains into glycerides, which act as a smoothing agent, taking the bite out of the final product. “When the bourbon shortage came along, it gave us a whole new market,” says Hewlette, noting that the same bigger companies who used to sell in bulk have been hoarding their own limited supplies.

Tom Lix, owner of the Cleveland Whiskey Company, uses steel tanks with wood segments under pressure. “One of the reasons behind working on the technology we use and starting this business was an anticipation of this shortage well in advance of when other people started talking about it,” he says. Lix also boasts that his Cleveland Black Reserve 100-proof spirit, the company’s bourbon, holds its own in taste tests against established brand Knob Creek.

Bourbon made in less than a year may be financially savvy, but most bourbon experts say it falls short on taste. “I don’t think new methods are producing whiskey that is comparable,” Bryson says. “Some accelerated whiskeys don’t feel right. They feel too thin; they don’t have the proper ‘roundness.’ ”

Spolverino explains: “When you’re aging a spirit for a short amount of time, the aldehydes and acids don’t have time to come together.” Meaning those raw flavors in fast-tracked whiskeys often come from an overabundance of aldehydes. “Adding more wood to the situation just adds more of those beginning aldehydes, it doesn’t actually speed up the process,” he says. Spirits aged for shorter amounts of time (four months instead of the two years minimum for federally approved straight bourbon, for example), have an edgy taste, often described as “hot,” “raw,” or “aggressive,” with a “shorter finish.” Spolverino has done research into an ultrasonic-energy treatment. “It could physically push the spirit deeper into the barrel staves to draw out more aldehydes and provide catalytic energy for reactions,” he says. “But I’m not entirely sure it could speed up the esterification process.”

Many of the big distillers stepped up production of high-end whiskey five years ago, when word of a shortage started to spread. And there has always been a plentiful supply of non-premium brands: Jim Beam White, Evan Williams Black, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, 1792, explains Bryson. Most of the big companies dismiss accelerated aging. Mark Brown, CEO of Buffalo Trace, one of Kentucky’s larger bourbon distilling operations, says the company has spent $10 million on research and development on how to make quality whiskey, not on how to cheat time.

“The work done by others over the past 50 years aimed at expediting the aging process does not appear to have resulted in the production of a superior whiskey, quite the opposite,” says the company’s Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley. “We’re glad people are exploring these [new] techniques,” says Brown. “But generally it only reinforces the need for time in the barrel.”

Tasha Eichenseher is a hot-toddy-sipping, freelance science and environment writer (and a senior editor at Yoga Journal) in Boulder, Colorado.

Posted on


If you made a list of the all the Scotch whiskies to try before you die, it’s a fair bet that Black Bowmore would be on it. And for those in The Whisky Show’s 2016 Bowmore masterclass, not only did they tick that particular whisky off their list, they also got to try it in the presence of Eddie MacAffer (master distiller) and David Turner (distillery manager), who have a staggering 75 years’ experience of Bowmore between them.
Eddie MacAffer David Turner

Edide MacAffer (left) and David Turner of Bowmore

Eddie has just retired, and has passed the baton to David, so this could have been the final time the duo sat down to talk about the whiskies they have made together. ‘This will go down as a legendary tasting,’ began our host, whisky writer Dave Broom. He wasn’t wrong.


Eddie: ‘They used to give us a bottle of Bowmore Deluxe a month, rather than a few drams a day. But they must have decided it was too good, because they started giving us bottles of Rob Roy instead

David: ‘When Bowmore gets to 17 or 18 years sold, the smoke tends to die out, and you get a lot more stewed fruit’

E: ‘Our No.1 vaults are right by the sea, almost below sea level. The whiskies are at peace in there – there’ll be ghosts in there, drinking drams’

D: ‘Dave Broom did an apprenticeship with us for two nights; he didn’t turn up on the second one!

E: ‘The 1980s were difficult [for Bowmore] because it was push, push, push, and that affected the quality. Our fermentation was short – about 44 hours – the still was running hot and we were getting all those unwanted flavours in there. You could tell from the smell in the distillery’

E: ‘In the 1960s, there’d be a queue about 100 yards long to try the new-make; in the late 1980s, you’d be lucky to have two or three people waiting!’

D: ‘Suntory had a big impact; from 1989, they invested heavily in good wood’

E: ‘You can hear the roar of the ocean when you taste Sea Dragon. It has a lovely flowery fruitiness’

E: ‘The water [source] doesn’t have any effect on the end product

D: ‘Our reputation was really made with [the 1964] bottling of Black Bowmore. It was one of those whiskies that changed people’s mindsets about what single malts could become

Black Bowmore

Black Bowmore 1964 30 Year Old (2nd edition)
Big sherried nose upfront, with raisins, mocha, stewed fruit and Christmas-cake spices. Even richer on the palate – Maya Gold chocolate, tobacco, cardamom, nutmeg and clove. Stunning.


Bowmore Deluxe

The final two whiskies were sensational and lived up to the hype – not something you can always say when trying something with such a big reputation. But I’m going for the NAS Deluxe bottling from the 1970s, which summed up Bowmore for me: tropical fruit with an undercurrent of smoke.

Having not tried many of these whiskies before, I understand know why Bowmore fans are so passionate about this distillery. The no-holds-barred fruitiness of the whiskies was amazing, as was the way the peat played its part but never took over. Thanks to Eddie and David for a wonderful masterclass.

Posted on


A new three-part television series starting this week aims to delve deeply into the world of Scotch whisky – its history, craft, science and business.

David Hayman Scotch the story of whisky
Scotch distilled: Actor David Hayman introduces the new BBC Scotland series

The first part of Scotch! The Story of Whisky will be aired on BBC Two Scotland at 9pm tomorrow (11 October), and will be available to viewers nationwide via iPlayer soon after its broadcast.

The new BBC Scotland series, presented by Scottish actor David Hayman, investigates many facets of the world of Scotch, from the globe-trotting triumph of blends to today’s world of collecting and investing.

It also looks into the modern Scotch whisky industry and multi-national ownership, as well as the perceived threat from whisky-makers from elsewhere in the world, and the burgeoning craft spirits movement.

The first episode sees Hayman take a tour around the history of Scotch and its production, visiting Campbeltown – once home to 34 distilleries – and Springbank to investigate the whisky-making process.

He talks to Kirsteen Campbell, master blender of The Famous Grouse, about the the emergence and huge global success of blends, and analyses the science behind the spirit by talking to graduates in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University.

‘I went on a pilgrimage to find out why such a simple drink has come to mean so much,’ said Hayman.

‘From the makers to the marketeers and the chemists to the cocktail-makers, and from the Highlands to Hobart in Tasmania, I found that Scotch is Scotland’s gift to the world.’

A trailer of the new series is available to watch on the BBC website, alongside a short film in which some recognisable whisky personalities describe their first taste of whisky.

Posted on

The Rise and Rise of Irish Whiskey

* This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post UK on 11/10/16.

The Irish whiskey landscape is changing.

Whiskey in Ireland is experiencing an unprecedented boom. On the back of a general increased global demand for whisky as a spirit, the Irish side of the industry is witnessing something of a re-birth. But can this growth be sustained or will the market reach a saturation point somewhere in the future?

There are a staggering 30+ new whiskey distilleries in Ireland that are currently at the planning or legal phases or actually under construction. These range from small craft style and independently owned operations to large production facilities owned by some of the world’s major drinks companies.

This growth is driven by a worldwide increase in consumer demand for Irish whiskey and also an increased awareness of existing brands. This has been led particularly by Irish Distillers, Ireland’s largest producer of whiskey including Jameson and Redbreast, who have opened up the category with an increased portfolio of whiskeys.

In this ever-growing market there will undoubtedly be enough space for everyone to sell the plethora of new products. But the big question is whether the demand remains once many of these distilleries have been built and their spirit matured and bottled? Will all of these new ventures survive?

That is the gamble with setting up a whisky distillery anywhere in the world – it is expensive and takes time. Others who make gin, vodka or eaux de vie do not have the time aspect. They can instantly bottle and sell their products and begin recouping some of their investment immediately.

The recent surge in popularity is welcome for the Irish industry. Sales had declined so badly following the post-Prohibition period in America that the number of distilleries in the country was reduced to just two by the mid-1980s – Bushmills in the north and Midleton in the south.

This had not always been the case though. When the famous whisky explorer and writer Alfred Barnard visited Ireland in the 1880s to research his seminal book, The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, he found a thriving industry. He went to 28 distilleries and this included six in Dublin and three in Belfast.

The distillery revival was really kick started by the revamping of the Cooley near Dundalk in the late 1980s. The owners had a mission to recreate a number of the lost whiskeys from around Ireland and grow the category and consumer choice by doing so. They achieved this but remained the only new distillery to begin production until very recently.

The Boann distillery plans to be operational by the end of 2016.

Now we are seeing many more small independent operations, such as The Teeling Whiskey Company in Dublin and the forthcoming Boann distillery near Drogheda, going toe-to-toe with projects from drinks giants such as William Grant & Sons with their two year old distillery at Tullamore and Brown-Forman with their proposed €50 million proposed Slane distillery. In addition, Irish Distillers have significantly modernised and expanded their Midleton distillery to cope with the increased demand.

The mix of new products is adding great diversity to the marketplace and will continue to in the future as more of these projects come on line. But is there a danger that it may also add confusion for consumers? Only time will tell I guess. For now, let’s just enjoy this wonderful Irish renaissance.


huffington post uk, irish whiskey, irish whiskey distilleries, matt chambers

Posted on




Back in the 1860’s, Lynchburg Lutheran Minister and part time Distiller. Dan Call taught a young Jasper ‘Jack’ Daniel the secret of making great whiskey. With Dan’s mentorship, Jack went on to build a thriving enterprise that we would all come to know and love. Fast forward 150 years to 2016 and Jack Daniel’s is one of the world’s leading whiskey brands. To celebrate Jack’s own mentorship, Jack Daniel’s is set to inspire the next generation of bartenders with the launch of Tennessee Calling… Three bartenders from Scotland will discover the history, craft and versatility of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey so that they can create their own story. Travelling to the USA, the three winners will then be given the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with their bartending heroes and hone their craft on a trip to Tennessee and New York, helping them reach their full potential.

The first leg of their journey to Tennessee will see the winners visit New York City, to experience for themselves, how the best in the business run their bar. Working with their mentors, the 3 winners of Tennessee Calling will create, plan & host an event at The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in New York – The World’s Best Cocktail Bar. After leaving New York, the winners will travel to Lynchburg, Tennessee for the ultimate distillery experience, to see for themselves the whiskey making skill at The Jack Daniel Distillery.

Bartenders have until 31st October to enter.

Posted on


This year’s showpiece Whisky Show masterclass featured three contrasting figures. The first: an avuncular figure who has held every job possible in a whisky distillery. The second: an innovator, famed for his experiments with casks. And the third: a legendary figure who lets his whiskies do the talking.
Masters of Whisky

The Masters of Whisky masterclass (from left: Alan Winchester, Bill Lumsden, Dave Broom, Shinji Fukuyo) © Simon J Hanna

Our three Masters of Whisky were, respectively, Alan Winchester of The Glenlivet, Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, and Shinji Fukuyo of Suntory, with whisky writer Dave Broom on hosting duties. Indeed, Dave’s first act of this ‘Sunday morning service’, as he put it, was to reveal that moments before the masterclass began, the talk among the three Masters was not in-depth chat about reflux levels and cut points, but far more importantly, the latest news about Strictly Come Dancing.

Each Master brought a trio of whiskies with them, all of which they helped to make or which meant something to them personally. Alan opened proceedings with The Glenlivet 1983 Cellar Collection, a beautifully fruity, well-balanced dram with notes of pineapple, orange and plums, a vatting of 10 casks of 1969 Glenlivet.

Alan said that Glenlivet was a very different place in 1969, with coal-fired stills and worm tubs at the distillery, and explained that his chief blender ‘goes ballistic’ when people describe Glenlivet as a ‘light’ whisky.

Next up was a 15-year-old Auchbreck, bottled in 2014 for the Spirit of Speyside festival, which had that trademark fruit-salad aroma, but was noticeably richer on the palate. Alan’s final dram was a mystery vatting from various years, bottled at 47.6%, and a combination of US and European oak, the latter bringing out rich, spicy notes of ginger and orange.

Dr Bill was next: ‘On 17 March 1984, I went to a student party in Edinburgh, and tasted single malt whisky for the first time – it was a revelation,’ he said. ‘The first I tasted wasGlenmorangie 10 Year Old; the second was Balvenie 12 Year Old; and the third wasLagavulin 12 Year Old. So it was Glenmorangie that kicked it all off for me.’

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old

Eleven years later, Bill started work as Glenmorangie distillery manager, but found the site ‘in disarray’. He said his efforts to instil discipline among his team was tougher than expected, with the staff unsure of this ‘dirty west coaster from Greenock’.

We began with ‘the most beautiful Glenmorangie I have ever tasted’, as Bill put it – a 1981, bottled in 1998, with delicious notes of toffee, roasted almonds and soft floral notes. ‘It’s one of those whiskies I could sit with my nose in all day. If I could make all my Glenmorangies like this, I’d be a happy man.’ The fifth whisky of the masterclass was named Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year in 2014 – Glenmorangie Ealanta, a riot of malt, honeycomb and marzipan. Bill described it as ‘like a piece of butter rolled in sugar’.

He ended with Glenmorangie Signet (‘my magnum opus’). Bill said he had always wanted to make a whisky ‘where you treat the barley like coffee beans’, and so he created Signet with a high proportion of roasted chocolate malt, as used in stouts and porters. He added that the entire project was supposed to be a secret, but the team found out ‘because the distillery smelled like Starbucks’. The whisky itself was a chocoholic’s dream, with rich, dark notes of mocha, honeycomb and chocolate orange.

Yamazaki 1984

Shinji was the last Master to take to the stage. After joining Suntory in 1984, he started atHakushu before moving to Yamazaki in 1992. He opened with a beauty: The Chita single-grain whisky. He said: ‘This is not a serious whisky – it’s comfortable and relaxing. Malt whisky can be very tough; this is very easy.’ His second choice was at the other extreme: a heavily sherried 1984 vintage bottling of Yamazaki, which oozed brambly fruit, rum-soaked raisins, cinnamon, clove and bitter chocolate.

If the 1984 bottling caused contented purring among the audience, Shinji’s final whisky provoked gasps when he produced a blend aged in Japanese mizunara oak, some of which contained Yamazaki from 1960. Spicy and aromatic, the whisky was heady with incense, roasted nuts, dried fruit and cinnamon.

‘Mizunara trees take 150 years to grow to the right size,’ explained Shinji, adding that they bring sweet, coconut notes to the spirit at first, but after two decades, add a rich spiciness to the whisky.

Last year’s Legends masterclass had the feel of a rock concert, with Richard Paterson and Jim McEwan trading blows, and the former throwing whisky around the room, but this tasting had a very different feel – more elegant and subdued, with those present immersed in nine exceptional drams, and a clear respect between our three Masters of Whisky.

My personal favourite was Shinji’s third whisky. It was hugely impressive, and I’d never had a Japanese whisky like it. I suspect I’ll struggle to find a bottle…

Posted on


Here’s what to expect from this year’s coveted batch of matured bourbon and rye

btac-2016-1Judging by the late summer signage, most of the American population seems to be gearing up for pumpkin spiced everything. Well, you can have your Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (yes, that is an actual thing), but the for the rest of us, this means the release of the new Antique Collection whiskey from Buffalo Trace! Each year at this time, these super limited edition whiskies hit the shelves. Rather, some shelves. Because of their low yields, which are always blamed on thirsty angels in the warehouse, they are highly allocated to just a couple of bottles each at most locations, and those stores tend to have a wait list with a hefty price markup to match (the recommended selling price is $90 each, but good luck finding any of them anywhere near that mark). However, a good whiskey bar will also stock them for a special pour, and these are much easier to find if you know where to look.

The warehouse conditions, blends and proof of the whiskeys vary each year, which makes it exciting to try the latest batch and compare notes. If you’d like to reference reviews of the past couple of years for comparison, you can find 2015 here and 2014 here.


Sazerac 18 Year: Previous releases were put into stainless steel tanks after their initial barrel aging. This is the first of the editions which from now on will be bottled directly from the barrel, rather than from a holding tank. There is a remarkable difference here too. The nose is immediately more woody, with lots of dusty spice cabinet aromas and leather. The palate is all spicy spice – ginger, black pepper, clove and nutmeg, though not so much cinnamon. A hint of red apple adds some fruit. It’s the driest I’ve tasted so far, but also possibly the most elegant. 90 proof

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye: This is the Sazerac rye straight from the barrel with no added water or filtration, named for the 19th century New Orleans bartender credited with changing the base spirit of the Sazerac cocktail from Cognac to rye. This year’s batch was distilled in the spring of 2010 and napped on the 4th, 5th and 7th floors of BT warehouses I, K and M. At 126.2 proof this needs some help to open up, perhaps more so than usual. It’s much more tart than in the past couple of years, getting the sides of the mouth salivating with flavors of apricot and lemon. A tight fistful of spice gets tossed in with some cocoa. It mellows out in the glass, though, especially with a big ice cube.


Eagle Rare 17 Year: The chosen barrels for this release were aged on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors of Warehouses H and K. This one has some real weight to it, with an unexpected fruit salad of flavors – apple, pear, tart berries, banana and lemon. A dry walnut and sweet spice keeps these in check. To me, this one is often the least interesting of the bunch, but this year seems to have shed much of its shyness to keep coming back to. 90 proof

George T. Stagg: This is not only the coveted, perennial bruiser of the collection, it’s also the one that will be the toughest to find in the wild with a demand triumphing greatly over supply. It was aged in barrels stored across warehouses M, N, H, L and K which were filled in the spring of 2001. The powerful 144.1 proof of this uncut and unfiltered whiskey is so heavy I nearly pitched forward when I first tasted it. The aromas from the glass gives up lots of wood and char with some forest pinecone nuances. On the mouth, tart fruits, white chocolate and old spice (not the cologne, but ones that have sat in the cabinet for a few seasons) manage to swim through its viscous texture. It’s a real hot rod this year – watch out!

W.L. Weller: Weller bourbon with the “W.L” (for William Larue) is the limited release of this brand of bourbons. Writer Chuck Cowdery recently did some digging into the claim that they’re named for the first person to add wheat into his recipe. As he points out, that wording is a bit misleading. Let’s say he was part of a company that released one of the first bourbons on the market to be a wheater, though not as its head distiller. Either way, this is typically my true crush of the lineup, and this year’s edition did not disappoint. While it also wears a super high proof (135.4), it feels the most resolved in depth of flavor and weight. That forest pine that is present in some of the others adds a pretty accent to chewy fudge and caramel, with fresh baking spices and ginger. It’s also the least tart of the bunch, though some citrus does come through like in a well made Southern pie recipe.

Happy whiskey hunting, everyone!


Tags:2016 antique collection, amanda schuster, american whiskey, antique collection, bourbon, btac 2016, buffalo trace, buffalo trace antique collection, cask strength bourbon, cask strength rye, cask strength whiskey, chuck cowdery blog, chuck cowdery weller, drinkwire, eagle rare 17 year 2016, eagle rare bourbon, fall whiskey 2016, george t. stagg 2016, george t. stagg bourbon, handy rye 2016, high proof whiskey, rye, rye review, sazerac 18 year 2016, sazerac cocktail history, sazerac rye, thomas h, thomas h. handy sazerac rye 2016, w.l. weller bourbon 2016, whiskey, whiskey review, who was thomas h. handy

Posted on


Rejoice, for the aperitivo has made it safely to Britain’s shores. There are few drinks with such iconic style as the aperitivo, marked as distinct for its use of Italian bitter liqueurs, and often mixed with soda and Prosecco, making it less boozy than the traditional cocktail. You’ve probably enjoyed one without even realising you were dipping your toe into this unique Italian cultural activity.


Aperitivo-style cocktails such as the Negroni and Aperol Spritz are enjoying huge success in the UK

L’hora del aperitivo is the time where we in Blighty flock to the pub the moment we’re released from the office. In Italy, where café culture is indistinguishable from their wine and cocktail culture, they flood the piazzas and cafés, sipping on Aperol Spritzes and enjoying complimentary nibbles. It’s all meant to prepare your palates for the evening meal and socialise with friends over light drinks and snacks.

London has finally embraced, if not the relaxation, then at least this bitter yet light style of cocktail – think Aperol Spritz, Sgroppinos, Negroni Sbagliatos and Americanos. This trend has been on the increase for the past five years and really took hold this summer, culminating at the end of August when more than 250 of the city’s best bars submitted their cocktail serves for London Cocktail Week, and 20% of the recipes where true aperitivo-style cocktails.

Here are 10 to look out for during the week – remember you’ll need your LCW Festival Passto access these for just £5 per drink.

1. NO 20

Portobello Road gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, at Bar Américain


Gin, homemade verbena syrup, fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and topped with Prosecco, at Cartizze Bar


Beefeater gin, Amaro Montenegro and Martini bianco vermouth, at Bedford and Strand

Radio Rooftop Bar

Radio Rooftop Bar at London’s ME Hotel has impressive views of the capital


Bombay Sapphire gin, Campari, limoncello, passion fruit puree and fresh grapefruit juice, atRadio Rooftop


Gin, orange wine, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, Campari, pear eau de vie and elderflower, atVictory Mansion


Calvados, Amer Picon and La Quintinye rouge vermouth, at Riding House Café


Solerno blood orange liqueur, bitter lemon vodka, fresh lime, cranberry and topped with soda water, at Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings


Gin, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, Bruto Americano and a bitter foam, at Worship Street Whistling Shop


Homemade parsnip-infused gin, Aperol, fresh mint and topped with Prosecco, at Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar

Lemon Twist

The Lemon Twist cocktail served at Paternoster Chop House


Staibano lemon liqueur, Malbec wine, apple liqueur and a dash of rose water syrup, atPaternoster Chop House

London Cocktail Week runs from 3-9 October. More than 200 bars in the capital are involved, offering discounted serves, special events and masterclasses. If you want to experience it for yourself, get yourself a festival pass by clicking here, then let the fun begin!