Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jim Beam Signature Crafts going all out

I'll be honest and say I have not paid much attention to the recent release of Jim Beam Signature Craft whiskies that arrived on shelves mid last year.  Maybe I should pay attention as last month Jim Beam submitted new labels for upcoming Signature releases. 

The first two releases last year included a 12 year and one with a touch of brandy added (not brandy barrel aged).  I've not tried them so can't speak to the profile of either.

The new labels cover quite a few variant grains in the bourbon in addition to a quarter cask aged selection.  As seen on the labels, all are 11 years old and 90 proof except the quarter cask which is 86 proof and NAS.  I'll admit, I'm intrigued and may look to pick up a couple of these to give them a spin.  One that caught my attention was the rolled oat selection.  A number of years back I was visiting a friend in Laurel, MD who brought out a pre-prohibition Old Rip Van Winkle that included oats in the recipe.








Saturday, May 24, 2014

Time in a bottle

A couple months ago I was contacted by freelance writer and New York Times staff editor, Clay Risen.  He was kind enough to reach out and ask some questions related to Dusty Hunting for an article he was writing for Wine Enthusiast Magazine.  The article is featured in the June issue and you can read it here on their website. 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Road Trip: Bardstown KY 2014 - Wednesday

Kicking off this years Bardstown trip with an early morning departure of around 7:30 and arrived Bardstown around 6:00 pm.  Couple stops along the way with special mention to Hillbilly Hot Dog in Lesage, WV.  Awesome dogs and awesome staff.

First night was an open table to bring whatever interests you. Some notables this evening were:

Dusty Early Times
Dusty Yellowstore 90 pf
OWA SB 9 yr non chill
WT 17 year
Willett 18 year wheater
Old Saint Nick 17 year
Balcones Rumble Cask Reserve

There were also some world whiskies that showed up on the table that included:

Karuizawa 13 year NOH
Green Spot
Balvenie TUN 1401 B9
Powers Johns Lane

Tomorrow morning it will be an early start as we head out to Buffalo Trace and then on to Jim Beam after lunch.  Beautiful weather is forecast as we spend the next couple of days barrel picking.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Death of the Barrel Programs?

I'm not going to go all gloom and doom here but something is amiss with various distillers and their barrel programs.  Let's start with Buffalo Trace.  While the program is still available, selections are dwindling.  Last year there were limitations on the age of Old Weller Antique and limitations on Elmer T. Lee.  This year BT is limiting the number of OWA barrels available to States.  KBD suspended their barrel program but that was due to a significant backlog.  Last week, Heaven Hill announced an indefinite suspension of their barrel program.

K&L out in California reported last week that Buffalo Trace is now limiting them to 1 case of Old Weller Antique per week and as a result, each customer is limited to 1 bottle.  K&L is no small Mom and Pop operation so that's significant news.  

What gives? I can see in KBD's case, they just need to get caught up but Heaven Hill has one of the largest holdings of aging bourbon in KY so I'm baffled about the suspension.  I'll be in KY starting Wed of this week and we have a tasting scheduled at HH so I guess I'll come out and ask for details.

For enthusiasts such as myself, this is a little disconcerting.  With my trip to KY this week, our group will top 60 barrels of bourbon / rye selected in the last 4 years.  Seeing these barrels starting to become out of reach isn't fatal but it does mean we will have to be creative and establish new relationships with other producers / bottlers.

For the average consumer, this will have little or no impact on them but for us crazy people? We'll have to see what the next year or two brings and I for one hope this isn't a permanent condition.






Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Barrel Shortage.....say it so

Evidently, Independent Stave is having issues keeping up with demand.  As a result, distillery's are negatively impacted with a barrel shortage. 

For those of you who do not know, ISC provides the barrels for most distillery's.  The exception would be Brown Forman who actually have their own cooperage formerly called Blue Grass  Cooperage but changed to Brown Forman Cooperage a couple years ago. 

Jim Rutledge at Four Roses is faced with either shutting down, reducing output which means also cutting employee hours.  Not a good situation to be in.  Small micro distillers are pretty much shut out completely.  For the time being, Four Roses is operating on reduced production.  What this means in the short term is not much in my opinion but some years down the road...maybe something. 

ISC also produces barrels for the other big guns like Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill.

Let's hope the sourcing of American White Oak is only a temporary glitch for ISC and things get back on track soon.

On a more positive note, Four Roses has submitted their 2014 Limited Edition label to TTB noting the recipe as OESF and aged 11 years.  Rumor has it that aged whiskey is in limited supply at Four Roses but to be honest, I prefer their whiskey in the 8-12 year range.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Whiskey trading and tasting......

As part of a larger whiskey enthusiast community, participating in tastings (both known and blind) and trading samples is part of sharing the passion.  Over the years I've acquired a rather large collection of sample bottles.  For many I know the provenance but for others, I have no idea.  The whiskey samples include bourbon, rye, craft, Scotch, Irish, Canadian and out of production.  I know I have a couple samples that date back to shortly after prohibition as well as older samples of Mt. Vernon Rye from the 30's, Very Old Fitzgerald from the 50's and Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond from the 50's

I've always intended to pull samples and go through them but my intentions have never materialized into actual execution.  I routinely attend tastings and we're always thinking of various themes to try. One recently focused on various expressions of Glenmorangie.  I'm planning a tasting for sometime this spring so I'm thinking of using these 2-4 oz sample bottles in a tasting where I may know the provenance or may not so basically a grab bag tasting.

The nice thing about swapping samples is trying expressions you may have never tried or don't want to invest the capital into a whole bottle.  A 2 or 4oz sample is a nice "try it" pour before committing.

Guess it's time to take stock of what I have and start digging in.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring on the Horizon

I hate winter....seriously......hate as in loathe.  This winter has been exceptionally harsh for the D.C. area.  I know, what we experience is nothing like upstate NY or other areas to the north but here in the mid Atlantic, this winter has dumped higher than average snow and the temperatures much colder than normal.  This morning as I left for work it was 5 degrees and that's just too cold.

We're now in to March which means spring is about 2 weeks away.  Spring also means the annual visit to Bardstown KY for barrel picking.  That's right....the time has come once again to taste through wonderful barrels of bourbon.  The schedule is pretty much the same as previous years with the exception of skipping KBD as their barrel program is suspended for a spell until they get caught
up on their bottling backlog.  Next year.

The schedule of events is firming up that includes a 35 bottle Wild Turkey tasting that pretty much encompasses every variant of Wild Turkey released over the last couple of decades.  We're visiting Four Rose, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill as well as hosting the
owner/distiller from Smooth Ambler while in KY to conduct a little barrel sample tasting one evening.  Speaking of Smooth Ambler, the group conducted a barrel tasting at the distillery in December and selected 3 barrels; 7 year, 8 year and a 10 year.  Those will be ordered this week and I should have them in hand next.  I'll post tasting notes once I get them.

As of today, we're at 49 days until picking time.......spring can't come soon enough.