Distiller: Bruichladdich. ABV: 49.2%. Age: 23 years. Region: Islay. Price: $250-300.
The redoubtable but rather puzzling Black Art 4th Edition — the latest, and as it turned out, last mystery release by Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan before his 2015 retirement.
As with previous releases, McEwan kept the details on what went into this a secret. All we know is that v.4 was aged in American and French oak, and the juice came from the very limited remaining stocks the distiller has from before its 1994 closing. (Bruichladdich reopened in 2001.)
Tried the 3rd edition last year and it knocked me out–marvelously rich, with dry fruit and endless complexity. This one starts out lovely, then hits with a sour, funky finish I couldn’t get my head around. Tried, waited, tried again, but it wasn’t for me.
Love the distillery, the mystery, the image–just not the juice this time around. – BO
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Distiller: Macallan. 60.1% ABV. NAS. Region: Highland.
Macallan, are you out there? Can you please bring this beauty back? All Jerez sherry cask maturation. Like a black forest cake in a glass, with each splash of water adding a new layer.
Sadly discontinued to make room for the 10-year-old Cask Strength — which was then also discontinued (*sigh*). Sherry fans, if you run across one, jump on it. This is one of the greats. – BO
Distiller: Springbank. 54.3% ABV. Age:12 years old. Region: Campbeltown. Price: $85-90.
What a way to end a night: Springbank Cask Strength 12. Matured 60% in first-fill sherry casks, the rest in refill. The most perfectly calibrated blend of fruit, malt, and (low-key) peat this side of…anywhere.
Campbeltown may be down to three distilleries, but when one of them’s this good, it could hold down a region all on its own. Springbank’s a connoisseur’s favorite, due to their relentless creativity, their handling every aspect of the whisky-making process in-house (only Kilchoman does the same), and their amazing results.
Nose: smoked ham. Sweet parchment and wood pulp. Toasty light peat of the sort that Springbank has always done so well–and Benromach now does too. A hint of that beautifully fatty body that you get on your first sip. Palate does sweet, salty, and savory all at once. Juicy red fruit. Caramel apple. Nutmeg and ginger move from body to finish, with a spray of blood orange zest at the end.
Reminds my why I spent my last night at the great Jack Rose DC working my way as far down the Springbank single cask list as I could afford.
Sweet dreams, whisky sippers. – BO
Distiller: Mitchell & Sons. ABV: 40%. No age statement, estimated 8-9 years. Price: $50.
Can a 40% ABV Irish pot still whiskey renowned for its delicacy still knock the socks off a sipper living in a barrel-strength world?
It can if it’s the Green Spot.
From Dublin’s Mitchell & Sons, this 8-9 year old pure pot still blend is 25% aged in sherry casks. K&L Wines whiskey guru David O-G says it’s “solidly considered one of the world’s great whiskies.” Now I know why.
Subtler than the Redbreast, but every bit as delicious. Give it 5-10 minutes in the glass. Copper, wildflower honey, jasmine in bloom, Oloroso–a touch. Hot damn.
They got this one right. And it’s getting around. Jump on it and learn just how good Irish whiskey can be. – BO
Producer: High West. Distiller: LDI/Four Roses. 46% ABV.
High West’s American Prairie Reserve Bourbon is a mix of 6-year-old LDI juice and 10-year-old Four Roses. Surprisingly sweet entry with cinnamon and oak, then a drier finish. Curious oatmeal note after some time in the glass.
Solid but unspectacular, especially next to knockouts from High West like the Bourye family. High West donates 10% of post-tax profits to the American Prairie Reserve. Cheers! -BO
Producer: Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Distiller: undisclosed. 57.15% ABV. Age: NAS (estimated average of 15 years). Mashbill: undisclosed. Price: $55-65.
This one doesn’t mess around.
Noah’s Mill from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (Willett, Michter’s, Johnny Drum, Black Maple Hill) is a high-powered, widely available small batch offering that formerly carried an age statement of 15 years old, but in the way of many things, has gone the no-age-statement route. The producer says it’s currently a mix of 4- to 20-year old bourbons, with a similarly wide range of mash bills in the mix, from wheaters to high-rye juice.
It shows. Massively complex with a fiery bite at first, then toffee, vanilla bean, cloves, woodbark. Loads of oak and a touch of bitterness on the finish. Takes water very well, and evolves in the glass in a fascinating way.
Easily available in most markets, a fair value even as an NAS, and for my money, a must-try. A whiskey seller friend tells me that he offers it to many folks looking for presents for their whiskey-drinking friends, and they turn it down because the bottle “doesn’t look special enough.” Don’t make their mistake. Your whiskey-drinking friends will thank you. – BO
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