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Scotch Malt Whisky Society 4.222 Review

Producer: Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 56.2%. Age: 16 years.

This SMWS 4.222 “Ginger and honey sweet tea” (a 16-year-old Highland Park) is a classic example of why I seek out single cask whisky from independent bottlers.

Over a decade ago I fell in love with the standard Highland Park 18. The use of Orcadian peat and sherry casks strike a perfect balance for me when I’m not in the mood for an Islay peat monster or a dark sherried Highland. However, I’m always searching for that next bottle that will expand my whisky horizons, and this 4.222 fits the bill nicely.

From a single first fill ex-bourbon cask, this is Highland Park stripped of its familiar sherry notes. Laid bare on the nose are crisp, sweet heather, caramel, and gentle smoke. On the palate are fresh botanicals and a beautiful mix of sweet vanilla and saltiness. The signature light peat notes that I love then settle in and are the glue that keeps everything together. The medium finish adds cinnamon to the waning smoke.

A truly unique exploration of Highland Park. Cheers! – JTR

Tennessee Whiskey Trail Launch

Move over, Kentucky–Tennessee now has its own whiskey trail! Twenty-five distilleries from the mountains to Memphis. Full details below…

Tennessee Distillers Guild Announces Official Launch of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail

Tennessee distillers come together to unveil a 25-stop whiskey tour across the state. Three launch celebrations planned throughout the year in East, Middle and West Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., JUNE 19, 2017 – The Tennessee Distillers Guild, a membership organization consisting of 25 Tennessee distilleries, is proud to announce the official launch of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, a 25-stop distillery tour across the state of Tennessee.

“The Tennessee Whiskey Trail is a joint effort by all of our Guild members to feature Tennessee whiskey and moonshine, as well as the craftsmen and women that make them,” said Kris Tatum, president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild. “On the Trail, visitors can learn about the art of distilling and about the history and the culture of whiskey-making that is legendary in our state.”

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail consists of 25 distilleries ranging from boutique-sized distilleries to large internationally-recognized operations that span from East to West Tennessee. Along the Trail, visitors can get a taste of the history, tradition, and novelty of Tennessee whiskey, as well as experience the rich landscapes, must-see landmarks, and genuine Southern hospitality that embody the great state of Tennessee.

“This Trail puts an international spotlight on Tennessee and its whiskey culture,” said Tatum. “We hope to see people come from all over the world to just to get a taste of this once-in-a-lifetime Tennessee whiskey experience.”

The Trail’s official launch will be feted by three statewide celebrations in East, Middle and West Tennessee throughout the course of its inaugural year. The first celebration will take place at the Little Brick Theatre at the Factory in Franklin on June 19, 2017. The second celebration will coincide with the Tennessee Distillers Guild’s annual Grains and Grits Festival in Townsend, TN on Nov. 3-4, 2017, and the third and final celebration will take place in Memphis in May 2018.

To embark on the Trail, visitors can get their free passport booklet on tnwhiskeytrail.com or pick them up at select distillery locations and collect stamps at each distillery en route. Those who collect all 25 stamps will receive a commemorative gift to mark their achievement. The Trail can be completed distillery-by-distillery or in regions at a time. Serious whiskey enthusiasts who hope to complete the entire Trail in a single trip can find a 10-day itinerary on tnwhiskeytrail.com. To get your free passport booklet or to plan your trip, visit www.tnwhiskeytrail.com.

Come join us and see why Adventures Run on Tennessee Whiskey.

About Tennessee Whiskey Trail:

The Tennessee Whiskey Trail consists of 25 distilleries across the state of Tennessee ranging from boutique-sized operations to well-known distilleries that have been making good ol’ fashioned Tennessee whiskey for ages. Along the Trail, visitors can get a taste of the history, tradition and novelty of Tennessee whiskey, as well as experience the rich landscapes, must-see landmarks, and genuine Southern hospitality that embody the great state of Tennessee. From the rolling hills of Appalachia to the lively blues-filled streets of Memphis, the Tennessee Whiskey Trail is a journey through time, a rich experiential adventure through Tennessee’s picturesque countryside and lively cities, and a memorable experience for whiskey connoisseurs, adventurous travelers, and history buffs alike. For more information about the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, visit www.tnwhiskeytrail.com.

Kilchoman Sanaig Review

Distiller: Kilchoman. Region: Islay. ABV: 46%. No age statement (about 4-5 years). Price: $55-70.

Kilchoman is Islay’s youngest distillery. It opened in 2005, and quickly began winning converts with its young but surprisingly rich and supple single malts. The flagship is the excellent Machir Bay, which is mostly first-fill bourbon-matured, with a little sherry finish thrown in at the end.

The Sanaig, a new release in 2016, ups the sherry-matured component to 50%. No age statement, though it’s around 4-5 years old, and it’s bottled at a healthy 46% ABV.

The nose on the Sanaig is a mix of tart, sweet, and salty notes. Sea
breeze. Blackberry crumble. Salted caramel. The peat keeps itself fairly well concealed. The palate is sweet and buttery: blueberry pie filling, burnt butter crust. Blackberry cordial. Very mild clove. Peanut brittle. Mild toasty peat emerges bit by bit. The finish recalls the end of an old fashioned: the echo of the sweet bourbon intertwines with bitter oak and aromatics.

Beautiful compliment to the Machir Bay, and for me, a clear success. If you’re looking for a new Islay, the Sanaig’s a great place to look.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Buy Kilchoman whisky online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Highland Park Valkyrie Review

Highland Park Valkyrie – Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 45.9%. No age statement. Price: $60-70.

There are moments when this Axis gig isn’t too shabby. As, for example, when Highland Park’s senior brand ambassador, Martin Markvardson, walks you through some new expressions over dinner. I dig pretty much all Highland Park (though Baldo found the Harald and Dark Origins less than stunning), and I was very happy to see that the distillery continues its winning streak with the Valkyrie.

It’s the first in a “Viking Legend” series that will have two more releases over the next two years. This one is distilled from half peated barley, a considerably higher proportion than with the HP 12 or 18, which are about 20-25% peated. Orkney peat, which HP uses exclusively, contains no wood–it’s a different peat beast altogether than what’s used in other parts of Scotland.

The Valkyrie is aged in a mix of American oak and European sherry casks, and continues the no-age-statement trend. (HP is in the process of phasing out its 15- and 21-year-old releases entirely.)

The nose hints of beeswax and honey. There’s that less woody peat, then glorious honey. On the palate, slow-cooked smoked pork. Warm apple fritter. A seemingly mildly abrupt finish, but it’s sneaky, because half an hour later, you’re still catching the remnants of the peat and honied heather. It was one dram, but I can’t wait to try more.

Here’s to experiences that delight. Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape

A Highland Park representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Speyburn Single Malt Review

Speyburn 10 – Distiller: Speyburn. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. Age: 10 years. Price: $40.

Speyburn Bradan Orach – Distiller: Speyburn. Region: Highlands. No age statement. Age: 10 years. Price: $25.

Speyburn Arranta Casks – Distiller: Speyburn. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $35.

We all love the fancy pours when a buddy is buying, but it’s crucial to have some value drams in the cabinet–everyday standbys, the kind of single malts you can bring to the party to enjoy yourself without feeling something die inside when some knucklehead mixes it with Sprite.

Speyburn is a Highland single malt that’s solidly in value dram territory while having plenty to offer a seasoned whisky lover. (It’s been picking up some award recognition recently.) Their core line consists of the 10-year-old, the no-age-statement Bradan Orach, and the Arranta Casks release. Let’s try ’em out!

Speyburn 10: Nose of fresh malt, field grass, heather. Coconut. Toasted almond. Fresh baguette. Palate adds lemon and grapefruit. Tart. Fairly tart. Toast with marmalade. Finish has a little smoky barrel char and dry grapefruit rind.

The Bradan Orach has lemongrass and wildflower honey on the nose, then candied orange and lemon wedges. The palate’s unexpectedly substantial for its 40% ABV. Wildflower honey. There’s less complexity than in the 10–the impression is of a quality blend: Loch Lomond, say. Dry, tart finish. Wet cinnamon stick.

The Arranta Casks release is so named for its all-first-fill bourbon maturation. It shows. Boldest and most robust of the line at 46% ABV. Big orchard fruit on the nose: apple, pear, peach. Hints at a young bourbon. More vanilla and sweet oak with time in the glass. The palate has fresh vanilla bean, toasted tobacco, and a white grape note. Finish brings more sweetness: vanilla cake with white frosting and toasted almond. Just enough bite.

Amid the numerous overhyped and overpriced letdowns these days, Speyburn is a welcome discovery. Hope your weekend’s been a good one!

Cheers, friends! – BO

Speyburn graciously provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

TheWhiskyX VIP Ticket Giveaway

As we’re lining up great American whiskies for a great American holiday weekend, we’re also counting the days until TheWhiskyX, an exciting new whisk(e)y festival happening in Brooklyn on June 8, 2017: 60+ whiskies, food trucks, cigars, a concert by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and lots of other goodies.

We’re giving away 2 VIP tickets to Axis friends–just leave a comment below to be entered, and we’ll pick at random from commenters here and on Instagram (21 and over, of course).

You can also buy tickets now at http://bit.ly/whiskyxtix–use the code AXISOFWHISKY for 20% off VIP tix.

Here’s to the start of summer, friends! Cheers! -BO