Top 5 Limited Release Whiskies of 2016 - HYPE OR HOT

January 18, 2017

Top 5 Limited Release Whiskies of 2016 - HYPE OR HOT

Hey Beasties,

I hope everyone is having a rocking 2016.  If, like us, you were curious about some of the outrageously hard to find (not to mention expensive) allocated limited release bottles of 2016, we have lined up our top 5 and tasted them to see if they are worth the hunt!

Check it out here!
or on iTunes


Hope you enjoy it.  Don't be a stranger!  Let us know what reviews, podcast, and whiskies are getting you excited this year!  Cheers/SB


Join us for an evening with Westland Distillery!

January 11, 2017

Join us for an evening with Westland Distillery!

A bunch of really cool shit happened this week.  I rolled a whiskey barrel across a city street in Manhattan.  I don't know which was better, the baffled look on the faces of passers-by or the satisfaction of smiling and saying "Yup, it's a barrel of whiskey!".

I popped open some amazing whiskey. Booker's Rye (which won just about every award for best whiskey of 2016) and the new Parker's Heritage 24 Year Bourbon. I hadn't planned on popping open the Parker's just yet, but when we heard the terrible news about Parker Beam passing away, it seemed like the right thing to do.  We're going to review these and other super special release whiskeys in a podcast we're recording tomorrow night, and I'll post some Cliff's Notes for all you SB readers.

The other great news is that we confirmed our next Beast Masters Club tasting. It's going to feature Westland Distillery, in our opinion one of the few truly special craft distillers in a vast sea of rough young spirit that's coming into the market.  Chris Reisbeck, who we knew from his years at Gordon MacPhail will be representing Westland and acquainting us with some very special malts.



BUY TICKETS HERE!  (they sell out fast...)

Yet another piece of awesome news is that the super swanky and beautiful club The Norwood has agreed to host. They're very excited to be involved in our fresh take on whiskey events with the interview, podcast, and tasting. And we couldn't be more thrilled at the awesomeness of their upstairs barroom as our new venue.

It was a good whiskey week all around.

I know, I know, we've been somewhat neglecting our blog.  If you care, drop a comment and let us know what you'd like us to review.  We promise to get back to it.  But at the same time, we promise that if you join the club, buy a ticket to one of these events, or take a few minutes to check out the podcast, you won't be disappointed.  Oh yeah, and we have some killer private barrels coming up too. Seriously.  I wasn't kidding about rolling the barrel down the street. You're gonna want some of that.

Cheers.  Hope everyone is having a good first few weeks of '17.  Don't stress, it'll be ok. Come have a drink with us.  /SB


CLEAR THE SHELVES - TOP 5 WHISKEYS THAT WON'T BE AROUND NEXT YEAR

December 28, 2016

CLEAR THE SHELVES - TOP 5 WHISKEYS THAT WON'T BE AROUND NEXT YEAR

Happy holidays beasties!

Our latest 'cast, CLEAR THE SHELVES is out for your enjoyment!


Sorry that we haven't been as timely with our weekly reviews. We've been putting a huge amount of effort into Beast Masters Club. For those of you who haven't joined yet, BMC is the first combination of a podcast & private barrel club. Every month we do a big live tasting and interview a whiskey big-wig on the podcast and then release a private barrel of their whiskey that can be purchased by the group.

This is a labor of love for us, we hope that one day it may be a profitable enterprise, but for the time being this is us trying to share some of the great in-person experiences that we've had in the world of whiskey with you at home. You can buy an awesome private barrel whiskey, and pop it open as you listen in on our discussion with the folks who made it. And if you're in NYC anytime soon you can join us for a tasting.

So please please join the club. It's free and you'll get updates on all our future endeavors, get in on private barrel picks, and be part of something that's very special to Mr. & Mrs. Beast.

In between the big live tastings and private barrels, we're doing some fun podcasts with friends. Check out our latest 'cast with Jake Cahill where we let you in on the best whiskeys of the year that are being discontinued.  CLEAR THE SHELVES is your chance to learn the top 5 bottles you should stock up on since they won't be around next year.

Happy holidays everyone!!





Single Cask Nation - The Art of Deconstructing Blends

December 12, 2016

Single Cask Nation - The Art of Deconstructing Blends

It's always fun hanging out with friends and drinking whiskey. But this time it was serious!  We got the chance to preview Josh Hatton's new line of Single Cask Nation retail malts which are due to arrive in stores in February.  These were really interesting hand picked delicious casks strength scotch whiskies!

Check out the whole podcast where we get the full story!









Ardbeg Dark Cove - The... err... darkest Ardbeg ever... ish.

December 5, 2016

Ardbeg Dark Cove - The... err... darkest Ardbeg ever... ish.

As Ardbeg has had a penchant for doing over the past few years, they're produced something both instantly detestable and delicious. Allow me to explain.

The Ardbeg marketing machine is a serious corporate Death Star armed with three-wheeled motorized tricycles and solid gold bottles with S&M whiskey harnesses. And they seem to need this incessant hum drum of clich├ęd whiskypiphany (just made that up!) combined with over-the-top accessorization in order to pedal No-Age-Statement whiskies in a myriad of questionably different limited releases, consistently over $100/bottle. Hey, it's good work if you can get it. 

So when the latest Ardbeg limited release "Dark Cove" came out, we were predisposed to derision...





Add to our expected arsenal of abuse the fact that the label says all kinds of silly things on it.

"Take this whisky and hide it well. For its heart has been matured in DARK SHERRY CASKS, imparting waves of treacle toffee, coal tar, squid ink, noodles and toasted coffee grounds. The DARKEST ARDBEG ever."

The word "heart" actually does mean something when it comes to distilling - this isn't it. And doesn't this just seem like a list of dark things? Would you want to taste "squid ink" in your whisky? More to the point, this isn't the darkest Ardbeg ever. Not by a long shot. Here's what a dark Ardbeg looks like:



Here's the coal tar, squid ink, & coffee grounds Dark Cove:



Ok, ok, but enough kvetching about how it's not the darkest ever, it's not even that dark, and why do people keep trying to market "darkness" as if they're selling spray tan?  Let's taste it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: It really does smell delicious. There's a lot of peat, and it's just wrapped up beautifully in sweet black licorice. There's all kinds of good overripe fruits going on, like sickly sweet melons and guavas, in a good way... a really good way. There's some good leather polish, cough drops, and ocean brine. Weird bunch of notes to put together, but it's instantly recognizable as a quality malt. We'd be shocked if there wasn't at least a mix of some well-matured spirit in there despite the lack of age statement. 

Palate: The mouth-feel is just HUGE. Like sipping on castor oil, it absolutely coats your throat on the way down and lingers around the little pockets in your mouth. Very enjoyable. Note to self - if the 92 proofer is this thick, must make a point to try the 110 proof big brother, must be like crude oil. It's a very well balanced palate with more honey and traditional sherry notes like raisins & plums. 

Finish: Much lighter on the phenolic peat fire than your typical Ardbeg, the finish continues the trend here of wrapping up the smoke in the sweetness and fruit. It's memorable, but not in the "hours and hours of smoldering smoke" kind of way you've grown to expect from Ardbeg. This is a much more nuanced finish with the texture of the palate coming to the fore as the most memorable element. 

Review

Yes, yes it's still a NAS bottle for over a hundred dollars (or good luck finding the 110 proof committee version for under $250!), so we're supposed to be pissed off here. Sure, ok, we're still a little pissed off trying to pick the squid ink out of our teeth. But this stuff is GOOD. It's really an awesome drinking dram and still better than many >$100 bottles out there in our opinion. It's like what Corryvreckan was shooting for, with big fruits playing off against the peat, although Corry was a miss for us. This one nails it.

So good job Ardbeg, yet again despite having to climb the wall of marketing yakety yak, this malt is damn tasty.

Cheers/SB

Live podcast with Signatory Vintage

November 24, 2016

Live podcast with Signatory Vintage

If you're a fan of SB, you know that Signatory Vintage is one of our all-time favorite indie bottlers.  They have an epic collection (actually 3 collections) of malts focusing on Islay and Highland malts unchillfiltered, uncolored, with offerings at 92 proof and full cask strength. And they just always seem to pick the choicest barrels and release them in the perfect casks at the perfect age.

So we were very excited when Signatory agreed to lead our November Beast Masters Club tasting. This was by far the most far-reaching malt tasting we've done to date with bottles dating back to 1973, two big smoky Islay malts, and a fantastic 25 year Highland Park.

Ben (left) and Steve (right) talk with Tricia Chimento as we taste through the Signatory Vintage lineup

Please join our live Beast Masters Crew and listen to the podcast. (Or listen on iTunes)   If you're interested in any of the bottles they're available in our shop.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Oh and by the way, SmokyBeast hit a million page views this week, so thanks for all your continued love and support!!!

Cheers/SB



Interview with James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman

November 18, 2016

Interview with James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman

As part of their US East Coast Tour, James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman Distillery sat down with us for a podcast. It was a fun night as they tasted us through the entire Kilchoman line including the delicious new 8-year, and their limited release US Tour Bottle, a cask strength version of their flagship Machir Bay single malt.


I got to pour them some of my SmokyBeast SAOS Rye, which was a fitting welcome to NYC for these two.  Check out the full podcast or tune in on iTunes!
Five Reasons To Buy Scotch From Independent Bottlers

November 9, 2016

Five Reasons To Buy Scotch From Independent Bottlers

There are two types of scotch on the market.

"OB" - aka Original Bottlings come directly from the distillery. Lagavulin 16 Year, Macallan 12 Year, and Laphroaig 10 Year are examples of "OB"s. 

"IB" - Independent Bottlings come from third-party companies that purchase whisky from distilleries, age it themselves, and then bottle it under their own brand. Signatory Vintage, Gordon & MacPhail, and Douglas Laing are examples of "IB"s. 

 

Here are five reasons that you should be adding IB's to your whisky collection:

  1. Vintage - OBs are about consistency. Laphroaig has to produce tens of thousands of bottles annually, and each one has to taste the same. IB's have no such restrictions. They age each barrel just to the point at which they think it's perfect and then release it at whatever vintage (year of distillation and age) that they like. Each release is different which is part of the fun.
  2. Water - OBs are typically diluted with water to "proof them down" from their natural alcohol content to a standard market level. Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Macallan are watered down to 43%. IB's can release at any proof and will often offer cask strength, undiluted expressions of your favorite malts.
  3. Caramel - The dirty little secret of many OBs is that they use caramel food coloring to darken the spirit. Even our favorite OB, Lagavulin, contains caramel coloring. IBs almost never add coloring.
  4. Chillfiltration - OBs tend to chill-filter their spirits to prevent inconsistencies and cloudiness in the bottle. Most IB's will specifically list "uncolored, unchillfiltered" on the bottle. This means you're getting richer flavors that may have been lost in the filtration process.
  5. Price - With an IB you can find seriously well-aged malts at a much more affordable price than the official releases. If you're looking for a 30 or 40 year malt, this is a great place to start!

Next week, our whiskey club Beast Masters Club will be sitting down with Tricia Chimento who represents Signatory Vintage, one of our all time favorite Independent Bottlers. Tune in to our next podcast to learn from Tricia about the ins and outs of hunting for special barrels, maturing, and bottling legendary independent releases. And stay tuned for hand picked bottles available in the Beast Masters Shop from the Signatory collection.
Kilchoman US Tour Bottle - Cask Strength Machir Bay

November 4, 2016

Kilchoman US Tour Bottle - Cask Strength Machir Bay

Last week Joshua Hatton poured me one of the best tastings I've ever had. His Whisky Jewbilee festival bottlings are amazing.  Where else are you tasting 15-year Heaven Hill cask strength bourbon next to 28-year Bunnahabhain, next to a limited release bottle from Kilchoman? Life in the fast lane...

The lineup


The Kilchoman bottle in question was the US East Coast Tour bottling that they just released. In a nutshell, they put aside a small allotment of what would eventually become their flagship Machir Bay single malt and released it at full (116.8) proof.  Only around 200 bottles were released nationwide.



Tasting Notes

Nose:  Kilchoman has a very recognizable signature nose leading with white chocolate, olive oil, peat smoke, and pink peppercorns.  This has all those things wrapped up very nicely into a lively and integrated aroma.

Palate: Another Kilchoman trait is that a big smoky and full nose results in a very mellow and smooth taste. If you poured this for me blind and told me it was a <10 year 120 proof whisky I'd never believe you. The taste is very fresh with some grass and herbals going on, the peat carries through but is not overwhelming, and the sweets and chocolates finish on the back of the tongue.

Finish: The cask strength really flourishes on the finish with big full peat smoke flavor balancing out the intense strength of the spirit. This one lasts a while with little embers of roasted peated barley echoing through your sinuses for a few minutes.  Very lovely Kilchoman expression.  We tasted through the entire line as well as some single barrels and jumped at the chance to offer this selection to the group, probably the best Kilchoman I've tasted yet.


left to right: Ben (BMC co-founder), Me (Steve), Josh, Jim (Xavier Wines owner) hitting some very rare bottles...

You can listen to the whole live recording of the tasting and interview with Josh here.

At the time of writing this we have 5 bottles left of the Kilchoman East Coast Tour bottle...  (If you want a heads-up next time before they're all gone, sign up for free membership!)

Thanks for all the feedback on the Booker's Rye post!  By popular request, we're going to follow up with some recommendations for more affordable / attainable ryes that you can find on the shelves.  Stay tuned!

Cheers/SB


Bookers 13-Year Rye Review

November 1, 2016

Bookers 13-Year Rye Review

Is this where we are? Really??? Four hundred bucks for a thirteen year rye?!??

Ok, I mean it is really though to find well aged American rye these days. But Jeez Louise that just seems crazy. Anyway thanks to our buddy J-Whiskey for sharing a sample of this high priced beast for us to taste. Is it worth the hunt and the cash to own one of these priced limited edition beauties? Read on.


Booker's is one of those house favorites, a whiskey-drinker's whiskey. And with good reason. They've been doing it right since back before drinking cask strength bourbon was even a thing. And Booker's has a lot going for it. You can get it at any decent bar or liquor store, it's cask strength, it's age-stated (7 years), it's $70. How many bourbons measure up to that criteria these days?

So when they announced that they were putting out a rye, we were excited. Honestly we'd hoped for exactly the same concept - good reliable affordable cask strength age-stated rye. Why is that so hard to find these days? Honestly since Smooth Ambler discontinued their private barrel program I can't think of a single example!


Well needless to say our excitement waned a bit when we found out that this was going to be a super limited release bottling that was going to run over $300. We had the opportunity to buy one for $370 and we passed. Then when all the reviews started coming out we immediately regretted it. With such incredible demand, why wouldn't Booker's put out a rye as part of their standard release? you'd think they could charge a little more ($125 maybe??) and have a seven year rye, just as badass and delicious as Booker's Bourbon. Perhaps it's because they didn't actually distill this rye??  Reading the description on their site it's quite vague.

This is from their site:
"Dad saw the difficult, temperamental rye grain as a challenge – small, but tricky to work with – and he never backed down from a challenge. So, in 2003, he went big and laid down barrels of a rye whiskey in his favorite rack house – creating the first ever Booker’s Rye Whiskey."
What does "laid down barrels" mean? The wording could mean that they distilled them or sourced them from somewhere else.  The rest of the sentence "of a rye whiskey" seems to imply the latter. If they'd made it, they wouldn't refer to it as "a rye whiskey" they would just say "rye whiskey" right? Ok now we're going crazy with the second guessing and the linguistics. End of the day, there ain't gonna be much of this stuff and it's gonna be crazy pricey! So let's get to the tasting and see if our regrets were justified and we were stupid for not spending a whole month of our Cheetos budget on a bottle of this.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is pretty hot. Getting a lot of alcohol. That's sort of to be expected at 136 proof, but at the same time we've definitely nosed whiskey at this proof that was more mellow. Giving it a few inches of respect and nosing from a distance, we get a heavy candied orange flavor here, wrapped in dark chocolate, lots of oak, and some herbal back notes like mint and tarragon and spicy pepper. It's spirit first, followed by sweets/fruits, then spice.

Palate: Wow we were expecting fire on the tongue but it's super smooth. Very sweet on the palate doubling down on the candied orange rinds, white sugar cubes, and then coming back with the wood and spice at the bottom of the mouth. It's not oily or very viscous, but clean and sweet with a backdrop of nice wood and spices.

Finish: The finish stays strong with a very balanced punch. The very sweet nature of the taste balances out the spirit heat and it all comes together with a short punchy finale. There's extremely little burn for something this high test. We're impressed.


Review

Ok, damn it, this shit is good. Is it "Whiskey of the Year" good? Probably. Are we sad that we didn't plunk down $400 for a bottle? No. Come on folks that's cra-cra. It's one thing if it's a thirty year malt or it's a mothballed distillery that will never be available again. But this is not one of those things. Nonetheless if you love great rye, you have few options right now. Thomas Handy and Sazerac 18 are all but impossible to score. Most of the private barrel stuff is gone. Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye is going for $750 a bottle. So if you're lucky enough to even see one of these at retail and swoop it up without hesitation, we forgive you. But we still can't quite get there. It's delicious but we're going to have to stick with our little sample and cry ourselves to sleep.

Cheers/SB