June 19, 2014


So for those of you who still haven't heard the story...  The yearly WhiskeyFest traditionally lands on a Friday night.  This poses a big problem for our beast-loving brothers who happen to be religious Jews.  So a couple of enterprising young men, Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin (who also run the malt society Single Cask Nation) produce an annual alternative on a Tuesday/Wednesday night called Whisky Jewbilee.  We found last year's to be a very nice combination of an intimate setting, good selection of vendors, and tasteful event planning, so we were excited to come back this year.  Here are some of the highlights.

Blend Baby Blend!

Blending Class with David Perkins of High West
Before the festivities commenced in the evening, there was a blending class taught by David Perkins of High West Distillery.  This was a very cool and unique opportunity to try your own hand at blending three different spirits into your own custom product.  The whiskies provided were a 12 year old "light whiskey" (light whiskey aka grain whiskey is 95% corn aged in refill barrels), an 8 year bourbon (75% corn mashbill) and a 6 year rye (95% rye).  Though we hadn't spent much time with light whiskey, David explained that almost all blended whiskies use this ingredient including most Canadian, American, and blended scotch whiskies.  After sampling all of them neat, the light whiskey was very strong, with a sweet jelly bean buttered popcorn thing going on.  The bourbon was sort of a medium body.  The rye was our favorite with a nice char and vanilla notes.  David was very high on the light whiskey and some of the class came up with pretty nice blends using predominantly light.  We ended up with our mix: 40 parts rye, 19 parts bourbon, 1 part light whiskey.  (Not really that much of a blend, but still we dug it).  But it was more the process than the final result and the lesson was that even tiny variations in ratios and ingredients can make a huge difference in the final product.  We left with a new appreciation for the finesse that folks like High West put into blending spirits.

Who are these badasses?
We caught up with David later on at his booth for some High West product.  The Midwinter Night's Dram is their new limited edition port barrel-finished rye whiskey.  It is AWESOME!  Very nice way to start the show indeed.  Here are the details:

"Blend of straight rye whiskeys, finished in port and French oak barrels.  Proof: 98.6 ͦ Mashbill: 6-year old straight rye whiskey: 95% rye and 5% barley malt. The 16-year old straight rye: 80% rye, 10% corn, 10% barley malt."

Midwinter Night's Dram
A lot of big rye warmth, with the maturity of the 16-year shining through and adding depth, but still some very bold spicy flavors.  And the sweetness of the port influence subtle... present but not overpowering.  Really a big surprise how much we dug this one.

New Brand Winner of the Night

Westland Single Malt Whiskey
We'd never heard of these guys before, but their product is definitely worth trying.  Our friend Ari Susskind dragged us over to the booth saying "you have to try this stuff, it's like fresh mint right off the farm."  They're definitely on to something here, it was a very unique flavor with a lot of character.

Un-Peated Malt of the Night

Glengoyne 21-Year
Glengoyne does this "HIghland distilled, Lowland matured" thing and we have to say that their 21-year was a beautiful example of a sweet and clean un-peated malt with a healthy sherry influence.  Lots of cola flavors and berries and sweet stone fruits and chocolates.  This is a "can't go wrong" gift for someone who loves Macallan or Glenlivet and wants to try something a little different.

Bourbon(s) of the Night
Elijah Craig 23 Year
Earlier this year at WhiskyLive, Heaven Hill stole the show in the bourbon category with a private barrel Elijah Craig 18-year and the "devil's proof" Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (66.6%).  Well this time again the Heaven Hill gang came out swinging for the fences with this 23-year Single Barrel and the new release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  Though this show seemed to favor malts over bourbon, the EC23 still bested a pretty healthy lineup of other bourbons and we'd say it was the tastiest at the show.  And again, for price, you just can't beat the wildly good ECBP...

Some folks have been saying that each successive dump of ECBP has been getting worse.  We think this is hooey, they're all very good with only very minor differences.  This newest fifth release at 134.8 proof is a killer bourbon, and absolutely can't be beat in the $50 price range (if you can find it!!).

Beast of the Night

In terms of a palate-crushing smoky beast winner, our friends at Bruichladdich came in super hot with Octomore 6.1.  Peated to a mind-altering 167 ppm, we could smell this tasting table from across the room.  The thing about Octomore is that it's not just a pure smoke bomb, it's really so awesome and drinkable at the same time!

Yo Joe!

Our buddy Joe Gratkowski was absolutely beaming about his new gig at Diageo.  Congrats Joe!  Look at that grin.  We'd be grinning too sitting behind all that beautiful Talisker.

Whisky of the Night!

Laphroaig drew us in with their blatant disregard for Manhattan fire regulations.  They were burning peat and blowing a cloud of peat smoke right there at the booth!  Man it smelled fantastic.  

Peat Smoke
But then the surprise of the night was when they reached into a green rubber boot and pulled out the new Laphroaig PX Cask and An Cuan Mor.

Laphroaig PX, An Cuan Mor

The An Cuan Mor, double matured first in American first-fill oak barrels and then in European oak is very clean and nice.  But as soon as we tasted the PX Cask, we knew this was our winner for the evening.  We've always been huge fans of peated PX malts, and this was no exception.  The sweet dark influence of the Pedro Ximenez sherry married up perfectly with the big phenol-rich smoldering campfire stones of the Laphroaig for a synergistic finish.  Unfortunately this bottle isn't available in the States yet, but look out once it's on the shelves for a real treat!

Another fantastic time all around at the Jewbilee.  Until next time.  /SmokyBeast


  1. Super excited for the Midwinter's. I just absolutely love every whiskey the HW team puts together.

    1. Yeah Chris, it was really really good. We have some good High West's in our collection (some of the original Bourye, the 21 Year, some barrel selection Double Ryes) but this one really topped out. Trying to think if we've ever had port finished straight rye before and coming up blank... For sure it's in a completely different league than the other recent rye barreling experiments like Hudson Maple Cask or Angel's Envy Rum Finish...