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Last updated 4/9/21
15-YEAR SOURCED BOURBONS
They’re everywhere! Of particular interest is the mysterious 78.5% corn, 13% rye, 8.5% malted barley Kentucky mash bill, which no distillery claims and none of its many secondary bottlers names. Most whiskey commentators suspect Jim Beam and Heaven Hill. But we may never know for certain. In any case, why are 15-year sourced bourbons a “fave” for me right now? It’s not just because I like the good things that can happen to a well-aged bourbon when it works out well—namely chocolate notes mixed with rich, complex oak. I’m also fascinated by the phenomenon of so many 15-year releases coming out at once, and the question as to whether this glut may lead to lower prices in the long run. How attention-grabbing will the term “limited release” remain, given the seemingly unlimited number of “limited” releases coming out? Secondary bottlers are charging anything from $150 to $300 for their sourced 15-year releases. But actual sources—George Dickel and Knob Creek, for example—are now also putting out 15-year releases for even as low as $50, so… Time will tell! Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy a glass of one of these:
BENRIACH – THE SMOKY TWELVE
I was given this wee sample of the new BenRiach Smoky Twelve. Being a fan of smoky, peaty scotches, it was a quick bottle kill! The nose is creamy and salty, with a rich caramel and of course the smoky peat—robust yet soft, and only faintly ashy. In the background there’s a bit of plumb and black cherry. On the palate I get the same strong yet soft peat smoke up front, with dark plumb notes, the salinity, and a bit of chocolate. The finish leaves chocolate, brioche, and the inevitable peat smoke. It’s a lovely peated scotch, sweetened by fruit and candy notes. To be honest, I’d take this over the ubiquitous, expensive Lagavulin 16 Year. At 92 proof, the BenRiach packs a bit more of a flavor punch. And though younger than the Lagavulin 16, it’s no less sophisticated—perhaps even more complex. I’d like to try it next to the Lagavulin 8 Year, which I’ve always found livelier than the 16 Year. This BenRiach tastes quite alive, yet relaxed. Easygoing without being boring. I’m a fan!
Established with crowdfunding in 2015 by Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner, Republic Restoratives is a politically engaged Washington D.C. distillery and hub for cocktails and social events. I appreciate their passionate embrace of the socio-political potential of spirits. Despite whiskey’s long and significant history in American and world politics, there are people in the whiskey community who prefer to leave politics at the door when they pour their glass of sunlight. Republic Restoratives welcomes politics in, celebrating them with enthusiasm. They lean proudly left, yet their motto—”Outspoken, Disruptive, American”—is arguably about as all-American as it gets. (See also Borough Bourbon, Madam Whisky and Purpose Rye.)
A foundational fave, of course. But I mention it here now, because, recently in a national bourbon Facebook group I belong to, I commented in someone’s post about how much I covet the Riverset Rye single barrels that are not (yet!) available where I live. I was grateful to have been sent a sample of the standard Riverset Rye release by the distiller, Big River Distilling, and enjoyed it very much. The prospect of a cask strength single barrel was tantalizing to say the least. Anyway, a fellow member of this group, who lives in Tennessee, reached out to me and said she’d be glad to ship me a bottle when a single barrel became available at one of her local shops. Lo and behold, a single barrel did become available and she followed up! And she even did it during a week when she was experiencing an unexpected family emergency. I was so touched by this generosity. It’s been said there are no strangers in whiskey. Strangers helping strangers is a recurring through-line in the whiskey community. When I received the bottle, I uncorked it immediately and toasted my generous fellow whiskey fan and her family.
WHISTLE PIG 10 YEAR SiB
(It’s really 17 years 8 months!)
A handful of these popped up online this past Autumn through K&L in California. The distillery confirmed the dates and though the label still says “aged 10 years” it was actually aged for 17 years and 8 months. I’d had a disappointing experience with a Whistle Pig 15 Year SiB several months ago, due to a rubbery creosote note that I’ve often come across in teenaged Canadian ryes. But as I’ve always had great luck with the Whistle Pig 10 Year line, and given they’re priced well under half what the age-stated 15-year SiBs go for, I bought one anyway. Fearing more rubbery creosote, it was with anticipation of disappointment that I finally uncorked this bottle… And it was great—with a taste profile unlike any Whistle Pig I’d ever had! Tasted blind I would never guess it was Whistle Pig. Lovely, rich, decadent brandy and raisin syrup notes predominate, backed up by cherry, caramel, and rye spices. Wow! I am very curious how this bottle will evolve over time, and you can bet there will be a full post on it before too long. Meanwhile if a store near you happens to get one of these wise-beyond-their-years Whistle Pig “10 Year” SiBs, I say nab it. I can’t guarantee anything, of course. But the gamble may be very worthwhile.
NOTE — Comments are welcome as always! As this pinned post gets updated, comments may be deleted once the Fave they are referencing has itself been deleted.