Catch Up

Just being out of town for a mere week creates a backload of tasting that needs to be done. It's a rough life being a spirits buyer; with all of these people trying to track you down and pour you booze that they hope you'll eventually sell. Here are some of today's highlights:

Glenmorangie Companta - This year's special release (coming hot on the heels of last year's Ealanta winning "Whisky of the Year" from Jim Murray) is perhaps the best usage of red wine enhancement I've ever tasted in a single malt whisky. Personally, I was never a huge fan of the Bordeaux-aged Bruichladdich or the Syrah-enhanced Murray McDavids. I've not once tasted a Burgundy-matured whisky that tickled my fancy. We tasted some last year at Edradour that simply puzzled me. The new Companta, however, is a marriage of both Clos de Tart Burgundy-aged Glenmorangie, with some unspecific Cote du Rhone-aged casks for good measure. It's really well executed and it's exactly what Glenmorangie fans want and expect from the distillery. The color has a beautiful reddish hue and the nose is brimming with bright cherries. That scared me at first because I didn't want cherry cough syrup in my single malt. The palate, however, turns chewy, cakey, and chocolatey with lots of mocha and spice on the finish. It's not sweet or supple, however. It's rather dry, earthy, and oily on the backend.

There's a lot going on inside that bottle and it doesn't simply taste manipulated or gimmicky. It's a real whisky that tastes like whisky, despite all the extra enhancement. Should be $99.99 and in stock by early next week.

Hakushu Heavily Peated - We've still got a bit of this left. I know consumers are hesitant to throw down a buck fifty for a peated Japanese malt without an age statement, but trust me--this baby delivers. It's a better version of Talisker 18: brighter, livelier, more pronounced smoke and lovely richness.

New El Dorado Single Barrel - I'm not sure that these are single barrel rums, to be honest. What they are, however, are single still rums and if you're familiar with Demerara distillers, that's a pretty exciting thing. I'll go into more detail on these later as they really need a more in-depth explanation. David and I just booked our tickets to Guyana today, actually. We're headed out to South America in a few weeks to visit these stills (along with the boys from Bar Agricole). I have to go get my vaccine for yellow fever next week! When you see what's really happening at El Dorado in Guyana I think these three selections will carry more weight. There's a Coffey still there that was built in the 1800s, made from wood that has only survived due to the humidity. One of these rums comes exclusively from that still.

Midleton continues to expand their selections, releasing more new items into the American retail marketplace. We're expecting the Green Spot and Redbreast 21 whiskies in early February, but right now they're parceling out a bit of the Jameson Black Barrel into key outlets. It's been on the East Coast for a while now, but it's finally showing up out in California. I normally don't carry much from the Jameson portfolio, but this one really stood out to me. It uses both older expressions of Jameson, and a higher percentage of pot still distillate, then recasks them into recharred Bourbon oak. Similar to the Mount Gay rum Black Barrel edition. It adds a richness and a spice on the finish that is often lacking in many other Irish releases, in my opinion. And it's in a liter bottle! Should be $39.99.

I was really excited to taste these. I had heard great things about the Lot 40 Canadian rye whiskey and those good things were confirmed. It has a pure and intense rye flavor, almost crossing over into an Indian spice or cocoa note, with a mouthfeel that remains supple and rich in texture. The Pike Creek finished in Port Wood is no slouch either. These will be welcome additions to a K&L category struggling to find new blood. Lot 40 should be about $59 while the Pike will be $33.

And, yeah, I bought the JP Wiser's too. For $22 why not? It's more like blended Scotch in flavor than rye whiskey, in my opinion, but it's such a value option I figured we should give it a chance. If the Whisky Advocate can afford to hire an entirely new Canadian whiskey columnist, then I can afford to buy a case of $22 Wiser's whiskey.

Look for all of these later in the week.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll