We Three Kings

It's that time of the year again; the lead up to the Christmas season when I like to do a special whisky offer in a trio. In the past it's been Four Roses barrels (the three gifts of the magi), but for 2017 I'm bringing you three very special barrels using code names to hide their true identities. In order to understand the secret contained inside each very special Sovereign bottle, you have to understand a bit about how the Scotch industry works and what teaspooning means. There’s a long history of barrel trading and brokering between blenders and distilleries in Scotland, and some producers are very protective of their name brand. As you’ve likely noticed, we’ve been able to secure single cask selections from top names like Bowmore, Caol Ila, and Highland Park over the years, and those distilleries allow us to use the name, but others take more drastic measures. By adding a teaspoon of a second single malt whisky into the barrel, the whisky instantly becomes a blended malt rather than a single malt, rendering the labeling of that whisky as a single distillery illegal. Hence, all these whiskies say “Blended Malt” rather than “Single Malt” and we’ve used code names to refer to each edition. Let's look at the first one pictured above:

1997 Hector Macbeth 20 Year Old "K&L Exclusive - Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $99.99 - This 20 year old Hector MacBeth single barrel comes from one of the Grant family's famous Glens and it only takes one sip of this rich, supple, and oak-laden whisky to instantly recognize that classic profile. While the 21 year old distillery version of this whisky will run you $150 or more, this cask strength, single barrel 20 year old release offers a serious bang for your buck proposition in exchange for the anonymity. The initial flavors are oily with vanilla and sweet resin and brandied peaches, moving quickly into concentrated oak, toasted barley, and creme brulee. The finish is dry and spicy and at 56.4% the heat is on! Of the three Sovereign teaspooned casks we have to offer this December, the Hector MacBeth is the darkest, oakiest, and most concentrated of the bunch and when you taste it there's really no doubt about where it was made. You've seen the ubiquitous green tins for the 12 year lining the major liquor stores and airport duty free shelves all over the world, the mark of the deer above the distillery name. This is a 20 year old, single barrel cask strength edition of that classic Highland profile for a cool $99.99. Why the deal? Because of the small teaspoon of a second whisky added into it. I'll take that deal every time, however. I'm guessing at least 200 other fans of the Glen will take the plunge with me.

We have to be very careful revealing the source of this particular barrel as we got in trouble last time around from the distillery who wanted to know where we had tracked it down and how it made its way into our hands! All I can tell you for right now is that it was made by one of the most famous producers in the Speyside and that it tastes every bit as soft, creamy, succulent, and refined as all of the official distillery releases. If you're a classic Highland fan who loves the purity of single malt that tastes like fruit, barley, oak, and spice, then you're going to treasure this bottle. It's simply Scotch whisky perfection without gimmicks, barrel enhancements, or any other unnecessary additions.

1995 John McCrae 22 Year Old "K&L Exclusive - Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Blended Malt Scotch Whisky $99.99 - This round, luscious, soft-textured 22-year-old malt whisky is from Scotland’s Speyside region, made at a very famous distillery renowned for its doublewood expressions and its famed wooden blending vats, sometimes referred to as tuns. While there’s no sherry maturation in this single hogshead, this whisky is grace and elegance defined: golden grains, supple vanilla, richly-textured stone fruit, and generous oak on the finish. Independent casks from this distillery are almost never available, making this John McCrae a true rarity for those in the know.

Those of you who just bought our 24 year old Old Particular cask on pre-order, might also want to have a look at this special 11 year old mystery barrel from "William Hepburn" as both ultimately emanate from the same place. This 11 year old edition is distilled Highland refinement in a bottle. It's gorgeous from front to back, no frills, nothing out of the ordinary, just classic sweet stone fruit, grains, vanilla, oak, and malt flavor at full proof with no water added. The only thing that's been added is a teaspoon of a second malt whisky, rendering this barrel a "blended malt" rather than a single malt. That means 99.99999999% of it is from....William Hepburn....and the other .000000001% is from somewhere else. That's why the price is so good. I'll take the secret deal over the expensive brand name every day of the week.

2006 William Hepburn 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive "Sovereign" Single Barrel Cask Strength Blended Malt Whisky $49.99 - This 11 year old William Hepburn comes from a distillery in the Speyside known for its sherry matured 12 year and 18 year old editions, as well as its Fine Oak collection. While recently offering up a Classic Cut higher proof edition, rarely do we see non-sherried editions of this whisky at full proof. Despite the 56.9% ABV, the renowned elegance of this distillery shines through here with soft stone fruits (pears and nectarines), supple vanilla, and creamy malt flavor highlighted with oak spices on the finish. Highland whisky fans will be thrilled with the bolder, more concentrated edition of a classic profile. Fans of the big Mac will rejoice, snagging a serious discount with this teaspooned edition.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll