Schedule / Meeting Notes

Future Dates

September 26, 2018
November 14, 2018
January 30, 2019
March 27, 2019
May 20, 2019

May 30, 2018 (#32)

Theme: Does Kavalan Hold Up?
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Longmorn 16, Kavalan Sherry Oak, Deanston 18, and Exclusive Malt's Glenrothes 20yr.

Longmorn 16yr

Our Rating
B-

Longmorn 16

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $110
A/C: 48%
Code: 2014/08/22

Comments: Discontinued bottling. Non chill filtered.

DEanston 18yr

Our Rating
B-

Deanston 18 Cognac

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $158
A/C: 46.3%

Comments: Finished in cognac casks for six years. Non chill filtered.

Kavalan Sherry Oak

Our Rating
B

Gentleman Jack

Single Malt (Taiwan)
Cost: $148
A/C: 46%
Code: 2016/04/11

Comments: Matured in Oloroso sherry casks.

Glenrothes 20yr

Our Rating
A-

Glenrothes 20yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 54.4%
D: Oct 21, 1996
285 bottles
Cask: 14

Comments: Bottled by the Creative Whisky Company. Refill sherry Hogshead.


March 21, 2018 (#31)

Theme: 1st Annual Bourbon Battle
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Jim Beam Distiller's Cut, Evan Williams, Gentleman Jack, Early Times, Knob Creek, Four Roses, Old Forester, Evan Williams Single Barrel, J.T.S. Brown, Basil Hayden's, Wild Turkey 101 and John B. Stetson.

Jim Beam Distiller's Cut

Our Rating
B-

Jim Beam Distiller's Cut

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $20
A/C: 50%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Aged 5-6 years

Evan Williams

Our Rating
C+

Evan Williams Bourbon

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $14
A/C: 43%
1 Liter

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Gentleman Jack

Our Rating
B-

Gentleman Jack

Tenessee Whiskey
Cost: $30
A/C: 40%

Comments: Double Mellowed Tennessee Whiskey

Early Times

Our Rating
B

Early Times

Kentucky Whiskey
Cost: $14
A/C: 40%
1 Liter

Comments: Kentucky Whiskey

Knob Creek

Our Rating
B+

Knob Creek

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $27
A/C: 50%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Aged nine years.

Four Roses

Our Rating
C-

Four Roses

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $18
A/C: 40%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Old Forester

Our Rating
C

Old Forester

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $22
A/C: 43%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Our Rating
C+

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $25
A/C: 43.3%
Barreled: 11-4-09
Barrel #: 507
Bottled: 3-1-17

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

J.T.S. Brown

Our Rating
D

J.T.S. Brown

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $10
A/C: 40%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. 36 mo. matured

Basil Hayden's

Our Rating
C

Basil Hayden's

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $35
A/C: 40%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wild Turkey 101

Our Rating
B+

Wild Turkey 101

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $22
A/C: 50.5%
Barrel Char #4

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

John B. Stetson

Our Rating
D

John B Stetson

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $17
A/C: 42%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey


January 31, 2018 (#30)

Theme: A bag of 15 year olds
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Glenlivet 15yr, Highland Park 15yr, Highland Park 15 year (Exclusive Malts), and Burns Malt (Arran) 15Yr.

Glenlivet 15yr

Our Rating
B

Glenlivet 15yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $70
A/C: 40%

Comments: Tasted blind.

Highland Park 15yr

Our Rating
B

Highland Park 15yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $85
A/C: 43%

Comments: Discontinued and will be phased out as stocks deplete.

Exclusive Malts
Highland Park 15yr

Our Rating
A-

Highland Park 15yr 2002

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $85
A/C: 56.7%
Distilled: June 6, 2002
Bottles: 695
Refill Butt
Cask: 1

Comments: Bottle states "Distilled in Orkney".

Burns Malt (Arran) 15Yr

Our Rating
B+

Arran 15 Burns Malt

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $85
A/C: 51.4%
Distilled: Nov 15, 2001
Bottled: Dec 7, 2016
Cask: 757

Comments: Bottled by the Whisky Barrel.


November 15, 2017 (#29)

Theme: Glen Garioch and more
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Glen Garioch 8yr (2007ish), Berry Bros. & Rudd Glen Garioch 24yr, Oban 18 (tasted blind), and The Old Malt Cask Tormore 28yr.

Glen Garioch 8yr

Our Rating
B

Glen Garioch 8yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $30
A/C: 40%

Comments: Discontinued around 2007.

Glen Garioch 24yr

Our Rating
B+

Glen Garioch 24yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $120
A/C: 46%
Cask: 3059
Distilled: 1992
Bottled: 2017

Comments: Bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd

Oban 18yr

Our Rating
B+

Oban 18yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $105
A/C: 46%

Comments: Tasted Blind

Tormore 28yr

Our Rating
A-

Tormore 28yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $140
A/C: 50%
One of 398 bottles
Cask: HL13189

Comments: Bottled by Hunter Lang & Company's Old Malt Cask


September 27, 2017 (#28)

Theme: Off the Beaten Path Bourbons
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Calumet Farm Single Barrel (Liquor Barn #4), Lock Stock & Barrel 13yr Double Pot Still Straight Rye Whiskey, I.W. Harper 15yr Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon (Bottled in Bond).

Lock Stock & Barrel 13yr

Our Rating
B+

Lock Stock & Barrel 13yr

Straight Rye
Cost: $120
A/C: 50.65%

Comments: Legally straight rye has to be at least 51% rye but this one is 100%.

Calumet Farm Single Barrel

Our Rating
B-

Calumet Farm Single Barrel

Bourbon
Cost: $55
A/C: 43%

Comments: Bottled by Western Spirits (Bird Dog flavored whiskey). Made from corn, rye and malted barley from an unknown distillery(s).

I.W. Harper 15yr

Our Rating
B

I.W. Harper 15yr

Kentucky Straight
Cost: $75
A/C: 43%

Comments: Product of Diageo.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

Our Rating
A-

Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

Bottled in Bond
Cost: $95
A/C: 50%

Comments:


May 31, 2017 (#27)

Theme: 18 Years
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Glenfiddich 18, Signatory Dufftown 18, Hepburn's Choice Royal Brackla 18, Springbank 18 and Ardbeg 1977.

Signatory's Dufftown 18Yr

Our Rating
B

Royal Brackla 18yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $75
A/C: 54.8%
D: 12-9-1997
B: 09-08-16
Cask: 1954
Bottles: 170

Comments: Hogshead

Hepburn's Choice Royal Brackla 18Yr

Our Rating
B+

Royal Brackla 18yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $75
A/C: 55.1%

Comments: Bourbon Barrel

Springbank 18yr

Our Rating
A-

Springbank 18yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $160
A/C: 46%

Comments:

Ardbeg 1977

Our Rating
B+

Ardbeg 1977

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $1200
A/C: 46%
Bottles: 2400

Comments: A gift from malt mate Ryan! Thank you!

Glenfiddich 18Yr

Our Rating
B

Glenfiddich 18

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $90
Batch: 3152
A/C: 43%

Comments: Mix of Spanish Oloroso wood and American oak in small batches of no more than 150 casks.


March 29, 2017 (#26)

Theme: Aberlour and a blind date
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Aberlour 16, Cadenhead's Aberlour 24yr, Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #55, and Cragganmore 12 (Tasted blind).

Aberlour 16Yr

Our Rating
B-

Macallan Amber

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $80
A/C: 40%

Comments: Mix of bourbon and sherry casks.

Cragganmore 12yr

Our Rating
B-

Cragganmore 12

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $60
A/C: 40%

Comments: Sherry Oak Casks.

Cadenhead's Aberlour 24yr

Our Rating
B+

Aberlour 24yr Cadenhead's

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $125
A/C: 51.4%
Bottles: 540

Comments: Bourbon Hogsheads. Distilled in 1990. Bottled in 2016.

Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #55

Our Rating
A-

Aberlour A'bunadh Batch 55

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $85
A/C: 60.9%

Comments: Spanish Oloroso Sherry Casks. Bottled in 2016.


January 25, 2017 (#25)

Theme: The importance of cask selection… and marketing?
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 7:30pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Macallan Amber, Macallan 12yr, Macallan Whisky Maker's, and Macallan Edition No2.

Macallan Amber

Our Rating
C+

Macallan Amber

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $72
A/C: 40%

Comments: Part of the 1824 Series. Sherry Oak Casks from Jerez

Macallan 12yr

Our Rating
B+

Macallan 12

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $55
A/C: 43%

Comments: Sherry Oak Casks.

Macallan Whisky Maker's

Our Rating
B

Macallan Whisky Maker's

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $88
A/C: 42.8%

Comments: Part of the The 1824 Collection. "Natural Color" box.

Macallan Edition No.2

Our Rating
B+

Macallan Edition No. 2

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 48.2%

Comments: Matured in sherry butts and refill hogsheads (Wine).

Great Lakes Distillery Repeal Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey 5Yr

Our Rating
B

Repeal Reserve Rye

Whiskey
Cost: $42
A/C: 45.0%
Bottle: _ of 500
Distilled: 2010
Bottled: 2015

Comments: 92% Rye


November 16, 2016 (#24)

Theme: High West Distillery Versus Maker's Mark
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 8pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Maker's Mark, High West Bourye, High West American Prairie, and High West Campfire.

Maker's Mark

Our Rating
B-

Maker's Mark

Bourbon
Cost: $30
A/C: 45%

Comments: Maker's Mark is unusual in that no rye is used as part of the mash.

Menomonee Valley 7yr

Our Rating
B

Menomonee Valley 7yr

Straight Bourbon
Cost: $30
A/C: 45%
1 of 1010 bottles

Comments: Limited release. Aged in 53 gallon barrels. 52% corn, 30% rye, 6% wheat and 12% malted barley.

High West American Prairie

Our Rating
B-

High West American Prairie

Bourbon
Cost: $40
A/C: 46%
Batch: 15L16

Comments: A mix of straight bourbons from 2 to 13 years old. Non Chill Filtered or Carbon Treated.

High west Bourye

Our Rating
B+

High West Bourye

Rye Bourbon
Cost: $85
A/C: 46%
Batch: 16A12

Comments: Limited Release: A mix of straight bourbon and straight rye from 9 to 17 years old. Non Chill Filtered or Carbon Treated.

High West Campfire

Our Rating
B+

High West Campfire

Whiskey
Cost: $65
A/C: 46%
Batch: 16B24
Bottle: 4357

Comments: A mix of straight bourbon, straight rye, and blended (peated) single malt scotch. Non Chill Filtered or Carbon Treated.


August 3, 2016 (#23)

Theme: Balvenie
Location: The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel
Notes: There were about 30 people in attendance and we tasted the Balvenie Double Wood 12 year, the Caribbean Cask 14 year, the Balvenie Double Wood 17 year, and the Balvenie Port Wood 21yr. Members Doug, Kevin, Harold, Ryan, Steve, Dale, Stan, Chris, Ivor, Matt, and Dudley were in attendance.


September 28, 2016 (#22)

Themes: Two Canadian Whiskeys and two Tamdhu
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 8pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels 14yr, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, Tamdhu 10yr, and Cadenhead's 1991Tamdhu 24yr.

J.P Wiser's
Last Barrel 14yr

Our Rating
B

J.P. Wiser's Last Barrels

Canadian Whiskey
Cost: $60
A/C: 45%
Distilled: 2001
Bottled: 2016
Bottles: 12,000

Comments: Ex-Bourbon Barrels, (Only available in Canada)

Crown Royal Northern
Harvest Rye

Our Rating
B

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Canadian Whiskey
Cost: $30
A/C: 40%

Comments: Tasted blind. Some of the club members brought up this bottle in conversation before we tasted it blind but none of them were able to identify this bottle. One member correctly stated it was Canadian Rye whiskey.

tamdhu 10 Yr

Our Rating
B+

Tamdhu 10 Year

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $60
A/C: 43%
Natural Color

Comments: The club liked the 10yr slightly more than the 24 year we tasted next.

Cadenhead's Tamdhu 24Yr

Our Rating
B+

Benriach 15yr Cask Strength

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $110
A/C: 54.4%
Distilled: 1991
2 Bourbon Hogsheads
Bottles: 486

Comments:


August 3, 2016 (#21)

Theme: Balvenie
Location: The Kimpton Journeyman Hotel
Notes: There were about 30 people in attendance and we tasted the Balvenie Double Wood 12 year, the Caribbean Cask 14 year, the Balvenie Double Wood 17 year, and the Balvenie Port Wood 21yr. Members Doug, Kevin, Harold, Ryan, Steve, Dale, Stan, Chris, Ivor, Matt, and Dudley were in attendance.


May 25, 2016 (#20)

Theme: Speyside Peat
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 8pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Ardmore Traditional, Benromach Peat Smoke (Distilled in 2005 / Bottled in 2014), Benriach Septendecim 17yr, and Benriach 15yr Pedro Ximénez.

Ardmore Traditional

Our Rating
B

Ardmore Traditional

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $40
A/C: 46%

Comments: This 46% version was discontinued in 2014. Slightly peated at 12-14 ppm.

Benromach Peat Smoke 9Yr

Our Rating
B-

Benromach Peat Smoke 2005

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $64
D: 2005
B: 2014
A/C: 46%

Comments: Barley was malted with high levels of peat smoke at 67ppm. First fill bourbon barrel.

Benriach Septendecim 17Yr

Our Rating
B

Benriach Septendecim 17yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $80
A/C: 46%
Bottled: 2013/10/22

Comments: Heavily peated and matured in ex-bourbon casks. 35ppm. Natural color. Unchill filtered.

Benriach Pedro Ximenez 15yr

Our Rating
B+

Benriach 15yr Cask Strength

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 46%
Bottled: 2013/09/19

Comments: Pedro Ximénez (also known as PX) is the name of a white Spanish wine grape variety grown in several Spanish wine regions but most notably in the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Montilla-Moriles. It is used to produce an intensely sweet, dessert like, dark sherry wine. Natural color. Unchill filtered. This is the first bottle the club finished the day it was opened.


April 27, 2016 (#19)

Theme: Door County Distillery
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Time: 8pm Sharp
Notes: Tasting Door County Brandy, Door County Distillery Gin, Door County Distillery Barrel Finish Gin, and Door County Distillery Single Malt Whiskey.

The Door County Distillery uses an artisanal copper pot still and a natural water source that contains natural limestone and mineral notes from the Door Peninsula. Their spirits are typically made in small batches.

Door County Distillery Whiskey

Our Rating
B-

Door County Single Malt Whiskey

Whiskey
Cost: $25
375ml
A/C: 40%

Comments: Door County Whisky is made in small batches and incorporates mash from Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor. This single-malt whisky is aged in American oak and is 100% Door County.

Door County Distillery Brandy

Our Rating
B

Door County Brandy

Brandy
Cost: $35
A/C: 40%

Comments: Just Released! A special small batch comes to your cocktails. Using Door Peninsula Winery grape wines, we've double-distilled this batch and aged it in French Oak. Distinctive and smooth, this Brandy has a generous fruit character that is always in balance; blended from various barrel lots to achieve our special craft approach.

Door County
Distillery Gin

Our Rating
B-

Door County Gin

Gin
Cost: $25
A/C: 47%

Comments: Door County Gin uses local, fresh filtered, limestone-infused waters, imbued with citrus, juniper berry and eight distinct botanicals.

Door County Distillery
Barrel Finish Gin

Our Rating
B

Door County Gin

Gin
Cost: $25
A/C: 47%

Comments: Door County Gin uses local, fresh filtered, limestone-infused waters, imbued with citrus, juniper berry and eight distinct botanicals.

Rehorst Gin

Our Rating
B-

Rehorst Gin

Gin
Cost: $35
A/C: 44%

Comments: Great Lakes Distillery Gin

Rehorst Barrel Finish Gin

Our Rating
B

Rehorst Barrel Gin

Gin
Cost: $35
A/C: 47%

Comments: Great Lakes Distillery Gin


March 30, 2016 (#18)

Theme: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Notes: Noah's Mill, Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Batch 1417 (Tasted blind), Willett Family Estate 12 Year barrel 1574, Great Lakes Distillery Repeal Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey 5 Year, and Jefferson's Ocean Voyage #4.

Noah's Mill

Our Rating
B

Noah's Mill

Bourbon
Cost: $45
Batch QBC N°
A/C: 57.15%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Jefferson's Ocean Voyage #4

Our Rating
B-

Jefferson's Ocean

Bourbon
Cost: $85
Batch: 004
A/C: 45%

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Willett Family Estate 12Yr

Our Rating
B

Willet Family Estate

Bourbon
Cost: $125
A/C: 60.5%
Barrel #1574
Bottle 106 of 127

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Woodford Reserve

Our Rating
C+

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select

Bourbon
Cost: $42
A/C: 45.2%
Batch: 1417
Bottle 2961

Comments: Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Tasted blind.

Great Lakes Distillery Repeal Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey 5Yr

Our Rating
B

Repeal Reserve

Whiskey
Cost: $42
A/C: 45.0%
Bottle: 419 of 500
Distilled: 12-5-2009
Bottled: 12-5-2014

Comments: 92% Rye


January 27, 2016 (#17)

Theme: Long Gone Distilleries?
Location: Wauwatosa
Notes: Tasting 1996 Glen Keith 19 Year by Exclusive Malts, Littlemill 12 Year, and Imperial 19 Year by Signatory.

Distilleries in Scotland have been known to close (mothballed, become silent) for various reasons since they began producing whisky over 200 years ago. Some are the victims of the economy (Port Ellen, Dallas Dhu, North Port, Brora, etc) and others have been destroyed by fire (Littlemill) or were too costly to upgrade (Imperial). If they do close, sometimes their spirit becomes in high demand and prices soar exponentially (Brora, Port Ellen).

Littlemill is a Lowland distillery and after struggling for a decade they closed in 1996. Eventually, its buildings were destroyed by a fire in 2004. Unlike other closed distilleries, Littlemill has not gained the attention of many scotch enthusiasts due to variable quality.

Although Imperial was demolished in 2013 it was mothballed shortly after last producing spirit in 1995. About a year ago a new distillery named Dalmunach began producing spirit at the same location. Imperial bottlings from 1995 tend to rate really well. Could this be the next distillery to have its prices soar?

Glen Keith was mothballed in 1999 and after fourteen years began distilling again in 2013.

Littlemill 12Yr

Our Rating
C+

Littlemill 12 year

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $65
A/C: 43%

Comments:

Signatory Imperial 19Yr

Our Rating
B

Highland Park Dark Origins

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $95
A/C: 46%
Non-Chill Filtered
Distilled: 08-21-1995
Bottled: 03-17-2015
Cask 50185
Hogshead

Comments: Bottled by Signatory

Exclusive Malts
Glen Keith 19Yr

Our Rating
A

Arran Devil's PUnchbowl III

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $120
A/C: 50.1%
Non-Chill Filtered
Distilled: 03-26-96
Bottled: July 2015
248 Bottles
Cask: 8115

Comments: Bottled by the Creative Whisky Company under their Exclusive Malts line.


November 18, 2015 (#16)

Theme: The Darkness
Location: Waterford Wine Co. / 1327 E. Brady St  / Milwaukee, WI 53202 / 414-289-9463
Notes: Tasting Bruichladdich Black Art 03.1, Arran Devil's Punchbowl III: the Fiendish Finale, and Highland Park Dark Origins.

Bruichladdich closed in 1994 and didn’t begin distillation again until at least the summer of 2001 (under new ownership). Jim McEwan, who had worked at Bowmore Distillery since the age of 15, was hired as master distiller and production director. He recently retired in July 2015.

Vatting many different cask types together is very common. The Bruichladdich and Arran are unique in that they both disclose bottling information that is normally not included. In the case of Arran Devil's Punchbowl III, the Fiendish Finale, the box lists cask numbers.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 3.1

Our Rating
B+

Bruichladdich Black Arts 3.1

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $280
A/C: 48.7%
Non-Chill Filtered
Distilled: 1989
Bottled: April 9th, 2012
12000 Bottles

Comments: Bourbon / American Oak + Premium Wine Casks.

Highland Park Dark Origins

Our Rating
B

Highland Park Dark Origins

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $75
A/C: 46.8%
Non-Chill Filtered
Bottled: 2014

Comments: 1st & Refill Sherry Casks

Arran Devil's Punchbowl III

Our Rating
B+

Arran Devil's PUnchbowl III

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $120
A/C: 53.4%
Non-Chill Filtered
6660 Bottles
Bottled 2014

Comments: Vatting of 8 Sherry butts, 8 French oak casks, and 5 bourbon barrels.


September 30, 2015 (#15)

Theme: Glenmorangie and Ardbeg
Location: Mike's house / Grafton
Notes: Representative Dan Crowell will be with out group to go over lineups for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. We officially tasted Glenmorangie Tùsail, Glenmorangie 18yr, Glenmorangie 25yr, Glenmorangie Signet, Ardbeg Perpetuum, and Ardbeg Corryvreckan.

Glenmorangie representative Dan Crowell will be on site to talk about Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. Glenmorangie is categorized as a Highland distillery and boasts the tallest stills in Scotland. It is available in Original, 18, and 25 year old bottlings, special cask bottlings, cask finishes, extra matured bottlings, and a range of special edition bottlings. The Glenmorangie Company also owns the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay.

Ardbeg whisky is considered to be among the peatiest in the world, with most expressions using malt with a phenol content of 55ppm. Other than Ardbeg 10, most other bottlings do not carry an age statement.

Unlike other distilleries, distillate produced at Ardbeg and Glenmorangie is bottled as single malt and cannot be found in blends.

Glenmorangie 18yr

Our Rating
B+

Glenmorangie 18

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $120
A/C: 43%

Comments:

Glenmorangie 25Yr

Our Rating
A-

Glenmorangie 25yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $600
A/C: 43%

Comments:

Glenmorangie Tùsail

Our Rating
B

Glenmorangie Tusail

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 46%
Bottled: 2014

Comments: We also got the change to smell and taste the barley used for the distillation of this spirit.

Glenmorangie Signet

Our Rating
A-

Glenmorangie Signet

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $210
A/C: 46%

Comments: We also got the change to smell and taste the barley used for the distillation of this spirit.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Our Rating
B+

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $80
A/C: 57.1%

Comments: We also got the change to smell and taste the barley used for the distillation of this spirit.

Ardbeg Perpetuum

Our Rating
B+

Ardbeg Perpetuum

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 47.4%
Bottled: 2015

Comments:


August 12, 2015 (#14)

Theme: Irish Whiskey
Location: Austin's House / Brookfield
Notes: Representative Marcus Yarrow was on site to discuss 5 Irish whiskies from Beam Suntory; 2 Gingers, Kilbeggan, Greenore 8 single grain, Tyrconnell, and Connemara Peated.

Irish whiskey lost much of its market share in the late 1800’s, but recently has been steadily gaining in popularity. It is currently the fastest growing spirit at roughly 20% per annum, prompting the construction and expansion of a number of distilleries. Ireland has about seven in current operation but most are young and do not have products on the market with any significant age statement.

To be an Irish whiskey, spirit must be distilled and aged on the island of Ireland with an alcohol by volume level of less than 94.8% from a yeast-fermented mash of cereal grains in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used. It also must be aged for at least three years in wooden casks of a capacity not exceeding 185 US gallons. If it is comprised of a blend of two or more such distillates, the product is referred to as a "blended" Irish whiskey.

There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland such as "single pot still", "single malt", "single grain", and "blended". In contrast to Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey regulations do not actually contain a definition of those terms or specific rules governing their production. As a result, product requirements can be up to interpretation.

2Gingers

Our Rating
B-

2 Gingers

Irish Blend
Cost: $18
A/C: 40%

Comments: 4 Year

Greenore 8Yr

Our Rating
C+

Greenore 8

Irish Single Grain
Cost: $50
A/C: 40%

Comments:

kilbeggan

Our Rating
B-

Glenmorangie Tusail

Irish Blend
Cost: $22
A/C: 40%

Comments:

Tyrconnell

Our Rating
B-

Tyrconnell

Irish Single Malt
Cost: $35
A/C: 40%

Comments:

Connemara Peated

Our Rating
B+

Connemara Peated

Irish Single Malt
Cost: $45
A/C: 40%

Comments:


May 27, 2015 (#13)

Theme: Gordon and MacPhail
Location: Austin's House / Brookfield
Notes: Featuring Glenburgie 21 at 43%. Old Pulteney 21 at 46%, and a bottle of Benromach Cask Strength Distilled on March 5th, 2001 (casks 87-91, 93, and 94).

Benromach is a Speyside distillery founded in 1898 and currently owned and run by Gordon and MacPhail (an independent bottler). They took over the site in 1993 and by 1997 they restored the distillery to working order. The distillery officially reopened in 1998 and bottled their first new malt in 2004. With their current set up, one man can operate their whisky production process but they plan on expanding production and hiring an additional distiller. At the World Whisky Awards 2014, Benromach 10 Years Old won gold in the "Best Speyside Single Malt – 12 Years and Under" category.

Glenburgie, also a Speyside distillery, is a neighbor of Benromach. Most of Glenburgie whisky is used for blends like Ballantine's but Gordon and MacPhail have released official bottlings for them, mainly a 10, 15, and 21 year.

Old Pulteney is a Highland distillery located on the North end of Scotland. Finding official bottlings in America is fairly easy and their lineup is quite extensive (12yr, 17yr, 21yr, plus other limited edition series). Coincidently Old Pulteney can also be found in Ballantine's blended whisky.

Gordon and MacPhail
Glenburgie 21yr

Our Rating
B+

Glenburgie 21

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $150
A/C: 43%
Bottled: 2014
Code: 17/02/14 AD/JABJ

Comments:

Gordon and MacPhail
Old Pulteney 21 yr

Our Rating
A-

Old Pulteney 21

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $140
A/C: 46%
Bottled: 2014
Code: 17/02/14 AD/JAAI

Comments:

Benromach 2001 Cask Strength

Our Rating
A-

Benromach 2001 Cask Strength

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $100
A/C: 59.9%
Casks: 87-91, 93, 94
Distilled: 5 March, 2001
Bottled: 20 Sept, 2010
Code: AJ/ABCH

Comments:


May 6, 2015 (#12)

Theme: Glenfiddich
Location: Iron Horse Hotel
There were about 30 friends of WhiskyHead in attendance and we tasted the Original 1963, 15 year Solera Reserve, 21 year Gran Reserva (batch 32), 26 year Excellence, and a special bottling of Glenfiddich 15 year in new oak at cask strength (58.7%) from David's secret stash. Members Doug, Austin, Ray, Sean, and Ryan were in attendance.


April 29, 2015 (#11)

Theme: New Holland Artisan Spirits
Location: John's House
Notes: Midwest Spirit Ambassador Bethany Panoff presented two bottles donated from New Holland Brewing. "Double Down Barley" and "Zeppelin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey" expressions. We also tasted New Holland Brewing's Dragon's Milk.

New Holland Brewing Company was established in 1996, is located in Holland, Michigan, and operates a microbrewery, distillery, restaurant, and pub in the downtown area. The company's beers are currently distributed in 29 states (including Wisconsin) and offer many standard, seasonal, and experimental varieties. They began distilling whiskey, rum, and gin in 2005; releasing their first bottle in 2008. They are true craft distillers and clearly state what grain a spirit is made of, how it is aged, and if it went through any filtering process. Bravo! They even source local ingredients as much as possible to support their community. Recently on February 16, 2015, whiskies Zeppelin Bend won a Gold Award from the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) in Austin, Texas, and Double Down Barley won a Bronze. Read More

They pride themselves as one of the regional players that helped to change laws in Michigan for artisan/craft spirits and beer. Thanks to entrepreneurs like them, craft brewing (whiskey included) is in a Renaissance of sorts and is steadily gaining popularity. But buyer beware! Unlike New Holland, many new distilleries are actually purchasing whiskey from a large corporate source and bottling it with their own label. When this occurs they rarely advertise this to the consumer. Further, many very large corporate companies are stating their whiskey is craft (or handmade) when in actuality it is produced with a process that should be described as heavily automated and mass produced.

Currently, they are building a pub in Grand Rapids, Michigan (will open in 2016) which will have a strong focus on small batch whiskeys. All their locations encourage people to "Stop&Taste", to focus on slowing down, and remind people to turn off their phones for a second to enjoy and appreciate what they are drinking.

New Holland Brewing
Zeppelin Bend

Our Rating
B+

Zeppelin Bend Whiskey

American Malt Whiskey
Cost: $50
A/C: 45%

Comments: 100% malted barley fermented in-house. Twice distilled, matured in 53-gallon American oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years, and non-chill filtered. This bottle was gifted to WhiskyHead by New Holland Brewing Ambassador Bethany Panoff. Thank you!

New Holland Brewing
Double Down Barley

Our Rating
B+

Double Down Barley

American Malt Whiskey
Cost: $35
A/C: 45%

Comments: 100% malted barley, fermented in-house. Twice distilled, matured in 25-gallon American oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months, and non-chill filtered. This bottle was gifted to WhiskyHead by New Holland Brewing Ambassador Bethany Panoff. Thank you!

This rating was almost a B.

Dragon's Milk - Stout

Our Rating
A-

Zeppelin Bend Whiskey

Bourbon Barrel Beer
Cost: $8
A/C: 11%

Comments: Aged 90+ Days in oak bourbon barrels.


March 25, 2015 (#10)

Theme: Clynelish
Location: Ryan's House
Notes: Two Gordon and MacPhail Clynelish bottles distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2004 and 2007. Tasted along side Compass Box's Spice Tree, a blend that has a majority content of Clynelish.

Clynelish was built in 1968 next to the original Clynelish distillery which was then closed. Oddly, due to a shortage of Islay whisky, the original distillery reopened as Brora and produced a heavily peated whisky until 1983. Today, Brora whisky is highly sought after and is becoming increasingly rare. Diageo owns Clynelish and most distillate goes to Johnnie Walker blends such as their Gold Label Reserve. When the new Clynelish distillery was being built, they were very careful to copy stills from the original distillery. Even though this is true, Clynelish is often described as being lighter in character when compared in Brora (which used barley that had more peat). Read More

Compass Box is a small producer, bottler and marketer of a range of blended Scotch whiskies and was founded in 2000 by American John Glaser (a former marketing director at Johnnie Walker). He sources most whiskies from Ardmore, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Dailuaine, Glen Elgin, Laphroaig, and Teaninich along with grain whiskies from Cameronbridge and Cambus. The selected whiskies are then blended together and matured to his specifications. Unlike many other blenders, Compass Box typically describes which whiskies are used, uses a non-filtration process, and doesn’t add coloring.

The Spice Tree was first released in 2005 and caused considerable controversy because French oak inner staves were used for maturation. The Scotch Whisky Association felt the use of inner staves did not follow current Scotch whisky laws and threatened legal action. In response, Compass Box altered the production process for subsequent releases and switched toasted French oak heads instead.

Gordon and MacPhail
Clynelish 10yr

Our Rating
C

Clynelish 10 Year

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $80
A/C: 43%
Distilled: 1993
Bottled: 2004

Comments: This bottle was gifted to WhiskyHead by Gordon and Macphail Ambassador Chris Riesbeck. Thank you!

Kevin - Perfumey mouth feel in the middle surrounded by soft smooth vanilla.

Gordon and MacPhail
Clynelish13 yr

Our Rating
C+

Clynelish 13yr

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $95
A/C: 43%
Distilled: 1993
Bottled: 2007

Comments: This bottle was gifted to WhiskyHead by Gordon and Macphail Ambassador Chris Riesbeck. Thank you!

Kevin - Perfumey mouth feel again, but it's not as strong as the 10y. Slightly less metallic and perfumey flavors. Burnt sugars late.

Compass Box spice tree

Our Rating
B-

Clynelish 14 Year

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $60
A/C: 46%

Comments: Malt whiskies from the villages of Brora (Clynelish), Carron (Dailuaine), and Alness (Dalmore &/or Teaninich).

Kevin - Palate is good, while the nose and finish are lacking. The metallic aspects of the Clynelish component is tempered nicely by the spiciness of the French oak.


January 28, 2015 (#9)

Theme: Balvenie and Glenlossie
Location: Austin's House / Brookfield
Notes: Balvenie PortWood 21 year, the Balvenie 15yr single barrel (cask number 16255), and Glenlossie 29 bottled by Gordon and MacPhail.

Balvenie is a well marketed, large single malt distillery from the Speyside region of Scotland and has been releasing official bottlings since 1973. Their current range is rather extensive and includes malts from 12 to 40 years of age. Independent bottlings are pretty rare and if you see one it will most likely be called Burnside (see WhiskyHead review for a 24yr we tried in May, 2014).

Glenlossie is half the size of Balvenie (whisky output wise) and owned by Diageo which means it is most likely a component in blends such as Johnnie Walker and White Horse. The spirit is a good example of the sweeter Speyside style and is said to be sought after by blenders for its quality. Even though it is a smaller distillery its warehouse is rather large and stores 200,000 casks of spirit from many different Diageo distilleries.

Balvenie 15Yr Single Barrel

Our Rating
B+

Balvenie 15yr Sherry Cask

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $110
A/C: 47.8%
Bottle: #555
Cask: 16255

Comments: This sherry cask bottling was gifted to WhiskyHead by Balvenie Ambassador Jonathan Wingo. Thank you!

Kevin - I'd had a different cask expression previously, and found it to be overly sherried. This one was much better. It was fruitier than expected. It had a bitter edge to the sherry, but that didn't detract much.

Balvenie 21yr Portwood

Our Rating
A-

Balvenie 21yr Portwood

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $210
A/C: 43%

Comments: Aged exclusively in portwood casks.

Gordon and MacPhail
Glenlossie 29Yr

Our Rating
B+

Glenlossie 29

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $225
A/C: 46%
Distilled: 1978
Bottled: 2007

Comments: This bottle was gifted to WhiskyHead by Gordon and MacPhail Ambassador Chris Riesbeck. Thank you!

Kevin - A healthy burn that goes on for a long time. A slight metallic taste and feel, particularly on the finish. Still very good. Reminiscent of a Balvenie.


November 19, 2014 (#8)

Theme: Japanese Whisky II (Suntory and others)
Location: Jeff's House / Milwaukee
Notes: Hakushu 12yr, 43%, Hibiki 17yr blend, 43%, Yamazaki 12yr, 43%, and Ichiro's Malt blend, 46%.

Suntory is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages companies in Japan and has diversified themselves to offer many other ventures including soft drinks and sandwich chains (Subway Japan). Whisky product lines include Auchentoshan, Bowmore, Glen Garioch, McClelland's, Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki. Through Beam Suntory, products such as Jim Beam, Makers Mark, Knob Creek, Laphroaig, Ardmore, Courvoisier (cognac), Cruzan (rum), Starbucks Liqueurs, and many more are part of the lineup.

Suntory owns several Japanese distilleries. Read More

Yamazaki (established 1923), is their most celebrated and was Japan's first commercial whisky distillery. The Hakushu distillery is named after the former town of Hakushū (now part of Hokuto) and was established fifty years later in 1973.

The Hibiki ("resonance" in Japanese) is marketed as a high-end blended whisky aged in Umeshu casks (a Japanese liqueur made from steeping still unripe and green ume fruits in alcohol and sugar).

The Chichibu distillery is the first new Japanese distillery since 1973. It was founded in 2004 by Ichiro Akuto and started production in 2008. Their product line includes the Ichiro's Malt.

Hakushu 12Yr

Our Rating
B-

Hakushu 12 Year

Japanese Single Malt
Cost: $60
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Hibiki 17yr

Our Rating
A-

Hibiki 17 Year

Japanese Blended Malt
Cost: $130
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Yamazaki 12Yr

Our Rating
B

Yamazaki 12 Year

Japanese Single Malt
Cost: $55
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled 3 50ml bottles purchased in Japan.

Chichibu Ichiro's Malt

Our Rating
C+

Ichiro's Malt

Japanese Blended Malt
Cost: $60
A/C: 46%

Comments: We sampled a 200ml bottle purchased in Japan. The blend is mixed from the Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries.

Kevin - It comes on like candy, on both the nose and the palate, but it turns rough, like a young spirit. It starts great, but goes downhill. Keep drinking, and it stays good.


October 2, 2014 (#7)

Theme: Balvenie
Location: Milwaukee Art Museum
Notes: There were about 40 people in attendance and we tasted the Balvenie Double Wood 12 year, the Caribbean Cask 14 year, the Balvenie Double Wood 17 year, and the Balvenie Port Wood 21yr. Members Doug, Jon, Joe, Austin, Sean, Josh, and Ray were in attendance.


September 17, 2014 (#6)

Theme: Japanese Whisky I (Nikka)
Location: Sean's House / Milwaukee
Notes: Five whiskies from Nikka / 10yr Miyagikyo, 10yr Yoichi Distillery, Pure Malt, 17yr Pure Malt and the 21yr Pure Malt.

Nikka is actually a parent company and they have seven facilities scattered through Japan. Yoichi in the North and Miyagikyo in the center distill whisky. Other locations have bottling capabilities and or distill brandy, apple wine, shochu, and Coffey grain whisky. Nikka is actually the parent company and they have seven facilities scattered through Japan. Yoichi in the North and Miyagikyo in the center distill whisky. Because of this setup, the industry is vertically integrated and whisky companies own both distillery and blended whisky brands. Further, they are often reluctant to trade with competitors. As a result, Japanese blended whisky will generally contain malt whisky from the distilleries owned by that same company.

If Scotland had this setup we could buy Diageo single malt and in small letters it would say distillery names such as "Cragganmore", "Oban" or "Lagavulin". Blends would also have less diversity inside them. Read More

From the Nikka website...
"In 1918, Masataka Taketsuru enrolled at the University of Glasgow and became the first Japanese ever to study the art of whisky making. He took chemistry courses at the university and apprenticed at several distilleries (Longmorn, Hazelburn, and others). In 1920 Masataka returned to Japan with Jessie Roberta (Rita), whom he had married earlier that year. Later joining a company that aspired to make genuine whisky, he succeeded under its employment (Yamazaki) in producing Japan's first whisky. Masataka's vision of whisky was formed by his experience in Scotland, and he knew that the right environment was essential. However, it was becoming apparent that in order to produce whisky as he felt it had to be, he would have to become independent. Thus in 1934 Masataka established Nikka Whisky, and built its first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, which-- though inconveniently located-- he had always considered to be the ideal site in Japan for whisky-making, similar in many ways to the Scottish town where he had studied. Masataka established Nikka because he was determined to introduce his fellow Japanese to the joys of authentic whisky. In the decades since, as his company developed and the enjoyment of whisky became a fixture in Japan, he remained relentlessly passionate about quality. Never did he allow it to be sacrificed in favor of efficiency. In that sense, Masataka Taketsuru, Father of Japanese Whisky, sake brewer's son, had never truly left his roots."

Nikka Pure Malt

Our Rating
B-

Nikka Pure Malt

Japanese Blended Malt
Cost: $50
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Nikka 17Yr Pure Malt

Our Rating
C+

Nikka Pure Malt 17yr

Japanese Blended Malt
Cost: $140
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Nikka 21Yr Pure Malt

Our Rating
B-

Nikka Pure Malt 21yr

Japanese Blended Whisky
Cost: $160
A/C: 43%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Nikka 10Yr Miyagikyo

Our Rating
B-

Nikka Miyagikyo 10yr

Japanese Single Malt
Cost: $60
A/C: 45%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.

Nikka 10Yr Yoichi

Our Rating
A

Nikka Yoichi 10yr

Japanese Single Malt Whisky
Cost: $60
A/C: 45%

Comments: We sampled a 180ml bottle purchased in Japan.


May 28, 2014 (#5)

Theme: Special Bottlings
Location: Kevin's House / Grafton
Notes: Waterford Wine Company's Masterson's 10yr Straight Rye Whisky and Binny's A.D. Rattray 24yr Burnside.

Places like Binny's and the Waterford Wine Company can purchase large amounts of spirit and bottle them to sell in their stores. They often sample the barrel ahead of time and "hand pick" which one to purchase.

Waterford Wine Company's Masterson's 10yr Straight Rye Whisky is just that, 100% rye. Rye Whisky has to be at least 51% rye to be called a straight rye whisky but this one went all the way and didn't use any other grain in the blend.

Binny's A.D. Rattray 24yr Burnside is limited to 212 bottles and is actually a mixture of mostly Balvenie with a pinch of something else (Glenfiddich). Why call it Burnside? Because the Balvenie distillery does not to allow independent bottlers to label purchased stock "Balvenie". It seems odd that the barrel only had enough whisky for 212 bottles but the simple answer could be only some of the barrel was bottled. The other half could have been bottled at an earlier time or has been left to age for a future release. Or, because it was bottled at cask strength, the entire cask was used (adding water to lower the alcohol content yields more bottles).

A.D. Rattray Burnside 24Yr

Our Rating
B-

A.D Rattray 24yr Burnside

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $132.00
A/C: 52.1%
Bottle: 1 of 212
Cask: 1739 (Hogshead)
Distilled: 11/29/1988
Bottled: 12/7/2012

Comments: Binny's bottling (Chicago based liquor store).

Masterson's 10yr straight Rye

Our Rating
B-

Eagle Rare 10

Canadian Straight Rye
Cost: $48.00
A/C: 40%
Bottle: 472
Cask: Batch #006

Comments: 100% straight rye whisky.


March 26, 2014 (#4)

Theme: Cask Finishes
Location: Jeremy's House / Waukesha
Notes: Balvenie 14 Rum Cask finish and El Dorado Special Reserve 15 Year Old Demerara Rum.

Scotch whisky can be aged in more than one cask. To state this the industry uses terms such as double matured or cask finished. Whisky that is stated to be double matured is most likely a blend of two barrel types such as ex bourbon and ex sherry. Other distilleries such as Auchentoshan or Laphroaig go even further and have bottlings with terms such as three wood and triple wood. Although these examples have blends of different barrels they are still single malts because the bottled whisky comes from the same distillery.

Cask finished whisky occurs when whisky is removed from one barrel and then placed into another. This is often done to add an additional flavor profile and usually occurs for a shorter period of time. In the case of the Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask it was most likely finished in a rum barrel for less than one year. We know this because the distillery tells us it was aged in regular oak casks for 14 years and then put into an ex rum cask to give it a finish. The final bottling is still a 14 year. Had two barrels been blended together (14 years of oak and 1 year of rum cask) the resulting mix would have to be labeled a 1 year spirit (scotch is at least 3 yrs old) because the youngest whisky in a bottle determines its age statement.

Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask

Our Rating*
C+

Balvenie 14 yr Carribbean Cask

Speyside Scotch Whisky
Cost: $65.00
A/C: 43%
Cask: Rum Cask Finish

Comments: *This lower score is most likely a result of tasting the rum first. When we finished this bottle at the next meeting everyone thought it was better than they remembered.

El Dorado 15Yr Rum

Our Rating
B

Eagle Rare 10

Caribbean Rum
Cost: $45.00
A/C: 40%

Comments: A combination of aged rums, some as old as 25 years, from three distilleries. These rums are blended and then aged further in bourbon casks.


January 29, 2014 (#3)

Theme: Independent Bottlers
Location: Waterford Wine Co. / 1327 E. Brady St  / Milwaukee, WI 53202 / 414-289-9463
Notes: George & J.G. Smith's Glenlivet 21 from Gordon & Macphail and James Macarthur's Caol Ila 10 (matured in bourbon oak casks).

Our third theme featured two selections from independent bottlers, Glenlivet 21 from Gordon & MacPhail and Caol Ila 10 from James MacArthur. Member Doug also brought in a sample from an Aberlour 12 aging experiment. Details on that experiment can be found here.

Whisky is sold to independent bottlers for a variety of reasons. It could help the distillery sell spirit early if they need cash or maybe that particular barrel does not meet the distillery's taste profile. Gordon & MacPhail states that all their whisky comes from new make spirit and they supply the distillery with their own barrels. Whatever the reason, independent bottlers are then free to age and bottle the whisky as they would like, often providing an interesting take on bottled spirit. Read More

Often, whisky from independent bottlers does better in taste tests when compared to what is offered from the actual distillery. Why? Because whisky bottled this way is more often at a higher alcohol content (not watered down), tends not to be chill filtered (taste removed), and is bottled when the time is right (not confined to a standard release age set by the distillery).

However, do not assume that what you purchase will be great tasting whisky. Experimentation and interesting flavor notes do not mean better taste. Independent bottlers do not have large stocks of whisky to blend for a consistent taste. Often, the bottlings are single cask or prove to be widely varied when it comes batch variation.

Cost is another variable to consider. The featured Glenlivet is about $20 cheaper than the official 21yr put out by the distillery. But the James MacArthur Caol Ila is $25 more than the official bottling of Caol Ila 12yr.

Gordon & MacPhail has been bottling single malt whiskies for over 115 years. They bottle over 350 different expressions from about 70 distilleries. James Macarthur started bottling single malts in the 1980's and are much smaller in scale. They claim only the best single casks are selected and they do not use chill filtration or add coloring.

Gordon and MacPhail
Glenlivet 21yr

Our Rating
B

Glenlivet 21

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $136.00
A/C: 43%

Comments: The Glenlivet is the best selling malt whisky in the United States. Current global sales total 6 million bottles per annually.

James Macarthur Caol Ila 10yr

Our Rating
C+

Peat Fans
B+

Caol Ila 10

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $75.00
A/C: 45%
Cask #: 309907
Distilled: 2000
Bottled: 2011

Comments: Caol Ila is one of the lighter Islay whiskies. It is pale in color, peaty, and said to have floral / peppery notes.


November 20, 2013 (#2)

Theme: Bourbon
Location: Jeff's House / Milwaukee
Notes: Willett Pot Still Reserve (B217 of 267 / C#5403) and Buffalo Trace's Eagle Rare 10yr.

Our second theme featured two bourbons, Willet Pot Still Reserve and Buffalo Trace’s Eagle Rare 10yr. Members John, Jeff, and Doug brought samples of Knob Creek 9yr Single Cask Reserve, Evan Williams Bourbon, and Old Charter 8yr. Thank you for sharing!

A bourbon must be produced in the United States, made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred-oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume), entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume), and be bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume). Read More

Both Willet and Buffalo trace put out a lot of different bourbons and do not always educate the consumer that they are the distiller. Further, bourbon distillers commonly do not publish where their whiskies are distilled. We are buying the name. Bourbons from these distillers include Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, Johnny Drum, Old Bardstow, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, Old Charter, and more.

The two bourbons do have differences. Both are bottled as a single barrel but Willet tells us what barrel it has come from while Eagle Rare does not. Oddly, only Eagle Rare tells us its age statement and Willet Pot Still Reserve is aged between 8 and 10 but doesn’t list it.

Although the Willet Bourbon has the term pot still in its name, it has been reported that most of the distillation process was performed using the more common column still distillation method, and only partly or not at all with a pot still. It’s all implied with the bottle.

Willett Pot Still Reserve

Our Rating
C+

Willett Pot Still Reserve

Bourbon
Cost: $40.00
A/C: 47%
Bottle: 217 of 267
Cask #: 5403

Comments: This bourbon whiskey produced in Bardstown, Kentucky by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. (KBD), aka Willett Distillery. WhiskyHead gave this bourbon 2 extra points for presentation.

Eagle Rare 10yr

Our Rating
C

Eagle Rare 10

Bourbon
Cost: $30.00
A/C: 45%

Comments: Eagle Rare is a brand of bourbon whiskey distilled and distributed by the Buffalo Trace Distillery.


September 18, 2013 (#1)

Theme: 12yr (Contemporary vs Traditional Scotch Distilleries)
Location: Doug's House / Milwaukee
Notes: Highland Park 12 and Arran 12 Year Cask Strength Batch #2

Our first theme featured two island whiskies from Scotland, Highland Park 12 and Arran 12 Batch #2 Cask Strength. These whiskies were chosen because they both have been aged for at least 12 years, offer different takes on presentation, and are on opposite ends of Scotch’s historical timeline.

During the meeting we talked about how the Highland Park Distillery uses chill filtration and adds color to their whiskies. We even added ice to a small glass to see if it became cloudy (it did not). In contrast, the Arran 12 Cask Strength became cloudy almost immediately. Read More

Highland Park has been around since 1798 (they claim) and has a much higher production capacity than Arran. Like most whisky producers in Scotland, they add artificial coloring and use chill filtration to improve the “presentation” of their whiskies (to the non-educated drinker). The 12 year has been watered down to 43% and is most likely a mix of many casks (over 50?). Blending more casks helps ensure a consistent taste from batch to batch and more importantly year to year. It is also very likely that this bottling has older whisky in it. Remember, a whisky’s age statement declares an age of the youngest whisky inside. Theoretically, the bottle could have 10% 12yr and 90% older whisky.

The Arran malt is a contemporary whisky with traditional distillation. They do not add caramel (artificial coloring) and malts are non-chill filtered for maximum taste. The distillery is relatively young (founded in 1993) and is still developing its core range and style. Batch #2 cask strength has a high alcohol content of 53.6% which helps hold flavor and has not been watered down to create more yield. In other words, the distillery took a combination of 21 casks (17 First-Fill Sherry Butt and 4 Second-Fill Sherry Hogshead) and blended them together. The resulting mix was used to create 13,200 bottles of batch #2 whisky. Had they added water, they could have bottled hundreds more.

So why does Highland Park (and many other distilleries) add caramel coloring? To ensure a consistent color and entice (trick?) consumers into thinking it will taste good. However, whisky color should not be linked with taste. It is true that whisky tends to get darker as it ages in the cask but what the cask is made up of, how many times it has been filled, what used to be in it, its size, and if it was ever charred are all variables to consider.

Chill filtration is a way for distillers to prevent the whisky from getting cloudy should it get cold from water, ice, and shipping conditions. If the Arran is watered down below 43% with something cold it will get cloudy. There is a debate in the whisky world whether or not chill filtration removes taste. This author thinks it does!

Highland Park 12yr

Our Rating
B-

Highland Park 12

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $53.00
A/C: 43%

Comments: Sherry Oak Casks.

Arran 12yr (batch #2)

Our Rating
B

Arran 12 Cask Strength

Single Malt Scotch
Cost: $64.00
A/C: 53.6%
Bottle: One of 32,000
Cask: Sherry
Bottled: Sept 2012

Comments: A combination of 17 First-Fill Sherry Butts and 4 Second-Fill Sherry.