If you've been watching top shelf Scotch pricing lately, you would be forgiven for thinking they were selling bottles of actual liquid gold. Enter the Balvenie Tun 1401. Offered at $250, it's a mind-blowing Scotch that can compete with whiskys at twice or even four times the price.
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Now, I realize a single malt bourbon is a contradiction in terms, but hear me out. Glenfiddich's latest release in their limited edition line is very special Speyside Scotch. Unlike the vast majority of its compatriots, this whisky is aged entirely in former bourbon barrels.
Scotch is a tricky ingredient to mix with, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Start with these five drinks: four classics and a modern invention, all delicious.
Yesterday, Compass Box released a new limited edition Scotch whisky blend in collaboration with Mike Miller, the owner of Chicago's famous punk bar, Delilah's. The Delilah's blend was created in honor of the bar's 20th anniversary, and will be available nationwide starting September 1st.
New Johnnie Walker Platinum is about half the price of Johnnie Walker Blue. We tasted them side by side to see how they compare.
Today we'll tour Aberlour, a smaller-scale distillery that produces about 3.5 million liters of whisky every year. It's just down the road from Glenlivet.
I've been musing a bit on beautiful liquor bottles lately, but nothing I've seen stacks up to the dramatic presentation of Highland Park's new cask-strength single malt whisky, which arrives in a miniature Viking ship.
Welcome to Speyside, a beautiful region of Scottish countryside surrounding the River Spey, where the sheep and the shortbread outnumber the people. Beside those notable draws, what really attracts visitors is the high concentration of single malt whisky distilleries, such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Aberlour, The Macallan, and Balvenie. It's a good place for Scotch lovers. During the recent Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, I had the chance to see a few different distilleries in action. First up for whisky cross-examination: The Glenlivet.
Until the 1800s, there was very little Scotch available for sale in cities such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, let alone London or New York. Scotch, at the time, was considered the equivalent of moonshine—a drink enjoyed by unrefined highlanders, aged in sheep bladders and filtered through tartan. No one of refinement drank the stuff; instead, urban elites enjoyed the finest European wines, along with sherry, port, and cognac. A number of factors converged in the latter half of the 19th century to change everything.
Last week, we examined the distinction between single malt and blended Scotch whiskies. Today, we'll step back a bit and take a more detailed (much more detailed) look at the single malt. I'll describe what single malts are, explain how they're made and aged, discuss the concept of Scotch terroir, and explore some of the regional variations. Grab a tasting glass and let's get started!
Next week in this space, I'll be looking in some depth at the world of Scotch whisky, but first, I want to clarify a point of some confusion: the distinction between single malt and blended whisky. Consumers and even some bartenders have a misconception that single-malt scotch is not a blended whisky, but this is a myth. Single-malt Scotch is a blend, but it's a very specific type of blend.
Instantly recognizable from Kathmandu to Khartoum, the walking man on a bottle of whisky is seen as an international symbol of taste and quality. And for good reason—Johnnie Walker is the world's best selling blended Scotch whisky. Not content to rest on their laurels at the top of the booze chain, the folks at Johnnie Walker have been testing the market for what they describe as a pumped-up Black Label.
Here in Los Angeles, hidden among the lesser versions are a few stand-out Scotch cocktails, blended with enough care and finesse to make them worth the occasional diversion from the single malt neat. These are bright, bold cocktails—some classic and some veering more toward the experimental.
While single malt scotches and single barrel bourbons dominate the dreams of most high-end whiskey drinkers, the vast majority of sales in the wide world of whiskey (and whisky) are of the humble blend. Taking its name from its ingredients—usually high quality straight or single malt whiskeys cut with grain alcohol—blends are typically less complex and therefore less 'interesting' than their big league brethren. You're probably familiar with some of the more popular suspects, such as Johnny Walker, Jameson, or the Famous Grouse. Blends vary widely in quality, but are typically held in somewhat low regard by the liquor cognoscenti. However, Compass Box Whisky aims to change all that.
Does longer aging really make for better whisky, and how much of that effect is purely psychological? In order to gauge whether or not older whiskies are truly better, I assembled a group of a dozen world class whisky drinkers, and a second pool of casual non-experts.
My attitude toward cocktails based on scotch whisky can be neatly summarized: I like scotch whisky, and I like cocktails, but I (almost) never like scotch whisky-cocktails. But I'm noticing a few new drinks based on scotch whisky on bar menus around the country, and some of them are worth trying. Have you come across a scotch based cocktail that you'd add to the "keeper" list?
It seems like I never shut up about Old Crow and Eagle Rare, which is why it was disconcerting to discover that I like Scotch a lot more than I'd ever admitted to myself. It will take months of rigorous research in other people's liquor cabinets to know for sure, but if the $12.99 liter of Clan MacGregor I picked up last week is any indication, the Scots might win this war.
For devotees of American whiskey, these are exciting times. Bourbon has brushed off its once tarnished reputation and has reinvented itself as a sippable, collectable spirit. And rye whiskey, only a decade ago mostly written off as an archaic relic, has seen its popularity surge and is now considered a staple ingredient in most craft bars. In the last couple of weeks, the selection of American whiskies has become a little more interesting with the debut of two new spirits from a couple of familiar names.
There's been a lot going on in the whisk(e)y world these past few years, with distilleries releasing cask-finished bottlings, new expressions and out-and-out experiments to a thirsty market. While much of the excitement has taken place in the realm of scotch whisky, American whiskey makers have been showing a little more creativity recently. Here are seven interesting American whiskies to look out for.
Single-malt scotch whiskies may get the lion's share of attention from whisky aficionados, but blended whiskies are the biggest sellers. But "blend" can mean different things for different whiskies, with the resulting products ranging from excellent to execrable.