Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Buffalo Trace Distillery named National Historic Landmark

Link to the original story; Buffalo Trace Distillery named National Historic Landmark


FRANKFORT — Buffalo Trace's George T. Stagg Distillery has been named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
The designation highlights it as a "highly intact" example of pre-Prohibition industrial architecture that also shows how distilling expanded once the federal ban was repealed in the early 1930s.
The buildings, which still are very much in active use, feature distinctive quarry-faced stonework and decorative brickwork in a 1930s-era factory; other barrel warehouses and buildings are much older, dating to the 1790s.
According to the National Park Service, the distillery was established in 1857-58 and acquired in 1870 by E.H. Taylor Jr., whose portrait hangs in the yeast room. Taylor refurbished the distillery, building brick warehouses including Warehouse C, across from the current Buffalo Trace gift shop.
The site also includes what is known as the George Dickel building along the Kentucky River, where a Tennessee whiskey called George Dickel was made after Prohibition in the 1940s until Tennessee finally was allowed to make alcohol again.
Very little new construction has been done since 1953, with the exception of removing railroad tracks, demolishing the original offices, and building spirits storage tanks for the booming bourbon business.
One feature not likely to be found at many modern factories: an Adirondack-style log cabin, complete with hammered copper sinks, that was used as an employee clubhouse. Buffalo Trace uses it now for receptions and dinners.
The distillery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, but the new honor already has drawn attention.
The National Geographic Channel show Diggers, which features amateur scientists hunting artifacts with metal detectors, found the distillery on the list and has filmed an episode there, said Buffalo Trace spokeswoman Amy Preske.
Buffalo Trace is at least the third distillery to be named a National Historic Landmark, along with Labrot & Graham's Old Oscar Pepper Distillery near Versailles, where Woodford Reserve is made today, and the Burks' Distillery, owned by Maker's Mark, in Loretto.
Kentucky has more than 30 landmarks on the list, including Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate and Keeneland Race Course in Lexington and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg.
The honor comes with a plaque and a nice sign by the road to alert tourists.
Not that they seem to be having too much trouble finding the place: Preske said Buffalo Trace expects to see 80,000 visitors this year.
This year's Kentucky Oaks Day, May 3, before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, was the distillery's single biggest day for tourism, with 1,800 visitors, she said.
Employees of the distillery were told officially of the designation last week and given special T-shirts in celebration.

Read more here:

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Old Whisky Ad #6

Here's Johnny

Friday, July 26, 2013

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Whisky Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Notes: Johnnie Walker Double Black, takes the standard Black Label, and adds younger more peated malt whisky to the blend (thus the lack of an age statement to this offering), then ages it all in charred oak casks. It's like Johnnie Walker's iconic Striding Man stopped striding long enough to enjoy a dram of the basic Black Label by a campfire! This blend was typically only found in duty free shops at airports, but now it gets a limited annual release here in the states, usually in the last quarter of the year. I've seen several bottles on the shelves of well stocked speciality retail outlets, so these stores wisely stocked up on this while they could so they seem to have enough year round!  

Nose: The peaty smoke sweetness of the standard Black Label is replaced here with a smokey bonfire smell that dominates everything. 

Taste: The malted barley notes remain, but now there's a meaty barbecue flavor that comes though. The overall smoky flavor is more charcoal smoke than peat smoke. 

Finish: Sweet smoke, with a lingering barbecue note that fades slowly. 

My Personal Ranking: 86/100 (Blend Score)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old

Whisky Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Notes: Johnnie Walker Black Label, is one of the classic Victorian Era blended Scotches. It's probably one of the best known whiskies in the world. The Black Label has a peatier character than most other blends, due in part to the inclusion of whiskies from Caol Ila, Lagavulin, and Talsiker in the mix. It's still a well balanced and great tasting whisky, and it tends to be consistently stocked in my whisky cabinet!

Nose: It starts with a smokey sweetness, followed by a hint of fruit and peppery spice.

Taste: The smoky malt and grain mix well with the developing apple and vanilla flavors that follow.

Finish: A lingering apple note, with the smoke giving way to a honey finish.

My Personal Ranking: 84/100 (Blend Score)

The Walker Rangers?

The connection is so obvious when you see them together!

Old Whisky Ad #4

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Passing of Elmer T. Lee

A true whiskey innovator has passed! Rest in peace Mr. Lee.

Official statement from The Buffalo Trace Distillery:
Dear Friends,
It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you that our beloved Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee, 93, passed away July 16, 2013 after a short illness.
In the world of making really fine whiskey the role of Master Distiller is pivotal, but Elmer’s meaning to those he met, came to know, and worked with closely extended far beyond that of a Master Distiller. Elmer defined, in the simplest terms, what it means to be a great American – hard working, self-made, courageous, honest, kind, humble, and humorous.
Elmer was born in 1919 on a tobacco farm near Peaks Mill in Franklin County, Ky. He graduated from Frankfort County High School in 1936 and worked for Jarman Shoe Company until December 1941. He then served with the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as a radar bombardier on a B-29. After flying missions against Japan through 1945, Elmer was honorably discharged in January 1946. He returned home and studied engineering at the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1949.
In September 1949 Elmer began working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, Elmer was promoted to plant superintendent, responsible for all plant operations and reporting to the plant manager. 1n 1969, he became plant manager.
But it was in 1984 that Elmer’s contribution to the bourbon industry gained him the most notoriety, when he introduced Blanton’s, the world’s first Single Barrel Bourbon.  Elmer retired in 1985 but continued to serve as an ambassador for Buffalo Trace, and in 1986 he was honored with his very own single barrel bourbon, Elmer T. Lee. Of course, for those of us who knew Elmer, he never really retired. Every Tuesday we could see Elmer making his rounds at the Distillery in his trademark cap, signing bottles, posters, and other memorabilia at the Gift Shop, visiting his friends in Blanton’s Bottling Hall, and tasting bourbons (for quality control purposes!) in the lab.
Elmer was always ready to offer advice, and was a wealth of information that many of us relied on, myself included. Harlen Wheatley would inquire with Elmer when stuck on a mechanical problem, and any historical questions about the Distillery always went to Elmer, who, with his razor sharp memory, could invariably answer.  To all of us, Elmer was a friend, a mentor, and a trusted advisor.
Elmer was known through the bourbon industry for his expertise and knowledge about bourbon whiskey and he received numerous awards and recognition, including induction into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Whisky Advocate in 2002, and the Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction from Whisky Magazine in 2012.
We have lost a wonderful friend today, and he will be missed terribly. 
Services for Elmer T. Lee are pending and will be announced shortly.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Glenrothes Vintage 1998 (Bottled 2010 - 12 years)

Whisky Type/Region: Single Malt Scotch Whisky/Speyside

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Notes: I have to give credit to Glenrothes for their clever marketing on Facebook. I had never heard of Glenrothes, but I was drawn in by their marketing and their simple packaging. I loved the look of that fat little bottle with the small label on it that looks handwritten. I was also intrigued by the fact that unlike most distilleries that release whisky by age, the folks that bottle Glenrothes, choose to release their offerings by vintage like wine makers do. 

I saw one of these cool little bottles, Vintage 1998, in it's simple minimalist box, sitting on the shelf of a local liquor store. Remembering their clever use of social network marketing, I decided to try it out. Having never tried any other vintages, I didn't know it at the time (but now know), this was the first release from Gordon Motion, who had replaced Glenrothes Malt Master and industry legend John Ramsay. Thankfully, if this bottle is any indication, Mr. Ramsay's carefully tended casks have been left in good hands!

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, with faint notes of lemon and pineapple. 

Taste: Caramel, cinnamon spice, followed by ripe pineapple and tangy green apples. Not terribly complex, but nicely balanced. 

Finish: Once the taste of the fruit fades, the honey and vanilla flavors remain, giving this a nice finish.

My Personal Rankin: 84/100 


It's bigger on the inside!

This is quite possibly the best home whisky/liquor cabinet ever!

World Whisky: Australian Malt Whisky

James Stuart Geary shared an entertaining and informative video on The Tasmanian whisky industry on the M.R.I. Facebook page:

You can check out this video by clicking the link: Single Malt, The Tasmanian Whisky Industry (Reporter: Pip Courtney)

While I've had no personal experience with whiskies from Australia, I am looking forward to exploring this growing source of Single Malts soon!

Someone with far more expertise in whiskies from "The Land Down Under" is my friend and fellow blogger "SquidgyAsh, The Whisky Fiend"!

A fellow "Yank living in Aussie land", he has written extensively on the Whisky Industry of his adopted home country. He has also reviewed whiskies from all over the world, and just returned from Scotland, where he got to explore some of the most iconic places a Scotch Whisky lover could dream of visiting. Lucky bastard! 

He's a very prolific reviewer, so there's plenty to read. Please visit his blog:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Talisker 10 Year Old

Whisky Type/Region: Single Malt Scotch Whisky/Island (Skye)

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 45.8%

Notes: Talisker 10 year old, is the first real peaty malt I ever tasted. When I first opened it up and nosed the bottle, I thought I had made a horrible mistake. It was so smoky and medicinal! My first taste didn't change that impression, though I did find the peppery flavor to be surprising, and the sweetness of the malt came though after the initial peat assault to the senses. Over the course a several weeks, I kept coming back to this bottle, and found the more I drank it, the more I liked it. Now it's one of my top single malts! 

As a movie buff, I've noticed that Talisker has been featured in at least two of the James Bond films. Both times I found Talisker on screen, it was featured in M's office. She clearly has taste, but Bond seems to appreciate it too. In Fleming's books, he ordered whiskies far more times (either straight or in a cocktail) than he ordered the movie staple of the well known "shaken not stirred" vodka martini. I think it makes more sense for Bond to be a Scotch drinker, as Fleming seemed to favor whisky, and if so, a big bruiser of a single malt like Talisker fits the bill perfectly! 

Nose: The first thing that hits you is the peat smoke and sea air. Eventually, that gives way to a some citrus and spicy notes.

Taste: There's a briny flavor that dominates, but that gives way to a complex mix of malty spice, a tart lemon like citrus, and that little bit of hot pepper that is so unlike anything else. 

Finish: The pepper and the peat smoke remain, but the citrus lingers too and now has settled into a sweeter orange flavor.

My Personal Ranking: 90/100

Keep Calm...

Don't Mix...

Old Whisky Ad #1

Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood

Whisky Type/Region: Single Malt Scotch Whisky/Speyside (Dufftown)

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Notes: The Balvenie distillery is owned by William Grant & Sons, who also own the Glenfiddich distillery, but the whisky from each of these respected distilleries is remarkably different. In fact, this particular 12 year old, reminds me more of Dalmore's 12 year old, than Glenfiddich's more Apéritif styled 12. Both the Balvenie 12 and the Dalmore 12 have been aged in Bourbon casks and Sherry casks. Both have similar notes of orange and vanilla. Both are remarkably complex for their age. Where they differ, seems to come from the the unique personalities of their master blenders, who are both icons in the Scotch industry. Where the Dalmore 12 is bold and intense like it's blender the congenial and anyways entertaining Richard Paterson, the Balvenie DoubleWood is more subtle and smooth, much like Balvenie's Malt Master, the modest and more reserved David Sewart. 

I have to note that I love Balvenie's packaging. Their bottle is simply elegant. It has a classic old world look to it's simply shaped bottle, with it's still shaped neck, natural wood capped cork, and parchment styled label. I actually prefer this kind of packaging over the more modern styled bottles and labels some distributor's are going to. 

Nose: Vanilla and orange, with a hint of honey.

Taste: A fruity orange that gives way to flavors of cinnamon, baked apples and raisins. 

Finish: The finish is remarkably long for whisky of this age, with the raisins and a hint of vanilla fading last. 

My Personal Ranking: 86/100

Slainte Mhath!

Dalmore 12 Year Old

Whisky Type/Region: Single Malt Scotch Whisky/Highland

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Notes: This is the first single malt I bought on my own, without recommendation. I was in a local grocery store, looking at their surprisingly well stocked liquor section, and came across this oddly shaped bottle with a little painted stag's head and a parchment styled label. The Dalmore 12 Year Old.   

I had never heard of this stuff, but it looked interesting, so I picked it over the more familiar Glenlivet and Glenfiddich offerings on the shelf. Now this was the older late 90s bottling, where the blend had a 60/40 bourbon cask to sherry cask finish, and I loved the complexity and unique flavor this single malt had.

At the time, I wasn't aware of my family's clan history and connection to this distillery. I just liked the packaging, and loved the balanced whisky that came in it. Having done some research, I now know that members of clan MacKenzie owned and operated the Dalmore distillery for over 100 years, until they sold it to Whyte and Mackay in 1960. I'm happy to note that Dalmore's connection to clan MacKenzie continues today, with special releases like "Dalmore MacKenzie" and "Dalmore, Castle Leod" and the latest "Dalmore Cromartie. Some of the proceeds from the sale of these releases goes to a fund to maintain the upkeep of historic Castle Leod.  

This review is on the current version of the 12 year old, with the much bigger stag's head, and a smaller, simpler label! This is the new Dalmore 12, with a 50/50 blend of single malts aged in bourbon and sherry casks. 

Nose: A very citrus note of orange, followed by a little bit of chocolate and vanilla. 

Taste: The orange is still there, but mixed with a malty spice kick, and a hint of dark chocolate and carmel from the Bourbon barrels that comes through, to mix with the fruit from the sherry casks. 

Finish: The orange continues, with faint flavors of vanilla and carmel remaining after everything else fades away.

My Personal Ranking: 86/100 (In this price and age range, this is one of the best!)

Slainte Mhath!

Blog FAQs

Blog FAQs. 

This blog will primarily focus on whiskies that use malted barley. That will include, but not be limited to, Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Blended Scotch Whisky, and any Pot Still, Single Malt and Blended Whiskies from Ireland, Single Malts and Blends from Japan, Whiskies from North America (the US and Canada), and from around the world. 

Each review will only be made on whiskies where multiple tastings were taken from an individual bottle. No single dram tasting will be given a full review. 

The focus on these reviews will be on whiskeys the average consumer can find and afford. Therefore, expensive specialty releases will rarely if ever be reviewed because it isn't practical or interesting to this reviewer. 

All reviews will include personal images of the bottle being reviewed, and include information on the distillery or blender, specifics such as strength and chill filtering, nosing and tasting notes, and a score based on the industry standard 100 point scale. 

It will not include notes on the color of the whiskies being reviewed! Why? Because too much emphasis has been placed on color, to the point where some in the industry feel the need to add coloring to their offerings to make them look "older" or more "finished". They claim they do this for simple consistency, but I don't agree, and feel the best thing I can do is concentrate on the important stuff, like the smells and flavors of the whiskies, and ignore the trivial details like color. Maybe then the higher ups will quit worrying about chill filtering and carmel coloring, and other things that do more harm than good to what's inside the bottle!

Please drink responsibly!

Why This Blog?

Why am I writing this blog?

Am I some expert, living in Scotland and working around distilleries for years? Nope. I was born and raised in the US. I'm currently living in a mid-western city, less than 25 miles from the hospital where I was born. 

There's a world famous Victorian era beer brewery, and a grain alcohol producer better known for it's proof than it's flavor profile, both less than a 40 minute drive east into downtown from where I live. So I'm a beer and mixed cocktail fan right? No, not really! I never developed a taste for beer, and cocktails usually bore me. I'll admit, a cold margarita on a hot summer's day, or with good mexican food is a big exception! 

Our country's first official "Wine Viticultural Area", is a 30 minute drive south from here, and there are a half a dozen wineries with tasting rooms and spectacular views of vineyards and the river valley to enjoy! So I'm a wine drinker? Yes, I'll admit to that. I drink wine often enough, and I can even say I appreciate the different types of wine and their vast range of flavors, but I'm not passionate about it.

Did I get my interest in Scotch and other whiskies from my family? No. My grandparents were teetotalers, who believed drinking any alcohol was a sin. My dad's favorite uncle was a U.S. Treasury Agent, who was part of the group of feds that took down Capone in Chicago during prohibition. Dad? He was a cocktail drinker. His drink of choice? A dry vodka martini, garnished with two olives. Mom, now in her eighties, a light cocktail and wine drinker. 

Where did my interest in Scotch start? Lets start with my name. My given names are Scott MacKenzie. It would seem my family wanted me to be aware of my family's heritage, and to the fact that much of the roots of our family tree originate in Scotland. Given that heritage, I found myself studying Scotland, it's industries, and it's people. One thing that I noticed beyond the kilts, clans and the castles, was the pride the Scot's took in their whisky industry. The sheer number of distilleries, and the uniqueness of each distillery's product. How it not only varied from region to region, or from distillery to distillery, but from cask to cask! How blending gave even more choices, and yet offered consistency too! How each distillery could have several different and unique products that had their own style and flavor. 

After years of trying beers, cocktails and wines, and not finding anything to get passionate about, I decided to plunk down the money, and try out this whisky the Scot's seemed so proud of! Being new to all of this, I knew just enough to avoid the basic mixer blends, and to get something with age to it. I went to my local grocer and selected the best choice their limited inventory offered, and bought a bottle of Chivas Regal 12 year old blended Scotch! Not a bad place to start. It's was a perfectly approachable blended whisky for someone new to Scotch. Not terribly complex, but it did have interesting flavors, and I kinda liked the burn as it went down. The next time I went to buy a bottle, a went to a specialty store, with a much wider selection, and a knowledgeable staff. I was given a basic understanding of proper tasting. How to nose the whisky, how a little water could open up the flavors, while ice just dulled the smell and tastes. It was suggested that I try a single malt next, and though I can't really remember which was purchased first, I do know my first single malts were a Glenlivet 12 and a Glenfiddich 12. Both good starter malts, and both with their own unique flavor profile that I found fascinating! This was a spirit worthy of further exploration! This Scotch whisky was worthy of interest, possibly even research. I hadn't even heard of different cask finishes or the wonders of peat yet! The exploration was just beginning........

Please drink responsibly!