New 2019 Whisky: International EditionEdit Post
Contributed by on Sep 09, 2019
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New releases in Irish, Scotch and Australian whisk(e)y
Gin in all its forms, rum cocktails, rosé, white wine, bubbl y, cold beer and highballs have been playing on repeat in our glasses and shatterproof cups since late May, but it’s getting time to talk whisky again. In fact, there’s so much to discuss since we last checked in with our brown spirited friends that all the delicious new releases from the past few months can’t even fit into one article!
So as not to overwhelm either your eyes or your palate, here’s what’s new in international whiskies in time for the fall sipping season. Stay tuned for part two all about American whiskey coming up!
Dingle Single Malt Irish Whiskey Batch #4: There’s a lot of new Irish whiskey out there, but Dingle is one of the few new Ireland distilleries, for now, that bottles its own spirit. Available in the US for the first time, while it’s still on the young-ish side (though there is no age statement, it’s around 4 years old), this batch presents a confident maturity beyond its physical age. It’s aged in full sized barrels—a combination of ex-bourbon, sherry and Port casks—and released at 46.5% ABV to deliver the fullest flavor experience. Founded in 2012, Dingle won 2017 Ireland Distillery of the Year in the NY International Spirits Competition, and you can read more about this upstart distillery at the edge of Co. Kerry here. $100
The Tyrconnell 16 Year Oloroso and Moscatel Cask Finish Single Malt Irish Whiskey: Produced at Cooley distillery in County Louth, this limited edition expression, the oldest to date in the portfolio, was aged for 16 years in ex-bourbon barrels before a short stint in casks from Andalucia that had initially been seasoned with oloroso sherry and then a second time in with Moscatel wine. This fruity, velvety, and satisfying dram tastes like a liquored up interpretation of what would happen if fresh fruit tarts and sticky toffee pudding declared dessert world peace—with notes of berries, figs, dates, marzipan, cashews, coffee, caramel and citrus zest, with a shot of espresso to cut the sweetness. The whisky would be an excellent accompaniment to cheesecake or other creamy desserts. 46% ABV, $100
Egan’s Legacy Reserve II 16 Year: The second in Egan’s Legacy Reserve series is aged a full 16 years in ex-bourbon casks, then briefly in barrels that once held Banyuls, a sweet, fortified wine produced in France near the Pyrenees. Tangy fruit flavors of pineapple and apricot are set off with earthy flavors of mushroom and black tea. If you aren’t acquainted with Egan’s yet, this is a fine introduction. 46% ABV, $200
Starward Two-Fold Double Grain Whisky: We’ll likely be seeing quite a bit of Australian craft whisky over the next few years, but this is one of the first brands available stateside for now, and it’s a worthy ambassador. This new release, all produced at the Melbourne distillery, is a blend of 60% wheat whisky and 40% single malt whisky which are distilled and matured separately in Australian red wine barrels, then married together before bottling. Baked pear, apples and sweet spices on the palate have a soft, toasty finish. Available in 35 markets for now, hopefully more to come. 40% ABV, $33.
Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood Cask: Each year since 1994, this Islay distillery releases a limited edition bottling that celebrates the Friends of Laphroaig (the name in Gaelic means “friendship”) to kick off the annual Feis Isle festival. For this one, distillery manager John Campbell selected warehouse library whiskies matured in ex-bourbon, quarter casks and ex-oloroso sherry casks. It’s got that classic burning first aid kit Laphroaig-iness we all love, though it tastes like the kit was then catapulted into a pine forest before landing in a bowl of salted nuts. Meant in the nicest possible way, of course. 59.5% ABV, $80 Laphroaig won Islay Distillery of the Year in the 2019 NY International Spirits Competition.
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011: While the brand is typically associated with peated, sometimes even ultra peated, styles of whisky, this release showcases the characteristics of local terroir on barley crops in an unpeated style. With plans to use Islay-grown barley for all Bruichladdich products by the year 2023, this 6 year old single vintage spirit uses barley grown on six western and central farms on the Scottish island. The whisky is matured in 75% first fill American whiskey casks, 11 % first fill Rivsaltes wine and 16% 2nd and 3rd fill Sauternes and Austrian sweet wine casks. The resulting dram is a light, more floral style than the distillery’s signature whiskies, with pear, apple and ginger on the midpalate and citrus zest in the finish. 50% ABV, $70
Aberlour A’bunadh Alba: Each year, this Speyside distillery releases A’bunadh, a small batch, cask-strength variation matured in 100% sherry casks that’s been a fan favorite since its original release in the 1990s (last year’s won a gold medal in the NY International Spirits Competition). This year marks the first time there has been an A’bunadh extension matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks—”A’bunadh” means “of the origin” in Scottish Gaelic and “Alba” refers both to the name for Scotland itself and Quercus Alba oak the barrels are made from. This an ideal dram to herald autumn—full of pear and golden apple, a touch of lemon drizzle cake, marzipan and café au lait with a warming finish. US only. 57.1% ABV, $99
Glenlivet 14 Year Old: To be honest, I was highly skeptical of this bottling. Here’s a high profile Scotch co. releasing whisky they say has “the curious single malt drinker in mind”, which to me translates to trying to “Let’s make a gateway whisky for millennials.” It has all the marketing checkpoints—an impressive age statement, new packaging and a fancy cask finish (ex-bourbon finished in cognac casks). All of this is offered at an astoundingly competitive price point—$55 for 14 years—huh? Somehow it works, though. It’s a well balanced dram with honeyed sweetness, orchard fruits, green tea-like tannins and a subtle earthy and bittersweet chocolate finish. Even more impressive, a portion of sales between now and December 31st goes to the Purple Heart Foundation (hence the purple accent swath on the label). 40% ABV, $55
The Balvenie Stories Dark Day of Barley 26 Year: Of the 3 releases that also include the 12 Year Sweet Toast of American Oak and Week of Peat 14 Year, I didn’t choose to highlight this one for the high age statement, but because I thought it was honestly the most balanced of the three. The 12 is an alright enough dram, with the appealing sweet and spicy notes one would expect from its description, but the peated one honestly made me think this historically unpeated Speyside distillery should just stick to its day job (I look forward to your comments). What drew me to the Dark Day of Barley is it reminded me, still feeling the embers of an NYC summer, of the aromas of a wool sweater drying near a comforting fire after a long day in a cold rain (this is a good thing), with other autumnal notes of candy apple, pineapple and citrus zest. Note: the liquid, distilled in 1992 from heavily roasted barley, was original released as a 14 year in 2006, and this bottling is from the casks held over. 47.8% ABV, $800 and worth the splurge both for high stakes collectors or to spend an expense account at the holidays.
Compass Box is a brand built on the concept of collaboration, and for The Circle, a group of bartenders competed to create what would become the final custom blend. The winner was Rosey Mitchell of Three Sheets London, who selected a blend of single malts from Tamdhu distillery in Speyside matured in ex-bourbon, a Highland whisky from the village of Brora aged in refill sherry, a lightly peated single malt from Orkney aged in re-charred hogsheads and a Highland malt blend finished in French oak. The final creation tastes to me like a puff of smoke curling around a citrus orchard that happens to be near a salty body of water, finally landing on dark grain toast spread with currant jam. 46% ABV, $150
For Affinity, Compass Box owner John Glaser basically created the whisky nerd equivalent of a peanut butter cup—he put calvados in Scotch! After blending the two spirits at home and for yucks in the blending room at CB HQ, it seemed time to share this stunning flavor combination with the world, using Domaine Christian Drouin Pays d’Auge XO Calvados, Scotch malt whiskies aged in both French oak and sherry casks as well as blended Scotch. All of these were then arrange married for a few years to live together in sherry butts. It turns out Glaser was so right and apple-y Scotch is indeed a yummy thing. 46% ABV, $150
Also shout out to the newest release of auld favourite Peat Monster! Welcome back at 46% ABV, $60