The Best New Whiskeys to Seek Out This December
Including Alberta Premium, a sequel to last year’s best rye
Welcome back to our monthly guide to all things whisk(e)y. This month: Alberta Premium returns with their much-loved Cask Strength Rye, while distilleries go all in on cocoa, holiday limited releases and interesting new maturations.
Last year the Calgary-based Alberta Distillers delivered a surprisingly excellent Cask Strength Rye, which racked up several “best of” awards in the whisky world. As for the just-released follow-up? It’s still 100 percent prairie-grown Canadian rye — and still very much a limited-edition release — but it takes even more personalty. Credit the ever-changing seasons, says George Teichroeb, General Manager of Alberta Distillers.
“Calgary has some really unique weather systems and [interior] Chinook winds,” he says. So the rye grain is subjected to fluctuating temperatures and different temperatures each year and within seasons. Also, it’s a very dry hot and cold. “When the whisky filters through the staves, it goes deeper than if it was more humid here, so you’ll get a really heavy wood and oaky aroma.”
That is certainly true. So while not totally unique from last year’s release, this year’s bottling finds a stronger wood element on the nose, while dark fruits, burnt caramel, brown sugar and vanilla dominate the palate, with that rye kick present but not overpowering (even at the 63-66% ABV you’ll find in these bottles). Add a bit of water, and the fruit notes pop a little more. Overall, it’s an exceptionally pleasing take on rye that deserves any and all follow-up accolades.
The makers of this single-pot still Irish whisky collaborated with BirdLife International to launch Robin Redbreast Day earlier this November. For a short time, each viewing of a video starring Irish comic Chris O’Dowd triggers a 25-cent donation to BirdLife — as do sales of 21,000 of the Redbreast 12 Irish whiskey, which arrives in bird feeder packaging if you’re in Europe (and yes, you can use that bird feeder … and you can still enjoy Redbreast 12 here in the U.S. on its own, of course.)
The NY distillery just released a rye finished in apple cider-cured barrels, and the notes here (apples, cinnamon, caramel, floral) perfectly capture late fall. Part of the initial release of a new line of experimental whiskeys called The xSeries, the Cider Cask joins Hudson’s other uniquely matured ryes, including Short Stack (rye finished in maple syrup barrels) and Back Room Deal (rye matured in ex-peated Scotch casks).
An annual peated malt release from this Indian distillery, the latest Christmas Edition is matured in ex-bourbon, port and madeira casks in coastal Goa, where the climate supposedly helps the whisky mature faster (the angel’s share is reportedly eight percent). Very rich and even a bit coconut-y, this definitely has a nice mix of fruit, spice and smoke. And it tastes like the holidays — we even poured some on a traditional Christmas cake and it was divine.
This new limited-edition line (1,365 bottles) from Kentucky’s Rabbit Hole features chocolate-malted wheat from Germany and chocolate-malted barley from the UK (along with 70% Corn, 13% Rye and 10% Malted Rye), and the cocoa notes here are strong, as are the hints of leather and tobacco. It’s a fascinating combination of chocolate and smoke.
What happens when a winery enters the whiskey world? Well, you have access to some great barrels — your own. Sonoma’s Daylight Wine & Spirits has both a straight bourbon finished in their Cabarnet Sauvignon barrels and a rye finsiehd in ex-Pinot Noir barrels. The result, particularly in the bourbon, is a sweeter whiskey swimming in notes of dark fruit and butterscotch.
Other releases: Bruichladdich just launched The Biodynamic Project, the first biodynamic Scotch (meaning: they’re utilizing organic and regenerative agriculture), right on the heels of Waterford’s launch of the world’s first whisky made from biodynamic Irish barley, the Biodynamic: Luna … The new Single Barrel 2021 Special Release from Jack Daniel’s, the Coy Hill High Proof, seems damn near explosive: It can reach a proof point up to 148.3 (review coming soon) … WhistlePig’s The Boss Hog VIII: LapuLapu’s Pacific is a barrel-strength release that finds their rye double finished in high toast, small batch, single island Philippine Rum casks … Dashfire, a Minnesota-based bitters and canned cocktail company, recently launched a three-pack of canned Old Fashioneds with a twist — there’s one made with bourbon, one with rye and one with rum … Finally, since you can’t camp out for a week to get this year’s bottle, Stranahan’s in Colorado is hosting a Snowflake Day on Dec. 4 at Red Rocks to get this year’s edition of their limited release.
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