Welcome back to our monthly guide to all things whisk(e)y. This month, we get a head start on Irish whiskey and commend doubled-oaked bourbons and rum-finished ryes.
We’re just catching up with this 2022 limited release, a 115-proof Texas straight bourbon that’s double oaked: It spends four years in a new American white oak barrel, then another year in a different new American white oak barrel. A major award winner (the distillery estimates it’s taken home 40 award wins since 2019, ten of which were Gold or Double Gold medals), Balmorhea — named after a swimming hole south of Pecos, TX — is almost like fudge on the nose, with that cocoa sweetness carried through the palate (along with notes of cinnamon, honey, toasted oak and dark fruit). Like dessert in a glass.
Seattle’s Westland Distillery just released the seventh edition of its Garryana American Single Malt series (Quercus garryana is a rare oak indigenous to the Northwest). This one was finished in a combo of Washington State Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon casks and that fruity, tannic and sweet character shines through, with plenty of earthy wood spice and apple notes.
A U.S. exclusive, Select is made from 100% Indian barley and matured in first-fill bourbon casks. A restocking of a bottle first released in 2016 (which won a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition), this single malt — crafted in the foothills of the Himalayas and under extreme temperature extremes — features a rich mouthfeel and a palate of candied fruit, baking spices and caramel.
These terroir-driven Irish whiskey distillers — and the largest producer of organic malt whisky in the world — just launched a second edition of their Arcadian Series, which spotlights farmers who offer up a “non-conformist” approach (basically, they’re utilizing organic, biodynamic and heritage barley, and the whisky has no coloring, chill-filtration or additives). Gaia is Ireland’s only whisky to be distilled from 100% organic Irish barley, and it’s matured in a combination of 39% first-fill U.S. oak, 17% virgin U.S. oak, 19% Premium French oak and 25% Vin Doux Naturel oak. At 50% ABV, this outstanding release features notes of malt, vanilla, pear, kiwi and orange, rounded out by a creamy mouthfeel.
The Colorado-based distillery continues its Cask Finish Series — which previously included Port and Cognac Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskeys — with a rye finished in 14-year-old Barbados rum casks for 2-5 months. While I’m partial to the distillery’s wheated whiskeys, this rye (a 95/5 rye/malted barley mashbill) takes on tropical flavors (including pineapple) with a nice bit of rye spice. It made for an amazing take on an Old Fashioned.
And five more….
- The Midwest distillery Tattersall has joined forces with the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF), the host of the cross-country ski event American Birkebeiner. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Birkie, the two collaborated on a limited-edition Tattersall WI-SKI, a straight rye whiskey aged in used maple syrup barrels (reminder: whiskey and maple go well together).
- After conventional aging on Earth, Mystic Galactic’s bourbon will spend a year in low earth orbit — if everything goes right. You can read more about this space-bound whiskey here.
- We just tried Barrelsmith, a woman-owned brand that offers barrel-aged, ready-to-serve cocktails in 750ml bottles. The two whiskey-based releases, the Boulevardier and the Manhattan, are bottled at full strength (about 30-35% ABV) and utilize both sourced whiskeys and some of the company’s own bitters, Vermouth and liqueurs. The former is sweet, balanced and offers a lot of nice orange and fruit notes; the latter is best served cold (they say over ice, but that’s not the usual Manhattan recipe; put in a very cold fridge or even a freezer briefly instead).
- Previously offered with limited distribution, Baltimore’s Sagamore Spirit just announced its Reserve Series 8-Year-Old Rye Whiskey as a limited edition, but now more widely available bottle. The previous release won a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition — this time out, expect notes of dried cherries, clove, and smoked vanilla on the nose and candied ginger, sweet orange, molasses and nut brittle on the palate.
- Diageo’s rare whisky brand Orphan Barrel Whisky Distilling Co. recently introduced the third and final Single Grain Scotch Whisky release in its Muckety-Muck series: Muckety-Muck 26 Year Old. It hails from the ghost distillery of Port Dundas (which closed its doors in 2010 but in its prime housed a piggery; a prize pig named Muckety-Muck was the inspiration behind this name). It offers a rich mouthfeel, with notes of cherry, vanilla, cocoa and raspberry.
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