Sunday, November 03, 2013

WhiskyFest Weekend NYC 2013



This year, it was a pleasure to attend another WhiskyFest Weekend here in New York City without a portentous super-storm looming in the background, unlike last year.  Here’s a summary of some of the highlights I experienced in the 2013 celebration of the brown spirit. 

FRI Kicking things off was Johnnie Walker Platinum, which will reportedly sell for $110 per bottle.  Aged 18 years, this new expression is peatier than Gold or Blue but not as peaty as Black – it was described to me as a combination of the Gold and Blue and is best tried with a drop of water. 


Bowmore introduced The Devil’s Cask, aged 10 years in only sherry casks; scheduled to be available in the United States in January of 2014, aging in the sherry cask imparts heavy fruit notes, especially raisin and berry. 


Another favorite from the Islay region of Scotland is Laphroaig, who brought Cairdeas.  Relatively new to the market, it is finished for six months in a port cask and retails for approximately $75; although it has been in the American market since earlier in the year, it has a tendency to sell out rather quickly.  So, if you are lucky enough to see a bottle in your favorite liquor store, please do make sure you grab at least one because it may not be on the shelf by the time your next visit rolls around. 



A curious product was introduced by Japan’s Suntory – The Hakushu Heavily Peated.  Expected to be available in this country by the end of 2013, what’s remarkable about it is the fact that they actually import their peat from Scotland!  Brought in from both Islay and the Highlands, it is aged between 10 to 15 years and is sampled best with a drop or two of water.


Finally, Jack Daniel’s has given us a couple of interesting new products.  First, there’s the Winter Jack Tennessee Cider.  At only 30 proof, this is technically a liqueur – and it surely tastes like one, given its sweetness.  Winter Jack is aged in apple cider casks before bottling, thus providing the flavor of cider.  In serving this one to attendees, they heated it up a bit, which, I’m told, is the preferred way to sip.  Even with relatively mild temperatures on this evening, I could easily imagine how this would warm you up on the coldest of nights. 


The way they heated it was by warming up a pot of water, then letting the bottle sit in it for about five minutes or so; while I normally don’t like to drink a liqueur on its own, I must admit that this one was rather tasty, especially when prepared in this manner.  One of the company representatives said that you could also heat it up by placing some of it in a microwave-safe container and nuking it up for a minute or less (depending on how warm you desire).  As you might expect from its name, Winter Jack is a seasonal product, so you’d probably be wasting your time if you try looking for it next summer. 



Their other new product – and this one should be available November 2013 – is Sinatra Select.  Admittedly, as a bit of a Sinatra aficionado myself, I’ve clearly saved my favorite for last here. 


You may already know about Sinatra’s affinity for this fine spirit; this 90 proof offering is done to celebrate the relationship Jack Daniel’s had with Old Blue Eyes, who helped bring the whiskey to national prominence, calling it “The Nectar Of The Gods”.  Sinatra considered Jack Daniel’s to be his exclusive brand and legend has it that he was even buried with a bottle of it at the time of his death.  Sinatra Select is aged in unique casks – they contain grooves in the wood specially designed so that the spirit will interact more with the wood during the aging process, which can last anywhere from four to six years.    This causes the whiskey to deeply soak in the wood in order to have it inhabit the flavor profile, providing it with a rich character, creamy in its texture. 


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