Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tales from WhiskyFest…

Last weekend a few of the Bounty Hunter Wine Scouts and I made a pilgrimage to San Francisco for the weekend to participate in the 5th annual WhiskyFest sponsored by the Whisky Advocate (the newly acquired publication by Marvin Shanken of Wine Spectator). As you can imagine, this is not an event for the novice. Several hundred whisky connoisseurs, aficionados and professional imbibers gather at the Marriott Marquis grand ballroom and tasted hundreds of the world’s top whiskies as well as other high proof delicacies. This was my third visit to the event, so I came prepared for the challenge.

As with any grand tasting the best plan is to high spot some of our favorite producers then circle back around to find some new releases. We started, as any civilized whisky connoisseur would, with Pappy Van Winkle. Coveted as the “Screaming Eagle of Bourbon”, Pappy is becoming harder and harder to come by these days, so we made sure to christen the palate with a few sips of the 23yr old Bourbon Whiskey. We continued on the Kentucky wagon and made stops through the Michter’s, Angels Envy and Four Roses lineup, then landed at the Heaven Hill booth to taste the new release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished Bourbon. This is a joint venture between Parker Beam and Alain Royer (Frapin Cognac, Forgotten Casks) that’s lush with sweet maple syrup, candied apple and loads of barrel spice that help make this 100-proof , 10yr. old bourbon go down like silk on the palate. Release is set for later this month, stay tuned…

I’d love to continue on about each of the producers we tasted with, but amazingly, my tasting notes became less legible as the night progressed. However, I will say the following three single malts were the most memorable of the evening. Number one, without a doubt, is the new committee release of the Ardbeg Alligator. Rich, intense campfire smoke with flavors of sweet toffee, honey and chocolate malt that beg for another sip. It’s always a good thing when a week later I can still taste the whisky. We secured all that we could, so please make an inquiry with your Wine Scout soon if you are interested.

Second and third were close enough to be a tie. The boys at Duncan Taylor brought along an 18yr old Jura Single Malt that was incredible. Loads of baking spice and honey with just the right amount of smoke and sea air to make it interesting and not take away from the malt. Last but certainly not least is a newcomer to the US market. Samaroli is an Italian independent bottler of Single malt whisky that recently launched a line of incredibly pure and memorable malts. The flagship is a blend of 18 different single malt whiskies called “Evolution 2011.” This vatted malt is composed of single malts from as far back as 1957 to 1989 and from distilleries such as Bowmore, Glenlivet and Bunnahabhain. The result is a rich concentrated nose of barrel age, baked apple and fig compote. Intense but delicate, spicy and slightly smoky. I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more “great stuff” from these guys.

An incredible evening to say the least. Fortunate for you, these events are held in three cities each year (San Francisco, Chicago and New York), so if you are interested, follow this link WhiskeyFest to purchase tickets. If you plan to attend, we highly recommend staying the night somewhere close by and arranging transportation in advance. And if you want to attend next year’s San Francisco event, we’d love to show you around the room during the tasting (you’ll also get to taste whiskies not available to the general public). Simply let your Wine Scout know and they will walk you through the details. We look forward to seeing you there next year.


--Stefan Matulich
Sales Director / Spirits Buyer

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