On a very serious business-related trip, for business, my wife and I dragged ourselves (complaining all the way) up to picturesque Sonoma County, California, to trudge through a tour of Sonoma County Distilling Company’s facility and reluctantly down a bunch of samples. For business.
If you’re new to the modern whisky/scotch market, you might be confused to read about the term “NAS”, even if you know that it stands for “No Age Statement”. How can a whisky have no age? Why does the term matter, and why does it seem to cause such controversy in online discussions?
… industry contacts allowed the brand to distill its recipe under contract at an undisclosed Kentucky distillery. The recipe, incidentally, includes not only a specific strain of yeast and a mash bill of 79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% barley, but the unusual choice of filling barrels at 103 proof (instead of the more cost-effective 120+ proof).
An unusual, decadent take on the standard Laphroaig brashness. While most of me enjoys the layering of fruit and peat, a small part misses the straightforward intensity, austerity, and rough edges of the Laphroaig 10, which seems to say, “I don’t need any of that fruity nonsense”, and which comes with an age statement to boot. Despite my quirks, I can say that this is an accomplished, well-balanced, and rewarding dram at a perfectly reasonable $80.
Brown Forman’s Old Forester brand, in an attempt to avoid being left in the dust of the whisky hype train, is releasing a series of special-edition whiskies in honor of the brand’s history of per-Prohibition distillation. … uses a mashbill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley (for enzymes), the same as other Old Forester bottlings, and is by law at least 4 years of age. The 115 proof (57.5% ABV) is the distiller’s estimate of the probable bottling proof that would have been used during Prohibition for whisky intended for “medicinal purposes”.
Glengoyne’s whisky is distilled from Golden Promise barley, a low-yield heritage strain of barley used rarely in today’s big-volume whisky industry (The Macallan is also known for using the strain). Glengoyne is also notable for the speed of its distillation (purportedly the “slowest” in Scotland), its total lack of peat even in the process water, and its location very near or perhaps on top of the invisible line dividing the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. The Cask Strength batches are bottled without added coloring and without chill-filtration.
Sonoma County Distilling, located in Rohnert Park, CA and opened in 2010, uses direct-fired copper alembic pot stills for its whiskies, which are twice-distilled (like most single-malt scotches, which are also distilled in pot stills). The West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 2 has a mashbill of Midwest yellow corn, unmalted Canadian wheat, and malted barley from Wyoming.
Glenfarclas has been known in whisky circles as a way to get old-fashioned, independently-distilled, sherry-forward single malt at insider prices. … The ‘105’ in the name refers to the proof, which in the British proof system is 60% ABV. Around here we use the US proof system, which means the 105 is actually 120. Got it? … Glenfarclas uses only sherry casks to mature whisky, which previously held oloroso or fino sherry, and are either 500 liters (butts) or 250 liters (hogsheads).
Of the big bourbon brands, I’ve said before that Knob Creek with its good price point and nice balance of classic bourbon flavors with a little extra fruit and citrus and an actual age statement has made it a regular in my drinks cabinet. … This single barrel release is made from a low-rye mash bill (77% corn, 13% rye, 10% malted barley) and bottled at a paint-stripping 60% ABV.
Diageo’s Johnnie Walker range added a Platinum Label to its pantheon of blended scotches in 2013, kicking against the goad of the NAS trend by including an 18 year-old age statement on the label. The blend contains whisky from 20 to 25 distilleries (likely most of them owned by Diageo) and is advertised as having a predominantly Speyside character with some hints of Islay peat.