Currently Sipping Smooth Ambler Old Scout

A Friday evening is always a good time for an unfamiliar bourbon. This evening is the Smooth Ambler Old Scout. A Tasty bourbon from the West Virginia Distillery.

Even though Smooth Ambler create a variety of spirits from scratch at the distillery, the Old Scout line is not that. The Old Scout bottlings are sourced whiskey, hence the name, the source whiskey was carefully scouted out. Some purists might moan about it not all being made in house, but they can keep that moaning to themselves! Smooth Ambler is one of those distilleries that does it right, and finds some terrific liquid. The Appalachian community spirit that the distillery is built around is just another ingredient that adds to a wonderful product. The community around them are really at the heart of this company, so producing a liquid that can make their small community shine world wide, is fantastic. I am a fan of a lot of liquids that come from distilleries all over the world, but I will always gravitate more frequently to distilleries like Smooth Ambler where when you hear them talk about their spirits, you know they truly care about what they put out!

Now they have a few different versions of Old Scout, but in front of me I have the 99 proof Straight Bourbon. The current mash bill of this one is 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. Aged around 5 years, with a high rye content, you are getting a very bold bourbon. They have done an exceptional job at sourcing this liquid. Oodles of butterscotch sweets, very warming with that rye spiciness, cloves, along with some wonderful earthy herbs.

Grab a bottle here if you are unfamiliar with Smooth Ambler as I was.

Currently Drinking Some Hampden Estate

Been waiting a while to get some hands on this bottle of Hampden Great House Distillery Edition. A perfect addition to any rum shelf in time for Summer. Here’s a quick little rundown of our experience with it.

Definitely no stranger to the Hampden Estate rums and always happy when there is an open bottle around for enjoyment. This release is fantastic for the seasoned Hampden drinker or someone who has no experience with them at all. That is because this release was created for the sole purpose of showcasing everything that is amazing about Hampden Estates rums!

This is not like a lot of their other single cask bottlings out there, the Great House Edition is expertly blended by the distillery’s Master Distiller. I also love seeing that they are putting out more of their own labeled rums instead of sending out mass amounts of their liquid to other companies. Like a lot of Jamaican rums, this expression is a high ester (natural compounds created during the fermentation process) rum, which adds to the amazing range of flavours in this rum!

A blend of two molasses based rums and local spring water, the rum bottled at a boisterous 59% ABV. A full funk rum for sure! Everything you love from Hampden Estate. Initially they only had limited amount of 1200 bottles being sold at the distillery and supplied to special events. Luckily for us it made its way here!

You are looking at wonderful array of tangy tropical fruit flavours, with grilled pineapples, tasty puckering lemon, thick molasses, and nice smoked chocolate in there.

Grab a bottled for yourself HERE!

A True Beam-Suntory Crossover!

It was definitely big news when two major whisk(e)y powerhouses merged to create a massive East/West giant! Beam and Suntory merging was an exciting time for the whisk(e)y world, wondering what the marriage between Japanese and American giants could bring us in the form of golden liquid! Well, that came to fruition with Legent Bourbon.

Legent Bourbon is the love child of two whiskey legends from opposite ends of the globe and years of quiet collaboration between the both of them. Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s Master Distiller, and Shinji Fukuyo, Suntory’s Chief Blender. Both men bringing their expertise to the table and ultimately learning from each other! Fukuyo learning the art of the bourbon mash bill in a continuous still, along with intricacies of how Kentucky’s climate plays a role in the maturation. Noe on the other hand learned, what Japan is great at, how to use different cask finishes and blending them expertly! Unlike in Japan, blended whiskey can sometimes have a negative connotation in the United States. This is a bottling that will help shed that perception.

Legent is the blend of three different versions of Jim Beam. All three start out as Jim Beam’s standard Kentucky Bourbon mash bill, then 2 versions are secondary cask finished. The standard being the bourbon barrel finished giving the traditional oaky vanilla and caramel flavours which represents a big portion of the final product. The other two versions have that same bourbon transferred to secondary casks. One, California red wine casks, and the other, sherry casks. The sherry gives the nutty, slight spice, dried fruit flavours and the wine casks showcase the more mild red fruit flavours. At the end of all that, Fukuyo works his magic and blends them all together in this beautiful final product.

This whiskey is a perfect addition to the bourbon world and represents what two cultures working together can yield! A wonderful product of innovation.

As you drink Legent neat or on the rocks you’ll notice it change quickly as it sits on your tongue. It starts like a bourbon – rich, warm and oaky. Then, like a Japanese whisky, it features both complex layers of dried fruits and spice. Adding an ice cube or two accentuates Legent’s already bright, smooth and unexpectedly long finish.

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A Look Into Wild Thyme Spirits

If you are like most of us here at Whisky Merchant, you are always on the lookout for new and unique spirits! Now, new doesn’t always have to be newly released, maybe just one you have never come across before. Wild Thyme Spirits may fall into that category for a lot of you. They produce Colonsay Gin from all the way up in the Hebrides!

Wild Thyme was founded by Finlay and Eileen Geekie, who packed up their busy lives in Oxfordshire, and ventured north to start their new lives as spirit makers in The Hebrides! Their love of gin, creating a sustainable future, and desire to build on the island community all played into the creation of the new life adventure they set out on! Wild Thyme is a small batch distillery that moved their gin production to the Island of Colonsay after previously working with Strathearn Distillery. They believed it was about time they brought production back to the gin’s namesake! As displayed on the label and in the name, Wild Thyme Spirits is rooted in Celtic spirit folklore. In particular, it is said they are protected by Alva, a red-haired maiden who graces their gin label.

Their gin is crafted using local botanicals after the husband and wife team were granted access to the historic Colonsay House to source a variety of botanicals. The 7 botanicals that made the final cut include juniper, angelica root, calamus root, liquorice root, orange peel, orris root and coriander seeds. The spirit is then created in a 100 litre copper still and bottled in only 160 bottle batches at 48% ABV. Wild Thyme’s process creates a wonderfully smooth and refreshingly light sip that is bound to delight gin drinkers everywhere! If that’s not enough convincing, they have also taken home a silver medal at the Gin Masters competition for the Ultra Premium gin category.

Smooth and slightly sweet, as if kissed by the maiden herself, strong juniper notes then transport you to a pine-fresh walk through the magnificent woodlands of Colonsay House, before the flavour develops into a delicate balance of spice, peppery notes and lemon sherbet; the latter lingering, as clean and refreshing as a dip in the clear blue waters of Kiloran Bay.

-Wild Thyme Spirits

So grab a bottle of Colonsay Gin for yourself just in time for summer!

Aber Falls

If there is one thing this lockdown has given a lot of us, that is time! It has definitely slowed things down for a lot of people. Finding ways to spend some of your extra time has definitely been interesting. Luckily the team here has a access to a vast array of spirits that may or may not be unfamiliar to us. Exploring new spirits and reintroducing ourselves to others has most definitely occupied some of that extra time!

One of those more unfamiliar spirits is Aber Falls Gin from the lovely Welsh village of Abergwyngregyn. While they do make whisky, the gin is truly something tasty! Named after the famous Aber Falls waterfall where the distillery sits at the base of. The distillery is one of only a handful businesses in the village that sits at the gateway to the Snowdonia National Park. Aber Falls also works with the local farmers and community to create a sustainable product, from using local barley to using spent grain for cattle feed. For their gins they work with a local botanic gardens for welsh inspired botanicals, a lot of which can be found growing wildly in North Wales.

Once this lockdown is a bit further in our rear view mirror, a trip to Aber Falls is going to be in the books! Until then we are going to have to settle for sampling their tasty offerings. The two that have been cracked open are the Orange Marmalade Gin and the Welsh Dry Gin. Both delicious!

Orange Marmalade Gin

Silver medal winner in both San Francisco World Spirits Competition and International Wine & Spirits Competition. Wonderfully balanced with the piney juniper, sweet and tangy citrus flavours. Huge fan of the heavy orange notes!

Welsh Dry Gin

Has also taken some awards, both gold and silver in the previously mentioned competitions! If you are looking for something more traditional and juniper forward, this is a fantastic one. This is closest to a London Dry style gin, but using welsh water from the mountains around Aber Falls. Notes of sweet citrus, black liquor ice and earthy tartness.

A Week of Lockdown With Tullibardine

This week of lockdown is definitely going to be a Tullibardine kind of week. We received our shipment from the distillery last week and I thought why not make them my dram of choice this week!

We are huge fans of the whole team at Tullibardine, especially Keith who has taken great care of us! He’s the best! We got a chance to go up to the distillery last year for a terrific tour of everything Tullibardine! A true Scottish distillery still craft amazing whisky in a very traditional way.

We are big fans of the different finishes that the distillery produces, especially the Sauternes finish. Although, those are not the ones that we are looking forward to digging into the most! The distillery recently released their 15 year old. This 15 y/o release was distilled right after the distillery’s reopening and aged in first fill bourbon barrels.

Keith Geddes, Tullibardine’s Master Distiller had this to say:

‘It is a joy to introduce the 15-Year-Old to the world. This whisky really is something special with an abundance of beguiling flavours that sync perfectly together.

It’s a remarkable whisky that has been carefully crafted by our incredible, passionate team at our distillery nestled at the gateway of the Highlands. The whisky has a sweet and warm character that fills the senses with nostalgic aromas.’

Once the 15 goes live on the site, we will let you know! In the meantime, checkout our sale on the different cask finishes!

225 Sauternes finish – 12 months in 225 litre casks brings out some wonderful fresh fruit flavours with sweet cream!

228 Burgundy finish – The time spent in the burgundy casks give off some rich berry flavours, with delicious creamy custard.

500 Sherry cask finish – 12 months in 500 litre sherry butts bring on some dark stewed fruits and very pronounced cinnamon spice, with tasty raw honey notes.

The Original Texas Whisky

If you are not yet aware of Balcones Distillery, you should make a point to get acquainted! A true powerhouse in the world of craft distilleries, that was the first Texas whisky maker since prohibition! Lone Star State passion at it’s finest.

Based in Waco, Balcones is named after a fault line that runs north to south through Texas. The extreme fluctuations in Texas temperatures create dynamic flavours in the barrel aging that you don’t find in most other climates. That just adds to the uniqueness that is Balcones!

The creators have worked with true dedication to their crafting process to make it a wholly Texas product, as opposed to shipping in liquid from some outside of the state. That is a very common practice in this industry. The distillery is housed in a 65,000 square foot facility in downtown Waco. Operating with 2 wash stills and 2 spirit stills made by Forsyth’s in Scotland.

Balcones is a founding member of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commision, a group dedicated to making this fairly new category shine! They are not trying to recreate what single malt is, but rather walk along side the greats…just with an American flair!

They have a huge rotating variety of whisky, but usually a core 7 with seasonal ones thrown in. The whisky that started it all is their Baby Blue. Expertly crafted from 100% roasted heirloom blue corn, which has 20% more protein and has a nuttier/sweeter taste than traditional yellow corn. 100% corn whisky is rare, let alone blue corn!!

We only have a couple Balcones bottlings at the moment, but we will let you know when we receive more!

Balcones Brimstone Whisky

This one-of-a-kind whisky is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using our own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh, youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness. Whether you like smoky whiskies, or just have a penchant for big, new flavors, Brimstone is sure to be a memorable pour. Aromas of masa, Texas campfire and powdered sugar backed by stone fruit, peppery spice, and mint. Bold yet balanced, Brimstone is yet another Texas original from Balcones.

Balcones Texas Single Malt

A timeless style of malt whisky, Balcones “1” Texas Single Malt breathes new life into centuries of distilling tradition with classic techniques and ingredients adapted for New World tastes. Opening aromas bear hints of toffee and overripe fruits. On the palate, layers of toasted malt and honey give way to mellow notes of baked pears and apples. A long finish is accompanied by cinnamon and cloves. Texas made, Texas proud, we hope you enjoy the whisky we owe our success to as much as we enjoy making it.

Untamed Peat

Last week the peat powerhouse unveiled a new bottling to be added to their core range. Wee Beastie is bringing a new flare to the Ardbeg lineup.

The most notable change to the new bottling is the very different red foil top as opposed to normal less flashy dark top. In addition to that, Wee Beastie will wear it’s young age of 5 years old as a badge of honour! Not many whiskies out there have such a young whisky as part of their core range, let alone have the number printed on the label! While most companies usually try to hide their young age statement whiskies, Ardbeg is making it known that they are very proud of that 5 years.

They have definitely geared this one to the peat fanatics out there! Traditionally these heavily peated spirits are aged to tone down the intensity of the peat and medicinal flavours. That’s not the case with Wee Beastie. They are really turning those intense flavours up a few notches, noting that this bottling is intended to be “untamed by age”.

“I am sure that many Ardbeg fans will love this tongue tingling expression. The selected casks create a bottling that can be enjoyed neat or is a delicious main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail.”

Ardbeg’s Director of Whisky Creation, Bill Lumsden.

The availability will be sometime in May and we will let you all know when we are to receive our stock. It will definitely be a welcomed distraction from the craziness of the outside world. We will for sure be experimenting with what super smoky cocktails we are able to come up with.

Images from Moet-Hennessy

Tuthilltown Spirits

The distillery name may not be known to most, but they are the great folks that bring us the Hudson Whiskey brand.

Tuthilltown Spirits Farm Distillery is New York’s first whiskey distillery since prohibition. Before prohibition New York farms had a rich history of providing local grains and fruits to many farm distilleries. In 2005 Tuthilltown Spirits thought it had been long enough and brought the tradition of crafting small batch spirits back to the Hudson Valley!

Today Tuthilltown prides themselves on pulling ingredients from local sources and producing their spirits in a sustainable way. True farm to bottle crafting. The grains they use for their highly awarded Hudson whiskey comes from a farm less than 10 miles and the apples they use for their vodka comes from less than 5 miles away. All of this happening in a 220 year old Gristmill that used water power to render local grains into flour. That Gristmill is a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A whiskey distillery is long way from what the owners originally wanted, which was a rock climbing ranch! I would say that decision paid off ten fold, seeing that in 2010 the Hudson craft whiskey line was bought by the whisky giant William Grant & Sons. In more recent years William Grant acquired the whole Tuthilltown spirit making machine!

Their current line up of spirits include:

5 Great Affordable Whiskies

Not all whisky has to make a dent in your wallet for it to be good. Too many people are under the assumption that you have to pay a lot to get a quality whisk(e)y. That’s not the case. We’ve put together a small list of whiskies that you can pick up if you don’t want to spend too much. We’ll stick to a price tag under £40.

Edradour 10 Year Old – £38.95

One of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, Edradour is tucked away in the hills of Pitlochry. Their whisky output is such a small fraction of most of the other distilleries. This 10 year old bottling is a great offering from the southern Highlands and at a great price point. Quite soft with notes of toasted cereals and rich fruits. A very easy dram.

Talisker 10 Year Old – £36.89

Want a bit of that coastal flare? Grab a bottle of this whisky from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye! Part of Diageo’s Classic Malts Collection, this dram gives you a true taste of the elements. Wonderful notes of smoked meats, maritime saltiness, and candied fruits.

Teeling Small Batch – £36.95

I wanted to throw an Irish in here just because we are big fans of Teeling! This is an excellent blend if you want to make a move away from Jameson. Using ex-rum casks to finish off the maturation, you get an undoubtedly tasty sweetness. Lovely caramel apple flavours with an easy smoothness.

Springbank 10 Year Old – £39.99

Easily one of my favourite distilleries. Based on Campbeltown, Springbank are still a family run distillery that does every bit of the whisky making process in house! Not many can say that these days. This 10 year old is rich and full toasted malt flavours with tangy fruit notes. The slight and perfect amount of peat gently passes over the tongue.

Tomatin Legacy – £25.95

This wonderful bottling from an equally wonderful distillery, was bottled to pay homage to the dedicated community that is at the heart of the distillery. As part of it’s legacy, Tomatin remains one of the only distilleries that provides a home for it’s craftsmen. Flavours of vanilla cake, crisp citrus and a piney freshness.