Whisky Live New York 2013 Highlights

I attended Whisky Live New York on Wednesday night and was very impressed by the event. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was in for. When I walked into that room and saw a plethora of tasting booths with brands that I had been eager to taste my eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. I had been advised to stay calm, evaluate the listing and plot my route. I probably glanced at the listing for about 10 seconds and only made it to B. B for Balcones. Without further adieu here are some of my tasting highlights from this fantastic whisky event.

Tasting Highlights

Balcones Single Malt – An exciting American single malt heralded as one of the best Stateside. Since their first release in 2009 the distillery has racked up rewards like nobodies business. Chip Tate, the head distiller and founder was named Craft Distiller of the Year 2012 by Whisky Magazine. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to chat with Chip as he was constantly surrounded by gawkers, but I hope to interview him at some point. Chip intends his whisky to be an expression of Texas’ terroir. With that in mind the single malt is bottled at cask strength and the flavors are rightfully bold. I definitely tasted the char from the famously charred American oak barrels that Balcones uses to mature all of their whiskys. This is one tough bottle to find. According to an owner of a local wine and spirits store, Balcones single malt supplies are limited.

Brenne French Single Malt – Heather Greene, the whisky sommelier of Flatiron Room, was kind enough to introduce me to founder Allison Patel. Patel has been working with a third generation Cognac distiller to develop this unique single malt. Side bar: Who knew the French produced whisky? I thought they were all about wine. Anyhow, Brenne is a true farm to bottle whisky that was just launched in October 2012. The dram is finished in cognac barrels which is a first to my knowledge. Each release is single cask. Brenne is a very approachable whisky – the taste reminded me of creme brulee. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Brenne in the future, this is a very intriguing new whisky.

Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 44 – This is an extremely popular heavily sherried single cask release. Bottled at 59.7% ABV, it’s best enjoyed with a splash of water to release the flavors. Typically I prefer predominantly ex-bourbon cask aged whiskies, but I found the sherry in a’Bunadh to be very balanced. It wasn’t overpowering like some sherried drams can be. Fairly priced at $75 a bottle, a’Bunadh is something to worth considering if you’re interested in adding a sherried cask strength whisky to your collection.

Glenlivet XXV – The crown jewel and oldest age statement at Glenlivet’s tasting booth was the 25 (marketed in roman numerals as XXV.) I worked my way up from 16 through 18, 21 and finally arrived at XXV. Note: just because a whisky is aged longer doesn’t automatically make it better than it’s younger counterparts. As one whisky expert astutely stated, “If you put crap spirit in a cask for 30 years, when you remove it it’s just 30 year old crap.” Distributor Pernod Ricard will be happy to know that XXV does not fall into this category. I found it to be a very complex whisky which I wouldn’t mind spending some intimate time with to examine all of it’s facets. XXV had enticing notes of caramelized fruit and toffee. Upwards of $300 for a bottle, this is a dram best saved for a special occasion.

Final Thoughts

The selection of whisky at the event was staggering. No one could possibly taste the 300+ spirits in one night unless they had bowels made of steel. Beyond the tastings, it was great to meet some prominent people associated with the NY whisky industry. Whisky Live sure put on one heck of an event and I’m already looking forward to next years tasting. If you’re a whisky enthusiast you should strongly consider getting tickets to Whisky Live 2014. It will exceed your expectations.

Full List of Whiskies Tasted
Aberfeldy 12
Aberfeldy 21
Aberlour 12 non chill-filtered
Aberlour 16
Aberlour 18
Aberlour a’Bunadh
Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Ardbeg Uigeadail
Balcones Baby Blue
Balcones Single Malt
Balcones True Blue 100
Brenne French Single Malt
Bruichladdich Organic
Dewar’s Highlander Honey
Glenlivet 16 Nadurra
Glenlivet 18
Glenlivet Archive 21
Glenlivet XXV
Glen Garioch 12
Glen Garioch 1986
Glen Garioch 1994
Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve
Hibiki 12
Hudson Single Malt
Invergordon – Batch 1
Port Charlotte Peat Project
Port Charlotte Ten
Scapa 16


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