New Summer Whisk(e)y To Sip Into Fall
New American whiskey and Scotch releases to enjoy now into the cooler months
For those among us who are omnibibulous, we naturally reach for paler spirits, refreshing cocktails and light-bodied wines during the warmer months. However, August, in the height of summer, can be one of the best months to taste whisk(e)y because so many new ones have surfaced, ready for autumn sipping. What am I bending my elbow for this month? Find your favorite whiskey glass and read on (and if you’re still sweltering, here’s a little experiment we conducted a while back to determine the best way to cool the spirit).
High West Yippee Ki-Yay Rye and American Prairie Bourbon: Things keep getting better out of this Park City Utah, outfit. This year’s Yippee Ki-Yay trots its blend of straight rye whiskeys into vermouth and syrah barrels for the finish, making this western-themed whiskey taste a like an alcoholic Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar, which is never a bad thing. If you’d rather skip the bonanza of wine finishes, American Prairie is an annual release in time for Bourbon Heritage Month in September that donates 10% of after-tax profits to the American Prairie Reserve organization, which is more important than ever in these environmentally challenged times. This year it’s a blend of 2, 6 and 13 year old bourbons from MGP and an unnamed Kentucky distillery. It’s delicious to sip neat, and also perfect for a transitional summer to fall sour cocktail. Yippee Ki-Yay: 46% ABV, $100. American Prairie: 46% ABV, $35.
Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage 2018 (a.k.a. 12th Edition) and 27 Year: For the past 12 years, Heaven Hill has released a limited edition whiskey honoring the late Master Distiller Parker Beam, with a portion of proceeds to benefit ALS research and patient care. This year, Master Distiller Denny Potter veers a bit off the usual path to the fruit orchard, taking a seven year bourbon and giving it an extra four month stint in barrels that once held French orange curaçao liqueur acquired in a partnership with Alain Royer. “What the…?” was my initial thought, but then “Heaven scent!” when I finally put the spirit to my nose. The odd combination works like a buddy film featuring seemingly mismatched characters - the flavors fight each other initially, but then find common ground down the road, balancing char smoke and integrated citrus peel, then finally bonding in malty-orangey deliciousness by the finish. The 27 Year is similarly a surprise treat. I’m generally ageist when it comes to bourbon, and most over 15 years fail to impress. However, this one manages to avoid the usual moldy oakiness and drying finish, with a fruity, youthful, minerally mid palate reminiscent of malted chocolate and a warming sensation that’s pleasantly musty in the end - more of an “after-must,” as a good friend put it, than a cloak of it. Parker’s Heritage 12th Edition: 110 proof, $90. HH 27 Year: 94.7 proof, $400 in very limited quantities.
Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Ryes: “That whiskey from Indiana?” Having supplied juice for non-distillers, both on and off the record (ahem), for ages, MGP Ingredients in Lawrenceburg has finally released a proprietary rye. Now, as long as a brand has been forthcoming about where they sourced their liquid, I’ve been behind MGP rye, anyway. The spice and oak flavors tend to be well integrated, there’s an enjoyable tanginess, a good weight, and these two expressions - Straight Rye and Barrel Proof Straight Rye - are no exception. Maybe they taste even better because no one is passing them off as their grandpappy’s secret recipe, although they do advertise the particular mash recipe used is one that hasn’t been since 1847. Straight Rye: 47% ABV, $40. Barrel Proof: 56.3% ABV, $70.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018 (a.k.a. Cairdeas Fino): The annual release from this Islay distillery is one for the fans (“Cairdeas” is Gaelic for “friendship”), to honor the Friends of Laphroaig Community. The liquid for this bottling was selected by distillery manager John Campbell from casks aged in warehouses 8 and 10 that were matured in first fill bourbon barrels then finished in ex-Fino sherry casks. Laphroaig’s signature flavors of a seaweed-tangled, ocean-soaked first aid kit that was opened next to a blazing beach bonfire are fully present (meant in the nicest possible way), but the influence of the dry sherry brings out a zingy, mixed salted cocktail nuts quality that adds to the experience. 51.8% ABV, $80.
Balblair 2005: This Northern Highland Distillery exclusively releases vintage bottlings, with the label indicating which year the whisky went into barrels. This is the first release of this vintage for the distillery’s core range, from a selection of ex-bourbon casks. This light, delicately fragrant Scotch has citrusy, pear and bright apple notes accented with burnt sugar, orange peel, malted chocolate and a puff of pipe smoke. I am especially excited about this vintage, since it marks the year I began my career in the booze business! 46% ABV, $75
Buchanan’s Select 15 Year Blended Scotch: Here we have a blend of single malts from “the heart of Scotland.” Vague much, Diageo? Well, I can definitely taste some Dufftown influence here, with that telltale chocolate covered malted pretzel and Cracker Jacks effect emerging through subsequent sips. I taste some funky salinity and brininess too, but with a surprisingly creamy finish. This would be a good one to serve at the beginning of a night of whisky tasting (gather all your whisky nerd friends to guess the blend!), and it would certainly pair nicely with some oysters. 40% ABV, $50