Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicago Whisky Fest 11 Sold Out! What are the Other Chicago Options?

For some this may be old news, but for the first time in years, if ever, that Whisky Fest has sold out in February. For those unable to get tickets, all is not lost. There will be other Malt Advocate Promoted events during Whisky Week Chicago in April including Binny's World of Whisky.  Also, the U.S. Annual Ardbeg Committee Meeting will be in Chicago on Saturday. Some of us delayed our purchases due to the price increase, while others capitulated to new ownership and quickly paid the increase.  Frankly, I was frustrated with the minimal VIP discount, but ended up with the vanilla envelope ticket. I know its a bargain.

Malt Advocate's  membership program appears in limbo after the new management takeover. In a world with at least two top names in whisky magazines and a third or fourth in their genesis, it is unclear how some stalwarts will react to change.  If Chicago is any indication, it will make no difference. However, a few notable players including Binny's will not be at Whisky Fest. This, according to Malt Advocate is due to Illinois Law

Apparently, Malt Advocate informs us that its lawyers fear that retailers cannot sample whisky at the off site events.  However, I am told that the Illinois forms allow for retailers to do so and the license is for the individuals working for the retailer. In addition, we understand that tasting sites may be registered, as well.  Perhaps, new management overlooks one of the most renown retailers in the U.S., let alone the U.S. due to Binny's Event which is on the day before Whisky Fest Chicago. Perhaps, there is confusion over Illinois law.  Maybe eliminating a big retailer from the floor is better for the smaller ones.

Excuse the digression. Whisky Fest is a popular event in Chicago, so expect more competitors, one of which is Whisky Live, which will be at the Scottish Festival and Highland Games on June 17 and 18 in Itasca. That is a bit of a drive from Chicago.  However, I'll be in California, so Binny's Event and Whisky Fest remains more of a priority. Also, watch for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Extravanganza in October.

Meanwhile, check Binny's Website and the Malt Advocate Website for more information in the weeks before April 15, 2011.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Mortlachs. One Way to Compare and Contrast.

These two bottles appear similar. However, how different are they? No one will know unless both are opened and tasted together. Perhaps, this may happen at some Mortlach Single Malt Scotch tasting event. If not, a collector may hold onto them for decades. Some families may hold onto the bottles for a century. Unlike wine, whisky rarely goes bad.

These two bottles are from two different casks distilled on the same exact day. However, one is aged a year longer than the other. The casks are numbered four from each other, so they likely contain malt distillate from the same still.  In aging longer, one cask lost 0.7% alcohol by volume or 1.4 proof.  However, at 60% ABV, this likely will not make much difference. 

The difference in time spent aging in the wood as well as the location where aged, and the fact that two different casks were used may impact the nose (meaning "bouquet" or "scent") and the flavor (referred to in three parts as the "palate," "body," and "finish").  The difference can be significant or very limited. For some, it can be difficult to sense the difference due to the higher alcohol content.

Often, collectors want the official as well as independent bottlings, like these two Gordon and McPhail single cask bottles, for a representative tasting. An official bottling or OB may be unavailable or difficult to find, since some distilleries casks tend to be used mostly in blends rather than sold alone. However, this is changing due to demand.

In addition, the dwindling supply from some distilleries, due to closure, can create shortages. As a result, a stock from Independent Bottlers may be almost all that is left, where a distillery is demolished, dismantled or demolished. If the distillery is/was owned by Deageo, among other conglomerates, then securing official bottlings of a non-producing distillery may prove futile to cost prohibitive without enough interest.

Just who do the malt trusts think will drink if prices exceed demand? That is the risk, but more often then not, reasonable prices may be found. At what point do single malt producers like Deageo best introduce the public to their official bottlings of closed distilleries? Well, that is easier said than done.  Sometimes, demand exceeds supply even at higher price points.

Certainly, there are many pundits.  There are some who think that they can do better at finding the best casks. Yet, there is a balanced interest to remain in business, while making a profit, yet not losing out on opportunity. The efforts of Whisky Fest, Whisky Live, the Whisky Extravanza, and other events create more demand. However, reaching the folks that actually drink may make a difference in whether the stock sells soon or sells short.
Those of us who do more than warehouse know that there is a time and a place for everything. We just take it one day at a time and drink responsibly. Who would want to miss that opportunity?