High West Distillery

Posted on Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011 at 11:17 PM

High West Distillery 
At our last meeting, LAWS was treated to a massive tasting by David Perkins from High West. David founded High West in 2007 in Park City, Utah, and he's since quickly become known as one of the leading lights of the new breed of whiskey producers. Specializing in rye whiskey, High West sources and vats aged ryes from Kentucky and Indiana, in addition to distilling and ageing their own whiskey. 
We tasted a number of High West's sourced whiskeys including Rendezvous Rye, Double Rye, the 21 year old rye and the very limited release 12 year old rye. Their award winning Bourye, a blend of straight bourbon and rye, is not being made anymore (the sourced whiskeys are all gone) so David used us as willing guinea pigs to test out two "Son of Bourye" prototypes. The group was about evenly split on which they liked best -- sorry to High West to be no help at all with that one.

We also tasted a lot of David's own distillate as he led us through a super-advanced masterclass on distilling. Sampling heads and tails may have been a bit of a shock to our taste buds, but it provided a huge insight into the job the distiller does in separating out the hearts. David hasn't released any aged versions of his own distillate yet, but he gave us a taste of his aged oat, malt and rye whiskeys to see how they were progressing in the barrel -- he's not releasing them any time soon, but it's fair to say so far, so good! We then explored the role of yeast, tasting four Pennsylvania-style ryes that were the same mashbill except for the use of different yeasts.

After all that work, David treated us to a comparison of his barrel-aged Manhattan cocktail, 36th Vote Barreled Manhattan (the name refers to Utah's final vote to repeal prohibition) and a pre-barreled version.  Even in this group of whiskey purists who scoff at putting anything in their whiskey other than a few drops of water, the barreled Manhattan got pretty high marks. No wonder it doesn't stay on shelves for very long.
Thanks to David and High West for what may have been the most academic yet adventurous LAWS meeting in history. All that learnin' sure was fun!

Glenhaven Meeting

Posted on Sunday, Jun 26, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Glenhaven was an independent bottler located in Glasgow that supplied the American market with single cask bottlings in the 1990s. The whiskies were neither chill-filtered nor colored and were all at cask strength, usually quite high (around 60%). Apparently, the owner passed away in 1997 and the company shut its doors. Dusty bottles can still be found, however, on the shelves of some liquor stores. Six such rare finds were the subject of this meeting:Glenhaven single malt scotch

Glenmoray 1984 Glenhaven

Glentauchers 1976 Glenhaven

Highland Park 1975 Glenhaven

Macduff 1971 Glenhaven

Mannochmore 1978 Glenhaven

Tomatin 1977 Glenhaven


As usual, ratings/notes appear as members motivate.

Clynelish & Brora: An Historic Meeting

Posted on Monday, Feb 21, 2011 at 05:43 PM

For a long time, we've been wanting to do a Brora-Clynelish meeting, tracing the distillery's split with rare expressions -- and after four years of legwork, we finally had the bottles to put it together.


For those not familiar with the history of Clynelish, it briefly goes like this: in 1819, the original Clynelish distillery was built in the Northern Highlands of Scotland. It operated sporadically until 1967, when a new distillery was built next door to satisfy increased demand. Confusingly, this new distillery took the name "Clynelish" and the old Clynelish distillery was renamed "Brora." Brora originally supplied Islay-style malt, but peating levels soon decreased and it permanently closed not much later in 1983.

Our idea was to take a "tasting tour" starting with a pre-Brora Clynelish, following through with other bottlings up through the closing of Brora. The lineup was:

1. Clynelish 12 yo, OB (Ainslie & Heilbron)
. The juice in this bottle was likely distilled around 1965 and prior, making this the closest thing to "original Clynelish" we could find.

2. Clynelish 22 yo, 1972, Rare Malts.  This rare Rare Malts (sic) currently auctions for around $900.

3. Brora 21 yo, 1972, Connoiseurs Choice.  This "old map label" bottle is highy-respected by some some well-known tasters.

4 & 5. Brora 26 yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1424, and Brora 25yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1423. It was fun to see the differences between these sister casks, filled consecutively.

6. Clynelish 17 yo, 1981, Managers Dram.  Generally considered the best of the "Managers Dram" series, which are not intended for the general public.

7. Brora 22 yo, 1982, Lombard Jewels of Scotland
.  John Hansell scored this at 95 points so it seemed a tasty choice to exhibit the end of an era.

8. Brora 30 yo, 1972, Old Malt Cask, "Brorageddon" for PLOWED. We wanted to finish with something we knew would be massive, and were lucky to score this legendary sherry monster bottled for PLOWED back in 2003. (Thanks Tim of!)

The consensus was that most of these were great malts, and those that weren't were at least "interesting" in some sense. (Exception: Andy, our resident lowballer, professed mild distaste for... um... everything?). The Clynelish Managers Dram was a huge favorite, but the Brorageddon seemed to finally win the evening. Did we just start a new tradition when draining an exceptionally good bottle?


A destroyed Brorageddon bottle

Diageo Special Releases 2010

Posted on Thursday, Jan 13, 2011 at 01:45 AM

bottle pictures



Near the end of each year, for the single-malt gifting season, Diageo unveils their Special Releases -- "a small and highly desirable collection of limited edition single malt Scotch whiskies."


We cracked open all seven of the USA Special Releases, not without a little bit of cynicism. After all, we're typically intent on tasting more off-the-beaten-path scotches that are, shall we snobbishly say, less "promoted." 


Well, I'm (Adam) happy to admit the consensus was that these are, by and large, very good and tasty malts. Sure, the prices could be better, but such are the times. Hmm, perhaps Diageo knows what they're doing... I predict success for this fledgling company!


As a shocker, most-enjoyed was the Glenkinchie 20-year-old. Most-talked-about (and similarly very much enjoyed) was by far the Glen Spey, which presented unusual flavors usually found in bourbons and ryes -- so much so that we're nearly certain there's something extra-unusual about the woods used on this one. If you've got info plese let us know; inquiries are out to Diageo.


scotch whisky bottleAuchroisk 20

Talisker 30

Glen Spey 21

Glenkinchie 20

Caol Ila 12 "Unpeated Style"

Lagavulin 12

Cragganmore 21


Then to finish things up, we continued the Diageo theme with The Directors' Blend -- a special private bottling for Diageo staff in 2005, which contains all of Diageo's scotch distilleries from the time (27 single malts + 2 grain). Finally, we had something to thumb our noses at! Okay, it wasn't terrible, it was a blend, it was special and fun to try, and it was at the end of a long night. Or uh, halfway actually... but that's another story.

The Perfect Dram and The Whisky Agency

Posted on Sunday, Dec 5, 2010 at 09:43 AM

We Los Angelenos have a little difficulty getting to Limburg, Germany each year -- where The Whisky Fair is held. So last March, we dedicated a meeting to bottlings exclusively for the Fair. 

That meeting was such a favorite that it demanded an encore. So this December, we met and explored seven bottlings by The Whisky Fair's sister labels, The Whisky Agency and The Perfect Dram:
As members motivate and enter notes, you'll see that the meeting lived up to expectations. Some of these are still available, get 'em if you can!
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