Winter is squarely in the rear-view mirror. Does that mean that we’re entering whiskey’s “off season,” during the Spring and Summer months?
Maybe that perspective could have been justified in years past. Yes, the Fall and Winter months traditionally yield the most whiskey intrigue. But, the whiskey industry’s continued boom means that every season is whiskey season.
There have been several exciting announcements for new release whiskeys locally and nationally this Spring and Summer. Here are a few that you should know:
Whistlepig is not a new brand, nor has it announced a new release this Summer or Spring. However, it will be new to the Wichita market.
Southern Glazier’s, a local distributor, recently received approval for four Whistlepig products: 1) Whistlepig Farm Stock Rye; 2) Whistlepig Straight Rye; 3) Whistlepig 12 year Rye; and 4) Whistlepig 15 year Rye.
We’re big fans of Whistlepig, and think they are doing a great job with sourcing quality rye from Alberta Distillery (Canada) and MGP. We previously reviewed a 10 year old single barrel rye that was exclusively sold at Julep in Kansas City (pictured above). Also, one of our previous tasting events featured one of Whistlepig’s special release 12 year ryes. Both received high marks.
We have not tried Whistlepig’s own distillate from their “Farm Stock” yet, but hope that with time, it can match up to the high expectations set by Whistlepig’s other products.
Keep an eye out for this one to appear on Wichita retail shelves in May.
Another brand that is not new, but is going to be new to Wichita, is Willett.
Perhaps most of all, however, we’re hoping to see Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye. Unlike the Willett Family Estate Bottled Bourbon (pictured above), which is only sold at the Willett Distillery, the Family Estate Bottled Rye has a national distribution. The rye has been growing in popularity, and for good reason. Willett is distilling and aging the rye itself (and releasing it at cask strength) and has shown great promise with its 2 and 3 year bottles.
Though the particular Willett brands have not yet been formally approved, we expect that the following brands, in addition to the rye, may be appearing on Wichita retail shelves within the next few months: Willett Post Still Reserve, Old Bardstown, Johnny Drum Private Stock, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, and Pure Kentucky.
Old Fitzgerald 11 Year Bottled-in-Bond
Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald brand is certainly not new. We have reviewed the Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond, which was once available in Kansas, but has disappeared in the last five years.
Because the other Old Fitzgerald variations have not been available in Kansas for several years, it seems unlikely that this will enter into our local market. But, we’ll be sure to look for this as we venture outside of Kansas.
Knob Creek Rye Cask Strength
**UPDATE JUNE 2018: Check out our review of the Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye here.**
Knob Creek has been busy lately. The single barrel bourbon program has been very well received here locally. Additionally, last year Knob Creek also released its special edition 25th anniversary Knob Creek bourbon.
Jim Beam’s recent focus on rye has also been well received. Jim Beam released several new, or revised, ryes over the past two years: Old Overholt Bonded, Basil Hayden Rye, and of course, Booker’s Rye.
Knob Creek Rye has been around for several years, but 2018 will be the first time it has been released at cask strength.
Though this may indicate that the rye will be 9 years old, the fact that the label does not contain an age statement, and instead the ambiguous reference to a barreled date, may mean the rye is less than 9 years old. It could have been aged and then vatted in steel tanks, for example. The point is, it may have been put in a barrel in 2009, but did not stay in the barrel since 2009.
Nevertheless, this should be an interesting bottle to try, and we expect this to appear in local retail stores in the next few months.
Buffalo Trace Distillery is perched firmly at the top of the bourbon mountain. With a portfolio including Pappy Van Winkle, the Antique Collection, last year’s overall best whiskey in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (more on that below), no one thinks Buffalo Trace Distillery needs to fight to stay relevant.
Nevertheless, Buffalo Trace Distillery announced that it would be releasing a new product under its Weller line starting this year. The Weller C.Y.P.B. (which stands for Craft Your Perfect Bourbon) is a 95-proof, 8 year old wheated bourbon.
According to Buffalo Trace Distillery, the Weller C.Y.P.B. will be released in limited quantities annually, at a suggested retail price of $40. With all the hype surrounding anything coming out of Buffalo Trace Distillery these days, finding a bottle (especially at retail) will be a challenge.
E.H. Taylor Four Grain
The 2017 E.H. Taylor Four Grain was received with mixed reviews. Initially, consumers (including us) were a bit perplexed by it. It was good, and seemed to have potential, but did not have that singular attribute that knocks your socks off. Unless you were Jim Murray, who named it his best overall whiskey for 2017.
The 2018 E.H. Taylor Four Grain is a second, and likely final, release. It will be interesting to see what differences, if any, there are between the 2017 and 2018 bottles (check out more official details on the 2018 E.H. Taylor Four Grain here).
Last year’s release was available locally for between $79 and $99 per bottle. If you don’t snatch this up within a couple of days after it arrives, then you may be out of luck.
Balcones Texas Rye
Balcones is a Texas distillery that has made a positive impression for its unique take on American whiskey, most notably with its single malt. We have reviewed the Balcones Baby Blue corn whiskey, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
This year, Balcones announced it will be releasing a cask strength rye whiskey.
According to Balcones, this will feature 100% rye, mostly harvested within Texas. Balcones has yet to distribute any of its products in Kansas. But, if you have a Texas connection, consider asking them to pick up a bottle of cask strength rye.
Keep an eye out for these, and other new releases, during the warmer months of 2018.
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com