It's seems like not that long ago that we were in the midst of the BCLDB's inaugural Summer Spirits Release, and here we are again for the classic fall version. Normally we'd soon be inundated with TV clips of "crazy" people lined up for days in order to buy a single bottle of this or that (usually Pappy Van Winkle bourbon), but this year things are quite rightly a bit different.
For starters, the first two tranches—the ultra-premium and the premium—will be done by online order form, just like the summer release was. You fill out the form starting Friday October 23, check off what you'd like, and keep your fingers crossed that you get an email in a week of so.
I did not get that email. Looks like I got jacked on my request for a bottle of Ardbeg's Wee Beastie.
To be totally honest, this is the weakest spirits release in a few years. For starters, there's no Pappy, and while I have zero interest in chasing bottles from what is in essence a marketing company (Pappy hasn't made bourbon in years), it does bring a fun element of frenzy to the whole operation. This year's unicorn is The Macallan Genesis, a 72-year-old whisky that's $82,500, which is jaw-dropping, but not really all that fun. But still, tell 'em there's a game of chance and I'm in—so here are three bottle that I'm going after (and BTW, if you also go after them you'll ruin my odds. Just sayin').
It's not a great year for Scotch. There's a killer bottle of 19-year old Ardbeg, but I already have a bottle from last year. And Diageo has a new line of expressions, but I never understand why I have to pay $45 more for 12-year old Lagavulin than 16-year old, especially when the former is in a smaller bottle? Pass. You already screwed me with those Game of Thrones whiskies, Diageo. But the one bottle that catches me is this well priced offering from Port Askaig. I tasted this whisky last year and wrote the following (before it sold out in last year's lottery):
The world of Independent Bottlers is complex. On the most basic level, they source casks from distilleries and bottle them under their own labels, making note of where they came from and their age. Lagavulin doesn't make a 11-year-old whisky, but an IB like Cadenhead might. At the higher level you have IBs that are sort of like a brand themselves. Compass Box is one that's been mostly successful in pricey blended whisky and Port Askaig has carved out a niche for specializing in Islay sourced whisky. It's long sold out in the UK, so seeing it here is a bit of a unicorn.
For $105, I'm all in.
I really tried to get caught up in the Pappy Van Winkle craze of the past decade, despite the fact that Pappy ceased to be a distiller of bourbon years ago and has since become a marketer of whiskey—which is a huge difference. While my principled stand fell on deaf ears throughout the world, the price just kept going higher and higher...and Lord, I wish I had a few bottles of Pappy in lieu of my moral superiority. So just how popular is Pappy? Well, this bottle of WL Weller has long been promoted by insiders as a reasonable substitute for Pappy at a fraction of the price. They're both distilled at Buffalo Trace and both use wheat to achieve a lighter, more elegant flavour profile. The Weller is now so popular that it's on allocation—crazy, I know, but I'm not missing the train a second time.
Now this one is a bit of a flyer. I've only tasted this whisky once, but it was a highly enjoyable experience—like having a picnic of bananas foster on a freshly mowed lawn. $120 is a big bite for Irish Whiskey, but there's been a lot of buzz about this distiller in the press, supplies have been short and if the renaissance of Irish Whisky continues, this could very well be like buying (and keeping) a bottle of mid-1990's Redbreast: a surefire certificate of taste and foresight. Plus, don't hate me—but have you seen a cooler bottle than this? Me neither.