Is Johnnie Walker Green Back in Production? Maybe.

Johnnie Walker GreenA few years ago, Johnnie Walker discontinued Johnnie Walker Green Label, much to the chagrin of many a fan. As recently as October 2013, they had no plans to offer it again.

But readers in our Facebook group reported talking to their local liquor store and learning that JW Green was back in stock because it was in production.

Companies change their plans all the time and October 2013 was a long long time ago, was the store manager of the liquor store right? Is it back in production?

Turns out it’s not. I sent an email to Johnnie Walker and our friend Eliza (perhaps the same rep from Oct 2013!) has this to say:

Johnnie Walker Green Label was discontinued in North America, however, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this world-renowned whisky we are releasing it as a limited time offering. Johnnie Walker Green Label should begin hitting store shelves throughout February 2015. I encourage you to speak with your local retailer to request they place an order for the product.

Hmmm… this makes it seem like it’s discontinued in North America only (otherwise why mention NA specifically, something they didn’t do in 2013), so it might be back in production. I sent another email to clarify and will update this post when I know more.

JW Green may or may not be back in production but it’s available, you may need to have your local store order it.

Posted in General | 26 Comments

What is a Mystery Malt?

Credit: bigbahookie

Credit: bigbahookie

Many years ago, I was in a Costco in Delaware when I discovered that Kirkland had a branded bottle of single malt from Macallan.

Back then, I knew far less about scotch compared to today. I knew the name – The Macallan – but I knew little else.

The price was right, I bought a bottle… and quickly polished it off (cursing myself for not buying more!). It was good.

For the longest time, I thought that was a mystery malt. The mystery wasn’t in the distiller (duh, Macallan) but in what was inside, since there was no age statement. I would later learn that it’s not technically a mystery malt, it was simply Costco/Kirkland bottling The Macallan. You can see all sorts of bottlers do this nowadays and more of the bottles in stores. The label will be standardized for the bottler and then you’ll see a distillery name underneath (usually with the year it was bottled and sometimes an age statement).

A mystery malt is something completely different and the inspiration of this post came from our Facebook group where reader David found a mystery malt at his local Trader Joe’s – Lismore.

Lismore is a mystery malt.

A mystery malt is a blend of a variety of whisky where none of the names are (usually) listed publicly.

As you’d imagine from a Trader Joe’s branded product, home of the Two Buck Chuck, Lismore is pretty cheap – usually under twenty bucks. And we have no idea what’s inside. Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell any alcohol in Maryland stores so I’ll defer to David McCowan’s writeup on Chicago Foodies but apparently it’s not bad… for $18. :) [another review on Whiskey Catholic]

A fan favorite of Scotch Addict readers, Monkey Shoulder, is also a mystery malt. It’s one of the few that lists the malts included, in this case Kininvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich. Those more experienced with Monkey Shoulder will know that you can buy Balvenie and Glenfiddich in almost any store, finding Kininvie is nearly impossible because it’s not sold (more info on Kininvie distillery here on Master of Malt) publicly (yet).

I’m skeptical of mystery malts and would caution you to do more research about it before buying one.

Many of them lure you in with a cheap price (Shieldaig Speyside 18yo is tempting at $40) but you have to recognize you get what you pay for. There’s a reason a good 18 yo single malt starts at $80, don’t expect to get the same when you pay $40.

Oh, and everyone I’ve ever talked to has warned me against McClellands. :)

Posted in Reference | 4 Comments

Best Scotch Whisky Flask

Best Scotch Whisky Flask

Flask & Shot Glass Disposable Flasks Cork Pops Nicholas Portside Flask Stanley Green Flask Filson Leather Flask Binocular Flask Copper Flask HTML Map

Scotch is best enjoyed in a whisky glass, no question, but sometimes you’re on the go and you want to bring a little bit of the good stuff with you – what do you do? Bring a whisky flask.

What do I look for in a flask? I want it to look classy, be stainless steel (18/8 or 18/10 stainless steel, a.k.a. Type 304 Food Grade), hold a decent amount of whisky, fit in my pocket, and have a screw top. Bonus points if it comes with a funnel, but I already have a funnel so no big deal there.

Leather, Leather, Leather

filson-leather-mens-flaskI agree that “look classy” is a vague term but when I think of a classy flask, I think of one that’s wrapped in leather. Not patent or fake leather, not the cheap stuff either. I prefer the real stuff – bridle leather (look up how much time, material, and effort is put into the finishing process of bridle leather). This is the stuff high end shoes and purses are made out of.

Why do I care about leather so much? Good leather looks good. The cheap stuff scratches easily, doesn’t feel as nice, and you can see it a mile away. You will only ever need one flask and flasks are relatively cheap (we’re talking under a hundred bucks), so why not get something nice? Why not get something that puts a smile on your face when you pull it out.

My recommendation on this? Filson Men’s Flask in either black or brown (I like brown). It’s pricier than the other options we have here, which don’t have leather, but it’s wrapped in leather, holds six ounches, and looks great.

filson-great-american-copper-flaskFilson has another flask that looks awesome but is a little out of most typical price ranges. It’s a $225 copper flask with Tin Cloth holder. I’ve heard some less than stellar reviews of copper flasks so I don’t include any on this list but I do enjoy the look of them. Over two hundred bucks keeps it in the realm of window shopping though, I’d rather spend that kind of money on scotch whisky.

Best Travel & Outdoors Flask

stanley-classic-flaskThere’s something classic about the Stanley Classic Flask. Maybe it’s the green (comes in navy, black and pink… the navy looks nice too), the thick plastic outer shell that can take a hit, or the slim look.

Reviews are mixed on it though, so check them out if this look appeals to you.

Flask & Shot Glass Combination

shot-flaskIt’s billed as “The Original” Shot Flask, not sure what “original” means, but this baby is a flask + shot glass in one. The shot glass collapses and fits into a chamber on the side of the flask. The flask itself hold 8 ounces and the shot glass holds 2 ounces. It even looks nice, with a bonded leather exterior, and the cap screws on (crucial). Even comes in a pink version!

Cheapest Whisky Flask

hip-flask-funnel-setIf you want the cheapest flask that gets the job done – get this one. It’s under six bucks, holds 8 oz., has a screw down cap, comes with a funnel, and it’s stainless steel. It checks all the boxes and if you lose it, who cares… it was six bucks.

At that price, honestly, it’s practically disposable (but don’t… think of the Earth!).

Disposable No-Metal Flasks

blasani-plastic-disposable-flasksIf you are going somewhere with metal detectors and you still want to bring a flask, this set of Blasani sneak flasks are your best option. The set is huge (four 32oz, two 16oz, two 8oz), contains no metal, and cheap enough that you can just throw them out in the end. Each bag has a screw top, the set comes with a funnel, and they’re light.

Coolest Looking Whisky Flask

cork-pops-nicholas-portside-flaskI really like the look of the Cork Pops Nicholas Portside Flask. It’s a circular flask made of stainless steel and has a window, to resemble a porthole. It’s one of the few flasks with a window. It is a screw top but the top isn’t attached to the flask and the flask only holds 4 ounces, compared to the standard 8 ounces of many other flasks.

Second coolest? This Secret Binocular Flask! One look and you know they’re not real but how much fun is it to have fake binoculars??? Not only does it look hilarious but it holds 16 ounces, 8 ounces per eye piece. Or get this camera flask, though no one will believe you own a camera with 8.1 mega pixels. :)

Finally, if you just need a funnel – pick up this stainless steel funnel for under two bucks.

Do you use a flask? Do you have a favorite?

Posted in Barware | 1 Comment

Talisker Storm Tasting Notes

Credit: widmatt

Credit: widmatt

One of my more recent fun discoveries is Talisker.

Talisker is by no means a rare single malt, it’s one of Diageo’s “Classic Malts”, so it gets more than its fair share of marketing dollars. I also put classic malts in quotes because it’s more marketing than common accepted facts. For what it’s worth, the six included scotches do hit up the major areas of Scotland so it’s not an unfair claim, it’s just a marketing one.

OK, back to the task at hand – Talisker.

Talisker is an Island single malt and the only one on the Isle of Skye. In terms of Scotch Whisky Association’s region categorization, it’s part of the Islands sub-region of the massive Highlands. Founded in 1830 by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, the distillery’s name comes from the settlement it leased land from, a settlement owned for centuries by the Clan Macleod (the clan of the fictitious Duncan and Connor Macleod from the Highlander series!). Talisker was acquired by Diageo in 1925.

Talisker’s regular lineup features a 10yo, 18yo, 25yo, and a Distiller’s edition. I’ve had the 10yo before but none of the others, so I had a sense of the spirit of Talisker before we got started. The remarkable flavor I always take away from Talisker is their ability to capture sea salt and the ocean in their whisky. You get the smoke, you get all the hints that it’s an island malt, but no one else (to my knowledge and experience so far) has captured the ocean in a bottle.

One distinction for Storm is that it carries no age statement, which is something Diageo has been trending towards (and a point of debate in our Facebook group), and they use a mix of first-fill and refill casks.

Tasting Notes

  • Color: Dark gold
  • Nose: My favorite part of Talisker Storm is the nose, you get the ocean or ocean spray right off the bat with a hint of citrus, smoke, and sweetness.
  • Palate: You get sweetness from the get go with a bit of smoke on the backend, a reminder they’re still on an island and using peat. A little vanilla and the soft bite of pepper. There’s a bit of sharpness in it from the youth (you wouldn’t mistake it for an 18yo, but it’s not biting like a 3-yo bourbon) and some layered honey is in there.
  • Finish: Nice finish, mostly sweetness and a little bit of saltiness on the back end.

Talisker Storm weighs in at 45.8% abv, and I’m able to pick it up at my local store for $63, just $7-8 more than their 10yo.

Posted in Tasting Notes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What is the Best Beginner Scotch Whisky?

Credit: petyosi

Credit: petyosi

When it comes to premium liquors, Scotch whisky is one of the more expensive categories.

That’s because Scotch whisky has to come from Scotland and is subject to a variety of duties and taxes as it enter the United States. It’s also aged, a minimum of three years, so when you combine the aging with the duties and taxes, it makes for a more expensive product. It’s hard to drop $35 on a bottle of Glenlivet and not be sure if you’ll like it. It’s more (financially) palatable to spend less than $20 on a bourbon (which is a whiskey made of corn, produced domestically, and no minimum aging period).

Scotch whisky also has the most character and variety. Scotch whiskies have more variety in their manufacturing processes, are aged for more than three years so the aging process can have a greater effect, and you can have two Scotch whiskies that are widely divergent in their flavor profiles. Islays and Speysides anyone?

Then throw in the fact that it’s 40%+ alcohol by volume and you can see that it gets to be quite intimidating for a new enthusiast.

It doesn’t have to be though. I tapped our Facebook group, a bunch of seasoned pros, to find out what they think is the best beginner scotch whisky. If you’re new, you’ll see a lot of names in the list below but if you fire up Google you can find tasting notes for them. A lot of them are Speyside/Highland malts too, which I think is the best way to introduce someone to Scotch.

Alright, onto what our group thinks!

Me: My choice is Glenmorangie 10 (Original) because it’s inexpensive, fairly representative of a crisp and clean Speyside, and it was one of my first so I’m biased in that regard.

I would’ve recommend Glenlivet 12, my actual first dram, but that spicy finish will confuse most beginners. They’ll probably be getting used to the alcohol and the bite of the finish might be too much.

Patrick J.: Macallan 12 is my vote. Glenlivet is a great Scotch, but Macallan 12 is what I use to introduce friends to Scotch since it is always a crowd pleaser. Easy to drink, great flavor, approachable, nice mouth feel, just a lovely dram. I don’t have any experience with Buchanan’s that I can truly recall back to, other than I know I had a glass some years ago and never sought it out again.
Daniel W: Jim, I agree with you 100% Glenmorangie 10 is a perfect dram for a beginner. The sweetness makes it very accessible.

Percy S: The OP 12 may take the throne for me after further tasting, but at the moment I have to give it to Glengoyne 12. I feel it represents the basics of scotch whisky as I think of it best. Good value and readily available.

Honorable mention to Highland Park 10, but it’s not widely available. I like it better than HP 12.

Ari C: I actually would recommend Glengoyne 10. No peat and not to over powering on the sweet.

For a beginners blend I would pick Monkey Shoulder.

Mike W: Another good one is Aberlour 10yr.

Bill M: For a beginners blend, I also like Dewars 12YO.

Clayton F: I often buy Balvenie 12yr double wood for anyone starting out, not to aggressive but not boring either. Fiddich 12yr is a pretty good starter also, easy to find too. Oh so many starters!!!

Gary W: For a beginner and in the price range you have mentioned, Dewars, Grants, Monkey shoulder, and Black bottle immediately come to mind. Not to much alcohol bite and really easy to drink. I think the lower aged “glens” are also a decent choice. All are low to no peats, smooth easy drinking, and really don’t challenge your palate.

David C: All great suggestions so far! I would like to throw Glenfarclas 12 into the mix. It’s less than $50 a bottle and a great introduction to the sherry cask finish style of single malt. A little bit spicy with nice fruit on the palate, it’s got a nice, well-balanced sherry-forward flavor profile.

Ray C: I shared a dram Saturday evening with several friends who were first time scotch drinkers. One had received as a gift a bottle of McClelland’s Lowland Single Malt so we tried it. I enjoyed it, but more importantly, they enjoyed it. Fairly mild but nice taste. We all are looking forward to the next time we have a chance to get together and share a dram!

Rob G: Auchentoshan 12. Easy drinking, inexpensive, range of flavours.

Brad L: I agree with Jim and some others. I always maintain a supply of (The Original) Glenmorangie. It’s a good “every day” whisky and is always well received by my guests who are not regular scotch drinkers.

Ray C: I agree with you guys about the Glenmorangie Original. It was the first single malt I purchased for myself and always keep one on hand. On bottle #4 now. Good stuff!

Randy H: Monkey Shoulder by far for a blend. I like Glenfiddich 15 for single since it’s not too expensive and easy to get.

David H: Highland Park twelve for those wanting to start with a bit of peat. For an inexpensive whisky great for beginners and long standing malt maniacs.

Wayne O: Hate to sound like a broken record, but Monkey Shoulder is a standout considering it’s very low price. Also love Glenmorangie original.

João B: Whyte Mackay Special . Not expensive , smooth taste, floral and sweet nose .

Aaron M: Will I be kicked out for suggesting a blend? Johnny Walker black is so easy to drink. That’s what got me hooked.

Anthony I: Highland park 12, though my buddy doesn’t usually like scotch and he really likes Laphroaigs Triple Wood…

Rogelio D: Monkey Shoulder and Glenmorangie 10 are great introductions for the price. As far as availability, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich 12 are everywhere so those are great to introduce to beginner’s also. Highland Park 12 is a great intro to smoke

Ken Feese Single malt to start Glenlivet 12 year, Blended to start would be Johnny Walker Black label. Both are economical examples of a basic Scotch and easy to enjoy. IMO
Yesterday at 6:48pm · Like

Arthur B: My first was Johnnie Walker Red Label and I’m not sure what brought me to seek Scotch but once I had decided on doing it I was attracted to the Red due to cost and liked the aesthetics of the bottle. After Red I went Black for a small price increase. I will be seeking out next a Glenlivet 12 for my first foray into the single malts.

Grant S: How about the glenrothes select inexpensive and very approachable.

William S: I started about 35 years ago with JW Black–and discovered single malts about 20 ago—For me Speyside and the highlands are great–I can’t handle Islay or Jura–but that is just me – Love everything Balvenie, MacCallan, Glenmorangie, Oban and Glenfarclas do

Michael D: Macallan 10 or 12.

I hope this list helps!

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