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Mighty Mashes

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, May/June 2014

It wasn’t so long ago that the barley malts of Scotland were thought the only whiskies worthy of lofty stature or legendary status. That’s all changed, and superlative sour mash whiskeys of America are finally getting their due (and, sorry to say, concomitant hyper pricing).

A group of new releases states the point. The latest venture of spirits giant Diageo is the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Co., founded to rediscover “forgotten” barrels and introduce them to the market. Its debut editions are taken from the fabled and now-shuttered Stitzel-Weller distillery, which the company bought in an earlier acquisition. Formerly run by Pappy Van Winkle (you know the name from the decades-old bourbons that have become the most sought-after buys in whiskeydom), the stillhouse left some pretty impressive stuff. One is Barterhouse ($75), a 20-year-old with a spicy, candied, robust body; the other is Old Blowhard ($150), a 26-year-old that is a honeyed confection with a Cognac quality.

One of a spate of super bourbons to arrive two decades ago, Booker’s is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a limited-edition release of the whiskey created by namesake distilling-titan Booker Noe. The special bottling was melded from special barrels, with added age, that were specially chosen by his son Fred (now Jim Beam master distiller) and his grandson, Freddie. Behind its superproof heat is a delicious dessert of cloves, Christmas cake and oranges.

Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash is an example of a costs-be-damned-in-the-pursuit-of-quality trend, with its $3,500 tariff. It marries casks aged between 20 and 30 years and presents a dramatic explosion of spice and strong barrel notes with the softening effect of nuts.

And that's not all. Jack Daniel’s has added Sinatra Select, a return to the 90-proof level, aged in casks with grooved staves. Maker’s Mark, which fairly made a market for superpremium bourbon, is celebrating its 60th birthday with special packaging. Wild Turkey is planning a similar celebration, this time with a unique expression. Due out in August, its Diamond Anniversary edition, which celebrates the 60th year of service by legendary master distiller Jimmy Russell, who has added so many colorful feathers to the Wild Turkey plumage. It was created by his son and heir apparent Eddie. It’s good to know American whiskey is all in the family.

Click here to see how these whiskeys pair with cigars.

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