Sunday 10 September 2017

Wild Turkey Master's Keep 1894 Launch with Eddie Russell (Tasted #372)

Wild Turkey Master Distiller Eddie Russell visited Australia earlier this month to unveil Master’s Keep 1894 – the latest release in its limited edition Master’s Keep series. The visit by Eddie was quite special and coincided with the Masters of Conviction Tour; a series of masterclasses across Sydney and Melbourne to celebrate Wild Turkey and the launch of the 1894. The tour presented Wild Turkey expressions including the Rye, Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit, the Master’s Keep Decades (a personal favourite) and the 1894.

What we love about Eddie, as the current Wild Turkey's Master Distiller, is how he worked from the ground up, closely partnering with his dad, Jimmy Russell. It's amazing to see Eddie follow in his dad's footsteps to become Wild Turkey's Master Distiller having started as a Relief Operator and subsequently spending many years as Wild Turkey's Associate Master Distiller alongside Jimmy. Eddie and Jimmy certainly make an awesome father and son Bourbon duo.

As Nicole Stanners, Wild Turkey's Bourbon Marketing Director described: "Eddie is of unmatched pedigree in the bourbon industry, with skills that only come from a true expert and knowledge others aspire to learn."

At the launch, Eddie proudly spoke of his Bourbon life and the journey from his first taste of Wild Turkey, having drunk it straight from the barrel, to his time spent with Bookers and Jimmy and through the years of learning, crafting and continuing the Wild Turkey story. Many elements of his bourbon life story have come to influence and shape the details behind each of the Master's Keep releases; the 17yo, the Decades (above) and now, the 1894.

The Master's Keep 17yo is a nice, soft and balanced barrel proof whisky. The long maturation profile of the 17yo meant the whiskey angels have had their fair share, estimated by Eddie to be around 37 gallons (140 litres) of liquid dissipation per barrel (amazing)! This is a share that had been taken from what started as 53 gallons (per standard bourbon barrel volume) to a mere 16 gallons at the time of bottling. Jokingly he referred to the angel as being the ultimate Master Distiller having taken a fair proportion of the bourbon. The long maturation was only possible through the barrel storage method by which the barrels were stored. The barrels were stored in a brick warehouse which stymied temperature variations and ensured cool and steady maturation condition; a stark contrast to maturing barrels in metal clad warehouses.

The Decades was different to the 17yo in that it had been named after the inclusion of what Eddie considered to be the golden maturation age of Bourbon, 10yo. It includes some older barrels, up to 20yo and a large portion of 13-15yo barrels. The Decades was curated by Eddie as tribute to the smooth, balanced and lingering taste profile that he prefers and is starkly different to the bigger, bolder bourbons that are commonly favoured by the wider bourbon community. Personally, the Decades is also a favourite of mine.

As to the newly launched 1894 - it takes its name from the oldest rickhouse (warehouse) at the Wild Turkey Estate which was built in 1894. The warehouse was where Eddie first fell in love with Wild Turkey. It was 36 years ago, on June 5th, 1981, when Eddie started working at the distillery, earning a mere 6.58 cents an hour. Every day, he would clock on, clock off and witness the distillery crews ducking into the warehouse not knowing what they were up to. This was until one day when Eddie decided to join them and found out that they were, in fact, going around and sampling from the different barrels. After which he joined and sampled his first taste of Wild Turkey - the day he fell in love with it all.

Commenting on the release, Eddie said: “From the very first taste at Rickhouse A, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to Bourbon. Master’s Keep 1894 captures that moment, the start of my journey to master distiller and the beginning of years of tradition.”

The 1894 has been released in Australia before it hits the American market following a wise decision after a request was received from Marketing that Australia wanted their own bottles (in fact 10,000 bottles for allocation to Australia).

Wild Turkey Master's Keep 1894 (45% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, A$197.90)
The 1894 release is a unique small batch release and can be enjoyed as an everyday bourbon or mixed up as the base to an Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours or Manhattan.

Colour: Copper with amber tinge

Nose: The nose plays strongly to spiced cinnamon apple notes, dried currants, liquorice, honey, vanilla, toffee and a slight herbaceous; wild grass undertone.

Palate: More of the herbaceous note followed on the palate and joined by some glorious toffee apple, vanilla, butterscotch notes. There's also a level of spice that lingers.

Finish: Medium, lingering spice that slowly fizzles out with a level of sweetness

Rating (on Hendy's very non-scientific scale): 91/100.


A huge thanks to ElevenPR and Wild Turkey for having us as part of the launch of the 1894 with Eddie Russell.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Master of Malt Advent Calendars return for 2017

Much-loved spirits retailer Master of Malt have again launched their series of advent calendars, covering the full gamut from whisky to gin to cognac to bourbon to (eep) vodka. Prefer tequila, mezcal or Armagnac? They've got you covered too.

The calendars this year span two pages of the MoM site, and again include an incredible £8,333 "Very Old and Rare" calendar (ex-VAT) which includes a 48 year old Karuizawa, 46 year old Balvenie DCS, 60 year old Glenfarclas and many other bottles (OBs and IBs) from distilleries past and present.

We reviewed 2016's whisky calendar here, and found it an incredibly clever and enjoyable way to try 24 drams without having to comit to a full bottle.

The full range of 2017's calendars can be pre-ordered from here now.


Sunday 3 September 2017

A Night with Michter's in Hong Kong

We've been fans of Michter's for a while here at TimeforWhisky - and so has Hong Kong it seems - particularly on-premise, with a number of bars using Michter's range of ryes and bourbons in some incredible cocktails (more on that below). In fact, so big has the rise of Michter's been, that last year the brand appointed their own brand ambassador for Asia, John Ng (although prior to that, global sales director and son of founder Matt Magliocco lived in Hong Kong for several years).

Matt and John were joined recently in Hong Kong by Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson, who had flown in from Louisville for the distillery's first Hong Kong media launch dinner, held at Hong Kong's favourite American restaurant Lily & Bloom

Steph and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Monday night.

Kicking things off with a cocktail was a welcome way to beat the 35ish degree heat outside - especially when that cocktail mixed Michter's Rye, ginger, pineapple, lemon and smoked tea spirit. Known as the Bomberger Buck, and served in a similar fashion to a Mint Julep, it was the perfect start to the evening, and evidence that even after 7 years, the drinks program at Lily & Bloom still continue to impress (in particular, since John Nugent's recent hiring as Head Mixologist).

After taking our seats, Matt introduced John and Executive Chef Chris Grare, who talked us through the 6-course menu, explaining it as American-focused with some Asian hints, bringing out charred, smokey flavours with some spice and caramel.

(Or in other words, a perfect match for a range of American whiskies.)

Matt talked us through a brief history of the Michter's brand, and in particular its most recent incarnation under his family's stewardship. Matt explains the company's recent history in three phases - the first involving aged casks of American whiskies being purchased from other distilleries, the second involving whisky produced (using Michter's-spec mashbills) at other distilleries, using rented time known as "Michter's Days", and the third, since August 2015, involving whisky being produced at their own distillery

After this brief history, the night's guest of honour Andrea Wilson walked us through a detailed and informative overview of Michter's production (touching on topics including oak drying, barrel entry proof and heat cycling), making it clear that the future of Michter's maturation programme is in safe hands.

One thing I've always found interesting about Michter's is the number of whiskies in the range. There are Ryes and Bourbons, both in "small batch" and single barrel variety. There are age statement varieties (including a 25 year old Bourbon and a 25 year old Rye, both of which we've been fortunate enough to try), there's a Sour Mash, an "unblended American whisky", various limited releases (including popular Toasted Barrel finishes), and barrel proof varieties too.

...little did I know we'd be tasting at least 9 of these on the night!

Following the Smoked Oyster paired with our welcome cocktail (see above), Kombu Cured Sea Bass (with yuzu-lemon compote and black sesame paste) came next, paired with Michter's US*1 Unblended American Whiskey, with the Yuzu in the dish proving a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the whiskey. Both great on their own, but better together. Off to a good start then!

Lentil-crusted Lobster (with blue point mussels and bouillabaisse) came next, paired with Michter's US*1 Sour Mash Whiskey. As I find the Sour Mash to be a fairly subtle whisky on its own (an easy and enjoyable everyday whisky though), I found the whisky and food complimented each other well here, but in a subtle way, without either really changing or accentuating the other.

Course four was Truffle tagliatelle (with Australian winter truffle and roasted cauliflower), paired with Michter's US*1 Bourbon, a great match, with the Bourbon surprisingly turning up the creaminess of the pasta significantly.

Bourbon and steak is a hard pairing to beat, and so it was when Pastrami Rib Eye (with potato gratin and pickled mustard jus) was paired with Michter’s 10 Year Old Bourbon. Decadent? Perhaps, but a fantastic combination, with the rich sweetness of the Bourbon playing brilliantly with the rare steak.

Had the meal ended there, we all would have walked off praising the chef and whiskies, but there was one more dish to go, and it was an absolute winner. Pecan Apple Tart (with granola and Michter's raisin ice cream) was very good when paired with the Michter's US*1 Single Barrel Straight Rye, but in my opinion was even better with the 10 Year Old Bourbon - the two making a deliciously sweet and rich pairing, with the Bourbon adding vanilla and honey notes to the already flavoursome dish.

With 6 wonderful pairings down, it was time to leave (it was Monday night after all), but not after a few surprise whiskies made their way out, including one (at the time) unreleased Michter's, the Barrel Strength Toasted Barrel Finish Straight Rye, which put a slightly spicier twist on a whisky I already loved for its spicy profile.

After that it really was time to leave, with memories of wonderful dishes and equally delicious whiskies to carry us home, not to mention the take-home pre-batched "Snickers Old Fashioned" cocktail, made with Michter's US*1 Unblended American Whiskey, vanilla demerara, black walnut and aztec chocolate. One of the best cocktails I've had in a while, and proof (again) that Michter's works wonderfully both in a cocktail and when served neat. would like to thank Michter's Whiskey Distillery, Andrea, John and Matt for the invitation.