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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Four Roses, Kentucky, USA

Distillery number two on day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT).  A very interesting Spanish Mission style building, with no warehouses (which was a pity because apparently Four Roses unusually only use single storey warehouses) or bottling hall on site and so the tour focussed on the recipes, actual fermentation and distilling of spirit.  Four Roses was one of the first bourbons I ever tried in 2009 (after getting "into whiskey") while living in the UK and liked it, but  as part of the tour we learned that in USA the name had been associated with a very poor blended whiskey and so while it popular overseas, especially Japan where it is the number one bourbon, the Four Roses brand is "rebuilding" as a bourbon in the USA.  It is rather unique (or at least appeared to be) in that they actually make 10 different recipe bourbons using two different mash bills, one with high rye and one with a low rye content, and then use 5 different yeast strains for fermentation.  5 yeast x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes.  This was interesting as my experience in Scotland had been yeast was bit of commodity (packs of Anchor Distiller's Yeast could often be seen around the washbacks in Scottish distilleries) yet in USA, and especially at Four Roses, yeast is treated with same reverance and importance to the final product as the Scots tend to reserve for their water supply.   I have to say the impact of yeast on final taste seems a lot more credible to me that the mythical water source stories ever did.   That is not to say Kentucky distilleries don't talk about their water.... they all do, but they talk about the more generic "limestone filtered water in this part of Kentucky" rather than their specific source or spring.  Anyway the tour finished with three nice samples, the Four Roses Yellow Label (blended with all 10 recipes), the Four Roses Small Batch (made with 4 of the 10 recipes) and the Four Roses Single Barrel which of course can only be one recipe and contains the higher content rye mash bill.   Another free tour and one I truly enjoyed (perhaps in part because there was no bottling hall to endure).  Definately a distillery on the rise and a gift shop that actually sold 5 cl mini bottles, 4 of the previous 5 distilleries (if they sold at all due to licence issues) just sold 70 cl standard bottles at prices, due to local KY taxes, much higher than I can buy the same whiskey in Texas.

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Tobermory, Mull, Scotland

Tobermory, Mull, Scotland What's the story Tobermory?  This is an unusual review because I didn't actually get to tour this distillery.  We did go there, we drove all the way across Mull and arrived there in middle of afternoon in plenty of time only to be told that all the tours for the day were sold out.  I was little pissed off, but that was made much worse by the visitor center staff there who seemed to think that somehow I should have known better than to vist their distillery without a prior apointment,  Let's say their attitude grated to the extent that my notebook simply says under the Tobermory entry "No. No. No."   It was made worse by the fact that I really wanted to try their fifteen year old but they were sold out.  Sold out at the bloody distillery shop - how does that happen?  Didn't strike me as the most organized place and the complete opposite of all my distillery experiences before (and after) that date.  I vowed then (yes I actually vowed) to not drink Tobermory but then it turns out the 15 year old is in the 101 Whiskies to Try Before you Die list (damn) and that the Malted Muse has also bottled a limited edition single cask Tobermory (double damn) so I have decided to break my vow (for now).  Consider yourself lucky Tobermory, very lucky.
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