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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

I was very fortunate to live in Aberdeen for almost three years. For that time I was a short drive from Speyside, the Highlands and just 11 miles from the nearest single malt distillery, Glen Garioch. Moving back to Texas in 2011, even though Texas whisky was starting to appear on the scene in form of Balcones, Garrison Bros and Ranger Creek I never expected to be living so close to a whisky distillery again. Then Yellow Rose Distilling moved from the outskirts of Houston to an industrial park less than five miles from my house. Five miles!   Not yet operational (they have a new still but are not rigged up yet) I went to visit the site, sample some of the house products and meet the master distiller, Troy, in January 2014. It is always nice to be taken around a site by the actual distiller and Troy’s passion is clear. Yellow Rose started making their Outlaw Bourbon with a tiny hand-made still they purchased from Portugal.   They will continue to make their Outlaw Bourbon when their new still is up and running (though I have to wonder how similar the product will be as the stills are very different?) but also have a line extension strategy which includes making vodka with the same still, a blended “Canadian” style whiskey and a Rye whiskey, both of which they have made for them offsite out of state and a Double Barrel bourbon which they also have made for them offsite and then put into Californian red wine casks for additional maturation onsite. Think Angel’s Envy. As well as the warehouse space they will use for distillation and maturation they are developing a nice visitor experience with the original Portuguese still on display, a bar with all of the Yellow Rose products for sampling, some of the usual goodies like Yellow Rose Glencairn glasses and they can even sell bottles (under the archaic Texas licensing laws they can sell up to 2 commemorative bottles every 30 days per person). If you want the “classic” distillery experience… this definitely is not it. But the whiskey is good, the people are nice and you have to drive a long way from Houston to find the next nearest distillery.

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Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Probably my favorite distillery tour and experience to date. I visited in July 2010 and after a couple of days touring Islay’s distilleries Tammy and Eleanor had seen enough and let me go alone, with a plan to meet in the tasting room at end of the tour. It turned out it was the last tour of the day and I was the only person who signed up, so it felt like I had the entire place to myself and my guide was happy to indulge every question I had, and without larger group I could indulge myself in the minutia of the place. Effectively it was a private tour of Bowmore, and the notes I took that day show that being alone had liberated my inner “whisky anorak” who normally stays safely hidden in the group tours. Not only was the tour perfect, but the subsequent tasting in a great room overlooking the Loch was well organized, fun, informative and innovative (they gave food samples like coconut, chocolate and raisins to help match tastes in the whisky). We tried a range of whiskies from their parent company, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and of course Bowmore. Perhaps with it being the last tour of the day they were also generous with pours and allowed us to retry samples while giving our daughter sweets and juice to keep her happy as well. Personally I fell in love with the rich, highly sherried Bowmore Darkest 15 year old that afternoon, and while it has never tasted quite as good as it did that perfect day in the distillery, it is still a 4 star whisky for me and my “go to” Bowmore.

If you go to Islay and only do one tour (which would not be a great idea in itself, stay and do more) I would say do this one and I can only hope you have same great experience I did.

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