You never give me your money: Paul McCartney learns the price of a bottle
It was 50 years ago this January that the soon-to-dissolve Beatles played their famous rooftop concert in London. The passage of time has been kind to Paul McCartney and his music—but is it any excuse for him not knowing how much whiskey costs?
Not long ago, Sir Paul rubbished his claim that he groks the common people, the Express reports. Official biographer Barry Miles recalls that McCartney sent a roadie out to fetch a bottle, handing the baffled chap £2, just shy of $3.* This is the same tightwad gazillionaire who once allegedly threw a party with a cash bar.
Ah, look at all the whiskey people
Speaking of the common folk, Ranker has enlisted its community to cast their ballots for the world’s best-tasting whiskey. The top three as of yesterday, with 41,000 votes and counting: Kentucky bourbons Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek. Jameson took fourth place, followed by Macallan. You be the judge.
*All prices in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted
Follow your nose: The whiskey smell test
Forget the price tag—just give it a sniff. That’s Johnnie Walker whiskey ambassador Ali Reynolds’ advice to Business Insider. No stranger to bottles costing upward of $30,000, Reynolds says an alcohol burn on the nose usually betrays a young whiskey. “If it has depth to the smell and you can pick up other flavor notes, that’s quite a good thing.”
You usually get what you pay for, the bartending whiz explains. In whiskies that have aged a while, those notes could well be wood or leather: “If you can describe them in different ways, that’s a good sign.”
New drams on the block
Not that we have anything against young whiskies. To nudge you in the right direction, Scotchwhisky.com’s Dave Broom rounds up six worth a taste. Ranking highest, with 90 points: Glenmorangie’s Allta single malt. “Their own yeast, their own barley,” Broom says. “This is not just a great whisky, it is also a really important one.”
We keep thinking about another single malt, the Just Hatched three-year-old ex-bourbon-cask offering from New Zealand’s Cardrona Distillery (84 points). The nose on this antipodean upstart? “Very fresh and lightly grassy with light-green grape and cucumber, then lemon sherbet and floral honey.”
On the palate, Cardrona’s whopping 66.7% ABV delivers “sweetness and some light fruit syrups, but also considerable heat.” Broom’s final word: “A hugely welcome and high-quality addition to the whisky world.”
Over a barrel: Does cask size really matter?
For craft whiskey makers, this could be a big deal. At The Whiskey Wash, distiller Matt Strickland wades into the U.S. debate over barrel size. His beef: the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s recent proposal to define the capacity of an oak barrel as roughly 50 gallons.
Some American craft distillers use casks as tiny as three gallons, Strickland explains, partly because the greater volume of surface area to liquid lets them get to market faster. As he points out, small-cask whiskey can be gutrot—but barrel size is just one factor.
The unkindest cut of all
“Mash bill and distillation cuts are two of the biggest culprits for small cask ignominy,” Strickland says, referring to grain mix and the separation of distillate. “If the TTB wants to make a size demand on the definition of a barrel, then I’d say they’re losing touch with some talented distillers (and possibly listening to the opinions of too many large distillers).”
False advertising: What they never told you about single malt
Blame marketing types—and lazy journalists—for a whopper that rewrites history. At Scotchwhisky.com, Iain Russell busts the myth that single malts couldn’t be had outside Scotland until the 1960s.
As early as the 1820s, the Scots were deep into pot-still-made single malts, ideally from the Highlands. When rich Brits developed a thirst for the stuff, it wasn’t long before Queen Victoria and her relatives started stocking up. During the 19th century, what was known as the “real mountain dew” (wait—what?) built a profitable niche for itself in England.
Why Bill Smith Grant is the man
But thanks to changing tastes and a 1909 court decision that let blends call themselves Scotches, single malts hit the skids, Russell recounts. Only The Glenlivet’s Bill Smith Grant kept ponying up to promote them. That paid off as Grant built a U.S. business—and the world fell in love with single malts in the late 1950s. The rest is, well, history.