‘Tis the season before the Season. That means that while civilians are putting the final touches on their Wonder Woman and Pennywise costumes, the booze biz is gearing up to push ultra-luxury libations on the forthcoming Christmas crowd. The prep started this week with the release of three new high end products: Sam Adams’ 10th vintage of Utopias, Hennessy’s Master Blender’s Selection N°2, and Balvenie’s DCS Compendium Chapter Three.
Sam Adams Utopia 10th Vintage
Craft Brewing trailblazers Sam Adams released the 10th vintage of their Utopia series. This year’s Utopia is a 28% ABV (yeah, 28%!!!) blend of brews that almost defies description. “My original idea for Utopias was to push the boundaries of craft beer by brewing an extreme beer that was unlike anything any brewer had conceived,” explained Sam Adams Founder & Brewer Jim Koch. “We’ve continued to stretch the boundaries in brewing with the release of our tenth vintage and I’m proud to present to drinkers this lunatic fringe of extreme beer worthy of the Utopias name.”
Utopia is crafted from a variety of barrel aged batches including 24-year-old Triple Bock, 17-year-old Millennium aged in the Samuel Adams Bier Keller, and 2-year-old Kosmic Mother Funk aged in Hungarian Oak foeders. The base ingredients are a veritable brewer’s wishlist. Malts include a special blend of two-row pale malt as well as Munich and Caramel 60. German Noble hops such as Spalt Spalter, Hallertau Mittelfrueh, and Tettnang Tettnanger are credited with balancing the sweetness of the malts. The company also boasts about the usage of champagne yeast and a “ninja yeast” which is well suited for high ANV fermenting. Fermentation, itself, is achieved in a variety of barrels including a Buffalo Trace Bourbon, White Carcavelos, Aquavit, and Ruby Port. For good measure, the brewers finished the brew in Muscat barrels.
Only 68 wooden casks of Utopias were produced in 2017. Several bottles have already been distributed in-house at Sam Adams where employees receive hand numbered bottles based on seniority. So, Koch is awarded bottle number one. and Brewer Dean Gianocostas number two. The other 13,000 bottles will hit American retailers this fall with an MSRP of $199; if you’re feeling flush, you can splurge on the companion Riedel glass for only $30 more.
Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection N°2
After over 50 years as Master Blender at Hennessy, Yann Fillioux retired inJuly 2017, handing off the esteemed position to his nephew Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, the 8th generation of Filloux to hold the title. However, Yann had one last trick up his sleeve. Hennessy just released his final work, the limited edition Master Blender’s Selection N°2.
Selection N°2 is a blend of eaux-de-vie that are at least 10 years old, all aged 18 months in young coarse-grained French oak barrels and then moved to old barrels for good measure. The eaux-de-vie are blended only once and then bottled at cask strength, 43%.
“This process gives it a distinct hue and aromatic tones defined by roundness with a hint of boldness,” according to Hennessy. “Like a self-drawn portrait, Master Blender’s Selection N°2 is an intimate expression of creativity and passion. A blend based purely on imagination and innovation, it follows its own rules, traveling an individual timeline from vineyard to bottle.”
A750ml bottles are available now at an MSRP of $92. If you want a matching bespoke leather backpack, Will Leather Goods has you covered for only 450 bucks.
Balvenie’s DCS Compendium Chapter Three
The Balvenie also released a high end, collector’s offering for the season—and, it’s doozy. Handpicked by Balvenie Malt Master David C. Stewart MBE, Chapter Three of the DCS Compendium ‘Secrets of the Stock Model’ spotlights some of the best expressions in the distillery’s storied history. The highlight of the limited (only 50) release is clearly the oldest Balvenie ever released, a 55-year-old single cask whisky that was put into cask in 1961.
The full collection includes:
- 1961 Aged 55 years – Cask 4193, European oak Oloroso sherry hogshead, filled 14th June 1961, 41.7% ABV.
- 1973 Aged 43 years – Cask 8556, European oak Oloroso sherry butt, filled 7th June 1973, 46.6% ABV.
- 1981 Aged 35 years – Cask 7824, Refill American oak hogshead, filled 29th October 1981, 43.8% ABV.
- 1993 Aged 23 years – Cask 11621, Refill American oak hogshead, filled 6th December 1993, 51.9% ABV.
- 2004 Aged 13 Years – Cask 741, European oak Oloroso sherry butt, filled 19th January 2004, 58.2% ABV.
“As Malt Master, it is my privilege and duty to manage our whisky stocks, which we look to control despite all the elements the barrels are up against to reach maturation,” said Stewart. “Through my 55-year tenure working with The Balvenie, I have come to understand the decisions we make when we originally cask, and how they will affect the company and stock models in years to come. I couldn’t be more pleased with the expressions we chose for this chapter, specifically the 1961 Single Cask, which truly encompasses my career to date serving The Balvenie.”
The bad news is that the five bottle collection will cost you $60,000. Yeah. The good news is that you can still find amore affordable taste if you’re in New York City. The Ty Bar at Four Seasons Hotel New York will sell you individual pours or you can order a full flight for $5000. If you venture out of Manhattan, you can pick up a bottle of the 1973 for $15k at Best Buy Liquor in Brooklyn, NY or Wine Society in Greenvale, NY.
With a product like this, all the swag is included. The bottles arrive “stunningly exhibited in a bespoke walnut and brass frame, crafted by Scottish wood craftsman Sam Chinnery. The rarity of each expression is highlighted by an individual number engraved on the presentation case, showing it is one of just 50 sets available worldwide.” Plus, you’ll get The Balvenie DCS Compendium book, written (and signed) by The Balvenie Global Ambassador Samuel J. Simmons MBE.
If this year has been a little rough on your wallet, don’t worry. Chapter Three is is the third of five scheduled releases. So, there’s always next year!