Mastersons 12 Year Old Straight Wheat Whiskey (50% alc/vol)
Grand Marnier, luscious sweet buckwheat honey, creamy, rich and mouth filling, bran buds with chocolate milk, hot and peppery. Who ever said wheat couldn’t be bold? Butterscotch, hot spices, barrel notes. Lots there, though not overly complex. Highly recommended. ★★★★☆Every couple of years an ultra-high-end whisky makes headlines when someone absconds with a bottle. The ensuing publicity often far out-values the loss, leading cynics to groan and roll their eyes. That was not the case though, when a container load of Richard Zeller’s high-end Masterson’s wheat and barley whiskies went missing. Indeed, the theft was so slick it was weeks before anyone even noticed.As soon as he looked at his inventory of Masterson’s new wheat and barley whiskies, he knew something was wrong. Christmas was coming, and Zeller, Chief Operating Officer for Sonoma-based The Other Guys, was already nervous that he did not have enough whisky to meet demand. Now half of it was unaccounted for.Zeller quickly got on the line to the bottling plant manager. “Where’s my stuff?” he wanted to know. “Your trucker picked it up two weeks ago,” came the bottler’s response. “Well it never arrived at the warehouse,” he responded as he put down the phone.Masterson’s is a Canadian whisky, blended and sold by 35 Maple Street, which, in turn, is a division of The Other Guys winery. Just as many California wine makers do, 35 Maple Street employs a third-party bottling plant to package its finished whisky. From there, the whisky is shipped to a private warehouse for storage and distribution. For this task, 35 Maple employs a highly respected, independent wine and spirits warehousing service with a long and prestigious client list.When a physical inventory at the warehouse confirmed 1,532 cases – a full trailer load – were missing, Zeller called the trucking company. Yes, they had processed the shipping request, and never heard back from the trucker. They had no reason to assume anything was amiss.Trucking companies, it seems, do not always employ their own drivers. Rather, when a shipping request is received, it goes out on the Internet to an organization of reliable freelancers. A driver accepts the job, submits the paperwork, and the company bills the client.Sadly, for Zeller, when his truck pulled away from the bottling plant, fully loaded with Masterson’s new whiskies, rather than heading to the warehouse, it simply vanished. Zeller values the whisky at about $700,000. His only recourse? Call his insurance company. They advised him his first move should be to notify the police.When Zeller spoke with Detective Gus Herrera in Vernon, California, he didn’t like what he heard. Thefts of whisky and other fast moving consumer goods have become so common in the area that Herrera is assigned to an undercover, national cargo-theft task force to monitor them.Not long after, a Vernon patrol officer noticed an old Toyota truck struggling along under the weight of a load that made the tires almost flat. What began as a routine overweight stop got interesting when the officer found 160 cases of Masterson’s whisky loaded in the back of the truck. A call to Herrera confirmed they were part of the Masterson’s heist.“I can’t sell it,” Zeller tells me, “what if it has been exposed to heat?” Still, he took possession of it and locked it up in his own warehouse. “We’ll test it in a year and see if it’s OK,” he tells me, “then maybe we can release it.” That it was found locally, confirms Herrera’s suspicion that the whisky was stolen for quick, street-level re-sale locally. “But this is high-end whisky and not common on the street so it wouldn’t be as valuable as Jack Daniels or Patron tequila” he tells me. “If they had targeted high-end whisky they would have had a buyer already.” We think they have it stashed in a warehouse and are waiting for the right buyer.”Months later, Zeller is still scratching his head. “That whisky was long gone before anyone realized it,” he tells me, “but how did they know to take the most expensive stuff in the bottling plant? Somebody doesn’t just walk up and drive away with the most expensive product in the plant.”“I’ve got people all across the country – distributors – looking for it,” says Zeller “and so far it hasn’t shown up. I don’t know what they’re doing with it. Every bottle is numbered so if it turns up on a bar or in a liquor store we know exactly where it came from. Meanwhile, I keep getting calls from distributors begging for just a few more cases and I have to say sorry, it really is sold out.” There is still a small amount left with the Canadian distributor but when that's gone it will just be a memory, a diffcult one for Zeller, and a great one for those lucky enough to find a bottle.Masterson’s 100% Wheat and 100% Barley were one-offs. “We had the opportunity to bottle some very special whisky,” Zellers says, “but there was only one batch of each and it won’t be repeated.” That too will make disposing of it difficult. As Herrera puts it, “they’ll have to scrape the serial number off every bottle.” It might be worth it because frankly, this is pretty good stuff that will never be repeated.Nose: Butterscotch, hints of tree bark, Mackintosh toffee, orange pomander, and dried black currants.Palate: Quite sweet, hot and spicy. Bright and rich with a luscious mouth feel. Ginger and buckwheat honey give way to Grand Marnier, butterscotch and Mackintosh toffee. There’s an earthy tone, like dried grain and bran with milk chocolate and hints of tannic barrel notes. The palate is hot and peppery and feels good on the tongue. Who ever said wheat wasn’t bold? Though there is a wealth of flavour the whisky is not overly complex. It’s a good weighty whisky that feels great in your mouth.Finish: Long, sweetish and tingling with peppery, gingery spiciness.Empty Glass: Dry green hay, fresh grain, pleasantly dusty.Highly recommended. ★★★★☆Masterson’s wheat $79.00Masterson’s 100% Straight Barley Whiskey is reviewed here.Masterson’s 100% Straight Rye Whisky is reviewed here.