May 14

Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve Scotch – Review

Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve ScotchGlenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reseve Single Malt Scotch Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Glenfiddich Distillery

Background

Glenfiddich is a big producer of single malt Scotch.  I’ve sampled most of their range.  When the 14 Year Old arrived on the shelf in my local liquor store, I noticed that the label clearly stated “US Exclusive”.  I found that interesting.  I’ve certainly seen “Duty Free Exclusive” and labels of that nature, but never “US Exclusive” on a Scotch label.  I don’t know the full story, but it was intriguing enough for me to buy a bottle.

Review

The nose begins with malt and leather, with vanilla sneaking in to remind you of the bourbon barrel influence.  This becomes increasingly evident.  Not a bad nose at all on Glenfiddich 14 Year Old.

On the palate, there’s more malt with a bit of a bite at 43%.  Glenfiddich 14 Year Old has a fruity character like other expressions from the distillery’s portfolio.  This is tasty stuff – sweet but also slightly bitter.  The bitterness seems almost rye-like; it would be interesting to know which bourbon barrels were chosen for aging, and what the rye content was on the mashbill.

The bourbon influence disappears on the finish.  Glenfiddich 14 Year Old ends like a nice single malt Scotch with more fruit and malt.

Rating & Recommendations

Glenfiddich 14 Year Old earns a respectable rating of 85 out of 100.

This is not a bad whisky by any means.  I definitely sense the bourbon barrel aging more than other, similarly marketed single malts.  I would buy this whisky again.

 

-Ryan

Apr 30

Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve Scotch – Review

Glenlivet Founder's Reserve ScotchThe Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Glenlivet Distillery

Background

We’re seeing a trend in whisky, moving from a shelf full of 8 year, 12 year, 18 year old whiskies, to a shelf where numbers are difficult to find.  This leads us to believe that distillers had not planned for the high whisky demand of today, and supply is limited.

Enter Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, the probable (inevitable?) replacement for the flagship Glenlivet 12 Year Old.

Review

My first impression on the nose is that this is much maltier than typical Glenlivet whiskies.  There’s leather and oak, a hint of the trademark Glenlivet pineapple, and some strawberries.  Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve noses like a solid, slightly sweet, single malt Scotch.

On the palate, malt is yet again at the forefront.  There’s charred oak, with nothing out of the ordinary (no sherry or bourbon barrel finish evident, and no peat or smoke).  There’s a touch of lemon noted while tasting Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve.  It’s easy drinking at 40%; a young and tasty whisky with a sweet side.

This whisky has the signature Glenlivet finish with malt balanced by citrus; somewhat long lasting,

Rating & Recommendations

Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve earns a rating of 82 out of 100.

This no age statement whisky scores decent points with me,  but I’m not sure what makes this unique, competing against other entry-level expressions.  It will be interesting to watch Glenlivet’s path as they attempt to phase out their standard 12 Year Old.

 

-Ryan

Apr 16

Bushmills 16 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Review

Bushmills 16 Year Old Irish WhiskeyBushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $70 – $80 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Old Bushmills Distillery

Background

Single malt Irish whiskeys are, apparently, on the rise.  Tullamore Dew has one (reviewed here), the new player Hyde has one (reviewed here), and several others sourced from major distilleries have them, as well.  I’m in no way opposed, as I have found the quality coming out of Ireland has been improved since distilleries started releasing single malts.

Bushmills 16 Year Old is the next on my list to review.  Their website says “Bushmills Single Malt Whiskey 16 Year Old is aged for 16 years in a combination of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon-seasoned casks, then matured for several months in port wine barrels. The unique maturation process gives this single malt its distinct notes of juicy fruits, nuts and spice, as well as a hint of ruby redness. It’s best enjoyed neat or over ice.”

Full disclosure – I was given a sample by a colleague, hence the out-of-place photo.

Review

This whiskey begins with cherries on the nose, almost like a bourbon.  There’s malty goodness and mature, charred oak, followed by thick honey.  Bushmills 16 Year Old’s Irish heritage sneaks in masked slightly by the single malt style.  A very nice nose, indeed.

Malt is at the forefront of the taste of this whiskey.  Bushmills 16 Year Old packs more honey sweetness on the tongue, with peaches and cream and pineapple notes, not unlike the Glenlivet.  This one tastes mature – on a similar level to Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old.  Some could argue that the mouthfeel is a little thin at 40%, but nice nonetheless.

The finish contains more sweet and sour pineapple notes, followed by malt.  It’s also slightly bitter on the tail end.

Rating & Recommendations

Bushmills 16 Year Old earns a rating of 88 out of 100.

This is certainly one of the better Irish whiskeys out there, which proves to me (once again) that single malts reign supreme over the traditional Irish style.

 

-Ryan

Apr 03

Thistle Finch White Rye Whiskey – Review

Thistle Finch White Rye WhiskeyThistle Finch Small Batch White Rye Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $30 – $40 for 750 ML

Distiller: Thistle Finch Distilling LLC

 

Background

I recently posted a review of Bomberger’s, a sourced whiskey that I purchased at Thistle Finch distillery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  While I was there with my wife, we purchased a bottle of the distillery’s namesake Small Batch White Rye Whiskey.  While I am, admittedly, not a big fan of white dog, I find myself interested in sampling the local flavor.

 

Review

Thistle Finch White Rye noses like a bowl of Raisin Bran.  There are grainy notes with a heavy dose of sweet raisins; very sugary and vibrant.  It’s funny how sometimes new spirit just doesn’t seem to smell like it could ever turn into aged whiskey.  The barrel can really do some amazing things.

On the palate, I get breakfast cereal once again.  This whiskey is more sweet than spicy (contrary to dominant rye on the mashbill), with an oily texture.  Thistle Finch White Rye is pretty mellow for an unaged whiskey, but that could just be the 80 proof.  This whiskey tastes like open possibilities.

Thistle Finch White Rye is sweet and syrupy, with orange peel on the finish.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Thistle Finch White Rye earns a rating of 74 out of 100.

As white dog whiskeys go, this one is middle of the pack.  I’m still not impressed enough to drink regularly, but intrigued by what this Lancaster, Pennsylvania distillery may do in the future.

 

-Ryan

Mar 20

Milagro Tequila Reposado – Review

Milagro Tequila ReposadoLeyenda del Milagro Tequila Reposado

80 Proof

Price Point: $20 – $30 for 750 ML

Distiller: Tequilera Milagro

Background

Last month, I reviewed Don Julio Añejo, one of my “go-to” spirits when I’m not in the mood for a dram of whiskey.  While it is indeed a fine tequila, I noted that it just doesn’t seem to have the character and complexity of my favorite category of spirit (the namesake for this blog).  The more I thought about it, the more I considered that perhaps it’s the more-than-average time Don Julio spends in the barrel (not long compared to most whiskeys) in contrast to Blancos or Reposados.

Enter Milagro Reposado, an entry level tequila with a tall, funky bottle shape that invites you to pick it off the shelf.  Perhaps a little less time in the barrel will help this tequila get back to its roots.

Review

Milagro Reposado begins with in-your-face agave, a hint of oak, and freshly squeezed citrus on the nose.  You can smell the salt around the rim of a margarita glass with chips and salsa by your side.  Chlorine and sunscreen also run through my mind, as this tequila exudes the scents of summer.

On the palate, Milagro Reposado is earthy and intense, but not overpowering.  This is the way a tequila is meant to be, in my opinion.  There’s a touch of woodiness from the short time it spends in the barrel.  Milagro is salty and sweet; simple but very flavorful.

Milagro Reposado finishes with salt and lime.

Rating & Recommendations

Milagro Reposado earns a rating of 80 out of 100.

For the money, you can’t beat this tequila.  It’s an easy sipper with plenty of flavor.  I would recommend this to the novice and connoisseur alike, and will be seeing more bottles of this on my shelf.

 

-Ryan

Mar 05

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon – Review

Maker's Mark Cask Strength BourbonMaker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

113.3 Proof

Price Point: $30 – $40 for 375 ML

Distiller: Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.

 

Background

Ever walk into a liquor store, not knowing what you are going to buy.  And before you can even glimpse at the shelf, you see something exciting, sitting on the end cap, almost screaming out to you for you to buy it?  That’s what happened with me and Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – it was love at first sight.

 

Review

The nose on Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is surprisingly grassy right off the bat.  There’s fresh celery (leafy), along with soft wheat and charred oak.  Vanilla and caramel round it out this bourbon that’s not as intense as other barrel-proofers (a positive trait, in my opinion).

If the nose tricked you into thinking this wasn’t a big whisky, your first sip will prove that it is, indeed.  A big, unsuspecting burn quickly fades opening up to big flavor.  There are more earthy notes followed by wheat and sweet caramel.  The barley in the mashbill is evident here.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength finishes with more burn and sweet vanilla notes.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength earns a rating of 87 out of 100.

This whisky is a couple steps above the standard Maker’s Mark, but this one certainly lives up to the hype.  The price for a 375 ML isn’t cringe-worthy, but it’s also not something I would be willing to pay on an ongoing basis.

 

-Ryan

Feb 20

Bomberger’s Whiskey – Review

Bomberger's WhiskeyBomberger’s Distillery American Straight Whiskey

86 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bomberger’s Distillery

 

Background

The story of Bomberger’s is an interesting one.  I first heard of this whiskey on Twitter, and realized it was being bottled (not distilled) at Thistle Finch Distillery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – not far from where I live.  My wife and I made the trip to the distillery and purchased a bottle.

Time passed before I would open the bottle, and the battle for the Bomberger’s name/brand began.  I won’t get into the details here; you can simply Google for “Bomberger’s” and read all about it.  What I can say is that the old website I had originally linked on this post as a draft no longer exists, which tells me that we likely won’t be seeing more bottles of this stuff (at least with the label pictured and the whiskey I describe) going forward.

 

Review

Similar to Jameson, Bomberger’s starts out with the scent of paper (and maybe a touch of ink).  It takes a while to open up and reveal a blend of bourbon and rye aromas.  Dark cherries and chocolate finally come into play.  Bomberger’s smells sugary sweet with a little bit of spicy rye influence.

There’s more pine and peppery notes on the palate than what could be detected on the nose.  Bomberger’s offers citrus flavors with corn syrup and lightly charred oak.  This whiskey tastes young (and it is), but not terrible.  The taste grows on you as you sip.

Bomberger’s finishes with sugar sweet cherries and toasted oak.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Bomberger’s Whiskey earns a rating of 81 out of 100.

This is a sourced whiskey that doesn’t seem to have its own unique identity.  The juice isn’t bad, but it needs more time in the barrel or something different in the mix to make it really special.  We likely won’t get to experience a more mature or different Bomberger’s because of the dispute, and that’s a shame.

 

-Ryan

Feb 06

Don Julio Tequila Añejo – Review

Don Julio Tequila AñejoTequila Reserva de Don Julio Añejo

80 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Tequila Don Julio

Background

I have reviewed two rums on this blog (Brugal 1888 and Ron Zacapa).  As I reviewed these “premium” rums, it sparked an interest in learning about spirits other than whiskey.  I’m not particularly interested in vodka, gin, or brandy.  I do enjoy beer and wine (not that they count as “spirits”), but there’s just too much variety to venture down that road.  The next logical place to go is tequila.

When I was 16 years old, my dad worked for a company that operated a tequila distillery near Guadalajara, Mexico.  I happened to have taken three or four years of Spanish classes, but was not fluent (conversational would be a stretch).  Nevertheless, my dad talked his company into bringing me along for a business trip to the distillery as a translator.  While the trip was memorable, I’m not entirely sure I helped translate anything of value to either party…

Review

Don Julio Añejo’s nose starts with blue agave mellowed by cherries and oak.  It’s not as intense as a Reposado or Blanco (by design).  This spirit is salty with a hint of sweet pine needles and cereal.  There are subtle, fresh citric notes, as well.

The first sip of Don Julio Añejo will make you…thirsty.  This, like many other tequilas, has a salty quality to it, that I would not describe as “thirst-quenching”.  After drinking lots of whiskeys north of 40%, this tequila is easy drinking.  The oak imparts more sweetness on the palate than the nose.

This tequila finishes with sea salt and a touch of sweet, blue agave.  I also pick up cigar box/wrapper.

Rating & Recommendations

Don Julio Añejo earns a rating of 82 out of 100.

This is a tasty añejo – one of my go-tos when I’m in the mood for something different than the usual.  I recognize that I am comparing apples to oranges, but tequila just doesn’t seem to match the complexity and character of whiskey (generally speaking).  Therefore by comparison, I just can’t justify rating this higher.

 

-Ryan

Jan 23

Glenmorangie Tùsail Scotch – Review

Glenmorangie Tusail ScotchGlenmorangie Tùsail Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

92 Proof

Price Point: $95 – $105 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Glenmorangie Distillery

Background

Glenmorangie is an interesting distillery.  Lasanta and Quinta Ruban are two of my favorites, but their 10 Year Old is, well, pretty dull.  I was recently gifted Tùsail, their no-age-statement release from their Private Edition selection.  Just like the others (Companta, Ealanta, etc.), Tùsail has a reputation across the blogosphere.  I’m skeptical, as always, but optimistic about this one.

Review

Tùsail starts out with apricots and hand soap on the nose.  No smoke or peat to speak of, but there are interesting malted barley notes.  If I really dig-in, I can find a connection between the juice in Tùsail and the the other Glenmorangie whiskies.  This one doesn’t seem to be very mature, hence the no age statement.

This does not taste like a bad single malt, but Tùsail does taste like your average, run of the mill, fruity Scotch.  It’s sweet with malted barley notes.  It’s very fruit forward, similar to Brenne in that it may be suitable to other palates, but I’m not sure it’s right for mine.  Tùsail is slightly bitter on the tail end with some faint chocolate notes.

The finish is dominantly peachy – too sweet for me.

Rating & Recommendations

Glenmorangie Tùsail earns a rating of 81 out of 100.

For the price and prestige, this is an underwhelming release from Glenmorangie.  My recommendation is to purchase one each of Lasanta and Quinta Ruban and skip Tùsail.

 

-Ryan

Jan 10

Port Charlotte Islay Barley Scotch – Review

Port Charlotte Islay Barley ScotchBruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

100 Proof

Price Point: $60 – $70 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bruichladdich Distillery

Background

I’m a big fan of the Bruichladdich Distillery.  I have reviewed a couple of their whiskies, and have found myself impressed.  However, to this point I have not had an opportunity to get my hands on one of their peated single malts.  Octomore continues to elude me, but I was able to find Port Charlotte, and thus here we are…

Review

My first thought upon nosing Port Charlotte is that it seems like it belongs in the Ardbeg family.  There is peat and smoke complemented by the briny, maritime terroir of Islay.  Upon further inspection, I find Bruichladdich’s identity with the cereal-like malted barley notes shared with Rocks and Scottish Barley.  This may (and should) sound off-putting, but I detect a little bit of manure on the nose.  Overall, this is a big whisky at 50% as are all the Bruichladdich single malts.

Port Charlotte drinks hot (at first) at 100 proof, but it’s certainly manageable.  There’s big peat, followed by creamy vanilla and apples.  There’s also some pine and/or mint, with salt and brine similar to many of the Islay whiskies I have reviewed.  Port Charlotte exhibits charred oak and a little spicy pepper on the tail end of the palate.

There’s vanilla bean on the lengthy/tasty finish.

Rating & Recommendations

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte earns a rating of 84 out of 100 from me.

This is another solid offering from the Bruichladdich line-up, although I think I prefer the unpeated variety.  I’m not convinced that Port Charlotte is the best value for the money when other, similar peated Islay single malts are available at lower price points.

 

-Ryan

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