Nov 14

Hyde 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Review

Hyde 10 Year Old Irish WhiskeyHyde 10 Year Old No. 1 Presidents Cask Single Malt Irish Whiskey

92 Proof

Price Point: $75 – $85 for 750 ML

Distiller: Hibernia Distillers


I have noticed a trend in whiskey.  Not unlike the craft brewing craze, distillers of whiskey have begun trying things that probably would have been frowned upon a few short years ago.  I see this same trend happening in Ireland, where the days of simple, grainy, double (or triple) pot-stilled whiskey are…well not over, but not the exclusive export.

Jameson recently launched its Caskmates Stout Edition, which I am hoping to review in the near future.  Teeling is finishing their flagship whiskey in rum casks.

While single malt Irish whiskeys are not necessarily new (see Connemara and Knappogue Castle), a new player is in town.  Hyde 10 Year Old is a single malt Irish whiskey, finished in sherry casks.  I received a small sample from Conor Hyde of Hibernia Distillers, and will be reviewing it today.


The nose begins with really nice malty and cereal notes, followed closely by flowers and fruit.  Hyde 10 Year Old is unlike your average, grainy Irish whiskey.  There are also pears and nutmeg on this nose.

On the palate, Hyde 10 Year Old tastes much like a Highland single malt Scotch.  There’s leather and oak, as well as fruit and spice.  It’s sweet and oaky all in one.  The exotic spiciness puts this (to me) in a similar flavor realm to Amrut.

There is a nice, malty finish to this interesting Irish single malt.  More fruity notes appear toward the end to round this one out.

Rating & Recommendations

I give Hyde 10 Year Old a rating of 86 out of 100.

Is $80 a little steep for a 10 year old single malt?  Yes.  However, this is a surprisingly nice whiskey from the Emerald Isle, that is worth checking out.  The distillers in Ireland seem to be experimenting lately, and the consumer is being rewarded for them doing so.



Oct 31

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Madeira Cask Rye – Review

Whistlepig 12 Year Old Rye WhiskeyWhistlePig Old World 12 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey

86 Proof

Price Point: $125 – $135 for 750 ML

Distiller: WhistlePig Farm


WhistlePig has taken some heat over the years.  I won’t get into the details here, as a simple Google search should satisfy your curiosity.  That being said, there’s no doubt that their whiskey is still good stuff in most cases.

I was recently on a business trip to Chicago, and was waiting for some co-workers at the hotel bar before dinner.  I looked at the whiskey menu, and saw the new WhistlePig Old World collection.  I ordered the Sauternes finish, and was pleasantly surprised with its quality!

Below, I am reviewing the Madeira cask finish.  Let’s see how it goes.


The nose begins with notes of creamy vanilla, charred oak, and spicy rye.  There’s also toasted marshmallows with a strong suggestion of a wine cask finish.  To me, WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye noses like a nicely matured bourbon; it’s very rich and full.

On the palate, this whiskey is hot, but not too hot at 43%.  WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye is definitely a rye but not as simplistic as most.  Its complexity is borne from the wine cask maturation and extended time in the barrels (30% French Sauternes, 63% Madeira, 7% Port).  It’s woody, with hints of black cherry and bubblegum.

The finish is smoky and sweet, full of zesty rye and rich wine flavors.  There’s also a little bit of coffee on the back end to round out this whiskey.

Rating & Recommendations

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye earns a rating of 89 out of 100.

This is a very nice tasting rye that I would recommend.  I think they are asking a little too much of the consumer on the price tag.  $130 is obviously cost prohibitive to the average whiskey drinker, not to mention its limited geographic availability.



Oct 18

Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky – Review

Lot 40 Canadian Rye WhiskyLot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Rye Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $60 – $70 for 750 ML

Distiller: Pernod Ricard USA



Social media has granted us all access to a wealth of information, some factual and some biased.  I started seeing hype for Lot 40 Canadian Whisky about a year or so ago, which got me curious about the sources.  Some may have been (and may presently be) legitimate, but others may be biased based on a number of things…

I spotted Lot 40 at a store (the adored 2012 release, mind you), and picked it up to see just how good it really is.



The nose on Lot 40 starts with rich rye and oaky, sherry notes.  It’s sweet and spicy, and also a little leathery.  I also detect pine needles and perhaps some almond nuttiness.  This is a crisp and refreshing nose.

On the palate, there’s the unmistakable taste of the copper pot still influence, not unlike many of the whiskeys distilled in Ireland.  Lot 40 is a little spicy yet again, but also has notes of green apple, sweet charred oak, and more pine needles.  This whisky is vibrant and energetic.

There’s a little more of an alcohol taste on the finish, which reminds me of a cheap Canadian whiskey.  The finish alone drops this one down a few notches.


Rating & Recommendations

Lot 40 Canadian Whiskey earns a rating of 83 out of 100.

This is yet another case of a whiskey being hyped-up, but not necessarily living up to the praise.  Lot 40 is good, but not great.  It’s certainly complex on the nose and palate, but weak on the finish.



Oct 03

Ron Zacapa Centenario Rum – Review

Ron Zacapa Centenario RumRon Zacapa Centenario 23 Solera Gran Reserva Rum

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Rum Creation & Products Inc.


During the summer, I find myself straying from whiskey (only sometimes) and reaching for a nice glass of rum.  The only non-whiskey I have reviewed on this blog is Brugal 1888, an exceptional rum from the Dominican Republic.

My taste buds were seeking something new and exciting, so I went to the local state liquor store, and sprung for their “most premium” rum – Ron Zacapa.  Like many whiskeys, this rum has a high number (23) prominently featured on the label, which some eager, and perhaps naive, buyers may assume means 23 years old.  While that is partially true, it is only a marketing gimmick.  Ron Zacapa spends time in a solera vat (similar to Glenfiddich 15 Year Old and Syndicate 58/6), which means that it touches drops of older rum, but most of the stuff in your bottle is much younger.

Let’s see what this stuff tastes like…


The color on Ron Zacapa is reminiscent of Coca-Cola.  On the nose, there’s sweet sugar cane and vanilla.  Medium amount of alcohol burn, with not as much oak as you’d expect.  This is not an overly complex nose.

The taste is sugary.  You can almost feel the sugar granules on your tongue as you sip Ron Zacapa.  This rum is very mellow and smooth.  I taste a little bit of woodiness, but it’s overpowered by sweetness.

The finish starts out sweet, and ends a little bitter and dry.

Rating & Recommendations

Ron Zacapa Rum earns a rating of 78 out of 100.

I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed in this rum.  I had high hopes in trying another “premium” aged rum, but Ron Zacapa fell well short of my expectations



Sep 19

MSW Small Batch Whiskey – Review

MSW Small Batch WhiskeyManatawny Still Works Small Batch Whiskey

94 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML

Distiller: Manatawny Still Works



Manatawny Still Works is a relatively new micro-distillery in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, not far from where I live.  I had the pleasure of touring their facility (which you can read about here), as well as reviewing their J. Potts White Whiskey.

Although the original plan was to let their American whiskey rest in barrels for several years, it looks like the investors put the pressure on Max and the crew to release an aged whiskey sooner, and that’s where Manatawny Small Batch comes in.  This whiskey has an interesting mash bill (42% malt, 41% wheat, 13% oats, 4% rye), and spent seven and a half months resting in 30-gallon oak barrels.



Manatawny Small Batch is very young and abrasive on the nose.  The alcohol aroma will shock at first, but once you move past that, you’ll notice yeasty bread notes with freshly chopped oak and sugary cereal.  Very earthy.

On the palate, this whiskey is once again, young and harsh.  It’s clearly not a bourbon, but unmistakably American.  It’s spicy and sweet – interesting enough to keep you drinking but not overly complex.  There are also more bread-like/cereal notes.

The finish on Manatawny Small Batch is nice and long, with a familiar malty flavor similar to the finish of a single malt Scotch.  It’s subtle, but it’s there, along with something fruity (cherries?).


Rating & Recommendations

Manatawny Small Batch Whiskey earns a rating of 82 out of 100.

This is a good start from Max at Manatawny Still Works.  I would have preferred that they wait to release the first batch after a few years in the barrel, as opposed to a few months, but I understand the struggle with patience.



Sep 05

Corsair Quinoa Whiskey – Review

Corsair Quinoa WhiskeyCorsair Quinoa Whiskey

92 Proof

Price Point: $50 – $60 for 750 ML

Distiller: Corsair Artisan LLC



I’m becoming quite familiar with the whiskeys coming out of Corsair Artisan.  I’ve spent time (and money) trying to convert their Wry Moon unaged whiskey into a mini-barrel-aged whiskey.  I’ve enjoyed the complexity of Triple Smoke, and I continue to seek out their seasonal releases (although living in Pennsylvania makes it incredibly difficult).

When I saw Quinoa on the shelf, I grabbed it immediately.  It wasn’t just the familiar black and white Corsair label that did me in, but the excitement of trying something unique and new; an American whiskey distilled with something different than the usual grains (corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, etc.).



Corsair Quinoa noses unlike any other whiskey.  It’s sort of corn and sort of rye, but not quite either – that would be my best way to sum-up quinoa.  There’s harsh alcohol complemented by soft vanilla bean, and nutty, charred oak.

On the palate, Quinoa is full-bodied with big flavor at 46%.  There’s more unique, spicy quinoa notes; that alone is reason enough to try this release from Corsair.  There’s almost a drying experience on the palate, and some extremely subdued fruit notes.

The finish is spicy and long.


Rating & Recommendations

I rate Corsair Quinoa Whiskey an 83 out of 100.

This is not what I would consider a classically tasty whiskey, but that’s not the reason you buy from Corsair’s portfolio.  This is an experiment in mash bill that went more right than wrong, and for that I applaud the distillers.



Aug 22

Auchentoshan American Oak Scotch – Review

Auchentoshan American Oak ScotchAuchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Auchentoshan Distillery


Just over two years ago, I reviewed Auchentoshan Classic, the entry-level whisky from the namesake, Lowlands distillery.  It scored very well by my standards, despite my concern over its triple-distillation and my inexperience with whiskies south of the Highlands.

Next on my agenda is Auchentoshan American Oak, another triple-distilled Scotch, this time matured in North American, first-fill oak casks.


The first thing I notice on the nose are floral notes – like, actual flowers.  And peaches.  This is what makes Lowlands Scotch whisky so unique – its single malts are so light and delicate (and can be underwhelming to some), but I find it very refreshing.  Auchentoshan American Oak continues with malty/toasted oak.  There’s nothing about the nose on this whisky that pushes away.  Rather, it invites you in with every inhale.

The taste is another story.  This is another whisky that is far more satisfying to nose than to taste; a disappointment for sure.  Auchentoshan American Oak is fruity (peaches), as mentioned previously, but also bitter and flat.  Frankly, it’s off-putting.

This whisky ends with generous malt on the finish, and a pleasantly peachy aftertaste.

Rating & Recommendations

Overall, Auchentoshan American Oak earns a rating of 79 out of 100.

This is an exercise in Lowlands Scotch quality, showing promise but lacking character where it really counts – the taste.  I still enjoy sampling Auchentoshan’s portfolio, and this will certainly not deter me from trying their other whiskies.



Aug 08

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey – Review

Kinsey 7 Year Old WhiskeyKinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey

86.8 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML

Distiller: The New Liberty Distillery



I cannot say I know all that much about this whiskey, despite its close proximity to where I live.  I was sent a small sample and an online folder with images and a press release.  The release says:

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey is made from 100% corn, aged in reused oak cooperage, and bottled at 86.8 proof.  Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey has also been sourced, blended and bottled by Robert J. Cassell and a former employee of Continental Distilling consulting.

It explains the distillery’s roots and mission further:

With roots that stretch back to the earliest days of American distilling, the modern Kinsey Whiskey Distillery was owned by the Continental Distilling Company of Pennsylvania.  The Kinsey Whiskey Brand enjoyed its heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s but ultimately ceased distilling in the late 1970’s. ‘The New Liberty Distillery is proud to be a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania distillery, so it was appropriate to make our first product offering a throwback to the history and tradition of Pennsylvania whiskey’ says Charles Ho, Partner at the New Liberty Distillery.  ‘It was a long journey for us to research, then source and blend our interpretation of Kinsey Whiskey.’

‘Building the Kinsey Whiskey blend was like putting together a puzzle.  It was challenging to find the kind of whiskies that could work together to create a true interpretation of Kinsey Whiskey’, says Robert Cassell, Master Distiller at the New Liberty Distillery.  ‘There was a lot of trial and error to get to the right Kinsey Whiskey blend.  I think the final Kinsey Whiskey blend maintains the character of post-prohibition Pennsylvania Whiskey.  Luckily we have the benefit of modern filtration and blending techniques to maintain consistency.”

To summarize, this is a new distillery, sourcing whiskeys to blend to come close to replicating its namesake brand’s historic recipe.  Its Master Distiller is sourcing rather than distilling, at least for now.



The nose starts out light and crisp, with odd pot still characteristics surprisingly similar to Jameson Irish Whiskey.  There are some subtle sugar cane notes and pine needles.  It’s hard to believe that the mash bill is 100% corn.

Oddly enough, this tastes very much like an Irish whiskey, as the nose suggests.  It has a flat and bitter taste – not much to it.  It does not seem at all like an American whiskey (certainly does not share the qualities of a traditional bourbon or rye).

Kinsey 7 Year Old has caramel and rum notes on the finish, which are the only real intriguing facets to this whiskey.  It sort of tricks you into taking the next sip.


Rating & Recommendations

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey earns a rating of 74 out of 100.

In my opinion (whatever that’s worth), this tastes like a mix of unwanted/uninteresting barrels that the New Liberty Distillery got their hands on for a cheap price.  Either that, or the original expression they are trying to replicate was nothing to write home about.  Either way, this is not a whiskey I would recommend for the money.



Jul 25

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Scotch – Review

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Classic Laddie ScotchBruichladdich Scottish Barley / The Classic Laddie Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

100 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bruichladdich Distillery


I spent all of last week at the beach with my wife’s family.  Before heading down, my tradition is to bring a bottle of Scotch and a bottle of rum.  The Scotch usually ends up being something “manageable” (average proof, nothing peaty/smoky so others may partake) like the Glenlivet 12 Year Old or Glenmorangie Lasanta.  However, when I arrived at the liquor store and saw the Tiffany-blue bottle of Bruichladdich Scottish Barley staring me down, I immediately caved.


This whisky begins with sweet, malty goodness on the nose.  It’s not unlike Bruichladdich Rocks, but at a heightened level.  There are floral and fruity (pineapple) notes with yeasty, bread-like qualities.

My first sip of Bruichladdich Scottish Barley reveals a complex and intense (at 50% ABV) whisky.  The malt is huge but not dominating on the palate.  There’s a hint of smoke inferring its Islay origin, but it’s gone quickly.  Not a trace of peat, as the label suggests.  It’s rounded out by creamy vanilla.

This is a pleasant and long-lasting, malty finish; the highlight of the dram.

Rating & Recommendations

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley earns a high rating of 87 out of 100.

This is a very nice whisky with a ton of great character.  The warming qualities of this high-proofer would make this a choice drink for a cold night, although I wouldn’t refuse it in July.



Jul 11

Aberlour 12 Year Old Scotch – Review

Aberlour 12 Year Old ScotchAberlour 12 Year Old Double Cask Matured Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Aberlour Distillery Company Ltd.



I love me a sherry-finished whisky.  Macallan 12 Year Old and Glenmorangie Lasanta are two of the regulars on my shelf.  When Aberlour 12 Year Old finally made it into Pennsylvania, and at an affordable price point to boot, I grabbed it off the shelf as quickly as I could.  The bottle is stocky with a wide mouth, giving it a style all its own.  The dark color suggests a sherry-bomb, which is exactly what I’m hoping for.  Let’s see how this goes.


The first thing I notice on the nose is cherries, almost like some of the bourbons I have reviewed (see Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof and Angel’s Envy).  I find that interesting considering there is no partial bourbon barrel maturation in Aberlour 12 Year Old, but rather “traditional oak” maturation.  There’s also malt and leather, with sherry playing a very evident role.  This is a pleasant nose but not as robust as I’d like it.  40% ABV probably has something to do with that.

Aberlour 12 Year Old has a taste similar to Glenlivet 15 Year Old in that it has a “strawberries and cream” type theme, although this is a seemingly watered-down version.  This whisky is drying on the palate, with sherry sweetness balanced by malty leather notes.  This is a very tasty and balanced Scotch whisky.

There’s something a little bitter on the finish that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It’s nice, nonetheless, with sweet, sherry notes.

Rating & Recommendations

Aberlour 12 Year Old earns a rating of 85 out of 100.

This is a nice whisky at a good price point, but it’s not overly unique or interesting.  I’m excited to try its bigger brother – A’bunadh.



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