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


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…


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.



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


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.


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.



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


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…


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.



Dec 26

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky – Review

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese WhiskyNikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co., Ltd., Japan



I really enjoy trying whiskeys from around the world.  I find it fascinating how other cultures interpret the category, and how they put their own spin (and terroir) on what they produce.

Japan is quickly becoming a major exporter of whisky to the United States.  Early on writing this blog, I reviewed Yamazaki 12 Year Old, which was the first Japanese whisky I had seen stateside.  Much later, I reviewed Nikka Coffey Grain, a departure from the single malt genre.

I had the pleasure of trying Nikka Pure Malt about a year and a half ago in Los Angeles.  At that time, it still had the 12 Years Old age statement on it.  Just like many whiskies from the West, Nikka Pure Malt has dropped the age statement.  Let’s see if it retained its flavor and quality.



The nose on Nikka Pure Malt reveals close ties to the single malt Scotch genre, but with a discernible Eastern influence.  There are notes of exotic spices, similar to that in the Amrut portfolio.  There’s also rich malted barley, and pineapple revealing itself upon a strong inhale.  There’s subtle mint toward the end, and no smoke or peat.

The taste begins with well matured oak and malted barley, with some sea salt sprinkled in.  Nikka Pure Malt can be similar to Glenlivet 12 Year Old in consistency and some flavor notes, specifically the marrying of pineapple fruitiness and refined malt.  This is a very well balanced and tasty whisky.

The finish is malty and pleasant; no complaints here.


Rating & Recommendations

Nikka Pure Malt earns a rating of 88 out of 100.

Don’t let the screw cap fool you – this is a lovely whisky from Japan that I would absolutely purchase again.



Dec 12

Aberlour A’bunadh Scotch – Review

Aberlour A'bunadh ScotchAberlour A’bunadh Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

121.4 Proof

Price Point: $70 – $80 for 750 ML

Distiller: Aberlour Distillery Company Ltd.



Back in July, I reviewed Aberlour 12 Year Old, the smaller (not necessarily younger) brother of today’s review, Aberlour A’bunadh.  I’ve been excited to try this one for some time now, as a cask strength, sherry-matured whisky is right up my alley.  I found myself intrigued, although a little disappointed, when I tried a similarly categorized whisky – Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso.  It was certainly not a bad whisky, as my review suggested, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations.  Let’s see if Aberlour has a different spin on this niche genre.



The nose on A’bunadh is potent, with notes of crushed grapes and whisky-soaked oak.  Nosing is a chore, but I keep going back.  There’s intense leather and malted barley.  This is a nose that doesn’t back down.

In the mouth, A’bunadh presents more leather/sherry notes.  The alcohol intensity is mellowed out by the excellent flavor.  This is Glenmorangie LaSanta on steroids!  There’s no balance, but I’m okay with that.  A’bunadh is rich and velvety.  It’s intense and one-dimensional, but again that’s okay with me.

The finish is long and memorable.  There’s oak, leather, and sherry; excellent.


Rating & Recommendations

Aberlour A’bunadh earns a rating of 89 out of 100.

This is the definition of a “sherry bomb”.  A’bunadh is an excellent single malt Scotch whisky that could, and maybe should, be tamed by water (maybe even ice…).  This stuff is not for the faint of heart or casual whisky drinker.



Nov 28

Willett Small Batch Rye Whiskey – Review

Willett Small Batch Rye WhiskeyWillett Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey

111.8 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Willett Distillery



I published a review of a Willett whiskey back in August 2013.  It was their Bourbon, which was very unique and intriguing.  It seems that the Willett portfolio has become coveted among the whiskey industry, almost like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, only maybe not as hyped.

Today, I am reviewing WiIlett Rye, a two-year old rye whiskey bottled at nearly 56%!  It’s sure to pack a punch, but will it stand up to its reputation (and price tag)?



There’s alcohol fire on the nose to start.  Once your sense acclimates, you’ll notice toasted almonds and Sharpie marker scribbled on oak.  The rye spiciness also shines here.  Willett Rye noses like a more intense, American version of Forty Creek.

In the mouth, there’s no doubt that Willett Rye is a young whiskey.  There are traces of white dog that could be detected even by the novice whiskey enthusiast.  That being said, this obviously comes from good juice, because it’s surprisingly mellowed and drinkable, even for the high proof and short amount of time in the barrel.  Willett Rye shares similarities in taste to Sazerac 6 Year Old Rye.

The finish is an interesting mixture of a familiar new spirit taste (negative) with the promise of a complex rye profile (positive).


Rating & Recommendations

I rate Willet Rye an 82 out of 100.

While drinkable, this whiskey is overpriced and over-hyped for a two year old whiskey.  It’s certainly not a bad whiskey, but there are far better ryes for out there for the money.  And there are more mature ryes in the Willett portfolio, but they are too difficult to attain (both economically and availability-wise) to win my interest at this point.



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



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