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.



Jun 28

Little Barrel Bourbon – Review

Little Barrel BourbonLittle Barrel Bourbon Whiskey

84 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 375 ML

Distiller: Black Button Distilling



Maturing whiskey in smaller than usual barrels has become a bit of a trend in the industry.  We’ve seen this in Scotch whisky, specifically Laphroaig Quarter Cask and Ardmore Traditional Cask.  Now a relatively new craft distiller called Black Button Distilling in the United States has released their Little Barrel Bourbon.  The idea is that characteristics from the charred oak are absorbed quicker by the liquid because the whiskey has more contact with the surface area of the smaller cask.  While it can help the whiskey taste more mature, it’s certainly not a time machine.  In other words, this method doesn’t automatically create whiskey matured-to-perfection.



This whiskey is spicy and nutty on the nose.  Little Barrel Bourbon is very, very young with orange peel and rye.  There’s also cinnamon and nutmeg; almost like nosing a candle.

On the palate, Little Barrel Bourbon is like white dog kissed by oak.  It is mellowed slightly in the “little barrel”, but still very harsh.  There’s corn sweetness followed by zesty rye, with a light mouthfeel.  Not a bad taste, but not quite my thing.

The finish is long with lingering new spirit flavors and exotic spices.


Rating & Recommendations

Little Barrel Bourbon earns a rating of 78 out of 100.

There’s hope for this bourbon down the road, but this is just too young for my palate.  A few more years in the little barrel could produce an interesting whiskey.



Jun 13

Tomatin 12 Year Old Scotch – Review

Tomatin 12 Year Old ScotchTomatin 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $30 – $40 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Tomatin Distillery Co. Ltd.



Akin to Bulleit Bourbon, and other whiskies I have commented on similarly, Tomatin 12 Year Old is a whisky I have seen frequently on the shelf but never had a compelling reason to purchase a bottle.  As I’ve said before, living in the control state of Pennsylvania means my options are limited, and at this price point, it was time to buy a bottle of Tomatin and see how it tastes.



Tomatin 12 Year Old’s nose starts out with malted barley, reminiscent of a pale ale.  It’s not unlike Bruichladdich Rocks with its sourdough bread-like nose.  There’s subtle fruity sweetness with a big inhale.

On the palate, this is a very pleasant whisky.  It’s malt-forward, with plenty of spice.  It’s smooth, but not dull; tasty without a hint of peat.  Fruit characteristics are very minimal here, but do exist likely due to the sherry finishing.  Tomatin 12 Year Old tastes like your everyday, flavorful Highland Scotch.

On the finish, this whisky leaves cinnamon and spice, not unlike the Amrut portfolio of whiskies.


Rating & Recommendations

Tomatin 12 Year Old is a decent Scotch, earning a rating of 83 out of 100.

This is an agreeable whisky in that it’s not overly complex or individual in its character.  But it’s a good whisky to sip and enjoy while letting your mind wander elsewhere.



May 30

Brenne French Whisky – Review

Brenne French WhiskyBrenne French Single Malt Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $50 – $60 for 750 ML

Distiller: Classic Imports



This one is an interesting story.  Brenne French Single Malt Whisky began when Allison Patel decided to begin importing whisky from a small distiller in the heart of Cognac, France.  After a relationship was formed, the pair refined their spirit, incorporating a finishing process in ex-Cognac barrels.

I am always intrigued to taste whiskeys which explore alternate maturation processes, and Cognac is certainly not used as frequently as something like sherry casks.  Why not give Brenne a try?



The first thing I notice on Brenne’s nose is garbage.  More specifically a garbage bag full of cut-up fruit.  Notes of offensive licorice; it’s sickeningly sweet.

Once on the palate, Brenne moves from sickeningly sweet to shockingly sweet.  This is the most fruit-forward whisky I have ever tasted, exhibiting characteristics of melon Jelly Bellies.  There are subtle traces of malt and cinnamon, and barely any alcohol burn.  Is this a single malt or a flavored whisky?  The lack of balance has me making funny faces as I sip.

The finish is short and unmemorable at 40% – thank goodness!


Rating & Recommendations

Brenne French Whisky earns a rating of 68 out of 100 from me.

I suppose Allison Patel was trying to make a whisky for the female demographic, incorporating the light blue color scheme, the allure of a whisky from France (versus Scotland or Ireland), and the extremely fruit-forward taste.  However, this whisky has no balance and frankly, I found it difficult to finish the two small drams I used to write this review.  There is a whisky for everyone, as they say, but this one is not for me.



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