May 16

Stagg Jr. Bourbon – Review

Stagg Jr. BourbonStagg Jr. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

132.1 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery

 

Background

Oh boy.  This is an exciting day.  I have the pleasure to review one of the more hyped bourbons in recent years.  Stagg Jr. is a barrel proof bourbon, a little brother, if you will, of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release George T. Stagg.  Looking back at my review of the elder, the 2009 release clocked in at an astounding 141.4 proof.  The little brother dials it back about 5% for an easy-drinking spirit – yeah right!

Nothing about the Stagg name implies easy-drinking.  The label features enlarged antlers, the copper and black sticker tells you just how much alcohol you’ll be ingesting, and the color of the whiskey itself is an intimidating dark amber (the backside’s dark label doesn’t make it look any lighter).  This is not a whiskey that you end the night with, but rather one that you sip slowly and delicately, and maybe add a little water to dilute.

 

Review

There’s great color on this barrel-proofer.  The nose is strong and sweet, living up to the Stagg name.  There’s corn and sugar cane sweetness, followed by deep charred oak.  I’m not going to lie – this one’s a little intimidating as its vapors travel to my nostrils.

In the mouth, Stagg Jr. is yet again heavy on corn sweetness, without much rye influence.  There is perhaps some wheat, maple syrup, and caramel.  This whiskey drinks hot, for sure.  Stagg Jr.’s taste rounds out with some pint/mint and bubblegum.  There’s a happening on the palate with this bourbon.

The finish is long and complex.  It seems to coat your mouth like the inside of a charred barrel.  On the very tail-end, there is a minty aftertaste.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Stagg Jr. earns high praise from me, with a rating of 90 out of 100.

This is a tasty bourbon, but I would expect nothing less from Buffalo Trace Distillery, especially with the legendary Stagg name attached.

 

-Ryan

May 02

Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso Scotch – Review

Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso ScotchThe Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso Matured Single Malt Scotch Whisky

121.4 Proof

Price Point: $85 – $95 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Glenlivet Distillery

 

Background

Sometimes things are “greater than the sum of their parts”, to use a cliché term.  What this means is that when you add individual components together, the value extracted is larger than simply the combination of those components.

In the case of whiskey, this can sometimes be true.  A good example (to me) is Ardbeg Uigeadail.  This is an Islay whisky that charges at you with mature oak, peaty/smoky intensity, and a sherry finish.  For some whiskies, any one of these qualities can dominate the whisky’s character and ruin the dram.  For others, the value you get is exactly the sum of their parts.  In the case of Uigeadail, the net result is a whisky that tastes better than simply adding 1 + 1 + 1.

The Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso Scotch presents something similar, in terms of my personal whisky preferences.  I happen to like most Glenlivet whiskies, I love cask strength expressions, and it happens to be sherry matured.  What could be better?

 

Review

On the nose, there’s sherry (raisins and grapes), along with creamy vanilla and the trademark Glenlivet pineapple.  There’s also leather and malt to round things out.

On the palate, Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso is malty with lots of sherry intensity.  It drinks hot, but it’s far too flavorful to back away from.  There’s leather and tobacco, without an overabundance of mature oak.  The lack of age statement makes me think of the untapped potential for this whisky had it rested in a barrel for 16 years like the original Nádurra.  However, this whisky does have an incredibly rich and full flavor profile.

This is a whisky that lingers on the finish with raisins and deep sherry sweetness.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso earns a highly respectable rating of 87 out of 100.

This is certainly a tasty and complex whisky, but it’s lacking the unique characteristics of the original Nádurra.  I’m not sure the value is there for the price point, and I’m not sure it’s value is greater than the sum of its parts.

 

-Ryan

Apr 18

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon – Review

Four Roses Small Batch BourbonFour Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

90 Proof

Price Point: $25 – $35 for 750 ML

Distiller: Four Roses Distillery LLC

 

Background

Some brands in the whiskey world have a very loyal following.  Sometimes it has to do with their extravagant marketing, sometimes it’s the lore around their distillery, and sometimes it’s just the quality of their juice.

I don’t personally have that brand loyalty toward Four Roses, but plenty of other people do.  It’s apparent on social media when you see the pictures and blog posts around this brand.  Their marketing is relatively low-key and there isn’t a wild story about the history of their distillery, so it must be the whiskey itself.  After a long hiatus from drinking Four Roses, I decided to buy a bottle of the Small Batch and put it to the test.

 

Review

On the nose, there’s maple syrup and charred oak.  Four Roses Small Batch has a heavy rye spice, with alcohol burn and some zesty citrus.

The taste begins with sweet vanilla and corn.  Again, Four Roses Small Batch is peppery from the high rye content on the mash bill.  It’s pleasantly smooth yet flavorful at 45%.  It’s a pretty straightforward bourbon; not terribly complex.

This whiskey has a nice long finish with sweet oak and rye.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Four Roses Small Batch is a simple bourbon, earning a rating of 83 out of 100.

There’s nothing overly exciting or interesting about this bourbon, but that doesn’t make it bad.  Four Roses Small Batch does its job as an average quality/average price bourbon for those looking for consistency in a bourbon that doesn’t make you think too much.

 

-Ryan

Apr 04

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Review

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Irish WhiskeyTullamore Dew Special Reserve Triple Distilled 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Tullamore Dew Company Ltd.

 

Background

Last year, I reviewed Tullamore Dew 10 Year Old Single Malt, a major step-up from the standard Tullamore Dew, and an excellent Irish whiskey.  Today I am reviewing Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old, a triple-distilled Irish whiskey.  I certainly hope to find the complex flavors of the 10 Year Old in this one, but since it doesn’t share single malt qualities with its younger brother, I’m a bit skeptical.

 

Review

The nose on Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old is delicate with faint bourbon and subtle sherry.  It has malt overpowering grain.  It’s light and airy from the triple distillation.

This whiskey has a thin mouthfeel; it’s light and crisp.  12 years in the barrel and 40% ABV makes Tullamore Dew an easy-drinking whiskey.  It’s tasty, but lacking intensity.  There’s some apple/pear and a little bitterness toward the end.

There’s malt and sweet sherry/bourbon on the finish.  There are also high notes bringing Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old back to its traditional Irish heritage.  This finish is also somewhat brief.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old earns a rating of 81 out of 100.

This is a good whiskey to grab when you’re feeling low-key and want something that doesn’t overpower.  Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old has all good aromas and flavors, but all are seriously dialed back.  If you’re going to go for this brand, do yourself a favor and go for the 10 Year Old Single Malt.

 

-Ryan

Mar 21

Ardbog Scotch – Review

Ardbog ScotchArdbog Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

104.2 Proof

Price Point: $115 – $125 for 750 ML (70 cl shown)

Distiller: Ardbeg Distillery Limited

 

Background

Ardbog is a special release from the Ardbeg Distillery, commemorating the distillery’s founding.  This particular whisky was 2013’s “Ardbeg Day release”, which celebrated Ardbeg’s 198th birthday (the distillery was established in 1815).

The back of the bottle describes this whisky in the following way:

In Ardbog we celebrate our peaty roots in the marhsy wetlands of Islay; Ardbeg’s smoky sweetness has been intriguingly interwoven with salty, savoury whiskies which have slumbered undisturbed in rare ex-Manzanilla sherry casks, all for at least ten long years.

 

Review

The nose on Ardbog is spicy and peppery with all the fire and intensity you come to expect from the Ardbeg Distillery.  There is campfire smoke and peaty, malted barley.  Sharpie marker creeps in, followed by honey sweetness, damp wood, and subtle pine.

On the palate, Arbdog is big and bold.  It drinks hot but offers outrageous flavor.  There’s smoky peat and malt; there’s sea salt balanced by mild sweetness (green apple?).  There’s BBQ smoke and deep, mature oak.  Ardbog has sherried fruitiness in a big way.  Bigger than Uigeadail – fantastic!

This whisky finishes with mature oak and nice malted barley, followed by a tingling sweetness and salty sea air.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Ardbog is another NAS whisky from the Ardbeg Distillery that really hits the spot, earning a rating of 93 out of 100.

I wouldn’t call it a great value, and it’s certainly hard to find in the States, but this sure is a tasty whisky that I wouldn’t want to miss out on.

 

-Ryan

Mar 07

McKenzie Rye Whiskey – Review

McKenzie Rye WhiskeyMcKenzie Rye Whiskey

91 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Finger Lakes Distilling

 

Background

In the past year, a good friend of mine moved from Southeastern Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  Him and I have been known to share our whiskey discoveries with each other, but have not recently due to the geographic separation.  He came to visit me not long ago, and brought along a bottle of McKenzie Rye, a whiskey from deep in the heart of New York’s wine country.  Their website describes it as the following:

McKenzie Rye Whiskey is made from local rye grain and is distilled using old-time techniques.  We age this whiskey in new charred oak casks and finish in sherry barrels from local wineries.  The sherry balances the spiciness of the rye and also gives a nod to the wine region where this whiskey is produced.

 

Review

The nose is heavy on raisins.  It’s very youthful, with oak (not mature oak, but oak).  McKenzie has aromas of sweet rye and corn.

On the palate McKenzie Rye is minty, fresh, and youthful.  It has an interesting rye flavor but is relatively simple because of its youth.  There’s also something I can’t quite put my finger on (soy sauce?).

The finish has sweet pine, followed by rye (sweet not spicy).  I get more oak on the finish after a few moments.

 

Rating & Recommendations

I rate McKenzie Rye a 79 out of 100.

It’s really cool to taste a whiskey from the predominantly wine-focused Finger Lakes region.  With a little more time in the barrel, this could be a winner as it already possesses some unique characteristics.

 

-Ryan

Feb 21

Syndicate 58/6 Blended Scotch – Review

Syndicate 58/6 Blended ScotchSyndicate 58/6 Premium Blended Scotch Whiskey

86 Proof

Price Point: $155 – $165 for 750 ML

Distiller: Unknown

 

Background

There are plenty of tall tales being spread around the whisky industry, both state-side and overseas.  For some reason, rather than letting the whisky speak for its quality by taste, many distillers resort to including a story with every bottle.

I received a sample of Syndicate 58/6 Blended Scotch and didn’t bother to research it before sampling (something I do intentionally).  After quickly realizing this was significantly better than your average blend, I of course Googled the whisky to find out more.  According to the website, the story goes as follows:

In 1958 a rare blend of Scotch Malt and Grain Whiskies was discovered in 10 oak casks in Leith, Edinburgh in a warehouse owned by William Muir.  After some research it was discovered that the blend had been originally distilled in 1954 and that the blend recipe…dated back to the 1800s.  In 1966 a small quantity of the blend, which was now 12 Years Old, was bottled for the private use of the Directors of William Muir (Bond 9) Limited and a number of their friends.  A total of six individuals were instrumental in forming what became known as Syndicate 58/6 – hence the name.

Gimmicky story?  Check.  Furthermore, the blend has its own story:

The Syndicate blend contains 18 Single Malt Whiskies and 4 Single Grain Whiskies.  The quality and consistency of the blend has been maintained over the years by operating a ‘Solera’ system whereby when additional 12 year Old whiskies are added they are reblended with the older stock.  Thus the Syndicate blend still contains small quantities of the original 1958 blend.  One of the things that sets the Syndicate blend apart from other blends is that it is ‘married’ and finally matured for up to 2 years in 4 year old Oloroso Sherry casks which we import from the Spanish region of Andalucia.

So how does the whisky actual taste, given this impressive background?  Let’s give it a whirl.

 

Review

The nose on Syndicate 58/6 is immediately reminiscent of Macallan 12 Year Old.  There’s lots of mature oak and malty leather.  I detect no trace of grains being blended in.  There’s also cinnamon and pepper, adding some complexity.  There’s very little alcohol on the nose of Syndicate 58/6.  Breathing this whisky in is pleasurable enough.

When you finally do take a sip, this one is again similar to Macallan’s flagship whisky.  I wouldn’t say Syndicate 58/6 is “sherry-finished”, but rather “sherry-matured”.  There’s deep, deep oak; it’s very smooth, enjoyable, and complex.  I also get vanilla, caramel, and figs.  I’m surprisingly okay with the average proof on this whisky,

The malty finish is very pleasant.  This is unlike most other blends, including the Compass Box portfolio, and I am obviously a fan of their range.  This is a whisky that coats your glass which makes nosing after a sip that much more enjoyable.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Syndicate 58/6 Blended Scotch earns a high rating of 91 out of 100.

Could a whisky with a story this gimmicky actual be this good?  This is certainly one of the best blends I have had the pleasure of tasting.  I can’t say it’s worth the price, but this is definitely a complex, quality dram to be enjoyed.

 

-Ryan

Feb 07

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey – Review

Teeling Small Batch Irish WhiskeyTeeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey

92 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Teeling Whiskey Co.

 

Background

Irish whisky typically is not my forte.  For a long time, my perception of whiskey from the Emerald Isle has been simple and accommodating.  I’ve written before that most Irish whiskeys seem well-liked because most novice whiskey drinkers can handle them.  There’s certainly a place for that, but I crave character and complexity.

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey answers that need.  Its high malt content and 6 months of additional rum cask maturation give it a little something extra on top of its countrymen (on paper, at least).  Let’s see how it stacks up in reality.

 

Review

The nose on Teeling Small Batch starts out very Irish, but also very fruity and florally.  It progresses to malty sweetness, and the rum cask finishing imparts vanilla/molasses sugar and toasted oak.

Teeling Small Batch is very tasty, like a much more flavorful Jameson.  The rum cask is especially evident in the sugary sweet notes that develop on the palate.  There’s tropical fruit here, reminding me of sipping cocktails on the beach in the Caribbean.  The grain blended into the malt still exists, but it is subdued.

The finish is smooth and tasty.  I get raisin notes and malt here, with some unexpected, subtle smoke.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey earns a respectable rating of 85 out of 100.

This is one of the better Irish whiskeys available, and this is for an entry-level brand.  Combine that with its unique traits to the genre (rum cask finish, high malt content), and you have a winner in my book.

 

-Ryan

Jan 24

Tap 8 Canadian Rye – Review

Tap 8 Canadian Rye WhiskyTap 8 Rye Sherry Finished Canadian Whisky

83 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Tap Whisky

 

Background

One of many hot button topics currently being debated in the whiskey world is sourcing.  Cruise over to the Bourbon Truth blog, and you’ll see that transparency is something many “distillers” (putting that word in quotation marks for good reason) don’t care to honor, while many novices and connoisseurs alike are craving it.

And it’s not always easy to tell when you’re on the consumer side of things.  Many brands claim a long and historic heritage in whiskey, which can take a little detective work to find out if it’s legitimate, or just the tall tale of a marketing agency.

The reason I begin this particular review with this preface is that Tap Whisky gets it about half right (or half wrong, depending on who you ask).  I was told on Twitter that they are sourced, so I decided to check their website, which is linked above.  Under their “Our Story” page, they write the following:

It all started with TAP Canadian Maple Rye Whisky, produced in small batches in the oldest distillery in Western Canada. A marriage of two purely Canadian flavors – rye and maple, are produced in the province of Quebec, where syrup tapping was born and perfected centuries ago.  We’ve extended our line to include limited edition Rye Whisky blends, each run unique in flavor and aged in hand-selected barrels – get them while they last.

The distillery in Western Canada they are referencing is likely Alberta Distillers Limited, where many Canadian rye whiskies are sourced.  The fact that they mention a distillery, but fail to say it whether or not it is owned or operated by them, is fine for some I’m sure; but I find it a little misleading.  They also go on to say in their FAQs that their whisky is blended by Master Blender Michel Marcil.  This is another half-step in a favorable direction, but they still never fully own-up to the fact that they aren’t distilling.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, or maybe I’ve just read too many other blog posts about the same topic.  Regardless of where its origins lie, let’s see what Tap 8 Rye tastes like.

 

Review

The nose starts out with the typical lightness of a Canadian whisky.  Tap 8 Rye transitions to walnuts, cigar smoke, and some subtle sherry.

The taste is grainy and simple, with a little bit of burn.  Tap 8 Rye exhibits faint caramel sweetness, with more understated sherry.  Despite eight years spent in the barrel, this whisky has a youthful edge.  Perhaps it’s the barrel choice, or this particular whisky simply needs additional time to rest.

There’s more burn on the finish, while sweet and nutty notes also emerge.

 

Rating & Recommendations

I give Tap 8 Canadian Rye a rating of 74 out of 100.

One of the fundamental things you give up when you source is control of the complexity (or lack thereof) of the new make.  Tap 8 Rye is not really an impressive whisky for the price or marketing, but fits the profile of a sourced, sherried Canadian whisky.

 

-Ryan

Jan 10

Great King Street Artist’s Blend Scotch – Review

Great King Street Artist's Blend ScotchGreat King Street Artist’s Blend Blended Scotch Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Compass Box Whisky Co.

 

Background

It’s no secret that Compass Box is the king of high-quality, blended Scotch whiskies.  Others may trump them in volume, but they see blending as an art, not as a means to drive costs down.  For that, I respect them, and continue to buy their whiskies.

Enter Great King Street Artist’s Blend, one of the (somewhat) new releases from Compass Box.

 

Review

This whisky is light in the glass; around the color of a Chardonnay.  On the nose, Great King Street Artist’s Blend is malty and floral like a nice Highland Scotch.  It can be a little harsh at times which I attribute to the grain influence.  There’s sweet green apple, followed by a bitterness.  This nose experience tends to evolve as you go.

The taste starts out with more malt, followed by vanilla and some spices.  Great King Street Artist’s Blend has some tropical fruit (maybe some banana?).  Just like the nose, there’s a fair amount of complexity here, living up to Compass Box’s reputation as a blender.

There’s a brief, malty finish on this whisky.

 

Rating & Recommendations

I rate Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend a respectable 84 out of 100.

This is another solid blend from Compass Box.  It’s light, refreshing, and tropical flavors make it a nice dram for the summer, as its color suggests.

 

-Ryan

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