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


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.


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.



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


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.


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.



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



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.



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.



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


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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



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.



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.



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.



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