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

Dec 31

What’s on Your Shelf? (Part 4 – New Year’s Eve Edition)

Whiskey Collection December 2014Today is New Year’s Eve, which means most of us either have our shelves stocked, or are planning to mooch off of somebody who does.  Whatever the case may be, I thought I would share what’s on my shelf as we prepare to welcome the New Year.

 

What’s currently taking up space on your shelf, and (more importantly) what will you be ringing in the New Year with tonight?

 

-Ryan

Dec 27

Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey – Review

Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored WhiskeySons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey

90 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML

Distiller: Sons of Liberty Spirits Co.

 

Background

We’ve nearly reached the end of 2014, and another 25 (26 if you count this one) whiskeys have been reviewed, the most recent being Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey.  While pumpkin flavored goodies are typically reserved for and enjoyed during the Fall season, I find myself behind on my reviews.  Therefore, we will briefly revisit Autumn, and try another one from Rhode Island’s craft distillery – Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey.

Their website explains further: “This release captures the essence of autumn in New England with locally grown pumpkins and traditional autumn spices.  The Sons of Liberty and many volunteers cut, core, roast and press 32,000 lbs of pumpkins for a genuine pumpkin flavor.

 

Review

The nose on Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey starts out with freshly baked pumpkin pie.  It’s spicy and sweet – barely resembling whiskey.  Truth be told, it smells like a Christmas candle; pleasant, but certainly overpowering.

On the palate, it tastes very much like a Christmas candle smells (not an entirely positive characteristic).  This seems more like a liqueur than a whiskey.  It’s very smooth which could be dangerous if you’re not careful.

Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey finishes like vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled on top.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Sons of Liberty Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey earns a respectable rating of 79 out of 100.

This has probably the most powerful nose of a flavored whiskey I have ever experienced, but it descends in character slightly, after that.  However, if I were to recommend a flavored whiskey to an inexperienced whiskey drinker, this would likely be the one I would suggest.

 

-Ryan

Dec 13

Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey – Review

Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored WhiskeySons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML (375 ML pictured)

Distiller: Sons of Liberty Spirits Co.

 

Background

One thing I have always loved about whiskey is that there’s always something new to try; always some new innovation.  One thing I am not particularly crazy about is flavored whiskey, but I am making an exception here.  I first noticed Sons of Liberty, a distillery out of Rhode Island, on Twitter (you can follow them here).  They posted a photo of their Hop Flavored Whiskey, and my mouth immediately began to water.  A description of this flavored whiskey from their website reads as follows: “This whiskey started its life as an IPA.  After retaining the IPA flavors through distillation we aged the whiskey in American oak barrels.  Once the aging process was complete, we finished the whiskey by dry hopping with Citra and Sorachi Ace hops for bright and complementary floral notes.

Being a lover of India Pale Ales and whiskey (a combination I never thought possible), I knew I had to try this stuff.

 

Review

Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey smells like white dog, right off the bat.  I’m guessing that if this whiskey did indeed spend any time in a barrel, it was minimal.  It does have a floral nose to it, suggesting hops, but I’m not sure I would have picked that up in a blind test.  Perhaps a little citrus on the nose, as well.

My first impression of the taste is again, white dog.  I’m still having a difficult time finding a distinct hops flavor in Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey.  At this point, I’m starting to get a little more green apple than citrus (hops).  This whiskey is not all that smooth, and lacks complexity.

The finish is malty and long lasting.

 

Rating & Recommendations

I give Sons of Liberty Hop Flavored Whiskey a rating of 76 out of 100.

This is an interesting concept, and I certainly respect that Sons of Liberty doesn’t cut corners and add artificial flavoring.  But I’m not sure what all the hype is about.  This tastes very much like any other microdistillery’s white dog.

Next on the list is their Pumpkin Spice Flavored Whiskey

 

-Ryan

Nov 29

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Scotch – Review

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Islay Single Malt Scotch WhiskyArdbeg Corryvreckan

114.2 Proof

Price Point: $85 – $95 for 750 ML

Distiller: Ardbeg Distillery Limited

 

Background

It’s nice when distilleries have “special” releases, that are both readily available and not outrageously expensive.  Ardbeg has quite a few of these, ranging from my top-rated Uigeadail to Ardbog.  While all of these are NAS (no age statement) expressions, they are all unique, tasty, and have a story behind them.

Corryvreckan is no different, and certainly a whisky I have been looking forward to trying to quite some time.

 

Review

The nose is unmistakably Ardbeg; harsh maritime notes with iodine and seaweed.  It’s smoky and powerful, pushing you back while pulling you back in for more.  I get some strong alcohol notes, almost like nail polish remover.  It’s briny, salty, and peppery – truly unique to Ardbeg.

Corryvreckan is spicy, both in taste and the tingle it leaves on your tongue.  It tastes very mature, with plenty of oak.  It’s not sweet like Uigeadail – there’s no sherry influence.  It also doesn’t seem to be refined like the standard 10 Year Old.  It’s wild and untamed (as the label suggests), which is a positive and negative all at once.  I’m not sure what the distiller was going for in this bottle, but I’m not sure it works for my palate.

At 57.1%, Corryvreckan dries out your mouth on the finish.  It’s enduring (as all Ardbegs tend to be), with some dry caramel, along with the usual smoke and salt.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Ardbeg Corryvreckan earns a rating of 84 out of 100.

I’m a big fan of Ardbeg in general, and this is certainly not a bad whisky.  But for the money, and given the other available choices from the same distillery, I would likely go for something else next time.

 

-Ryan

Nov 15

Talisker Storm Scotch – Review

Talisker Storm ScotchTalisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky

91.6 Proof

Price Point: $60 – $70 for 750 ML

Distiller: Talisker Distillery

 

Background

Talisker is one of those Scotch brands that flies below the radar.  It isn’t big and bold like Ardbeg, and it certainly doesn’t have the high-profile advertising of Laphroaig.  It’s a maritime distillery that has, in my opinion, the best entry-level 10 Year Old on the market.  Not to mention its Distillers Edition which is excellent.

Since Talisker Storm was released, it has received a lot of buzz.  It’s been out for quite a while now, and I’ve finally gotten my hands on it.  Let’s see if it lives up to the hype of its brothers.

 

Review

The nose is full of smooth, creamy vanilla at first blush.  Talisker Storm has peat, but it’s even more subdued than the standard 10 Year Old.  There’s also salty sea air with just a touch of sweetness, and it’s a little bit medicinal.

On the first sip, it’s peppery with mature oak.  This whisky tastes like a doused campfire – it’s earthy and far more intense (unwieldy) than the traditional Talisker.  Storm just seems off considering its shared heritage.

Not a bad finish on this whisky; some subtle fruit notes overpowered by ocean air-exposed peat.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Talisker Storm is a decent single malt, earning a rating of 82 out of 100.

I struggle to rate Talisker Storm highly, at it doesn’t represent what the Talisker brand means to me.  This is a whisky that’s trying to be refined and polite, but is rather out of control and unbalanced.  Buy the 10 Year Old in lieu of this one.

 

-Ryan

Oct 31

Laphroaig Triple Wood Scotch – Review

Laphroaig Triple Wood ScotchLaphroaig Triple Wood Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

96 Proof

Price Point: $60 – $70 for 750 ML

Distiller: Laphroaig Distillery

 

Background

I’ve sampled my fair share of Laphroaig whisky, from the 10 Year Old to the 18 Year Old to the Quarter Cask.  All are very good single malts, and have distinct differences between them.  Enter Triple Wood, a NAS (no age statement) whisky aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks, and European oak casks.  How will it stack up to its brothers?

 

Review

There’s a lot going on in the nose of Laphroaig Triple Wood.  Bourbon (cherry and charred oak), peat, and fruit (sherry) notes.  There are definitely multiple wood influences.  This whisky is malty and complex.  However, there’s also gasoline and small traces of new make on the nose.

Here’s where classic Laphroaig shows up.  Smoke and peat show up, and they’re in your face.  In addition, rich sherry notes creep in.  There’s big bold flavor at 48%.  Triple Wood is peppery, with creamy vanilla bean.

There’s mature oak on the finish, contrary to the borderline youthful notes on the nose.  Laphroaig Triple Wood is reminiscent of Ardbeg Uigeadail, with a long-lasting finish.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Laphroaig Triple Wood earns a very nice rating of 86 out of 100.

This is a tasty no age statement single malt with plenty of character.  For the price point, this is a decent value.  For a few extra bucks, I would spring for Uigeadail, though.  Or you could save some money and go for the Quarter Cask, which I think is the better whisky.

 

-Ryan

Oct 18

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky – Review

Nikka Coffey Grain WhiskyNikka Coffey Grain Whisky

90 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

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

 

Background

I’ve been on a bit of a kick lately of purchasing whiskeys just because they are wildly different than the norm.  I recently saw Corsair Quinoa on the shelf, and had to buy it (despite its questionable price point given its age) just because it was made from a grain not typically associated with whiskey.  I’ve experimented with some white dog whiskeys and even ventured into (gasp!) flavored whiskeys (Sons of Liberty Hop and Pumpkin Spice, to be exact).

I saw this bottle of Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky sitting on the shelf, badly needing a home, and thought it was just weird enough for me to buy it.  Again, despite the price point.  I had the pleasure of sampling Nikka’s 12 Year Old Pure Malt a few months back, and greatly enjoyed it.  How different could this one be?

 

Review

The nose on Nikka Coffey Grain is just that – grainy.  This is not a great quality for my nose and preferences.  There are some creamy vanilla notes with toasted almonds.  It’s strangely difficult to nose this whisky without experiencing a burning sensation in the nostrils.

Grain, grain, and more grain.  This just doesn’t do it for me.  Nikka Coffey Grain is nutty and drinks somewhat hot.  There are subtle notes of caramel that emerge after letting the whisky coat the inside of the glass, and finally some banana, too.

There’s sweet sugar cane on the initial finish.  Afterward, it’s a little bitter and off-putting.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Nikka Coffey Grain isn’t my cup of tea (or whisky), earning a rating of 76 out of 100.

Perhaps it’s just my palate, but I can’t seem to get on board with grain whiskies.  Compass Box Hedonism didn’t do well with me and neither does this one.

 

-Ryan

Oct 04

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch – Review

Monkey Shoulder ScotchMonkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $25 – $35 for 750 ML

Distiller: Wiliam Grant & Sons Ltd

 

Background

How could you not buy a whisky called Monkey Shoulder?  Especially when it has three little monkeys hanging onto the “shoulder” of the bottle?  Obviously I couldn’t resist, or you wouldn’t be reading this review.

The only thing holding me back from purchasing this bottle was its nature as a blend.  Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t good blends (think Sheep Dip and Royal Salute 21 Year Old).  But there are also hideously poor blends (cough, Johnnie Walker Red Label, cough).

The purist in me stays away from blended Scotches, as I have found overwhelming favor with single malts.  The realist in me recognizes that not all blends can be bad, and in fact, many single malts are blended in a way – they are just not categorized as a “blend” on the label.  Monkey Shoulder meets this difference somewhere in the middle, shying away from grain whisky, and using malt whisky from three neighboring distilleries in Speyside.

 

Review

Monkey Shoulder noses initially like a fine Speyside single malt.  This very much reminds me of a Balvenie (I found out after reviewing that Balvenie is one of the three whiskies used in this blend!).  There’s a nice balance of malt and subtle floral notes.  It’s refreshing to experience the nose of a blend with no trace of grain aromas.

Monkey Shoulder has a light-to-medium mouthfeel.  It’s a pretty straightforward Speyside Scotch; very pleasant, well-rounded, and balanced.  Could spend a little more time maturing in barrels, but still very drinkable.  It’s silky smooth with subtle leather notes, and vanilla.

This whisky has a very nice finish – malty and pleasant.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Monkey Shoulder is a good whiskey at a great price point, earning a rating of 82 out of 100.

Of all the blends readily available, Monkey Shoulder is surely one of the better ones.

 

-Ryan

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