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

 

Background

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.

 

Review

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.

 

-Ryan

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.

 

Background

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.

 

Review

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.

 

-Ryan

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

 

Background

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?

 

Review

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.

 

-Ryan

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

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