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

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

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