Aug 22

Auchentoshan American Oak Scotch – Review

Auchentoshan American Oak ScotchAuchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Auchentoshan Distillery


Just over two years ago, I reviewed Auchentoshan Classic, the entry-level whisky from the namesake, Lowlands distillery.  It scored very well by my standards, despite my concern over its triple-distillation and my inexperience with whiskies south of the Highlands.

Next on my agenda is Auchentoshan American Oak, another triple-distilled Scotch, this time matured in North American, first-fill oak casks.


The first thing I notice on the nose are floral notes – like, actual flowers.  And peaches.  This is what makes Lowlands Scotch whisky so unique – its single malts are so light and delicate (and can be underwhelming to some), but I find it very refreshing.  Auchentoshan American Oak continues with malty/toasted oak.  There’s nothing about the nose on this whisky that pushes away.  Rather, it invites you in with every inhale.

The taste is another story.  This is another whisky that is far more satisfying to nose than to taste; a disappointment for sure.  Auchentoshan American Oak is fruity (peaches), as mentioned previously, but also bitter and flat.  Frankly, it’s off-putting.

This whisky ends with generous malt on the finish, and a pleasantly peachy aftertaste.

Rating & Recommendations

Overall, Auchentoshan American Oak earns a rating of 79 out of 100.

This is an exercise in Lowlands Scotch quality, showing promise but lacking character where it really counts – the taste.  I still enjoy sampling Auchentoshan’s portfolio, and this will certainly not deter me from trying their other whiskies.



Aug 08

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey – Review

Kinsey 7 Year Old WhiskeyKinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey

86.8 Proof

Price Point: $35 – $45 for 750 ML

Distiller: The New Liberty Distillery



I cannot say I know all that much about this whiskey, despite its close proximity to where I live.  I was sent a small sample and an online folder with images and a press release.  The release says:

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey is made from 100% corn, aged in reused oak cooperage, and bottled at 86.8 proof.  Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey has also been sourced, blended and bottled by Robert J. Cassell and a former employee of Continental Distilling consulting.

It explains the distillery’s roots and mission further:

With roots that stretch back to the earliest days of American distilling, the modern Kinsey Whiskey Distillery was owned by the Continental Distilling Company of Pennsylvania.  The Kinsey Whiskey Brand enjoyed its heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s but ultimately ceased distilling in the late 1970’s. ‘The New Liberty Distillery is proud to be a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania distillery, so it was appropriate to make our first product offering a throwback to the history and tradition of Pennsylvania whiskey’ says Charles Ho, Partner at the New Liberty Distillery.  ‘It was a long journey for us to research, then source and blend our interpretation of Kinsey Whiskey.’

‘Building the Kinsey Whiskey blend was like putting together a puzzle.  It was challenging to find the kind of whiskies that could work together to create a true interpretation of Kinsey Whiskey’, says Robert Cassell, Master Distiller at the New Liberty Distillery.  ‘There was a lot of trial and error to get to the right Kinsey Whiskey blend.  I think the final Kinsey Whiskey blend maintains the character of post-prohibition Pennsylvania Whiskey.  Luckily we have the benefit of modern filtration and blending techniques to maintain consistency.”

To summarize, this is a new distillery, sourcing whiskeys to blend to come close to replicating its namesake brand’s historic recipe.  Its Master Distiller is sourcing rather than distilling, at least for now.



The nose starts out light and crisp, with odd pot still characteristics surprisingly similar to Jameson Irish Whiskey.  There are some subtle sugar cane notes and pine needles.  It’s hard to believe that the mash bill is 100% corn.

Oddly enough, this tastes very much like an Irish whiskey, as the nose suggests.  It has a flat and bitter taste – not much to it.  It does not seem at all like an American whiskey (certainly does not share the qualities of a traditional bourbon or rye).

Kinsey 7 Year Old has caramel and rum notes on the finish, which are the only real intriguing facets to this whiskey.  It sort of tricks you into taking the next sip.


Rating & Recommendations

Kinsey 7 Year Old Whiskey earns a rating of 74 out of 100.

In my opinion (whatever that’s worth), this tastes like a mix of unwanted/uninteresting barrels that the New Liberty Distillery got their hands on for a cheap price.  Either that, or the original expression they are trying to replicate was nothing to write home about.  Either way, this is not a whiskey I would recommend for the money.



Jul 25

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Scotch – Review

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Classic Laddie ScotchBruichladdich Scottish Barley / The Classic Laddie Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

100 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bruichladdich Distillery


I spent all of last week at the beach with my wife’s family.  Before heading down, my tradition is to bring a bottle of Scotch and a bottle of rum.  The Scotch usually ends up being something “manageable” (average proof, nothing peaty/smoky so others may partake) like the Glenlivet 12 Year Old or Glenmorangie Lasanta.  However, when I arrived at the liquor store and saw the Tiffany-blue bottle of Bruichladdich Scottish Barley staring me down, I immediately caved.


This whisky begins with sweet, malty goodness on the nose.  It’s not unlike Bruichladdich Rocks, but at a heightened level.  There are floral and fruity (pineapple) notes with yeasty, bread-like qualities.

My first sip of Bruichladdich Scottish Barley reveals a complex and intense (at 50% ABV) whisky.  The malt is huge but not dominating on the palate.  There’s a hint of smoke inferring its Islay origin, but it’s gone quickly.  Not a trace of peat, as the label suggests.  It’s rounded out by creamy vanilla.

This is a pleasant and long-lasting, malty finish; the highlight of the dram.

Rating & Recommendations

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley earns a high rating of 87 out of 100.

This is a very nice whisky with a ton of great character.  The warming qualities of this high-proofer would make this a choice drink for a cold night, although I wouldn’t refuse it in July.



Jul 11

Aberlour 12 Year Old Scotch – Review

Aberlour 12 Year Old ScotchAberlour 12 Year Old Double Cask Matured Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

80 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: Aberlour Distillery Company Ltd.



I love me a sherry-finished whisky.  Macallan 12 Year Old and Glenmorangie Lasanta are two of the regulars on my shelf.  When Aberlour 12 Year Old finally made it into Pennsylvania, and at an affordable price point to boot, I grabbed it off the shelf as quickly as I could.  The bottle is stocky with a wide mouth, giving it a style all its own.  The dark color suggests a sherry-bomb, which is exactly what I’m hoping for.  Let’s see how this goes.


The first thing I notice on the nose is cherries, almost like some of the bourbons I have reviewed (see Colonel E.H. Taylor Jr. Barrel Proof and Angel’s Envy).  I find that interesting considering there is no partial bourbon barrel maturation in Aberlour 12 Year Old, but rather “traditional oak” maturation.  There’s also malt and leather, with sherry playing a very evident role.  This is a pleasant nose but not as robust as I’d like it.  40% ABV probably has something to do with that.

Aberlour 12 Year Old has a taste similar to Glenlivet 15 Year Old in that it has a “strawberries and cream” type theme, although this is a seemingly watered-down version.  This whisky is drying on the palate, with sherry sweetness balanced by malty leather notes.  This is a very tasty and balanced Scotch whisky.

There’s something a little bitter on the finish that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It’s nice, nonetheless, with sweet, sherry notes.

Rating & Recommendations

Aberlour 12 Year Old earns a rating of 85 out of 100.

This is a nice whisky at a good price point, but it’s not overly unique or interesting.  I’m excited to try its bigger brother – A’bunadh.



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



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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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



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?



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.



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



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.



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.



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



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?



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.



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



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.



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.



Older posts «