Does Whiskey Age in the Bottle?

Royal Salute 21 Year Old Blended Scotch DetailAnother great whiskey debate – does your bottle play a factor in the aging process?

Most people will say “no”, and dismiss anybody who says “yes” as naive.  And naivety may very well be the case when it comes to those individuals.  But, I’d like to dig a little deeper into this question.

Before we go any further, let’s define what aging is in relation to whiskey.  Traditionally, maturation occurs when the whiskey is in the barrel, and anything housing the whiskey before or after does not impart any flavor or other characteristics to the whiskey.

Fair enough, but are we to believe that the whiskey in your bottle that’s been there for a year is suspended in time and has not changed, for better or worse?  Isn’t the air in that bottle interacting with the liquid?

Yes, of course it is.  Not to mention that a cork or (gasp!) twist-off cap don’t always seal your bottle as well as you think it might.

So what exactly happens, then?  Well, as time goes on and oxygen has the opportunity to interact with what’s in your bottle, some of the alcohol will evaporate.  This can reduce the proof of your whiskey.  Some will argue that with less alcohol comes less flavor, while others will say that less alcohol means more of a chance to taste the whiskey.

No, I do not have a clear-cut answer to this question, and I don’t think anybody else does either – although there are plenty of bloggers out there that think they do.  I’m much more interested in hearing your opinion.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.



Virginia Gentleman Bourbon – Review

Virginia Gentlemen BourbonVirginia Gentleman Straight Bourbon Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $10 – $20 for 750 ML (1.75 L shown in picture)

Distiller: A. Smith Bowman Distillery



As you may or may not have noticed, I review a lot of premium whiskeys.  Probably because I like to drink premium whiskeys – go figure!  But once in a while, you need a well-whiskey to fill in the gap between the “complex nosing whiskey” and the “only touch this stuff if you’re mixing it with Coke”.  I wouldn’t call Virginia Gentleman a bad bourbon, just not one I find myself drinking out of a snifter.

Many of you will ask “why is this considered a bourbon if it is from Virginia?”  Well, if you recall my introduction to bourbon, there is nothing in the regulations about location of distillation, although the vast majority of bourbons are distilled in Kentucky.  To be fair though, Virginia Gentleman is distilled in Kentucky at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, and then shipped off to the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Virginia where it is distilled again and then aged.



The nose on this stuff is less than remarkable.  It’s very sweet, but not necessarily in a good way.  In a word, it smells cheap.

The taste is a little better, with some notes of oak coming through despite its youthful age.

The finish is brief, and not very exciting.


Rating & Recommendations

Virginia Gentleman is a step or two above a well whiskey, but not much more than that.  I rate it a 65 out of 100.

Enjoy this stuff with some Coke or Ginger Ale.  Don’t waste your time treating this like it’s worth drinking neat.

This stuff serves its purpose, and is certainly not representative of the whiskey portfolio of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery.  In the coming months, I’ll be reviewing their three main craft expressions, which all rank much higher than Virginia Gentleman.



Single Barrel vs. Small Batch

Eagle Rare DetailThere are a fair amount of terms and industry jargon relating to whiskey that can be a bit confusing despite their attempt to simplify things.  “Small batch” and “single barrel” are two of those terms, often being mistaken for the other, or something completely different altogether!  Let’s get it straight right here and now.

Single barrel is easy.  Picture one barrel of bourbon.  Now picture an empty bottle dipping into the barrel and filling up with bourbon.  Put a cork in it, that’s single barrel.  In other words, single barrel whiskeys are those in which the contents inside the bottle come from, you guessed it, a single barrel.  Whereas many whiskeys will take the contents of many barrels and mix together to ensure a consistent product, single barrel whiskeys can be (slightly) different from bottle to bottle.  Some examples of single barrel whiskeys are:

Small batch is just as simple, although maybe not as clear-cut.  To be considered small batch, a whiskey must come from a limited number of various barrels.  Rather than one barrel (single) or thousands of barrels (think Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s), small batch whiskeys might be blended together from 10-50 barrels.  Examples of small batch whiskeys include:

So there you have it.  Pretty simple, eh?  Now you are a single barrel / small batch expert.  Go forth and educate!



Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey – Review

Bernheim Original Wheat WhiskeyBernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

90 Proof

Price Point: $25 – $35 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bernheim Distillery



A few weeks ago, I reviewed a whiskey called Rebel Reserve.  I went over my love for wheated bourbons, and my general displeasure with the offering from Rebel Reserve.  Cue some generic triumphant movie music, because Bernheim Original is here!

Bernheim Original is not a bourbon, but a “Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey”.  Therefore, 51% or more of its grain ingredients is wheat, making it one of the only wheat whiskeys in existence in the United States.  Before even tasting this stuff, I knew I would like it.



The nose on Bernheim Original is soft and sugary.  It’s much more refined than a bourbon as wheat is often brought in to tame the corn and malted barley in bourbon recipes.

The taste is silky smooth, with a slight bite on the back-end.  The wheat really shines with this whiskey, and you can immediately tell that Bernheim is matured to perfection.  The texture is surprisingly light, for a 90 proof expression.

Afterwards, the finish is brief but satisfying, with the underlying tone of wheat.


Rating & Recommendations

I’m a big fan of Bernheim Original.  It’s a unique and fresh approach to American distillation, earning an 86 out of 100.

This stuff should be drunk neat; it’s smooth enough to not require any water or ice.

Bernheim Original is a wonderfully different whiskey that should be in your collection for the nights when you’re looking for something a little different.  A must-have for those of you who like wheat in your whiskey.



Blog Spotlight – Value Bourbon Reviews

Ryan Value Whisky ReviewsBloggers and blog readers alike were deeply saddened when one of the more talented writers and critics announced his retirement.  Ryan from Value Whisky Reviews stated two weeks ago that he had decided to put away his figurative pen and cease his reviews and experiments.

Ryan’s retirement was brief.  In fact, he has another blog already, focusing solely on bourbon (and maybe a little rye).  The name of this blog, you ask?  Why, it’s Value Bourbon Reviews, of course!

Anybody familiar with Ryan’s previous blog knows his acute sense of analyzing whiskey, and his natural ability to delve deep into the flavors, aromas, and textures within.  He never ties price or image to the true quality of the whiskey.  He will, however, tell you if the whiskey you are drinking is far overpriced for the quality in the bottle itself.

Aside from standard reviews that don’t always sit well with the masses (something I respect Ryan for immensely), he performs whiskey experiments.  He tests ideas like adding water to whiskey and open bottle shelf-life.  If you read the comments, you will see that other bloggers agree that Ryan’s curiosity and scientific approach to whiskey are incredibly valuable to the community.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in person, and he is a very interesting individual; very opinionated but also very open to learning and understanding others’ viewpoints.

So what’s in store for Value Bourbon Reviews?  Well, right now Ryan has an introductory post, as well as a re-visited review of Buffalo Trace.  He states pretty clearly that reviews won’t be nearly as frequent as with his previous blog, which is just fine by me.  I’m certainly glad that Ryan is back, and I’m even more thrilled that he has found a way to enjoy whiskey and continue writing for all the other whiskey nerds on the internet – myself included!




Note: Since I posted this blog, Ryan has decided to put blogging on hold temporarily or even permanently.  Value Bourbon Reviews is no longer a live site.

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old Scotch – Review

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old ScotchGlenfarclas Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 21 Years

86 Proof

Price Point: $95 – $105 for 750 ML

Distiller: Glenfarclas Distillery



For those keeping score, I have reviewed Glenfarlcas 12 Year Old and 17 Year Old.  I enjoyed both of these whiskies (and gave them decent ratings).  But could further aging make this whisky even better?  Might as well break out the big dog and review the 21 Year Old.



Compared to the 12 Year Old and 17 Year Old, I’m not as impressed with the nose on this one.  It’s a bit harsher when you get up close.  Less oak and fruit, which is odd because typically a longer time in the barrel influences more of these aromas.

Well, the nose may not be up to par, but the taste of Glenfarclas 21 Year Old is absolutely an improvement.  This stuff tastes much more mature (as it should), with a little more peat than the younger expressions.  Relatively sweet and malty.  It clearly comes from the same family, but it could also easily be confused with a different distillery (in a good way).

The finish is a little more refined that the 12 and 17 Year Old – not quite as hot in the mouth.


Rating & Recommendations

Sometimes age really does improve whisky (but not always!).  Glenfarclas 21 Year Old earns a rating of 88 out of 100 from me.

Because of the quality of this whisky, drink it neat.  Why shell out $100 if you’re just going to water it down?

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old is a great Scotch and certainly worthy of a high rating.  If you can swing the money for this one, definitely give it a try.



A Thirst for Knowledge

Philadelphia FlyersBack in January, I wrote a post called “Learning About Whiskey” which concisely explained how little I really know about whiskey.  As I continue to write for this blog, I find more and more things about whiskey, and life in general, that I just plain don’t understand, yet I have the constant desire to learn more about.

For instance, my wife and I are die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fans (hence the picture to the right).  We’ve watched nearly every game for the past five years or so.  We usually make it to a couple of games a season, stock up on the essential gear and apparel, and even support some of the Flyers preferred charities.  Despite our dedication, we missed forty or so Flyers seasons previous to our allegiance, and therefore are humbled by the more tenured fans.  I could likely hold a conversation with any hockey fan about the last half-decade, but anything past that and I’m stumped.

To me, this has a direct correlation to my love affair with whiskey, only I’d venture to say that I know less about whiskey and have even greater a desire to learn more.  Every time I try a new whiskey, I feel like I’ve opened a door to whole new set of variables to dissect.  Even re-discovering old whiskeys has its thrills – I recently bought a bottle of Powers Gold Label (something I had had before), and quickly discovered its pot still influence, something I had not realized previously.  Although very minor, that discovery got me thinking about other small characteristics I had been missing when sampling whiskeys for the past several years.  This yearning for more and more can be overwhelming, especially when knowledge like this seems to come easy to other people.

I think that this desire is not unique to me, and is simply a part of life.  Even in my professional life, I strive to meet goals in my job that are not always realistic to my experience level.  I want to progress as quickly as I can despite my relatively short time in my particular field.  Ambition is a positive trait to possess, but it can sometimes handcuff you if you don’t keep it in check.

I was tipped off via the Value Whisky Reviews blog about a post by Jason Debly of Jason’s Scotch Whisky Reviews.  It discusses the “Slow-Whisky Movement” in which whiskey can be enjoyed in very small doses.  Its technique brings the reader back to the basics of whiskey drinking, away from the inner-competition of trying every whiskey possible.  Although I can’t say I will commit to Jason’s five tenets, I think it’s a great way to ensure that you aren’t over-doing it with whiskey.



Glenfarclas 17 Year Old Scotch – Review

Glenfarclas 17 Year Old Scotch

Glenfarclas Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 17 Years

86 Proof

Price Point: $75 – $85 for 750 ML

Distiller: Glenfarclas Distillery




I recently wrote a review of Glenfarclas 12 Year Old, a Highland single malt Scotch.  It’s a whisky that I enjoy, but not one that I would likely purchase regularly.  Fortunately for people like me, most brands of Scotch have multiple expressions available, some different by ingredients and technique and some different by age.  Glenfarclas has multiple age expressions; 10, 12, 17, 21, etc.  Luckily I have a bottle of the 17 Year Old readily available, so here it goes.



The nose on Glenfarclas 17 Year Old is pretty nice – surprisingly reminiscent of Glenlivet.  There’s some of that “pineapple” sweetness present.  I suppose when distilleries are within ten miles of each other, they’re bound to share certain qualities.

The taste is quite a bit maltier than the younger expression.  As with the 12 Year Old, there’s just a hint of smoke, which is a nice little surprise.  In addition to the malt, there’s a bit of sweetness to counteract.

It’s a little harsh on the back-end, which I happen to find appealing, but some people may not like.


Rating & Recommendations

Glenfarclas 17 Year Old is a solid whisky and definitely worthy of a score of 84 out of 100.

Leave this one alone and drink it neat.  If you have to, only add a couple drops of water.

I like the Glenfarcals whisky line as a whole, and the 17 Year Old is no exception.



Let’s Get Social

Let's Get SocialYou’re reading this blog, right?  At this point, I can only assume that you have a computer and/or mobile device connected to the internet.  And, I would also have to assume that you are human and possess the ability and instinct to communicate with other human beings.  Perfect!  Now let’s get social…

Individuals who enjoy whiskey for more than its alcohol content can seem few and far between (at least in my circle of friends and acquaintances).  But, there are plenty of us out there, and most are pretty vocal.  I chance upon new blogs almost daily (even one today where this blog was mentioned in the comments) and I notice more and more “unique visitors” to my blog searching for increasingly interesting topics (“Ardbeg tastes nasty” is probably my favorite search term to land on my blog).

So let’s start getting more social!  Let’s comment on each other’s posts, challenge each other to expand horizons, compliment and provide constructive criticism at the same time, and get the word out about whiskey.  Heck, let’s get out from behind our computers and start organizing meet-ups – I’m still shocked at how many whiskey bloggers/enthusiasts are in the Philadelphia area like me.

Let’s follow each other’s Twitter accounts, “like” each other on Facebook, and subscribe to each other’s YouTube channels.  Let’s use our blogroll to promote other blogs – we’re not doing this to compete, we’re doing it to collaborate and share ideas.

Let’s get social and continue to expose the world of whiskey to everyone around us.



The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old Scotch – Review

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old ScotchThe Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Balvenie Distillery



Sometimes you can happen upon some of your favorite things if you just keep your eyes open and accept suggestions.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I had never even heard of the Balvenie six months ago.

I was out with my wife (fiancee at the time) and her parents for the tasting for our wedding reception.  The maitre d’ was taking our drink orders, and I went with one of my go-to’s; Jameson.  Most bars/restaurants have it, the servers rarely confuse it with something else, and it’s genuinely a drink that I enjoy.  Being a good server, after the first drink, he had a recommendation.  He asked if I had ever had the Balvenie, to which I replied no.  He brought it out to me, and after my first taste, I asked him to repeat the name of the Scotch.  A few weeks later, I went out and bought my bottle.



The nose on this Scotch is heavenly.  It’s oaky, fruity, and florally all at once.

The only thing better than the nose of this whisky is the taste.  The oakiness comes out subtly, overshadowed by the beautiful taste of sherry.  The namesake “DoubleWood” is for its aging process; the majority of the time in traditional oak casks and a few months in sherry oak casks.  Hints of honey and leather come out as well.

The finish is warming, with touches of fruit and honey.


Rating & Recommendations

The Balvenie DoubleWood is an excellently aged Scotch, earning a rating of 86 out of 100.

All in all, this whisky is very well balanced, and a great value for its humble price tag.  If you haven’t been introduced to the Balvenie family of Scotches, I suggest you run over to your local spirits store.