Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon – Review

Maker's Mark Cask Strength BourbonMaker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

113.3 Proof

Price Point: $30 – $40 for 375 ML

Distiller: Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.



Ever walk into a liquor store, not knowing what you are going to buy.  And before you can even glimpse at the shelf, you see something exciting, sitting on the end cap, almost screaming out to you for you to buy it?  That’s what happened with me and Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – it was love at first sight.



The nose on Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is surprisingly grassy right off the bat.  There’s fresh celery (leafy), along with soft wheat and charred oak.  Vanilla and caramel round it out this bourbon that’s not as intense as other barrel-proofers (a positive trait, in my opinion).

If the nose tricked you into thinking this wasn’t a big whisky, your first sip will prove that it is, indeed.  A big, unsuspecting burn quickly fades opening up to big flavor.  There are more earthy notes followed by wheat and sweet caramel.  The barley in the mashbill is evident here.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength finishes with more burn and sweet vanilla notes.


Rating & Recommendations

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength earns a rating of 87 out of 100.

This whisky is a couple steps above the standard Maker’s Mark, but this one certainly lives up to the hype.  The price for a 375 ML isn’t cringe-worthy, but it’s also not something I would be willing to pay on an ongoing basis.



Bomberger’s Whiskey – Review

Bomberger's WhiskeyBomberger’s Distillery American Straight Whiskey

86 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bomberger’s Distillery



The story of Bomberger’s is an interesting one.  I first heard of this whiskey on Twitter, and realized it was being bottled (not distilled) at Thistle Finch Distillery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – not far from where I live.  My wife and I made the trip to the distillery and purchased a bottle.

Time passed before I would open the bottle, and the battle for the Bomberger’s name/brand began.  I won’t get into the details here; you can simply Google for “Bomberger’s” and read all about it.  What I can say is that the old website I had originally linked on this post as a draft no longer exists, which tells me that we likely won’t be seeing more bottles of this stuff (at least with the label pictured and the whiskey I describe) going forward.



Similar to Jameson, Bomberger’s starts out with the scent of paper (and maybe a touch of ink).  It takes a while to open up and reveal a blend of bourbon and rye aromas.  Dark cherries and chocolate finally come into play.  Bomberger’s smells sugary sweet with a little bit of spicy rye influence.

There’s more pine and peppery notes on the palate than what could be detected on the nose.  Bomberger’s offers citrus flavors with corn syrup and lightly charred oak.  This whiskey tastes young (and it is), but not terrible.  The taste grows on you as you sip.

Bomberger’s finishes with sugar sweet cherries and toasted oak.


Rating & Recommendations

Bomberger’s Whiskey earns a rating of 81 out of 100.

This is a sourced whiskey that doesn’t seem to have its own unique identity.  The juice isn’t bad, but it needs more time in the barrel or something different in the mix to make it really special.  We likely won’t get to experience a more mature or different Bomberger’s because of the dispute, and that’s a shame.



Don Julio Tequila Añejo – Review

Don Julio Tequila AñejoTequila Reserva de Don Julio Añejo

80 Proof

Price Point: $45 – $55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Tequila Don Julio


I have reviewed two rums on this blog (Brugal 1888 and Ron Zacapa).  As I reviewed these “premium” rums, it sparked an interest in learning about spirits other than whiskey.  I’m not particularly interested in vodka, gin, or brandy.  I do enjoy beer and wine (not that they count as “spirits”), but there’s just too much variety to venture down that road.  The next logical place to go is tequila.

When I was 16 years old, my dad worked for a company that operated a tequila distillery near Guadalajara, Mexico.  I happened to have taken three or four years of Spanish classes, but was not fluent (conversational would be a stretch).  Nevertheless, my dad talked his company into bringing me along for a business trip to the distillery as a translator.  While the trip was memorable, I’m not entirely sure I helped translate anything of value to either party…


Don Julio Añejo’s nose starts with blue agave mellowed by cherries and oak.  It’s not as intense as a Reposado or Blanco (by design).  This spirit is salty with a hint of sweet pine needles and cereal.  There are subtle, fresh citric notes, as well.

The first sip of Don Julio Añejo will make you…thirsty.  This, like many other tequilas, has a salty quality to it, that I would not describe as “thirst-quenching”.  After drinking lots of whiskeys north of 40%, this tequila is easy drinking.  The oak imparts more sweetness on the palate than the nose.

This tequila finishes with sea salt and a touch of sweet, blue agave.  I also pick up cigar box/wrapper.

Rating & Recommendations

Don Julio Añejo earns a rating of 82 out of 100.

This is a tasty añejo – one of my go-tos when I’m in the mood for something different than the usual.  I recognize that I am comparing apples to oranges, but tequila just doesn’t seem to match the complexity and character of whiskey (generally speaking).  Therefore by comparison, I just can’t justify rating this higher.



Glenmorangie Tùsail Scotch – Review

Glenmorangie Tusail ScotchGlenmorangie Tùsail Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

92 Proof

Price Point: $95 – $105 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Glenmorangie Distillery


Glenmorangie is an interesting distillery.  Lasanta and Quinta Ruban are two of my favorites, but their 10 Year Old is, well, pretty dull.  I was recently gifted Tùsail, their no-age-statement release from their Private Edition selection.  Just like the others (Companta, Ealanta, etc.), Tùsail has a reputation across the blogosphere.  I’m skeptical, as always, but optimistic about this one.


Tùsail starts out with apricots and hand soap on the nose.  No smoke or peat to speak of, but there are interesting malted barley notes.  If I really dig-in, I can find a connection between the juice in Tùsail and the the other Glenmorangie whiskies.  This one doesn’t seem to be very mature, hence the no age statement.

This does not taste like a bad single malt, but Tùsail does taste like your average, run of the mill, fruity Scotch.  It’s sweet with malted barley notes.  It’s very fruit forward, similar to Brenne in that it may be suitable to other palates, but I’m not sure it’s right for mine.  Tùsail is slightly bitter on the tail end with some faint chocolate notes.

The finish is dominantly peachy – too sweet for me.

Rating & Recommendations

Glenmorangie Tùsail earns a rating of 81 out of 100.

For the price and prestige, this is an underwhelming release from Glenmorangie.  My recommendation is to purchase one each of Lasanta and Quinta Ruban and skip Tùsail.



Port Charlotte Islay Barley Scotch – Review

Port Charlotte Islay Barley ScotchBruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

100 Proof

Price Point: $60 – $70 for 750 ML

Distiller: Bruichladdich Distillery


I’m a big fan of the Bruichladdich Distillery.  I have reviewed a couple of their whiskies, and have found myself impressed.  However, to this point I have not had an opportunity to get my hands on one of their peated single malts.  Octomore continues to elude me, but I was able to find Port Charlotte, and thus here we are…


My first thought upon nosing Port Charlotte is that it seems like it belongs in the Ardbeg family.  There is peat and smoke complemented by the briny, maritime terroir of Islay.  Upon further inspection, I find Bruichladdich’s identity with the cereal-like malted barley notes shared with Rocks and Scottish Barley.  This may (and should) sound off-putting, but I detect a little bit of manure on the nose.  Overall, this is a big whisky at 50% as are all the Bruichladdich single malts.

Port Charlotte drinks hot (at first) at 100 proof, but it’s certainly manageable.  There’s big peat, followed by creamy vanilla and apples.  There’s also some pine and/or mint, with salt and brine similar to many of the Islay whiskies I have reviewed.  Port Charlotte exhibits charred oak and a little spicy pepper on the tail end of the palate.

There’s vanilla bean on the lengthy/tasty finish.

Rating & Recommendations

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte earns a rating of 84 out of 100 from me.

This is another solid offering from the Bruichladdich line-up, although I think I prefer the unpeated variety.  I’m not convinced that Port Charlotte is the best value for the money when other, similar peated Islay single malts are available at lower price points.



Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky – Review

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese WhiskyNikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky

86 Proof

Price Point: $55 – $65 for 750 ML

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



I really enjoy trying whiskeys from around the world.  I find it fascinating how other cultures interpret the category, and how they put their own spin (and terroir) on what they produce.

Japan is quickly becoming a major exporter of whisky to the United States.  Early on writing this blog, I reviewed Yamazaki 12 Year Old, which was the first Japanese whisky I had seen stateside.  Much later, I reviewed Nikka Coffey Grain, a departure from the single malt genre.

I had the pleasure of trying Nikka Pure Malt about a year and a half ago in Los Angeles.  At that time, it still had the 12 Years Old age statement on it.  Just like many whiskies from the West, Nikka Pure Malt has dropped the age statement.  Let’s see if it retained its flavor and quality.



The nose on Nikka Pure Malt reveals close ties to the single malt Scotch genre, but with a discernible Eastern influence.  There are notes of exotic spices, similar to that in the Amrut portfolio.  There’s also rich malted barley, and pineapple revealing itself upon a strong inhale.  There’s subtle mint toward the end, and no smoke or peat.

The taste begins with well matured oak and malted barley, with some sea salt sprinkled in.  Nikka Pure Malt can be similar to Glenlivet 12 Year Old in consistency and some flavor notes, specifically the marrying of pineapple fruitiness and refined malt.  This is a very well balanced and tasty whisky.

The finish is malty and pleasant; no complaints here.


Rating & Recommendations

Nikka Pure Malt earns a rating of 88 out of 100.

Don’t let the screw cap fool you – this is a lovely whisky from Japan that I would absolutely purchase again.



Aberlour A’bunadh Scotch – Review

Aberlour A'bunadh ScotchAberlour A’bunadh Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

121.4 Proof

Price Point: $70 – $80 for 750 ML

Distiller: Aberlour Distillery Company Ltd.



Back in July, I reviewed Aberlour 12 Year Old, the smaller (not necessarily younger) brother of today’s review, Aberlour A’bunadh.  I’ve been excited to try this one for some time now, as a cask strength, sherry-matured whisky is right up my alley.  I found myself intrigued, although a little disappointed, when I tried a similarly categorized whisky – Glenlivet Nádurra Oloroso.  It was certainly not a bad whisky, as my review suggested, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations.  Let’s see if Aberlour has a different spin on this niche genre.



The nose on A’bunadh is potent, with notes of crushed grapes and whisky-soaked oak.  Nosing is a chore, but I keep going back.  There’s intense leather and malted barley.  This is a nose that doesn’t back down.

In the mouth, A’bunadh presents more leather/sherry notes.  The alcohol intensity is mellowed out by the excellent flavor.  This is Glenmorangie LaSanta on steroids!  There’s no balance, but I’m okay with that.  A’bunadh is rich and velvety.  It’s intense and one-dimensional, but again that’s okay with me.

The finish is long and memorable.  There’s oak, leather, and sherry; excellent.


Rating & Recommendations

Aberlour A’bunadh earns a rating of 89 out of 100.

This is the definition of a “sherry bomb”.  A’bunadh is an excellent single malt Scotch whisky that could, and maybe should, be tamed by water (maybe even ice…).  This stuff is not for the faint of heart or casual whisky drinker.



Willett Small Batch Rye Whiskey – Review

Willett Small Batch Rye WhiskeyWillett Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey

111.8 Proof

Price Point: $40 – $50 for 750 ML

Distiller: The Willett Distillery



I published a review of a Willett whiskey back in August 2013.  It was their Bourbon, which was very unique and intriguing.  It seems that the Willett portfolio has become coveted among the whiskey industry, almost like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, only maybe not as hyped.

Today, I am reviewing WiIlett Rye, a two-year old rye whiskey bottled at nearly 56%!  It’s sure to pack a punch, but will it stand up to its reputation (and price tag)?



There’s alcohol fire on the nose to start.  Once your sense acclimates, you’ll notice toasted almonds and Sharpie marker scribbled on oak.  The rye spiciness also shines here.  Willett Rye noses like a more intense, American version of Forty Creek.

In the mouth, there’s no doubt that Willett Rye is a young whiskey.  There are traces of white dog that could be detected even by the novice whiskey enthusiast.  That being said, this obviously comes from good juice, because it’s surprisingly mellowed and drinkable, even for the high proof and short amount of time in the barrel.  Willett Rye shares similarities in taste to Sazerac 6 Year Old Rye.

The finish is an interesting mixture of a familiar new spirit taste (negative) with the promise of a complex rye profile (positive).


Rating & Recommendations

I rate Willet Rye an 82 out of 100.

While drinkable, this whiskey is overpriced and over-hyped for a two year old whiskey.  It’s certainly not a bad whiskey, but there are far better ryes for out there for the money.  And there are more mature ryes in the Willett portfolio, but they are too difficult to attain (both economically and availability-wise) to win my interest at this point.



Hyde 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Review

Hyde 10 Year Old Irish WhiskeyHyde 10 Year Old No. 1 Presidents Cask Single Malt Irish Whiskey

92 Proof

Price Point: $75 – $85 for 750 ML

Distiller: Hibernia Distillers


I have noticed a trend in whiskey.  Not unlike the craft brewing craze, distillers of whiskey have begun trying things that probably would have been frowned upon a few short years ago.  I see this same trend happening in Ireland, where the days of simple, grainy, double (or triple) pot-stilled whiskey are…well not over, but not the exclusive export.

Jameson recently launched its Caskmates Stout Edition, which I am hoping to review in the near future.  Teeling is finishing their flagship whiskey in rum casks.

While single malt Irish whiskeys are not necessarily new (see Connemara and Knappogue Castle), a new player is in town.  Hyde 10 Year Old is a single malt Irish whiskey, finished in sherry casks.  I received a small sample from Conor Hyde of Hibernia Distillers, and will be reviewing it today.


The nose begins with really nice malty and cereal notes, followed closely by flowers and fruit.  Hyde 10 Year Old is unlike your average, grainy Irish whiskey.  There are also pears and nutmeg on this nose.

On the palate, Hyde 10 Year Old tastes much like a Highland single malt Scotch.  There’s leather and oak, as well as fruit and spice.  It’s sweet and oaky all in one.  The exotic spiciness puts this (to me) in a similar flavor realm to Amrut.

There is a nice, malty finish to this interesting Irish single malt.  More fruity notes appear toward the end to round this one out.

Rating & Recommendations

I give Hyde 10 Year Old a rating of 86 out of 100.

Is $80 a little steep for a 10 year old single malt?  Yes.  However, this is a surprisingly nice whiskey from the Emerald Isle, that is worth checking out.  The distillers in Ireland seem to be experimenting lately, and the consumer is being rewarded for them doing so.



WhistlePig 12 Year Old Madeira Cask Rye – Review

Whistlepig 12 Year Old Rye WhiskeyWhistlePig Old World 12 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey

86 Proof

Price Point: $125 – $135 for 750 ML

Distiller: WhistlePig Farm


WhistlePig has taken some heat over the years.  I won’t get into the details here, as a simple Google search should satisfy your curiosity.  That being said, there’s no doubt that their whiskey is still good stuff in most cases.

I was recently on a business trip to Chicago, and was waiting for some co-workers at the hotel bar before dinner.  I looked at the whiskey menu, and saw the new WhistlePig Old World collection.  I ordered the Sauternes finish, and was pleasantly surprised with its quality!

Below, I am reviewing the Madeira cask finish.  Let’s see how it goes.


The nose begins with notes of creamy vanilla, charred oak, and spicy rye.  There’s also toasted marshmallows with a strong suggestion of a wine cask finish.  To me, WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye noses like a nicely matured bourbon; it’s very rich and full.

On the palate, this whiskey is hot, but not too hot at 43%.  WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye is definitely a rye but not as simplistic as most.  Its complexity is borne from the wine cask maturation and extended time in the barrels (30% French Sauternes, 63% Madeira, 7% Port).  It’s woody, with hints of black cherry and bubblegum.

The finish is smoky and sweet, full of zesty rye and rich wine flavors.  There’s also a little bit of coffee on the back end to round out this whiskey.

Rating & Recommendations

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Rye earns a rating of 89 out of 100.

This is a very nice tasting rye that I would recommend.  I think they are asking a little too much of the consumer on the price tag.  $130 is obviously cost prohibitive to the average whiskey drinker, not to mention its limited geographic availability.