Nov 01

To Collect or to Drink

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old ScotchIt can be very depressing when you get to the last drop of one of your favorite whiskeys.  It can be even more detrimental if that whiskey happens to be rare and/or expensive.  This feeling of despair can turn whiskey drinkers into whiskey collectors.

I’ve certainly fallen into that trap before.  To make things worse, being a young adult starting out in my career, a $60 investment into my favorite Scotch can seem much larger compared to that of an established businessman.

So where do you draw the line?  When do you break out that 21 year old single malt, and finally finish it off?

Personally, I started this blog to correct that very issue.  Knowing that my favorite whiskeys would be chronicled in this blog made me feel much more at ease about finishing my most treasured bottles.  It’s wonderful to have a valuable collection, but it’s even better to enjoy that collection.

What do you think?  Would you rather save those precious bottles, or enjoy them?

 

-Ryan

Oct 29

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese Whisky – Review

Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese WhiskyThe Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky Aged 12 Years

86 Proof

Price Point: $45-$55 for 750 ML

Distiller: Yamazaki Distillery (Produced by Suntory)

 

Background

It isn’t very often that I’m giddy to purchase a whiskey.  My wife will tell you that the second I saw Yamazaki on the shelf of our local liquor store, my eyes lit up.  It’s not because I had heard such great things about it.  In fact, I knew very little about this whisky.  It was because I had been dying to try a Japanese whisky for quite some time, and it was finally my chance.

I first became “aware” of Japanese whisky through my marketing courses in college.  We were informed by multiple professors that if we were ever given the chance to do business in Japan, whiskey is the most well-received gift (small gifts are customary in any and all business meetings in Japan).  And not just any whiskey will do.  Typically a high-end bourbon will guarantee a favorable outcome.  Little known fact – Blanton’s is a brand commissioned and owned by Japanese investors.

So naturally I assumed that Japanese whisky would emulate bourbon, with their own unique twist of course.  I was pleasantly surprised.

 

Review

Opening my bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old for the first time was exciting and confusing at the same time.  I was fully expecting the wonderful aroma of a bourbon, and was surprised with the wonderful aroma of a Scotch instead.  That’s right; the Japanese who I had assumed would craft their whisky in the style of an Eagle Rare or Knob Creek, were emulating Glenlivet and the Dalmore.  I certainly can’t complain, it just wasn’t what I expected.

If the aroma wasn’t intriguing enough, the taste will definitely compel you.  This whisky definitely takes cues from its cousins from Scotland, but it has its own unique character as well.  Yamazaki is a light whisky, relying heaily on a floral taste.  If you’re looking for a peaty taste, you won’t find it here.  It’s not watered down, as a “light” Scotch with no peat would suggest.  Yamazaki certainly packs a punch.  It just isn’t as strong a whisky as one might expect.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Yamazaki 12 Year Old is a solid whisky.  Even if you’re not big on this type of whisky, it’s worth saying you’ve tried a Japanese whisky.  It does seem to be almost “incomplete”, which is why I will rate it a 72 out of 100.  Perhaps its 18 year old brother fills in the gaps that this one has.

As with a single malt Scotch, Yamazaki should never, ever be served with a mixer.  I recommend a splash of water or a cube or two of ice to enjoy this whisky.

Although Yamazaki wasn’t at all what I expected, it’s definitely a whisky I would share with the readers of this blog.  Japan excels in a lot of things, and whisky seems to be one of them.

 

-Ryan

Oct 26

The Price of Satisfaction

A. Smith Bowman BottlesLet’s be real here.  Whiskey is pretty darn expensive.  Take it out of context for just a moment.  When would you ever spend $10 for a bottle of liquid just bigger than a Gatorade bottle?  Now consider that this particular bottle is on the far low end.  In fact, it’s barely drinkable!  If you want something worth enjoying, you’re typically spending double to triple that amount.  And that’s for a domestic whiskey.  Let’s pretend that you want to explore the whiskeys from across the pond.  For that same “barely drinkable” whiskey, you’re paying even more than the so-so whiskeys from your native country.

How frustrating.

Surely one of the reasons my peers don’t share my love of quality whiskey is because they don’t see the benefit of the investment.  Can you blame them?  When you’re spending an entire day’s pay on a bottle that may last you two or three nights (depending on who you’re sharing it with), it does sound a bit ludicrous.

I often wonder where the whiskey industry will be in thirty years, when I’m in my mid-fifties, and by today’s standards, part of the ideal whiskey-loving demographic.  Will anything have changed on the side of the industry?  What about the customer?  Will a lack of demand by young people today create a lack of demand in the future?  Will I be drinking well whiskey rather than Ardbeg by my mid-life crisis?

I’m sure the whiskey big-wigs have considered these variables to great lengths.  Perhaps they have a great plan to gradually reduce prices and market their products differently.  Maybe, just maybe, they’ll make whiskey “cool” again for young people.

I sure hope so.  Whiskey would be a terrible thing to waste.

 

-Ryan

Oct 22

Van Winkle 12 Year Old Bourbon – Review

Van Winkle 12 Year Old BourbonVan Winkle Special Reserve 12 Years Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

90.4 Proof

Price Point: $80-$90 for 750 ML

Distiller: Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery

 

Background

The Van Winkle name carries a lot of weight in the whiskey world.  With a relatively small portfolio of highly sought-after whiskeys, this distillery has proven that many bourbon lovers prefer quality over quantity.

Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Old is one of those coveted whiskeys.  I received my bottle from my father as a gift; one that I was hesitant to accept as I knew this was a special bourbon.  It’s been one of those rare bottles in my collection that I just can’t seem to finish all the way (see the picture above for proof).  But, as any great whiskey aficionado will tell you, whiskey is meant to be drunk.  And for this review, I will be finishing the last bit of liquid from this bottle once and for all.

 

Review

Van Winkle’s aroma immediately tells you it is a premium bourbon.  It stings the nostrils, as Ron Burgundy would say.  But it also hints to the wonderful flavors the taster will experience in the coming moments.

The taste of this whiskey is inviting to the experienced whiskey drinker, and aggressive to the inexperienced.  With a proof of 90.4, Van Winkle has a bit of a bite to it.  Compared to your everyday bourbon like Benchmark or Evan Williams, this bourbon is much heavier both in viscosity and flavor.  Van Winkle will taste very sweet, with a large emphasis on vanilla.

The aftertaste will stay with you to remind you of the brilliance you just experienced.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Van Winkle 12 Year Old is definitely a whiskey worth trying, if you can get your hands on it.  I rate it a 91 out of 100 for its superior quality and taste.

Because this is such a premium bourbon, I would recommend drinking Van Winkle neat or with one or two cubes of ice.  No reason to water down a whiskey like this.  And absolutely no reason to ever poison this bourbon with any kind of mixer.

This is certainly one of those rare whiskeys to enjoy during a special occasion.  It’s a wonderful bourbon, but shouldn’t be abused.  It should be cherished because “60% of the time, it works every time.”

 

-Ryan

Oct 19

Whiskey vs. Whisky

Old Forester Bourbon LabelThere can be only one!

Well, not really.  Depending on who you’re talking to, the most beloved drink in the world has two different spellings.

Take a look at the bottles you have in your own collection, or at the bar you frequent.  Depending on the origin of those bottles, whiskey may be spelled with or without the “e”.  For instance, take my review on Benchmark.  This “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” retains that “e” toward the end.  In fact, most American whiskeys do.  And for some odd reason Irish whiskeys follow this trend as well.

Then there are the regions preferring the “whisky” spelling.  Scotch typically utilizes this spelling, as do the Canadian and Japanese varieties.

But, for every rule (no matter the strange reasons for which it exists) there are exceptions.  Old Forester, for example, is a bourbon, but uses the “whisky” spelling.  Coincidentally, the original name was “Old Forrester”, so the good folks at Brown-Forman know a thing or two about adding or omitting letters – just kidding guys!

The thing that makes whiskey, or whisky, so captivating to me is overall diversity.  Not just when it comes to flavor profiles, but to perspectives and philosophies.  While some purists will only allow the finest single malts onto their palate, I find it much more interesting to keep an open mind and try anything I can get my hands on.

Whiskey is whisky is whisk-ee.  Can’t we just all get along and agree that whatever we call this spirit, it’s the best in the world?

 

-Ryan

Oct 15

Benchmark Bourbon – Review

Benchmark BourbonMcAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $20-$25 for 1.75 L

Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery

 

Background

Because this is my first review, I wanted to choose a special whiskey.  Other bloggers would have chosen something rare, something expensive.  Something intangible for the average twenty-something whiskey drinker.

Not me.

I value whiskey for its taste, regardless of its prestige or price point.  This is precisely why I chose Benchmark, one of my personal favorites, and arguably the best value for bourbon drinkers around the world.

I was first introduced to Benchmark by my dad.  Being the whiskey (specifically bourbon) expert, he cringed at the fact that my drink of choice was a Jack & Coke.  I certainly have nothing against Jack Daniel’s (in fact I’ll be reviewing it in the coming weeks), but when that particular concoction is as far as you dive into the wonderful world of whiskey, you are truly missing out on some great experiences.

Upon trying Benchmark, mixed with a little Coke of course, I was impressed.  It had a very similar caramel-y, sugary flavor reminiscent of Jack Daniel’s, only with a little something more.  When I tried it on the rocks for the first time, I was absolutely hooked.  Benchmark was my new staple; a whiskey that was both very flavorful and very easy to drink.  When it was time for me to buy my own, I was even more pleased.  With a price point in the $20 range for a handle, how can you say no?

Two years later, I still can’t say no to Benchmark.

 

Review

Benchmark’s aroma is plainly stated – perfect.  In my opinion, this is exactly how a high-quality bourbon should smell.  It is complex enough to distinguish itself from other bourbons without anything extra added on as a trademark.  This is the benchmark (pun fully intended) for all other bourbons.

The main theme with Benchmark’s taste is sweetness.  Even without a mixer, you will notice just as much sugar in Benchmark as your favorite soda.  It doesn’t overpower the taste – it’s just there to keep you interested.  Once you have the liquid in your mouth, and are savoring it for a few seconds, you’ll really notice a strong caramel taste above all else, followed by a light vanilla.

The aftertaste is just as sweet as ever, and lingers for quite some time.  But in a good way.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Clearly I am a fan of Benchmark.  However, because it is such an even-keeled whiskey, it’s difficult for me to give it a very high rating.  Benchmark is absolutely perfect with a mixer or as an everyday bourbon, but it’s not unique enough for a 90 rating or higher.  I rate Benchmark’s Old No. 8 brand with an 80 out of 100.

The possibilities for drinking Benchmark are wide open.  Most people will choose to mix it with Coke or Ginger Ale, which is absolutely fine, and even encouraged by me.  I prefer drinking mine with a few cubes of ice, but it’s just as enjoyable neat.

As long as you are drinking and enjoying Benchmark, you’re doing it the right way.

 

-Ryan