Sunday, December 4, 2022

2022/23 Chris-tmas Holiday Advent (Sample Exchange)

A local group I’m part of is doing a Christmas Calendar of blind samples. There are 22 samples with 22 guesses and 22 blind reviews. This is organized by friend Chris, thus the title. The bottles are supposed to be $80+ which both limits the choices and makes it much harder to guess. I’ll be updating this as I go!

The format is going to be:

Name — Brief Notes — Guess: — Reveal:

  1. GN — High proof and grain forward nose, picks up more sweet vanilla with time in glass. Light sulfur quickly fading. Tons of red berries on sugar-sweet palate. Raspberries, strawberries, caramelized pineapple, cloves, light cinnamon. Spicy and lingering finish that stays sweet through to the end — Guess: N/A — Yay — Reveal: Barrell 18 year old Kentucky Straight Whiskey, K&L #A111, 58.33%
  2. BT — High proof, light roasted almonds, vanilla toastiness on the nose, cherries? High proof indeed on the palate, lots of spice, a particular metallic nuttiness is present. The aftertaste drops off fast but tingles with cinnamon in the very end for a while. Few drops of water scale back the ethanol burn, but doesn’t make it taste young. — Guess: Light Whiskey 15; ABV: 60%+ — Nay+ — Reveal: Blue Run, High Rye, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 55.5%
  3. JR — Toasted wood and baking spices on the nose. Highly enjoyable to sniff. Sweet, not over-proofed palate. Reasonably high rye being spicy. Toasted wood-saturated palate, lots of baking spices. The aftertaste is pleasantly long, gets warmer in the back of the throat. Feels little malty, but unlikely to be a malt. — Guess: Henry McKenna or Low-proofed ECBP — Yay- — Reveal: Old Elk Wheated Straight Bourbon; Total Wine NorCal SiB, MGP; Mashbill: 51% corn, 45% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley; 56.9% abv
  4. JP — Definite malt on the nose. Tropical fruits, reasonably high proof, very light sulfur that fades quick. High proof palate, some grain; tropical fruits cut by the what I can only call grain notes. Long, high proof, cloves and cinnamon, and light tropical fruit aftertaste — Guess: Almost screams Irish with malt + grain mix. High proof Two Stacks? Reminds me of Teeling but too high proof for their regular stuff. Could be Redbreast Cask Proof — Yay — Reveal:
  5. KM — Nose has cinnamon vanilla ice cream & bananas. With time opens up into almost sherry notes. Palate is a very fruity with more bananas and is backed up, yet not overpowered, by baking spices, cloves, nutmeg. Medium-long, sugary, lightly spiced aftertaste. Not overly malty, surprisingly — Guess: World Malt. Unlikely American. Unlikely Scotch; 45% — Yay — Reveal:
  6. MBA — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  7. CB — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  8. PC — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  9. SR — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  10. DW — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  11. JK — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  12. VS — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  13. EM — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  14. IT — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  15. JE — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  16. KF — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  17. TO — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  18. TV — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  19. KT — What — Guess: — — Reveal:
  20. KK — What — Guess: — — Reveal:

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Widow Janes and Pinhook High Proof.

Widow Jane tasting samples. Located in Brooklin their story sounds great on paper. Let’s see if their product keeps up.

Widow Jane 10 year old Bourbon, 45.5%
The nose is slightly nutty and quite mineral-forward. Somewhat reminds me of a bunch of dill seed. Meaning this is high rye mash. Enjoyable palate between sweetness, some grain, little bit of that same dill seed, baking spices, roasted walnut bitterness and alcohol. The proof is just right to be both easily drinkable and flavorful. The texture is… thin, but flavor isn’t thin, which clashes a little bit in my head. The aftertaste is surprisingly medium-long, and is actually rather enjoyable here with all those flavors from the palate slowly fading while each shows something new in a slow rotation. Overall: Enjoyable drinker with nothing that offends. It’s nutty but not on the level of Tennessee product and is well balanced. Value: This is listing at about $65 which is slightly about average nowadays but more or less becoming the norm. For comparison Eagle Rare which is another 10 year old is still ~$30; while Henry McKenna, another 10 year old, is reaching into the same $70 range.
Score: B

Widow Jane Rye, Oak & Applewood, 45.5%
Well, I wasn’t planning to have rye today but this ended up in my glass before read the label. Obviously rye on the nose. Together with dill (caraway) seeds. Pine needles and pine resin, yet reasonably tame. The palate is primarily sweet and enjoyable. Also doesn’t quite taste like a ‘regular’ rye, if such thing exists. Lots of vanilla, raspberries, some wood, little bit of anise/caraway; light and enjoyable. Long and *very* underwhelming aftertaste, light sweetness and it’s gone… then eventually it does taste a teensy bit like an apple in the very tail notes. Overall: With the disclaimer I don’t usually like rye… I like this one. I only wish this had some sort of a notable finish to write home about. This is totally approachable by anyone that’s not a hardcore rye-head and willing to deal with quite a few subtle flavors. Value: Total Wine lists this at $52… I’ll say this is about average, trending towards good value, if you like VERY light rye.
Score: B+

Widow Jane Rye, American Oak, 45.5%
Another Widow Jane Rye… The nose is rather lively with light fennel and vanilla without being overwhelming. There are also some toasted wood notes in there somewhere. Palate starts with lightly toasted wood, slight touch of fennel, once again. It continues into more oak and toasted vanilla note. Very lively casks here. The aftertaste is gently fading with more of the same from the palate and lasts about medium amount of time with few notes lingering longer. Overall: A bolder version of the Applewood, this one is more into the direction of more typical rye on the wood composition, though not on the mashbill. I’m of the understanding that Widow Jane Ryes are 51% rye mashbill, which leans towards gentler balanced and less in-your-face flavors. Another enjoyable exemplar of a rye that doesn’t quite taste like a rye. I’ll say this is an excellent crowd-pleaser for @work or a party bottle to share. There’s hardly anyone that would dislike it. Value: at ~$45 this is about average, trending towards good value for a rye.
Score: B+

Widow Jane Lucky 13 Bourbon, 46.5%
Back to the bourbons we go! Roasted corn on the nose, together with some toasted oak. Like Heaven Hill x Dickel levels of toasted corniness. Very corn-forward palate backed up by surprising amount of wood tannins. Nearly drying secondary notes after initial grain hit. Over time, it becomes somewhat less corn-forward but little more wood-bitter. Same notes from the palate continue into the medium length aftertaste. Overall: An enjoyable bourbon with nothing outstanding. Something that can be shared and enjoyed during a conversation. Nothing broken here. Nothing outstanding either. This is a solid performer in the upper 1/3rd of the pack. Always a runner up, never a winner. Value: Total wine lists it at $86.99 though I’ll argue that’s a bit high on the value… Comparable age-stated bourbons nowadays are certainly reaching into $99 range. Average-ish price it is.
Score: B+

Widow Jane ‘Decadence’, 45.5%
This is a blended straight bourbon whiskey aged 10 years and finished in Crown Maple syrup barrels. There’s a roasted, nutty, vanilla complexity to the nose which changes depending on how much I swish it in the glass. Perhaps a touch too nutty. Or perhaps it’s the jack/tennessee note that I’m not quite a fan of and is often easily identifiable. Thankfully the nuts aren’t overwhelming the nose. The nuttiness is gone or integrated into the a solid whole. Perhaps candied snack mix? Somewhat sweet and syrupy but delicious palate with lots of baking spices, sugar, loads of maple syrup for sure. The palate is a bit of a mix of bourbon notes and maple syrup. Gently fading for a while. Like eating cornbread with syrup. Overall: Enjoyable, if a tad too sweet for a casual pour, this is certainly a dessert in a glass. This may somewhat offend purists while pleasing fans. For now, annual 12k batch sells out quickly so it must be approachable by enough folks. Value: Around ~99 for 2022 this is somewhat above average, considering this is a ‘gimmick’ bourbon. Though perhaps tolerable for the uniqueness.
Score: B+

Pinhook High Proof, 59.97%
This is the Bourbon Heist named edition of Pinhook. Originally distributed as part of Eureka Subscription box but also easily findable in Total Wine. This is definitely not a single cask. Distilled in Castle & Key in Frankfort KY and ‘aged for more than 3 years’, making it Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The nose is enjoyable if a tad too young, as in high in alcohol, and lacking in deeper flavors that longer maturation time would bring. Lots of cinnamon, pepper, light nuttiness, this has new’ leather smell vs ‘old’ leather smells here. The palate is young and lively, light nuts, cinnamon, lots of alcohol, quite fruity and flowery-fragrant. Akin to drinking perfume. The same perfume impression continues to the medium length aftertaste that brings nothing surprising to the table. Overall: This is young, flavorful, high proof but ultimately disappointing pour. There’s nothing great about it, while thankfully not having an offensive quality. A perfect example of ‘try it once and never again’. With water it’s slightly more drinkable. Perhaps an interesting mixer faire here on the premium side. Value: ~$40 on paper sounds like a good value. Until you read the age. Just… anything less than ~5 years in a cask just isn’t worth it.
Score: C

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Blended Malt XO, Glendalough, Penderyn 6, Edradour 12, Notable Age 30 … More mixed bag

Whiskey Agency Blended Malt X0, 51.4%
A bottle from 2017. Another one from an auction by way of my friend Logan. Unpeated, sherried blend. Likely speyside and/or highlands. Complete mystery what’s inside or how old it is… though by my guess it’s probably at least 18+ years old. On the nose, oak, malt, nuts, leather. Nothing overwhelms. Smells like old sherried malt that’s not overaged. On the palate, delicious high quality oak and sherry together. Basically, nearly burnt figs. Not bitter but definitely getting there. Lots of sweet umami, burnt sugar. Aftertaste is long with more of those not-quite-burnt sweet notes, slowly fading, some charcoal and black licorice in the very end. Overall: Amazing blend from old stocks where quality of this caliber nowadays is incredibly hard to find. Sherry lovers (and me) should rejoice. Perhaps slightly too one dimensional, but it’s basically what those 25 year old sherried costco blends could have been if done like 20 years ago with access to all sorts of amazing sourced stuff. Value: N/A from auction.
https://www.whiskyba … /blended-malt-xo-twa
Score: A

Glendalough Irish Whiskey, Double Barrel Single Grain, 42%
We’ve got a N.A.S. Single Grain Irish whiskey first aged in a bourbon barrels and then finished in oloroso sherry barrels. The nose is somewhat old oil and metal with a side of cigarette smoke, like an old fishing boat perhaps or and old train car. It’s got that old railway grease kind of whiff. The palate is neutral spirits, fruity, mellow spice, sweet and nutty with some of the sherry and caramel. The aftertaste is where it falls apart with grain spirit and lack of age. There’s nothing to hold onto the mouth and short aftertaste quickly fades with sherry sweetness and light spice. Did i mention it’s got a reasonably thin ‘texture’? Overall: I don’t dislike it but it’s basically sherry aged… grain spirit (read ‘vodka’)… and to be fair not particularly drawing my interest. It’s by no means bad (though I wish the finish lasted a little longer) but it’s also doesn’t stand out. Arguably a solid @work pour that will not offend anyone. Value: Total Wine lists these at $35… which is actually a good price everything considered. I’d say reasonable value here knowing what to expect.
Score: B-

Penderyn 6, RoCo SP, Port Cask, 59.3%
Another Penderyn pick, I’ve reviewed a similarly sourced one, yet with Cognac casks in the mix before: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry220411-202626 to somewhat mixed results. Let’s see if this one can change my opinion. The color is reddish brown. The nose is very port-forward. Fortified red wine all the way! Palate is sweet and also wine-forward with lots of red fruits, slightly spicy and had a bit of a metallic funk. The palate lacks secondary notes, which is not surprising considering the age of the spirit. The aftertaste is medium length and quickly becomes very spicy and warming while still staying wine-forward. Overall: This is a very wine-forward port cask offering from Penderyn. Shockingly for the proof… I don’t hate it. But I will admit that i’m a fan of wine finishes. This is definitely a young spirit that saw a very active port cask in it’s short lifetime. It will likely please fans of port casked malt enough to consider it viable. Frankly, the cask masks any off-notes but it also overpowers everything else too. Value: N/A Probably slightly overpriced for the age. The cognac cask was ~$99 from same store so we’ll assume same valuation.
Score: B

Edradour 12, Ibisco Decanter Series, Cask #326 57.4%
I’ve reviewed (and have tried) Edradour before and generally found it oversherried and… wanting something more. There was one exceptional bottle that I’ve tried… but I digress. Let’s see if this bottling from the premium decanter series brings something new. The nose is… dusty… sherry cask sawdust, well seasoned, dusty wood being cut up into planks. Occasional weird whiff of… something sulfuric, like a matchbox. The palate is reasonably balanced between funk, sweetness and woodiness with neither dominating. Mostly same notes of seasoned wood are present, but at least they aren’t dry and the sulfuric note is gone. The palate is in fact mouth-watering, slightly funky, nearly bitter from the sherry. Perhaps some thoughts of bitter cocoa nibs are relevant here. The aftertaste is long, mouth-coating, and a little heavy on (very) bitter chocolate all the way down. Overall: Excellent example of non-sweet sherry bomb! Sherry just runs over everything in the bottle though. It’s really quite good and proof helps a lot here. Yet… I’m not really tasting anything but sherry. It’s possible that the malt is so heavy that integrates with the spices well though it’s definitely leaning somewhere on the lightly bitter side of the spectrum. Value: This should be about ~$140… 3 years ago which is a ‘maybe’ for the ibisco decanter, though not for the age. Above average pricing, but also a premium product.
https://www.whiskyba … 145483/edradour-2007
Score: B+

Notable Age Statements “NAS” 30, Decadent Drinks Blend, 45.1%
Official Blurb: “A single sherry butt of blended malt. This is vatted stock of numerous old Signatory cask samples and bottling run ends that was married and put into fresh sherry wood with a minimum age of 16 years old. The composition is by now at least 30 years old, but contains within it many much, much older whiskies, many of which hail from closed distilleries and date back to the 1960s. We’ve bottled this butt at natural cask strength and the result is a wonderfully aromatic and old style sherried malt.” The nose is old school nutty sherry funk. Nosing this is fantastic. The palate is quite sweet, rather reminiscent of speyside style with nutty, heavy (surprisingly modern) sherry notes; secondary notes of tobacco, coffee, leather, but nothing dominates. The components are well integrated as a complex and layered whole. The aftertaste… surprisingly weak and mild. There’s a little bit of malty vanilla sweetness and residual spice, but it disappears fast leaving me wanting more of that nose and palate. Overall: Fantastic start with a rather mediocre finish. Still, more please! Value: Listed at ~$265.00 this was expensive…
https://www.whiskyno … nts-decadent-drinks/
Score: A

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Auchentoshan 25, Cragganmore 15, Ben Nevis 15, Teeling 29 (Rum cask): mixed bag

Samples samples. Dusty samples. Most of the samples are from my friend Logan.

Auchentoshan 25, 1973-1998, Radio Clyde, ~43%
Produced to celebrate 25 years of Radio Clyde on the 31st December 1998. If previous Radio Clyde releases are anything to go by, there is a good chance this is Auchentoshan. From an open bottle with unfortunately not-so-tight cork. I’m not too sure how much alcohol is really left in there. My guess: 35-40% abv. The nose is intensely fruity with dried figs, dried apricots, some mango, sweet vanilla, jolly ranchers hard candy. The palate is slightly disappointing and while not flat is a more watery than I would have liked. Great secondary notes of brown sugar and peppers but the primaries are missing, which is unfortunate. Light nutty bitterness in the mix too. The aftertaste it gets better, with rising malt vanilla sweetness, butter, light baking spices and pepper in the very back. Overall: The palate is unfortunately missing here with the rest of the experience being great. Blindly I’d say this is about 40% abv or so and perhaps a great beginner malt for someone that doesn’t expect cask proof fire-water. This will unfortunately fall flat for most, though it’s by no means bad. I only wish it was a little proofier. Value: N/A only auctions.
https://whiskyauctio … 25-year-old-decanter
Score: B

Cragganmore 15, 1966-1981, Private Cask, ~43%
This is from a private cask. No original ABV… everything is more or less an assumption outside of what’s given. The color is definitely dark. This looks sherried (yay!). This smells VERY sherried. Cragganmore is often lightly peated, but I’m either not detecting it, or the peat is so old it’s now became complex set of flavors that aren’t all that smoky. Dark wood and varnish galore on the nose, plus some sherry funk as a second fiddle in there. The palate is yet again on the thinner side, so definitely ~40% abv here. Very neutral, not sweet, not salty, not bitter… almost… flavorless… yet a little leathery at the same time. It’s hard to describe. The secondary notes and aftertaste kick the flavors up a notch with lots of spice, some salt and sweetness, as well as tiny bit of funk. Medium-long aftertaste is rather pleasant and flavorful. Overall: This is enjoyable but yet again let down by the proof and the odd dip of flavor where palate should be. Perhaps with a good cigar or food this would be amazing complement. Value: N/A, seriously no idea.
Score: B-

Ben Nevis 15, 1956-1981, Private Cask, ~43%
Another private cask. Another low proofer. Another ‘dusty’ sample. This time it’s Ben Nevis. Slightly rubbery nose which implies at least some sherry here. Very likely a refill cask with the color lightness. Definitely quite rubber and surfuric but not negatively impacting the nose. Similar to how new car interior has a specific smell that’s not offensive. This kept most of it proof… And it has a palate. Still slightly rubber palate, sweet malt, super full of milk chocolate and fig jam. The aftertaste is quite long and starts off gently spicy, then fades into more fig jam and vanilla sweetness. Overall: I rather like this. The light funkiness is a weird beasty as it’s something that’s almost entirely missing in modern whiskeys, but overall it really is quite tasty. Value: N/A. Private cask from auction.
Score: B+

Teeling 29, Single Malt, Rum Cask, 53.8%
This is really a Cooley malt. A Non-Chill filtered single cask 588 bottled on 03/2019 for Bar Parkmore Japan. I’ll be honest, I’m really looking forward to this. The nose is tropical vanilla wood with rum notes. Palate is rum rum rum and malt malt malt. If you ever can imagine how good foursquare ex-bourbon rum would taste like when mixed with a lot single malt… Then this is the answer. Medium-long sweet and rummy aftertaste follows. Overall: This is so good. Argh! Value: This is NOT cheap. I’ll leave it at that. A 29 year old teeling single casks are ~900. This was likely from an auction, but the base MSRP of this is way high… Admittedly, it’s excellent.
Score: A+


Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Friday, November 11, 2022

Campbeltown Loch, Springbank 15 (rum),SB 18, SB 11 (Sauternes), Handfills…It’s not yet Spring, but here’s Springbank

Springbank time! I’ll use SB sometimes to mean Springbank.

Springbank Campbeltown Loch Blend, 40%
Note that this is the ‘original/old’ bottling. A ‘cheapo’ springbank blended scotch, Campbeltown Loch was originally a blended Scotch whisky that contained Springbank and Longrow that had been blended with grain whisky in a 40 / 60 split. Malty and with a slight off-note nose. The off-note reminds me of old mechanical gearwork machinery or inside of a generator. Slightly salty and very lightly smoked… but that’s not surprising considering this is partially peated. Palate is ‘frankly’ very thin, flavorful, but very thin. Lots of butter, some salinity, touch of smoke, some sweetness. But that salinity and butter combined with low proof, almost give it mineral water-like impression to me. Light and very slightly peppery aftertaste. Overall: Lack of proof just destroys everything. At 43 or 46 this could have been something, but at 40, it’s too watery for grain and light malt with zero sherry. I didn’t expect much and I didn’t get much here. Drinkable, but there are tons and tons and tons of better things out there, even the cheaper Laing and Compass Box blends are (arguably) better than this. Value: N/A since it’s a discontinued bottling.
https://www.wine-sea … campbeltown+scotland
Score: C-

Springbank 15, Rum (Cask) Wood, 51%
An official bottling from 2019. Salted honey on the nose, lots of malt, very light smoke. Sweet, almost sugary without feeling syrupy, smoked honey again, some saltiness, malty butter on the palate. Aftertaste is not too long, sweet and peppery, but doesn’t get too overwhelming, peat finally shows up in the secondary notes and lets itself be known by bringing somewhat ashy cigar flavor. That ash lingers for quite a while actually. Almost like a second-hand smoke. Overall: This is excellent drinker assuming one likes light cigars… and lightly smoked honey. The proof is just perfect too. As much as I am not a fan of peat, this combination of sweetness and light ash is right up my valley. Value: It’s Springbank limited bottling… The sticker price was probably okay if slightly overpriced, but the secondary is sure to be outright unapproachable.
https://www.whiskyba … ringbank-15-year-old
Score: A-

Springbank 18, 46%
A Springbank 18 bottling from 2016. As of note the different year batches do vary slightly in composition so what follows should only be seens my view on that specific bottling year. The nose is straight up cologne or maybe some very musky perfume. Something of a reminder of sniffing grandmas old perfume bottles back in my childhood days. My pining aside, it’s super light smoke, sherry nuttiness, and salted honey. Very slight bitterness on the palate, similar to walnuts, the rest is the same as nose, light smoke, salted honey, sherry nuttiness. Lightly ashy, warming, long aftertaste follows. None of the experience is actually sweet, if anything it’s slightly charry and ashy and little less sweet than say their Rum cask bottling. Overall: Oh this is rather great. If it was a touch sweeter it’d be a slam dunk. As it stands, that ash pulls by a nose ahead of the other flavors. Amazing for most I’m sure, somewhat distracting for some. Value: Eeeeeh. The sticker price for 18 is $279.99 at Total Wine. Yes, there’s something to be said about SB distillery quality but they’re competing with some truly great stuff in that price range. Heavily overpriced as is most Springbank because reasons.
Score: A

Springbank 11, Sauternes Single Cask, 57.2%
Ooooh my, I’m looking forward to this. Springbank in general really works well with sweeter casks, having a natural ashy character. Also this one is kinda dark too. Fairly typical SB nose with addition to sweet sauternes notes. Light smoked and salted honey primarily. It’s really hitting on the sweeter side of the spectrum. Oddly reminds me of hot-smoked smoked salmon with the sweetness, salinity and smoke notes. Boom! Smoked honeyed dessert in a glass… just wow. Almost too sweet, but the natural character and smoky ash is holding up nicely on palate. Medium length sweet finish and the fact that it’s only medium length is the only downside here really. Overall: Sweet dessert, tropical, slightly smoky. Amazingly delicious. Really well balanced, yet definitely falls on the ‘a tad too sweet’ side of the balance. Ever so close to A+ as I’ve had. Value: This was originally ~$110 back in the day which is… kinda expensive at the time… but now, considering it’s SB, that price is laughably cheap. These go for ~$400 on secondary for context.
Fairly sure it was this: https://www.whiskyba … ringbank-11-year-old
Score: A


Some quick notes on hand filled samples from Springbank stills… All these hand filled on 8/24/2022 at the distillery

Distillery — Age — Score — Notes

- Hazelburn, 57% — Age: N/A — A- — Very pale. Sweet, light peat, malt, very peppery aftertaste. Delicious.
- Kilkerran, 57.4% — Age: N/A — B+ — Very pale. Sweet, lightly ashy, high proof aftertaste. Very good.
- Longrow, 56.9% — Age: N/A — B — Medium amber. Nutty nose, salty, smokey, and nutty palate, ashy and drying aftertaste. Smoked fish that turns into a cigar.
- Springbank, 54.9% — Age: N/A — B- — Pale. Ashy smoke nose. Lots of ash overall. Neutrally balanced palate between salt and sugars. Sichuan peppers in the aftertaste.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown