Saturday, June 29, 2024

Auchentoshan 21, Glenallachie 15, Bimber #45, Rare Character Malt SFWS

After another bout with the sickness I’m able to review things again.

Auchentoshan 21, Berry’ Bros & Rudd, 49.8%
An Auchentoshan that was gifted to me by friend Venkat nearly a decade ago. This was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2016 from cask #357, (ex-bourbon). The nose is punchy for the proof, with oaky vanilla, fruit compote and touch of a paint solvent note that borders on perfume rather than acetone. Powerful palate with hot and peppery spices that show up immediately and don’t hold back. Lots of drying wood notes, minerality and bitter baking spice, dark coffee and bitter chocolate as well as some smoke notes. The overall palate experience borders on near-bitterness suggests an active cask that the distillate spent a long time in. Long aftertaste that allows fruit notes to come through once again and balance out the overall experience. Water drastically improves the palate making it much more enjoyable and less overwhelming. Overall: This isn’t an easy-drinking pour. This is a complex and one that really needs to be thought about to enjoy. The bones of a fantastic malt is there but it feels over-aged out of the bottle. Few drops of water dilute the bitterness in mid-palate making it more approachable, though still unapologetically complex. Value: N/A.
Score: B+ w/water (B- without)

Glenallachie 15, 46%
I see sherry bomb… I cannot pass it by. More on that beginning of next year once pre-orders arrive, so keep eye on the booze list, but yet again; I digress. A 15 year old regular release of Glenallachie by Billie Walker, bottled at 46%. Speyside sherry bomb on paper. Does it deliver? Dusty sherry on the nose, mostly oloroso spice, sulfur, some fruitiness, baking spice, blatant vanilla extract. An unexpectedly plain, initially nearly-flavorless palate brings coffee, leather, more baking spice, coca cola, vanilla and bitter chocolate notes. There are barely any sweetness or fruit notes, and if there are any, they are drowned by the sherry notes. Medium-long aftertaste brings a note of tobacco but mostly follows whatever was on the palate with a cinnamon note cresting and then fading slowly. Overall: Serviceable sherry bottling, that neither amazes or disappoints. I really wish it was sweeter as the malt itself is known to be sweet, but this specific blend seems to be drowned in dry sherry notes instead. It will likely please those that are looking sherry bombs without the sweetness and leans somewhat heavily towards Edradour’s leather and tobacco profile. Value: I got this on sale for $89 which is quite reasonable, though at more common MSRP of $105 I wouldn’t have paid it. Get the Cask Strength bottling instead.
Score: B

Bimber Single Malt, Cask #45 58.9%
Bimber distillery, producing London single malt whiskey. This is a USA release of cask #45, sherry cask, bottled in October 2020. No age statement has been provided. The nose is very fruit-forward and sweet sherry reminiscent of PX with primary notes being chocolate-covered dried figs and cologne. Strong alcohol on the palate with, syrup, more dried figs and chili chocolate. Spicy hot chocolate and some dry tobacco notes continue into warm medium-length aftertaste with pleasant malt hug on the palate. A little bit of water tones down the alcohol burn but it’s a little tricky to get that balance right as too much and the malt falls apart. Overall: Enjoyably sweet and not a typical scherried NAS scotch bottling. I’m somewhat torn on my overall evaluation, though it does seem to grow on me since I’ve opened it few months back. Getting the water amount right helps immensely here. Value: I’ve paid $139 which seems excessive for what’s offered in the bottle… Yet… seeing other single cask prices recently… Urg. Let’s call it slightly above where it should be on the price, but not excessively so.
Score: B (/w water)

Rare Character Exceptional Series, SFWS SP, Kentucky Straight Malt 10.7, 68%
A Kentucky Straight Malt, bottled for SF Whiskey Society from cask E-M13-25. Let’s get it out of the way… This is Heaven Hill distillate. Same-ish series that went into their Parker’s Heritage malt release. The weird mash bill of 65% malt, 35% corn is funky and strange but with official definition of American Malt still vague it is not unwelcome. Let’s dive in! First, it’s medium chestnut in color making it rather dark, likely due to new oak casks rather than refills used in it’s maturation. Visually it can be easily mistaken for bourbon. The nose is a mix of malt and corn notes, backed by toasted wood. Let’s just approximate that it smells like malty bourbon. The palate starts as a complex mix of malted barley and bourbon and continues to be a complex mix of malt and bourbon on repeated sips. This isn’t a subtle Scottish export. Lots, and I do mean lots, of wood notes with some maltiness and corn and mostly bourbon’s baking spices dominate. Long and spicy aftertaste follows with more or less everything that was on the palate. It takes water like a champ, but doesn’t substantially change, other than the dulling the alcohol’s edge. Overall: This tastes like some of the best bourbons I’ve ever had. All the great things from bourbon more or less balanced and extended by the barley backbone. Lots of thumbs up on this, but this is does not taste anything like a malt. Neither International nor American malts taste anything like this. Value: These came and gone for ~$150 and for what it’s worth one bottle of the series is well worth picking up… But stop at one to sate the curiosity or buy a dozen.
Score: A- (malt-only-in-name)

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

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Agave and Malt samples

Some malt samples… some mezcal vago tasting notes and a tequila… A note that each vago bottling is essentially ’single cask’ or ’single distillation session’ so they will vary slightly bottling to bottling.

Usual disclaimer that I’m a whiskey-drinker so any and all of my opinions should not be considered ‘expert’ level at any point.

– Agave —
Fortaleza Blanco, Still Strength, 46% — Clean, fun, sweet and spicy. Almost too sweet, even for a blanco. Hard to dislike. Interesting fact. Fortaleza is owned by same family and uses same stills as *old school* Sauza — Score: Yay
Mezcal Vago, Elote by Hijos de Aquilino Garcia, ~50% — Espadin; distilled with addition of artisanal corn. Funky, somewhat high proof agave spirit. Sweet, slightly smoky, rich, toasted grains, light ash — Score: Yay
Mezcal Vago, Espadin by Joel Barriga, ~50% — Another high proof mezcal? Sweet and rich, ashy grilled tropical fruits, slightly drying, light peppermint, rosemary. Very flavorful. — Score: Yay-
Mezcal Vago, Espadin by Emigdio Jarquin, ~50% — Mineral-forward. Flowery, light saltiness from mineral notes. Sweet, slightly fruity and peppery — Score: Yay-
Mezcal Vago, Ensamble by Emigdio Jarquin, ~50 % — a 60/40% mix of two different types of agave. Grassy and refreshing. Honey, green jalapeno chilis, minerality, citrus peel. Well-balanced — Score: Yay
Mezcal Vago, Ensamble en Barro by Tio Rey, ~50% — A mix of 5 different agaves… and a kitchen sink. Fruit, salt, honey, grass. Enjoyable, but perhaps trying to do too much — Score: Yay-

Connemara Irish Malt Whiskey, 40%
A peated single malt Irish whiskey. Friend James B. insists that I try it and give my honest opinion on it. Let’s start with the first impression of 40% abv not being in its favor. The nose is quite malty, toasted oat grains, grass, light smoke with a touch of salt, dried apples. The palate is medium-sweet, slightly malty and somewhat boring. Smoked and very watery apple juice comes to mind. Secondary notes are more liquid smoke, peppers, baking spices that are only enhanced by a drying peat quality. These notes continue into grain-sweet and slightly ashy aftertaste, which to its credit, lingers for a very long time, thankfully becoming quite nice towards the end once everything balances itself out. Overall: This is drinkable sweet and smoky malt without any significant negative quantities… yet also without any distinguishing ones. Best approximation is ’smoked mild black pepper’ on your tongue in liquid form. I enjoy black pepper, I enjoy smoked spices as seasoning that elevates something else. Something that I would be totally cool to put into a highball or some other mixed drink. It’s enjoyable and forgettable. Value: At around $45 this is alright of a price for a single malt… any more than $50 and it becomes below average value.
Taking 1/3rd of a point away for being at exactly 40%. It would have been much better slightly higher proofed.
Score: C+

TSUNUKI Mars US edition 2022, 50%
A bottle that I’ve got from Fog City Social 2024… which was a great local event btw, but I digress. A limited edition from recently (2016-ish) re-opened Mars Tsunuki distillery in Japan. This is Japanese malt whiskey, lightly peated and one of the 2040 bottles of the US release. Sweet, toasted oatmeal and fruit honey with a hint of smoke on the nose. Creamy, sweet palate with tropical fruit notes, basically a creamy fruit punch with mangos, passionfruit and pineapple to the fore. Light pepperiness in the secondaries that transitions into medium-long spicy aftertaste with light smoke showing up again front and center as it overtakes the palate’s sweet cream. Overall: Really enjoyable, this may be a touch odd for some due to unexpectedly thick palate texture. In some odd way this is what I wanted Connemara (above) to taste like. Value: The MSRP is ~$200 which is horrendously bad value… Ugh…. I got this for ‘free’ with the price of admission to the event… So… let’s split that cost evenly… $75 that I paid is well worth it! Perhaps under $100 is good.
Score: B+

Indri Dru, Ex-bourbon, 57.2%
Friend Sandeep has recommended me to try this Indian malt. It’s a small sample and I’ll do my best. Matured in ex-bourbon, it’s notable that the color is very dark for just ex-bourbon casks, tropical climate or not. For comparison, the Taiwanese malt, which is aged in similar climate is nowhere near that color in their ex-bourbon bottlings. Dru happens to be nearly dark ember in color somehow, not that I’m complaining. Strong and punchy nose that doesn’t hold back the alcohol, backed by tropical fruit notes and caramel. The palate brings orange zest, bitter chocolate and more tropical sweet fruits. Peppermint note and number of baking spices follow. Slightly bitter, yet never overwhelming, aftertaste with more baking spices, hot peppers and caramel brings it full circle from the nose. There’s a touch of a yeasty aftertaste in the very back which likely stems from rapid maturation and NAS age but with it kinda fits in with the other tropical notes, which isn’t to say is beneficial, at least it’s not detrimental. Overall: This almost drinks like a blend of malt and bourbon that keeps the best stuff from both and is shockingly enjoyable. At least it’s enjoyable if you can stand the proof and the intensity. I’ve liked it a lot better than I expected from the NAS description and sus color. It’s flavorful, it doesn’t pull its punches and it’s quite memorable. Value: At $80 it’s a solidly good value for the flavor, and a pretty bottle if that’s what you’re into.
Score: A-

Glenallachie 11, RoCo SP, Ex-Bourbon, 57.6%
Another little sample from friend Sandeep. This time it is a Glenallachie 11 year old single cask from RoCo store in Sacramento. The nose is ‘typical’ ex-bourbon Speysider, punchy as expected of the proof, with toasted grains, malt, subdued orchard fruits and a touch dried citrus. The palate starts fruity and sweet but almost immediately turns bitter with spice mix which continues into medium-long and yet again bitter aftertaste. At the very tail end it seems to finally shake off the bitter note and becomes enjoyable but it’s rather too late to matter. Overall: I seem to have a palate mismatch with RoCo, as I’m yet to have a truly enjoyable pick of his. This is no exception. It’s wants to be good but just misses the mark. The nose is nice but the rest doesn’t go into the direction I enjoy. Value: N/A (but $100+, typical single cask is ~$120). Don’t bother with this one… Glenallachie single casks are a little overpriced either way.
Score: C-

Glenglassaugh Sandend, 50.5%
A sample from friend Vadim. Glenglassaugh’s new release Sandend, not to be confused with ’sanded’. Single malt, Speyside, NAS, likely pure ex-bourbon from the color. The nose is butter, cream, tropical fruits, alcohol and odd touch of ash. More sweet creamy vanilla on the palate, some fruitiness but it all quickly turns to well-balanced set of baking spice notes that more or less take over the palate sweetness and continue into medium-long aftertaste with fruity and spicy peppers. Overall: It drinks like a sneaky-spicy cream soda. I don’t dislike it yet I find it a touch ‘two-note’ on repeated sips. It’s a sweet-turns-to-spicy number that doesn’t seem to deviate and offers little else. Do note, that it doesn’t need to offer much else as it’s mostly fine as is. Value: At $70 or so this is pretty good deal overall.
Score: B+

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Medley of sample reviews! Back in action!

It is(was) middle of roughly middle of the April when i started writing this. The allergies are killing me and it’s time to catch up on some of the samples. Then I was on-and-off sick with a nasty cold for a month. Everything in excess, right?

I’ve recently had a lovely tasting of things from Single Cask Nation which bottles lovely things… If you willing to afford paying their prices.
Cameronbridge 26, Refill Sherry — Dark, sherried and quite delicious. Coffee, chocolate, wood. — Score: Yay
Benrinnes 10, refill bourbon — Lovely and fruity nose, peppery palate. — Score: Meh+
Linkwood 13, American (Wine) Cask — Fantastic, lovely red fruits galore! $150 is kinda obscene cost though — Score: Yay
Inchgower 10, ‘Double Cask’, Ex-bourbon & Sherry — Really lovely sherried malt of unidentifiable origin — Score: Yay-
Caol Ila 8, ex-bourbon — Sweet, fruity and smoky in the best Caol Ila fashion — Score: Yay

Hubert Calvados 30, Pays d’Auge, K&L SP, 49%
Honestly no idea what I’m getting into here. This is a calvados from 1993, selected by K&L. Obviously I’m looking at it from whiskey-drinker’s perspective. Thanks David K for the sample. The nose is very armagnac-style and oozes of woodiness. There’s a note of old apple skins that plays well with the vanilla there. More and more wood on the palate, there’s also an odd soap-like note that I detect that probably something that’s inherent to calvados, that’s akin to a wax or paraffin flavor. The strange note is present through the entire experience, but not unwelcome. Medium length vanilla, spice and sweetness in the aftertaste follows. Overall: My sample was enjoyable though I cannot see reaching for this with regularity. Much much better than any other apple brandy I’ve tried… but that’s a very short list that I’ve sampled of that particular spirit. Value: At $99 this is basically a steal for the quality and age.
Read more here:
Score: B-

Gregarious Grump 30 Year Old Fine Bois Cognac, 1991, 52.9%
Another sample courtesy friend DavidK… Another sample from Chris Hart’s bottling company. This time a 30 year old cognac from 1991. Probably from Comandon domaine though that’s not a guarantee. As usual the disclaimer about whiskey-drinkers perspective, don’t take me too seriously, blah blah. The nose is dried fruits, vanilla extract, *strong* wood varnish. Strong wood notes continues into the palate, then thankfully opens up into tropical fruits and exotic spices… Followed by ‘dusty’ (tannic) finish that thankfully doesn’t quite overwhelm. Overall: This is a treat to those that like cognacs. Yet, it’s unlike typical light cognac style. Blind, I’d say it was armagnac. Either way, great drinker; it’s very enjoyable for those that like the woody brandies. Value: K&L cleared them out at $97 which is a fantastic value. The original MSRP is arguably still good in retrospect of tasting it.
https://www.klwines. … cognac-750ml/1667424
Score: B+

Old Forester (10) 1924, 50%
It’s a small sample, so I’ll be brief on this one. Also, thank you friend Michael! Nose is woody vanilla, with a touch of varnish in a good way. Palate is excellent bourbon, wood, spices, vanilla. Nothing too strong, nothing too weak. Overall: Excellent bourbon. Value: At MSRP of $115 it’s a touch steep… But this is competing with highly desired and allocated bottles here.
Score: A-

Pursuit United Bourbon, Small Batch, 54%
Continuing the theme of bourbon reviews. A blend of straight bourbon whiskeys here. Corn-forward nose with caramel and toasted wood notes. Enjoyable palate that delivers more or less all the typical bourbon notes, baking spices, cinnamon, vanilla and toasted corn. Lots of wood and complexity with plethora of primary notes, yet some of the funky grain eithers still remain. Peppery, spicy, slightly woody finish. Few drops of water helps with the palate. Overall: Enjoyable but too young blend. It really can use some more time to mellow out and let more of the funk disappear. Enjoyable and but not outstanding at the same time Value: About $70 is about average for high proof bourbon blend.
Score: B-

Ironroot Harbinger, 57.5%
A straight bourbon whiskey from Texas distillery? Does it go? It goes! Toasted vanilla and wood caramel nose. This smells somewhat… festive with mulled spice notes, without the wine. Enjoyable typical-bourbon palate with good balance of spice, wood and no offputting flavors. More of that toasted vanilla wood. An interesting eucalyptus and mint note shows up that I would associate with malted rye too. Interestingly, more of the malted rye notes in the aftertaste together with typical bourbon flavors. Water makes it sweeter, I wouldn’t bother as it drinks below its proof anyways. Overall: Surprisingly enjoyable. Nothing mind-bending, but a well-executed high proofer that’s got enough of the age and flavors to not lose in its category. There’s no way to compete with ECBP but this is sort of a similar thing in spirit. Value: ~$65, a reasonable price for this.
Score: B

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 118.4, 59.2%
A woodford reserve? High proof? Perhaps a decent one? Nose is deeply toasted wood and nutty caramel, very cologne-like. Sweet, nutty, woody, vanilla-forward palate. Slightly bitter baking spices around off the aftertaste. With water, some of the bitterness recedes, leaving few sweeter notes in the aftertaste. Overall: A very enjoyable Woodford Reserve pour. I’m reasonably pleased with this batch and it’s well worth trying. Obviously, the profile varies somewhat with each iteration. Value: At $109-119 it’s not particularly good deal. If it was at $99, it’d be passable value. I would certainly not pay sticker price for it but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Score: A-

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

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Arran Sherry Cask, Kilkerran 16, Ledaig 10, Balvenie 17, Benromach 12 CS Duo

I’m sneaking in these reviews in, while I continue my break from reviewing guilt-free and to catch up on currently pending open bottle notes.

Arran Sherry Cask (2021), 55.8%
This is new packaging from Arran, a NAS bottling at cask strength. Historically, I do like what Arran distillery does so let’s see if this keeps up. “Aged in sherry hogshead” line on the label suggests that it was aged in ex-bourbon cask that was sherry-seasoned. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that and it’s good note to have for enthusiasts. Notably, it’s quite lightly colored when compared to similar sherry-aged bottlings. The nose. oddly enough, evokes speyside notes, with orchard fruits and some sweet sherry notes, toasted sugar, and vanilla. The palate evokes more Speyside notes, with more of the same as the nose. We’ve got same orchard fruits and sherry sweetness, but it’s backed up by flavorful and nutty core, while the nose evokes red apples, the palate surprises with green apples and salted dark caramel. The aftertaste is long, meandering yet consistent, and gently spiced with a touch of chili heat. Overall: “I enjoy” is about the right summary here. It’s right up my alley, it’s flavorful but not overwhelming, it drinks slightly under its proof and it’s reasonably available. Yet, it’s a generic, sweet, NAS, sherried malt that’s bottled at cask proof and could be just about anything Speyside. Value: At about $75 this is at a price point comparable to its counterparts… I’ll note the value here as ‘reasonable’.
Score: B+

Kilkerran 16 (2021), 46%
A Campbeltown Kilkerran (Glengyle) bottling from 2021. They should get a marketing person, as putting “Matured in Oak” on label doesn’t seem like good use of real estate. Anyways… Light ash on top of malty and slightly salty nose, like an old beach campfire ashes that been sitting around for while. Balanced and mild palate with sweet malt and oak finely balanced out by some salinity and a bare touch of smoke. Long and gently fading aftertaste that gets sweeter and spicier as it lingers yet again with an absolute whisper of wood ash and smoke. Overall: This is a really good bottle. I don’t particularly love every Campbeltown product, yet this one is a solid offering and a solid drinker. Yes the light ashy smoke is there but it’s incredibly well integrated and doesn’t overwhelm. There’s nothing to really fault here, but I’m not going to buy another one of these due to personal preferences. Price: Findable at ~$150 this isn’t a particularly good value for a great drinker. Unfortunately, its price bracket contains a large number of excellent drinkers. Fans of distillery are welcome to apply and are unlikely to be disappointed. Others should know that are plenty of excellent independent bottlings in that price point and may consider something that is more interesting to them.
Score: A-

Ledaig 10, 46.3%
A core range Tobermory (unpeated)/Ledaig (peated) distillery offering. I frequently chime up about my preference for unpeated bottles, but let’s see how this compares. This is quite pungent on the nose, campfire smoke and some brine, not unpleasant by any means. With time roasted nut notes start appearing in addition to the already mentioned smoke and brine. Sweet and smoky palate, tropical fruits that’s been charred, fire-toasted bread. Medium length, lightly spiced and lightly smoked aftertaste that drops off somewhat abruptly towards the end. Overall: I’m enjoying this way more than I initially thought I would. It’s peated, but not overwhelmingly so and despite somewhat briny nose, the actual palate is quite sweet making whole experience reminiscent of smoked candies. Not overly complex but it doesn’t need to be. Value: Total wine has it listed at $70… which is somewhat reasonable for what we get here.
Score: B+

Balvenie 17, Doublewood, 43%
Sadly discontinued in 2021, The Balvenie 17 doublewood, whiskey (ex-bourbon) and sherry. Thanks Uncle Vadim! Malty, peppery, nutty, balanced. Bourbon sherry split somewhere around 80/20, bourbon is all primary notes with sherry mostly secondaries. Not going to bother writing more. It’s really good, though it needs like 3% more abv to be great. Price: Used to be $150. Discontinued.
Score: A-

Benromach 12, Total Wine SP, 58.2%
Benromach 12 Single cask selected by Total Wine. This is a sherry cask #849. As a side note, Benromach is a peated Speysider. The nose is fish bbq shack. That’s basically what it smells like. Salty and sweet, filled with old nutty smoke. Palate is nutty, and salty-sweet, erring on the sweet side, without being overwhelming. Aftertaste got a gentle touch of spice and a lingering sweet smoke note that lasts for a long time. Overall: This is my kind of peated pour. I very much like this! Whenever I say that I’m into sweet smoke… this is IT. Is it complex? No. Is it tasty? Absolutely! Value: At $68 it’s a steal in 2024 values!
Score: A-

Benromach 11, Total Wine SP, 57.5%
A bourbon cask counterpart to the Sherry Cask above with cask #967. The nose is peat, salt and vanilla. It’s punchy, it’s smoky, it’s slightly salty and it’s slightly sweet. It’s exactly what you’d expect a good peated bourbon cask to smell like. Salted, smoked vanilla palate reminds of hard dry-cured salted fish. The smoke doesn’t stick around for the aftertaste and it finishes as a salty, slightly spicy, vanilla number. Overall: Perfectly serviceable but it lacks something for me. Peated ex-bourbon fans of coastal and Islay distilleries that aren’t iodine-forward should apply. Value: Value: At $68 it’s a steal in 2024 values!
Score: B

As a side note… Mixing the two casks above together in a 1:1 combination essentially creates Benromach Batch Strength 1.

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Happy 2024 and beginning of the year pause

Happy Holidays. Happy New Year.

I cannot believe it’s 2024 already with ‘23 really flying by super quick. Quick announcement:

I’m taking a short break from writing up new entries to gather up new samples, finish open bottles and generally not stress about reviewing. Same as in 2023 I’ll be back by April or so.