Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A mix of things: Tagalong, Dewar’s 32, Linkwood, WhiskyFest

Some Samples Ahoy!

Booker’s ‘Tagalong Batch’ 2021-02, 63.95%
It’s been a while since I wrote about Beam. And perhaps I didn’t need to, but gotta get back into the habit of writing these once again. You know what… It’s a Booker’s. A pecan pie with cinnamon and vanilla Booker’s. A good one, actually. I tried it SbS with 2018 batches to compare and those are a lot hotter and cinnamon-forward, with Tagalong being nuttier, with less cinnamon. The typical Beam stuff is there but subdued. A well balanced, if a different take on a familiar spirit that should have fans wanting for more… unless the fans really want Red Hots… Then, it’s not your thing. Vanilla, some cherry and so many pecans, slightly changing between sips on the balance without becoming overwhelming. The typical Beam cinnamon aftertaste lasts a long time. This may not be a perfect ‘bourbon’ but it’s certainly a one of the best ‘Beams’.
Score: A-

Dewar’s Double Double 32, 46%
Some sort of Dewar’s brand-owned scotch blend finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks. Supposedly only two distilleries in the mix (thus the Double). The color is rich chestnut. The nose positively reeks of PX characteristic sweet figs. It’s going to be awesome! It’s very very good if you like sweet syrup whiskeys. Fortunately… I do indeed like those. The palate is sweet nutty fig syrup that’s for sure, sliding into spicy ex-bourbon (nearly metallic) secondary notes. Long aftertaste is clear mix of ex bourbon cask spice notes and sherry sweetness. Overall I really like it… but… This is PX finish so bourbon notes and sherry notes aren’t really well integrated so there’s a flavor canyon between primary flavors and aftertaste that feels like it’s missing something. This also got a lot of sherry in it that will mask any number of minor flaws. One of the easier ones to score at that age… Extremely easy drinker and worth seeking out to try… yet not quite enough to be amazing. It’s a little hard to describe, but basically for a heavily sherried pour there’s no body substance to it, some describe it as ’smooth’. It could be an 18 year old Alexander Murray and I’d struggle to tell the difference.
Also I’m not the only one that liked it: https://www.insideho … h-whisky-of-the-year
Score: A-

Linkwood 37, Distilled in 1978, Bottled in 2016, 50.3%
An official (Limited Edition) bottling of Linkwood at 37 years old… Cask proof… Celebration time! Omg! The nose… may just get this a high score before I even taste it. Ex-bourbon… Holy cow! Orchard fruits, mellow spices on the nose. Apples, pears, peaches! The nose is spectacular! You know what? I give up on ever bothering to review it. This is just straight up spectacular stuff. Top 3 non-sherried and non-peated scotch I’ve tried. Ex-bourbon and malt nuts must apply. Nuff said.
https://forwhiskeylo … od-37-year-old-750ml
Score: A+

WhiskyFest 2021 Special Report:
Super quick report in no specific order…
Michter’s ‘21 Rye is not that great, everything else was not available anymore
Paul John Mithuna is freaking AMAZING (but also EXPENSIVE)
Benromach 21 is fantastic & so are most of Gordon & McPhail casks at the show
Frey Ranch is great for grain-forward, young American stuff, not to mention weird 100% oat whiskey bottling which is… oat-forward
Courage & Conviction is middle of the road
Widow Jane is all over the place with Decadence being amazing and the rest being a Hit and Miss
Heaven’s Door regular is passable, but Redbreast edition is actually great (though probably still won’t buy)
Peerless is junk for everything that’s been poured
Bardstown stuff ain’t too special
Fuji whiskey was okay I guess, yet again no buy there.
Westward is alright at cask proof, though a little hot without substance
Overall: See you again in a few years

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fancy v2. Balblair, Bowmore, Highland Park, Bunnahabhain

Let’s get fancy again with the samples… I got a few…

Balblair 26; Vintage 1990, 46%
Kicking us off is an old Balblair distillery bottling. Dusty very dusty sherry with leather mixed in on the nose. Old wood workshop or a machine shop. Savory wood on the palate almost to the point of dill notes. Layers and layers and layers of flavor that’s so tightly bound that this becomes one flavor and none of the flavors. Mostly wood and some non-sweet sherry dominating with malt playing a 3rd fiddle somewhere. The aftertaste is medium with savory fading leaving a pleasant dusty sherry and spice sensation. Overall, this is totally not what I have expected here, an nearly over-wooded single malt with dill notes at brief glance. I really want to like this but either it’s not that great indeed, or my sample was too small to appreciate it. Interesting? Yes. Exciting? Not particularly. Will pay premium? No. Checkbox? Absolutely! Value: Its $250+… Yah, not a deal.
https://www.whiskyba … /99586/balblair-1990
Score: C+

Bowmore 24, Hunter Laing Old & Rare Single Cask. 53.2%
Got a sample via friend Jeffrey… I have to go off the sample label here since I am not able to find a record of this bottle in the whiskybase. The nose is super complicated with everything from pure malt to some iodine and some light peat that comes in goes in waves. The palate is paradoxically even more complicated, almost no peat to speak of but instead complex smoked cheese (gouda/mozzarella) flavors dominate together with complex malt sweetness. Butter pancakes, leche fruits, tropical undertones, this is incredible stuff. Long-long aftertaste that leaves some light smoke, yet again smoked string cheese and good cigar on the palate for a while. I don’t want it to go away frankly, and I’m the one that dislikes peat. Overall: Once in a blue-moon scotch experience of exceptional complexity and palate this is something that needs to be contemplated in front of the fire and taken in carefully and slowly. I don’t give out this sort of praises very often… Value: No clue on price but it’s not cheap… but holy cow! this is probably worth the price if it’s anywhere under $350.
AAAnd found it:
Score: A+

Orkney (Highland Park) 17; Single Cask Nation Stones of Stenness, 54.4%
Read the details here: https://singlecaskna … riant=40218088013997… It’s a 17 years old highland park (single cask) aged in 2nd fill oloroso. The nose is pure milk chocolate and caramel strongly reminding me of Ghirardelli caramel squares. Tiny whiff of iodine and sea salt in the back of the nose but that just makes it salted caramel squares. Palate is full of sherry funk with toasted, nearly charred, nuts and a solid streak of chili peppers; and so much wood. Malt and sherry sweetness balance off the woodiness, yet drinker beware, it’s right on the edge of being taken over. Long pleasant aftertaste carries most of the palate over for a long time with some ginger tingle coming up midway through. Overall: Deliciously nutty, woody, slightly smoky yet sherry sweet and well spiced dram. Lovers of sherry bombs will appreciate the complexity and concentration here. The overall experience could be a little too much for a casual drinker though. Value: Absolutely worth a pour, but as with most Highland Park single casks this is overpriced.
Score: A-

Bunnahabhain 28, 1991; Gordon & MacPhail 50.3%
A refill hogshead (ex-bourbon) production. I was afraid of this to be peated; yet it does not seem to be peated at all. Aren’t I a lucky one? Whelp; the nose says ‘this is a malt monster’. Vanilla extract and malt galore on the nose indeed. Superbly multi-layered palate with more oak/vanilla, tropical fruits and bourbon baking spices, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest, green jalapenos and yet again so much malt. Aftertaste is numbing and last for a while, while being surprisingly hot for its proof with chili spice and vanilla fighting for control. Overall: I’m not a fan and perhaps expected better with the pedigree. Super tightly wound ex bourbon that borders on mint, dill and green jalapeno salsa or just metallic on the palate. Slightly too many things going on in there without proper backbone; slightly too unbalanced. Stick this into refill sherry… and it’d be a winner, but alas we get ex-bourbon. This requires contemplation and no contemplation will be had at a bar. Enjoyable enough as a sample at least. Value: Circa $300… In a refill bourbon… Let’s go with medium cost at best; bordering on overpriced.
https://www.whiskyba … bunnahabhain-1991-gm
Score: C+

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

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The 300th review… Let’s get fancy! Laddie, Glenfarclas, Glendronach, Highland Park

… And for my next trick… I have some number of reasonably old and fancy samples that I was going to review so may as well do it now to commemorate the occasion.

I’ve been writing down some sort of feedback for whiskey on this site for about two years now with first review published on 2019-01-05 https://www.aerin.or … y:entry190105-080208. One of the below entries will cross the 300th score I’ve given. A number of early reviews doesn’t have actual grades, but instead I’ve retroactively scored them as ‘N/A’ since I wasn’t doing scoring system at the time.

Bruichladdich 23, 1993, Cadenhead SiB, Ex-Bourbon, 48.9%
My experience with Cadenhead bottlings hasn’t been great so far… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210108-212720 But fingers crossed? Anyways, onto this… Color is white straw… really light even for ex-bourbon and such age. On the other hand, the nose… is luxurious (I’m expecting I’ll be using a lot of ‘luxurious’ in this post overall) vanilla, cereal, malt notes with lots of green apples opening up over time. Not even a whiff of smoke either. The palate got a surprising amount of ‘green wood’, a bunch of apples, vanilla, and surprisingly thin consistency for its age. In the aftertaste some spice finally comes out but it really fades fast and nothing particularly interesting is in there, leaving little bit of woody aftertaste in the mouth. Considering this is a Laddie… it tastes nothing like other Bruichladdich product I’ve ever tried. Really, this is something I’ve have expected out of Old Malt Cask and even then, OMCs of this age have been much more interesting. Yet another Cadenhead’s ‘dud’, IMHO. Oh, it’s prenty tasty and very drinkable but this isn’t anywhere near what I expected it to be based on distillery name. Thin consistency, spiced apple, vanilla and cereal mix this could be anything generic in there. It is certainly enjoyable on the palate but with the distillery and the age this is an awful value/performance ratio. Tough one to score, but settling on ‘purely taste-based’ score, as scarcity and value pushes it easily into C’s. Don’t bother chasing it down; to say that I’m disappointed would be correct. With Cadenhead proclaiming themselves experts at IB’s they can and shoud do much better than that.
https://www.whiskyba … ruichladdich-1993-ca
Score: B-

Glenfarclas 24, K&L SP, 1st fill Oloroso, 50%
1990 vintage. 1st fill oloroso. Something special? Yes indeed! A treat! Nose is just luxurious old wood, slightly sweet and nutty varnish backed by alcohol, baking spices, some stewed fruits. My gosh, I can spend hours with my nose in the glass. It’s that good. The palate… Tobacco and leather in the back; party in the front. Incredibly intense, dark and rich with flavors. Not too sweet, it could be considered just a tad too woody… Yet… So good. Dark bitter caramel and nuts are in play all over together with vanilla and woodyness. Minor nit at the very back of the long aftertaste as it becomes a little bit too charred and woody and it’s really crying out for a just a tiny dollop of sweetness there. It mostly fades with repeated tastes and few drops of water, which are both needed and not necessary depending on the preference. Super delicious nonetheless and for Oloroso fans this is incredible. Not too spicy, not too bitter, not too sweet, yet still amazing overall. Deliciously balanced treat bottled nearly a decade ago from an era of affordable quality that’s long gone by now. This easily matches some of the best from Glendronach on enjoyment.
Score: A+

Highland Park 27, Sherry, 52.6%
No other information provided. Gotta go on guesses. Varnish on the nose suggests oloroso and the color suggests 1st fill. Very intense sherry notes, fruit compote, little bit of sea salt and lots of baking spices. Another one I can spend a long time with my nose stuck in the glass. There seems to be a pattern btw, 20+ year old sherry casks do that to me. Just on the nose alone… Incredible! Creamy consistency on the palate, sherry, woody and spices dominate yet not unbalanced. Perhaps a touch of smoke somewhere in there, but hard to be found under everything and as with a lot of old peated whiskeys the actual peat usually binds to sherry to create more complex molecules rather than staying a dumpster fire, but I digress. Lots of coffee and some leather on the aftertaste, yet again with wood and spices. The overall experience isn’t sweet but stays well balanced. Yet again, lots of wood influences in this one but as would be expected out of sherry single cask with such age. Old, dark, thick, slightly smoky, with the smells of mothballed smokehouse, dusty sherry cask? Yes please! This is extremely complex multi layered experience going on in the glass here. Yet again, I’ll use the uninhabited island analogy on whether or not I’d be left with supply of this there… and the answer is very much a ‘yes’. Complexity and flavor like these don’t come around very often. This also takes few drops of water like a champ and arguably becomes the better for it, with slightly sweeter palate as alcohol takes a step back. An easy score here.
It is unclear if that’s the same bottle, but it’s the only one that matches on Whiskey Base: https://www.whiskyba … ighland-park-1988-ca
Score: A+

Glendronach 26, PX Puncheon #5963, 55%
To cap this lineup… We got my personal favorite distillery Glendronach! The nose screams “Hello PX”, aka stewed fig compote. There’s so much dessert sweetness on the nose. On the palate it’s everything I want. It’s sweet yet woody, bitter yet spicy and balanced. So oaky as to be nearly charry with bbq smoke this evokes some sweeter Texas smoke notes to me, yet totally unpeated. The aftertaste is a bit of a letdown, quite woody sliding from sweet into spicy and slightly charry bitterness. But it lasts a heck of a long time. Short version, this is really really good, but not quite amazing. Unfortunately, it’s got too much wood influence going on in there that’s not quite as balanced as I would have truly preferred. Good? Absolutely, with plenty of wow factor. Amazing overall? Not quite.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/175347
Score: A-

A small retrospective is in order. As evidenced by a number of high grades above… I am a big fan of sherried 20+ year old single casks so my opinions are certainly biased and subjective. Please make up your own mind and palate based on your own preferences, mine are truly my own.

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

Friday, February 5, 2021

Single Grain Scotch: Invergordon 31 & 29, Caledonian 45

Caledonian 45 Single Grain, 46.2%
Sovereign-bottled, 45 year old single grain scotch, distilled in 1965… This is a rare treat via friend. Wonderfully sweet and woody and almost malty nose with honeycomb and dark honey dominating, some dark leather notes are also float up with time. Palate is surprisingly full of old smoke, leather, tobacco… Reminds me of insides of an old leather suitcase. Nearly salty with pine resin, intensely flavored and surprisingly not sweet. This almost tastes peated, though my understanding that this isn’t peated at all. Nose and palate are extreme opposites here. Aftertaste is sadly a little of a letdown with some residual smoke from the palate. While the final notes linger for a long time, initial rush of flavors fades pretty fast. Superbly layered, mind-bending and interesting, my only real complaint is that this could have really used a tiny bit of sweetness. As is, any fan of Springbank should be all over this like a holy grail it may be for them. Sadly, long sold out and probably bunkered by the few lucky rich folks that picked it up back in the day. Definitely one of those bottles that needs to be contemplated on in front of the fire in a winter storm.

Note: I find it difficult to score due to the large combination of factors in play here. A dead distillery, 1965 distillation year, age and uniqueness are all in play. I think in the end, I’d not have enjoyed it enough to justify the $400 price… But I’m also not a huge fan of Springbank savory light peat style. For those that are fans of that… this would be 101% Holy Grail level bottle. For me… Well, my score is below.
Score: A- to A+ (Subjective)

Invergordon 31 Single Grain, Sovereign, 52%
A Sovereign bottling sample, that I happen to have a bottle of, so let’s look at it as a preview. Nose is vanilla caramels all the way with some alcohol burn. The palate is reverse, almost no alcohol, toned down caramel and sugar, but now some wood and tiny bit of smoke come up. The palate continues with more fruit, bits of salt and some honeycomb. As usual with single grains, the aftertaste fades fairly fast but displays no surprises and follow closely with the palate. So many layers of flavor are in this though it’s mind-boggling. Bottlings such as these make me respect single grain scotch more and more… Though, granted, there are plenty of duds too. I wish this had little bit more of an aftertaste, but still what a ride regardless. Deliciously good and totally worth its price.
Score: A-

Invergordon 29 Single Grain, Barrel-to-Bottle, 57.9%
Aged for 29 years in a 1st refill Tennessee (Jack Daniels) casks. This certainly is an interesting one. When I initially opened it… I thought this was “the most bourbon-like single grain I’ve ever had” from the nose… But that isn’t the whole story is it? The nose is actually very bourbon-light with spice and raspberries rather than burnt caramel corn. The palate is tightly coiled, baking-spiced vanilla creme brulee and a long spicy aftertaste to match. To be clear this ain’t the easiest of drinkers at full proof as the alcohol is quite prominent with not much to hide behind. Adding water cuts the burn down and allows that spicy raspberry palate to shine through. All of a sudden, its sweet red fruit dessert that’s fantastically balanced and quite delicious. With the disclaimer that this is certainly not everyone’s pour, adding water flips it from ‘drinkable’ to ‘enjoyable’. That being said, I was really hoping that it had some additional flavor layerings as is the case with older single grains… Overall this is a definite ’something different for dessert’ pour of the night. Surprisingly subtle and restrained after water. This isn’t one to be paired with food though for its subtle flavors would get easily lost… Though I wonder if a good cigar would add that smoke element layer that this may be lacking. That being said… Unfortunately, there are plenty of interesting things in the price range so YMMV and this isn’t like most other single grains I’ve enjoyed.
Score: C

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Starward & GlenDronach Tasting

Starward Capsule Thoughts:
Another tasting today, this time with Australia’s Starward Distillery. I believe I’ve covered Starward Nova earlier here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200912-201749 but there were also Two Fold and Solera samples to try. Nova and Two Fold are fully aged in red wine barrels and Solera aged in Apera (Australian Sherry) casks. Overall, their offerings are delicious, very cask type-forward and quite sweet, which I like personally. They are almost dessert-like whiskeys. My personal preference going to Solera as its got that nutty sherry profile which I like. The only minor downside is that I wish there were bottled at somewhat higher abv but at the price vs taste its really hard to complain about. All the whiskeys from this distillery I’ve tried so far have been delicious, though uncomplicated compared to older scotch. They would make fantastic @work treats or starter bottles for those that like sweeter malt. There’s a lot of value in Starward bottles as stocking stuffers or a great bottle to take to the party as just about any of them are super enjoyable and more than drinkable even for those that aren’t used to malt whiskeys. I’m told they also work quite well in highballs cocktails, due to higher sweetness and wine influence. I’m also red wine barrel-biased as I enjoy that profile combination with single malt. Personally, I’m unlikely to stock any bottles but it doesn’t stop me from recommending it.
Score: Nova B-
Score: Solera B
Score: Two Fold B-
Overall Grade: B

GlenDronach Tasting
Quick reviews on lineup and then overall thoughts afterwards.

GlenDronach 12
Previously covered here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry190105-080208, this is solid, everyday, somewhat uncomplicated, yet satisfying drink.
Score: B-

GlenDronach 15 Revival
This has a story for sure, not too much of a secret but around 2010s GlenDronach was running out of 15 year old barrels, so someone at the distillery insisted on bottling much older stocks instead of discontinuing or pausing label production. So if one were to find an older bottling by chance (it will state that it’s “Exclusively Matured in finest Oloroso Sherry Casks” vs current is “Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso”) it can contain up to 21 years old whiskey inside. Although history is great, let’s get back to the current sample. The nose is sweet sherry while the palate is all leather, tobacco, sweet sherry and toasted nuts overlay. Deep and well balanced flavor that leans to the sweeter side, with some nice complexities that are starting to come through and shine well. Still slightly muddled individual notes but the greatness is starting to be visible palatable. Great mid-range price and fantastic flavor profile typical to the distillery bottlings makes this a must try and highly versatile crowd pleaser even for a discerning audience.
Feel free to read better-written brief history/review here: https://whiskyreview … ndronach-15-revival/
Score: B (A if from ~2015)

GlenDronach 18 Allardice
Notably darker than the 12 or 15, the 18 is a departure from the ‘norm’ in some ways. It’s still obvious to see its a sherry bomb, but the nose is a lot dryer than 15 and there’s more leather coming through that’s not overwhelmed by sherry sweetness. Big and bold flavors on display yet again, as is the case with all the samples from GlenDronach, though with 18 I feel it suffers somewhat from too much wood or perhaps different balance. Whatever it may be, it feels oddly unbalanced and leans towards sweet wood/leather and isn’t what 18 year old ‘flagship’ should represent. Surprising to myself I’m finding it hard to recommend for others to buy a bottle. Certainly try it at the bar as its got that bold big flavor that’s easy on the palate, but even then you may be better served by having a 15 at roughly half the price. It is growing on me with time and repeated tasting from the glass, but it does occupy that weird niche between excellent 15 that’s much cheaper, and a 21 that’s not excessively more expensive, without having something outstanding about itself other than ‘great scotch’. I’d expect decent sherry finished ~20 year old Kirkland from Costco at about $70-$80 to have about same kind of balance and profile.
Score: B (B- for value)

GlenDronach 21 Parliament
This is great stuff. Nose, palate and aftertaste are in perfect harmony. Basically what I wrote for 15 year old above… but ‘better’. All those great notes and the balance are back and are in perfect harmony. Fantastic stuff that’s great for connoisseurs and novices alike… Oddly enough this reminds of older bottlings of 15 year old Revival… Oh wait, it’s likely that’s exactly what I’ve had at the time and I mentioned I’d be happy to be marooned on an uninhabited island with supply of this back in the day. This is great stuff. End of review.
Score: A

GlenDronach ???
Assuming you are a fan of sherried unpeated single malt, this sample is amazing, all the praises. Full stop. By all rights, this shouldn’t be in my hands for a zoom tasting. Even more so, it shouldn’t be a sample. This bottling is an exemplar of what defines (sherried, unpeated) single malt scotch and why many many folks are obsessed with older bottles. The sample turned out to be a 25 year old Master’s Vintage, a mix of 17 casks from 1993. This quality level is from a bygone era and is essentially out of reach for regular consumers. Do better options exist? Sure, but easily at twice the price or perhaps in private casks but those don’t show up in retail. This is certainly up there in the top ranked bottles I’ve ever tried in this style.
https://www.whiskyba … 680/glendronach-1993
Score: A+

Final Thoughts
If Macallan essentially paved the way for sherried single malt bottlings, GlenDronach is effectively current reigning king since all their bottles are sherried. Amazing work by amazing brand ambassador Rory Glasgow who went above and beyond on this tasting. One of the first tastings I had over Zoom and definitely one of the greats. The sample kits were amazing. The personal touches were fantastic and the lineup was mind-blowing. Not to mention and quality and the quantity of swag; branded Glencairn Glass helped too :). This tasting has set essentially unreachable bar for any other one so far, even more so that this was actually free.
Overall: Exceptional

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