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