Thursday, April 23, 2020

Open Shelf Backlog Clearing… It’s malt time! Glentauchers, Clynelish, Nikka

Glentauchers 15 - Chieftain’s Single Sherry Butt
Wife Notes: Very fragrant. Front is sharp. Middle is okay. Back is nice. Fragrance, perfume and burn-y raisins,

A Speyside distillery I never heard of before this bottle. Oh yes, the sherry bomb. Arguably a nuclear sherry bomb. The most sherry bomb. It knows best bombs. Ramblings with a tinge of mocking aside, this is a dream for those looking for that oomph. The color needs to be mentioned as its pretty much dark amber, bordering on chestnut. This thing evolves overtime in the glass. Nose, unmistakably sherry, floor wax, lots of dark stewed fruits and nuts going on in there. Layers and layers of evolving sweet dark fruity goodness. Mouth, surprisingly savory instead of sweet, more of the same from the nose, wood and malt coming through as expected as well as a tiny bit of alcohol burn mixed with few bitter char notes. I suspect it needed to be bottled as it was becoming over aged in its barrel. The back is more of the burnt fruits coming forward as well as baking spice that is almost bourbon-like in its character. The malt character itself is unfortunately mostly lost under all that dark influence.
Overall: 15 year old, over-barreled, sherry bomb? Lots of folk love these. I’ll summarize it as something along the lines of ‘its tasty, but…. slightly off balance’. Would i buy another one? Likely not. Would i encourage others to try it? Absolutely! It’s a fascinating and pure sherry experience that is as concentrated as it gets without suckling at the actual barrel. Also, at original $75 the amount of flavor this provides for the price is real deal!
Score: N/A

Clynelish 14
Wife Notes: “I don’t like this. Very citrus-y and burn-y and not much else”

Ah Clynelish, the less-pretty sister of the legendary Brora… It’s also notable that there’s only one regular release by the distillery at 14 years old and most of the incredible amount of output from her stills ends up in blends. The distillery and brand are owned by Diageo, who as a company ain’t well thought of in the whiskey enthusiast world due to noticeable decline of quality of brands after being acquired as higher demand on throughput is asked of distillers and commitment to excellence slips in favor of profits. Clynelish also happens to be a linchpin of several blends.
Let’s talk Clynelish 14. Honestly, I like it. Its not a shining star in my book, but extremely serviceable malt that hits the right tone and has the right complexity. On the nose, lots and lots and lots of wood in my dram, slight alcohol burn and a tiny bit of ethanol whiff. I may be one of the few weirdos that like that smell in small quantities. Citrus peel comes through strong on second and third nose as well as green apple skins. Palate is where it shines, almost savory, more of those apples and ton of wood tannin coming in. Long finish that’s similar to the taste, doesn’t overwhelm but my mouth is coated with whiskey and its been several minutes while the aftertaste still has no indications of fading away, slight lemon peel bitterness at the very end. Very strong wood influence through and through, slightly oily while drinking, readily coats your mouth. In conclusion, its no prince, but being adopted into royal family ain’t too bad of a deal in the end of the day. As an aside… I’ve read that this thing is supposed to be lightly peated!? There’s certainly a ‘brine’ undertones to it, slightly reminiscent of ‘Laddies, but for the life of me, I’d not have said this has any peat in it beyond water residuals.

I can see why folks go coo-coo over old Brora juice. Clynelish 14 is probably 7/10 for my preferences, but if it was cranked up to 11 and with addition of another 15 years… Yes that would be lovely.
Score: N/A

Nikka from the Barrel
Wife Notes: Perfume and burnt sugar.

Ah, Japanese whiskey… Japanese ‘craft’ their whiskeys as opposed to Scotland’s ‘lets-see-what-happens’ approach to taste. I like you J-whiskeys! The world likes you a lot too. Japan is a small place and the world is thirsty for good Japanese malts, thus the pricing in the last few years have doubled or in some cases went through the stratosphere. It also helps that Japanese malt basically won every possible alcohol accolade and award in the last decade or so. Bottled by Nikka as a blend of different whiskeys from the same distillery, including grain whiskey, coffey still products as well as regular single malt, and consistently bottled at 51.4 abv for some odd Japanese-specific reason. The actual formula and contents is not disclosed other that its from Nikka distillery.
Nose: as is the rule of thumb with most Japanese malts… this one gives all the perfume on the nose and tends to fall into mostly oak-y sweetness with a hefty alcohol punch. Honestly, if i didn’t know its a blend… i wouldn’t have been able to call that aspect out. It is that expertly crafted. In the mouth, more sweet oak, balanced with alcohol burn and light tropical fruits in a hefty harmony. The alcohol is felt right through this one, yet perfectly balances with other flavors. Tiny bit of oak tannin in the very end and more of a white pepper back. Yet again very reminiscent of the best single malts from highlands. Beautiful, not over-sweet and balanced finish that’s unmistakably well-crafted Japanese whiskey.
In conclusion: Should you get a bottle? Yes definitely, if you can find it at MSRP! Would I? I already did. This is excellence in a bottle with a razor’s edge of balance that is ever strived for by both producers and consumers of malt. Think about Hibiki 12 that listened to too many death metal songs and now is an edgy goth makeup-covered person yet still the same sweetheart underneath and you will get the picture.
FYI: It’s Japanese-bottled Ben Nevis scotch after looking where the folks in the know are.
Score: N/A

Saturday, April 18, 2020

EHT, Hancock’s, Balcones, Open Shelf Backlog Clearing… the Americans

Short preface… If you asked me about 5 years ago about American Single Malt, I’d laugh… but since then a number of new distilleries opened up that produce well regarded, and often delicious spirit.

Side Note: Continuing going down the open bottles on the shelf… I noticed an interesting fact… When i started writing these entries, I went through my open backlog at that time. And none of it is around anymore.

In addition to the ones below, I have Woodinville Bourbon (Double Gold SF Spirits 2020) and Dickel Bottled-in-Bond (Whiskey of the Year 2019 Spirits Advocate) open, but I’ve already talked about those two being excellent so I won’t repeat myself. Now, without further ado… I present the open bottles of American spirit that I am willing to have on The Shelf. As a side note, the price and availability of decent bourbons is… atrocious, but that’s something for a rant on a different day…

Colonel E.H. Taylor Bottled-in-Bond Small Batch
Wife Notes: Classic old school french perfume and cheerios. Smell-taste-aftertaste is exactly same. Not too much burn.

Short version… This stuff is delicious! If you can find it at about $50 its an amazing deal! Lets go through the pieces one by one, shall we… For once, I’ll talk about packaging first. This is one of the fanciest boxes that I’ve dealt with. Especially at that price, embossed lettering, stickers, the works. Someone in the marketing department really knows their stuff and this packaging isn’t cheap! No information on mashbill but the rest is there complete with a story and pictures. Nose: Cherry pie! Classic american black cherry pie. Cherry isn’t overwhelming but that little sweet-and-sour whiff is there and spot on. Palate is more pie, this time with less cherry and more classic bourbon spice. The alcohol is present but not overwhelming and balanced between sweet and spicy. The aftertaste… more of the same, long and very slow to fade. Yet again perfectly balanced. No bitterness, just spice, sweetness, and tiny bit of cherry lingering back there. Delicious, don’t be afraid to pick up a bottle or two. Fantastic sipper, Great to share. Should fit right into a manhattan if you’re feeling little extra.

Edit and Addendum: Having Tried EHT Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond.

With the caveat that every barrel is different, I’ve not found anything special in the single barrel vs small batch. The individual notes were somewhat clearer but the overall melody was essentially the same. Overall, I don’t believe it’s worth chasing down BiB single barrel version or pay secondary price for a bottle.
Score: N/A

Hancock’s President’s Reserve Single Barrel
Wife Notes: Fruity. Tasty. Bread vanilla spice, not too much alcohol, warm finish

This is an interesting one. Picked up from Total Wine on a whim and off the ScotchNoob’s review. This bottle’s labeling is borderline awful and is at best unremarkable. The bottle shape itself is beautiful and evokes crystal decanter in shape and indents. The contents are at 88.9 proof and ’single barrel’ are the only data points given aside from this being Buffalo Trace juice. Lets dig in! This is by far the easiest-drinking bourbon I’ve had, but it doesn’t drink at all like a bourbon. It drinks more of a fruit punch. Decadent strong bourbon-y nose, sweet baking spices on the palate, flowers flowers flowers!!! almost no sign of alcohol, medium length full volume finish that lingers sweet in the very back as a subtle aftertaste for a very long time. Basically fancy Hawaiian fruit punch! Mai Tai with cloves and nutmeg? Complete disconnect of nose to palate, yet somehow still amazing for me. Would I pick another bottle? Absolutely (at msrp of around $50)! I’m like 3rd into the bottle and I only drank from it 3 times. It’s that easy of a drinker.
https://scotchnoob.c … -presidents-reserve/
https://www.totalwin … on-whiskey/p/5350750
Score: N/A

Balcones Texas Single Malt Whiskey Single Barrel Cask Strength (Total Wine Pick)
Wife note: Cheerios again. Very burny palate and tasty-sweet aftertaste. With water: Much better! Butter cookies.

Balcones is a Texas-based distillery, they have been in the press a lot due to interesting takes on distilled spirits with a fairly distinctive southern style, such as blue corn and interesting limited editions. Their entire aesthetic screams “Texas”. So today we’re talking about their single malt. Being single cask, this is highest proof bottle I have open at 64.3%. It’s technically good enough to be hand sanitizer. On the nose, burnt (think charred) sugar, bit of sandalwood, and tons of vanilla together with malt. Reminds of caramelized sugar on top of creme brûlée. No smoke but a bit of that char bitterness is there. Palate is alcohol bite, more vanilla and a lot of spices. More of that char too, almost ashy, the spirit and spices warm up as it goes down. Medium length sweet aftertaste much more balanced than the palate. Still that char and sandalwood, some spices that fade pretty fast into pleasant leftovers. With water, the palate snaps into line with the nose and aftertaste, and becomes brown-sugar cookies that are nicely toasted. Water recommended!
Overall, I cannot quite make my mind on it. It’s good in its own way but this one is not quite balanced well at full proof. I’ve certainly wanted to try single malt from this distillery and its a worthwhile experiment.
As a side note: This particular bottle gets me drunk really fast where others hardly phase me.
https://www.totalwi … e-brlsel/p/191597750
Score: N/A

Monday, April 13, 2020

@Work Bardstown, Old Forester (Cask), Linkwood

This is the last of my @Work Series for a bit as we’re all sitting at home due to COVID-19 fun times. This time its two tasty bourbons and a extra special treat.

Bardstown Fusion ~$60
Wife Notes: Sugar, vanilla, baking spices. Very apple-pie.

One of the newer entries to the american bourbon market, Bardstown tries to cover all the bases… Their bottle design is frankly beautiful. They are fairly open with what is in the bottle. The only true downside is the price. The fusion is their ‘cheap’ blend that starts at around 60 and it only goes from there. So back to the Fusion Series #1 is a blend of 60% of Bardstown Bourbon Company’s two-year-old wheated and high-rye Kentucky bourbons along with 40% of 11 year 7 month bourbon also from Kentucky. The high-rye is very apparent in the palate and somewhat balancing to the nose. But lets disassemble this one one step at the time. On the nose, that sweet rye and high wheat is very nose-forwards definitely brown sugar and rye cookies. In the mouth… mixed bag. The wheat and rye are tasty but the back is pretty strongly bulleit-like which is something not into my cup of drinking… Will I be picking up another bottle? No. Is it passable for @work drinks? Sure if you like fancy Bulleits. Plenty of better things at this price point.

Side note: I mention Bulleit bourbon several times in this review… At this point I’m not 100% sure that I’m name-calling correctly, but it has a very specific flavor profile I’m somehow associating with Bulleit bourbon in my head and too cheap/lazy to buy a bottle to try it to confirm. Specifically, it is a subtle caraway/anise/sour/metallic aftertaste that I don’t quite enjoy. One of those days I’ll figure out what exactly I’m tasting as it seems to be a common among sourced bourbons which suggests its a specific distillery character. … eries-bourbon-750-ml
Score: N/A

Old Forester (Cask Single Barel) ~$40
Wife Notes: Too spicy and alcohol-y on the nose. Chanel #5 in the mouth.

Picked a bottle of $40 Old Forester single cask on a whim of trying something new. This is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. Burnt sugar and roses on the nose promising a spice-rich contents of the glass… but wait… its… not rich and spicy… Instead its… Rosewater, tannic dark grapes, persimmons and that burnt-sugar vanilla coating it all without being overwhelming. Think bourbon nose, perfume mouth. Very disjointed. Very interesting and different. With a mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley the corn funk is evident but doesn’t detract from the experience. The aftertaste of spices lingers for a very very long time. Few of my coworkers think they were getting soapy aftertaste but I think they never drank perfume and it shows. Jokes aside, its an excellent, if subversive, bottle for a single cask at $40 though would be better appreciated in comfort of a contemplative environment… if you like corn-forward mash its a study of excellence and a steal at that price. … arrel-bourbon-750-ml
Score: N/A

Special Treat: Linkwood 19 Cask Strength Alexander Murray ~$100
Wife notes: Too strong. Can’t taste or smell anything. (Editor Note: Weakling!)

This is a last treat from @work for a while. I was able to pick up a special taster off a whiskey cart in the building. Well, a present for myself it is then. On the nose, wood and cereal notes, visually it looks like a bourbon refill and nose confirms it being a reasonably fresh barrel with lots of wood and burnt sugar notes, yet a tiny bit of corn sourness rather than sherry funk. More cereal and sweet malt on the front. The back is all wood. Like licking a barrel almost, drying, roasted nuts or peanuts with skins on. Very woody but oh so delicious. The alcohol provides a solid burn with nowhere to hide from it and then long finish of more deeply roasted nuts, nearly metallic and lingers for a while. For me… delicious. Would I pick a bottle? If I could at reasonable price, I would! I like this style. Be-warned…. its more raw than it has the right to be at 19 years old and 54% abv. A bit of water calms the burn down to a much mellower and much more balanced refill bourbon that’s excellent across the board.
https://www.whiskyba … 46/linkwood-1997-amc
https://alexandermur … malts/linkwood-1997/
Score: N/A

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Glen Scotia, Balmenach, Strathclyde, Longmorn, Open Shelf Backlog Clearing…

Aaaaaaaaiiii Corona! Whelp, we’re all stuck at home so what a time to be alive… And stress-shop for booze… aaaaand drink it? But this isn’t about new stuff its about catching up on what is open on my shelf that I’ve not yet written about… I’ll be arranging it in a semi-random order of me drinking it.

2003 Glen Scotia “Malts Festival 2019 Limited Edition
Wife notes: Get that away from me! Ewwww. (She does not enjoy peat)

Full name: 2003 Glen Scotia “Malts Festival 2019 Limited Edition” Rum Cask Finish Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky… What a mouthful… And speaking of mouthfuls… Let’s talk nose on this one. To be clear it’s not overpowering… but its sooo punchy and clear and all I can think of is “smoked sugar”. The peat actually fades into background after few minutes and leaves mostly stewed fruits and something tropical, toasted banana on a hibachi grill (why hello there rum). The palate is all about smoke and sugar in almost perfect harmony as it rolls through my tongue alternatively sweet and smoky. Not overly long yet very pleasant smoked stewed red fruits this time with the last whiffs of smokiness fading into little campfire sweetness. Utterly delicious and I am not huge peat fan to enjoy peated whiskeys, but enjoy this one I did. If i could reliably keep it on my shelf instead of Lagavulin 16, I would. To me its that versatile.
https://scotchnoob.c … malts-festival-2019/
Score: N/A

Balmenach 11 Single Cask Old Particular
Wife Note: Medical Alcohol. Do not want.

One of less than 300 bottles out of refill hogshead. As usual with the refills this one leans heavily into cereal excellence territory… Or basically showcases malt rather than cask. 59% its heck of a proof and it definitely shows in the nose, combined with 11 years of age there’s still a good chunk of that mash funk going on in there while it gets some air, it mostly goes away after 10 mins or so. None of those are negatives :). Its funky interesting toasty cereal on the nose. With time the palate opens up into something utterly delicious and unbecoming of a 11 year old. Once past the alcohol bite, its all about spices and cereal notes. Almost sweet but balanced, it goes down into drying spices and a long lingering roasted barley finish, not quite bitter enough to be unpleasant. So Definitely my seal of approval for this one. Sweet peppery cereal, basically. Yum. As a side note this is more interesting or on par with most old malt casks I’ve opened so far. Lets see how it goes down the line.
Score: N/A

Strathclyde 30 Single Grain Cask Strength
Wife Note: Burnt Sugar and vanilla. Its butter cookies.

Let me summarize this in few words… Butter Cookies! I’ve talked about single grain scotch before, and how much I love old single grain and here we are again… This time with an amazing 30 year old bottle. I’m, if ever, utterly blown away by the variety and difference that age and barrel can do to cask’s contents and somehow there are still these mind-blowing flavors can can be coaxed out of a glass. Beyond a tiny whiff of alcohol its basically toasted coconut butter cookies. Very perfume-y and delicate yet still evoking those images of (Mel Gibson’s Braveheart) Scottish highlanders when nosed. This one does need to sit for about 10 minutes to open up into it but the longer it sits in the glass the sweeter and deeper that sugar-vanilla cookie combination is. Straight up amazing and unlikely to be repeated. (Oh, wait I have another bottle of this squirreled away so yay me!).
Score: N/A

Longmorn 14 Single Cask (Old malt Cask)
Wife’s note: Honey Nut Cheerios

On the nose, sweet malt, mellow, sorta apple-banana but not quite, definitely light tropical notes. For me the entire start to finish screams regular cheerios. The spirit itself is very gentle for a 54.9% and its age, considering there’s nothing to hide behind in the refill barrel. Palate is more of the same from the nose, now some malt sweetness, and bit of spice in the back. The finish is initially full of white pepper but then fades into more of that cheerios sweet grain aftertaste. Think Mini Wheats and you’ll get the idea. Deceptively subtle… But add some water… It turns on its head opening up a lot more spice and wood to the palate and becomes almost overwhelmingly complex in its flavors without changing the nose. All that white pepper back unfolds and sprays licorice and bitter citrus peel back into the palate, adding a bunch of wood out of nowhere and it’s as if I’m drinking something entirely different. I’m starting to look at un-watered dram like a tightly-wound spring that just explodes given a chance. One of the few dual-faced whiskeys I’ve had and it’s a pleasure.

Old malt casks I’ve tried so far are all about the celebration of the spirit itself with refill of a refill of a refill wood so its less about the cask and more about the spirit itself and that’s not a bad thing, there will be more but I think this one happens first one that I write about :)
Score: N/A