Saturday, June 27, 2020

Belle Meade and Joseph Magnus Bourbons

Belle Meade Cask Strength Batch 13 — 56% — MSRP ~$60
Nose: High alcohol burn. Charred wood. Bits of varnish. This thing is highly octane and active on the nose. The usual wood and spices are there. Some notes of sweet cherry jam. Oddly, I’m starting associate that those cherry notes on the nose with Buffalo Trace character or occasional Old Forester.
Taste: Drinks as if its higher proof. I cannot quite believe its only 56%. Tasting blindly, I’d give it fairly easy mid-60s. Fairly uncomplicated bourbon here other than high flavor concentration and proof. The usual bourbon notes play, wood and spices galore. Wood is a little overwhelming and gives it almost bitter taste. Unfortunately the wood and spices strangle wonderful vanilla sweet notes that are trying to get out but just cannot pull from the undercurrent.
Aftertaste: Medium long and more wooden bitterness with sweet vanilla finally winning towards the very end.
With Water: This becomes highly drinkable once somewhat tamed, alcohol is still present but now is more of a pleasant warmth than a bonfire. Still that woody bitterness remains and water does not coax more vanilla forward. Adding water to this one is a good idea, but it does not bring a drastic improvement.
Overall: It’s somewhat like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof… but more interesting, maybe, depending on the batch. If you like ECBP, you’ll love this. It would be appreciated by those who like high octane bourbons that lack substance behind the second curtain. Would I get a bottle? No.
Score: N/A

“Joseph Magnus” Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Sherry and Cognac — 50% — MSRP ~$100
Nose: Good balance. Alcohol takes a backseat on the nose. Dark perfume notes as are usually present in good bottles. Quite pleasant and very complex. A good nose overall. Sherry is definitely there and playing nice with bourbon character.
Taste: Oh this one I like in my mouth. A whiskey drinker’s drink this is. It’s not particularly something ’special’ to write about but I can see it trying to bridge that gap between sherried scotch and bourbons. Of course it lacks enough age and palate complexity to truly succeed, though it certainly tries. Sherry is definitely present and very much appreciated in the mouth.
Aftertaste: Medium, bordering on short in length and mostly sherry dominated. Corn sweetness is there somewhere but with sherry it takes a backseat. It’s a shame as the aftertaste feels like it’s missing a bit of punchiness and duration, once sherry fades, its done.
With Water: No strong changes one way or another. This being an original 100 proof may as well leave the water out of it.
Overall: Very well balanced on the nose and palate. This regular release is quite enjoyable, and while not too complex it would go lovely any time of day with a good conversation around a firepit. It is a mouth pleaser that does not overcomplicate the brain. The aftertaste is a letdown for me, but if one were to continuously sip at the glass, I can see it working. Would I offer one to a friend or as a present? Yes. Would I get a bottle to drink myself? Not going to be my first choice.

Update: Due to Joseph Magnus being sourced, it is typically distilled at either MGP (Indiana) or Dickel (Tennessee). It is thankfully indicated on the label which state it is distilled in. Dickel ones are generally considered inferior to the MGP ones and I can see why. Trying a Dickel sample, it is very peanutty, which doesn’t quite mesh well with sherry/cognac fruits. Check the label for the state!!!
Score: N/A

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Old Carter, Doc Swinson’s, Elijah Craig, Larceny; Bourbon Speed Dating

Okay. Here’s the thing, there are way too many bottles out there and plenty of bottles that are not worth writing a long post about. I’ll still be documenting things I try, but if it’s not something interesting, expect a short blurb. I’ll write something more substantial for bottles that I find tasty. My posts, my rules as it were.

Old Carter’s Bourbon Batch #5
Nose: Dark perfume. Slightly subdued/muted. Dark cherry jam. I’m looking forward to this one…
Taste: So much dark cherry jam on this one. Can I call it cherry pie? Oddly feels in part like Buffalo Trace output with the sweet cherries. It’s wow good. The high proof is there but it doesn’t fight too much with the flavor.
Aftertaste: As typical with bourbons, caramelized cherry pie continues from the palate and lasts about medium length. With sweetness winning over bitterness. A thumbs up from me on this front.
With Water: Boy, why am I putting water into perfectly drinkable bourbon, again? More cinnamon now together with cherry if you’re into that kinda stuff. The nose opens up, though that may have been time in a glass.
Overall: What the heck does Old Carter’s do with their barrels!? This is my second bottle of their whiskey and its super yum all over. Still, I’m questioning the price with zero transparency, or the price in general. Would I drink a bottle? Yes! At MSRP ~$200? I’d want it to be someone else’s bottle.
Score: N/A

A side note for Old Carter’s: So far I’m two for two in excellent bottles. I would love to score them at highest marks (and I’m not scoring things yet, though perhaps I should)… But both bottles and my appreciation of them are borderline crippled by their availability as well as their price. I don’t want to pay $200+ to get a highly elusive limited release with zero transparency bourbon that I genuinely enjoy amid the sea of other offerings. I should not be required to do that in the first place. Get your shit together bourbon producers!

Doc Swinson’s 15 KnL SP
Note: This is something out of Heaven Hill Stills. I suspected it being Elijah Craig but its too balanced so its likely Heaven Hill instead. (After trying regular Heaven Hill 7 BiB… its not Main Heaven Hill Mash… that’s for sure)

Nose: Wood and sugar. A bit of alcohol burn. Slight menthol notes, bit of eucalyptus. Old timey wooden basement with leather furniture.
Taste: You know what, its bourbon. This one happens to be sweet and woody and well balanced. Very fine cinnamon notes, barely any. For 118 proof, there’s low alcohol burn in the mouth which is another plus.
With Water: More sugar, less bitterness, pleasing. Few drops could do well to tame the alcohol.
Aftertaste: Good aftertaste with more of the same. A little more peppery spice on the back and the aftertaste does last for quite a while so that’s a pleasant surprise.
Overall: It’s better balanced and less octane Elijah Craig Cask Strength… almost certainly it’s 15 years old Heaven Hill. It’s woody, sweet and full of perfume. Quite tasty but not worth the $155 price tag. I can see paying $100 for a bottle. Buy a bottle @MSRP? No. Too boring for myself, but I can see enjoying splitting one with a friend over a fire pit if they paid for it.
Score: N/A

Elijah Craig K&L SiB (#5711840)
Decent balance between sweetness and a tiny bit of rye spice. Somewhat thin palate, not enough oomph. Very versatile because it doesn’t overwhelm in any way. Works well with food, but not particularly interesting on its own.
Score: N/A

John E. Fitzgerald “Larceny” K&L SiB (#6196278)
Disappointing and totally not what I was expecting. What was I expecting? I don’t know but it wasn’t … that. Boring woody nose, at 92 proof, thin body, little flavor beyond lots of wheat sweetness and once past that sweetness there’s essentially nothing. No substance to this one for me. This bottle is going to end up in some home blend I expect. Mixes very well with high rye barrel proofs.

Update few weeks later: This is growing on me. It’s still not mindblowing in most ways but after oxidation this got a palate and an aftertaste that’s enjoyable enough at the end of the night. Really should have been a 100+ proof.
Score: N/A

Four Roses “Single Barrel” OBSV
Drinkable Four Roses at 100 proof. Flowery and has a decent taste. Good standby if nothing else is available by being reasonably balanced, but not fantastically outstanding for my palate. (I’m a tough judge and want something ‘interesting’ out of every bottle.) Overall tasty and worth keeping around, but not enough of a substance to write a long blurb about.
Score: N/A

Friday, June 19, 2020

Rant: On Bourbon, or How a Decent Spirit is Being Ruined by its own Fans.

Disclaimers: The following rant is aimed at a stereotype rather than anyone individually. There are plenty of great and toxic individuals in almost any hobby. I’m going to be writing this while drinking a bourbon, it may get weird or crude.

Side note, bourbon definition via Standards of Identity … edu/cfr/text/27/5.22 (law) and a good summary is available here: https://en.wikipedia … y#Legal_requirements are worth reading through as good tidbits of information.

Lets get it out of the way, bourbon is booming, so I got interested and dipped my toes into that segment of whiskey market after being nearly-exclusive single malt drinker for 10 years or so, aka my entire spirits-drinking tenure. By law, bourbon is at least 51% corn, then the mash (recipe) is some sort of combination between barley, wheat, and rye with different yeast strains to bring it all together. For example, bourbon where wheat grain is second by percentage after corn is called ‘wheated’, and tends to be mellower/sweeter with longer after-taste. On the other side of things, high-rye recipes tend to be ‘bitey/spicy’ and are more pronounced on the nose and palate side of things. There’s also a notable difference between vintage bottles of the same brand vs their modern equivalents.
Overall, it’s impossible try every single variable of mash, bottling, or brand out there as new ones are constantly coming out and there’s long list of increasingly rare vintage bottles, so I’ll focus and extrapolate from my somewhat limited experience. As of this writing I’ve opened 13 bottles of different bourbon across several major distilleries, majority being cask strength and/or single cask and only 2 are truly worth keeping with another 2 or 3 being somewhat enjoyable to drink. I am not a fan of this ratio.

Taste Notes:
Spoiler alert: Bourbons taste mostly the same! Coming in from scotch this was the biggest shocker. Holy shit its same stuff every time. There are certainly slight variations here and there, but for the most part its… corn sweetness with rye/baking spice and a bit of wood. Sarcastic Yay! Opening a new bottle to try it is about as exciting as watching your pet dry-heave. It gets old fast since there’s very minor variations. Let’s not forget that pretty much 95% of all the bourbon by volume is distilled by like 3 distilleries so no wonder it tastes mostly the same.
The second shocker was in the fact that in bourbon the proof directly correlates to the taste concentration. Higher proof is more flavor! It is incredible how thin lower-proof bourbons taste, I’ve had 88.9 proof that tasted like MaiTai and only past about 100 proof the flavors are actually worth tasting… Except very few folks can actually drink 120+ proof fire-water and claim its delicious.
The last thing that shocked me as compared to scotch… If single malt taste can be separated into ‘nose — first_sip — middle_palate — back_palate — aftertaste’, pretty much every bourbon is… ‘nose — middle_palate’, there’s literally nothing to find there, before or after. Oh it smells ‘nice’, then there’s that palate and now its gone! This makes my review-writing particularly hard as I can only gush so many times ‘it tastes like wood and baking spices’, that’s not very exciting and gets repetitive fast!
For what it’s worth though; unlike single malt, bourbon goes really well with food. Steak and a decent bourbon are a fantastic combo, and so is anything Tex-Mex or Southern flavor profile. Scotch is actually at a disadvantage here as so much of its flavor profile is overwhelmed by food flavors.

Ten years ago, stores couldn’t sell bourbon fast enough. Bottles that are unthinkable to be store-bought today were literally gathering dust on the store shelves for years. Pappy Van Winkle 15 Single Barrel Store pick? Sure, its been sitting there in corner for last 2 years! That was not that long ago! I’ll summarize the current situation into one word: “FUCK!”… Pretty much anything that’s actually ‘good’ isn’t available on the shelf (see Community portion), so it makes it reasonably hard to get into tasty bottles blindly.
Yours truly may have dived into the deep end of the spectrum on his discovery journey and tied to ‘cover his distillery basics’ by buying an interesting bottle from every major brand/distillery. I don’t consider this an overall mistake as it was an interesting experience and is surprisingly hard to actually accomplish within two months without tremendous amounts of luck (and/or technical know-how). Coronavirus was a welcome boon to this effort as I’ve set up browser alerts for new bottles showing up in my favorite liquor store and was able to pick up a reasonably good amount of interesting bottles as per my modus operandi. Sadly, most of the bottles I’ve picked up were available for a very short amount of time as they come into stock and are immediately bought out. I’ve tried going to local liquor stores around my area to see what they have that may be of interest and the answer always is ‘nothing good’. When I ask store folks if they have Weller wheated bourbon, they laugh and tell me I’m 3rd (sometimes 10th) person just that day asking about it. There are dozens of folks roaming between liquor stores in their general vicinity at any given time in search for that dusty unicorn bottle.
In general, current bourbon availability can be split into 3 tiers:

  1. Always available and mostly undrinkable. Anything cheap and always on the shelves. Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Fireball, etc.
  2. Obtaniums. Rarely available, sometimes findable and mostly drinkable. Bookers, good chunk of Small Batch variety, occasional Single Barrels like Four Roses. Large batches and middle-to-excellent quality here.
  3. Unobtaniums. These tend to be bought on sight by the first person that sees them and knows what they are. Small batch, very limited release. Allocated. Pappy. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC). etc.

The unfortunate reality of the bourbon drinkability is that it starts somewhere in Tier 2. If someone new to bourbons were try bottles in tier 1… Well I strongly advise to not bother, as majority of Tier 1 is not worth pouring down the drain. The other unfortunate fact is that Tier 3 bottles oftentimes don’t even make it to the store shelves as clerks or owners already have buyers lined up for anything ‘interesting’ if were to arrive they they simply give a call to and its sold sight unseen. All of that keeps on shifting as time and market interest adjusts, for example: I’ve read comparison reviews between bottles from 70s and 80s, and modern versions where reviewers universally proclaim that the quality and taste of modern Tier 1 have deteriorated down to undrinkable levels versus tasty bottlings from 20-40 years ago under the same name. I guess demand and market forces producers to release sub-par stock and product in the name of profitability.

Its a fucking nightmare to find something good at MSRP.
As the common saying in bourbon fan clubs go: “Those darn Taters ruined bourbon!”. Who is a Tater you say? Well I’m certainly not! Note: A Tater is derogatory term for a person that follows bourbon fads rather than trying to understand what they are drinking and willing to spend greater than reasonable upcharge above MSRP for a bottle of bourbon or buy up any bottle of the month at any price they see regardless if it’s something they would enjoy or not.
The limited availability of fad bottlings and high demand creates an unfortunate side effect of secondary market that is grossly inflated and is also encouraging distillers to raise their prices, because “if the bottle with MSRP of $50 (Weller 12) is going for $200 on secondary, why aren’t we charging $150 and pocketing extra $100?!”. Don’t get me wrong the bourbon MSRP’s are mostly sane still but this will not last, many brands have been slowly increasing their price over the last few years. Example: Booker’s went from ~$60 to $80 in the last few years with the goal being $100 IIRC. Example of secondary: BTAC is 4 bottles with MSRP of $99 per bottle. The secondary price of the full set is ~$2000 or so. From the distiller’s, distributors, and store view point why should they sell things for $400 instead of $2000? That’s just bad capitalism. Meanwhile, hordes of profit seekers are out there combing through every liquor store they can find for that random old bottle that’s sitting in the corner at its MSRP that they would be able to resell to a Tater at 5 times the price. It’s easy money!
For the most part, the bourbon price/quality sweet spot is somewhere in $60-$100 range, but yet again none of that is well documented nor there’s a workable list of drinkable and affordable bourbons. A personal example of mine, I’ve posted about being interested in a small batch bottle from earlier this year that is mostly out of stock anywhere, it wasn’t anything special, or highly desired. Yet, someone almost immediately contacted me offering it me for twice the msrp price. This move irked me greatly, as the same individual posted few days earlier, bragging about finding that same bottle at MSRP price in a store. So I’ve politely declined out of principle, as they were clearly out to make a profit on their purchase rather than support and promote fellow community members.

Please see disclaimer above, this is not aimed at any particular group or individual but at some of the larger communities. The smaller groups tend to have nicer individuals and are more welcoming and inclusive, and I’ve met plenty of nice folk so far. Larger groups start to have more noisy, outspoken, arrogant outliers of the unsavory kind.
And here we are, the meat and potatoes of the headline and let me tell you bourbon community is borderline toxic. In short, larger bourbon communities are not friendly to newcomers. The larger fan communities are filled with snobs that buy fad bottles, often at secondary market prices, to show off to their friends and to post to social media how cool they are to be drinking that rare/expensive bottle. Fuck you! If I could punch everyone that says they’re a ‘professional influencer’ in the face, I would do it. Entitled assholes that think that their worth as a human being is defined by how many followers they have on whatever social network flavor of the month it happens to be. I’ve poked my head into a very large group of bourbon ‘fans’ on facebook… and I ran away. It’s terrible there, every post is essentially how much better whatever store pick they are drinking vs regular release, or how they have gotten X number of bottles of some rare bottling, essentially locking everyone else’s chances out. There should be no reason why any individual person should need 10+ bottles of the same batch of alcohol, not when the market is constantly producing new and interesting expressions. Live and let live as it were. Folks like those are why prices are skyrocketing and availability is plunging.
A lot of so-called ‘bourbon enthusiasts’ like to proclaim how much a special bottling is better than the regular bottling from the same distillery, thus reinforcing their feelings of superiority over those plebes that didn’t get whatever they’re drinking. It also establishes how much they enjoy being in the exclusive club that got a case of those bottles within about 60 seconds they were available, on December 26th at 1:30 am in the morning and you had be present in person in a corner store in Colorado to buy it as well be related to at least 3 people in the distribution chain.
The other thing that really bothered me for a while is a proliferation of abbreviations. There are dozens of obscure abbreviations and every group can have different, informally agreed-upon and poorly documented variations. For newcomers joining a new group this is all scary and intimidating, and trying to understand a post along the lines of “Score! 4 SR EXF DG BiB SiB SP @BTG 4$666.66! Hell yeah!” and new person is supposed to understand that how? It leads towards skewing the value of said bottle in newcomer’s eyes without trying it for themselves.
The brand and bottling combinations don’t help either. Is Knob Hill Barrel Select 8 better than Knob Hill 10 Small Batch? Shouldn’t 10 year old be more interesting than 8 years old? Is Dickel 7 better than Dickel Sour Mash? Nobody has that information documented, and vocal folks in those groups are more interested in trying to outdo each other in their superiority than helping or educating others.

Final Thoughts:
Overall I’m disappointed with bourbon. I’m disappointed at availability, taste, ease of approachability in the larger communities, price, and lack of transparency of different bottlings.
Do I regret dipping my toes into bourbon? Not particularly, I’ve met some great folks and I’ve tried a handful of truly tasty bottlings, and honestly the experience of having met those folks is much more valuable to me than the booze. But for the amount of effort and occasionally money that was spent chasing down bourbon bottles of interest wasn’t worth it under normal conditions. As we’re sheltering at home with COVID-19 pandemic out there, it’s unlikely there would be a better time to try a new hobby and I’ve clearly tried a new one for myself.
Dear reader, you clearly may have questions such as “Should I try bourbon?” and I will say “Yes! Yes you should! But, do not rush! Try it cautiously and in small quantities as paying ridiculous price or putting a effort into a bottle that you may not like after opening is rarely worth it. Find some friendly folks that would recommend you what you can try or offer samples. Forget about fads or rare limited bottling, or secondary market. Ask around for recommendations. Go to bars or tastings. Be friendly and talk to others. Try a few different things to establish what you like or don’t like in terms of flavor notes and start finding things down that route, or not, it’s your call!”.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Stagg Jr and Weller Full Proof

This entry is going to be mostly short (edit… it wasn’t) and sweet, while I wax poetic about finishing off my “must try this bourbon” list. Thank you again, amazing person, you know who you are. After the two samples below, I’ve tried or acquired every type of bourbon bottling to cover my bases of about 95% of American Bourbon-type Whiskey (by volume). Obviously it’s borderline impossible to cover every bottling but I’ve got a decent sample from just about everywhere major to get a taste of the distillery character.

Stagg Jr Batch 13
Short notes: Typical Buffalo Trace notes, amped up to 11 by the proof and concentration. Almost oily in character, wood, spices and sweetness are in decent balance with alcohol burn to give it a savory-sweetness that’s delicious. On the downside, its youth is somewhat betrayed by the nose. When it is swished around in the glencairn it gives out a slightly paint thinner-like notes. The aftertaste is short and not particularly exciting with typical Buffalo Trace character of somewhat bitter ash/wood. It benefits well from sitting around to open up and maybe a few drops of water to tune back alcohol. It’s a full flavor bomb and total pleaser for distillery fans. Do yourself a favor and trace down whatever is left of this batch in the wild as long as you like the style. I’ve heard that some of the Stagg Jr batches were not very exciting, but this one does not disappoint.
Score: N/A

Mystery Sample, Revealed Below
My benefactor on this endeavor sent me what he described as ’something nice to try in the 110 to 120 proof range, try to guess what it is’. So I tried. Few things helped me out here… One: I’m trying it side-by-side with Stagg Jr. Two: I’ve opened up a McKenzie wheated bourbon just yesterday to try and was incredibly impressed by its insanely long finish, I believe it was somewhere at around 20 minutes later and I was still tasting it in on the palate…

Again, short notes on the process: Nosing it, somewhat similar to Stagg with less alcohol burn (expected) and no rye spice notes (unexpected), sorta sweet perfume, rather than cologne. I’m smelling wood and some spice rather than flowers though. Still strong but not overwhelmingly so and no paint thinner notes that are often there in 120+ proofs. So far so good. Taste, still little-to-none rye spice, same wood and spices from the nose and an aftertaste that lasts 10+ minutes. A-ha! A nice wheated bourbon with buffalo trace notes in 110 to 120 proof range, well(er) that narrows it down only a few choices. Quick google later on the proofs and guess of it being wheater, so my guess: Weller Full Proof. A message exchange with the benefactor, and the truth is… DRUMROLL: “Weller Full Proof single barrel project private pick from Maison Corbeaux”.

Is it good? Absolutely! Really really incredibly, insanely good. I told my wife “This is the best wheated bourbon we will try in any conceivable future”, and I truly believe so. Are there ‘better’ bottles out there? Sure, Pappy 15+ and whatnot and even then its a ‘maybe better’ as taste is in the eye of the beholder. Does an Average Joe has a chance of ever trying this bottle? Sorry, it’s unlikely, unless they are very rich or insanely lucky. That being said, just about any Weller bottling, regular or store pick at MSRP, would be quite acceptable way to sample a Weller bourbon. Just be aware that in bourbons proof rather than age correlates to concentration of flavor. In the case above, I’ve been incredibly lucky to get both single barrel and highest proof outside of BTAC Weller, which is both an incredible combination of flavor and an honor to have been given a sample.
Score: N/A

Both of the samples in this review are fantastic and well worth trying. Produced by the Buffalo Trace distillery, they are different, yet interesting beasts of their own that any whiskey drinker would do a disservice to themselves by not having a taste.

So there we have it, with Stagg Jr and Weller Full Proof samples, I’ve completed my distillery/major brand tour and will eventually write a rant why bourbons are terrible. I’ll leave you with this as good summary of what I’ll probably rant about in the meantime: … /watch?v=C5KnRBQpkmM

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Maker’s Mark, Nadurra, Arran

A new day is upon us and that means more new bottles to try and blurb about.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength - Batch 2018-01
I’ll start this on a short and sweet note here… Considering this is wheated bourbon so it’s less spicy than most due to less rye in the mash. This is very ‘meh’. Maybe in a mixer or part of a sauce it’s worth it. I’ve marinated some flank steak in it with tasty results. Sweet corn syrup nose, overly corn-sweet and thin body, more of that sweet corn aftertaste. After few weeks of the opening date, sugar mellowed out somewhat, and aftertaste changed to wood notes with a bit of menthol, so it became slightly better? Maybe. But it’s still not interesting to drink for me. Boring! Pass! (Note: picked it up for $30 at K&L to cover distillery bases)… Bit of an update about a year later… It’s pretty solid stuff when sick and not expecting nuance due to sinces killing ya. Still, will not buy again. Maker’s general releases get a solid ‘meh’ mark from me with some of the stave selection recipes and special editions bringing a breath of fresh air to otherwise un-inspiring lineup.
Score: N/A

Glenlivet Nadurra Batch OL0614
Wife Notes: Nose is a little sharp with elements of classic french perfumes. Palate is ‘woooOOohoOOo (spicy), then there’s caramel and more perfume’

This one is a lively and fun one. I make it no secret that a good special edition of Glenlivet easily makes its way to top 10 for me… Looking right at you Signatory bottlings.
This particular bottling of Nadurra is from 2014 after they dropped the 16 year old statement from the line, unfortunately. It happens to be unpeated first fill oloroso sherry casks at full strength. Color is deep amber. Nose is somewhat sharp, with notes of sourness and high alcohol bite, lots of sherry sweetness and caramel comes out. With time, nose settles into spicy plums with varnish notes. This one needs time to breathe. To the palate, savory, malty, caramely, super concentrated almost to the point of bitterness. Is that anise I’m tasting in the back? Slightly young or has young barrels mixed with the old as more likely explanation. Few drops of water help bringing down the bitterness and releases malt sweetness to the fore. The finish is long, spicy, and very sherry that lasts forever and ever. Fantastic finisher.
Worth seeking out if you’re a fan of sherry bombs? Absolutely! More than 1 bottle? YMMV.
Score: N/A

Arran Malt — Amarone Finish
Nose: Red stewed fruits and red cherries, toasted wood and slight nuttiness. Very pleasant and balanced. I can spend a long time sniffing this one. Does not become boring over time.
Palate: The nose continues into palate. More sweet and sour cherries and wood. Sweet malt and bit of nutty wood that are in decent balance with each other. A bit of savory, coupled with fruits keeps it interesting and makes me want to go for more.
Finish: More of same, savoury sweetness with red fruits and wood. Lasts for a long time and is quite peppery but balanced well with the other things in the bottle.
Water: Doesn’t do much. Skip!
Overall: I like this expression! Reminds me somewhat of Nikka From the Barrel in terms of balance of wood nuttiness and sweetness. Red fruits and cherries galore and that does not hurt the malt in the slightest. My only real complaint is that this is a NAS which suggests some young casks in there. It could certainly benefit from being older but I don’t know if age would clash with red wine finish. Of the two red wine barrel-finished scotches I’ve tried, both were exceptionally tasty. I wish I could get my hands on more samples of this sort of finish. If you’re a fan of nutty-sweet fruits in your drink, do yourself a service and try this one. There are no glaring flaws and it’s quite a tasty one.
Side Note: Arran distillery is highly underrated and should be kept an eye on for interesting bottles and single cask releases.
Score: N/A

Arran Malt — Sauternes Finish — Circa or before 2017.
Nose: White and green ripe grapes on an oaky background. Reminds me a bit of sitting outside eating grapes on the poarch of a wooden cabin, in the early fall while the weather is still warm. Doesn’t overwhelm, but slightly raw on the alcohol.
Palate: Sweet and punchy while masquerading as somewhat subtle. Obvious malt and vanilla. More of the white/green grapes on the mouth. Much sweeter than the nose, white raisins (sauternes) finally come out to the fore. Somewhat of a thin body. Light wood influence that does let itself be known.
Finish: Peppered white raisins that last a very long time. The sweetness slowly fades away leaving residual malt and pepper interplay.
Water: Water shows just how young this NAS is as grass notes come out which is a telltale sign of young malt. Buuuuuuuuuttt…. it brings raisins to the front as malt sugar interplays with sauternes sugar more, sort of sugar cane-like. The nose is ruined though, and the palate loses a bit of oomph for me.
Overall: I really want to like this one, but failing to do so… settling for ‘Its okay’. Its reaching for all the marks of greatness and yet it misses all of them by just a bit. It’s not quite peppery, not quite sweet, not quite woody enough. If you like sauternes finish on malts, this certainly offers a decent bargain vs a lot of others at much higher price. Eradur 10 Sauternes is $150 or so, Arran is about half that. I’ll certainly finish the bottle but I won’t be looking out to replace it next time.
Revisiting this few weeks later update: This became sweeter and woodier. Overall this is a “yes” for me. Its still somewhat tannic, peppery, woody, and sweet. Definitely a dessert scotch that at 50% doesn’t pull any punches.
Side Note: Arran distillery is highly underrated and should be kept an eye on for interesting bottles and single cask releases.
Score: N/A