Thursday, September 24, 2020

Springbank samples

This has been a long time coming… I’ve not been much for hopping onto hype train but Springbank distillery been intriguing me for a while. Campbeltown malt, lightly (or residually) peated with the price point that skyrocketed nearly in parallel to Japanese malt in the recent years. Lots of folks love it or speak fondly of it. Lets dig in!

Springbank Green 13 years 46%
This is… sure is (fresh) green alright. It’s full of umami, ashy, malty, and slightly smoky flavors. The peat is present, though not heavily. Balance between the flavors is razor-sharp, but the age betrays it by not giving it enough of woody sweetness beyond green apples, olives, malt, ash, smoke balance which could be attractive to those that like Islay style without heavy peat. This is savoury instead of sweet. With time and air, it opens up a little into sherry and wood notes, though the influence is fairly light. Slightly metallic aftertaste due to overall savoury character of the bottle. Give it time to breathe and you’ll be rewarded. Its growing on me, but I wouldn’t want more than a taste of this very occasionally.
Score: B-

Springbank 18 years 46%
This is quite delicious. Clearly older malt is in play here. This one has most of the characteristics of bourbon barrels with a tad of sherry influence balanced well after 18 years in wood. Still slightly peated but at this point, the peat is more of a background smokiness than the dominant flavor. Rather not very sweet and those savory flavors are very much present. The age did allow wood to do its thing so there’s a notable vanilla note present with from wood that balances out and plays well with umami.
Score: B+

Springbank 19 years refill bourbon SiB 58.6%
This is a treat to myself. I rarely make a note of the drink color, but this particular bottle happens to be very pale colored. This single barrel is everything I imagined a good Springbank to be. Its deep and full of flavor. Its balanced to perfection. Its woody with peat fully transmuted into complex smoky flavors instead from being a ‘burning swamp’. Small downsides of this bottling are of course refill-(refill-refill) bourbon cask so it’s basically old malt profile with a notable Springbank light smoke overlay on it. By its nature, the distillery malt does not seem to be sweet, though just like the 18 year old above, age and wood do wonders by adding sweet vanilla oaked notes. I wish this was a 2nd fill sherry but then it’d probably be twice or 10 times the price and I’d love it all the way to the bank.
Score: A-

I’m starting to see why older Springbank bottle prices spiral into stratosphere… While younger ones are no slouches… the flavor balance gets progressively better past 18 years old, once wood imparts its sweetness. I’ve been looking forward to trying bottles from this distillery and I’m glad I did as they’re really tasty and interesting. That being said, the combination of somewhat peated, non-sweet profile and high price makes it not a very attractive casual pour for me, so I’ll certainly partake it in when opportunity knocks somewhere else, but won’t be spending my money on Springbank bottles :).

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

Monday, September 21, 2020

BenRiach Tasting

An excellent tasting by BenRiach brand ambassador Rory Glasgow. BenRiach has a complicated history of their distillery, ownership, bottle branding and spirits. You can and should read it elsewhere but the short current version is all of their older recipes are going away and are replaced by a complete rebrand with the new ownership. While it’s arguably good news for the brand as it builds a stronger identity. Its bad news for the fans of their existing or older bottlings. We’ve tasted some of their older bottlings, before the rebrand.

Benriach 10
Fruity, tasty, malty, stone and orchard fruits with pears and apples present. Tasty, uncomplicated. Great beginner malt that showcases itself well.
Score: B

Benriach 10 Curiositas (Peated)
Heavy Islay Peat. Fans of heavily peated expressions, rejoice! Too much peat for me. Not a fan (I’m not a fan of young peat regardless). It also smothers the somewhat delicate malt character of a 10 year old without much to balance itself. Had to choke it down to get to the next sample. Take regular 10, add heavy smoke, get Curiositas. If you like young heavily peated malt, it could be your thing, there are arguably better more established Islay malts out there in the price range.
Score: C-

Benriach 21
Properly tasty this one. But it reminds me of old malt casks style. Very light, lots of perfume, flowers, age, and malt, not too much wood, sherry flavor or memorable things present. This surprisingly different from what the bottle description led me to believe. Much more mature and balanced 10. To be honest… it was so unmemorable… I don’t recall much about it in less than 24 hours after I tasted it. I’m glad I have tried it… Tasty, yet nothing special.
Score: B

Benriach 21 Temporis (Peated)
With disclaimer that I don’t enjoy young peat, old peat is a very different experience. For context, the phenols (smoke flavor) transform with time from nearly pure smoke to much more complicated and nuanced smoke-related accents as they bind to other particles in the liquid or combine into more complex protein chains with age. This bottling has ridiculously long umami aftertaste that strongly reminds me of smoked gouda (the round kind). As it’s something that I grew up with as one of my favorite treats, the flavors hits the right notes for me here. Delicious and well worth trying even for causal smoke lovers. As a fair warning, the smoke in this one is very clingy so the flavors will stick in the mouth for a very long time and will not make for good experience for a non-fan of smoked cheese.
Score: B

Benriach ??? (Discontinued 20 years old Dark Blue Label)
This is delicious. A mix of ex bourbon and sherry barrels. Its older Benriach in all its glory, really good stuff. Oddly reminded me of some of the better Kirkland Branded (Alexander Murray) bottles from Costco. But in general, the profile is reminiscent of Glenmorangie 18. Woody, sweet, a bit of sherry finish. High flavor complexity, not heavy handed. The only real downside is that it tastes all too-familiar to me. Its excellent, but not memorable. If I closed my eyes, it could have been anything in that general flavor profile.
Score: B+

Overall BenRiach:
Some of their expressions are delicious and the spirit marries well with fresh PX casks. It is a shame that they don’t use those enough in their maturation. Especially with new recipes and rebrand, while new bottles are going to be still single malt, they’re going to be single malt blends from different barrel types. I cannot call myself a fan of the distillery based on what I’ve tried from them. With their generic single malt profile try these, yes. Buy more interesting bottles from other distilleries, also yes.

– Benriach revisit… Simple blurbs!

Honestly, just read this article which I generally agree on with tasting notes on…. https://www.drinkhac … oky-10-and-smoky-12/

Original 10
Quite sweet and fruity, tasty, malty, stone and orchard fruits with pears and apples present. Tasty, uncomplicated. Great beginner malt that showcases itself well.
Score: B

Benriach Smoky 10
Sweet and reasonably lightly smoked variation of the regular 10. The peat doesn’t overwhelm but works well together. Somewhat reminds me of lighter version of Westland Winter Storm. Nothing super outstanding but light peat and sweet malt works well in it’s favors. Quite solid recommendation for someone that doesn’t mind a little bit of peat in their malt. Still this is a 10… so subtle or any deep flavors didn’t get a chance to develop too much.
Score: B

Benriach the 12
This smells right! This is basically Glendronach Portwood and Aberlour’s Casg Annamh had a love child. Frankly it’s a sweeter version of Casg due to port casks. The nose is amazing. But it’s arguably a little too sweet and too dessert-like on the palate. The aftertaste is a slight letdown due to fading fast and lacking anything ‘interesting’… A good, but not outstanding example of triple-cask that’s a little too sweet trying to pretend it’s not. Overall, I do enjoy it but it’s got an identity crisis. Too sweet to be a ‘regular’ expression, too blandly labeled to be a dessert (See “Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake”), it really feels like a missed opportunity here for Benriach. By differentiating the 12s as ’sweet’ variants (See Glendronach Portwood and Balvenie Caribbean Cask), Benriach is competing with their own 10 which are entirely different ball game. Unfortunately, for the average consumer the fact that 12 and 10 are priced and labeled nearly the same may cause some serious confusion and could hurt the brand down the line as average consumer doesn’t typically read fine-print on the label about casks. The pricing doesn’t help either: Why is this priced $50 in Total Wine while The Ten is $56?! Definitely a favorite if you like the malt to be on the sweeter side… Coming into this blind… This wasn’t what I was expecting. I would like to be clear here… It’s great when tasted blind… It’s also a departure from the rest of the regular bottlings with very little warning.
Score: B+

Benriach the Smoky 12
Sherried peat without being overwhelming. This is a great example of a sweet peat style. Higher smoke content and much more pronounced sherry/marsala blend compared to the 10 this does stick around my palate for quite a while and even if I’ve admitted that I’m no fan of peated whiskeys, this amount doesn’t bother me too much for an occasional drink though it’s right on the edge there. The plus of the peat the aftertaste lasts and lasts and lasts basically forever. A very good one to enjoy, provided you don’t mind some sweet smoke in your palate. With sherry and marsala sweetness masking just about anything negative here. The only real downside is that it’s not older and of course with the ‘masking’ I’ve already mentioned there’s not much in the secondary subtle flavor department.
Score: B

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Starward Malt, Uncle Nearest, Green Spot, Weller FP, Henry McKenna, Heaven Hill Bourbon

So many samples… so many….

Starward NOVA
Australian single malt with red wine barrels in the mix. Delicious malt, with red wine really shining through though overall package is not super deep or overly complex. Excellent for @work drinking though, or at a bar. One of the few malts that would pair well with food. The taste that is easy to understand due heavy-handed flavor notes that both the underlying malt and red wine provide.
Score: B-

Uncle Nearest 1856 & 1884
Mashbill is 6% Rye, 6% Malted Barley and the rest is corn. This is very corn forward and totally not interesting to me. Good story behind the brand but in its current incarnation it may as well be Mellow Corn. Drinkable, but just barely. Lots of much better bottles in the price bracket. 1856 is a little heavier and darker and 1884 is lighter and ‘cornier’ but I’m lumping them together into same score.
Score: D

Green Spot Irish Whiskey Leonville
This is the 46% ABV, regular (7-10 year blend) Green Spot matured in sherry and bourbon casks but finished for up to 18 months in oaken Bordeaux wine casks from the Irish-owned Château Léoville-Barton… Surprisingly light for a sherried whiskey with notes similar to cognac. While bordeaux wine does come though it’s nowhere near as prominent as red wine in Starward Nova bottles. It is noticeable in the nose and aftertaste but overall it is well integrated with the spirit. Unfortunately, the relative youth is the downside here and depth of flavor, while is helped somewhat by the wine casks, is still lacking complexity as with majority of malts around 10 year mark. A tasty but unmemorable drink.
Score: C+

Weller Full Proof (Bourbon Country & Fred’s Pick)
The highly sought Weller Full Proof (and a very generously given sample in a little trade). The short version on this is… It’s alcohot hot hot hot. The alcohol smothers almost everything nice that’s in the glass. And there are plenty of wonderful flavors and aromas with some classic Buffalo Trace cherry/woody profile overlaid with wheated sweetness, yet lacking the rye spice for obvious reasons. The downside of wheaters is that they’re not as sweet/spicy as their high rye cousins so they carry the proof very differently. I am borderline tempted to not recommend it to a casual drinker, but a seasoned palate would be able to pull some interesting and delicious notes out of this… once past the alcohol burn. Maybe on the rocks it would work, though I’m worried that would dilute already subtle flavor profile. This is decidedly not a casual drink as it requires concentration and time to truly open up and shine in the glass.
Score: B

Henry McKenna 10 Single Barrel (BiB) #7965, 2-2-2010
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, and 10% Rye
Another product of Heaven Hill Distillery (they got a lot of brands and truly embracing the whole bottling different notes under different brand name schtick, aren’t they?). This is an age-stated 10 year old single barrel. Somewhat letdown by corn on the nose, the palate and the aftertaste are great and mostly hide high corn content. Surprisingly deep and subtle expression with many many layers of flavor that improves with careful contemplation after first not so favorable impressions. This straddles the line between high rye and high corn on the flavor profile and sets a good baseline for corn-forward whiskey. Popcorn, wood, brown sugar and a little bit of brown butter. Well worth the relatively inexpensive price tag for few remaining age-stated bottles in the range. Unfortunately, while pleasant and drinkable, doesn’t offer too much of an interesting package that somehow stands out from the crowd. Will please fans of low-rye bourbons that aren’t wheated. Also personally I’m not a fan of too much corn and this one is a little bit heavy on the corn side of things. Disclaimer: Being a Single Barrel product some of the notes will vary per barrel.
Score: C+

Heaven Hill 7 years Bottled-in-Bond
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye
And yet another Heaven Hill. Surprise Surprise? This one is a lot more rye-forward, though the bottle specs on paper are much the same as McKenna. Still highish corn so the corn flavors remain together with good chunk of wood and spice character. This is Elijah Craig at 100 proof through and through. Wood and spice bomb. Not a whole lot of sugar the mix, and for a 7 year old, this has a bit of a tannic bitterness notes suggesting there may be older over-oaked barrels in the mix, since this happens to not be a single barrel product. Highly drinkable in a bar or mixed. This would please fans of Elijah Craig small batch line, but I’d let the bottles continue sitting on the store shelf myself. I’m glad I’ve tried it but just like with many other bourbons, there are more interesting options to be had for my palate. Must Try, but don’t chase it down.
Score: C+

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