Tuesday, October 27, 2020

12* Days of Whiskey Abominations (*Express version)

Alrighty! For the sake of science, I’ll subject myself to the evaluation of the 12 days of Whiskey Set released by Diageo circa 2016. It’s set of 12×50ml mini bottles from Diageo’s brands. I will try to power through the samples within a handful of days and do a brief rundown on each. I was hoping these were going to be glass bottles to be reusable for samples but all except for two are plastic which makes them not very suitable to be given away.

Disclaimer: There are 3 flavored whiskey ‘products’. They get automatic F-, but I’m replacing that with N/A as I rate whiskey, not flavored syrup, but because they’re higher proof and strongly-flavored they may be of some limited use as a flavoring in a mixed drink or baking. Yes, I did try bit from each of them. Yes, they are terrible… I’m suffering for science.

1. Seagram’s 7
Interestingly enough, this is American Blended Whiskey regardless of Seagram’s name’s Canadian origins. Actually not terrible taste for a 40% abv and being 75% grain neutral spirit (vodka). Is it ‘good’? Totally not. Is it awful… not entirely. I’ve actually finished this sample. Sweet, uncomplicated and a little nutty. Tastes sorta like beginner ‘whiskey’ supposed to taste if I were to describe it to someone. The amount of neutral spirit suggests flavorings and coloring and that’s a big no-no for me. I was expecting it to taste worse, but I’m finding myself not hating this. Am I going to want to drink it? Oh hell no!
Score: F+

2. Crown Royal Reserve
An interesting one here. First thing that came to mind was ’smooth’. Arguably should be the fanciest of the bunch… but it’s really a 40% proof, (very) high rye blended Canadian whiskey… bottled in Connecticut. Tastes like a mediocre sweet rye. Its… meh. Lets just summarize it as a ‘meh’. No wonder everyone makes fun of Canadian whiskey blends. Is it drinkable? Yes. Try at a bar once and find something else, is my recommendation. Just like regular Bulleit bourbon, this isn’t worth your taste buds or time more than once in your life, preferably before trying the good stuff.
Score: C-

3. Crown Royal Blended
Weak paint thinner with slight maple sirup notes and highly unpleasant wood/metal aftertaste. Like licking old wooden spoon and then a battery. Avoid,
Score: F

4. Seagram’s VO
This one looks like actual Canadian Blended Whiskey. It is still uncomplicated like Seagram’s 7 but just little sweeter and nose and palate has distinct notes of maple syrup. The aftertaste has a bit of spice (ginger?) going on but overall this is clearly not interesting of a drink. At all. Five minutes later I’ve already forgotten what it tasted like.
Score: F+

5. Johnnie Walker Black Label
Ah Black Label. Technically drinkable, but the fact that this contains a lot of grain whiskey instead of malt betrays itself by lack of any depth of flavor. Basically a better version of Red. Just skip it altogether and start at Green Label which is actually a mix of 100% malt and no grain whiskeys in it so it would have actual flavor.
Score: D+

6. Piehole (Canadian whiskey with Pecan Pie Liquor)
‘Whiskey’ and sugar syrup that’s flavored with pecan flavor. Actually does taste like a pecan pie. Why anyone would actually drink this… escapes me.
Score: N/A (F-)

7. Johnnie Walker Red Label
Technically a scotch. But tastes like someone’s idea of a scotch. There’s some sweetness and smoke, but no body. Not worth even trying. Generally considered acceptable for mixing by some, but starting with quality ingredients usually makes for better drink and this isn’t a quality ingredient. Somewhat drinkable enough for me to force though the sample.
Score: F+

8. Crown Royal Regal Apple
Canadian Apple-flavored whiskey. As usual with flavored whiskeys sugary-sweet and very apple-y as well as thick, likely from sugar. Drinks like a strong liquor rather than actual whiskey… The alcohol gives this a bitter aftertaste though.
Score: N/A (F-)

9. Jeremiah Weed (Cinnamon whiskey)
Cinnamon liquor and whiskey together. What a terrible idea. Avoid this abomination.
Score: N/A (F-)

10. Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey
Not utterly terrible. It’s still very uninteresting, but it’s not a bad whiskey all in all. Tastes like a cross between generic versions of Four Roses and MGP perhaps. with not the most pleasant of aftertastes. Not revolting and technically a straight kentucky bourbon. With so many better choices out there, this isn’t worth your time.
Score: D+

11. George Dickel No.8
A mix of bitter-sweet peanuts are pretty all there is to say about this sample. Don’t do it. The bitterness is overwhelming and unpleasant.
Score: F

12. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Doesn’t disappoint for the most part. A solid canadian rye. Excellent for mixing and even occasional sipping. Rye isn’t my thing but for the price there are plenty of bottles that are way worse. It should be noted that this won whiskey of the year from Jim Murray in 2015 but ostensibly batches do vary by year or even month. So your mileage may vary. Is it decent? Yes. Is it great. No.
Score: C

Overall Thoughts:
This is an abomination of a whiskey event calendar and having a handful of options in there that could be finished doesn’t justify the idea of having to drink the others. Whoever came up with this lineup should be ashamed of themselves and the entire thing is basically a disservice to whiskey.
Overall Box Score: F

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 ??? (1993 Master’s Vintage)
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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Spirit Works Distillery

Another local distillery tasting. Amazing zoom tour and plenty of cool info to geek out with… but how’s the actual product?

Straight Wheat Whiskey
Sweet wheat whiskey. Interesting flavor profile that would pair amazingly with food. A little thin body due to being wheat distillate and low age of course. Strong vanilla notes that combine well with the profile. Definitely worth trying. Not quite great enough to own a bottle.
Score: B-

Four Grain Straight Bourbon
While plenty of flavor in this, it tastes a little metal and corn forward and low age shows. It could use a few years under its belt to benefit itself. Still very sweet and tasty but not exciting at all.
Score: C

Straight Rye
Sweet rye, if a little thin on the palate due to lower proof. Some surprising juniper notes that play well with the rye itself. But in the end of the day it’s quite thin across the board and not that interesting other than being a rye.
Score: C-

Stake Private Barrel Rye, Batch 15-0006
So much juniper in this one. Almost like a mix of gin and on a rye base. All the good notes from rye is amplified, but I wish it wasn’t so herbal. Probably worth trying and extra cookie points for being a private barrel rye. The gin taste notes is messing with my mind though. Genuinely wondering if this is an aged gin in my sample somehow.
Score: C+ (B if you like gins)

Barrel Reserve Sloe Gin (Claims to be only one in the world)
This is basically medicine. Very cough syrup but actually tasty and without artificial flavors. Sour, sweet and a little bit bitter, this is an amazing mixer material that’s almost sippable by itself.
Score: N/A (C+ not whiskey)

Either my palate is broken during the tasting or everything of theirs tastes very slightly of juniper which isn’t helping the case for this distillery. My personal conclusions… drinkable when poured and several things are very worth trying at the bar or via distillery tour but not worth the price or hassle of buying a bottle to consume due to lack of anything outstanding. The sloe gin is arguably most interesting thing in the samples I’ve been given, followed by the private rye barrel (juniper and all). Mixing sloe gin and four grain whiskey makes for a very very tasty mixed ‘drink’.

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Baker’s 7 and Four Roses Ranked

Yet another sample rundown. So many samples so little time.

For all the Four Roses single casks… The single cask ‘disclaimer’ heavily applies as each cask will be slightly different. The grades and ratings are built solely on casks below.

Four Roses Total Wine Store Pick; OESQ 10 years 9 months. 57.9%
Very perfume-forward on the nose and quite alcohol-forward on the palate, without being too unbalanced. For an E (high corn) recipe, this actually tastes more spicy than it should be, as seem to be a common theme with Four Roses recipes. This is quite delicious and totally worth having at a bar or even at home as a go-to for full proof bottle, alongside with Elijah Craig and Stagg Jr. Arguably, about as good as it gets in the price range for what it is. The prices on these have been creeping up to 90-100 lately so anything less is worth the price and the MSRP is about correct for the quality to dollar ratio. The usual single barrel disclaimer applies: the base spirit will stay same but some notes will vary.
Score: B+

Four Roses Bitters & Bottles SP OBSF “Fairy Garden” 58.8%
TL;DR: Almost creamy consistency and amazing spice/sweet/alcohol balance. Really good. The aftertaste has a whiff of wood-forward bitterness but that’s my only real negative, but that’s not even a detriment for most bourbon drinkers.
Score: A-

Four Roses Small Batch Limited 2020 55.7%
TL;DR: Quite similar to the OBSF above in mouthfeel and taste with somewhat deeper flavors due to age and thanks to the depth the wood aftertaste doesn’t stand out as much. Great stuff for four roses fans, not worth the secondary price for sure but a decent substitute.
Score: A-

Four Roses Costco SP OBSQ
TL;DR: Not my favorite, quite thin body and rather on the spicy side. Mixes well with lower proof bourbons and wheaters in about 1:1 ratio.
Score: C-

Four Roses Bitters & Bottles SP OBSO, 54.8%
Aged: 8y 11m TL;DR: Very fruity. Slightly woody, somewhat on the thin & spicy side that’s balanced by the fruit. Perhaps a little bit too thin and too spicy, making it unbalanced as an experience… At least the fruits are there. Great nose, and palate, but non-existent aftertaste that cuts through the experience like hot knife through butter. Enjoyable and unremarkable at the same time.
Score: B-

Four Roses, “Bill’s Package” OESO, 61.6%
Aged: 8y 3m TL;DR: Proof monster for a 4R bottling even at cask proof, they rarely go above 60%… Very rich with vanilla and tightly packed fruits on the nose… Cologne-level of intensity. Tiny bit of toasted corn nose in this particular cask though it may or may not be representative of this recipe… Unclear without further study. The palate is rather hot, sweet, flowery and fruity and the medium aftertaste is warming, while does drop off a touch too fast. An extremely solid pour even if a whole bottle may be too much of the same thing. Definitely reach for it in the bar or while visiting if offered.
Score: B+

Four Roses, “Bourbon County” OESV, 57.2%
Aged: 10y 5m TL;DR: This is the E version to the Recipe 1 of the Four Roses portfolio. Delicate and aromatic, almost bread-like notes on the nose. Still the rye isn’t as prominent vs the ‘B’ mashbill. Quite spicy on the palate but the creamy body helps a lot here balancing out the burn with almost cream soda sweetness. Definitely fruity and woody caramel are the name of the game here, but for me it’s somewhat spicy and that throws it somewhat out of balance initially thought that balance does improve as palate adjusts. Somewhat on par with OESO above though both are in the ‘beginning’ of the B+ range for me.
Score: B+

Four Roses, “Hard Water” OESF, 60.6%
Aged: 10y 6m TL;DR: I’m looking forward to trying this the most as I have a bottle of the same recipe hidden away. Little mint and spice on the nose. The palate and aftertaste are minty, well balanced with the spice and are delicious. The aftertaste of this cask is long and mouth coating from full body thickness. Very velvety on the tongue with the body. The aftertaste is great here too. In short… this is tasty.
Score: A-

Four Roses, “Bourbon Crusaders” OESK, 52.7%
My last Four Roses recipe to complete the lineup. This time aged for 9 years and 10 months. Bottled for Bourbon Crusaders this is a bottle from 2015, back when some of the better barrels were available for grabs. My friend Ross shared a sample with me. Thank you, Ross. The nose is quite deep and almost funky, very slightly sulfuric initially. Images of having breath mints in a tire shop, the sulfur fades with a bit of time leaving… baking spice & charred wood plum notes. This punches way above it’s proof on the palate at the first sip too. Full body, almost creamy consistency, this is, surprisingly to me, a little too tannic and spicy, though not to the level of OBSQ. Long and warming, yet fairly neutral on flavor, aftertaste filled with more spices. There are plenty of others out there that would love it but it’s not particularly my preferred balance for a Four Roses bottle, though this is still quite enjoyable and not bad by most factors. It’s heat and spice and would likely go great with some southern food.
https://www.bourbonc … es/four-roses-oesk-2
Score: B

As this is becoming a defacto dumpster of my Four Roses notes… A disclaimer that most are single casks thus some of the notes will vary bottle to bottle. Let’s organize:

Rye Forward Mashbill B 60% Corn 35% Rye 5% Malted Barley
1 — OBSV — Delicate Fruit and Rye, Creamy Body — Meh
2 — OBSK — Rye and Baking Spice, Full Body — Yay-
3 — OBSO — Rich Fruit, Medium Body — Meh+
4 — OBSQ — Rye And Light Floral Character, Medium Body — Nay
5 — OBSF — Delicate Rye and Mint, Full Body — Yay
Bright Grains Mashbill E 75% Corn 20% Rye 5% Malted Barley
6 — OESV — Delicate Fruit and Caramel, Creamy Body — Yay-
7 — OESK — Baking Spice, Full Body — Meh+
8 — OESO — Rich Fruit and Vanilla, Medium Body — Yay-
9 — OESQ — Delicate Grains and Light Floral Character, Medium Body — Yay-
10 — OESF — Herbs And Mint, Full Body — Yay

Quick SbS of old and new Baker’s bottles below. Both are from Beam stills so I expect them to have their characteristic spice profile.

Bakers 7 (Current… Single barrel)
Bitter peanut brittle and cinnamon in the glass. Vanilla, cherry, and spices on the nose overlayed with lots of wood. Not quite as sweet as Booker’s but the bones are there, as expected of Beam product. Decent amount of wood to hold it up too but it works well with the baking spices in the mix. Almost drying and a bit bitter overall due to wood tannins. Beautiful, long and rich aftertaste with those baking spices that lasts and lasts. Good with food at bar? Absolutely. Spend money for bottle? Not my cup, too unbalanced, too much wood bitterness. Small disclaimer, that being a single barrel product it will vary.
Score: C+

Baker’s (8.5 years youngest mix in batch 01-2011)
The nose is lighter on this one. Sweet cherry vanilla still, but lighter and better balanced vs the modern release. Somewhat less impactful aftertaste, but it more than makes up for that by being superbly balanced on the palate. This batch happens to be fantastic. It’s a shame that this is sold out for years now. It is straight up magical for those that enjoy Beam’s products… Also fairly close to 2018-01 Booker’s on the profile. Really really good stuff.
Score: A-

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