Sunday, November 29, 2020


Its time! I feel like by now I’ve reviewed just about every major us bourbon distillery and yet somehow I’ve completely not touched on Michter’s which has a range of products from humble, but very palatable, US-1 line all the way to, silly expensive, Michter’s 25 year bourbon. Read their specs and story here: Perhaps I’ve been simply collecting samples for a line up…. Let’s gooooo!

Michter’s 10 year Bourbon 2018
Corn mash forward nose that’s not very sweet but not super pleasant as it has some sour notes in the play as corn does. Leaves almost a (cheap-ish) aftershave cologne smell after the corn notes drift away. The palate is an interesting mix and a juxtaposition (oooh I used a fancy word) of flavors so tightly packed that it feels like they’re gone instantly after a sip from the glass. Notably not very sweet or spicy compared to other distilleries, this seems to be Michter’s own character on display and I would expect this theme to continue through the rest of the review. This bourbon requires time and tiny sips to get it to display its beauty. Casual drinkers beware… without contemplation and making this an experience… the flavor is lost and this would taste borderline bland and uninteresting. Fairly short aftertaste where some of the more subtle flavors linger with a little bit of sweetness coming back. It’s a delicate one for sure. Water doesn’t do much to it, slightly opens up but not dramatically so. No real downsides and yet no greatness either. Good solid bourbon that should be about 100 bucks, not $150. At the price and availability… I’m having a hard time recommending a bottle. If you can find a sample or a bar pour at cost… do it for the checkbox.
Score: B-

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Bourbon 2020
Sweet corn caramel on the nose is in play here that offsets some sour whiffs and balances the notes into very pleasant nosing experience. I’ll sorta summarize it as such: take the review of the 10 from above; add more typical bourbon sweetness to it and a little bit more ‘roughness’ on the alcohol side. If i couldn’t really taste the alcohol in the 10 year, this one, while notably few points of proof lower is much more active on the palate. The alcohol-forward palate makes for a bit of a ‘mess’ which somewhat kills the experience. Paradoxically, this seems to have both nose, palate and a semblance of an aftertaste that’s tries to be of some interest but ends up being a little bit off the mark in each case. Adding water doesn’t do this any favors either. At $80 MSRP, this is making me reach for a Heaven Hill’s $17 Fighting Cock which is essentially on par with it in nearly every way (Disclaimer: to my palate preferences).
Score: C

Shenk’s 2020
Woody and slightly eucalyptus-like nose. Almost like walking through a pine forest or perhaps I’m getting some fresh dill. The nose by itself reminds me somewhat of Old Potrero Malted Rye…. And so does the palate. This feels like a mix of Old Potrero https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201115-213721 with Bomberger’s (review of that below). This is really… REALLY good to me. Slight downside is the lack of primary aftertaste that lasts. The secondary notes in that sticky rye bread flavor lasts a while but the primary flavors are gone fairly quick as per modus operandi of just about every Michter’s so far (and also just about every bourbon). Few drops of water makes the rye really sing and brings back the aftertaste. This is good, real good!
Score: A

Bomberger’s 2020
Light sweet cologne flavors with sweet vanilla caramel that are pleasant though disappear quickly. Rich, sweet and caramel-forward on the palate with some corn and wood notes. This is what a good bourbon should be like. The aftertaste is short but pleasant with lingering vanilla, wood caramel notes that cascade over each other into pleasant warmth. Arguably, a touch of too much barrel influence is felt on the palate for this one but overall this is a very good drink. Water tames the concentration somewhat but and brings interesting toasted wood notes to the fore. Little torn on water, but I’d skip adding water since the proof isn’t that high to begin with.
Score: B+

Shenk’s 2019
Typical Michter’s bourbon nose on this one with a splash of malted rye notes (fresh rye bread), but the rye influence is restrained. On the palate rye influence and bread notes are visible all over but they are well balanced by the bourbon itself. At typical, borderline-too-much-wood-tannins but that can be tamed with a few drops of water. The aftertaste lasts for a while but it’s mostly-wood influenced… then wait…. oh, hi there rye… I’ll go on a limb to say that Shenk’s has some malted rye content in the mash itself to taste the way it does (rye bread). Is it polarizing flavor? Perhaps! Do I like malted rye? Yes! Do I want more malted rye bourbons? YES! Few drops of water makes the rye really sing and brings back the aftertaste. This is good, but not quite there.
Score: A-

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Rye 2020
Sweet brown sugar and wisps of campfire smoke on the nose. Sweet and lively palate, tiny bit alcohol forward that almost feels like ginger spice, leather and tobacco notes make themselves known. Medium-length, warm, but ultimately boring aftertaste of the palate flavors. In many ways this is what I would want out of a rye whiskey, lively palate, sweet notes and lots of different flavors intermixed… Yet, this is let down by its own age and being rough around the edges. The toasted barrel, while arguably adding tobacco, and char notes, doesn’t do the wood balance any favors and would overwhelm the palate if it was any more pronounced… Just finish some older rye already. Can we have a 10 year rye toasted barrel finish pretty please? That would be swell! Seek this out at a bar if you can, it is well worth it.
Score: B

Michter’s 10 Year Rye 2020
Bits of savory rye bread on the nose combined with restrained caramel sweetness. Somewhat grassy (but no dill), eucalyptus, sweet caramel, pine needles on the mouth. Full of rolling waves of flavor even while being only 92.8 proof Wonderfully balanced. Amazing, warming and long aftertaste that lasts a while. This is quite delicious drink and borderline worth its $199 MSRP. A slightly tannic note at the end of aftertaste is the only minor detriment I can think of here. Water opens it up a little bit into sweeter notes but it is not strictly necessary.
Score: A-

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

Thursday, November 26, 2020

John Paul & Glen Grant 12/18

More samples, little time, so really short notes here.

John Paul XMas 2019
Sherry + Light Peat… Yum. Somewhat reminds me of a mezcal level of peat + sherry. The 2019 Christmas Edition describes itself as “PX casks with light peat influence” on the bottle. The peat brings notes of brine and PX brings delicious sweetness.
Score: B

John Paul XMas 2020
Almost has a cold-smoked fish nose on the nose, in a good way. The 2020 description is a mix of ex-Bourbon, PX and Oloroso casks, with light peat. This is surprisingly tasty in a smokey sweet kinda way. The smoke is somewhat light but definitely there and is well balanced vs the rest of the spirit. Compared to 2019 this is less sweet due to mix of non PX casks in this batch. More malt is felt on the palate for the same reasons as previously stated; a tiny bit of a metal aftertaste remains, but doesn’t detract as well as roasted honeycomb that seems to be characteristic to Paul John’s Malt.
Score: B-

John Paul Nirvana
Light and malty profile with a distinct honey undertone. This whiskey is aimed at bars and bartenders and is a new to distribution in US. At 40% abv, the proof is the biggest disappointment here. Definitely worth trying at a bar, otherwise stock the Classic for home bar which seems to be the same thing but full proof at 55%. Very slightly metallic aftertaste is present for my palate but it’s not a huge detriment compared to the proof.
Score: C

Glen Grant 15 have been previously covered here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201114-150301. I am expecting the 12 will be somewhat lesser version and 18 to have deeper flavors than the 15.

Glen Grant 12
I’ll summarize this as ‘expectations met to be a lesser version of the 15′. Lesser proof, though not lesser taste concentration. This is all malt and stone fruit and pears and apples all over itself but slightly less vibrat. Just get the 15, really.
Score: C (Because 15 exists)

Glen Grant 18
Woodier and somewhat deeper flavors than the 12 or the 15 due to higher proof, it doesn’t distinguish itself enough from to warrant a better score or value. Tasty? Yes. Special? No. Just get the 15! With 18 priced at $115 in total wine (as of this writing) this is a terrible value vs $56 for the 15 year old that’s nearly as good for half the price.
Score: B-

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

High West Double Rye, Masterson’s, Old Potrero; Who says it has to be fRYEday…

… to review rye whiskey? My blog and my glass mean my rules! Plus, I really do need to get through as many pending reviews hanging over my head as I can before I lose motivation.

High West Double Rye Batch 17K21
Note: This being a bottle from 2017 is a blend of 2 year MGP and 16 year Barton rye whiskey. Starting in 2018, High West’s own rye replaced the Barton portion to mixed opinions. Since my bottle happens to be old… well I’m reviewing it for what it is. This cost me ~$37 at a local store. Another random note… High West seems to use a lot of recycled glass bottles which is great for them and the environment and makes for an unusual bottle on the shelf.
This has eucalyptus notes on the nose and palate for me as do a lot of ryes. Sweet and light having lots of complexity in its light flavors but at the same time… lacking a little bit of something for me. I’m torn. On one hand its excellent light rye bottle, and on the other… its… almost ‘boring?’. I feel like I’m in the whiskey game in the search of interesting and palate-pleasing flavors and this is the one of the most divisive bottles I’ve had on recent memory. Its both great and not great at the same time, while I cannot even articulate why I’m not a fan of it. Perhaps I’m imagining its having a slightly soapy aftertaste? I guess the bottle name does ring true with the “double” portion of it. Somewhat workable as sipping light rye and probably better for mixing, and it may be little too light for that too. Don’t chase this down.
Score: C

Masterson’s 10 Straight Rye Hungarian Oak Finish #PSH4
A 10 year Canadian Rye… okay… Finished in Hungarian Oak? Sign me up! Did I mention I’m a sucker for different finishes and single casks? The nose is full of wooden vanilla and… just wood without the typical char notes that bourbon evokes. Perhaps sweet oak? Let’s go with that. The palate doesn’t disappoint. This is continuation of everything the nose promised on the palate. This is actually great stuff. As with most rye whiskey, this has few eucalyptus notes but they are hidden and well integrated into the overall experience. There’s not much there to fault in this pour and I expect others that like lighter rye would agree with me. A fantastic drink that’s hard to equate to anything else I’ve had in the past.
Score: B+

Old Potrero Straight Rye Single Barrel #13 (KnL Pick)
Mark J. does an great in-depth review of this bottle here: https://the-right-sp … ye-single-barrel-13/
In Mark’s words: “gorgeous”. This is 100% malted rye. Yes, the ‘malted rye’ may be a polarizing topic, but for me, this is amazing stuff. The nose is definitely rye eucalyptus, but at the same time luscious dark brown sugar caramel and rye bread smell. I can spend a long time just nosing my glass. Very sweet and potent on the palate this whiskey is an experience rather than a drink. This hits right up my alley, sugar, fresh rye bread taste and smell, delicious nose, and supersaturated palate that’s almost syrup-like in its consistency. Strong proof and a long-lasting aftertaste of the primary palate flavors with no downsides for me. Certainly an experience that’s unlikely to be repeated anytime soon. Did I get another bottle? Oh yes I did! Will it emotionally scar those that aren’t the fans of this profile? Yes it may. More for me then! Unique, weird, sweet, delicious and oh-so tasty. Yay!
Score: A

Addendum here. Old Potrero Rye Port Cask finish with high proof is up the same alley if slightly more generic.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Cragganmore, Balvenie 14, GlenGrant 15, Classic Laddie

I’ve been reviewing a lot of samples that are or not related to tastings for a while now. It’s been a long-ish time since I’ve wrote about what is living on my shelf currently and quite a few things there need an overview so that I’m able to finally catch up and not feel too guilty about not mentioning them. Bottles have feelings too ya know!

Cragganmore 1997 Distiller’s Edition, 2012 Port Cask
Link to someone else’s review: https://thewhiskyphi … dition-bottled-2010/
Oh boy, it’s been so long since I wrote about my shelf that this bottle is almost empty now… Perhaps it’s a testament of my enjoyment of this style. I made no secrets of liking red wine finish on single malt and this one is port wine finish. A little bit about this bottle, it’s been distilled in 1997 and then bottled in 2010 as part of Diageo’s “Distiller’s Edition” line. The older style and bottling makes this a bit of a dusty bottle which is great for me. While spirits do not age in the bottles further, the distillation year has a huge impact on overall source quality of the malt and it could be argued that the average quality for newer distilled spirits have been slowly lowering itself as mass market demands more and more quantity without much of a concern for quality. End Rant.
This is deliciously red port wine forward and highly malty on the nose. The palate is very sweet, has a teeny bit of smoke notes, but they are barely noticeable. Has a luscious viscosity in the mouth… and is almost a let-down on the mouthfeel… with 40% abv it’s just too watery, the palate starts amazing… and then sorta falls through into flatness. Thanks Obama Diageo! The aftertaste has notes of ginger spice, malt, sweet red port wine, some honey and is great. If this would have been a 43% or 46% abv, it would have been amazing… As is… it’s a great, highly complex, dessert whiskey that is somewhat let down by its low proof, though I could concede that it may become too sweet if proof is higher.
Score: B

Balvenie 14, Caribbean Cask (Recent Bottling)
Before I start, I wanted to note that this is the more recent bottling of Caribbean Cask which could be different from older ones by having a tan-colored label vs the older ones that were printed on white paper. Is there a difference? It’s hard to tell since I don’t really have a side by side comparison to compare and it’s been years since I had the older one.
I’ll give you a short version here… I’m a fan of Balvenie spirit. This was aged in bourbon casks and then finished in rum casks to amp the sweetness up. This is fantastic intro single malt for anyone that’s interested and should be all around crowd-pleaser. Rum cask finish gives this sweetness, and balvenie is vanilla oak, matly, slightly spicy and for the lack of better phrasing… ‘clean’ spirit. If you’re a fan of sweet non-smoky and non-sherried malts this is right up your alley. Could this be a little more interesting? Sure. But this is a general release from the core range that’s been around for years now, this is about as good as it gets its market space.
Score: B

Glen Grant (GlenGrant) 15, Batch 1
For some inexplicable reason the distillery name is written as one word on a lot of packaging.
This review will concern their 15 year old bottling that’s bottled at ‘batch strength’, which, for the record, means absolutely nothing to regulation but for whatever reason happens to be set at 50% abv by the distillery. Regulatory nonsense aside, how does this taste? Well good news… it’s actually really good. My wife described it as a “Sav Blanc” of whiskey and I am agreeing with her on this. This is very citrus, green orchard fruits, and melon forward mixed with sweet malt flavors. The nose, palate and aftertaste are in line with each other and this is just great overall. 50% abv does not hinder it whatsoever and and makes for a very flavorful tasting. There are some wood and vanilla notes on the palate meaning it wasn’t just aged in inert barrels. Overall, and especially considering the price ~$60 currently, this is a great deal and very worth trying or even stocking for the home bar. Very slight edge on Balvenie 14 by being a higher proof.
Score: B+

Bruichladdich, Classic Laddie 50% Abv
This isn’t actually an open shelf bottle, but instead a sample… but I do what I want.
This is classic unpeated Laddie, this should be on average about 10 years old spirit, I don’t have exact bottle spec of this being a sample but it’s some sort of a big batch of different barleys and barrels… Very minor remainder of smoke mostly from water and environment. Super malty and super flavorful. I cannot quite put a finger on what exactly the taste evokes in me. Almost savory but at the same time sweet and malty that sweet-salty balance is fantastic. Laddie spirit is just generally great stuff. This happens to be wood/residual smoke/malt balance. Very slight varnish notes in the glass. Old woodshop experience is in there. If I were to compare it to food, perhaps it reminds me of caramelized onions or a good burger where everything works together so very well that the smoke isn’t a detriment but instead works as an enhancer of the other flavors. (I must be hungry while writing this review). It’s a great intro into unpeated islay malts of which there are a handful and this particular expression remains somewhat underrated of all the others available. Is it worth trying? Yes. Are there better options? Also yes. Speaking of better options, more sherry or an interesting cask finish would elevate this into greatness! Is it slightly too residually astringent for those that aren’t fans of smoke? Probable yes?
Score: B-

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Compass Box, Round 2

Now with a tasting having been involved… So may as well record sample notes for those I’ve not done a small write up yet.

Ah, Compass Box or as some call it: “The Clynelish Fan Club”… Seriously pretty much everything they do has Clynelish in it. Also all their recipes are posted on their site or can be found out by simply emailing their front email. As a company they’re great and hugely innovative in blending space. Frankly, they have pioneered the concept of ‘interesting blended whiskey with a story’ instead of ‘generic blend for consistency’ as is most of the scotch industry used to be. Also generally speaking, since their blends come effectively in ‘editions’ they will vary slightly batch by batch or year to year.

Quick Impressions of what not been previously covered by :

Great King St. Artist’s Blend
Clynelish contents 38%, with 47% being from Cameronbridge Single Grain.
The palate alternates between being malty and lightly sweet, and iis consistently peach/pear forward. Very tiny bit of smoke remaining from Clynelish but oak and and vanilla coming from the grain. Great drink, not too heavy, but a little bit on the softer side due to grain inclusion of course. Great nose too, though it’s mostly Clynelish-dominated which throws it into mis-balance with the sweeter, fruitier palate. Unfortunately being a mix of malt and grain, this excels at neither. Thumbs up but it’s not a ‘chase it to the ends of the earth’ pour. Stock in the cabinet for guests and happily drink at a bar or with food, or even during a good conversation @work, but don’t make your experience only about the whiskey. It’s an enhancer, not a centerpiece.
Score: C+

Great King St. Glasgow Blend
Clynelish contents 2.6%, with 35.2% being from Cameronbridge.
Sorta meatier, heartier, smokier version of Artist’s Blend, more malt and more smoke to support each other. Palate is some sherry sweetness, rich fruits and savoriness. At the end of the night, peated whiskeys aren’t my thing and this also settles into slightly metallic aftertaste suggesting quite young peat in the mix. Pretty much it’s a peated and more flavorful version of Artists blend to maintain some of the balance. Even more than the other Blend, the inclusion of single grain doesn’t provide it any favors as it dilutes malt aftertaste and lets smoke dominate somewhat. Is it great? No. Is it good? Yes, for what it is. Not my favorite because young peat. Repeating myself from the previous review: “Stock in the cabinet for guests and happily drink at a bar or with food, or even during a good conversation @work, but don’t make your experience only about the whiskey. It’s an enhancer, not a centerpiece.”
Score: C

The Spice Tree
Clynelish contents 14%
Yay a proper malt! Ginger and some light baking spices surrounding the core of fruity maltiness. Solid, tasty great drink. Low peat doesn’t hinder it and some residual smoke from Clynelish enhances the flavor if anything. Reminds me somewhat of smells of a good wood shop. The combination of oak and wood and some bits of leftover lacquer is very much what I’m getting out of my glass. At the same time the flavors and smells aren’t overwhelming either. Decent aftertaste that’s very much inline with the primary palate, lasts for a while and, seems to get better as more ginger and other spice notes come and go in waves. Tiny bits of bitterness on the initial palate, origin of which I cannot quite place, lower the overall enjoyment and the more I am tasting my glass the more noticeable the bitter notes are as my palate adjusts to this pour.
Score: B-

The Story of the Spaniard
Clynelish contents 0%…
Of all the samples in the tasting, I’ve been looking forward the most to this one as I made no secret that I’m a fan of red wine barrel finished whiskeys. Surprisingly, there’s no Clynelish. What it does have, is a mix of different distilleries aged in sherry and red wine casks, ostensibly all from Spain. The nose is very rich and creamy and sweet and very sherry forward. A rare note on proof, while being 43% abv, it smells richer and heavier than what the proof number suggests it should. On the other hand, the palate is surprisingly thin when compared to the nose. It’s still full of sherry sweetness and some red wine notes and spices… but after the luxurious nose, the palate is almost a letdown. Long and delicious finish isn’t though. Lots of tasty notes in this one that continue from the nose. If you’re a fan of sherry and sweet malts… this may be one to try for you. Don’t hesitate to get a bottle and make your own opinion. The only real letdown is the proof as it dilutes the palate.
Score: B

Flaming Heart 2015 Limited Edition
Clynelish contents 24.1%… Scotch Noob does a fantastic review of this bottle here: https://scotchnoob.c … g-heart-5th-edition/
A little bonus review addition, as I happened to have a bottle of this, separately from the tasting samples. Aside from this being a peated whiskey… this has all the benchmarks of an outstanding pour, the age transforms peat smoke into much more complex smoky flavors as it does with all old peat. Since I’m a sucker for sweet (old) peat, this thing is great! Sweet, a little savory and smokey, notes of some zesty sourness are in there to balance out the savory. It would pair fantastic with either cheese or chocolate. This is essentially vanilla, oak, aromatic campfire without smoke going into your eyes kinda experience. Very elegant and well balanced with neither flavor overwhelming the other. An excellence of study in blended peat and layers that it can produce when blended with a light touch and masterful hand. Quality components don’t hurt either.
Score: B+

Forget about the stigma of blended whiskeys when it comes to Compass Box products, while there are always winner or losers in any company releases… Compass Box have been consistently putting out releases that have not been any less than ‘good’ and spiraling into ‘great’ and ‘fantastic’ for their limited edition releases, though those do depend whether or not any consumer really enjoys that particular flavor profile or not. Either way. They’re all great bottles. Give them a try, yada yada. Some acceptance of peat is required though due to proliferation of Clynelish or other peated whiskeys in almost everything they do.

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