Saturday, December 26, 2020

Aberlour Casg, Auchroisk 24, Dailuaine 12, MacDuff 14, Nikka Yoichi

While I’m totally procrastinating doing more sample reviews that I want/need to do, let’s go over some of currently un-reviewered bottles on the shelf.

Aberlour Casg Annamh Batch 0004
Translated as “rare cask” this is a triple cask blend of ex-sherry and two types of american oak casks. The full details on age and composition are actually not disclosed. This is batch 0004 (yes, with the zeroes) and bottled at 96 proof. Clearly a Speyside malt, it balances sweet, nutty, and oaky flavors well. Frankly, it’s great representation of a Speyside style. Sherry is there, but it’s not syrupy or too sweet, it complements the nutty and oakey profile well. The proof isn’t too high as to upset casual drinkers (looking at you delicious-but-fiery A’bunadh) yet still high enough where this isn’t pulling its punches. Tiny wisps of smoke or char is on the very back of the long aftertaste. The whole triple cask is truly a fitting description here, if I were to mix good 1st fill with few good ex-bourbon malts I’d imagine I’ll get something similar. Interestingly enough, the other malt that I’m aware of that officially states all three casks is Auchentoshan Three Wood but it trends towards cognac/brandy palate instead. Casg Annamh heavily leans towards a very tasty refill sherry that’s toned down instead. Honestly this is very good, complex and highly drinkable, it may not be as mind blowing as older vintages or single casks are, but at the price and availability it’s hard to find comparable bottles that are substantially better. If you enjoy sherried, yet balanced, Speyside malts, stock a bottle and you won’t regret it.
Score: B+

Auchroisk 24, Old Malt Cask, K&L SP, Bottled in 2018
A wonderful refill (refill) ex-bourbon that happens to be oldest on my shelf at 24 year old. The cask type is refill hogshead (bourbon) so color and texture are reminiscent of chardonnay wine. Bottled at 106.8 proof this is a single cask… so disclaimer; disclaimer… Intensely malty on the nose with citrus, white pepper, lighter flowers and some vanilla oak notes. It really does remind me of chardonnay if it was a whiskey (and not terrible like most chards are, but I’m getting ahead of myself). Texture is actually quite thin, suggesting older wood that’s a lot less active, as is not uncommon with Old Malt Casks line. Palate is caramelized apples, lots of white peppercorns, vanilla, and savoury bits. It is notably not sweet and the profile is reminiscent of unsweetened pepper and vanilla custard. The aftertaste is long, sweeter than the plate and slowly fading into slight pepperiness. Overall, I like it, though I tend to like most single malt. It’s not overly complex, yet what flavors are there are done extremely well. For fans of pure malt this is likely going to be a treat that vanilla and pepper flavors hit it out of the park. For those that are looking for more nutty sweet flavors this will be a disappointment. I personally wish it had some sherry in it to be a true winner but it’d be probably distillery bottling then or much more expensive.
Score: B

Macduff 14, Trader Joe’s SP, Alexander Murray Bottling
I imagine some sort of a miracle has happened and Trader Joe’s got into full proof bottlings of single cask scotch. Win for connoisseurs, maybe? This is a single cask number 900036 ex-bourbon as 57.9% abv and one of 576 bottles distilled in 2003. Also, this was $69.99 in Trader Joe’s. As a side note, I have found it’s sister cask of 900035, ex sherry, in Total Wine for $99.99. The nose is somewhat disappointing, whiffs of smoke like from an old house fire, notes of iodine, bourbon nuttiness but the alcohol is strong and tries to overpower. On the palate, no smoke but still charry or bbq bits, malt, very distinct ex-bourbon spices, and distinct oak character from the cask, nearly bitter at full proof. It’s coffee notes! The aftertaste is pleasant malt and mostly carries over from the palate. Almost chewy in its consistency. So far so good, but… let’s add few drops of water and things really get interesting once alcohol is toned down a bit. The nose is mostly the same, but all of a sudden there’s so much coffee everywhere on the palate and aftertaste. I don’t mean high acidity but instead the toasted/roasted/nutty coffee flavors. Still a malty beast, yet very delicious, especially if you’re into coffee drinking. A little more pepperiness comes through in the long malty aftertaste too. Let’s summarize: This is single cask, full proof, full flavor single malt in ex-bourbon for $59? Yah, this is also a no-brainer on value. Well worth picking up and very flavorful offering that may not be everyone’s drink. This would likely not please those that like mellower and lower proofed spirit. I like it but I also like my coffee flavor which this provides once proofed down a few points. It is still a little ‘rough’ around the edges even then. “Try Before Buy” distinction makes this hard to grade, certainly unique and enjoyable for me, I wouldn’t recommend this as a 1st choice for most.
Score: C+
Addendum: It’s not supposed to be peated, but yet it has some whiffs of smoke, especially on the aftertaste. Very confusing bottling and quite unique for this distillery. Could be grade “B” for those that really enjoy the barely noticeable peat with ex-bourbon casks style of malt.

Dailuaine 12 K&L SP, Old Particular
A somewhat unique bottling from 2019, a 12 year old Dailuaine from a 1st fill sherry butt, bottled at 57.6%. Unique in a sense that while this is a 1st fill, the color and palate are surprisingly tame for this sort of bottling. What are the contributing factors for that? I have not the foggiest clue, though it could be any sort of combination of colder warehouse corner, different type of sherry, or a dryer cask. At least visually, I’d never have guessed it’s a 1st fill. But I also trust K&L folks and if the say it is what it is they certainly know better. The nose is red fruits, cherries, plums, cologne, and bits of alcoholic varnish. Palate is cocoa-forward with dark raisins galore and some dried fig preserves coming in on the back as expected from sherry. Not too sweet, this balances spices, sweetness, and savory flavors well with neither being overwhelming. Aftertaste is woody spices, more raisins and sherry notes. It is surprisingly tame and about medium length, likely because the spirit itself isn’t syrupy as is often the case with 1st fills. Fantastic, mellower 1st fill Speysider that I’m finding hard to fault. Since this is a review so I feel the need to decry this somewhat, in such that this feels more of a refill or a sherry finish rather than a first fill bottling. With only being 12 years old there’s not been enough time for more complex layers of flavor to develop in the spirit either and it has to fall onto sherry notes. Few more years in the cask and it would have been spectacular, as it is, I’ll settle for ‘great’ and well worth trying.
Score: B+

Nikka Single Malt Yoichi Whiskey (NAS) 45% abv
Japanese whiskey. Its relationship with Scotch is both complicated and simple. Plenty of others have written about it (for example, here: https://www.whiskysh … y-of-japanese-whisky), but the short version that in the 1930s it was essentially a perfect clone of scotch production methods and manufacture at the time and have matured and somewhat evolved since then while staying true to its 1930s roots in a very Japanese-like aspiration of continuous gradual ‘improvement’. All that effort have paid off with Japanese malts routinely collecting numerous awards for the last decade or so as well as huge jump in demand for quality Japanese malt. It is no wonder that so many copycats have sprung up that masquerade as Japanese whiskey, while being actually scotch that’s been shipped and then bottled in Japan… Though that’s another story for another day. What we have here, is a No Age Statement (NAS) Single Malt Yoichi whiskey from Nikka distillery, which I can only assume to be at a lower end of the range, as I’ve seen both 15 and 20 year age-stated versions, though I’ll assume those are expensive. Bottled at 45% abv this is a true Japanese malt, distilled, aged and bottled in Japan. Also, it is named after the town of Yoichi where Nikka distillery was founded at and still operates.
Nose is intense malt with some nuts and light wisps of wooden campfire smoke, almost like the clothing would smell after camping but not actual campfire itself. Little more smoke and savory on the palate, balancing nutty maltiness. This is certainly on the lighter side of the wood influence. Razor-edged balance that swings back and forth between light smoke and malt, finally fading into the distance as something in-between as it picks up some light pepper notes. While there is certainly some peat in the malt, it is there for layered flavor instead of prominence. This ends up tasting similar to lightly smoked popcorn or macadamia nuts. The downside of NAS label is unfortunately thin texture of the drink. I find myself comparing this to the others malts in this review and the viscosity of Yoichi is very watery for comparison. I would imagine that older version fix that shortcoming and are well worth trying but without samples of those I’m not in a position to make a judgement. This is enjoyable, tasty and reasonably ‘light’ malt that I can see myself visiting and enjoying occasionally, even if I won’t restock a bottle for home.
Score: B-

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Buffalo Trace Distillery part 2

Continuing where I left off with the Part 1 of this series. https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201217-223821 here are more bottles from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, this time a fancier faire.

Eagle Rare California Food Mart SP
Ah, the venerable Eagle Rare. One of the few remaining, affordable, 10 year old, age-stated Kentucky Bourbons. Until a few years ago, a single barrel release, with every bottle from one barrel. These days it’s a small-batch release but always at 90 proof. This is also a BT’s mash bill #1, low rye, representative. Single cask store-specific selections are not super rare and tend to be on-par-or-better than the regular releases. As usual, your mileage may vary with single casks. Since I happen to have two examples, a regular and a store pick, I will be trying the two side by side. With the single barrel pick, nose is Manhattan-like, typical BT cherry with some bitter aromatics. The palate is quite tasty, it is lacking any unpleasant corn funk notes, subtle in its complexities, has no wood bitterness, though has plenty of wood spices. All that is well balanced vs cherries and some reasonable sweetness without being too sugary. This does remind me of a good Manhattan cocktail, albeit on the lighter side. Tasting the regular release, it is a solid bourbon representative, but I’m not getting that Manhattan profile from it as it lacks punchy cherry note that the store pick sample I have provides.
Score: B (C+ for regular)

Afterthoughts on Eagle Rare vs Buffalo Trace:
While I don’t see myself going back to regular Eagle Rare often, single barrel picks may be well worth considering, depending on store and picker’s preferences. I also recall having a bottle of regular Eagle @work and strongly disliking it. I’m wondering in retrospect if it happened to have been a bad batch in that particular bottle. As it is, the regular release is good but nothing too interesting to chase after and it happens to be essentially a slightly older sibling to Buffalo Trace bourbon covered in the previous part. Between the two, it is a tough call on what I prefer myself if I had to choose, with slight preference towards Eagle Rare for somewhat more interesting mid-palate and aftertaste vs the other one. For budget and cocktail mixing considerations Buffalo Trace would come ahead though.

Weller Special Reserve 90 proof
Well well well, what have we got here… a Weller? (Terrible pun, I know). This is the lowest-priced of the Weller range at MSRP $25 or so, good luck finding it at that price on the shelf though. The best I’ve seen was at $40 due to extremely high desirability of all things Weller. This bottling label famously shares the same wheated mash bill as legendary Pappy Van Winkle line. By definition, bourbon mash bill must contain at least 51% corn with the rest being some ratio between wheat, rye and barley. Wheated mash bills have wheat contents as 2nd highest grain percentage in the mix, after corn. As with most BT products, single casks of this exists, but mine is a regular small batch release. I’d expect these barrels to be somewhere in a 6-10 years range. Is the hype justified? Let’s dig in!
The nose is a combination of fresh wheat bread and light rye spices, cloves, nutmeg with wisps of toasted wood or light caramel. If anything the nose reminds of Buffalo Trace with more wheat notes and less rye spice. The palate is once again reminding me of a good french bun with some spices on it. Oddly, I’m getting images of a good Banh Mi sandwich with 5 spice pork when sipping. Nicely warm and pleasant back and aftertaste is where it mostly falls apart due to low age and proof of the wheater. Wheated whiskeys tend to be lighter on the palate and generally need higher proof and more aging than their typical corn-rye bourbon counterparts to compensate with more layers of flavor from aging or concentration. A relatively young Special Reserve being only 90 proof doesn’t quite have either. That being said if you happen to see it under $40 it is worth taking that bottle home and making your own mind up as it will not be any money wasted here. I like it a smidgeon more than Buffalo Trace Bourbon due to better balance, but the Special Reserve is nothing ’special’. Very drinkable but un-engaging pour. An excellent introduction to lighter bourbons for someone new or for @work drinking, especially anywhere near MSRP.
Score: B-

Buffalo Trace Kosher Recipe 2020 (94 proof)
Supposedly wheated BT mash bill. Read more here: https://www.buffalot … r-whiskey-wheat.html. I’ll be brief on this as my sample is very small though I’d like to include this for completeness. When I initially tried it blindly I was sure it was Weller Special Reserve (SR). After tasting from a proper glass, this one seems to be more rye-forward and kinda reminds me of a cross between Sazerac and Weller SR. This tastes like a lighter rye whiskey, closer to High West Double Rye I have. Which is highly unlikely with the wheated mash bill. So it’s possible that there was some mix up but I won’t be able to make a true judgement without revisiting this with a bigger sample. If that was truly the Kosher Wheated Recipe from BT, then it’s a decent drink for the price and limited release FOMO. Probably worth grabbing a bottle if you see one at MSRP. Do not pay secondary prices for it.
Score: B- (Provisional)

Rock Hill Farms
Another sample, generously given. This time a representative of BT Mash Bill #2, bottled at 100 proof and a single barrel as per spec. The usual disclaimer on single casks included. When I’ve first tried this blind, I guessed it was a BiB something from E.H. Taylor. Second try, I was certain it was some sort of a Weller (wheated). Turns out, it was neither. As with most BT products that are single cask, finding this in a wild is a daunting task so good luck seekers. The nose is fairly typical to BT cherry, this time with cigar bits. There are also cedar wood and men’s cologne to add woody vanilla notes. The palate takes a different turn from the nose and is on the mellower side of things. Where nose promises lots of wood and punchy flavors, palate delivers some initial rye firmness and immediately switches into balanced and almost gentle cascades of flavors typical BT profile that end in an almost wheated mash bill-like aftertaste that lasts for a while. Not overly sweet, the rye in there supports instead of dominating… This is certainly much more interesting that Hancock’s I’ve had but having enough of a punch to be ‘heard’. Being from different warehouse this is neither Hancock’s nor Blanton’s but its own thing. I keep on having urges to somehow describe this as a mix of the interesting parts of both EHT and Weller that freely stands on its own. Absolutely get a bottle of it if you see it anywhere under $100 (MSRP is $60) as it’s solid drinking. I actually really enjoyed this and about the only downsides here are availability and secondary pricing insanity due to high demand.
Score: A-

Stagg Jr Batch 14, 130.2 proof
I’ve reviewed Stagg Jr before, so this will be super brief. Stagg Jr is good. If you see bottle under $100 (MSRP is ~$70) get it! Batch 14 introduces more eucalyptus notes and tones back cherries but is still fantastic.
Score: A-

George T. Stagg (GTS) 2020, 130.4 proof
Drumroll please… The main event has arrived. To be fair, I have only a tiny 1 oz sample but what the heck, I’ll try. Good luck finding a bottle of GTS anywhere under $500 :(. Oh, the secondary prices are insane.
Nose is BT spices and wood dialed to 11 and is fantastic. Proof matches Batch 14 Jr almost exactly, while being nearly twice as old. There’s some vanilla cherry cola in the nose compares to Jr Batch 14 so this is more reminiscent of Jr Batch 13 for me. The taste is laden with rye spice, wood, and vanilla sugar in a balance that rarely achieved in younger bourbons. The BT palate is there and tiny bits of woody bitterness cycle around to the prominence in the back. The aftertaste has gently fading spices but of medium length and not all that outstanding as it descends into a charry bitterness at the very end. The alcohol burn is felt through and distracts from the greatness, leaving my palate nearly numb afterwards. To be honest, I’ve expected more out of the pedigree and hype that surrounds GTS. Is it good? Yes. Would I drink it? Absolutely! Will I pay secondary for it? Absolutely NOT! As with any ultra-expensive alcohol, the value is in the eye and the palate of the beholder.
Score: A-

William Larue Weller 2018, 125.7 proof
Aged 12 years 6 months, this is a 15-months-later addendum to this review. A small sample provided by friend Charu. It doesn’t qualify for its own review spot. So a good place to stick is here. This smells like a leather shoe rack, dry, dusty leathery whiff with a side of shoe polish. A pleasant version of it at least. This also reminds me heavily of a pine resin that my grandfather used for soldering the smell has that pine resin+soldering iron smoke to some extent. The palate… oh wow… Somewhat sweet with corn that’s been smothered in cherry syrup, dry and dusty with baking spice and wood. It’s really super good. More wood and cherries on the aftertaste. Overall: This stuff is good. Real good! Value: Don’t pay secondary for it kids; you’re just feeding the scalpers. It is extremely worth it at MSRP though.
Score: A

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Buffalo Trace Distillery part 1

Wow, this write up is way overdue considering number of Buffalo Trace distillery bottles (or samples) I have… Which, by a quick count is at 14, though not all bottles are open. I have reviewed Stagg Jr. and Weller full proofs before here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200614-130447 and another Weller Here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200912-201749, as well as EHT and Hancocks here https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200418-070721… but Buffalo Trace (from now on, shortened to BT when referring to distillery) isn’t about Wellers, Pappy and BTAC only… They got other brands, some of which are in demand, and some… languish on the shelves. Read here… you’ll be surprised by some of these being of the same stills: https://www.buffalot … .com/our-brands.html. They also have 4 mashbills (recipes) that are best illustrated on this picture: … Bill-break-down2.png … in case it doesn’t work they are:

  1. Low Rye — <10% -- Eagle Rare (and others)
  2. Higher Rye — 12-15% — Blanton’s (and others)
  3. Wheated — Pappy/Weller
  4. Rye — Sazerac Rye

BT is also well known for their single cask pick program where they allow retailers to pick a cask that meets a specific product spec and bottle it with a sticker exclusive to that retailer, making the product a single cask vs batch… Or in case of Eagle Rare or Blanton’s (and others) which are already single cask by definition, allowing the picker to find something that they would want on their palate and thus match customer’s interest in a specific flavor profile variation of the product. I should note that cask program tends to have slightly older casks than the regular releases. Still, don’t expect a George T. Stagg in a bottle of Buffalo Trace even if they’re same recipe. Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Stagg, E.H. Taylor all share the mash bill yet all taste fairly drastically (ish) different from each other and it’s not just their proof that makes the difference. Spoiler alert, the cherry and cola notes seems to be strong trait of most of the BT products.

Buffalo Trace Liquor Express SP
Let’s start with a middle ground staple. This is easy to find, non esoteric, middle-shelf Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottle. Except in lawless wastelands, ie Florida, where this is allocated for some unknown reasons. The usual disclaimer about single barrels applies here, as mine happens to be one, but there are no proof changes and I would assume it’s about the same age as some of what’s in the general release. Buffalo Trace says they age for at least 8 years. A good guess is somewhere between 8 and 10 years. A normal batch of Buffalo Trace comes from an average of 25 to 30 barrels though.
The nose is pleasant, but light, cherry pie. Not too weak, yet thinner than what I would have expected from a bourbon. Like standing in a middle of a pie bakery vs sticking your nose into one. The palate is surprisingly spicy, lively and woody, yet it never truly escalates up, but instead does a slide into the aftertaste. My bottle happens to be not overly sweet and is somewhat disjoined from the cherry pie i was expecting from the nose, though I suspect the regular batches are more balanced in that regard. The aftertaste is rather short and is akin to a light wood flavored ride down a playground slide with few bits of ginger prickle that fade into pleasant sweet bourbon numbness. In my Hancock’s review, which happened to be one of the first bourbons I drank @home, I noted that it drinks a lot like a Mai Tai, an easy drinker that just seems to disappear out of my glass without me noticing. Now that I’m more educated and I know that they are different mash bills, I can in many ways equate my experience with Buffalo Trace Bourbon with Hancock’s as two are both single barrels and roughly same age and proof the only real difference being the mash bill. So this bottle is the Hancock’s of BT’s Mash Bill #1. In the end… Do I like Buffalo Trace Bourbon? Yes, yes I do… buuuut it’s let down by its proof and thus thin body flavor profile. The lack of aftertaste is somewhat disappointing too. Fantastic drinking with friends, @work, or in a bar but there’s nothing to truly contemplate over in there after you took some sips. At the price and availability it’s hard not to recommend this as a fantastic standby for casual social drinks or for Old Fashioned cocktails, but I don’t plan to restock this on the shelf once my bottle runs out.
Score: B- (C+ regular release)

Ancient Age
This is the lowliest representative of BT Mashbill #2, shared with Blanton’s and Hancock’s Reserve, among others. The color is yellow amber. Pleasantly tropical nose with a tiny bit of distillate sourness coming through. The palate is just sort of a mess though. Little bitter, little spicy, little woody, little sweet, quite thin at 40% abv and none of it seems to work together. Pleasant and warm aftertaste that’s okay and quite palatable once some bitterness fades the rest snap into place. Okay… I don’t totally hate this and finished my sample. It’s a bottom shelf BT bottle. I wasn’t expecting much, I didn’t get much. Frankly, there’s no point buying this as it has no interesting qualities to itself. It’s no rotgut, but you can do much better than Ancient Age.
Score: D+

Blanton’s (Regular) 2-11-20, 93 proof
Drumroll… and now for a fancier representation of the same mashbill BT #2. Blanton’s! Aside from there existing seemingly 10 different types of Blanton’s bottles, mine happens to be a humble regular version at 93 proof. All Blanton’s releases are single barrel, so usual disclaimer applies as your mileage may vary barrel to barrel. Off the bat, since Ancient Age, above, is the immediate comparison. I’ll guarantee that this one is both older and more interesting. The color is darker comparably. On the nose the sourness is gone and replaced with very pleasant baking spices and rye notes. The palate doesn’t disappoint, rye spice and some wood notes dominate with sweetness taking a step back. Pleasantly balanced and nuanced representation. This does have a tiny bit of bitterness that may disappoint those that like their bourbons sweeter. Aftertaste continues from the palate uninterruptedly into the distance, is about medium-to-long and decently pleasant if you enjoyed the nose and the palate since it differs not from them. Yes, absolutely, stock a bottle, get some in a bar and enjoy it. The hype surrounding Blanton’s is overblown and at the same time mostly deserving. The MSRP is about on point for these and they’re somewhat findable, at least the regular ones are. The bottle and its topper are a conversation starter and you could collect all the different toppers to spell out Blanton’s with the letters under the horse. As aside, mine is a letter ‘B’…. Buuut… I also find that I don’t really go back to my bottle a whole of a lot, so it mostly sits on the shelf. Whether or not it’s my taste preference for some of the sweeter faire or my particular bottle… is unclear. As with many other brands from BT, the Blanton’s Private barrel selection tends to be a few years older and will generally match the flavor preference of the person that picks it, but will be same 93 proof. Whether or not that justifies extra price depends if yours and picker’s palates match. Mine is the regular single barrel, so I can only grade on my subjective preferences.
Score: B

Sazerac Rye, Regular, 90 proof
Yet another BT Mashbill representative, this time it is #4, a rye bill. Outrun of this mostly consists of Sazerac Rye and the two BTAC bottles, so think of it what you will in terms of expectations. The nose is spicy rye bread and little bits of dill but those are subdued. On the palate this somewhat falls apart, rye palate greatness fights with low proof. Crisp and versatile, this isn’t anything I would call ’special’. Tasty and disappointing at the same time. Aftertaste fades into watery notes quite fast. The palate and aftertaste happen to be on the lighter side of the rye spectrum in terms of overall balance compared to say Pikesville Rye. Overall I like it more than Pikesville but that lack of palate and light aftertaste are both suggesting to me that this bottling is primarily aimed at cocktails and I’m sure it will excel at it. Somewhat decently sippable; this is neither disappointing, nor something that I would seek to keep around. Ask for it in your rye cocktail at the bar though. You won’t be disappointed with the result.
Score: C+

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

ECTB, Yellowstone LE 2020, Jim Beam Masterpiece, K&L Medley, Glyph, Untitled (MGP) Unique bourbon samples 1

Did I mention I seem to be accumulating samples at a crazy rate… Well more sample control this time around, random selection of bourbon samples in absolutely no particular order.

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel
This was one of more anticipated releases from Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig line this year, aside from the Barrel Proof and Parker’s Heritage, just in the fact that its new and slightly different. For this release they took regular small batch Elijah Craig and finished it in some freshly toasted barrels for a few months for extra flavor.
So the first thing that really strikes me is the nose. It’s much more interesting than the regular small batch and is positively brimming with oak vanilla caramel and dry toasted wood. It reminds me somewhat of a barrel proof nose minus all the alcohol burn. The palate is nicely woodier and pleasantly sweet version of small batch and so is the aftertaste. Overall, this is much more interesting than small batch and is borderline great drinking. I already mentioned that this reminds me strongly of barrel proof line but with less proof and I’ll stick with my guns on that statement, it’s got the similar flavor concentration at lower proof which is a solid bourbon win for me as this level of flavors are not very common to see in sub-50% abv. Not too sweet of a palate, don’t get fooled by the nose… Considering this isn’t an ultra exclusive single cask pick but a limited (yet widespread) release this gets a solid recommendation from me for the fans of Heaven Hill and Elijah Craig specifically that want the flavor without having to fight with the alcohol. The only real downside, is that there’s not a whole lot of complex layers of flavor that would develop in a 10+ year old barrels but most of the negatives are masked by the extra finishing. I am a fan.
Score: B+

Yellowstone Limited Edition 2020
So this is undisclosed mash from undisclosed distillery aged for unknown amount of time, thought product page sites suggest 7 years… the only known things are that this is straight bourbon finished in armagnac casks and that its 101 proof. The nose is a little wine-y and has slight sour apple/plum note to it. The palate is sweet, woody and peanutty with some plums, but this time the plums are sugar-covered instead of sour. The aftertaste is taken over by the peanuts in a cloyingly-sweet-turning-bitter-wave that’s not my favorite. Try this at a bar if you want to scratch the ‘limited release’ itch but I would avoid a bottle.
Score: C

Jim Beam PX Sherry Distiller’s Masterpiece 100 proof
Well apparently this one is somewhat fancy! Beam nose for sure, though wood does have some prominence and dried figs from sherry are also in there somewhere. Very subdued Beam character on the palate that is almost missing its typical cinnamon brightness. The palate is sweet but not overly so and it seems most of the sweetness is coming from the sherry instead of the bourbon itself, after few sips, sherry asserts itself once again to provide gentle sugared figs that last for a while. It’s no surprise that sherry and bourbon are a good combination in many ways though to truly shine the bourbon itself needs to be well balanced to avoid sirup situations. This pour does achieve that balance in spades. It is well above average on the enjoyable scale to sip and this is very much a contemplative sipping drink that needs to be enjoyed for the subtle complexities. Whether or not it’s worth the $190 MSRP and the PX finish is deemed ‘acceptable’ by bourbon purists is a separate topic. Strong recommendation on getting it a bar or having a friend pour you some to try before committing on the cost. Dangerously drinkable either way.
Score: A-

K&L Wines Medley
No real info given so here’s the link to the store page:
Strong brown sugar caramel on the nose together with wood char. Corn caramel profile and lots and lots of wood. This thing is also 68% abv so that shows too. Perhaps an exemplar of kentucky bourbon? Reminds somewhat of Old Ezra 7 on the whole sweet/wood balance but for me its over-wooded. Takes water extremely well which tames the beast somewhat, yet still for me too much wood even with it being cut by the water. After water this starts to taste a lot like woodier version Henry McKenna (from Heaven Hill). I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Heaven Hill distillate. But the reality is this. It’s got too much wood in the mix and it just overwhelms everything else that’s good. So I’m torn… On one side, its an avoid for me, but for those that like Old Ezra, or barrel proof Henry McKenna… that’s a maybe? Get a taste from a friend and make your own mind up. I traded my bottle to someone who appreciates it more than I do.
Score: C-

Endless West “Glyph” Molecular Whiskey
Dear reader, dare I try this and not die? Know this, if I don’t post another entry after this… I am dead, avenge me. On the nose, bad apple cider (fermenting apples) out of the little sample bottle, thankfully regular caramel apples and bubblegum out of a glencairn. This don’t smell like proper whiskey… I am almost not willing to try it. Okay its not… 100% vile… maybe like 97% terrible. The aftertaste is okay, I guess, more bubblegum and sugar and some apples and tiny bit of ginger spice. The palate is… thin bodied, light apple bubble gum flavored booze? Do. NOT. Want! This is terrible. While probably technically whiskey… No, just no! Though, if dear reader cares to read a little more on the subject, here’s a link that tells it better: https://www.drinkhac … h-molecular-whiskey/ I also disagree with their score, it’s way worse than they make it seem. You sir, who gave me the sample, while I greatly appreciate the gesture… You’ll be well served by pouring your bottle down the drain and never mentioning that it existed in your possession.
Score: F

Untitled 14 yr MGP 72.5% Bourbon Whiskey
One Eight distilling private barrel 13. Note, this is NOT their #13 whiskey. Some sort of a private cask this sample is. Update, this seems to be Prav Saraff’s single cask private pick out of DC area. A little self-indulgence and a first hazmat (70+ % abv) taste for me. So since it’s a bourbon, this is first fill casks and would not have entered higher than 62.5% abv, by definition. Lets… cautiously… dig in. Color is dark chestnut. The nose is all about sweet oak and caramel, with a healthy dose of alcohol burn that doesn’t detract from the experience and that nose is definitely an experience. After awhile, unsurprisingly but unfortunately, some varnish/shoe polish notes let themselves be known. I’d liked to have smelled this nose for a while longer in its original form. Very concentrated and very good. Eye-watering level of flavors on the palate. Not too sweet, the familiar MGP spices come though on the aftertaste but the middle palate is barrel and alcohol burn that’s decently balanced. Honestly, way too hot, yet delicious on it’s own. With water, this calms down a lot into some amazing MGP staple single cask profile, not too sweet, and now the spices shine. Think of it as a very dark 2020 SAOS pick, except its 14 years old with all the complexity of old bourbon in there. Few subtle notes of dill from the rye are also notable but don’t detract from the experience. After adding some water, nose is totally back to great initial notes I’ve smelled after the fresh pour, the aftertaste lasts and lasts with the palate being amazing… Yeah this is real deal. Definitely add some water into this one as it’s too much prior to that. You will not be disappointed.
Score: A (B at full proof)

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

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Scallywag, Highland Park, Lost Blend, Bunnahabhain PX Unique malt samples 1

Over the course of my wheelings and dealings in the bourbon world… (read: meeting random folks from whiskey groups and whatnot) I try to share as many samples as possible to both spread the joy and allow others to try things they may not had an opportunity to do so in the past… Similarly, others are oftentimes willing to share samples with me. So I tend to accumulate random mini-bottles that contain whiskey. As the reader may have surmised from my more recent reviews I have enough to start grouping things into ‘themed’ articles but there are also plenty that don’t fit in with any others… So, no themed reviews today… just random samples…

Douglas Laing Scallywag Blend Special Edition 13 years old
EDIT after writing the below and doing a 10 seconds of research… This is supposed to be sherried!? I did leave it in the glass for probably solid 30 mins and somehow in that time all the sherry was gone. Trying it fresh from the bottle brings all the sherry back. I’m so confused. Okay okay… Seems I’m not crazy… after letting this breethe for solid 20+ minutes most of the sherry notes do disappear into peppery maltiness. Such a two-faced whiskey… quite interesting indeed.
Original: A blend of Speyside whiskeys with youngest being 13 years old, 46% abv and, if i recall correctly, this happens to be a special age-stated 13, edition. Malt malt malt on the nose. Reminds me of Longmorn 14. light citrus malt character. On the palate same light citrus malt from the nose but now with some noticeable notes of sweet vanilla from the oak. Not very sweet, if I had to describe this in terms of recent drinks… this is a mix of Longmorn 14 and Auchroisk 24 while being a little bit less concentrated than either due to 46% abv. Some white pepper spiciness works well and the aftertaste is quite pleasant, even if its not spectacular. Basically lemon meringue pie with vanilla custard, mostly hold the sugar? Very very pleasant malt. Water doesn’t do much other than open it up to more white pepper without the age or proof to balance it out. I’m torn on the grading… On one hand I really like both of the whiskeys I’ve mentioned… on the other… it’s not quite as good as either of them separately (though admittedly both are single cask bottles). If you want a great example of refill refill Speysider (without sherry or fancy barrel magic) this one may be easier to chase down than single barrel bottles of Old Malt Cask… because great things are rarely easy.
Score: B

Highland Park 8, McPhail’s Collection 43%abv
Prefacing this that I’m not a fan of young peat that has no sherry.
The nose got wisps of smoke and some stewed fruit though the relative youth of the malt makes itself known after a few minutes. The palate… is smoke, trending towards savory flavors with almost zero sweetness or vanilla. Aftertaste and second half of the palate unfortunately falls into unpleasant spicy bitterness that I’m really not a fan of but perhaps some may be. Unfortunately without anything outstanding about this whatsoever, this isn’t good to me. It may appear to the narrow overlap portion of Venn diagram that like both Highland Park, young malt, and refill barrels but even still I think there are better options available. Give me a nice 1st fill sherry Highland Park single cask and then we may talk.
Score: D

Compass Box Lost Blend
Blend: 70.8% Clynelish, 22% Caol Ila, 7.5% Alt-A-Bhainne… Bottled at 46% abv.
Oh Compass Box… The first and mostly only company that consistently puts out good blended whiskey. Sure, plenty of others have put out good blends, but consistently great ones? Yeah nobody, that I’m aware of. This particular bottle is a tribute to one of their first blends called “Eleuthera” for which the components are no longer available in quantities to sustain production. So seeing that they were able to get their hands on a small amount, a limited run this is! Read more details here: https://www.compassb … kies/index.php?id=14 … Also as per modus operandi this has Clynelish… Compass Box really likes their Clynelish in the blends but who can blame them, really? It’s a great multilayered whiskey that does extremely well as a middle layer of flavor to build on… Anyways!!! Smoke and light citrus fruits on the nose as well as tons of malty notes. The palate is more citrus, with some smoke and malt, but surprisingly low sweetness; all in balance, leaning towards nearly-sour notes. Perhaps smoked lemon drops, reduced sugar would be a good description? The aftertaste brings light nutty bitterness which once again works great with light Clynelish smoke and malt flavors. This reminds of summer shandy (beer+lemonade), but in a whiskey bottle. Bring it to your summer getaway and you won’t be disappointed.
Score: B (B+ if it’s summertime)

Bunnahabhain Pedro Ximenez Finish 54%
Note: No age info given on the sample. It is probably this, though it’s not a 100% guarantee: https://www.whiskyba … 30/bunnahabhain-2003
Finishing up this set of reviews in style! The nose is salt brick and stewed fruits from the sherry with peppered bits and a tiny whisper of tobacco. Perhaps lightly-smoked dried figs or dates if I had to call it out. I can keep on smelling this for quite a while. The mouth is pure indulgence of sherry, thick, syrupy, oh so delicious, definitely dried fig preserves is what I’m tasting now. Few wisps of smoke, but almost unnoticeable under all that cloying sherry, I’m probably imagining them as its supposed to be unpeated. Almost too sweet, the aftertaste lasts a long while and it feels just as if I ate a spoonful of caramelized fig preserves that were covered with burnt sugar caramel. Amazing dessert or after-dinner drink and I would take any day…. But it’s basically a high-proof syrup. I love the sample but I’m not sure I would love the entire bottle of it.
Score: B+

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