Sunday, December 26, 2021

Bruichladdich Islay Barley, Milk & Honey, Omar Sherry, Kavalan ex-Bourbon; Santa Edition

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Secret Santa has come and gone and I’ve gotten a few sample bottles of single malts that I’ve not tried yet… I may mix in a few others but let’s start with Santa-samples in no order. If my Santa reads this message: one of their samples has been well-reviewed elsewhere on this site and I’m very thankful for the nice variety this year. Happy Holidays to you too!

Let’s make the 3rd year of pandemic the best one yet!

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2010, 50%
The Islay Barley is the semi-regular Laddie limited-ish release… This one is a yellow tube distilled in 2010 showcases local farm and growers and is Bruichladdich’s distillery take on terroir. Mostly ex-bourbon with some french wine casks mixed in. Perhaps due to me doing quick dig around for info on the bottling, the color of the pour looks yellow-gold to me, which I found psychosomatic as I rarely get color associations from the glass. The nose is quite typical Laddie, clean unsmoked unsalty iodine vanilla funk. The bog without the rot, a forest after the rain. Wet stacks of seasoned wood. It’s certainly hard to describe but it’s something that the nose from just about every bottle I’ve tried from the distillery shares. Unpeated, clean, slightly salty rather than sweet vanilla and very malty palate with lots of bourbon notes, little bits of bourbon spice and nutty bitterness make themselves known in the secondary notes. Clean, warming aftertaste that is medium long and continues evenly from the palate wraps it up. Easy-going and quite enjoyable as a bar or a daily pour as is the norm with most Laddies. I would not go for a full bottle. Value: Originally priced circa $69 or so; right now it is a reasonable value for the contents released in 2017 and the name. Bruichladdich bottlings tend to be overpriced across the board; so in 2017 I would argue that it should be about $50-60.
Read details here: https://www.bruichla … h-islay-barley-2010/
Score: B

Milk & Honey, Single Cask Nation, 2 years old 59.85%
An Israeli distillery, trying to compete with the big whiskey places? Arid and hot climate helps with fast maturation. Though… really, come on, a 2 year old?! I’m skeptical. Malty fresh oranges on the nose, still a little raw on the alcohol. The alcohol is also quite sharp on the palate department too. Some bitter baking spices, a pinch of salt and little bit of honey vanilla notes are present on the palate as well as just a touch too sharp alcohol presence. Jarringly short but pleasantly sweet aftertaste follows. This soars high on flavor and falls flat almost immediately in the aftertaste department. Water makes it taste… watery and doesn’t open anything up as is expected with such young malt, but does cut the alcohol notes which is perhaps a blessing in disguise. Certainly an interesting sample and sure something to be said about Israeli distiller trying to compete. Right on the edge of really tasty overall, but the malt needs few more years under its belt to really sing. I can see greatness soon but not quite yet. It’s unclear if this cask is an average or exceptional example from the distillery… but the reality is I quite enjoyed this pour after my palate adjusted. Value: Priced around $80… For a single cask that’s a maybe sort of pricing if I were to close my eyes at the actual age. With the age in consideration that price is ridiculous.
https://www.whiskyba … y/157229/mh-2017-jwc
Score: B (a smidgen below B+)

Omar, Sherry type. 46%
A new, for me, Taiwanese distillery to try… I mean they clearly took inspiration from Kavalan’s success. The nose is roasted figs and some alcohol belying its 46% abv, wood, spices… so far, so good. Woody, well balanced sherry sweetness and malt on the palate. Well integrated flavors are at play here… a bit of bitter nuttiness and bourbon spice, together with coffee-chocolate (mocha) secondary notes. The aftertaste is a little bitter, big, long and spicy with malt disappearing quickly, showing it’s unfortunate youth. Overall this is enjoyable yet unremarkable sherried malt with the distinction of hailing from Taiwan. Shockingly for the proof… water makes it sweeter and little more enjoyable for me. Perhaps a perfect highball faire? Value: Total Wine lists this at $93. A little high for a no-name 46% NAS in my humble opinion… I am a-okay with supporting up and coming distilleries but I’m not going to spend $100 on a bottle of this. When NAS similar Kavalan (okay okay at 43% abv) lists at a little more than half the price of this bottle… It’s a hard tag to swallow. Certainly a bar pour or a splurge on a present to a person that likes their world whisky as very few out there tried this yet. Knocking the plus off due to being 100% forgettable after 10 minutes.
Score: B

Kavalan, PAFWS SP, Solist Ex-Bourbon 57.8%
Ah, Kavalan, the original(?) Taiwanese whiskey distillery and certainly the more famous one of the two with Omar above. Selected by “Palo Alto Whiskey Shop” cask number ‘B101214010A’. A quintessential bourbon cask nose. Spiced pears and red apples, butter vanilla, honeycomb, eye-twitching proof in the nose. Tropical fruits galore on the palate, mango, coconuts, ex-bourbon warming spice are subdued but balance off the sweetness and fruitiness amazingly. My mouth is salivating for more. Medium length aftertaste of additional tropical fruit notes and warm alcohol. Overall, Oh this is so very very good. I don’t know what magic Kavalan does to their casks but this particular one is delicious. Yes, it’s not too old and a little unbalanced and probably falls apart with water but it’s tasty stuff in the class at the end of the day. Value: This is Kavalan Solist ex-bourbon so I’d expect this to be $160+… frankly Kavalan’s entire Solist range is somewhat on expensive side. Considering the amount of Solist casks out there makes blind buying of Kavalan bottles a bit of a risky business, which I would personally not recommend as it’s a pure gamble… but then there are gems like these in the mix which mostly justify their tag… so YMMV, good luck. I’d likely get a bottle of this if anywhere under $180 out the door.
The ‘other’ Kavalan is reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210101-233819
Score: A

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

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Glenrothes, Royal Lochnagar, Amrut, Tullibardine, Tomintoul; Vintage Minis!

Got my hands on some old mini bottles with distillation times mostly in mid-90s… While my record with minis has not been great… Why not try something different. Full disclaimer… In my limited exposure these seem to easily go bad or just not be great to begin with…

Glenrothes 1992, Sample Room Mini. 43%
Bottled in 2004 this makes a 12 year old sample. The time not been kind to it either with perhaps 1/6th gone to the angels. It’s also either (by design) not filtered… or the bottle cap deteriorated. Visual inspection suggests unfiltered spirit though as cap isn’t nearly as bad as the cloudy contents leads me to suspect. WIth the angels taking their share this is whiskey flavored water mostly and low proof really isn’t helping. Very little true malt remains though nutty and somewhat tasty long aftertaste suggests it could have been great when it was just bottled. Do not recommend this though. I wouldn’t wish this onto anyone… but being a unique and direct from tasting room… it gets a reluctant pass on grading.
Score: N/A (D-)

Royal Lochnagar 12, 40%
I cannot quite figure out the bottling date, but let’s assume sometime in early-mid 2000s. Quite malty on the nose and palate it’s is reminiscent of the dry cigarette and coffee funk I got in the sherry cask I have reviewed earlier but without the sherry… Sweet, nutty, malty and long aftertaste. This is highly flavorful despite the low proof, and the flavor is really almost better without the excessive sherry. I quite like it, it tastes very slightly peated (nutty smoke) and somewhat reminds me of Loch Lomond 12 I have. Plenty of better things out there… but this is really not that terrible and I’d enjoy it at a bar or @work.
Score: B-

Amrut (NAS) bottled in 2004, 40%
No age stated Amrut bottled in 2004… You know… I now get why nobody likes older bottlings of Indian whiskeys… The nose and palate are basically swamp water while the aftertaste is quite malty and pleasant, if mercifully short. The Indian malts have come a very VERY long way since then. Even that Glenrothes above tastes better, if barely.
Score: F

Tullibardine 1988, 46%
Unclear when this was bottled with laser code on the back reading “09078”… Nutty, slightly acrid and heavily malted, with what I suspect a slight tinge of peat. It’s not too bad… but it’s also all that great for me. It’s got everything going for it
with the year, region and proof… yet not quite hitting the spot. Probably worth a try but I’m skipping a bottle decision here.
Score: C

Tomintoul 10, 40%
Tomintoul 10, bottled circa 2005. Oh finally something drinkable in this samples set. Yes it’s a 10 year old but… Honey. malt, nuttiness and ex-bourbon cask. This is actually reasonably tasty. Slightly sulfuric but almost un-noticeably so. Really enjoyable for a 10 year old 40% single malt.
Score: B

Tomintoul 16, 40%
Now a 16 year old from the same gift set as the 10 above… likely bottled in 2004. More honey and better definition vs the 10. I quite like it in fact. Only real detriment is the low proof here. Nutty, vanilla, some light honey, well balanced and less ‘funky’ vs the 10. Long aftertaste of fruits and mellow bourbon spices. I’d probably be down for a bottle of this. It’s still more of a sharing/guests/@work stuff but it’s certain to be a cloud pleaser (sans sherry).
Score: B+

Tomintoul 27, 40%
Also bottled in late 2004. Some sherry in this one at least in the color and the nose. Dried fruits, lots of malt sweetness and vanilla. The back is warming bourbon spice primarily. More nutty than sweet this got some tobacco leather notes to balance out the old vanilla bomb. Enjoyable certainly but for 27 years I expected more. The low proof is really a distraction here. I’m so glad that no respectable distillery puts a 40% abv on their flagship bottles in the recent times.
Score: B+

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A mix of things: Tagalong, Dewar’s 32, Linkwood 37, WhiskyFest

Some Samples Ahoy!

Booker’s ‘Tagalong Batch’ 2021-02, 63.95%
It’s been a while since I wrote about Beam. And perhaps I didn’t need to, but gotta get back into the habit of writing these once again. You know what… It’s a Booker’s. A pecan pie with cinnamon and vanilla Booker’s. A good one, actually. I tried it SbS with 2018 batches to compare and those are a lot hotter and cinnamon-forward, with Tagalong being nuttier, with less cinnamon. The typical Beam stuff is there but subdued. A well balanced, if a different take on a familiar spirit that should have fans wanting for more… unless the fans really want Red Hots… Then, it’s not your thing. Vanilla, some cherry and so many pecans, slightly changing between sips on the balance without becoming overwhelming. The typical Beam cinnamon aftertaste lasts a long time. This may not be a perfect ‘bourbon’ but it’s certainly a one of the best ‘Beams’.
Score: A-

Dewar’s Double Double 32, 46%
Some sort of Dewar’s brand-owned scotch blend finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks. Supposedly only two distilleries in the mix (thus the Double). The color is rich chestnut. The nose positively reeks of PX characteristic sweet figs. It’s going to be awesome! It’s very very good if you like sweet syrup whiskeys. Fortunately… I do indeed like those. The palate is sweet nutty fig syrup that’s for sure, sliding into spicy ex-bourbon (nearly metallic) secondary notes. Long aftertaste is clear mix of ex bourbon cask spice notes and sherry sweetness. Overall I really like it… but… This is PX finish so bourbon notes and sherry notes aren’t really well integrated so there’s a flavor canyon between primary flavors and aftertaste that feels like it’s missing something. This also got a lot of sherry in it that will mask any number of minor flaws. One of the easier ones to score at that age… Extremely easy drinker and worth seeking out to try… yet not quite enough to be amazing. It’s a little hard to describe, but basically for a heavily sherried pour there’s no body substance to it, some describe it as ’smooth’. It could be an 18 year old Alexander Murray and I’d struggle to tell the difference.
Also I’m not the only one that liked it: https://www.insideho … h-whisky-of-the-year
Score: A-

Linkwood 37, Distilled in 1978, Bottled in 2016, 50.3%
An official (Limited Edition) bottling of Linkwood at 37 years old… Cask proof… Celebration time! Omg! The nose… may just get this a high score before I even taste it. Ex-bourbon… Holy cow! Orchard fruits, mellow spices on the nose. Apples, pears, peaches! The nose is spectacular! You know what? I give up on ever bothering to review it. This is just straight up spectacular stuff. Top 3 non-sherried and non-peated scotch I’ve tried. Ex-bourbon and malt nuts must apply. Nuff said.
https://forwhiskeylo … od-37-year-old-750ml
Score: A+

WhiskyFest 2021 Special Report:
Super quick report in no specific order…
Michter’s ‘21 Rye is not that great, everything else was not available anymore
Paul John Mithuna is freaking AMAZING (but also EXPENSIVE)
Benromach 21 is fantastic & so are most of Gordon & McPhail casks at the show
Frey Ranch is great for grain-forward, young American stuff, not to mention weird 100% oat whiskey bottling which is… oat-forward
Courage & Conviction is middle of the road
Widow Jane is all over the place with Decadence being amazing and the rest being a Hit and Miss
Heaven’s Door regular is passable, but Redbreast edition is actually great (though probably still won’t buy)
Peerless is junk for everything that’s been poured
Bardstown stuff ain’t too special
Fuji whiskey was okay I guess, yet again no buy there.
Westward is alright at cask proof, though a little hot without substance
Overall: See you again in a few years

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Ireland vs >Scotland< ; anCnoc, Speyburn, Old Pulteney, and a sneaky Vatted Barrell

Part 2 of the VS series… This time with some scotch

anCnoc 12; 43%
Ah so many Knock-Knock jokes in zoom chat about it. Orchard fruits; apples, peaches and green pears on the nose. Clear indicators of bourbon cask maturation. The palate is a malty beast, starts with fruits, goes almost minty and then tropical fruits come in. Drinks little hotter than it actually is, which is good since it’s reasonably low proof. The aftertaste is kinda my least favorite of this, with drying pepper that goes slightly bitter with dry (and cheap) pencil shavings and some astringent notes. It’s got some notes for me that are unpleasantly familiar. Maybe because it’s somewhat salty instead of sweet, it tastes like i rinsed my mouth with salty water? Starts sweet and malty and finished bitter and slightly salty. Definitely an interesting profile that I’d like to explore later but will not be buying a bottle. A sample is enough. A much older bottling could be *very* interesting though. Value: At $50 it’s about what the average pricing is for a 12 year old scotch is, not wallet-breaking for sure.
Score: B-

Speyburn 15, 46%
Another sample… This time something sherried seems like. Nose is light sherry notes with alcohol-forward balance, surprisingly shy as it takes me effort to get any significant notes out of the glass initially. Thankfully it seems to be opening up with time a bit. Seems like Oloroso varnish and toasted wood, orange oil. Palate got toasted nuts, more orange oils, some sherry sweetness and gentle spice. Aftertaste continues with warming gentle spiced orange theme of the experience though it fades rather quickly into a leftover tingle. Overall, not bat at all and certainly up my alley on flavor profiles. Can easily compete with Alexander Murray Costco bottlings at the proof and price and just pleasing all around. It does lack a distinct interesting character that a lot of single casks can bring, but there’s not a lot of things to ding on here. Value: At $70 this is yet again around median space where a 15 year old single malt should be…
Score: B+

Old Pulteney 18, 46%
An original distillery bottling from another Hotaling-imported brand. Technically, wasn’t part of the sample set, but why not I already have it. Thanks, Mike for the sample! Seems like bourbon-casked, intensely fruity with peaches and apples, quite strong on the alcohol and that makes it rather perfume-forward. With time this opens up a becomes softer and more flowery. The palate is cereal grains, some citrus zest, bourbon spices and vanilla malt. Medium length, warming, sweet and tingling aftertaste rounds it off. Enjoyable, inoffensive and unremarkable are the best ways I’d describe this. I would absolutely drink it, and it’s actually a solid way-above-average daily pour, it’s super smooth and drinkable but it’s also highly generic. From proof to palate there’s nothing to really make it stand out for me in the myriad others out there. Value: Total wine lists this at $135. Not really a deal in my mind vs plenty of independent ex-bourbon bottles.
Score: B-

Old Pulteney Huddart, 46%
A NAS limited annual release from Old Pulteney distillery aged in peated casks, because why not, right? Value: Well, it’s got a peat note alright. Nose is mostly typical of Old Pulteney with orchard fruit, bourbon spices and peaches, now with a bit of iodine and a tiny smoke note drifting up. Surprisingly sweet palate vs the nose which is very restrained comparably. The aftertaste got some smoke and brininess floating up with toasted bagels and a little bit of coffee. Interesting and rather fun to drink, with peat being an enhancer vs a dominant note. Overall: I like it, yes it’s peated but it starts as almost as something salty, the palate is actually sweet, and aftertaste is yet again salty. This is a rollercoaster ride. Not too complex this is another daily drinker for those that enjoy a little bit of intrigue tinged with smoke. This is circa $70, I’d say an OK on valuation being a NAS but it’s competing with 12 year olds here.
Score: B+

Barrell, American Vatted Malt, 59.11%
An August 3rd, 2021 release, one of 2239 bottles. This Vatted (aka Blended) American Malt. Aged between 3.5 and 10 years and sourced from NY, TX, IN, NM, WA & AZ. This is going to be a kitchen sink of flavor isn’t it? A note that the original super limited run of this had peated malt in the blend. This batch is unpeated… But not guaranteed to stay unpeated. Toasted wood, anise seed, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla nose. The palate is spicy with similar flavors from the nose, with some mint and dill taking a lead followed by sweet sweet malt. The aftertaste is numbing, peppery, rich with more banana and vanilla flavors. Overall, I’m torn. It’s primarily youn malt that’s relying on cacophony of flavors to overwhelm drinker’s palate, but after I work through all the noise (and there’s a lot of noise here) there’s not much secondary complexity underneath. I really want to like it but it’s so different and all over the place from just about anything else I’m finding it hard even placing it on the literal shelf. It’s certainly isn’t a bourbon and definitely not a scotch but a unique thing on it’s own. Well worth a try at the bar, I would caution buying a bottle as this is definitely not for everyone. Price: This was $89 and I’d wager is a worthwhile experiment, considering there are not too many american malts out there, and even less blended american malts, though I’d still mark it a whim purchase. If it was anywhere past $99 I’d definitely would have passed on it. It does take water reasonably well, becoming slightly woodier and losing some of the dill intensity thankfully. Few drops of water are to be considered on this one.
Score: B-

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

>Ireland< vs Scotland; The Irishman, Writer’s Tears, (and an) American Goat

Part one of Irish vs Scottish whiskey brands by Hotaling. And a random American bourbon which I cannot fit with anything.

The Irishman 12, 43%
Aged 12 years in ex-bourbon casks at least it’s a single malt. Nose is quite malty and mineral-rich. Palate has sweet vanilla, toasted grains, some peppers and ginger spice with a bit of milk chocolate to it. Warming; medium length aftertaste with some malty with a little bit chocolate in the very end. Overall: This starts out delicious but is underproofed; this really should be at least 46%, the mid-palate just falls straight into the aftertaste with zero secondary flavors, or could have used few more years in the cask. Try it at a bar for a checkbox. It’s probably best paired with a meal or a conversation. Value: At $75 in Total Wine… I’m not sure it’s really worth it for a 12 year old Irish whiskey… though then again… the prices for brown gold has been climbing.
Score: B-

Writer’s Tears; Marsala Cask finish, 45%
A 45% abv writer’s tears, vs regular 40%… Finished in sweet marsala Sicily wine cask… Which is basically a Sicilian variant of sherry. This is a good start on paper. This is single pot still, which means a blend of malt and grain whiskeys. The nose is quite sweet and little bit dessert-forward with vanilla notes sharing domination with wine. The palate is… Woody primarily; with sweet vanilla, surprisingly soft and gentle with very little spice. Aftertaste is basically missing… Overall: Sweet and inoffensive this is best described as ’smooth’ which means it’s actually boring. Do not bother; unless for novelty or a FOMO checkbox. Value: for $80 fairly low value; it’s a cool gimmick but it’s still an Irish whiskey with sherry cask finish.
Score: C

Writer’s Tears; Cask Strength, 54.2%
I’m assuming this 2021 vintage release. https://www.walshwhi … tears-cask-strength/ … The nose is intense and delicious. Berries primarily with some malt and vanilla, peaches and flowers rise to rule over time. Intensely woody almost to the point of bitterness at first, this slides into leche fruits and peaches after few seconds. The aftertaste is long and rolling with waves of vanilla, ginger, and slightly bitter wood notes leaving my mouth salivating for more or ready for the next course. Overall: Certainly not what i was expecting in here from Writer’s Tears as their other bottlings are somewhat middling. There are other of Cask Strength Irish whiskeys and them claiming “our vatting combining both Pot Still and Single Malt is truly unique” is silly; as Blue Spot AND Redbreast been doing it also. Really delicious though though the wood notes act more of an aperitif forcing me to get through the initial hit and it’s really the only letdown here as the rest is quite a solid package. A very good bottling from the brand; highly unexpected and I’m very pleasantly surprised. Value: At ~$150. This is expensive for a NAS Irish. See my Blue Spot blurb for an interesting comparison: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210712-201944
Score: B+

Prideful Goat; Batch 1; 15 year Heaven Hill’s 78.5% / 13% / 8.5% mash. 57.5%
A single cask bottling by Kristopher Hart of Houston Whiskey group (and many others). Woody vanilla on the nose, some much vanilla and burnt sugar here. Palate is somewhat reminiscent of roasted corn notes that come from Heaven Hill, though reasonably balanced by the wood and the age. Aftertaste is medium or so, starts with sweet toasted wood, then goes into mediterranean dill dip then finishes with vanilla and a little bit of spice.Overall this is quite drinkable though not what most folks would expect from similarly age-stated bourbons, perhaps best to describe it as a mix of ECBP and a Booker’s; or perhaps if Fighting Cock (Also heaven hill) were to release their over-aged 15 year old edition somehow I can see these being similar. Coming off from tasting single malts… this is a little toasted wood-forward as is the case with most older bourbons. Value: This was $99 and is reasonably worth the price comparing to other 15 year old Kentucky bourbons that share the mash bill.
Score: B

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