Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Balcones, MB Roland, St George, Westland American Single Malt p.1

There are some very exciting exemplars of American-made single malt that are starting to appear in the market. Some, but not all brands that produce some kind of single malt bottlings that are “Made in the USA” are… EDIT: Nevermind, I was going to write out some that are familiar to me… but just read it here, this article did the job for me already: https://vadistillery … american-single-malt… I’ll just add that there is also Rua single malt from that is supposedly really good as well as plenty of others that are likely out there but not well known.

But really, this write up is about what I have rather than what’s available out there.

Balcones Single Malt French Oak 61.9%
Small sample, short review. A single malt from Balcones aged in French Oak cask. The nose is sweet caramel. Palate is malty sweet cola, caramel and a solid streak of wood though it all for balance. Doesn’t drink anywhere near its proof. The aftertaste is long and woody and sweet. Tasted blindly I’d not have called this being a single malt. Really good and not what I expected based on my previous experience with Balcones. Bits of woody bitterness show up and start to overwhelm the palate after a few sips. Very slightly drying in the back due to wood tannins but those are really required as the rest of the spirit is super sweet. With the disclaimer that this is nothing like a regular single malt by anyone else and is overwooded by necessity, it’s also totally worth trying or even having for that ‘different’ drink of the night.
Score: B+

MB Roland Straight Malt 55%
Another small sample. This is a mash bill of 63% malt, 21% corn and 15% rye. Somewhat sour and quite unpleasant beer-like initial nose it clears out somewhat later but never to a degree where it becomes enjoyable. It maintains a weird off-putting note for me somewhere in there. Fairly heavy on eucalyptus notes once the nose clears. The palate is familiar yet weird, the layering of flavors is incredible with at least 3 distinct layers I’ve been able to identify yet at least some of them taste like something from a pharmacy which is not making me happy drinking it. Strongly recommending letting this sit in a glass for a bit to breathe. The aftertaste is short and woody with more wood tannins. Almost walnut bitters-like this is very herbal and even slightly minty. Weird and very different I’m finding it hard to enjoy or recommend for casual drinking. Yet another… different, digestif, drink of the night. I think it reminds me of Underberg digestif but I may be completely mis-remembering.
Score: C

St George Single Malt (probably) Lot 19
An Alameda county production. This is an 43% abv American Single malt. The nose is malted rye forward but not unpleasant though it does possess some medicine menthol eucalyptus notes. The palate isn’t really my thing. More menthol eucalyptus, this reminds of some sort of herbal concoction that’s almost bitter and slightly herbal. The same unpleasantly bitter notes last into the aftertaste. The texture is actually creamy and pleasant and malt notes are there… yet this is way off the beaten path to be enjoyable. It may not be a drain pour for most but I’m not going for it again. It almost drinks like a dry (non-sweet) rye whiskey. Sincere ‘Avoid’ score. Way too many whiskeys out there that are infinitely better or more interesting. I’m adding the disclaimer that there is a lot a variance between lots. This particular sample isn’t my favorite.
Score: D+

Ah, now we come to the bread and potatoes, or more of a barley of this review: Westland distillery! Arguably, best overall American single malt available across bottlings.

Westland Winter Storm 2016, 50%
The Winter Storm is a blend of three different malts, with 21% being a Scottish peated malt and the rest unpeated. Specs are here: https://www.westland … releases/winter-2016. The resulting spirit is aged in four different types of barrels—ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso sherry, ex-Westland single malt, and new French and American oak—for at least 34 months, and bottled at 50% ABV (and the kitchen sink)… Nose is light peat that’s still light and fruity. with apples and pears. Sweet, smokey and mouth-coating thick (the last one seems to be the typical of Westland whiskey)… This has more light fruits, malt, some smoke and sugar candy. The palate is light overall with very little that indicates that there was any sherry in this mix of casks. The aftertaste is mostly same as palate with more of the lingering smoke that is slightly ashy in the very end. It really give an impression of sitting in front of a cozy fire while there’s a snowstorm outside. The sweet smoke makes it drinkable for me and overall this highly enjoyable.
Score: B

Westland Single Cask #2479, 59%
Read all the tech specs here: https://www.westland … m/releases/cask-2479… So, American single malt in PX casks… The nose is a little alcohol forward and has some varnish with the strength of the shery. Also rich dark stewed fruits, primarily figs and raisins. Sweet and syrupy on the palate with the alcohol still being a little too forward more of a typical single malt first fill PX syrupy varnish notes. Drying delicious fruity aftertaste. But wait, there’s more… Adding a little bit of water to tone back the alcohol and boy oh boy does this bloom into something wonderfully fruity, sweet and malty and becomes a thicker (typical of Westland texture) Speyside Scotch. Sweet, sherried, slightly woody from the cask. Yes. I like this.
Score: B+ (just add water)

Westland Cask Exchange Lucky Envelope Brewing 51%
Every mashbill under the sun that’s aged in ex-Imperial Stout casks: https://www.westland … velope-cask-exchange. Nose is overflowing with dates, dark fruits, a tiny smidge of tobacco smoke, coffee, chocolate. OMG. The palate starts out sweet like a sherried single malt then performs a complete U-turn from front to back into a boozy imperial stout, amazingly complex and delicious this is a pleaser. Medium length, warming, aftertaste that reminds me of good imperial stouts, with coffee, chocolate, and malt. Frankly, this is beer cask finish done right! But one has to also like beer and specifically stouts to really appreciate this two-faced flavor monster.
Score: B+ (must like stouts)

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

Monday, January 25, 2021

Paul John Part 2, Saint Cloud

Continued from: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201126-001036 via another tasting with a different lineup of samples.

Paul John Peated Select Cask
A peated version of the Classic bottling, bottled at similar 55.5% abv to the unpeated version. Relatively heavily peated on the nose and with malt sweetness and distinct nuttyness. Surprisingly sweet and smoky on the palate with typical slightly metallic aftertaste that is shared across all Paul John bottlings so far. An interesting contrast with a Islay Single Malt here as Islay tends towards savory and this is an interesting mix of sweetness and smoke. The aftertaste is peaty and nutty/sweet. With the disclaimer of ‘me not liking peated/smoked whiskey’ this is almost enjoyable. I do like smoky sherry profile, but this isn’t sherried. It is aged in ex-bourbon yet somehow concentrated out enough sweetness to be highly… drinkable? Am I praising peated whiskey? Unbelievable!
Score: B+ (must like sweet+smoke)

Paul John Classic Select Cask 55.2% Unpeated
An ex-bourbon bottling, the nose is malty and sweet with classically ex-bourbon spices. The texture is typical with Paul John fairly thick and palate is honey-driven with tropical fruits. White pepper-themed spices arrive to the party in the back and in the aftertaste that lasts a decent amount. The aftertaste eventually leaves behind appetizing honey-themed flavors. It happens that I like raw honey so this does appeal to me on many levels. Delicious and very good, but with Glen Grant 15 (https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201114-150301) or, perhaps, MacDuff (https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201226-170937) being slightly cheaper and offering a similar type of profile this really doesn’t stand out far from its competition. Very faint metallic note in the very back as per norm with Paul John, but works okay with overall honey notes. Ironically for me, while being a good take on a familiar ex-bourbon bottling this is less interesting than the Peated expression as it offers nothing novel aside from being from India. Would I drink it? Absolutely, and may pick up a bottle in say… 3 years once I work though all my other ex-bourbon bottles.
If you are looking for a slightly sweeter than usual take on a good scotch, by all means, pick this up! Is it mind-blowing? No! Is it solid performer? Absolutely!
Side note: While it would be highly-but-not-the-best rated in the similar category when compared to Scotch products, it is stunningly above and beyond for overall quality of Indian whiskey. So, this is a significant accomplishment for India’s budding whiskey industry.
Score: B

Paul John Oloroso Select 48%
Ah, Oloroso, the woody type of sherry when compared to more dark fruit in PX. The nose, sweet sherry, some wood and slightly metallic notes. The palate is very nutty, malty, decently balanced between sweet and slightly tannic nature of the cask. The usual slightly metallic notes, which aren’t masked by sherry profile. Tasty sweet aftertaste that is surprisingly short leans towards baking spices. Putting it simply, this is a good oloroso aged whiskey with the biggest problem (and honestly the biggest problem with ALL Paul John’s line) is that there’s not much there past the initial taste profile. The super complex flavors that develop in whisky if left to its own for many years don’t just magically develop overnight no matter how hot the climate is. Would it concentrate deliciously? Yes. Is it tasty? Yes! Do I like sherried whiskey? Yes, yes I do! Would I be fine shipwrecked on an island with a large supply of this? No.
Score: B

Paul John PX Select 48%
The sister bottling to the Oloroso sherry above, this is PX, known for its dark fruit notes. The nose is malty, deep and brooding. Palate is very much honey drizzled dark fruits in a steel bowl (Oh Paul John, so metallic). This one… This one I like. Thick dried figs, raisins with honey syrup on top are in play here. The aftertaste is as expected from a PX lasts for while but is still slightly shorter than I was hoping for based on the luxurious nose and almost sticky palate. Perhaps a tiny bit too sweet without having something to offset itself this meanders into almost into the territory of fortified sherry. A fantastic dessert pour that leaves little to complain about but it leaves me with little to contemplate on after the primary flavors are gone. Yet again this seems to be the norm with most Paul John bottles and with tropically aged whiskeys in general.
Score: B+

Let us segway for a moment onto a fascinating story of Saint Cloud, a bourbon done by a Ray Walker that did some questionable things… https://www.burgundy … fall-of-maison-ilan/ and have already ran into trouble with TTB on its first bottling https://tater-talk.c … -off-the-hype-train/… Yet doesn’t seem to be apologetic about any of it and keeps on putting up new bottles while keeping supplies artificially low and prices high due to hype, marketing and lack of availability. I happened to luck into a gifted Single Cask bottle… so let’s have a review…

Saint Cloud Mercury Single Barrel
Mine is a bottling of 7/20 with it being bottle number 70 of 248 at 119.3 proof. This is a straight Kentucky bourbon, but no source of distillation is provided. Lets get it out of the way first. The packaging is pretty. Nice bottle, a figurine of Mercury in faux-copper on the topper. Minimal labeling… which is not intended for retail, lacking both government warning and a UPC codes. I suspect it may come in a box that would have required text on it, but no box was provided. The info given is actually rather bad too as there’s no information provided on the age of this single cask, opting for a vague [sic] “Copper pot distilled. Blended from corn, rye & malted barley. Aged in a charred white oak barrel for at least 2 and a half years” on the label. Same labeling also claims that it was “Crafted by Ray Walker” and “Bottled by Saint Cloud Spirit Company, Frankfurt, Kentucky”. Combining all that verbiage with the fact that this is single cask, I’m fairly sure this is some sort of TTB violation, but I’m not an expert to call it out. No price of the original has been given, but judging by other products by the same company, I’d expect this to go for $150+ MSRP, because shady marketing reasons.
Nose: pleasant corn, wood and spiced sugar caramel mix. The overall impression I’m getting is sweet, caramelized corn from the nose, perhaps carnival popcorn. There are no off-putting or sour notes in there. When I tried it for the first time, few months ago… The first thing that came to mind was corn caramel, but something have changed over time in the bottle and now, 5 months later or so… This is woody, with almost too much wood but is balanced by the sweetness. Slightly bitter-spiced it coalesced into something that’s almost great. The aftertaste is long, woody, sweet, spicy and pleasant. As much as I want to dislike this… it’s really good after being open for about 6 months or so. Something wonderfully unique and yet definitely not something I’d have spent my own money on to buy. This somewhat reminds me of a sweeter, more interesting Woodford Reserve or Old Forester 1920 on the taste profile. Extreme single cask and price/value/availability disclaimers apply. I’d expect this is nigh impossible to find in either retail or bar situation to actually purchase, but if you see a friend having a bottle, beg them to have a taste.
Score: A- (D for artificial scarcity and lack of transparency)

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Maker’s Private Pick, Clyde May’s, McKenzie

Some quick impressions of recent tastes. Mostly going off memory, thus brief blurbs.

Maker’s Mark Blueprint Private Select, Recipe: 13141 (French Mocha); 55.3%
Woody and flavorful, this private recipe pick that’s heavy with French Mocha staves is delicious, with mocca bitterness contrasting well with inherent sweetness and flowery profile of Maker’s Mark. Not to mention that Maker’s uses wheated mashbill. Their private select casks are underrated and can get quite good… There are 1001 stave combinations available for Makers Private Cask Finishes… Personally, I would advise to look for bottles/recipes that are heavy into mocca staves (4+) out of all the other variants as evidenced by my liking of this particular bottling.
Score: B+

Maker’s Mark SFWBSS Pick, Recipe: 02215 (French Cuvee); 54.5%
Late addendum to this page… SF Whiskey bourbon group selection, yet another recipe out of 1001. Nose is very flowery and perfume driven, rather reminding me of something from old school Chanel. Palate is an okay mix of bittersweet with sweet caramel mocha flavors dominating. It really does remind me of an overly sweet caramel macchiato from Starbucks. The aftertaste is long with wood and spices finally bringing something interesting to the palate. Overall: Drinkable, but I’m not a fan. Taken in blindly… Tastes like any other bourbon out there that’s not bottom shelf. Value: Same as every other Private Select bottle of Maker’s… Average.
Score: C+

Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey
Decently tasty offering if a little peanutty with a distinct note of dried apples on the back, which is unsurprising because dried apples are used in the process somewhere. Worth trying once.
Score: C

Clyde May’s Straight Rye
Boring rye with a very slight touch of bitterness in the back of the aftertaste. Much better ryes abound. This bottling isn’t my thing.
Score: C-

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon
Do you like that rubber smell/taste? If yes, then this is for you. Not for me. Wife didn’t find anything offensive but I’m overwhelmed, so perhaps a palate difference or some weird association I have with that specific flavor. It’s less offensive than Glyph whiskey as I was able to force few swallows in from the bottle. The rubber is unbearable in glencairn.
Score: D

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Ledger’s SP
The Store Pick variations seem to differ from Straight Bourbon regular bottling (or I got a REALLY bad sample somehow). Little woody, sweet and quite pleasant drinking. This is the second SP that i’m enjoying from this distillery. Considering that they run ~$40 this is a solid deal and solid drinking without being extra special.
Score: B

Clyde May’s Full Proof
This is tasty and sweet, sporting mash bill of 99% corn and 1% malted barley. Interesting enough and is quite drinkable, even if a little fiery. The age varies by bottling between 9 and 11 years. With my sample being 9 years old. Also not my cup of booze to commit to a bottle. These are a little expensive for the taste proposition they offer.
Score: B-

McKenzie Wheated Bourbon KnL SP #1284
A 70% Corn, 20% Wheat and 10% Malted barley mash bill, bottled at 55.1% abv and aged for 6.5 years. This is one of the first bourbons I bought from KnL. On the nose, woody cologne with a healthy dose of alcohol but still decently balanced behind the wood. Sweet red apple-forward flavors on the palate, together with burnt brown sugar caramel, some spices and wood. Notable apple skins flavor lingers forever in the aftertaste. It’s fantastically underrated bourbon and a real surprise for a wheated variant. Well worth trying and extremely good drinker, provided one enjoys apples. Although from other folks comments single cask disclaimer firmly apples(ies) here, as McKenzie distilling produces plenty of single casks and experimental mashbills.
As usual, Mark does an amazing write up of this here: https://the-right-sp … rel-wheated-bourbon/
Score: B+

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Wild Turkey

It feels that every time I say ‘I’m done with distillery breakdowns’ there’s yet another distillery to that’s worth writing about as I would have enough samples for a review. So lets do hopefully one of the last distillery-focused reviews and this time look at whatever I got for Wild Turkey.

Super quick history. The brand has been established/introduced in 1940, located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and currently owned by Campari group. They used to be a bottler until about 1970 when the brand purchased a distillery and started producing their own spirit. Wild Turkey has surprisingly few brands under their names. Only Wild Turkey Bourbon/Rye in different proofs and Russell’s Reserve are bottled from their distillate. They technically also produce American Honey flavored whiskey but nobody talks about that one, so it doesn’t exist. Russell’s Brand is a fancy turkey influenced by their master distiller Eddie Russell, (as opposed to Jimmy Russell who is the original Turkey Master Distiller and not coincidentally Eddie’s father). A brand has been developed in early 2000s as more modern take on Turkey bottling. I’m running a little bit ahead of myself but Russell’s tends to be a little darker, cherrier and woodier vs regular Turkey. Whether or not that’s more modern take on the brand… that’s up to interpretation, but it is no secret that consumer taste preferences change over time and so do alcohol profiles change with them and one way to separate new vs old flavor profile and not upset fans is to create a new product line to accommodate that. Replacing existing popular brand with new flavor profile is typically not a move that works out well… see the New Coke debacle

Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel, Deer Park Wine & Spirits SP, Warehouse F, Floor 5. Aged: 11/13/09 - 10/29/19
Let’s kick this off with a single cask… but of course with a disclaimer about uniqueness. So interestingly enough Russell’s Reserve has been well received by whiskey drinkers and is generally considered an excellent alternative take on the Turkey flavor profile with somewhat deeper flavors working well with the spice. Another interesting observation, that while I’m not aware of Wild Turkey single cask picks, Russell’s Reserve single casks are not too hard to find and tend to be excellent. All the single casks are bottled at respectable 55% abv which is a good compromise for both nerds and casual drinkers and tends to be around 10 years of age. On the nose, wood, cherry, brown sugar, tobacco backed by Wild Turkey spices. The spices themselves tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum, with ginger, pepper and cloves in a sort of baking spice mix without being overwhelming. Unlike Beam there’s very little cinnamon in the palate which I welcome. The palate mostly continues the nose, with more brown sugar and baking spices this time. Aftertaste gets all the cherry and wood, candied spiced fruit, medium long and is rather amazing. As a testament of how much I personally like this. I believe I’ve have drank from this bottle perhaps 4 times (and gave away 2 or 3 samples) and it’s almost empty which is insanely fast rate for me and illustrates just how easy it is to consume. Incredibly, dangerously drinkable, this is a fantastic drinking bourbon. It doesn’t make me go ‘WoW’ but it certainly is excellent and well worth having a bottle.
Score: B+

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Batch WT-03RB 54.1%, 2012
Picked up a bottle of Rare Breed (which is Wild Turkey Barrel Proof variety) few months back. This happens to be a bottle from 2012 while it used to be single cask variety, it has been batched for over a decade. Well no matter, the proof is in the taste really. Supposedly this is a mix of older and newer iterations of Turkey spirits so it is somewhere between classic 80s Turkey and modern 2010+ Turkey. Intense and perfumey rye nose. Musty oak, nutmeg, little bit of pond in the woods musk, brown sugar, leather. The palate can only be summarized as butter-smooth with tobacco, honey, charred wood, brown sugar again. The aftertaste isn’t very long sadly as I wish it was much much longer, but we cannot have everything. Sweet and spicy, if a little drying, more cinnamon and ginger spice come to the forth, together with toffee. It’s a good one to be sure and aligns well with my palate. While this isn’t going to be blowing anyone away it still borders on great stuff and a fantastic drink pick. Obvious reminder about this being a bottle from 2012.
Score: B+

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye, 56.1%, 2020
Here we have a Rare Breed Rye which is a cask strength batched rye at high proof vs Turkey’s regular proofed rye. Similar to how Rare Breed bourbon is cask strength version of the regular Turkey bourbon. The brief version is this: It’s Rare Breed bourbon from above but in rye version, sweetness and spice up, corn funkyness down. Tasty, highly sippable, with every sip being an explosion of flavor, slightly malty and is full of brown sugar caramel without being overwhelming, but could be a little too sweet for some. The main downside is the aftertaste being little short and not that special compared to the nose and palate, the palate sweetness drops off quickly and it becomes nearly drying and slightly woody. This rye is very tasty and well worth picking up at MSRP if a bottle of rye is needed… but it’s just that, high proof Turkey rye with not much different going on inside compared to regular, but for many proof will be enough to be satisfied with the purchase.
Score: B
Addendum after a while: Over time, it somehow opened up nicely but becomes more reminiscent of some older Rare Breed up above, perhaps pushing its score into a B+ category as I actually enjoy sipping at it as a casual drink

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 years, BiB, 50%, 2020
To cap off this review, lets sip on a small sample of Master’s Keep series. Their designation tends to vary slightly year to year, recently been called “Decades”, and even that got dropped too, but this particular one is stated at 17 years old, bottled in bond version. The nose is somewhere between Russell’s and Turkey… Super complex with deep woodiness, caramel, some corn, molasses. The palate is sweet oak, more molasses and wild turkey spices, its very reminiscent to me of older version of Rare Breed i reviewed above, which is very likely is due to timing (this expression is likely from the same general time when rare breed got distilled, but was in casks for longer). Extremely smooth and slightly sweet this is delightful. Aftertaste lasts quite a while and is mostly same as the palate with occasional pop of spice flavor. Slightly herbal, and perhave little wood-forward this may not be everyone’s bottle but it should be certainly up there on everyone to-taste list and overall I don’t mind it. Legitimately wish I had more of this, but then I recall the price… and yeah the price/value here isn’t nearly as good as Rare Breed. Nonetheless, more than worth trying at cost at a bar or at a friend’s house or even buying a bottle if found and there’s extra $200 or so burning a hole in your pocket.
Score: B+

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

Friday, January 8, 2021

“Everyday” Samples: Glen Spey, GlenDronach, Tormore, Kirkland

It’s a tough gig, trying to write a review of almost everything new I try. On one hand, I’d like to keep record of what I’ve enjoyed so I can go back and check later, in the other there’s so many different bottles out there and with my preference to unique single casks… well, it’s a rough life writing these. But these reviews also force me to pace myself from drinking too fast so perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some unique but not super-fancy samples:

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 20 Cadenhead’s SiB, 59.9%
So what’s with the “-Glenlivet” name? I was curious too: https://scotchwhisky … es-called-glenlivet/. So in short, the -Glenlivet is a historical name that has nothing to do with modern Glenlivet distillery. This is a “Glen Spey 20” that’s been bottled by Cadenhead’s store/retailer/bottler. Claiming to be the Scotland’s oldest independent bottler, the current Cadenhead is owned by same folks that own Springbank and situated primarily around Campbeltown with some locations around big UK cities. Ultimately doesn’t matter too much. They bottle spirits and ostensibly know their stuff, even if they may lean towards somewhat more traditional or safer bottlings based on company age and established practices, but let the spirit talk for itself, yes? :) .
The nose is peppery with ex-bourbon funk and slightly alcohol heavy due to proof. Behind that alcohol, nice maltiness comes out with few woody perfume notes. It is a fairly light nose experience other than the proof. The palate is reasonably good refill bourbon cask that tastes lighter than the proof suggests. Ex bourbon pepperiness is back in force here, as well as vanilla and malt notes, not too sweet and it leans towards a balanced drinking experience. Slightly bitter on the back and aftertaste and it’s a slight letdown here, as the mouth goes dry and a little woody. On the plus side for the aftertaste, little bursts of flavor last for a very long time. Somewhat middle of the road experience to be honest, other than the aftertaste. A bit of water opens it up into spicier but faster-fading cascade that is notably maltier and slightly sweeter but doesn’t make it better or worse than before, only different. A few drops of water wouldn’t hurt it and either way is enjoyable enough. Considering that this costs about $99 and is a single cask… I gotta admit I’ve had plenty of similarly specced bottles that I thought were more interesting. Beyond a fairly obscure distillery, this doesn’t really offer anything special in a plentiful field of ex bourbon single casks at the price point. I don’t regret trying this sample for the checkbox but I would certainly not chase this bottling down. As a personal note, this tastes like a ‘generic ~20 year old refill bourbon single malt’ by being tasty and not memorable at the same time. It’s been about 5 minutes since I drank it and I legitimately cannot recall what it I liked or disliked about it beyond ‘generally above average’. I’ll summarize this as a ‘generally okay’.
Score: C

GlenDronach 11 K&L SP, 60.1%
Store page:
Yay more GlenDronach… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201022-152914 has some… opinions. This time a K&L Single Cask at 11 years old. A sherry puncheon (bigger cask) this time too. The nose is concentrated sherry in a good way. Okay you know what, I’ve accidentally spilled a half of this on my desk by knocking the glass over. So… I’ll summarize instead. It’s a classic Glendronach sherry profile. The abv is well hidden by the flavor concentration. Tasty, reasonably woody at 11 years, dark chocolate, tobacco and sherry flavors galore without becoming a varnish, yet it is a tiny bit young and offers little depth to the palate beyond very tasty sherry profile. Aftertaste is amazing, long and deliciously GlenDronach. Good? Yes. Amazing? Right on the border to greatness. At the price? Incredibly hard to beat.
Score: A-

Tormore 14 Connoisseur’s Choice, 46%
A rare distillery to see on the shelf or in a bottle in US. This is one of the younger ones in Scotland, having been built in 1960 in Speyside. This really reminds me of the best of Old Malt Cask bottlings with no sherry at all and just pure wood. Citrus, vanilla and a little bit of wood (clearly refill ex bourbon here). The palate is continuation of the nose mostly, buttery but little on the thin side. In the very back, notes of smoke or wood char appear and round off a well enjoyable experience that lasts for quite a while in the aftertaste. The woodiness becomes more apparent as whiskey sits in my glass along repeated sips. Not overly sweet, this oak and vanilla palate that reminds me of buttery chardonnays wine. Highly enjoyable and drinkable but nothing to contemplate too much on. The flavors are inoffensive and pleasant yet interesting enough to drink. The proof is low enough to allow casual drinking making it a perfect @work or social faire of the lighter style of whiskey… just like white wine. As with most Speyside scotch this could really benefit from a sherry cask aging or finish to become a treat.
Score: B-

Glendronach PortWood, 46%
Short version: ‘Yum’. Longer version: ‘Yuuuuuuum’! So this is a No Age Stated (NAS) but likely ~10 year old GlenDronach as usual aged in PX and Oloroso sherry casks and then additionally finished in portwood barrels or pipes or whatever they are called. The smell is very much younger GlenDronach and this reminds me a lot of the 12 with addition of winey raisins with sweet but tannic profile that adds additional layer of flavor to already excellent spirit. Let me summarize this… It’s essentially GD 12 + wine finish. I like both wine-finished whiskey and GD12 so this is good across the board. Fantastic yet a bit young bottle that really doesn’t disappoint especially for those that like dessert whiskey and GlenDronach (or sherried Speysiders) in particular. Layers and layers of flavor that keeps on cascading in my mouth here, yes it’s young, yes its batched… and likely little overpriced for the spec compared to the excellent 15. I like it and there’s not much to dislike there for most folks.
Score: B+

Kirkland 23, Speyside Sherry Finish late 2020, 46%
A late 2020 follow up to (supposedly, excellent) 22 year old bottling… Speyside, distillery unknown, aged 23 years and finished in sherry casks. I want to go on the record that this smells like pure peanuts to me. After some time in the glass peanuts thankfully drift away leaving… a pleasant generic sherry nose. The palate isn’t interesting at all. It is mostly savoury instead of sweet and tastes like a badly fortified, woody sherry. The palate evokes ‘industrial flavors’ feelings from me. The aftertaste is more wood and finally some red fruits come in. Very uninteresting and honestly not recommended. This may be a bargain on the specs vs price but flavors-wise this is a boring, uninteresting and somewhat of a unfocused mess that I wouldn’t want to inflict on anyone. Probably palatable with food. Supposedly, my palate isn’t ‘broken’ today as wife confirmed my opinions by similarly disliking it.
Score: D+

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