Thursday, February 18, 2021

Glenlivet 21, Deanston 20, Glenmorangie Signet, Glentauchers 8

All reviews below are from nice scotch samples I’ve accumulated over last 8 months or so.

Glenlivet 21 (Archive), 43%
A batched Glenlivet with youngest in the mix being 21 years old. The combination of casks types and age of the components is hush-hush, and likely changes slightly batch to batch to have some consistency. Nose is just… amazing. Malt and sherry, caramel, apples and vanilla oak, a fruit compote. Smooth as silk on the nose. The mouth is velvety, with sherry quite prominent, dark fruits, oak/wood, slightly tannic or leathery and perfectly balanced. Aftertaste is gorgeous and fades real slow from the palate high notes lasting for quite a while. Certainly a whiskey meant for sipping, this is an excellent representation what a masterful blending can do with good supply of distillery stocks. This is glorious, great, fantastic, etc. The only real downside here is the price and just a few abv lower than ideal. I’ve been a fan of Glenlivet for quite a while and continue to be one. While not everything that comes off their stills is amazing, their 21 year old expression is a good reminder of an excellence they can produce.
Score: A-

Deanston 20, Oloroso, 55.5%
I’ve covered Deanston Virgin Oak in my @work series before, noting that it’s a workable daily drinker, if somewhat boring (here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry191203-083204). I have a 20 year old Oloroso wood monster at much higher proof than the humble Virgin Oak. A small and amusing side-note: this happens to be one of my first samples that I’ve got via meeting folks in SFWBSS in early summer of 2020. Nose is all funky sweet sherry with a solidly spicy backbone. Over time, nose becomes extremely perfume-forward in a good way. Since this is Oloroso, it leans slightly towards varnish and leather spices, but this time in a pleasant way that doesn’t overwhelm. The palate is full of creamy textures sweetness and nutiness. Caramel pine nuts perhaps, that border on being almost too sweet. Vanilla wood notes galore this has a good chunk of wood influence that integrate well with the rest of the palate. Aftertaste lasts a while, quite spicy once initial sweetness balances itself out with spicy ginger tingle in the very back. With time in a glass, this becomes spicier with pepper and opens up into a somewhat different and complex experience. This is certainly up there in the dessert whiskey land initially, but becomes more complex over time and repeated sips, making it a fantastic experience that isn’t a one trick pony. That being said, I feel like it does become too peppery over time to be truly an experience, but if you enjoy caramel, vanilla, nuts and pepper mix this one is definitely up your alley. I really enjoyed it initially but once it went too spicy it became a bit of a struggle to get through the sips.
Score: A- to B

Glenmorangie Signet, 46%
Top of the line regular Glenmorangie bottling is here. I’m generally a big fan of their products, so I’ve got my hopes pretty high for this nearly $250/bottle. Nose is oily rich oloroso sherry with wood undertones, floral and honey notes in the secondary tones are all over in there. Quite amazing, I stuck my nose into the glass and just breathed for a solid minute without getting tired or overwhelmed by it. Palate, woody, sherried, delicious with honey-roasted walnuts coming in at the back. Strongly reminds me of my early impression of (Old bottling) of Glenmorangie 18 but… more pronounced. Aftertaste is more toasted nuts, bitter cocoa and tobacco, wood and maltiness. Not too sweet, the balance is quite perfect on this one. There’s also a fairly solidly pronounced spice thread through the tasting experience which integrates perfectly with each stage. There’s a bit of a roasted coffee note to this too, so perhaps something like vanilla mocca coffee? This is one of the rare bottlings that I’d be happy to be stuck on a desert island with. Layers and layers of different flavors without any of them overwhelming the other yet allowing for a slightly different, yet always great, experience in every sip.
Score: A

Glentauchers 2008, Exclusive Malts. 57.9%
A 8 year old sherry bomb? I like the sound of that! Nearly 60% abv young bottle? This one may also be rough at full proof. Nose is dark honey and fruits, some burnt sugar and all that highly concentrated. Definite sherry bomb on the palate that overwhelms with primary sherry flavors and some malt but not quite offering too much wood or high age flavors as is expected out of young malt. Intensely sweet with a bit of earthy tannins. The aftertaste is intense honeycomb, more sherry and finally bits of wood. As with many sherry bombs I like it as it fits into my style of drink… But it should be noted that while this is intensely sherried, there’s not much substance to it underneath. Really sweet, dessert-like and a little drying, this is a winter holiday in a glass. Reminds me of a sherry Kavalan, but perhaps not as concentrated on the secondary palate as full proof Kavalan is.
Later update: This is great. Yes it’s fortified cherry but when Kavalan is situational this is great anytime.
Score: A-

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

Friday, February 12, 2021

Catoctin Creek, Wright & Brown, Mammoth, SAOS, Handy BTAC’20 fRYEday night is fun night

Catoctin Creek Rye, D&M SP, 56.9%
Something certainly unique… A 100% Virginia Rye mash bill, aged for one year in a 30 gallon barrel then finished for 7 months in a Cabernet cask. Bottled at full proof as store pick… A little red-winey and very spicy, Sandalwood, cherries, red fruits, cloves and baking spices, reasonably alcohol-forward. The palate is fiery with alcohol and super spicy. It really hits hard with the baking spice, that is thankfully followed and augmented by the red wine fruits. The aftertaste is nice and long with spices and Cabernet influence mixing together. With water, it becomes a much smoother, drinkable, and enjoyable experience. This is going to be amazing mix for manhattans as the spice, alcohol and palate line up perfectly with manhattan profile. Adding water makes it really tasty, undiluted this is… too much. Just want to mention that essentially for a year and a half old whiskey… I wouldn’t have ever guessed that this is a young drink. Yes, it’s not super complex but that is mostly masked by the Cabernet finish. Definitely not worth its ~$100 MSRP, this certainly subverts expectations on required age for whiskey to acquire deep flavor. Just don’t have any specific expectations coming into this…
Mark covers this in depth: https://the-right-sp … l-select-rye-whisky/
Score: C+

Wright & Brown Rye, Batch 003, 45%
Previously covered here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry191220-085943, but I figured I’ll re-visit with a more formal write-up. … You know what? I’m not going to bother with full write up. It’s a good whiskey. Spiced apricots and rye bread galore across the board, this is somewhere between bourbon and rye. Super flavorful even for its relatively low proof among full-flavored whiskeys. Enjoyable, highly drinkable, great for @work drinking as mentioned and would do fantastic in any rye drink.
Score: B

Mammoth Distilling Rye, 16 Prav Saraff Pick, 64%
Here we have a single barrel Canadian Rye, that spent 13 years in Canada and additional 3 years of aging in Michigan, totaling 16 years old. A single cask pick by Prav Saraff he seems to prefer woodier palate profiles. Lets try it… On the nose, cologne and wood, reasonably dry. The dryness continues on the palate, for being colored like dried grass this is very woody almost to the point of being slightly bitter at full proof. The alcohol is quite strong too with little to hide behind in terms of profile. Water opens it up quite a bit and scales the bitter notes back to make this reasonably pleasant, if still woody, malted rye profile with relevant sweetness and bread notes. Still on the lighter side of the rye spectrum for sure this doesn’t overwhelm anymore after some H2O. Don’t be afraid to add water to it… at full proof it’s not quite there but it is quite decent after being watered down. Not my favorite by any means, this is reasonably drinkable and enjoyable on the woody-light side of rye flavors, but perhaps still too bitter for some.
Score: C+

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 4 Year Old Indiana Rye, 58.9%
A SAOS single cask MPG rye from 2020… As with SAOS bourbon picks in 2020 these are going to be mostly on the spicy-lighter side of things. On the nose woody eucalyptus and rye bread notes with some alcohol coming through. The palate as expected, MGP spicy, woody and bready a little bit. After repeated sips the palate becomes slightly bitter with rye sweetness fighting with woody bitterness. At the same time, the wood isn’t actually that prominent aside from the primary palate notes. Aftertaste is a bit sour-bitter with more rye and woody flavors of medium length but fades pretty fast into secondary and tertiary pleasant aftertaste notes. Adding water and making it sit for a few minutes… The palate sweetness and bitterness snap into place with additional subtle and interesting rye flavors coming out. Water is yet again recommended as seems to be a case for a lot of higher proof ryes.
Score: B (/w water)

Thomas H. Handy Rye 2020, BTAC, 64.5%
A little treat to myself in a second BTAC sample I’ve ever had, and this time it is a rye. The nose is supremely deep, like walking through a forest or a bread bakery and among the best I’ve encountered. Lots of woody, earthy notes together with rye breadiness with some yeasty salinity… Anyways, nose is complex and I can spend a long time sniffing this. It doesn’t get better than this in bourbon/rye land. The palate is fiery, with cinnamon, light cherry, and wood dominating. Amazing aftertaste that cascades down for a long time into sweet caramel, nutty, woody, warm deliciousness. With a tiny bit of water to tone down the fire… It is now an overwhelming and reasonably balanced flavor bomb. Almost approaching Beam stuff on the cinnamon side of things this is … delicious overall, although slightly too woody for me. Right on the edge of perfect marks this is just a smidge off perfection. Interestly enough, tasted blind, it’s really hard to call this out as a rye as it tastes more like a high rye bourbon instead… If you have a chance to taste or buy a bottle of it at any reasonable price it is totally worth it. On the secondary pricing, as is the case with every BTAC, it is a non-starter at anything above $300 or so. Flavor intensity and depth are top-tier but there’s only so much performance that can be had out of a single bottle. BTAC bottles’ secondary prices are primarily for the prestige of having them rather than the actual value.
Score: A- (At any reasonable price)

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

Monday, February 8, 2021

Jefferson’s, Rabbit Hole, Wilderness Trail, High West Prairie, J. Mattingly unique bourbon samples 2

Let’s try more stuff!

Jefferson’s Reserve Pritchard Hill, Cabernet Cask, 45.1%
https://www.bourbonb … cask-finish-bourbon/
Jefferson’s Bourbon extra-matured in cask that used to have red wine in it… Considering that wine cask single malt is quite enjoyable, I wonder if it translates onto bourbon. Interestingly the color has a bit more red in it than usual for bourbon. The nose is a mix of bourbon and intense red wine notes with cherry and spices dominating. The palate is a mix between Jefferson’s reasonably restrained profile that’s shored up by wine influence with a healthy dose of winey oak. More spices, wood and cherry on the palate this tastes like a semi-decent dry Manhattan right out of the (sample) bottle. The aftertaste lasts for a while and is warm with spices, some berries, and oak though the high notes fall silent quite fast. The nose is much heavier with red wine than the palate and the wine influence becomes mostly lost in the aftertaste. I find myself at a crossroads with this one. One one side this tastes decently good. On the other, it doesn’t seem to offer anything particularly interesting versus a regular bourbon or a Manhattan. While it’s not a bad one to try as a middle ground… There are also plenty of interesting exemplars on both side of that fence. As is, it’s an inoffensive, reasonably enjoyable (@work would be great ) drink.
Score: B

Rabbit Hole Dareringer PX Sherry Cask, 46.5%
A Bourbon finished in a PX sherry cask… Typically a good combination. Herbal and anise-y on the nose with a healthy dose of PX and bourbon in there but anise is on the forefront. As time passes, more PX sherry notes come out and anise mostly fades away. The palate brings back anise/dill mixed with sherry notes, orange zest is quite evident as well as some fruits from sherry. The aftertaste is nice, sweet and inoffensive. Honestly, this is quite unremarkable bourbon. Yes, PX is enjoyable with plenty of bourbons but in this one it mostly makes it sweeter without offering much of interest other than sweetness. I’d rather have a sherried single malt.
Score: C

Wilderness Trail Bourbon, Park Plaza Liquor SP, 57.5%
Wilderness Trail is something I’ve been trying to get my hands on for a while. Words “sweet mash” are an interesting part of the description but what exactly does it mean? To paraphrase and summarise this article: https://malt-review. … ght-bourbon-whiskey/ it is essentially clean fermentation start with no bacteria and fresh yeast vs reusing some of old mash as starter. Because the start is clean and mash is
bacteria free it doesn’t spoil (sour), staying sweet. The mash then can be distilled at lower proof leaving more flavorful compounds in the spirit.
Nose is flavorful with grainy and almost malty character as well as light wood notes, following by reasonably balanced alcohol that doesn’t overwhelm. Palate is… hard to describe. Not quite bourbon or single malt. It’s … grain-forward? with ripe red apples and little bit of spices dominating the flavor profile. Tasty and unlike most bourbons by not being wood centric and caramel heavy. Surprisingly tame on the alcohol for its proof. The aftertaste is subtle and lasts for a long while with gentle ginger tickle and more caramel apples. Really tasty offering and while somewhat powerful on paper, it drinks like a casual high-proof sipper.
Score: B+

High West American Prairie Park Plaza Liquor SP, PX Sherry finish. 49.8%
A PX finished bourbon? Yes please! Single Cask Store Pick? Even more so! Nose is thick sherry, wood and baking spices. It is very spice forward, akin to something from Beam’s stills. On the palate I’m tasting sweet tobacco ash, leather, the usual bourbon flavors are present too but it’s definitely on the subtle side. iIf not for sherry sweetness this would be totally drying and super leathery. With sherry, it’s more of a smoked fruit jerky. The aftertaste is long with more pleasantly fruity and dry-smoked leather. I’m legitimately confused on whether or not I’m liking this. On one side of the coin there’s plenty to like, its flavorful, sweet, reasonably balanced and got the trifecta of nose-palate-aftertaste. Yet, it is so unlike any bourbon, or single malt, or anything really. Yes it is still whiskey but it’s not quite like anything else. But what it is… it is tasty and it integrates sherry into the mix brilliantly. Perhaps this reminds me of a peat+sherry single malt but if a bourbon did it well.
Score: A-

J. Mattingly SiB, Miles Experience, 53.5%
A signed bottle with a enough to sample remaining in it, all for myself! Wax-dipped and everything… this is all very ‘fancy’. No way I’d buy it though.
Color is dark amber and it looks viscous in the glass. The color reminds me somewhat of Elijah Craig Barrel Strength. A decent amount of sediment in this one due to no filtration… Okay, don’t chill-filter, but at least get the cask bits out with a finer filter. At least the sediment settles down quickly. Nose is spicy corn caramel, bits of rubber and wood varnish. Super concentrated and strong. Palate is dried apricots and plums, backed up by solid amount of bourbon sugar and spice. Alcohol and wood don’t overwhelm but back up the intensity of the palate. The aftertaste becomes spicier and warming as fruits fade and is of reasonable duration. Availability, price, and exclusivity aside this is quite tasty and balanced. This bottling is enjoyable to drink though certainly on the darker, deeper side of bourbon spectrum.
Score: B+

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

Friday, February 5, 2021

Single Grain Scotch: Invergordon 31 & 29, Caledonian 45

Caledonian 45 Single Grain, 46.2%
Sovereign-bottled, 45 year old single grain scotch, distilled in 1965… This is a rare treat via friend. Wonderfully sweet and woody and almost malty nose with honeycomb and dark honey dominating, some dark leather notes are also float up with time. Palate is surprisingly full of old smoke, leather, tobacco… Reminds me of insides of an old leather suitcase. Nearly salty with pine resin, intensely flavored and surprisingly not sweet. This almost tastes peated, though my understanding that this isn’t peated at all. Nose and palate are extreme opposites here. Aftertaste is sadly a little of a letdown with some residual smoke from the palate. While the final notes linger for a long time, initial rush of flavors fades pretty fast. Superbly layered, mind-bending and interesting, my only real complaint is that this could have really used a tiny bit of sweetness. As is, any fan of Springbank should be all over this like a holy grail it may be for them. Sadly, long sold out and probably bunkered by the few lucky rich folks that picked it up back in the day. Definitely one of those bottles that needs to be contemplated on in front of the fire in a winter storm.

Note: I find it difficult to score due to the large combination of factors in play here. A dead distillery, 1965 distillation year, age and uniqueness are all in play. I think in the end, I’d not have enjoyed it enough to justify the $400 price… But I’m also not a huge fan of Springbank savory light peat style. For those that are fans of that… this would be 101% Holy Grail level bottle. For me… Well, my score is below.
Score: A- to A+ (Subjective)

Invergordon 31 Single Grain, Sovereign, 52%
A Sovereign bottling sample, that I happen to have a bottle of, so let’s look at it as a preview. Nose is vanilla caramels all the way with some alcohol burn. The palate is reserved, almost no alcohol, toned down caramel and sugar, but now some wood and tiny bit of smoke comes up. The palate continues with more fruit, bits of salt and some honeycomb. As usual with single grains, the aftertaste fades fairly fast but displays no surprises and follows closely with the palate. There are many layers of flavor in this and it’s a bit it’s mind-boggling. Bottlings such as these make me respect single grain scotch more and more… Though, granted, there are plenty of duds too. I wish this cask had little bit more of an aftertaste, but still; what a ride regardless. Deliciously good and totally worth its price.
Score: A-

Invergordon 29 Single Grain, Barrel-to-Bottle, 57.9%
Aged for 29 years in a 1st refill Tennessee (Jack Daniels) casks. This certainly is an interesting one. When I initially opened it… I thought this was “the most bourbon-like single grain I’ve ever had” from the nose… But that isn’t the whole story is it? The nose is actually very bourbon-light with spice and raspberries rather than burnt caramel corn. The palate is tightly coiled, baking-spiced vanilla creme brulee and a long spicy aftertaste to match. To be clear this ain’t the easiest of drinkers at full proof as the alcohol is quite prominent with not much to hide behind. Adding water cuts the burn down and allows that spicy raspberry palate to shine through. All of a sudden, its sweet red fruit dessert that’s fantastically balanced and quite delicious. With the disclaimer that this is certainly not everyone’s pour, adding water flips it from ‘drinkable’ to ‘enjoyable’. That being said, I was really hoping that it had some additional flavor layerings as is the case with older single grains… Overall this is a definite ’something different for dessert’ pour of the night. Surprisingly subtle and restrained after water. This isn’t one to be paired with food though for its subtle flavors would get easily lost… Though I wonder if a good cigar would add that smoke element layer that this may be lacking. That being said… Unfortunately, there are plenty of interesting things in the price range so YMMV and this isn’t like most other single grains I’ve enjoyed.
Score: C

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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Westward, Rua, Stranahan’s American Single Malt p.2

Part 2 of the American Single Malts Review, because more samples showed up.

Westward Single Malt, 45%
Confusingly named WestWARD malt out of Oregon, not to be confused with WestLAND from Washington, or WAYward from California. The nose is very heavy with bubble gum and Jolly Rancher hard candy. Palate is pleasantly sweet and malty, but also somewhat thin; more of the Jolly Rancher notes continue their interplay. Aftertaste is initially bitter with wood then turns slightly minty with more bubble gum flavors. Among growing American single malt distilleries this doesn’t seem to stand out in a way that I would considering interesting. Certainly a unique flavor profile, I can see the distillery going for something ‘different’, but ‘different’ isn’t always best.
Score: C+

Addendum later… : It’s a hard skip for me on Westward as a brand. I not liked any of their expressions (Regular, stout, single cask and pinot barrel) beyond about C level.

Rua Single Malt, 46%
Another American production, this single malt has been aged for 16 months and is from batch 56 bottling from Great Wagon Road distilling. Nose in the glass is just incredible, very flowery and full of perfume notes. The palate… Woody, slightly bitter-sweet, almost too bitter, it is mouth-coating without being viscous. It drinks way hotter than the advertised 46%, but not because it’s alcohol-forward, but instead it is flavor-forward profile. I cannot believe this was aged for 16 months… No way… It’s so full of complex wood notes that I’d totally believe this to be overwooded 15 year old scotch. But the sudden drop of flavor in the aftertaste does reveal its young age. The aftertaste lingers for quite a while with a disclaimer that it goes from amazingly loud nose and palate to immediately subdued back aftertaste as if someone moves volume button from 10 to 2. Fantastically interesting and delicious this is a strange mix of single malt flavors and profiles with bourbon-like behavior on the palate by being bold, loud and brash. A little bit on the younger side, I’d love to get my hands on their special edition that’s at nearly 3 years old.
Mark doesn’t spare praises for this either: https://the-right-sp … american-single-malt
Score: B

Stranahan’s Sherry Cask, 47%
Ah, Stranahan’s… I’ve seen you around, always passed on buying. Yay for samples! Mmmmm, delicious PX dark fruit on the nose. Palate is more PX sherry fruits and so is the aftertaste… It tastes like a generic sherried single malt but the sherry feels also generic. Is it sweet and tasty? Yes. Does it have any sort of outstanding profile other than thin, fortified sherry? No. Do I like sherry? Yes. Are there better options than this? Oh hell, yes! Honestly, I’d rather drink Speyside single malt instead of this, mostly for more interesting profile. It’s sweet, tasty and boring.
Score: C+

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