Friday, April 16, 2021

Bourbon 5 (for a pair of Barrells), Garrison Bros, Parker’s Heritage’20, ECBP, Old Carter

Or at least somewhat rare bottles. An odd comment here is that I try to write abv whenever possible but if no abv is available on the sample I’ll write the proof, thus the inconsistency of notation.

Barrell Armida, 56.77%
Armida is a blend of three Straight Bourbon Whiskeys finished separately in Pear Brandy, Jamaican Rum, and Sicilian Amaro Casks. I’ll be brief on this one as I don’t quite like it. Honestly, a bit of a mix between gin and some sort of herbal medicine initial sips are very rough. With time, it somewhat grows on me but I am not a fan. It is rather bitter and herbal, some whiskey notes come up here and there but for the most part are hidden away by amaro. The flavor profile is similar to a whiskey bitters. Perhaps something for the mixed drinks? Anyways, not a fan of this straight. It certainly is something and I have to commend Barrel on experimenting, but it’s certainly not what you’d call whiskey blindly. It’s uniquely weird and not quite like anything I’ve ever had. It grew on me slightly towards the very end of the sample but still not quite my type of pour. The score here reflects my preference for drinking it rather than quality of blending and flavor.
Score: D+ (C for most?)

Barrell Cask Strength 15 (2019), 106.52 proof
This is the 2019 Barrell release. It is made up of bourbons distilled in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana and bottled at cask strength as is modus operandi for Barrell (cask proof). Let me summarize this in few words… It is a blend… and there’s a solid core of Dickel in there… and it’s thus full of peanuts. If you like Dickel, this is awesome. If you dislike Dickel (or peanuts)… This may not be your jam. Also it is by no means whatsoever worth the $200+ MSRP. Huge huge negatives for the valuation… But also same goes for Old Carter blended bottlings, though I digress.
Nose: Roasted peanuts galore (Dickel). Perfume/cologne and nearly no alcohol is felt.
Palate: Diiiiickel (roasted peanuts) primary palate but it’s real hard to get away from it… It’s not overwhelming of course, but a solid core around which other flavors are built. Mouth-coating and slightly oily texture helps it out. Still no alcohol burn so it’s really is proofed and balanced to perfection. The MGP spice appears around the peanut core and does it justice. Dark fruits, plums perhaps, are there too.
Aftertaste: Actually fantastic. The peanuts are gone and spices and sugars and wood and vanilla come to play.
Overall: It’s Dickel peanuts + MGP spice. It’s also reasonably tasty and would have been priced right at about $100. As it stood in 2019… the price is a huge negative point on this for frankly not very expensive ingredients. Dickel 15 year old single casks show up at about $60 in retail. But we’re not here to debate about value… So, what is the score really? Well, it’s basically a good Dickel and with repeated sips it is growing on me… Still not nearly anywhere near a bottle commitment. Try at a bar for a checkbox at best, bordering on skip if price is a factor.
Score: B-

Garrison Bros, Cowboy Bourbon (2019) 137.3 proof
Mash bill of 74% corn, 15% soft red winter wheat, 11% two-row barley, aged five years. Distilled in Texas and all. Nearly hazmat proof this is a dark monster in a glass. Thick, rich, burnt sugar caramel with solid wood core on the nose. Odd as it sounds… the nose doesn’t quite invite me to dig in… Yet it is super rich. Flavors galore on the palate with the toasted wood, corn caramel and warm baking spices taking the front. Very slightly metallic and almost savory at the immediate contact, it warms up and sweetens up as it flows through the tongue. The aftertaste primarily fades fast leaving residual sweetness for a long time. With water, the burn is mostly gone and sweetness comes fore. Slightly torn on water here as while making it easier to drink it loses some of its unique potency though near-hazmat isn’t everyone pour so few drops of water are probably recommended. Well worth trying though perhaps not buying a whole bottle, still this is something that is very nice. It’s hot, it’s rich and it’s full of multitude of good flavors. Majority of my A grade scores evoke a sense of ‘wow’ from me, this one happens to be one that is the opposite, it grew in the grade instead; leaving nearly nothing for me to criticize, other than overall value… this being a 5 year old bourbon with ~$250 tag.
Score: A-

Parker’s Heritage Collection 2020, 10 y/o, Heavy Char, 60%
A Heaven Hill product… Smells like Heaven Hill corn with wonderful dose of perfume. The palate is… well Heaven Hill corn and perfume profile plus a healthy dose of wood with a huge gollops of sweetness flowing through it all. Very much like a caramel lollipop. Much much gentler ECBP with less wood and more candied sugar. Quite delicious actually. Sweet sweet aftertaste that lingers and lingers for a while. Actually this reminds of a really good version of Fighting Cock. To summarize, this is right up my alley and I wish I picked up a bottle of this when it hit the stores as this is delicious and fantastic and sweet and full of perfume. A very specific type of bourbon for sure, this being a sweet corn variation vs Buffalo Trace more of a spicy, woody, cherry products, this is right up my alley of drinking. I would really love to keep on drinking this if available and strongly suggest others to keep one around… Yet, this being a limited release it’s all gone now. At the same time this isn’t a contemplative drink but rather a dessert in a glass and should be graded as such.
I don’t always agree with TheWhiskeyWash but this one mostly matches my opinion: https://thewhiskeywa … -heavy-char-bourbon/
Score: A

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B520, 63,63%
Nose is dark corn caramel (as opposed to the PHC above), heavily laden with wood. Palate yet again delivers the warm flood of flavors from the nose. Very wood forward, this doesn’t descend into tannic bitterness but instead sticks with sweet char. Aftertaste isn’t as ridiculously long as the PHC fades a reasonably fast yet… plenty of wood, baking spices and sweet caramel. The woodiness borders on comfortable levels for me with being perhaps just a tiny bit too much. It balances and offsets other flavors nicely, but I’d personally would prefer little less intense. The proof is rather low for ECBP is still somewhat punchy. That being said, for bourbon and specifically for Heaven Hill fans, this is likely as good as it gets. A 12 year old full proof delicious flavor bomb. Good news! This being a 12 year old… it takes water like a champ. Even with water it’s great and doesn’t fall apart as most younger spirits do. The sliver of too much wood (for me) is the only detriment here. Great stuff across the board otherwise.
Score: A-

Old Carter (OC) Straight Kentucky Whiskey, Batch 1, 58.75%
I’ll be brief in this one. I suspect the core of this is a 1792 Barton distillate with other things in the mix, likely being rye. The nose is menthol, spices and burnt sugar on the lighter side with less wood than darker bourbons would. This is light amber situation so refined sugar vs charred caramel. Palate delivers everything the nose promises and more. Aftertaste is light menthol lollipops. Overall: pleasant but not exciting bottle with too much menthol notes in the flavors and frankly at the price/scarcity Old Carter can do much better. There are OC releases that are truly delicious but this one is mostly middling. It really is mint sugar candies or cookies. It’s a fancy Barton that doesn’t evoke any wow factors.
Score: B-

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

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Barton, Smoke Wagon, Ironroot Harbinger, Belle Meade Bourbon samples 4

Another day, more bourbons to try. Some special some fairly common. Most will be high proof I think.

Barton/1792 Full Proof. Jackson’s Wine SP. 125 proof
Always bottled at 62.5% abv this is a single cask #3201 pick from Jackson’s Wine & Spirits. Originally priced at $45 according to the remains of the price label. Woody funk on the nose with cherries and wet tobacco. Palate is quite forward with alcohol but past that are more cherries, cola, woody, spicy and all sort of interesting flavors float up over and over again. Aftertaste lasts for quite a while and now that alcohol is mostly gone past the palate it is an absolute explosion of spices and bourbon flavors typical to 1792 line. This is not as sweet as Heaven Hill, not cinnamony like Beam, nor it is a cherry bomb like a lot of Buffalo Trace products. Yet it seems to take just a tad from everyone and combine it into something… interesting and uniquely self. The alcohol is a bit too much though even for a relatively tame proof, compared to say Bookers or Knob Creek that are very drinkable at the same proof point. A few drops of water lowers the burn and don’t seem to act too adversely on the overall flavor, perhaps making it a tad woodier. One of the few cases in bourbon where few drops of water are surprisingly welcome.
Score: B (B+ water)

Smoke Wagon Unfiltered/Uncut, 57.31% abv
Small batch regular release of cask proof Smoke Wagon MGP from sometime in 2020. The nose is musky MGP reminding me strong of Plumpjack’s SAOS pick previously reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200729-002755. The palate? About same as Plumpjack SAOS pick. Really really good, but basically MPG SAOS. Perhaps slightly older version due to higher wood influence. Aftertaste is an amalgamation of MGP spices, sweets and more wood. Not nearly as overwhelmingly woody compared to Joseph Magnus 13, not really all that sweet or ‘raw’ compared to some of the 5 year old SAOS picks but something in between. Overall I like this, though a full disclaimer here, I generally like MGP profile. Perhaps a touch too much wood is working against it for minor minus.
Score: B+

Ironroot Harbinger STR BRB, HBS Pick,133 Proof
A 100% Texas corn pick from Houston Bourbon Society, whom I have to admit got a pretty solid palate for good picks of those that I’ve tried in the past thanks to a group’s mole insider. Nose got singeing alcohol with more wood than I’d usually want to deal with but, at that proof it works due to flavor intensity to offset the fire, mint and apricots, lots of dried apricots. Sadly, mint and apricots mostly fade over time leaving woody spice notes to revel in. I wish it stayed fruity… but spicy woodiness is still not bad. The palate is interesting, mint and anise in the back, nutty caramel corn and wood notes in the front, it makes for quite a complete package. Reasonably long aftertaste of warm anise and woody spiciness rounds it out. Overall really good, though the proof is few points too high for me. With couple drops of water the burn is mostly gone and creamy, woody texture emerges with almost no loss of flavor. While I’m not willing to equate this to ECBP (frankly because it is NOT the same)… there are some similarities, in particular the high level of caramel and wood notes on the profile. I find this to be just as woody, but somewhat dryer and having some solidly different secondary flavors in comparison. To be fair, if one is a fan of ECBP this distillery bottlings are well worth checking out, but of course single cask disclaimer firmly applies here. While this does get a solid (wow) factor from me, the minty note isn’t something that I personally enjoy in large quantities. Aside from the mint, there’s really not much to criticize.
Score: A-

Belle Meade 11 y/o MGP, 40 mo finish in 1940s brandy casks. 112.14 proof
Data above is from the sample label, no special information given aside from that. A special treat to myself and hopefully last MGP review I will write at least for the foreseeable future. Internet suggests that this is a Belle Mead Brandy Cask special release from 2019 bottled at 118.8 proof. Nose is full of dark chocolate notes, dark leather, like an old but well cared for leather jacket. The palate is mouth-watering and frankly amazing. It’s almost savory initially and then switches over to sherry-like syrup flavor and consistency in the secondary notes. Aftertaste is all chocolate, oak and spices gently fading for a long time. This strongly reminds me of ~30 y/o Cardinat Armagnac from 1984 which was so oaked that it tasted almost sherried and I loved it for that. With the disclaimer that this isn’t for everyone as it’s sorta like a woody sherried and surprisingly tame MGP… It’s real good. Perhaps just a tad of a wood bomb yet it’s not tannic, this is seriously delicious. It does have a weird note that I’m not quite able to place, perhaps a bit of sulfur, on the primary palate profile that briefly interrupts the experience mid-way and once past it, the amazing flavors come back.
Score: A-

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

Friday, April 2, 2021

Dalmore, Aberlour, Fettercairn, Glen Moray, Glenlivet, no sherry Single Malts

I’ll cover tea-spooning super quickly here by linking to a good summary and taking first two paragraphs from here: … -14-year-old-review/ as it explains the deal quite well.

Basically, teaspooning consists of adding a little bit of another distillery’s whisky to a cask of single malt whisky. Ostensibly this is done so the cask cannot be sold or bottled as single malt whisky because it now contains single malts from two distilleries. So…for example, say a big company, let’s call it Grant Wilma & Daughters, owns two distilleries – Glen Helheim and Inexorable Park. Throughout the warehouses of these two distilleries, there’s bound to be a few casks that just did work out. The whisky is perhaps not bad, but it strays too far from the house style and is too anomalous for the company to use or to want to slap the distillery’s name on it. Then let’s say an independent bottler comes to Glen Helheim looking to buy casks. They’re not necessarily worried about selling a distillery name, they’re more concerned with selling a unique whisky, or possibly creating a special blend. They decide to buy a teaspooned cask, an oddball Glen Helheim which has a bit of Inexorable Park added to it, thereby nullifying it as a Glen Helheim single malt. The independent bottler might pay a lower price for a cask like this than they would for a certified 12 year old Glen Helheim, but they also do not have the built-in distillery name recognition that might help with sales.

Dalmore 13, Cromarty’s Firth, 53.6%
A first of many Hepburn’s Choice ‘blended’ (spooned) malts to come, this 13 year old Dalmore has been cut with a tiny bit of Teaninich to make it a blended malt. Aged in refill hogshead and bottled exclusively for K&L Wines the bottle notes say lively, grassy, vanilla. Nose is malty vanilla with some grass minerality. More minerality is present on the palate, with loads of ginger spice, yet again malt and so much vanilla. The texture is slightly viscous which is surprising for low age and not super active cask. WIth repeated tastes more sugars come to the fore adding few notes of white raisins to the mix. Considering the rarity of independent unsherried full proof Dalmore this is somewhat of a treat to taste the distillery profile in its full glory. More minerality in the aftertaste as vanilla and sugars fade first leaving it a bit of a dusty feeling. Absolute treat to distillery fans, this may be slightly rough around the corners to be a true treat. With age really making a true difference in refill-aged spirits this is a tiny bit too young to truly have settled down, it is right on the cusp of greatness. Well worth trying but a tough sell for a full bottle of quality value out of this unless it’s the style one truly enjoys. That being said, adding few drops of water removes most of the rough edges making it much more enjoyable but perhaps less ‘unique’…
Product Page:
Score: B

Aberlour A’Bunadh Alba, Batch 1, 57.1%
An ex-bourbon counterpart to the regular A’Bunadh which is sherry cask aged. No age statement but full proof and I’d expect full flavor. Tropical fruit and spices on the nose with good amount of malt and cereal notes, some honey emerges after a while. Concentrated, sweet, baked apples and a bit of spice on the palate with additional lighter fruits appearing as time progresses. Palate fades with more tropical notes appearing, like a mango vanilla mousse cake. Very much a flavor bomb for ex-bourbon cask style of maturation (vs regular A’Bunadh sherry bomb) quite pleasant, concentrated and very flavorful offering. It’s an excellent example of a style… that’s frankly saturated in excellent examples so while by no means a bad choice, the field is quite crowded in good choices at that price point.
Score: B

Fettercairn 21, Old Particular, K&L Sp, 55.3%
A 21 year old Old Particular Bottling. The nose is shortbread cookies and cereal. The palate is… mouth-watering and mouth-coating, full of malt, dollop of cereal sugars, tropical fruits, vanilla and just enough spice to tie it all together. Creamy, bready texture. Just fantastic. The aftertaste is long full of more cereal notes, super gentle spices, vanilla and creme. Little bits of tobacco or char come up in the very back to put the cherry on top of the whole experience. It’s rare that a pour works so well beginning to end and this is one of the rare ones. It is even rarer that it works well with ex-bourbon casks. The wave of Old Particular bottlings and specifically a bunch that came though around 2017-18 though K&L got outstanding level of value and quality… but this was ages ago in whiskey years. Regardless of me reminiscing, this is fantastic stuff.
Product Page:
Score: A

Glen Moray 10, Chardonnay Cask, 40%
No particular expectations on this low proof 10 year old young one. High minerality and malt, citrus and melons, rich and slightly buttery on the nose. I wonder where the citrus and melons come from? Oh yeah… the wine… On the palate… light, fruity and slightly peppery. A distinct lack of secondary palate is clearly evident there though, after the initial bold flavors fade, there’s a very pronounced ‘emptiness’ on the palate before the aftertaste kicks on. On the aftertaste, more pepper, some light wood finally shows itself. Butter, melons and yellow citrus as the nose promised. Extremely light smoke or tobacco in the tail end of the aftertaste rounds it off. This is a summer shandy (50/50 beer to lemonade) of scotch. Very summery and quite light, this feels like something I would enjoy chilled in the summer evening or with similar food that Chardonnay wine would pair with. Lack of mid palate makes it not worth contemplating upon and this is best paired with a good conversation or food. A solid minus though for being exactly 40% abv.
Score: B-

Glenlivet Nadurra 16, Bourbon cask, 111.5 proof
A discontinued bottling as of few years back when Glenlivet replaced all the Nadurra line with NAS expressions. This of course a is loss, but not surprising in the current market where the stocks are dwindling and demand is rising. Nose is malt, sweet cereal grains, slight baking spice, little bits of alcohol and wood but what a fantastic balance there. More wood and spice than would (see what I did here?) be expected based on reasonably pale color. Fantastic balance of flavors and a great example of what ex-bourbon single malt should be. Primary aftertaste flavors quickly fade leaving little tingle in the back of the tongue for quite a while. I’ll summarize here… “It’s real good”… Certainly different balance and style to Fettercairn above which tries to be a fantastic and smooth experience throughout, the Glenlivet Nadurra line does not pull its punches. This is like watching a champion boxer in a match: folks get hurt but it’s an amazing experience nonetheless. Spicy, sweet, malty the flavors are all wound together for quite a literal palate punch that’s beautiful to experience. Still stings a tad though, but not as much as finding my glass empty.
Score: A-

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