Sunday, June 27, 2021

Glen Scotia, Highland Park CS, Clynelish Selkie, Caol Ila, Kilkerran peated malts

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” — (wasn’t said by) Mark Twain

https://www.anchorbr … o-say-what-says-who/
Whoever really said, it is mostly true. Today, at the very end of June, the temperature outside barely broke 65 degrees or so with chilly, cold, and gusty winds while majority of the rest of the country is suffering from heat wave… We’re not here to talk about the weather but instead to review whiskey and what a time to be alive and drink peated malts if not when it’s cold outside. With the usual disclaimer that I don’t actually like peat… Let’s dig into more backlogged samples. I’ll expect the grading going all over the place here.

Glen Scotia 14, Tawny Port 52.8%
Bottled for Campbeltown Malts Festival 2020. This is the successor for the rum cask finish in 2019, which was delicious. https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200411-073247… The nose is smoked berry compote. To be honest I’m quite confused since it doesn’t smell like a Scotch. Dark smoked plums and intense green pine? It has been sitting in my glass for a while as I was stressing to drink it. It is quite velvety in texture, the peat level is high. Much higher than the Rum cask from 2019, together with higher levels of iodine salinity. Thankfully it’s well balanced off by the tawny port jamminess and dark fruit with a bit of chocolate sweetness. This somewhat reminds me of smoky dark chocolate with salt and cayenne powder. Overall, while I quite enjoyed the ‘19 Rum version, this isn’t my jam even if I do enjoy sweet peat. This is almost pure islay that’s been sweetened up by port. Not unpleasant, it’s red dessert wine, smoke and whiskey mix but I find myself fighting though the peat levels here. Someone that enjoys peat would likely enjoy it much more than I do.
Score: B- (Peat!)

Highland Park (HP) 2020, Cask Strength, 63.3%
I got an odd relationship with HP… Some bottles I really dislike https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201205-225320 … and some I really like https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210523-215817. Nearly sulfuric on the nose with some smoke, iodine and sherry notes. Sweet and quite fiery on the front of the palate, with lots of residual heat and smoke coming up in the back. Someone salty, smokey and slightly spicy aftertaste but not much to write home about here as it fades into near-obscurity after some time… Pleasant but not great. The nature of NAS makes itself be known here with younger barrels which is odd, considering the palate is quite woody. For a peated offering this ain’t too overwhelming and is balanced well. Some water amps the sweetness and cuts the burn making it quite enjoyable overall. A NAS bottling sherried malt with some peat but not overwhelming. Water is recommended. Still, frankly lack of subtle flavors and slight woody bitterness in the aftertaste department makes it not all that desirable pour for me. It’s also not that bad by itself.
Score: B-

Clynelish 14 SiB, Selkie Queen, 57.1%
A Joshua Thinnes Single Cask pick (if that makes any difference to the reader). I treat to myself… From myself, though a sample. Little lick of the last drop from the sample bottle brought in so much honeycomb… Crazy… Let’s not beat around the bush. It’s a refill Clynelish. Super pale and it’s 14 years old. May as well be an Old Malt Cask. On the plus side it’s a pick from a person with a solid palate so fingers crossed. Old oak cereal minerality, bit of yellow citrus, and honeycomb on the nose. Lucious, thick, slightly wood-bitter, honey and stone fruit on the palate. The aftertaste is more honey and is sadly somewhat unimpressive compared to the palate… Interestingly, it is begging for water. With few water drops… well it’s an Old Malt Cask behavior. Pepper and oak in addition to previous flavors. It’s… good… but… Clynelish really needs at least a bit of sherry to offset its character and shine… Pleasant, extremely complex and contemplative this could feel underwhelming because of its subtlety. At the same time it’s so tightly layered with lighter scotch flavors that it can take hours to figure them out. I’m certainly enjoying my glass… yet I’m wondering if i would have enjoyed this repeatedly and I’m leaning towards a ‘not on regular basis’. Due to high complexity this isn’t an everyday pour by any means… but it is also its downfall as it’s chock-full of blink-and-miss flavors. Easily in the top of every Old Malt Cask bottle that I’ve tried till now. Must like n-th refill bourbon casks though… On the value side, I don’t recall original MSRP but it was higher than I would have paid for IB Clynelish 14… It’s not worth it and also sold out. It’s a great pick that seems to have been priced unreasonably high.
https://www.subtlesp …
Score: A-

Caol Ila 10, Islay Straight, Sovereign 59.6%
A 2010 Sherry Butt spooned Caol Isla? Okay. In sherry? Sure, lets try. It’s a young Islay in sherry. I’m expecting salty sweet smoke with a fairly substantial proof. So far, the nose doesn’t disappoint. Smells like sweet smoked seafood. Tastes like sweet smoked fish jerky even if not surprisingly a tad too hot on the palate. The aftertaste is fantastic though it reminds me of a good cigar and I don’t smoke. Peat isn’t too overwhelming here and neither is sherry they work together nicely. Comparably straightforward bottling, this is tasty in a smoked sherry ways but due to low age it lacks much in terms of secondary or very complex flavors that would develop over time in a cask. On the value side, this is extremely solid and aggressively priced offering, no complaints.
Score: B+

Kilkerran (Glengyle) 8, Oloroso 2020, 57.1%
The Kilkerran/Glengyle 2020 bottling of recharred oloroso casks at 8 years old. Kilkerran is an offshoot of Springbank distillery where Springbank can experiment with things rather than sticking to more traditional versions of their distillery bottling. Well… It’s cask strength Oloroso… so yay varnish/mastic is strong with this one. On the palate it becomes something different though. Still, the palate offers slight mastic notes, the wood, and sherry, and spirit’s super light peat offer a very interesting balance that really wants to be enjoyed more and more it really coats my tongue. Oloroso casks bring stewed fruit compote balances well with light smokiness and wood notes. The nature of Campbeltown malt is also good at hiding imperfections, naturally being lightly smoked and malt-forward. Honestly, this is a good bottle. Value is honestly a touch too high for the age and mostly okay on flavor departments. I personally skipped this one as other bottlings from the distillery are hit or miss with this one being one of the few that hit it out of the park but hindsight is 20/20.
Score: A-

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

Alberta, Michter’s, Jack Daniels, Barrell, DHG fRYEday night

Well it is Friday night so let’s do rye reviews again. I’m slightly under the weather for few parts of this review so fingers crossed. I’ll revisit few things when I can for second opinion.

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye, 66%
Not too sure what’s so ‘premium’ about this but label gotta label. Jokes aside, Alberta (R) is a registered trademark somehow. This is quite obviously Canadian rye whiskey and this is a batch cask strength with batches varying in proof a bit. IIRC mine is a batch two. At 66% abv that’s hot stuff in there. Nose is wood, some sweet rye spice, and a lot of alcohol. Palate is very hot, somewhat cinnamon forward with lots of wood and surprisingly not a too much sugar, keeping it quite balanced, aside from scorching heat of the alcohol. It is certainly sweet and woody and spicy but reasonably so in terms of overall experience. Pleasant baking spices and sweet aftertaste develops for a long time after initial burn is gone. This really rather cries out for water. Water cuts the alcohol and sweetness a tad and makes it… quite tasty and a bit woodier with slight bitterness now balancing out the sweetness after the alcohol is no longer overwhelming everything. A bit of licorice and pine palate peeks through as well. Unfortunately as with a lot of ryes, this gets more bitter, the more it sits in the glass so there’s certainly some inflection point where bitter overwhelms the good. Overall it is reasonably drinkable for the price though it’s also nothing too special to write home about the MSRP is about on point for the overall experience here. Water to cut the burn is recommended required as well as drinking it reasonably fast. This may become my Manhattan fodder.
Score: B-

Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye (2019), Cask#79, 56.3%
Another Michter’s Rye from yesteryear? I was considering adding it to the overall Michter’s rundown https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201129-222309 but reviewing it here is good enough, no? Nose, charry, woody, slightly smokey rye spices. To be clear, not actual smoke but notes of super toasted wood instead. Palate is sweet rye deliciousness. Candied orange peel, rye and eucalyptus spice, caramelized sugar. Woody, almost to a point of bitterness but backs off on the bitter notes right before it gets anywhere near unpleasant. Somewhat disappointingly short finish as per pretty much every Michter’s bottle. Overall, yah it’s legit. The secondary pricing on this is a bit insane and plenty of retailers are asking $200+ which is utterly unreasonable… Near MSRP this is solid solid stuff and quite tasty even for this grump that doesn’t like rye.
Score: A-

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye (2020), 65%
A 2020 limited run of Jack’s Single Cask Rye that’s proofed rather high. This became a hot commodity almost immediately. A note to be made about color here, with this being nearly chestnut-colored. Very Jack style nutty varnish on the nose. Mouth-coating toasted spicy nuts and some rye spice on the palate. Surprisingly tame for such high proof. Long and mouth-tingling aftertaste which is super nice. Overall… Hmm, I see why plenty of folks are calling it ‘fire’. Tasty but I’m having a hard time finding rye in there. Frankly, just stick to Single Cask full proof Jack and don’t pay premium for this. But pretty much nothing is worth its secondary value. The bourbon is sweeter in the corn sweetness way so rye does dial back the sugar in a pleasant way. If you see it at MSRP, worth getting.
Score: B+

Barrell Rye #M768, 7 year MGP, Beast Masters Pick, 57.56%
Somewhat a mouthful of a name, this is a Barrell Rye from MGP, nicknamed “Hannibal Nectar”. It’s been chilling in my glass for quite a while actually due to unforeseen distractions, so whatever oxigen would have done to it is already done. Let’s dig in! Well, the nose seems like a reasonable rye with with MGP spice twist though surprisingly sharp on the alcohol side of things. The palate is… surprisingly good. Woody, spicy and just about perfectly sweet without being too much. Quite warming on the palate the alcohol lets itself be known but with the rest of the big bold flavors it integrates well. Solid amount of wood and sweetness show up in the aftertaste that lasts a long time. Overall, I like it a lot. Price and availability aside, this is solid drinking stuff. I’m not usually a fan of ‘traditional’ rye but this gets my vote for being quite tasty and old MGP stuff is pretty darn good with that MGP spice doing well in Rye and barrel influence. MGP 4 year old rye is too young: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210212-220609 but extra few years in a cask does wonders.
Score: A-

Domaine des Hautes Glaces (DHG) Single Malt Rye, Cask #79, 53.1%
Oh boy… This one got a story. Don’t I just love stories to go with my whiskey? A 100% malted rye from France, aged in used fortified wine casks. A single cask bottling with reasonably high proof. Sounds good yet? Yes it does! The nose is super herbal with malted rye flavors overlayed by grape sugar. So tightly wound between herbaceousness and spice as to be nearly smokey like a flowering grass fire smoke. The palate starts like a rye and turns full on herbal about midway through, then nearly fades and, surprisingly, roars back again with full chocolate and herbs assault on the tongue. This secondary assault slowly fades over a very long time in to the super pleasant aftertaste very similar to having fortified herbal wine. Lots of mint, sage, thyme, some eucalyptus and rosemary on the herbal notes. This is highly reminiscent of Herbs de Provence spice mix. Overall: Holy cow yes! A little young to develop it’s own secondary flavors but any longer and it would have been overwhelmed with too much cask influence, so likely bottled at the proper time. Lovers of all that is weird in whiskey sign up here. This and Old Potrero malted rye single casks are fantastic examples of what I really like about malted rye whiskey. It’s not perfect but its minor flaws are well masked by the outstanding qualities. Where OP is much darker and broodier this leans towards the light side of the spectrum without losing too much of a dark character. Not for every occasion and certainly not a casual drink; this is just something weird, unique and outstanding at the same time. Best I can describe it as herbal whiskey. Value: at $70 are you kidding me? Buy if you can (no chance; it’s been sold out).
Read the good stuff here:
Even the general release is pretty awesome:
Score: A- (*Not for everyone)

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Balcones, Woodinville, Frey Ranch Tastings

I’ve been doing more tastings… Some I’ve enjoyed, some I’ve been disappointed in. Few I missed because I’ve misjudged my interest level but I’m griping at the free tastings… Time to score. These will mostly cover core ranges with few selectively different samples.

Balcones Lineup

Balcones Straight Bourbon, Pot Still, 46%
Light notes of fresh scorched roofing tar. The same few tar notes stick around to corn-forward the palate, but really they aren’t that bad and more than remind me of Texas BBQ. Basically charry bbq corn? Yeah I can see this. Rye spice and wood notes round off the experience. Drinkable and worth trying at a bar in Texas. Repeated tastings bring up a some more of that tar or barrel char bitterness in the back which I’m not truly enjoying. Frankly the more I am drinking it the less I’m enjoying it.
Score: C-

Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey, 46%
Made from roasted blue corn aged in wood for at least 6 months, no babies were harmed in making of this. Corn and a bit of a newmake on the nose, rather funky. The palate actually does remind me of a roasted corn profile. The aftertaste is mellow and medium or so. It’s… it’s actually rather pleasant. I expected this to be the Mellow Corn disaster, but this is really not too bad. The complexity is really coming from that caramelized corn sugars in the roast rather from the casks but the wood pleasantly mellows it out and adds a little bit of vanilla in. I’m very pleasantly surprised overall on this… A solid pour worth trying with a BBQ or something. I can see this going along quite well with food. It’s not complicated but it is tasty.
Score: B-

Balcones Rye, 50%
At least 15 months in oak. Rye rye rye. This is interesting profile. Some of those same tar notes from bourbon show up here too transforming into chocolate in the palate and coffee in the reasonably long aftertaste. Honestly this is NOT my thing. Basically the bourbon is here, but rye forwards vs corn forward. Frankly not a fan.
Score: D+

Frey Ranch Lineup

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon. 45%
A four grain straight bourbon out of Nevada farm-to-table family owned distillery. A little alcohol-forward nose with lots of corn. The palate is quite interestingly mellow going from corn to rye to a mellow wheat flavors. Quite pleasant, very slightly medicinal with rye and overall very good @work i think. Tons and tons and layers of flavor here yet still staying subtle and mellow enough. For a regular release that’s super high marks to achieve.
Score: B

Frey Ranch Straight Rye, 50%
Non-chill filtered and Bottled-in-bond rye? I guess… Very mint forward on the nose. Rye and mint on the palate and then orchard fruit (apples?) on the aftertaste. I’m usually very rye-picky but this is actually quite tasty. The mint may be a turn off for some drinkers and is certainly not my favorite flavor in a drink typically but this one really works. Good stuff. Would totally love to see their cask strength rye.
Score: B+

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon, Plumpjack SP, 64.23%
A really really tiny sample of this because… well because I kept sneaking little sips out… Warm woody and delicious. Little burny as is evidenced by the proof but not too bad overall. Little drying on the tongue with wood flavors and in the aftertaste. Quite a treat and knowing that Frey Ranch is farm-to-table a hard call to pass up. It was recently at PlumpJack for $95… I actually passed because of personal reasons but this is rather quite good with little to complaint about other than the price. This is closer to a wheated mashbills of Weller because their bourbon is four grain so expect less Stagg more Weller Full Proof.
Score: A-

Woodinville Lineup:

Woodinville Straight Bourbon, 45%
Not repeating myself… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry191220-085943 Perhaps just a tad charcoal bitterness comes up in the continued sipping. But omg it is good in a manhattan and great @work.
Score Finally: B-

Woodinville Straight Rye 100%, 45%
Not repeating myself… https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200731-205036
Score Repeat: C

Woodinville Straight Bourbon, Port Finish, 45%
Bourbon finished in Port? Sure! As a side note, Uproxx, website been praising this as if it’s a nectar of the gods… I don’t really buy their assessment. So let’s finally make my own mind up. The nose is sweet red wine, as expected. Though honestly it smells more like a cheap fortified sweet red dessert wine. The palate is mostly sweet with woody dryness of the regular bourbon, mostly balanced out by the sweetness of the port. On the aftertaste the sweetness slowly fades as does the dryness so basically slow fade from the palate. Medium length and nothing new really shows up on the aftertaste yet again lacking subtle flavors. Yet again, too young. I think I like this slightly more than the regular edition but either way it’s nothing amazing to write home about with plenty of more interesting choices out there. Worth a bar tab though as a dessert due to sweetness.
Score: B

Woodinville Triple Barrel Blended, 45.5%
From Woodinville Website: “initially aged in new, heavy-toasted, lightly charred American oak barrels. After a stay in the new oak barrels, it is re-barreled into used bourbon barrels for additional aging and mellowing. Finally, it is re-barreled a third time into used Islay Scotch barrels.” Something new and different. a bit of a barrel finish if you will. Smells like and old smoker or a cold bbq grill. The palate is salty and smokey with some sweetness. Aftertaste is mostly same but fading gently. This heavily reminds me of a non-greasy hot smoked salmon… and I like hot smoked salmon. This is one of those whiskey profiles I really enjoy, especially if done right. There’s one problem though. It’s young and has no subtle flavors to back itself up on when primary flavors are gone. Extremely good effort but needs to be at least few years older here. I want more but I will also not buy it. Well worth trying for fans of gentle peat and it’s very rare to see smoke in bourbon (yes yes, I’m aware of High West Campfire… but like it’s the only other one commonly available).
Score: B

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