Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Ireland vs >Scotland< ; anCnoc, Speyburn, Old Pulteney, and another sneaky American

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Balblair, Blair Athol, Stranahan’s, Mortlach… The glut battle rages

More of the sample catching up…

Balblair 13, 2006 Vintage, K&L SP, Cask 76; 56.2%
I actually happen to have a bottle of this so an preview so to speak. Nose is nutty red wine. Palate is nutty oloroso fighting with dark chocolate and a little few cherry notes. Aftertaste is long sweet and spicy. Overall: An absolute monster of a flavor bomb this is everything a sherred scotch lover would want… and more, but could be a bit overwhelming to some. Oddly reminiscent of Starward bottling I’m enjoying with the similar nutty cherry chocolate notes. Value: At $109 for a single cask 13 years old… About medium though being a single cask from distillery does give it a bit of a valuation bump.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1485852
Score: A-

Blair Athol 12, 2009 Sovereign, K&L SP, 59%
A sherry butt-aged Blair Athol? Sure I’ll try, considering this is a preview of a bottle I have. Very funky nose, bordering yet again on light rubber smell though mostly fig compote due to sherry, little meaty, malty and chocolatey. Very classically sherry palate, sweet, with lots of milk chocolate and figs. Unfortunately not super deep or complex the primary palate almost immediately drops into a long but very subtle aftertaste with some residual spices and some coffee. Overall: Not particularly a fan though it’s a workable as a vertical tasting or even as an casual drink with others that appreciate scotch. Nothing particularly special other than the sweetness that pushes it almost into dessert category and the ‘weirdness’ of this one may upset a more casual drinker as it’s certainly is funky. Value: at $59 I guess that’s fine for a single casked sherried single malt, considering that Glendronach 12 is creeping into $50-ish now.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1556889
Score: B-

Stranahan’s Rum Cask, Distillery Exclusive, 45%
Technically, a bottle split… But essentially a big sample… I’m not going to go too deep into this. It’s american malt so it’s sweet and banana-forward plus rum casks makes it basically caramelized bananas. Sweet, malty and banana-y. Nothing too good or bad to say about it. It’s young it’s not super interestersting. Overall: Nothing special, worth trying a bar though. Value: It was $82 total shipped, since it’s distillery exclusive from Colorado, mostly so-so price but worth it if considering uniqueness and a fan of that profile.
Score: C+

Mortlach 16, Signatory Vintage, K&L SP, 55.8%
A 1998-2014 vintage matured in Hogshead with 33 month Oloroso sherry finish. Something tasty and special? Let’s find out… Nose is allspice and sun-dried apricots. Oh the palate is meaty mortlach with bourbon spice and that tasty oloroso sherry from mid 2010’s. Aftertaste lingers for long time with woody bourbon cask spice tingle and some malt. Averall: Oh this is great stuff, I wish I had more to say about it but really, it’s just good stuff. Go read someone else’s review for more words. https://whiskeyapos … ach-16-year-kl-wine/. Value: It was $100 in 2014… ahahhahaah. Yeah that’s a steal now. To be fair; in context that was pretty steep for an independent at the time. These prices don’t exist for the quality anymore. Anywhere under $150 is probably fair game, alas.
Score: A

Mortlach 12, Sovereign, K&L SP, 58%
A 2008 vintage Mortlach, aged in sherry. Sounds yum! Another preview of a bottle I already have. Well this smells PEATED… Seriously… sherry peat? I don’t get it, Mortlach shouldn’t be peated. Perhaps the cask is heavy peated malt then refilled with Mortlach here? The nose is salted and smoked figs and apricots mixed with some habaneros. Palate is meaty, chewy, salty, sweet, reminds me somewhat of teriyaki jerky. Aftertaste lasts a long time and full of peppery spice and very light smoke tingle. Overall: This is very very good stuff if you don’t mind a little smoke with the sherry and is certainly one of the very few exceptions that I am truly enjoying that smoke profile. Realistically, not seeing any faults here other than my sample is too small at the moment. Value: This was $59… solid price value wise for a single malt.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/189863
Score: A

Side note: WoW… Mortlach combines well with some sherry… Just wow.

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Glen Keith, Benrinnes, Dailuaine, Craigellachie, Inchgower; Sample Glut, Again

Over the course of last week I’ve went from zero samples or bottles that need to be reviewed to fresh 18 samples or some of which need to be reviewed… I guess time to get to it.

Glen Keith 28; 1993 Old Malt Cask, K&L SP, 56.9%
Let’s start this with an Old Malt Cask. Nose is intense buttery shortbread with fresh green apple skins and a solid alcohol kick as appropriate to the proof. Palate got pears and apples, some grass notes, a little bit of lemon, and more of that vanilla complexity that’s often seeps from oak casks after long time. The texture of the palate is quite velvety. The aftertaste is quite long with lingering light pepper, ginger and other sweet spice notes. Overall: I’m really quite enjoying it. It’s definitely got that spiced pears and green apple going. Possibly one of the best Old Malt Casks I’ve ever had but with 28 years under its belt… it better be good assuming you like ex-bourbon vanilla and orchard fruits. Value: Actually quite solid price ~$150 for the age . I think I didn’t get it only because I already have some Glen Keith and didn’t want a repeat from the distillery.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/192442
Still available as of this writing; https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1565106
Score: A-

Benrinnes 23, 1997, Old Malt Cask, K&L SP, 58.4%
Refill hogshead (ex-bourbon) from 1997… This seems a little darker than a simple bourbon refill. Nose is… confusingly… Bubble gum-forward with slight varnish in the back, and real light apple notes. The palate is both red apple crisp and peppery with anise and nutmeg notes somewhere in the background. Still, it feels like its got a slight hint of sherry in there somewhere. Aftertaste is quite long, drying with some wood taking a prominence after a bit and becoming almost metallic. Overall: Some folks may like it some won’t a quite funky and something different which could be both good or bad. This is also certainly hard one to grade but I would go with my preference here, quite solid stuff at the end of the glass. Oddly, the more it sits around the more sherried it feels to the palate. Value: At $120 for the age this is fairly decent value, though as usual with OMC beware of the ‘mediocrity’ that is good but not outstanding. The Laings know what they are doing so they wouldn’t bottle something truly amazing at that price considering they also got other brands (ie: “Old and Rare”) for truly interesting casks.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1524628
Score: B+

Dailuaine 10, 2010 Sovereign K&L SP, 59.4%
Young sherry cask that’s not a sherry bomb. Quick blurb that I didn’t write yesterday as I wasn’t planning to review it as I have a lot of Dailuaine bottles. Solid stuff at $55 that’s worth picking up if you need a single malt. Not mind-breaking but will do the job without breaking budget. Upgrade the score to a solid B if there’s a spot in your bottle shelf that needs to be filled.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1556892
Score: B-

Craigellachie 16, Old Particular, K&L SP, 56.3%
A sneak peek of a bottle I own. Thanks friend Charu (and for many other samples)! An Old Particular bottle for a 16 years old in refill sherry. The nose is nutty, spicy, unsweetened, dry fruit compote, very slightly rubbery. Really needs some air to open up. Woody, nutty, sweet with sherry palate. I really like the palate here actually. Aftertaste is drying spices, leather and serious amount of toasted apple skins. Overall: This is funky spiced and dried apple compote, quite enjoyable if one enjoys sherry. Value: A 16 year old single cask for $109 about average. Though the sherry adds a little bit to the cost so slightly below average to be fair.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1510168
Score: B+

Inchgower 22, Sovereign, K&L SP, 56.3%
A rare labeled single malt from a distillery that’s mostly used in blends. The nose is interestingly funky and alternates between sherry figs and pine resin or perhaps a little bit of rubber. The palate is a little rubbery but in a pleasant way that integrates with the sweetness, definitely gets better after first sip with mostly molasses and fig compote remaining. The aftertaste brings sweet vanilla, sherry fruits and spices and is nice and medium; with few sweet notes lingering for a while. Overall: Very sweet and funky flavor combination that’s unlike most other single malts that I can think of. It really is alike to some sort of spiced fruitcake. Yes, let’s go with ginger fig fruitcake on this one. Not particularly sold on the overall palate being a little too sweet for my tastes. Value: About medium at $109 for a mostly unknown 22 year old Single Malt Scotch.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1565757
Score: C+

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

Friday, October 1, 2021

Fancy v3; Redbreast, Midleton, Clynelish, Starward

More fancy samples. YaY! First two are by way of friend Jeffrey.

Redbreast 21, 46%
Another day, another Redbreast sample. While their finished series isn’t half bad the regular releases that don’t have an interesting cask involved tend to be too grain-forward. I wonder how this compares. Nose has a healthy dose of sherry, honey, apricots and some vanilla. The palate is luxuriously rich and is full of blueberries and some nuttiness with sherry spices and sweet backing. Unfortunately, either my sample was a little off or sat in the glass for about an hour and over-oxidized as those same blueberry notes are also bordering on soapiness. Quite fantastic long finish with gentle spices, vanilla oak and maltiness. Overall: I’m conflicted, I love more or less everything about it except the soapy note that spoils the experience for me. This being a sample I have no clue if that’s normal or not and for the sake of fairness I’ll fault on this not being a normal situation. Value: It’s $269 in Total Wine as of this writing, marks it mostly overpriced.
Score: Probably a tainted sample, ???

Midleton Dair Ghaelach; Knockrath Forest, Tree #7; 56.5%
That name is a mouthful. “This Single Pot Still Irish whiskey was matured initially in American Oak Bourbon barrels and finished in virgin native Irish Oak Hogshead casks”. Nose is rich vanilla, marzipan and some toasted oak. The palate is sweetly nutty, quite prominent with bitter spice and a good alcohol kick. Lots of darker orchard fruits mixed with tropical flavors in the background bring mellowness and sweet tunes to balance it all out. Basically a nutty dried fruit compote. Medium length aftertaste with more baking spice and toasted wood wrapping up the party. Overall: Quite enjoyable pour, it’s somewhat unlike most other things I’ve had in a good way. This is like Blue Spot’s well-respected father figure, it’s got good flavors on primary and secondary palate to balance itself (though AFAIK there’s no sherry in #7 compared to Blue Spot) and the maturity to back it all up. Value: KnL lists it at $320, rather out of my affordability zone.
Score: A-

Clynelish 20, 1996, Signatory; Binny’s SP; Cask #8789. 56.3%
A Binny’s/Winebow single cask aged in refill sherry butt. Bottled in 2017. The nose is spicy, nutty, dried fruit compote with prunes and apricots dominating. The palate is somewhat astringent yet full of dry honeycomb, roasted nuts, some malt, and sherry funk. Slightly bitter instead of sweet as the main note suggests it’s a tad over-aged in the cask. Not nearly as sweet as more modern versions this is perhaps an example of an older style of scotch with lack of clear big flavors but layers of complexity that are mostly hiding behind the sherry wood and chocolate notes. Nutty and quite pleasant aftertaste that’s is frankly better than the palate, as flavors finally snap into place; finishing with some dusty wood notes. Overall: For the pedigree, I’ve expected much better. It’s okay; not terrible by most means and would please several folks that I know enjoy this type of palate, yet it’s not quite hitting that perfect spot for me as more modern Clynelish bottlings have done. It does improve and becomes sweeter on the palate over time with repeated sips. Value: This was ~$159 (+tax) which makes it a slightly high but acceptable value for a cask strength 20 year old malt distilled in mid-90s at a well known distillery.
Score: A-

Starward 4, SFWBSS Pick, Cask #10608; 55.8%
An almost fancy bottle I have here. Australian Single Malt… A bay area whiskey group pick with somewhat unusual 4 year maturation age from Starward, which mostly does everything with 3 years old age statement. Red wine cask aged; this is actually nearly 4.5 years old and with a reasonably small 240 bottles outrun. So exclusively fancy. Quick note on color being borderline chestnut. The nose is intense late harvest zinfandel sweet chocolate cherry notes. The palate starts with same chocolate red dessert wine then transforms into nutty, slightly woody, malty luxury that balance out and contrast the initial palate sweetness nicely and consistently. Not quite syrupy and not quite thin, the mouthfeel is more of a velvet variety. The aftertaste fades into secondary notes pretty fast but the chocolate covered cherries stick around for a bit. Overall: This is chocolate covered cherries, in a whiskey form. It’s very different and it’s quite unique. I like it even if it doesn’t offer those deep malty or super complex flavors that older scotch does. Value: This was about $60, yah absolutely worth it for the uniqueness, it even came with a neat sticker which I’m not putting onto the pretty bottle.
Score: B+

Addendum

Starward 4.5, RCWS Pick; 55.6%
Super quick comparison vs SFWBSS pick. Still very sweet, but slightly woodier, bordering on bitter oak variant. Less cherry more sherry spice but it’s actually owing the notes to toasted oak. More reminiscent of a sherry bomb scotch or over-oaked brandy. Tasty, sweet, dessert-like, but just not quite same without that solid cherry note in SFWBSS.
Score: B


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