Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Courage & Conviction Tasting, CB Menagerie, Kaiyo

The single malt journey continues!

Brief notes on Courage & Conviction due to tasting samples and being a lot of these. TL;DR… while few aren’t all that interesting… overall I’m quite impressed with the flavors and these are worth trying for someone under the influence of FOMO to try everything they can.. but the value is actually questionably bad.

Courage & Conviction, Bourbon Cask, 46%
Nose is unmistakably bourbon casks with some minerality and bit of alcohol. Ex-bourbon apples and pears are surprisingly joined by strawberries and raspberries. The palate… is a little thin on texture, fruity and malty with a solid bourbon spice and alcohol kick. The aftertaste gets little nutty, with more warming spice and finally some solid malty vanilla notes. Overall: Enjoyable and quite fruit-forward on flavor this is quite tasty. I could certainly recommend getting a bottle for someone that likes single malts. Yet this is definitely leaning towards apple and berry fruit punch that’s dusted with a liberal amount of peppers, cloves, and nutmeg so it may not be everyone’s cup of enjoyment. I’m not paying for a bottle but will enjoy it by itself in a bar setting. Value: ~$80 is an average deal for a solidly tasty American Single Malt if just the novelty… NAS makes it a hard to compete with Scotches at the price bracket.
Score: B-

Courage & Conviction, Cuvee (Wine) Cask, 46%
Cuvee is a red wine. And I’ve made no secret in the past of being a fan of wine casks with single malt. Strong red fruit influence on the nose. Primarily plums but some cherries too. What I’d expect from wine casks. Basically a plum and cherry fruit punch. Perhaps dried cherries due to concentration. Surprisingly nutty and quite vanilla custard-forward palate, akin to creme brulee with fruit jam or spicy vanilla panna cotta, also with fruit jam. Spicy sweet and malty aftertaste with chocolate and a little bit of tobacco. Overall: Rather enjoyable and multilayered in a dessert cake kind of way. Value: at about $85… for an uncommon cask finish… It’s a maybe?
Score: B+

Courage & Conviction, Sherry Cask, 46%
A sherry cask finish now. The nose is similar to red wine, caramelized plums, red fruits, some baking spices; nearly burnt jam. Some sulfuric (rubbery) notes, but mostly sweet and fruity. Like a fruit punch from with prunes rather than plums. Few red raisin notes show themselves. The aftertaste is… more sweetness and baking spices fading into pleasant and warm maltiness. Overall: Enjoyable but I’d recommend skipping this one… Too many nicely sherried single malts out there that are way better and this offers nothing particularly new, if still somewhat enjoyable to drink. Value: Assuming it’s similar to the other cask expressions at ~$85… It’s still about average or low value here.
Score: B

Courage & Conviction, ‘Flagship’, 46%
Finally, The Flagship, (aka a mix of ‘most’ of the above, because why not). Noticeable sherry varnish on the nose, backed by plenty of fruits. The palate got a bit of everything, ex-bourbon apples and pears, some sherry sweet funk, and a little bit of baking spices. Aftertaste is rather spicy, indicating both youngish malt and very active cask. The spice notes are nicely balanced by sweet and maltiness from sherry and the malt itself. Overall: I quite like this and I’m finding it particularly enjoyable. Value: Probably another ~$85 this is still low to average value for american single malts that is NAS with low clarity on specs and age.
Score: B+

Compass Box Menagerie 2021, 46%
Sample provided by a friend Logan. Aaah Compass Box. I’m a fan of yours… even if John Glaser sticks peated malt into just about anything. I’m too lazy so read it here: https://www.compassb … m/whiskies/menagerie… It’s like 50% Mortlach, with some Laphroaig, Glen Elgin, Deanston. The idea this is supposed to evoke (as is with every Compass Box bottle, the idea matches the label name)… Anyways this is supposed to evoke ‘animalistic malt character; something wild’. The nose is fantastic, orchard fruits and nuts, little bit of smoke and savoriness, similar to drinking apple juice by the campfire. The palate is a malty beast indeed. Sweet and velvety almost to the point of syrup, yet with more carnival popcorn (sweet and salty with vanilla, sans the caramel). Long sweet and finally somewhat smoky-warming aftertaste follows. Overall: Oh this would be so amazing if Laphroaig was older in the mix, it desperately needs complex sweet smoke rather than ‘hit me in the face with salty’ smoke. It’s great but a touch off the mark for me in the very end. I’d drink it most evenings, still. Highly enjoyable and complex. Value: At MSRP of $120 it’s not cheap but it’s also not too expensive in the current market, plus Compass Box Limited… so you know it’s transparent on contents vs the sea of ‘mystery blends’.
Score: A-

Kaiyo, Plumpjack SP, Cask #5399, 56%
Sample provided by a friend Logan. A Japanese whiskey for something different tonight. Single cask from Plumpjack aged in Japanese Mizunara Oak. No age statement. So these Kaiyo casks got a history. No age statement, no distillery statement either as allegedly these are purchased as teaspooned new make japanese malt (essentially single malt) and then aged in company warehouses in Japan… BUT they are at least partially aged on a ship offshore to avoid gray area of Japanese Whiskey on the label being made and aged in Japan, though it essentially that. You can read some thoughts by others here: https://www.singlema … kaiyo-cask-strength/… Onto this!
Nose: Funky wood varnish, almost rotting vegetation… Smells like my compost bin full of a grass clippings after a hot afternoon. Also tons of vanilla and some sherry like sweetness… and somewhat noticeably alcohol-forward. Velvety, nutty, sweet, spicy palate. Honey roasted pine nuts through and through with nutmeg spice or whatever comes out of starbucks nutmeg shaker. With time, this becomes caramelized plantains. Lingering cinnamon on quite a long finish. Overall: This is a liquid meal at a great Cuban restaurant. What a ride! This is a flavor bomb that keeps on giving. It’s also completely disjoint experience of three distinctly different things that have almost nothing to do with each other that are coming from the same glass. There’s so much to unpack here and it continues to change as it goes along. Some will love this chameleon whiskey, some will not. I think it’s too inconsistent for me, to the point of almost being a cacophony rather than a coherent music score. It somewhat reminds me of a version of Barrell’s American Malt reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry211026-200236. Value: This is $99 at Plumpjack… I’ll go with a reluctant ‘better than average for the full proof flavor bomb’ considering how much japanese whiskey been upcharged in the last two years and this is actually cask strength.
A note: This started at much higher score but the more I drink it, the less excited I am about it.
Score: B

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Glen Moray Tasting, Highland Park 21, Kirkland 24

Let’s go through some single malts backlog

Glen Moray tasting here… mostly quick blurbs… These aren’t particularly special but an interesting lineup for a tasting side by side.

A bottle of theirs previously reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210402-212140

Glen Moray NAS, 40%
Nose: Loud and clear orchard and tropical fruits. Fairly thin body, slightly metallic but fruity and malty palate. Little bit of spiced tropical fruits on reasonably short aftertaste. Overall: Like a blank canvass, nothing special but nothing wrong either. Little too bitter on the secondary notes… but it could be my palate at this particular time. Highball this or don’t bother.
Score: D+

Glen Moray Sherry Cask Finish, 40%
Nose: Dark orchard fruits, plums, some sherry funk. Yet another thin and somewhat sweet palate that is unfortunately somewhat watery. Little bitterness from the base malt works well with sherry sweetness giving it a bit of sweet nutty perception. Medium-long and quite spicy aftertaste with peppers and cinnamon rolling towards the back of it. Overall: Thin but reasonably enjoyable. The sherry notes help a lot but it’s more a suggestion of sherry rather than actually any concentration of such. Really should not be a 40%abv. Erring towards the lower grade, with a very big plus vs B- as it offers nothing of real substance other than perhaps a solid value and I don’t calculate value in grading.
Score: C+

Glen Moray Port Cask Finish, 40%
Nose: Sweet tropical fruits on this one or perhaps sun-dried ones. Surprisingly strong whiff of alcohol too for the proof spoils the fruit salad bringing varnish notes. Nearly flat, if a little sweet palate. Lots and lots spices on the aftertaste. Overall: Drinkable, and enjoyably spicy… This isn’t offering anything that sherry doesn’t and palate falls somehow a bit flat with roaring (as much as a 40% can) spicy (szechuan peppers, cloves, all spice) aftertaste. Yet again, extremely un-inspiring, yet cheap single malt.
Score: C

Glen Moray Cabernet Cask Finish, 40%
Nose: Sweet nutty and a while wine-y. Palate is enjoyably sweet, flavorful and a little spicy. More spice towards the aftertaste as seems to be the norm with these Glen Morays. Overall: arguably the best of the 4 set i have tried. Still too thin but with wine cask this seems to be the most balanced/flavorful combination.
Score: B

Highland Park 21, The Sovereign, K&L SP, 52%
A small distraction from random samples and a tasty treat for myself. Also a quick note that in a blind taste test Full Volume (17) Highland Park is tasted better than Highland Park the Light with fruitier and smoother experience vs the light’s more wild and ashier palate. I should probably stop reviewing highland parks at this point as I seem to have a bunch of different ones reviewed already. That distillery got a lot of bottlings, heh. The sample is generously provided by Orpheus. The nose is nutty tropical fruits as is typical with good bourbon casks with a bit of smoke coming through. Mineral-rich and tropical palate with quite a solid core of slightly rough smokiness. Though sweet so it’s more of wood smoke rather than salty seaweed. The spices soar high and then linger for quite a while in a long and little tobacco-y aftertaste. Overall: Slightly too peaty for me, yet still borders on the edge of greatness. I’m sure someone would absolutely love it… Not super well integrated together yet great each on its own elements. This somehow reminds me a bit of The Light experience. Blindly, I’d have given it lower score than will when drinking it fully aware. Value: At $299 in 2018… Sorry but no cigar. Iffy value then, somewhat passable value now. Still, plenty of stuff under that price point with better specs out of independents. Interestingly, here the pre-order price was a full $100 less than the final list price… at $199 that’s a reasonable value nowadays in ‘22… and perhaps passable in 2018.
https://www.whiskyba … ighland-park-1996-hl
Score: A-

Kirkland Speyside 24 (2021), Alexander Murray, Sherry Cask, 46%
A Kirkland private label from Alexander Murray, this is a sherry cask finished speyside single malt that’s 24 year old. The color is… dark. Dusty old sherry on the nose, quite sweet with fruit jam. Somewhat nutty, sweet and sherried palate, yet not too sweet. This seems to have opened up a bit as i recall it more restrained when just opened. Little bits of leather, coffee and tobacco are all present. Medium-long mellow aftertaste of warm spice follows…. Overall: If you like your generic sherried malt to be unidentifiable, this is one for you. It’s actually rather tasty if a bit generic, in so much there’s nothing in there that indicates to me that this is somehow a 24 year of age. It could have been an 18 or 12 and I’d still believe it. Now, I actually quite enjoying it in a nightcap sort of way, tasty if a little uncomplicated with sherry hiding most of the imperfections and proof being in the right ballpark of 46% abv. Fundamentally, it’s extremely ‘generic’ yet also enjoyable enough to not care about the genericness. Value: IIRC it was ~80… on paper that’s a solid deal.
Score: B

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

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Elijah Craig 18, Russell’s 2002, Saint’s Alley, Spirit Works Wheat AmeriCANs

An American whiskey mix (blend?) for a change.

Elijah Craig 18, 45%
Another Heaven Hill bottle. Mashbill is 78% Corn, 12% Malted Barley, 10% Rye so fairly standard HH faire. These are all single barrels, so they do vary somewhat. This one bottled in 6/13/2019 and generously shared by friend Orpheus. The nose is dark chocolate chip cookies with a touch of alcohol on them. Palate is fruity and minty fresh primarily; somewhat conflicting with warmth that was emanating from the nose. The aftertaste is of medium length with little bit of lingering mint, vanilla, some wood and a touch of warmth after all. Overall: it’s enjoyable but somewhat generic. Low proof makes it imminently drinkable but also dilutes any interesting character. It cannot help being a crowd-pleaser though as this is essentially a ‘what a good bourbon should taste like’. Value: At $150+ MSRP this is somewhat acceptable (comparing to Michter’s 10 at similar proof at $159)… but honestly it’s not that great of a deal factoring barrel inconsistencies and low proof, not to mention availability being non-existent in the current secondary market asking for $250+. Ultimately, this is McKenna 18… and McKenna 10 costs $60 nowadays. This bottle is an easy way to make a few bucks for whoever catches the MSRP price first. Well worth having at a bar and maybe splurging MSRP on the bottle for an easy daily drinking, or to impress your friends with a crowd-pleaser… but definitely don’t overpay for it. I’ll put a “YMMV” yet again due to these being a single cask bottling as a reminder.
Another review of a different bottle here: https://www.breaking … 8-year-single-barrel
Score: B+

Russell’s Reserve 2002, 15 years old, 57.3%
Another sample from friend Ross, thank you! A 15 year old Turkey distilled in 2002 and one of only 2,500 (some sources claim 3,640) bottles. Toasty seasoned wood with nearly burnt vanilla caramel and vanilla extract on the nose, nutty rather than sweet. Burnt cherry jam that spilled onto the oven sheet while baking and then toasted up on it. The nose keeps on changing with time. Velvety smooth palate, dollops of spice on the secondary palate notes. Plums and cherries, some chocolate and old cigar (not smoke) on the primary ones. Drinks smoother than it’s proof would suggests. A cacophony of rye spice on the finish that lasts a medium-long period of time and is quite warming, bit of malt notes towards the end are a pleasant surprise. Overall: Oh I want to love this so much, I really do… yet the palate is rather uneven here which distracts from the experience and the balance of the Nose/Palate/Aftertaste feels off here. It’s big, it’s bold… and it’s a slightly rough experience around the edges. Is it better than Russell’s Reserve Single Cask?… Arguably yes… Age and personal touch adds a bit more complexity to the spirit. Of course this isn’t a single cask so a credit is due to the master blender’s palate and choices. Value: MSRP was in 2018 at $250 this is rather bad value. Even Pappy 15, a rough equivalent on pedigree and availability to this bottle ‘technically starts at’ $119 today… Almost certainly any Wild Turkey fan will pay gladly and considering secondary market is hot for these… Good luck finding a bottle even if i say it’s a ‘bad’ value.
Another opinion: https://www.breaking … ussells-reserve-2002
Score: A-

Saints Alley Bourbon Port Cognac Cask, 50%
A blend by Chris “the LiquorHound” Trevino, it is MGP and Ironroot Harbinger spirit blend finished in port and cognac. This is batch two and it’s one of 2400 bottles. Dark berry compote with burnt wooden spoon char on the nose, quite jammy and slightly peppery. Quite a full body with strawberry sweet port that’s backed up by plenty of wood and a kick of spice from MGP. Light pine notes, with bittersweet dark chocolate balance quite well and the spices bring everything together. Medium aftertaste seemingly fades fast, but then rises again with a cinnamon tingle to round it off. Overall: I really like it! It’s not a typical bourbon for sure, but the balance of sweet/spicy/fruity works fantastically here. This is what I imagined Angel’s Envy should be… so let’s leave it at: this is a much more interesting Angel’s Envy. It’s a finished bourbon which really should be its own category and not competing with other bourbons. Definitely a welcome surprise… I’ll reiterate that it’s scored based on my enjoyment rather than as a comparable to say George T. Stagg (that’s scored an A-), as I would consider them Apple vs Orange situation. Value: At $55… this is solid deal for a awesome sipper… Just get it while it lasts to try it out yourself.
https://www.totalwin … ?s=1124&igrules=true
Score: A-

Spirit Works, Straight Wheat Whiskey, Eureka Private Barrel. 61.8%
This is a blend of 5 to 7 year old straight wheat whiskeys, distilled in Sonoma by Spirit Works distillery. I’ve reviewed their products in some detail here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201020-182936 and frankly didn’t have much of a high opinion about their products, noting that just about everything is quite… juniper-y and smells like gin. Well… This is no exception… buuuuut… It somehow works in this one. The nose is straight sugar and sweet vanilla plums and inescapable alcohol notes due to high proof. The palate is odd, as it starts sweet just like the nose and then switches into juniper notes. The aftertaste is a bit short, and yet again very gin-like. Overall: Because this is wheat whiskey, there’s not much corn/rye spice going on, with juniper notes not clashing with anything. The proof works, considering that I found the regular wheat whiskey a little thin. This would make amazing mixer and a half-decent sipper of the something different category. If you like bourbons… you’ll hate this, don’t bother. If you want something different to try… then it’s a maybe. I am reasonably enjoying it but i like a different pour once in a while. Value: Not too sure due to this being in Eureka club box. But similar bottles are ~$70… honestly… below average on the value for the money.
Score: B

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