Sunday, July 10, 2022

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon, Pekut and Carwick Tasting; A mix of things

Pardon a bit of a an absence. I was on vacation.

Kavalan Single Cask, Ex-bourbon, 54.8%
Here we have a bottle of Kavalan from a single ex-bourbon cask # B080825102 (meaning distilled on 08/25/2008) and bottled on 03/31/2016. So this is essentially an 8 year old Kavalan. tropically aged. First off, this really needs to sit in a glass for a while to open up. The nose is musky French cologne. Vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, dried tropical fruits with mango dominating… not too strong for the proof. Surprisingly bitter and slightly tannic palate, like over-steeped Lipton black tea. Tropical fruits are there with pineapple/mango/coconut but are almost buried by that spice intensity. Long aftertaste with more clove-nutmeg mix and then finally malt comes to the front and balances it out. Overall: I’m torn. I expected a sweet fruit bomb… This isn’t. The nose and aftertaste are great but the palate is weird. This is really almost like a mix of single malt and over-aged bourbon for the palate. Drinkable, yet this is also certainly not everyone’s pour due to unexpectedly bitter notes. This is likely a cask strength bourbon-lover’s dream pour. Great occasional pour but not quite ‘uninhabited island’ level for me compared to other similar Solist casks. Few drops of water tone down the bitter notes somewhat. Value: I bought this as a gift-pack with a Glencairn glass for $109 which is amazing value vs more common Single Cask Kavalan pricing of ~$250-300. I’ll say value-wise this particular price is a steal.
Disclaimer: Even within the same sale casks did vary. … /watch?v=9Hc6I7ENSL0 this video shows cask #108 (vs my 102), with the same distillation date, sale and source.
Score: B+ (It’s not what you’d expect from this cask)

I promised a mix of things… So Pekut and Carwick (which are actually made up names, somewhat reminds me of Harry Potter, but I digress). Is a very small independent bottler that is just starting up and gave some samples of their product to the @SFWBSS group to taste. I was a fun tasting I will admit. As far as their product range is concerned, there seem to be no focus and it’s more or less anything that the founder/owner finds interesting or different. Basically a case of FOMO on the alcohol production side of things. I do wish them the best. Their website is They also provide ridiculous amount of info with their bottlings which is always great to see for my geeky side.

Heritage California Single Malt, 61.5%
Distilled at Sutherland Distilling and bottled from two barrels. Oaky, minty, and with some pine on the nose this follows up with dark caramel notes. The glass doesn’t pull any punches with the proof. Smelling it blindly, it’s almost like a (malted?) rye. The palate starts sweet and almost mellow, but then builds up to dusty wet earth and leather notes, pine forest after-the-rain. Mint and vanilla and some wood char. More toasted rye bread with anise seed… Lots of cinnamon. That cinnamon with sichuan peppers slowly slide away in a long and warm aftertaste that lingers with residual maltiness. Few drops of water cut the proof slightly but amp up the sugar and mint notes, which makes it a bit of a easier sipper, few drops are definitely recommended. Overall: Wow, this thing is a wild ride. A good ride too. But just like mechanical bull, this ain’t for everyone. That spicy minty cinnamon flavor core is sure to be… different from a typical ‘malt’ expectation. Value: This is ~$90 so. I guess it depends on how much one likes wild rides. For the cask proof American malt this isn’t bad at all of a tag to take a gamble on (looking in your direction… Barrell Vatted American Malt mentioned here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry211026-200236 and scored similarly).
https://www.pekutand … om/products/heritage
Score: B-

Wheat Whiskey, 62.5%
Wheat Whiskey from Spirit Works (SP) stills. Single cask; full proof. This one was presented as a challenge to the tasting panel to provide tasting feedback notes. Before tasting it, I’ll disclose that I have a bottle of Wheated Whiskey from Spirit Works bottled for Eureka Group which isn’t bad at all and I do drink it undiluted… I’ve reviewed and put my notes here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry220203-230716.
Back to the sample: I really like the nose on it at full proof. It’s got none of the gin notes that I get with most Spirit Works products. I’m getting butter, vanilla, oak, a bit of spice; but not too much, perhaps toasted buttery oat cookies. The nose belies the proof for sure and feels lower than stated. The palate is certainly sweet wheat (no obvious corn/grain notes that many bourbons have) whiskey with nutty and woody flavors, surprising anice notes, baking spices, slight charry bitterness, grass and juniper in the secondary flavors. The palate is quite proof forward overall. Long, peppery and lingering aftertaste follows. Few water drops cuts the alcohol but amps up the bitterness. Alighty, this takes water like a champ and a solid amount is more or less required. I think I’m about 100 proof at this point and everything mostly snapped into place. Water is highly recommended. Overall: A fire at full proof this drinks way above its stated abv. I’ve dumped a solid amount of water into my glass to balance things into quite pleasant sweet and spicy concoction reminiscent of Red Hots that’s quite an easy drinking. As much as I personally hate to dilute good booze I’m of the opinion that water is needed here. Value: N/A this isn’t released yet.
Score: B+ (w/ Water, B otherwise)

Bulk Rum, 55.9%
I’ll be brief: A blended Guyana rum aged in used oak barrels. No age statement. Since its Guyana it’s almost certainly Diamond Distillery. Funky and quite pungent nose with menthol and esters. Quite sweet and little woody palate. Pleasantly spicy aftertaste. The nose is better than the rest of to be honest, which makes it a fantastic rum for mixing a tropical drink. This don’t seem tropically aged nor interesting enough to beat bottles from Foursquare and other amazing single casks that are being bottled and are finally becoming available on US market. Is it pleasant? Reasonably so! Will I drink it all night? Sure, if there’s nothing else to drink. Is it ‘generic, OK rum’? Yes, a little too generic. Is Diamond Distillery perhaps not for me? Also, perhaps. Overall: This is a generic version of Diamond single casks I’ve tried and they all didn’t particularly agree with my palate. Fantastic mixer though. Value: N/A make your tropical drinks with it.
Score: C (Top shelf mixer)

Umeshu Liquor, 23.6%
I’m going to add this here for completion, though I am not going to attempt to give this sample a letter grade. For context, umeshu is a liquor done with bitter/sour asian plums. The plums themselves are called ‘ume’ and are commonly found in pickled form in japanese cuisine… Also they’re closer to apricots than plums… But I digress. The smell of this i almost exact smell of plum hard candy from my childhood. The taste is sour-sweet, slightly tilted towards sour but sweetness lingers. A little bit of alcohol bitterness ties it all together. Overall: This is so delicious and very concentrated… Kind of a liquid/liquor take on my childhood candy memory. I think this would be amazing in high end mixology to add a bit of balance to a drink. In some ways this makes me think of a plummy version of limoncello. So make adult summer ‘plum-ade’ with this and some good soda water and I think you won’t be disappointed.
Score: N/A (Tasty soda drink flavoring)

End of Tasting

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

Friday, July 1, 2022

Oban 18, Amrut 8, Glenallachie 19, Stranahan’s Port, Rogue SFWBSS, Westland Silver City

Back to malts! Oh what a backlog I got there…

Oban 18, 43%
A sample from friend JasonW. An obvious upgrade from the regular release if only in the years counted from inception. Nose is intense with vanilla, pears, stone fruit and melon, perhaps some tropical notes come in eventually. The palate is great. The tropical fruits really shine, sweet mango, papaia, litchi fruits, vanilla. Thick texture that wants to coat your tongue, though not quite succeeds. Aftertaste sees bourbon spices come out into nicely rolling aftertaste that’s unfortunately at best medium in length. Overall: This is highly enjoyable though I wish the aftertaste was a sliver longer than it is… And perhaps proof bumped up to 46%. Still, it’s very tasty and will please almost any scotch drinker. It’s malty, it’s tropically fruity, it’s pleasant and inoffensive. It’s quite above the level of the regular 14. Very big plus there in the grade, just a tad short due to short-ish aftertaste. Value: Total Wine got this at ~$150 which is reasonably high for an 18 year old malt. Then again… with current rising pricing about average… Honestly though… I’d skip buying it.
Score: B+

Amrut 8, “SCWC” Ex-Port Pipe. #4672; 60%
South California Whiskey Club bottling though K&L Wines… Another tiny sample from friend JasonW. The nose is glorious. All sorts of dark fruits compote, concentrated! The color is chestnut! I gotta admit this is actually awesome. I’d like to sniff it for awhile… but I got a thing to do. Palate is an experience. Dried figs, candied nuts, plums/prunes. Amazing complexity on the darker side of the flavors spectrum. Then the cask spices show up in spades in secondary notes and gallop into long sticky sweet and baking spice laden (yet still delightful) aftertaste. Overall: This is amazing as long as one likes wine (Port) influence on their malt. About as good as anything from Kavalan I’ve tried for comparison. Absolute bomb on flavors. Easy score. Value: Priced at even $200 this is… eeeeeeh and makes me think twice on value proposition here.
Score: A

Glenallachie 19, Hart Bros, Single Cask. 56.7%
Hart Brother’s bottled Glenallachie 19 in 2015. Supposedly aged in oak cask but this is pretty dark so it could have been something else prior to Glenallachie. Either way it doesn’t quite smell like ex-bourbon. The nose is butter, vanilla, something salty and spicy, and perhaps a touch fermented. Somewhat reminds of a good salmon spread. Really complex into fatty-salty direction. Very deserving to be sniffed at for a while. Very wood-laden palate, slightly rubbery, yet again suggesting some sherry in there, bordering on too much wood which unfortunately overwhelms almost every primary note. Very little sweetness in the notes, more of a bitter vanilla. Baking spices and secondary notes finally come out in the long aftertaste that finishes with some chili tingle. Perfume and flowers in the tertiary notes right at the end of that aftertaste fading. Overall: Oh really wish to love it as it’s on paper everything I do love… Yet, it’s too woody in the middle for me to enjoy to the fullest. It’s a shame, as the core of this is fantastic… Likely quite polarizing this is certainly not a casual pour, though during right conditions it’s amazing… but if conditions aren’t perfect this will be… not perfect. A chameleon that keeps on changing as I sip it. Way up there on complexity, little too ‘mental’ for unadulterated enjoyment. Value: Going by paper… this is ~$110 and is a solid value.
https://www.klwines. … whisky-700ml/1559889
Addendum after finishing the bottle: It has opened up after opening and went into somewhat toasted honeycomb direction while keeping the complexity.
Score: B

Stranahan’s American Single Malt, Distiller’s #3, Carcavelos Cask, 53.65%
Something quite special, this is Distiller’s Experimental Series from Stranahan’s aged 7y11m in Carcavelos (white port) casks. American single malt from Colorado… This is ‘old’ for american single malt. Also distillery exclusive. Let’s just say ‘very limited supplies’. The nose is creme brulee laden with baking spice, change that to bourbon creme brulee, not too sweet though vanilla and sugar are present but it’s got a solid core of that burnt sugar top note. Incredibly well balanced, velvety on the palate. More of of the same combination of roasted balanas, burnt caramel, dusted with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and perhaps a scoop of banana ice cream on top. An interesting twist as it starts quite sweet, but almost immediately becomes funky, spicy, and almost (good) rum-like. Long aftertaste with more cinnamon and some bitter chocolate chili notes. Overall: This is extremely good stuff. One of the best single malts from America I’ve had, easily on par with best from Westland, also same age as best stuff from Westland so perhaps that helps. I have mostly discounted Stranahan’s in the past due to low age of their regular bottles but this does put a solid case for their older offerings that will be coming down soon enough hopefully. Value: I’ve paid $55 for a 375 ml bottle which is actually rather solid for the age statement, exclusivity and high proof in American malt.
Score: A

Rogue SIngle Malt, SFWBSS Pick, Cab Franc, 58.89%
A bottle exclusive to visitors of Fog City Social, organized by SFWBSS that happened in the Spring of 2022. The event was pretty great, but we’re not here to talk about it. Let’s talk about the bottle that came with the gift bag, generously provided by Rogue Spirits. This is a single cask, full proof single malt aged in Cab Franc wine cask. I’m not going to sugar-coat my hesitation approaching this as I’ve not too high opinion of regular Rogue releases based on prior experience with them. Here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210729-205754, Let’s dig in: Nose is… malt, wood spice and alcohol-strong red wine, something almost fruit tea-like. Lots of plums, some sour cherries, and dried apples. The wine cask bring a lot of complexity to the table here and balances out the alcohol. Supposedly, this is lightly peated, and on the palate some of that smokes shows up with somewhat bitter char notes. The bitterness is yet again balanced by wine cask influence which brings tons of red fruit and sweetness. Aftertaste is somewhat cherry bubble-gum like, with medium length gently fading cinnamon, some bitter baking spice mix, maltiness and yet again that red fruit leftovers. Malt takes a bit of setback here, and the aftertaste is nearly bourbon-like, still rich with red wine influence. Overall: The red wine cask does a miracle here. Honestly, it tastes a little bit like a ‘weird’ Starward that’s a little higher proof than common single cask and slightly more unbalanced. Frankly that’s the ’spot’ this bottle will occupy on my shelf… an American riff at Starward. It’s complex, not too old, very red wine-forward and good on occasion. There’s not much dislike here, but it’s also impossible to pigeonhole it into a category that is recognized by a casual drinker, leaving it a niche audience. Value: Tough to judge as it came ‘free’ with the ticket. Let’s assume about 50% of the ticket price was the bottle… So let’s give this a ~$50 valuation…. Which is honestly fairly solid for a no-gimmick single malt at high proof.
Score: B-

Westland 4.5, Silver City Cask Exchange, 51.2%
A bottle that’s been open on my shelf for a while, a great thank you to friend David from Seattle for getting it for me. This is a cask exchange bottle, meaning it’s American Single Malt aged in a beer cask… while there was some beer aged in a cask(s) from Westland. This particular one is with Silver City brewery and a marriage of output of casks that had Magnificent Bastard and Fat Woody in them prior to malt. I’ve written about a similar cask exchange bottle prior: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210127-170948… A side note that Westland is quite coffee-forward naturally, so it works well with beer casks as a lot of darker kinds of beer have coffee in them or have a lot of coffee notes. Back to the malt: the nose is full of strong chocolate porter notes. The palate starts sweet and malty with velvety texture… The secondary notes kick in and drive those flavor notes way high. Mostly chocolate and coffee, bit of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, szechuan peppers galore. Aftertaste is strong porter, espresso, more szechuan peppers in the mix there, substantial sweet undertones from malt, gives it almost spiced italian espresso impression. Overall: Enjoyable but not an everyday pour for me. This proudly occupying ’something different’ spot and it’s happy to own that classification. Value: Tricky… this was ~$100… Perhaps for an interesting bottle… but I’d say it’s average value. Not great… not bad.
Score: B-

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