Saturday, August 20, 2022

Kirkland 22, Balblair 15, Linkwood 13; Courage & Conviction SiB; Malts Marathon

Sneak Peek: Lots and lots of reviews to write. By my count i got ~40 samples in the backlog. A lot of Old Particular and Hart Brother’s single casks as well as few fancy ones too. Stay tuned. I got plenty of content to fill.

Kirkland 22 (2019/2020), 46%
Well I’ve finally opened up the bottle I got in 2020 or so. This is from the series of 46% heavily sherried (finished) Speyside Single Malt bottled by Alexander Murray for Costco. The 23 have been reviewed here: and 24 here: with mixed results. For the record, this particular bottling being written about now is supposedly the one that started the hype for the series. Let’s see how it compares.
Nose is malty, little spicy and sherry forward with nice dark stewed fruits, dried plums and perhaps some dried strawberries too. The palate is excellently velvety, pleasant and keeps solid balance between sweet and spicy without either one winning, sort of like roasted walnuts. Secondary notes spike up the spice and wood to surprisingly high levels, leading to long, sweet, baking spice notes, warming, charred fruit and vanilla compote aftertaste. Overall: This is an excellent everyday (heavily) sherried drinker, and totally justifies the hype it got. It’s an outstanding bottle from Murrays. I’ll note that there’s nothing in the glass here that screams 22 year old to me… but it’s no surprise with a heavy sherry finish will mask anything ‘odd’, as I’ve also noted very similar thing with the 24 year old… and that one was even older and objectively could have been better with more age. The rumor had it that this (unlike the later versions) was a Glenrothes which can be believed as a) Glenrothes takes to sherry like a champ b) It does have that sweet and nutty note that I’ve seen from the distillery… Though, please don’t buy this for the distillery name, as only for the contents of the bottle is what counts. Value: This was ~$70 which is a fairly solid price everything considering.
Score: B+

Balblair 15, 46%
This is a regular Balblair 15 that I happened to have a bottle of. This has been aged in american ex-bourbon oak casks and then finished in sherry… Full details and timing aren’t disclosed on the materials available to me at least. The nose is punchy and slightly sulfuric or iodine notes in there. Behind those are solid bourbon/sherry mix of notes as would be expected from the description. Velvety and quite punchy palate full of spice and sweetness, none of the weird notes here, spikes up with a tight spiral of more spice and sweetness that alternate into a medium length aftertaste that finishes malty sweet. An interesting note here is a light stainless steel metallic note in the secondary flavors and aftertaste but it’s almost like nut butter rather than a detriment. Overall: Delicious, full-flavored and well balanced malt. Perhaps a little too full-flavored as with repeated sips that nut roastiness is starting to border on bitterness. Value: The USA pricing for it varies but tends to be ~$110 or so currently; which is quite terrible value. Admittedly this is a solid pour but at $100 there are plenty of other solid pours and this is competing with Glendronach 15 which is ~$90.
Score: B+

Note: In side by side above… I found the Balblair is slightly better of the two because of better balance between malt, spice, and sherry making it a lot more interesting and dynamic vs Alexander Murray bottle. Neither of them are bad to be honest, and perfectly serviceable, especially with personal palate preferences easily could prefer one vs other.

Linkwood 13, Redacted Bros, 52%
A Linkwood bottling from 13 year old single cask by Thompson Bros at Dornoch Distillery, who likely for legal reasons are sold under ‘Redacted Bros’ label in USA. Anyways… Linkwood… I’m a fan of Linkwoods. This one was in Oak Casks for 13 years and one of 120 bottles. The nose is green apples, pears, vanilla, peach, some melons and citrus. Pretty much what you’d expect out of good oak cask. There are some hints on the website that this perhaps was a refill (refill) butt, which suggests sherry… but I dunno. It’s darn tasty and I’m not tasting much sherry here at all, instead this is got a bit of sauvignon blanc fruitiness going on there. The palate is loaded with sweet vanilla and fresh orchard fruits of the white and green variety, pears, peaches, green apples as well as more citrus. Really seems like a white vine in single malt wrapper. Aftertaste is gingery, peppery, and delicious if only medium length. Overall: This is excellent and continues fine tradition of solid offerings from Linkwood. I’m very happy consuming this. It doesn’t quite reach the wonders of Linkwood 37 but very few things do or will. Value: Sold for $69 this is good value.
Score: A-

Courage & Conviction Cuvee SiB, K&L SP, 59.2%
This is Courage & Conviction (C&C) single casks picked for K&L that’s been aged in Cuvee cask which is pretentious way of saying ex-wine cask. In case of C&C they also make this an STR cask, which is a shorthand for Scraped/Toasted/Recharred… meaning renewed cask that was used previously. I’ll also mention the packaging here, which is ridiculously overwrought and looks all sorts of premium, metal cap top, magnetic cask badge, ribbon, premium looking tube and bottle. It sure looks good on the visual department. Let’s dig in.
Nose is rather intense with red wine fruits and very slight sulfuric note, likely from wine cask influence as it reminds of a dark red cab with all the plums. In this case the sulfuric note is more of a funk that you may get out of prunes. Some nuttyness on the nose too and of course toasted vanilla. Extremely flavorful and punchy on the palate, nearly overwhelming on the flavor notes intensity. That proof is also quite impactful even for a relatively ‘average’ single cask abv. Intense plums and prune compote on the palate, sweet vanilla, slight nuttiness, baking spices, cloves, nutmeg, burnt sugar. This is likely from the wood re-char and so I’m likely tasting a heavily toasted cask that this was aged in. The aftertaste slowly rolls down from the secondary notes of ginger and spices for a medium-long malty finish that’s quite even in its fading. With few drops of water to tone down the intensity this becomes much MUCH better. Water recommended. Overall: The sulfuric note only shows up in the nose and not anywhere else surprisingly, so perhaps I’m having a wrong association there. This bottling is extremely intense and flavorful but It’s so very different from what I expected, this really isn’t red wine ‘influenced’ but basically red wine wrapper around an American Single Malt and high proof. It also somewhat reminds of a Starward single casks but in an American execution, so bigger, bolder, perhaps with over-inflated military budget. This isn’t a delicate single malt, this isn’t even C&C regular stuff (which is proofed to 46% so there’s that) this is full frontal assault on the palate. Enjoyable? Yes. Everyday? No. With water? Yes. Value: Priced at $99 I’m a little torn but this is about average bracket on pricing, especially for a ‘good’ single malt as this well compares to whatever other cask strength US bottler produces, and they source…
Original listing:
Score: B+ (A- /w Water)

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

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Canada, eh! (Hiram Walker’s Brands)

I’ve recently participated in a Canadian whiskey masterclass course over the course of 4 weeks. Aside from learning about bunch of different history facts about Canadian Whiskey I’ve got some samples. Here are (mostly) brief notes and perhaps my thoughts at the very end. The big difference between US and Canadian whiskeys, is that they are commonly distilled at 100% grain mashbills and then blended together after aging. There’s no strict regulation on casks types and stills so it’s mostly about the art of blending rather than production. TL;DR: All of samples below are blends.

J.P. Wiser’s Old Fashioned Cocktail, 35%
I believe these are findable pre-mixed in retail.
Quite orange forward. Straw colored. Orange and spicy nose as expected of old fashioned. Very thick and sweet almost syrup like body. Pleasantly warm aftertaste. Overall: Too sweet for me straight. Quite a bit better over ice, becoming reasonable to drink if someone were to give it to me at a dinner or a party.
Score: N/A

J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Cocktail, 35%
Same with above, this is findable in retail.
Pouring over ice directly. Not bothering straight. I already know it’s going to be too syrupy. So this is quite aromatic bitters forward and surprisingly smells of cinnamon. The palate confirms it. I personally like my manhattans cherry-forward and this isn’t. Overall: Not my thing due to lack of cherries; though I imagine some will enjoy it enough to drink. Shockingly to myself I’ve enjoyed the old fashioned above more than this.
Score: N/A

J. P. Wiser’s Deluxe, 40%
Nose is rather grain-forward and slightly reminds me of Irish whiskeys. Palate is mostly grain, with a little bit of rye and I’m sure some other stuff mixed in. Aftertaste is not that great and will probably be alright if masked by other stuff. Overall: This is clearly targeted at mixing drinks. Just a smidgeon above ‘drain pour’.
Score: D-

The 15 year old is reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry220301-232141

J. P. Wiser’s 18, 40%
The nose alternates between rubbing alcohol and woody vanilla. The palate is thin, sweet with vanilla sugar and pleasant baking spice. It evokes a bit an image of toasted spiced pie crust. There are some decent secondary notes and peppery aftertaste that lasts for a while. Overall: Alright, this is actually drinkable. Nothing write home about but serviceable as it is. The only real downside is the proof which needs to be 46% or so instead of flat 40. Value: Total wine lists this at $52… I guess it’s above average but… tolerable enough of a price to sate FOMO once.
Score: B-

Gooderham & Worts, 40%
So this is a somewhat of a legacy brand that’s been recently resurrected. From Hiram Walker this a bit of a mix of ‘everything’ in there being a 4 grain blend. Pleasant, Canadian rye-forward nose with mint notes. Rather flavorful palate with big initial flavors, rye is dominating the conversation, pleasant and a little spicy. Not a lot of secondary notes, suggesting a solid amount of grain whiskey in the mix. Slightly wooden and spicy aftertaste reminds me of inside of an old wooden wardrobe complete with moth balls which do somewhat smell of mint and ammonia now that I think about it. Overall: Serviceable and inoffensive; this is a ‘better’ bottle for mixing drinks. I wouldn’t ask for it at a bar but I would also not pour it down the drain.
Score: C-

Pike Creek 10 (rye?!), 42%
Pike Creek 10 year old finished in Rum casks. Nose is flavorful and complex with wood and mint notes. The palate is smooth, woody, slightly minty and sweet, with mint likely coming from tropical rum casks there. Maple syrup, cinnamon, like a breakfast roll. Similarly lots of complexity on the aftertaste with spices, pepper, vanilla, and some more mint notes lingering. Overall: Enjoyable. Drinkable… Wait… this is a RYE!? Value: MSRP $35 and findable as low as ~$25 this is good deal for what it’s worth.
Score: B-

I should start adding a disclaimer into these that I’m not a Rye-loving person.

J. P. Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye, 45%
A shockingly ‘high’ 45% abv for a Hiram brand. Very rye bread forward with some caraway seed on the nose. Repeated nosing really does bring some of that fresh dark rye bread to mind. More rye notes, caraway seeds, and some mint on the palate. This is quite flavorful. The aftertaste is rather unfortunate as it spikes up with a to something bitter and metallic and then slowly goes down with more bread notes and spicy pepperiness. Overall: Mixer! Also images of bread loaves clash in my head with this being a distilled spirit. Value: $20 is reasonable enough.
Score: D

Lot 40 Rye, 43%
The nose is pleasant and smells like decent canadian rye that Whistlepig bottles. Slightly woody, savoury, little bits of vanilla and dill on the nose, reasonably complex. I dislike saying ’smooth’ but palate cannot be described as anything but ’smooth’. Velvety texture that coats mouth easily, some of the nose complexity continues to the palate. The aftertaste is quite different with a prominent bitter wood spike and a lot of pepper but there are no off-notes in there for me. Solidly enjoyable experience start to finish. Buuuuuuut. What does ‘good nose’… ‘missing palate’…’good aftertaste’ mean to me? It means a mixer where the other ingredients supplement the missing palate notes and sing their own story. Overall: Premium mixing spirit. Acceptable straight or on the rocks if needs be. Value: at ~$31-40 it’s reasonable I suppose for a ‘Lot 40′… get it? get it?
Score: B

Afterthoughts: I would like to provide a special thanks for Hiram Walker’s marketing department for providing these samples, educating me though the Canadian Whiskey Masterclass on Canadian whiskey history and on how and why these whiskeys are produced and being being hardworking and passionate folks at what they do.

PS: Alright… you may notice that none of the scores above are great and… well, frankly, none of the whiskeys above are great… for me and the way I enjoy them. This is by no means meant to reflect on hard work that folks that work for Hiram Walker company are putting into these products. I simply happen to not be their core audience. I am also highly appreciative of the opportunity to try these and if anyone asks which Canadian Whiskey I would recommend… I’m now in a much better position to make an informed recommendation or decision.

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