Thursday, December 22, 2022

Grizzly Beast, Woodinville Moscatel, Red Line Toasted, Midwinter Nights Dram Rye, Sagamore SiB Rye, America!

Redwood Empire Grizzly Beast Batch 1, 50%
An interesting sample here: It was aged for five years in a lot size of just 26 barrels. The mashbill is a unique four grain recipe of 69% corn, 22% rye, 5% malted barley, and 4% wheat. The nose is slightly metallic, with light sulfur, though becomes toasted sugar and vanilla-forward once my nose gets close enough to the glass. There’s also slight nuttyness there, but it smells almost exactly like a wooden box of matches to me. The palate redeems the nose, it starts oaky and nutty, then turns quite sugary-sweet, then turns spicy, lightly minty, and bread-forward. It’s really going through that gamut of 4 component grains layering the flavor on the palate. The aftertaste has some dried apricots and minty. It lingers for a long time after the primary primary notes rapidly faded. Overall: Well, this is an enjoyable anyday pour that will nether disappoint nor amaze. That sulfuric note is a concern though the rest of experience is flavorful and multilayered. Value: Batch 2 is being offered for $89 though it does use a different mash bill and is in my opinion somewhat on the higher-than-average price for the age of the alcohol. Batch 1 was ~80 about a year ago and arguably still average-priced. This is a good value at ~$60-70… It’s not great value at $90.
Score: B+

Woodinville Moscatel Finish, 50%
A sample from friend Aaron. While initially only available at the distillery, the special moscatel (muscat grape-based fortified wine) is occasionally available nationwide, albeit surely in very limited quantities. Of note, while this is Batch 2 vs the exclusive Batch 1, the casks are sister casks, meaning this is one year older (so this is 6 year old or so) than the first release and same general source and distillation time bracket. The nose is typically oaky and spicy bourbon backed by the sweet muscat fruit notes. There’s a light fruity sourness to the nose too, perhaps something inherent to Woodinville’s stills or casks, as I recall same note in their general releases. The palate is sweet, almost too sweet, then thankfully flips into very fruity and heavily spiced bourbon. Kinda like a boozy peach and apricot cobbler that’s very toasty. Proof is solid, but not overwhelming. The aftertaste is mediocre here, it’s reasonably short, sweet and leaves lingering cinnamon, coffee and nutmeg around. Overall: An interesting counterbalance to a bourbon that’s finished in port casks that’s named after Angels. I really wish that the fruit hung around a little longer in the aftertaste, though there’s not much to complain here. Extremely enjoyable, if sweet, pour that is thankfully balanced out by the robust amount of spices. Without moscatel this would be over-oaked unbalanced bottle so there is something in this combination. Easily one of the best finished bourbons around. Value: With $99, it’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow for a finished bourbon… Yet, moscatel finish is quite rare and this is overall quite good. So it’s worth a shot and frankly beats going to the distillery to get the bottle. ~$85 would have been much more approachable in my opinion.
Score: A (*Finished Bourbon)

Red Line Toasted Barrel, Breaking Bourbon Pick, 58.5%
This is MGP-sourced: https://www.breaking … h-bourbon-toastlines. The nose here is classic bourbon: grain, vanilla, baking spices, cornbread with syrup. More of the same on the palate, with definite sweet and woody vanilla toastiness coming in addition to everything that nose promised. Drinks quite under its proof. A ball of spices in the background continues into the aftertaste, seemingly fades and then comes back for a nice warm hug. Is this what they call the “Kentucky Hug” when referring to bourbon (even if this isn’t from Kentucky)? Overall: Very enjoyable both classic and modern light bourbon flavors. Not amazing but imminently drinkable. Value: N/A
Score: B+

A Midwinter Night’s Dram Rye Act 5 Scene 5, High West Distillery, 49.3%
So these releases are always of blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in french oak port barrels, exact composition and ratios, as well as sources, vary and aren’t disclosed. Nose-wise, this smells like High West rye finished in port cask (unimaginative ain’t it?). Actually, nuttiness, a little bit of eucalyptus, pepper, port sweetness come to my nose when I sniff it, the underlying core is still that fairly ‘bland’ High West rye. The palate is quite sweet and rounds up the light pepperiness of the rye nicely. The aftertaste continues with exact same notes as the palate had. Overall: This is pleasantly sweet and enjoyable… yet it falls a little flat somewhere and I’m thinking it’s the palate. It has some great primary flavors and falls through immediately into the aftertaste with nothing sticking around to smooth the transition. Value: This is a ‘fairly’ old bottle from 2017… at the time MSRP was ~$80, they are priced at suggested value of ~$100 if findable at retailers. The secondary is a bit higher. Not a bad drinker, but it’s value is in its scarcity, not the flavors.
Score: B+

Addendum: Having tried another of the MWND from 7.x series. It’s more of the same.

Sagamore Rye SiB, @SFWBSS Pick, 55%
(Short disclaimer, I’m somewhat under the weather with leftovers of a cold.) My first Sagamore rye sample ever! And my local group’s pick too! What a treat. On the nose, not very rye-forward, it smells more like a spicy bourbon. Sun-dried apricots, toasted wood, nearly-burnt pie crust. Definitely a spicy palate, with somewhat reasonable amount of rye-ness. More of the nose notes, this time loads of brown sugar, spiced up apricots, touch of charcoal bitterness. The aftertaste is lingering with baking spice black tea leaves, bordering on a very mild bergamot (earl gray tea) aftertaste. Overall: I’m enjoying the nose, the palate is alright, yet the aftertaste seems like it comes from a different bottle. The whole experience is good but not coherent and mostly seem to throw my palate around, not unlike a rollercoaster. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, while nothing particularly amazing either. Glad I’ve tried it but I’d not finish a bottle if i had one. Value: This was $60… Which is reasonable for a single cask, and overall probably a decent deal.
Score: B-

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

Sunday, December 4, 2022

2022/23 Chris-tmas Holiday Advent (Sample Exchange)

A local group I’m part of is doing a Christmas Calendar of blind samples. There are 22 samples with 22 guesses and 22 blind reviews. This is organized by friend Chris, thus the title. The bottles are supposed to be $80+ which both limits the choices and makes it much harder to guess. I’ll be updating this as I go!

The format is going to be:

Name — Brief Notes — Guess: — Reveal:

  1. GN — High proof and grain forward nose, picks up more sweet vanilla with time in glass. Light sulfur quickly fading. Tons of red berries on sugar-sweet palate. Raspberries, strawberries, caramelized pineapple, cloves, light cinnamon. Spicy and lingering finish that stays sweet through to the end — Guess: N/A — Yay — Reveal: Barrell 18 year old Kentucky Straight Whiskey, K&L #A111, 58.33%
  2. BT — High proof, light roasted almonds, vanilla toastiness on the nose, cherries? High proof indeed on the palate, lots of spice, a particular metallic nuttiness is present. The aftertaste drops off fast but tingles with cinnamon in the very end for a while. Few drops of water scale back the ethanol burn, but doesn’t make it taste young. — Guess: Light Whiskey 15; ABV: 60%+ — Nay+ — Reveal: Blue Run, High Rye, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 55.5%
  3. JR — Toasted wood and baking spices on the nose. Highly enjoyable to sniff. Sweet, not over-proofed palate. Reasonably high rye being spicy. Toasted wood-saturated palate, lots of baking spices. The aftertaste is pleasantly long, gets warmer in the back of the throat. Feels little malty, but unlikely to be a malt. — Guess: Henry McKenna or Low-proofed ECBP — Yay- — Reveal: Old Elk Wheated Straight Bourbon, MGP; Total Wine NorCal SiB; 56.9%; Mashbill: 51% corn, 45% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley.
  4. JP — Definite malt on the nose. Tropical fruits, reasonably high proof, very light sulfur that fades quick. High proof palate, some grain; tropical fruits cut by the what I can only call grain notes. Long, high proof, cloves and cinnamon, and light tropical fruit aftertaste — Guess: Almost screams Irish with malt + grain mix. High proof Two Stacks? Reminds me of Teeling but too high proof for their regular stuff. Could be Redbreast Cask Proof — Yay — Reveal: Milk & Honey Single Malt; River City Whiskey Society SiB, Ex-bourbon; 59.5%
  5. KM — Nose has cinnamon vanilla ice cream & bananas. With time opens up into almost sherry notes. Palate is very fruity with more bananas and is backed up, yet not overpowered, by baking spices, cloves, nutmeg. Medium-long, sugary, lightly spiced aftertaste. Not overly malty, surprisingly — Guess: World Malt. Possibly American (bananas). Something Stranahan’s? Unlikely Scotch; 45% — Yay — Reveal: Green Spot Chateau Montelena Irish Whiskey, finished in Zinfandel barrels; 46%
  6. MBA — Nutty, sulfuric, dark & brooding nose, dried figs, light burnt rubber. On the palate, high proof, more rubber, lots of malt, nuttiness, sawdust. Long spicy sweet finish. Would be amazing if not for the rubber note — Guess: Amrut SiB Sherry Cask; Honorable mention to Balcones Rumble — Yay- — Reveal: Balcones True Blue Cask Strength, Eureka SP, 65%
  7. CB — Lightly metallic wine note on the nose combined with light malt and high proof; not quite sherry, not quite red wine. Reminds me of an old humidor with perfumed tobacco and wood. The palate’s got prunes, lots of spice, woodiness, malt, layers of complexity. Malty, sweet, long and gentle finish with a spicy tingle at the very end that turns into sawdust dryness — Guess: Malt; double or triple casked; with a wine cask in the mix. Random Callout: Glenallachie Cask Strength — Yay — Reveal: Maker’s Mark BRT-02; 54.7%
  8. PC — Dry wood sawdust/wood chips nose. The palate’s got sweet cinnamon, high-ish but not overpowering proof, sugar-roasted walnuts. More walnuts in the aftertaste that last for a while with a slightly metallic tingle — Guess: Old Weller Antique Single Cask? This got some characteristics of MPG and Knob Creek too but not corny. Tastes like something out of Buffalo Trace — Yay — Reveal: Maker’s Mark Total Wine Private Selection; #20044 “Fireside Spice” ; 55%
  9. SR — Baked apples & perfume nose. Rye?. Light dill. Palate is sweet, peppery, light metallic tang, doesn’t taste like rye at all, unlike the nose. Highly drinkable proof and in general super drinkable. Long sweet aftertaste with mellow spices. — Guess: Something from Wild Turkey? Russell’s Reserve 10 — Yay — Reveal: High West Bourye, 22A10; 46%
  10. DW — Chocolate and cigarettes on the nose. Lots of wet leather and some grain spirit notes. Malt on the palate, coffee, bitter chocolate, spices, not sweet, light nuttiness. More bitter chocolate and coffee on the medium length aftertaste — Guess: Scotch. Edradour? Kirkland Sherry Cask Finish? 46%– Yay — Reveal: Yamazaki 12, 43%
  11. JK — Bourbony, high proof, wood, vanilla, minwax wood finisher, caramel, cinnamon nose. What I can describe as MGP palate, high proof, sweet, slightly sour, bitter with wood, loads of baking spices with cinnamon dominating. Long warm and peppery aftertaste. — Guess: High proof MGP, Possibly Joseph Magnus bottle, or from someone that sources (NBC) — Yay — Reveal: Elijah Craig Private Barrel 8; LiquorLand Pick - Thekedar S&M, 65.05%
  12. VS — Vanilla toasted wood caramel nose, tobacco. Liquid caramel and wine finish on the palate. Very hot, light maltiness. Short hot and sweet aftertaste — Guess: Westward Malt Single Cask, Wine Cask. — Nay+ — Reveal: Obtainium Light Whiskey, Finished in PlumpJack Cab Barrel; 68.7%
  13. EM — Strong, nutty, slightly sour, woodyness on the nose. The palate is full of roasted nuts with peanuts dominating but backed up by a core of near-bitter woodiness. Woody, nearly bitter, nutty lingering finish. — Guess: Something Beam Based. Bakers? Knob Creek? — Yay- — Reveal: Bib & Tucker 12; OCBS / Cypress pick ; 49.5%
  14. IT — Perfume galore on the nose, with somewhat spicy flowers. Sweet & fruity palate, balanced spices that don’t overwhelm, woody vanilla, lightly drying. Loooong aftertaste gentle with sweet sichuan numbing peppers that lasts and lasts — Guess: I’m stumped… — Yay — Reveal: Smoke Wagon Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled-in-Bond, 50%
  15. JE — Rye nose, roasted caraway seeds, light fennel. Palate starts sweet becomes spicy with some rye spice while staying sweet and unobtrusive. Not too proofy, but somehow numbing in the mouth, somewhat medicinal. Aftertaste is short and mostly missing. — Guess: Templeton Rye — Nay — Reveal: Spirit Works Rye Whiskey 8; 45%
  16. KF — Rye nose, but with a solidly nutty and noticeably darker undertones. The secondary notes here reminded me of a cigar smoke. Oh wow, high proof, flavorful, more of the same cigar coffee notes. Lingering spice in the aftertaste with some dill — Guess: Templeton Cask Proof Rye — Yay- — Reveal: Traverse City Straight Rye 7; Total Wine SiB; 59%
  17. TO — Sweet and funky to the point of smelling almost like spoiled vegetables (sulfur). High-ish proof caramel behind that funk note though. On the palate, caramel, none of the funk. Sweet, proofy, red fruit notes. Long aftertaste with sometimes-gentle, sometimes hot, cinnamon follows — Guess: Texas-style High Proof Bourbon — Nay+ — Reveal: Frey Ranch Single Cask; 62.23%
  18. TV — Sweet and grassy with a bit of a spoiled fruit note oddly contrasting the veggie note from the other SbS. The palate starts sweet, then turns bitter, then turns sweet and honeyed again. Light, sweet aftertaste follows with more honey — Guess: Something High proof with honey. Tough Call. Since its SbS with TO Perhaps Good Times regular and honey finish? — Yay- — Reveal: Westward Single Cask; 57%
  19. KT — High proof sweet caramel on the nose… Not overpowering, woody, sweet, lightly corny, toasted vanilla palate. Lightly spiced finish that lingers sweetly but doesn’t overwhelm — Guess: Larceny Cask Proof? — Yay- — Reveal: Baker’s 107; 11.8 years old, Costco Bay Area SiB; 53.5%
  20. KK — Color: Dark! Tear-inducing proof, lots of wood on the palate. Very very very hot palate that overwhelms everything. Cinnamon, wood, baking spices. Long aftertaste with more cinnamon and baking spices. Water highly recommended to tame the beast — Guess: Google suggests it’s ECBP; nearly 140 proof, sure, let’s go with this — Yay — Reveal: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Release #8; 69.9%

What an unexpected lineup! Happy Holidays!