Wednesday, February 8, 2023

We’ll resume our loosely-scheduled reviews soon

If you’ve been reading this, then you should know that I’ve been continuously writing reviews for the last two years and need a short break to deal with backlog of open (and reviewed) bottles to free up space to open new ones.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Plantation, Foursquare 2009, El Dorado, Gregarious Grump, Rums!

So Gregarious Grump is the label by Kris Hart of Houston Whiskey Group… Same person that is behind Prideful Goat… Except the Grump is for rums and brandies… I got some samples. Let’s do it. https://www.gregariousgrump.com/rums

Guyana (Diamond) 2003, 16 years old , Gregarious Grump, 46.8%
The nose is woody with caramel vanilla, light mint. Very solid toasted vanilla and wood shavings core on the palate, bordering on light varnish bitterness, not overly sweet and lower proof makes it imminently sippable though. Long warm and light minty aftertaste. Overall: I like Guyanese rum. This bottling is somewhat inconspicuous in among plenty of other casks but an excellent casual drinker. Value: N/A
Score: B+

Guyana (Diamond) 2003, 16 years old , Gregarious Grump, 54.5%
The nose intensity is amped up, to almost vanilla extract levels. The palate is full of sweet vanilla syrup, wood shavings, toasted oak. Excellent dessert balance that leans towards custard notes. Somewhat short, but yet again sweet and lightly spiced aftertaste follows. Overall: Right up my alley on sweetness and overall balance. Imagine cinnamon-dusted vanilla custard cake. Excellent nightcap here. Value: N/A
Score: A-

Guyana (Diamond) 2006, 16 years old , Gregarious Grump, 52.1%
Pine resin and mint on the nose. More pine resin, this time with brown sugar, dark honey, a touch of bitterness that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. Medium length aftertaste that’s genty fading into balanced and lightly spiced hard candies. Overall: A standout of the tasting here… Easy A! Excellent stuff. This is totally up my alley. Value: N/A
Score: A

Belize (Travelers) 2006, 14 years old, Gregarious Grump, 65.1%
Dark sugar molasses and vanilla is the name of the game here. The nose is nearly burnt sugar. More highly toasted bitterness on the palate, backed and balanced by sweetness, a touch of fermenting funk, vanilla, dark wood, tons of baking spices. Long sweet aftertaste follows with cinnamon, cloves and a touch of star anise. Overall: Excellent stuff, even if a touch bitter in its flavor profile and balance. Value: N/A
Score: B+

Jamaica (Long Pond) 1998, 22 years old, Plantation (K&L Store Pick) Single Cask, 49.4%
Filled into a used barrel and aged tropically for 18 years before being sent to France for finishing. After 2 years in old cognac barrels, the rum was transferred into ex-Bardstown Bourbon Company barrels which had previously held their wonderful Fusion bourbon. For what it’s worth that conflicts with the label… but I’ll trust the seller’s blurb more here. The nose is fragrant funk, musky sweet cologne. The palate, is wound up tight and yet incredibly complex with multiple layers of flavor going through real fast on the tongue. It’s like very tropical rum flavor together… jammed into very tight band. A veritable rum flavor rainbow I surf across. Very long mellow and sweet aftertaste follows with light sweetness funk and mint that calms down the palate after the crazy race that is the palate. It’s proof is about right out of the bottle with water not adding much to the experience but arguably diluting the flavor somewhat. Overall: This is crazily enjoyable, a little too sweet for some but darn it’s really tasty in a spiced custard pie kind of way. Value: Prices at $130… it’s pretty solid value considering lots of less reputable (or dishonest) rums are priced at much higher point.
https://www.klwines.com/p/i?i=1605705
Score: A-

Panama, 8 years old, Grander, @SFWBSS PS, 49.6%
Alrighty, so this is a bit cheat-y but I gotta record this. This was a great bottle, I’ve drank it as my daily driver on vacation. Panama Grander is solid tiki pour. Value: This was priced at $40! A steal!
Score: B+

Jamaica (New Yarmouth) 1994, 27 years old, Gregarious Grump, 67.5%
That proof is fire and is shockingly high after 27 years in a cask. Also shocking it doesn’t drink anywhere near that proof but at a relatively ‘gentle’ 60 or so. The nose is vanilla bomb with some old wood varnish notes. The palate is multilayered, complex, cinnamon vanilla creme brulee with a LOT of toasted sugar on top. Very long, slowly fading sweet aftertaste follows full of gentle spice and yet again cinnamon. Overall: This is Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a glass! I’m really enjoying drinking but it’s got such layered and complex character that it really requires some contemplation between sips. A true definition of a ’sipper’. Value: It’s MSRP ~$200 (since I got a bottle on sale for about $155). I’d say at 200 it’s a tough call but at the sale price it’s worth it. It’s not every day you can casually come across excellent single cask of that age.
Score: A

Barbados (Foursquare) 2009, 12 year old, Exceptional Selection XVII, 60%
This is a blend of pot and column still distillate tropically aged in ex-bourbon casks. Smells like toasted sugar, tropical fruits, and lots and lots of bourbon spices. The palate is… full of toasted sugar, tropical fruits, and bourbon spices. The aftertaste is… full of tropical fruits and bourbon spices gently fading. Overall: Absolutely excellent. There’s not much to complain here, though perhaps 60% abv is a little hot on its own and needs a drop of water in there. Additionally, it’s a touch… of a one-note… A very excellent note it is but there are no layered flavor harmony here, just excellence in execution. Value: This was ~$90-100, and Foursquare distillery originals provide excellent value here.
Score: A-

Guyana (El Dorado) 2009, 12 years old, Single Still “Versailles” Cask Strength, 56.2%
The stand out of the 2022 SF Rumfest for me. This is… Interesting. Distilled in the wooden pot still and bottled at cask strength this rm has been colored with caramel prior to aging because… Nobody knows why. My own speculative guess involves the theory that it wasn’t supposed to be bottled at cask proof originally and instead intended for lower-proofed general consumer market. Yet, here we are, with enthusiast-level bottle. The color is dark… Like dark chestnut. The nose is near-burnt coconut caramel all the way. The palate… start sweet, turns into near-bitter, and then the plethora of spices hit. Everything from citrus to, raspberries, to tropical fruits all together with the alcohol, dusted by cloves and nutmeg. The aftertaste is all of that secondary flavors with leche fruits and mango mostly winning though they still end up competing with a touch of caramelized sugar. This is all about riding that aftertaste here. Overall: A literally ball of flavor that hits right in the face. This has one unfortunate flaw and that is the caramel coloring… With age that caramel is perceived to be driving some of the flavor notes so mentally it’s hard to get over that visual of everything riding that coloring train. Basically, must like aged caramel to enjoy it, but if you do… It’s a banger. Value: This was $139 which is mediocre pricing for a 12 year rum when looked at blindly… But since I’ve already tried, it wasn’t a blind purchase.
Score: A

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

Monday, January 16, 2023

Port Askaig 25, Mortlach 20, Stranahan’s Cask Strength, Hogback Distillery Mixed Bag

Happy “official” New Year. This is my first entry started after the holidays (even though it’s January 16th). Mostly malt with a small inclusion of other since it’s sometimes hard to group thing together meaningfully.

Port Askaig 25 (Impex), 45.8%
This is a pleasant surprise gift from friend Mike. This is a Caol Ila 25 bottled by Impex in 2019. There are total of 3000 bottles of this, though there is a European counterpart to this batch, I’m not sure if it counts as part of the 3000 bottles. Either way… ‘Small’ batched IB Caol Ila 25! Did I mention I enjoy old peated whiskey even while I whine about young peat being gross yet? Lightly salted, complex smoke on the nose reminiscent of fish smokehouse that’s not been in use for a while. Salty floral notes, lightly spiced vanilla. Incredible legs on the Glencairn. The palate is gentle, floral vanilla, light smoke, almost no saltiness at all. Peppery, warming and lightly smoked aftertaste that lasts and lasts and lasts. Overall: Easily excellent example of light (or mostly dissipated) peat that’s complex rather than punchy. The palate is barely peated at all, with the smoke only showing up somewhat in the nose and in the aftertaste. Excellent drinker. There’s something to be said here that this is different from OB Caol Ila that’s typically saltier. The particular bottling could have benefited from sherried cask or two in the mix to bring up another layer of complexity… Overall though I’m grasping for straws with my biggest thought being that while it’s excellent, it doesn’t seem to stand out in a distinguishable way. Value: This was ~$350 in 2019… Eeeeh.. Leaving it at “This is tasty but I’d not buy a bottle”.
https://www.whiskyba … kaig-25-year-old-sms
Score: A

Mortlach 20, Cadenhead Small Batch, 53.4%
I seem to be reviewing a lot of Mortlach around here… Well, too bad! I enjoy these! And I write reviews. Small batch bottling from Cadenhead, 700ml so EU. The nose is full of baked pears and green apples with a touch of vanilla. The palate is excellently orchard-fruity ex-bourbon standard faire. I cannot believe it’s proof vs how gently it drinks. The long aftertaste is gentle vanilla and a little bit of ginger spice warming the very back. Overall: Excellent drinker, with nothing to complain about here in the scope. Value: N/A (from friend)
Score: A

Stranahan’s Cask Strength, Dry Creek Liquors SP, 57.86%
A high proof Stranahan’s single malt. No info unfortunately. Likely at reasonably respectable age as the distillery has been able to put up 10 year old malt release (though that one was distillery exclusive), suggesting that their stocks are coming up in average age nicely. Of note I’ve poorly reviewed the Small Batch (~2 years old) version and really liked the exclusive higher proof Carcavelos Cask (at very respectable 8.5 years of age). Let’s dig into this one. Tropical fruit pie on the nose, with bananas and mango fruits leading the charge predictably. More of the same tropical banana mango custard on the palate, rather sweet and spiced with cloves and nutmeg and topped with vanilla whipped creme. Long sweet, and tingly aftertaste follows that reminds of red hots cinnamon aftertaste. Overall: This is enjoyable. It’s not particularly complicated and the banana pie is certainly indicative of American single malt that may not appeal to some malt drinkers. Without the context though this is quite drinkable and high proof helps a ton here. Value: Similar Store Picks are priced circa $70… assuming that this is the same for this particular one… good value.
Score: B+

Hogback distillery Tasting… They do a bit of everything so this is going to be a mix. https://www.hogbackd … ry.com/our-whiskies/

Hogback ‘Oak & Aspen’ Bourbon, 61.8%
So this is a high rye bourbon finished with aspen wood stakes for 3 months. The sample is ~4 years old. The nose has a noticeably dry wood character to it, similar to lumber isle in a hardware store. The palate is spicy and pleasantly woody, sweet; lots of toasted notes, quite creamy texture. This reminds me somewhat of lighter MGP stuff, though I believe this is distilled at the distillery itself. Long, pleasantly sweet and lingering aftertaste follows with a touch of cinnamon in the very back. Overall: Enjoyable for a sipper. Hard to tell this is young. Lacks secondary notes, but overall a reasonably rounded experience, that extra wood really helped here I feel by filling in some gaps so that the palate doesn’t fall flat onto itself. Value: N/A. This is undiluted version, the official version is 44% abv and costs $45. If the high proof version is about $60, it’s a fair deal.
Score: B

Hogback ‘Eclipse’ Rye, 60.5%
This time a rye from the same distillery. From the blurb: “Aged a minimum of 4 years in a virgin oak barrel and ex-rum cask”. Smells like a typical rye to be honest, salty dill and pine, with a touch of nuttiness. The palate is a different story entirely. Very complex and multilayered. Salty, sweet, spicy, this reminds of a sweet and spicy pickle of some kind. The aftertaste calms down somewhat after the roller coaster that is the palate, its medium length, and slightly bitter at the very end. Water makes it a little better with apples coming through but it’s still a weird one. Overall: This has the ‘typical’ rye underpinnings which I usually don’t enjoy so I don’t particularly like this one either. The nose is alright, the palate is wild and aftertaste brings some bitterness. It certainly is flavorful but it’s almost like 3 different drinks rather than one. It could have used some more time in the cask to integrate better. I’ve finished it surprisingly after a bit of added water so perhaps it’s in the drinkable category. Still I’d rather mix than sip it. Value: This is $70 on the official site… Which isn’t a particularly great deal.
Score: C

Hogback Wallace Malt, 61.6%
This is a Cask #5: Matured in ex-rye American oak barrels for four years, then finished for six months in 4-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon red wine barrels from the Philip Togni Vineyard, Napa. The initial nose is quite funky and I’m letting it air out. The best approximation is that it smells like cooked buckwheat, nutty and somewhat yeasty. Frankly the nose has some of those newmake notes that come from low aging or weird cut during distillation. I am NOT a fan of this at full proof. I need to proof it down. Still nope. Too grassy and acrid, bordering on bitter. Way too weird for me. Overall: It’s possible that something’s off with my palate tonight, meanwhile: “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do NOT like them Sam-I-am”. Perhaps someone may enjoy it? Value: This is $149.99 SRP?! Hard pass.
Score: D-

Hogback Wallace Peated Malt, 61.2%
Peat and barley is sourced from Scotland. Matured in ex-rye American oak barrels for four years, then finished for six months in 2-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon red wine barrels from the Continuum Estate, Napa. Alrighty this is sweet & acrid, heavily peated and frankly not my thing. I can imagine a peat-heads liking this. Supposedly it tastes a lot like Ardbeg. I don’t like Ardbeg. Value: $175. Hard pass
Score: D+


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