Sunday, June 25, 2023

Glen Ord 8, Balmenach 10, Glengoyne 16, Glenturret 17, Bimber SB; Malty Mixed Bag

Glen Ord 8, Hart Brothers, K&L SP, 57.5%
A 2013 Glen Ord aged in 1st fill sherry butt by Hart Brothers. Delicious sherried nose, stewed fruits and brown sugar with some sherry sweetness and a touch of spiced vanilla. This is more of a modern sherry profile but it still got some of the spicy funky complexity notes still mixed in with more straightforward modern profile. Delicious sherry-forward palate that starts sweet and escalates into woody spice while losing most of its sweetness, yet never becoming dry. Warming lingering lightly salted syrup laden with gentle baking spices in aftertaste. Yet again not dry but more of a toasted sweet vanilla cookie. Water amps the bitterness note and arguably not needed as this drinks way below its proof. Overall: Enjoyable sherry bomb that imminently drinkable. I wish that malt could shine a little brighter here but the sherry is quite good in its profile so there’s not much to complain about. Arguably best Hart Brothers bottle I’ve tried so far. Straightforward and enjoyable flavor explosion for sherry lovers. Just avoid putting water into it. Value: Priced at $50 this is a ‘heck yeah’ of a deal.
Score: B+

Balmenach 10, Hart Brothers, K&L SP, 58.8%
A 2011 Balmenach from Hart Brothers, aged in 1st filled port pipe. A side note on color, for a port pipe this is actually quite lightly colored comparably and looks more like an ex-bourbon than port in the glass. On the nose, chocolate, pine needles, very potent alcohol. The palate is sweet with some port notes, but it’s mostly about the malt. Cask character does comes through but doesn’t dominate, syruped and spiced cherries coated with chocolate is the best approximation. That aftertaste is a literal ball of hot spice slowly rolling downhill. Literally nowhere to hide from alcohol here but it’s sure is a flavor bomb on the level of malted rye. Oh and it unfortunately falls apart with water. Overall: This is my second Balmenach cask and both are absolute flavor monsters. Perhaps it’s something with the malt itself. In the end, subtle this isn’t but it’s got *character*. I really wish it was not a port cask but good refill sherry, then it’d be positively stunning. I’ll wager that this is quite a polarizing bottling. Value: Priced at $75 it’s a pretty solid deal nowadays on pricing…
Score: B

Glengoyne 16, Old Particular, K&L SP, 59.1%
A 2005 Glengoyne from Old Particular, aged in refill hogshead. The nose is cracked pepper key lime pie. Palate is vanilla custard-smooth with tons of malt, yet not too sweet, hints of white peach and apricots appear somewhere there. Aftertaste is long and initially very active with pepper and cinnamon. The spices then tame down to a lingering sichuan pepper note. Water doesn’t seem to do much here, though perhaps allows a little more fruit to shine. Overall: Fruity, malty, and peppery mix that’s fun to drink. Value: Priced at $80 this is very solid value for the specs. If I recall, I was tempted to pick it up, being generally a fan of the distillery but opted not to.
Score: B+

Glenturret 17, Old Particular, K&L SP, 55.8%
A 2004 Glenturret from Old Particular, aged in sherry puncheon. Nose and color is very unmistakably sherry-driven. There’s also some sweet woodiness on the nose, meaning it’s not an absolute sherry bomb. Palate is quite… woody, with vanilla and toasted nutty note, almost completely ignoring it’s sherry influence. Very long and lingering aftertaste with spicy ginger and baking spices. There’s an interesting note at the very back of the aftertaste, that of a hot chocolate mix (nesquik comes to mind here) that I’m quite enjoying but it is subtle and gets lost behind spices easily if you’re not expecting it. Water amps the sweetness and offsets some of the drying spice, very recommended. Overall: Nice off-profile sherry cask that’s not too sweet but leans towards toasted wood notes instead, perhaps bordering on tannins. With water it’s definitely better and becomes a spiced chocolate-forward, enjoyable pour. Value: Priced at $99 this is a reasonable deal, especially for the age, uncommon distillery and a sherry cask.
Score: B (B+ w/ water)

Bimber Small Batch #3, 51.6%
A sample courtesy of friend Ivan. Ex-bourbon small batch from Bimber, which is actually bottled at cask strength. Fruity, perfume-forward, slightly spicy malt note with tropical notes, fried plantains come to mind and squarely put me in front of a plate of cuban food in my imagination. Some kind of green tropical fruit medley/fruit salad on the palate with that starts sweet but unfortunately thin and subtle, which is disappointing after punchy and interesting nose. Baking spices, cloves and peppers take over mid-palate continuing into the aftertaste. Medium length aftertaste with pepper and cinnamon, few wisps of wood char also appear. Overall: This is a flavorless plantain chip that’s been dusted with spice mix. I am not loving the combination. Youth of majority of the components and thin mouthfeel doesn’t mesh with spicy palate and aftertaste. Almost everything from the malt is completely overwhelmed by the cask spices after the first sip. The nose is great but there’s no interesting substance past that. It gets more and more unbalanced on the palate each time. Value: Priced at $100 for a NAS this is easily priced on par with a well-known blender that is named something-box. I’ll put this at ‘average-at-best’ for value, leaning towards not being worth it for a young NAS.
Score: C

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

Monday, June 19, 2023

Cali Gold, Blanton’s Gold, Frey Ranch Corn & Wheat, Murray Hill Club, Rare Character Bourbon; Americans Again

Going to be a mixed bag of samples or bottles I got to get them out of the way, some of these may be short.

Cali Gold, Private Blend Batch 3, 59.5%
This is a High Rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon, allegedly blended by the savant person down in Southern California. Nose got some toasted and wheated notes to it with a dollop of alcohol. The palate is rather corn-forwards and is somewhat spicy confirming the high rye part of the equation. Past the corn note, is where it gets interesting. Lots of baking spice intensity, few honey notes, touch of wood. The aftertaste pleasantly lingers for a while with burnt caramel flavor. This also gets better the longer it sits in the glass or with a drop or two of water, though it’s easy to overdo the water so a word of caution there. Overall: A competent sweet & spicy bourbon that reminds me of off-profile Weller Full Proof or perhaps a very very very good single cask of 1792. Value: Full stop here. Priced at $100 for 375ml prior to tax and shipping, this got one of the worst values in a while of anything I’ve spent on. This is absolutely not worth it.
Score: B+

Blanton’s Gold. 51.5%
Not quite regular Blanton’s, not quite SFTB Blanton’s. Single Cask as the norm and I have no idea on distillation or dump dates here, also BT Mash Bill #2. But likely to give me a good idea on what to expect. The nose is tropical fruit with light baking spice veil over it clearly coming from toasted wood of the cask. The palate, tropically sweet, mouth-watering, then dives into some toasted woodiness. Aftertaste is more of that mouth-watering toasted wood and cinnamon note that doesn’t overwhelm. Overall: I really like it. Perhaps it’s this specific cask but it’s a fantastic pour. It’s got the all the flavors I want and none that I don’t in a bourbon at the right proof/concentration. Value: Eeeeeeh… Not great as the only place that these are findable is reseller/secondary.
Score: A

Frey Ranch, 100% Malted Corn, 55%
A Frey Ranch single grain series, 100% corn in this case… aged 5 years and 10 months in what I can only assume single cask as these bottlings typically are. Actual malted corn whatever that means for corn, considering that it’s already quite sweet to begin with and doesn’t typically require starch to sugar conversion as barley does during malting process. The nose reminds me of a reasonably refined bourbon, corn and toasted wood with baking spices but is reasonably tame. I’m quite enjoying the nose on this, being like a bourbon-y perfume with just a touch of smoke. The palate is somewhat same as the nose and generally stays very even from where the nose started, subdued. The aftertaste is where it’s at here. It start with a cinnamon and ginger rush, then settles down into a very long aftertaste of buttery grilled corn. Seriously, this lingers exactly like foil-wrapped corn cob that’s been grilled with some butter inside of foil on the grill. Overall: Different, enjoyable, intriguing bottling that really showcases the grain (and also the cask to some extent). Not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but certainly is worth trying. Very solidly drinkable, provided you enjoy that grilled buttery corn note that, no joke, lingers for 30 minutes afterwards. Move aside, Mellow Corn, there’s a new 100% corn whisky king in town, and this one is actually worth a sip. Value: Priced at around ~$60 for 375ml this isn’t the best value for the money but there’s some credit due to quality and uniqueness.
Score: B+ (unique)

Frey Ranch, 100% Wheat Whiskey, 51%
A Frey Ranch single grain series, 100% wheat in this case… aged 6 years and 3 months in what I can only assume single cask as these bottlings typically are. A note that this really benefits from sitting in a glass for a while. The nose is paint thinner and vanilla caramel. The palate is somewhat thin on the texture yet manages to be a bit oily and mouth-coating. It brings toasted oak, baking spices and some breadiness but not much else to the table being reasonably neutral grain. The aftertaste got more of the baking spices and has a prominent peach note in it that brings perfume from nose full circle. Overall: Good spirit, aged in a good cask but there’s not much to work with when dealing with 100% wheat leaving this an interesting experiment. Probably more interesting as a mixer rather than as a neat pour, but does carry itself enough to be viable on its own. Value: Given away as part of a goody bag for @SFWBSS Fog City Social event the value is N/A but these are all priced about same so let’s slap a $60 valuation on this making it not that great of a value for 375ml, especially considering that wheat grain typically doesn’t bring anything interesting to the table being reasonably neutral.
Score: C+

Michter’s Rye, 2019 — 10 years — 46.4% — Score: B+ — Light and sweet rye with barely any dill or spice notes. Very pleasant to sip on, like a anise-seed and baking spices custard or a rye bread cookie. Overall: A pleasant mellow rye that’s ultimately forgettable
Bone Snapper MGP Rye — 4.5 years — 59.2% — Score: A- — A sample from Charu. High flavor high alcohol number on the nose. Starts sweet then slides into sugar syrup, eucalyptus and a touch of dill. Something between a typical MGP rye and old potrero malted rye here. Very interesting

So, personally, of the vs above… I’m torn. They’re both good for different reasons, with Michter’s being more casual and easy drinking and Bone Snapper being more fun and exciting. I’ll declare this a ‘tie’ situation due to either of these being more appropriate in different situations.

Murray Hill Club Bourbon, MGP Blend, Batch #38, 51.5%
A blend of MGP bourbons from Jos. A Magnus. On the nose: funky, nutty corn note and woody baking spices. It does benefit from sitting in a glass as it opens up. Sweet and slightly funky but not very complex palate, vanilla forward with . Medium length yet again custard-sweet with a dusting of cinnamon aftertaste. Overall: Pleasant, sweet, mellow MGP faire. Nothing particularly amazing, nothing particularly bad. A workable, drinkable bourbon that’s a fancy everyday pour for a fancy bourbon lover. Value: Here’s we got a problem. This is way too expensive for a casual everyday pour at $115.
Score: B+

Rare Character Exceptional Series, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 9 years old, K&L SP, 61%
That’s gotta be one of the longest titles I’ve written out as of yet. Alrighty, a K&L-picked single cask from Rare Character, Barrel E-KB-05, distilled in 10/2013 and bottled in 11/2022, making this 9 years old. Woody and spicy nose that’s well balanced on intensity despite high proof. Sweet palate that takes toasted wood note up the the edge of bitterness with warming baking spices following suit. Warming, woody, moderately spicy aftertaste with that warmth lingering for a while. After about 5 minutes there’s a notable grilled corn note that still lingers. Overall: Highly enjoyable bottling that doesn’t quite drink like anything else that off my recent memory. Some folk think this is sourced from Wild Turkey but who really knows. It’s darn good. Value: … In one word… ‘awful’! Priced at ~$170… that is exceptionally ‘meh’ as a blind purchase for a consumer.
Score: A-

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

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Glenburgie 13, Aberlour 15, Mortlach 15, Mortlach 24, Benriach 21 Speysides!

I’ve clearly got a favorite region, being Speyside.

Glenburgie 13, Hart Brothers SiB, Port Pipe, 54.2%
Glenburgie from 2008, aged in 1st fill Port Pipe. I wonder where it lands. The nose is peppery malt, red fruits, a touch of red wine, bubble gum. More of the pepper comes through the sweet palate together with huge chunk of toasted wood. The aftertaste has more of the wood and wine notes and finishes with lots of sichuan pepper. Overall: This starts with a delicious red port nose and ends with sichuan pepper infused red fruit syrup. Certainly a weird one and not for everyone. My palate seems to be a bit off the mark tonight. Addendum: Alcohol didn’t taste right for next few days so the palate was definitely broken… I believe it was only partially broken at the time of my score. Value: Priced at $109 on preorder and finally discounted to $81 on K&L sale this should be a good indication that this was overpriced and not a hot ticket item.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/188347
Score: C (*palate took a day off)

– I’ve hit a palate block for a week or so. Seems to be mostly recovered now –

Aberlour 15, Old Particular, K&L SP, 57.3
2005 Aberlour aged in a refill Hogshead. The color is very pale straw, but color isn’t everything. The nose is a malty beast with notes of beeswax and sugar candy. The palate has white orchard fruits, apples, pears smothered in brown sugar. The aftertaste hits it home with peppery spice and a touch of ash. The aftertaste lingers forever so credit where it’s due on that. Very little cask influence here, pure malt character. Few drops of water takes of the edge and makes for a somewhat more polished experience. Overall: A minimal cask impact, lively character malt. Sign me up! Solid example of what an unadulterated Aberlour can do. Though a very blond color may turn off some risk-averse buyers, it is by no means lacking in flavor. Value: Priced at $90, this is great value for the spec and is a great alternative to Alba while priced same as a NAS bottling.
Score: A-

Mortach 15, Old Particular, K&L SP, 56.7%
This should be an interesting counterpart to the Aberlour above. Color is pale gold, nose is quite savoury with ripe melons and is slightly grassy. The palate is surprisingly subdued, sweet and malty, but subtle for the most part. More of that melons, sweet vanilla custard. The aftertaste is where it’s at here, medium length, herbaceous, minty and spicy it does not hold back yet doesn’t overwhelm either. Overall: Medium-low-high in terms of flavor distribution between nose, palate and aftertaste, this comes across as an enjoyable casual sipper that doesn’t stand out among its peers. There’s nothing wrong here, yet it’s very forgettable. Value: Priced at $110… It’s not a great value to be honest, especially comparing to Aberlour above with a very similar spec.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/210599
Score: B

Mortlach 24, Hart Brothers, K&L SP, 49.7%
Mortlach from 1997, aged for 24 years in a 1st fill sherry butt and selected by K&L together with Hart Brothers. This is surprisingly light colored, considering age and 1st fill. The nose is almost off-profile for sherry aged malt. It’s slightly nutty with notes of dried apricots and peaches and perhaps a touch of prune. The palate is mostly the same as nose, light nuttyness, some dried fruit flavors. Aftertaste finishes with a bit of an oversteeped tea nutty-bitter note to it similar to aftertaste of coffee with lots of vanilla creamer, but otherwise is unremarkable. Overall: Utterly unmemorable bottling that brings nothing of interest to the table. A generic lightly sherried malt, could be anything in here to be honest. It’s pleasant but so… generic. Value: This was listed at $200!? The spec is passable on paper but it’s still barely worth it even before tasting.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/210605
Score: B

Benriach 21, Chieftains, K&L SP, Rum cask #93483, 56.5%
A 21 year year old Benriach finished in a Rum barrel, distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2019. On the nose malty and slightly spicy bouquet of fruit flavors, peaches or nectarines, reaching into tropical fruits too. Smooth sweet tropical fruit custard palate, sliding into a absolute ball of hot spice as a spike that lingers for a bit as an aftertaste. Light cinnamon spiciness and sweet and barely noticeable agricole grassy note at the very end. Add water, and this becomes fantastic, this is still tropical fruits on top of vanilla custard but now it’s got a more integrated spiced tart quality to it instead of somewhat disjointed experience before that. Overall: Stunningly excellent bottle that’s perhaps not for everyone as it’s mixes tropical fruit and high spiciness into one, not to mention requiring some amount of precise alchemy with water to make it come together, but when it does it turns form very good pour to a great one. Value: The preorder was 150 and regular price was 127… This is a stunning deal pre price explosion of Benriach products which roughly doubled in price since then.
Score: B+ (A- with water)

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