Sunday, November 26, 2023

Dailuaine 9, Tamdhu CS, Glen Scotia 8, Glen Keith 24, Hazelburn 12, almost finished!

The title refers to me almost catching up with reviews of pending open bottles and samples I have. Don’t be alarmed, there are more reviews planned ahead as well as a return of local gift exchange. With 22 samples this year this will be its own post, similar to the one I’ve covered just about a year ago… But, I digress. Here’s the usual mish-mash malt reviews from the shelf:

Dailuaine 9, Firkin Rare, K&L SP, 57.0
A Firkin Rare bottling in a ‘zebra’ custom cask of oloroso and amontillado sherry staves. Aged 9 years. The nose is both sweet and funky, with the overall impression tends towards a modern syrupy-sweetness mixed with somewhat sulfuric note instead. The palate is rather a wild ride of sweet graham cookies, toasted almonds, dark salted chocolate. Cinnamon starts mid-palate and continues into a reasonably long aftertaste. Water helps a lot here to tone down the alcohol somewhat and bring the flavor intensity down. Overall: Very complex and multi-layered though most of the flavors are surface-level primary ones. It lacks delicate secondaries, but more than makes up for that in cornucopia of bold flavors here. It’s fun, it’s young and it could be too weird for most with the age and cask combination. It’s a very loud and not-quite-in-tune band that plays songs that I do enjoy. I’ve reviewed Dailuaine before several times and have noted that it does take to sherry well as well as the fact that there doesn’t seem a shortage of their product on the market in all sorts of iterations of casks. This one seems to be an utter overkill on cask craft applied, bordering on some sort of madness, different woods, different sherries, different everything and it does seem like a very unique product… but ‘unique’ doesn’t always substitute for ‘good’. While this mostly worked out for the producer… this should be looked as an exception rather than the rule. Value: Priced at $79 for a 9 year single cask IB product… seems creeping into ‘yellow/warning’ part of the value spectrum.
Score: B (B+ w/ Water)

Tamdhu Batch Strength, Batch 2, 58.5%
“Exclusively matured in sherry casks”. This is clearly Tamdhu’s take on all-sherry matured cask proof NAS expression. Similar types of releases are also bottled by other distilleries in Speyside. The nose is lightly sulfuric, dry, sherry and alcohol. The palate, on the other hand, is quite sweet, frutty, slightly nutty and well spiced. Though it never quite reaches syrupy consistency it certainly got some viscosity in the glass. Well-oaked sweetness, vanilla, and peppery cinnamon close off respectfully long aftertaste. Overall: Warming, enjoyable and flavorful, this hits that ‘good but not memorable’ niche for me. It’s exactly the comfort drink that’s needed on a chilly evening when one wants that sweet, spiced, sherried pour. And it’s the type of pour that will be fondly remembered in generic brushstrokes as there doesn’t seem to be anything that truly stands in the glass. I personally have 3 or 4 other bottles right behind this one that will be just as good. All that said… Is it as good as the others that i’m trying real hard to not name in this niche? Yes, yes it is! Value: $130 at Total Wine solidly puts this into the the orange/high-warning area for value with comparables. This compares well with the review above… and that bottle is half the price.
Score: B+ (A- w/ water)

Glen Scotia 8, K&L SP, Rum Cask, 58.4%
An original, yet exclusive, bottling (is EB a thing, along with OB and IB?) Glen Scotia’s exclusive cask for K&L Wines # 20/329-3, aged in ex-bourbon and finished in demerara rum cask. Aside: Glen Scotia is the somewhat under-appreciated distillery in Campbeltown, the home of Springbank and Glengyle/Kilkerran. I also happen to have some mixed feelings on Glen Scotia’s bottles… I feel that their quality is inconsistent with some bottlings being amazing and some being mediocre. Anyways, back to this! It really benefits from sitting in a glass for about 10 mins to open up. The nose got salt and iodine, a very light whiff of smoke, and lots of vanilla notes between punchy alcohol and prominently fresh oak. It’s lively and pungent. Sweet vanilla, tropical fruits and minerality on the palate slide into sichuan peppers almost immediately. It’s also impressively viscous for the age. Essentially zero peat or smoke that I can detect on the palate or aftertaste. The secondaries got grassiness and funk from rum and more lovely peppers. Medium-length aftertaste follows with more of the same from the palate. Overall: A treat for the senses; this is lively, fun, enjoyable and sweet, while being punchy and spicy. Think ginger-forward tropical fruit salad. I expected it to be peated, yet it’s not. Very solid offering here. The age is a little young, but when it tastes this good… I don’t care. I will note that it mostly falls apart with water. Value: I don’t regret paying $89 for this at the retailer.
Score: B+

Glen Keith 24, The Munros, K&L SP, 55.6%
The munros line has an interesting story. The stocks were brought into NYC by a defunct importer, the gentleman owner had unfortunately passed away, and then languished in the warehouse for years. K&L was able to grab a large chunk of the stock on clearance and then offer it to the consumers are very affordable price. I don’t see a lot of Glen Keith out there under its own name as majority goes into Chivas/Ballantine’s blends. Also this is a Speyside distillery! This particular cask was distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2017. Aged in a dump hogshead which is a slightly smaller sized cask than a typical hogshead. Let’s dig in! Characteristic red apples and ripe pineapple, with some zesty freshness on the nose. Sweet and highly tropical palate, retains some of the citrus to balance out the sugar. Buttery vanilla with some hebatiousness follows. The aftertaste is a bit of a standout here that lasts for a very long time. It starts with that sweet butter, then slowly come in the spices, with peppers and gingers leading the way then slowly it fades away into a touch of sweet lime. Overall: I’m not sure here. On one hand… it’s old, it’s good tasting and it’s a fruit bomb. On the other hand… it’s not very exciting. Perhaps my palate is too pedestrian to recognize greatness? Or perhaps the flavors are wound so tightly as to lose any meaningful separation? I’m not sure. It’s an honest malt that doesn’t have anything particularly wrong with it. After having a bit of chocolate, the answer may have come to me. There’s a great deal of cask influence that hides in here. If you take away the sweetness balance, it’s basically bitter which may explain why i feel weird about this one. A grapefruit of malt I suppose. Value: A 24 year old single cask priced at $109!? Oh hell yes. A screaming good deal. Unfortunately, the description is a copy from Glen Grant bottling and is consequently wrong :(
Score: C
Edit: I’ve adjusted the above grade down to a solid C in retrospect and ended up using the rest of the bottle in a “Canyon Blend” with some young sherry bomb leftovers… Which made the Glen Keith taste infinitely more interesting than the original version. Yay for home blends…

Hazelburn 12, Distillery Exclusive, 58.5%
Distilled on 11/6/2010. Hazelburn isn’t actually a real distillery but part of Springbank that uses historical name of a real distillery to bottle their product. I’m also led to believe that Hazelburn is typically unpeated. So basically springbank experimentation with different things. Thank you, friend Charu for the sample. Dusty and funky sweet wood on the nose. Like a dry wood pile or a whiskey aging wearhouse on low humidity, or a woodshop. The palate is super creamy and buttery, with drying vanilla notes yet again backed by somewhat bitter baking spice mix… just when you think it’s over… something magical happens and the malt absolutely explodes into tropical flavors. Coconut, pineapple, mango, it’s a literal fruit punch of sweet flavors. All the spice and the wood are gone, just like a curtain being flung aside. Which leads to sweet and lingering aftertaste with all those fruits, just like drinking light tropical punch that’s also punching you in the face with alcohol. With water the flavors are more integrated together and no longer offer that bonkers shift from dry wood to tropical sugars. Overall: It’s somewhat above average for the first half of the experience and then absolutely sublime in the second half. Which makes me a little torn on how to grade it. Still, it’s bloody good! Value: N/A. Distillery exclusive bottle for export.
It’s this guy: https://www.whiskyba … 16213/hazelburn-2010
Score: A-

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

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Glendronach and Glenrothes; malts I love

Did I mention I love these distilleries yet? This post’s been a year in the making, with me collecting samples to put enough reviews together as opposed to the more typical mish-mash review grouping that I do.

Glendronach 12 / 2009, Hart Brothers, Rum, K&L SP, 60.9%
A Hart Brothers bottling from a Rum Cask. I wonder why they chose this cask as non-sherried Glendro is rare. The nose is full of tropical fruit and alcohol that doesn’t fade even after some time. The palate is… tropical fruit and alcohol-forward with nothing to hide behind. The savoury spirit fights with sweet rum notes making it multilayered and confusing at the same time. Water helps a little bit to bring flavors together but it’s still a somewhat messy situation. Lots of peppery spice in the secondary flavors and in the respectfully lengthy aftertaste here. Overall: Ignore the flowery description of this very unique cask of Glendronach from the vendor. This is a at best a “flavorful mess”. A tropical fruit pie that’s been blended leaving the flavors but no clear picture for the mind’s eye. Yet again a Hart bottling that disappoints me in ‘this could have been great but it’s not great’ way. Value: At $89 on paper is solid for the distillery name and unusual bottling.
https://www.klwines. … whisky-700ml/1562599
Score: B-

Glendronach 12 / 2009, Hart Brothers, 1st Fill Sherry, K&L SP, 61.2%
A Hart brother bottling, this time it’s Glendronach in 1st first fill sherry butt. The nose is classic Glendronach, slightly savoury and funky with sherry. The palate is… classic sherried Glendronach that is super concentrated. Slight funk, sherry
vanilla sweetness and spice, distillery-characteristic savouriness. Aftertaste is sweet oak vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. Overall: This is great! Fantastic Glendronach cask with great balance and concentration. It lacks some layered depths to push it into unicorn category but it’s still perfect storm of cask and age. First great Hart bottle I’ve got my hands onto, even if it’s just a sample. Value: Priced at $109; in retrospect this is solid price. I should have bought some. But hindsight is 20/20
Score: A

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 20, Cadenhead SiB, 56.0%
A Glenrothes bottling by Cadenhead, distilled in 1997, bottled in 2018, aged in a sherry butt. The nose is quintessential speyside example. Stewed dried orchard fruits, light sherry funk, caramel. The palate is all chocolate, dark raisins, some orange rind notes. Aftertaste is more orange peel and dried fruits, with bit of coriander seed character. Overall: This is good! It’s very much my pour of whiskey that I like. It is just a touch… drying in its flavors and that’s the only reason it’s going into my hall of fame. Value: Original price is unknown, likely ~$150.
https://www.whiskyba … 0/glenrothes-1997-ca
Score: A-

Glenrothes 18, Signatory SiB #15961, 58.3%
Another Glenrothes from 1997, this one from a refill sherry cask by Signatory. The stewed dried fruit compote is nearly overwhelmed by dusty, funky, leather on the nose, there’s something very old-school about this bottling. Semi-sweet dark chocolate, cuban espresso, more of the dusty funky leather on the palate. More of the same in the aftertaste, nutty semi-sweet chocolate and a touch of burnt caramel. Overall: If you ever needed an example of ‘they don’t make it like they used to’ this is a prime one. An utterly bonkers combination of quality in malt and cask profile. A near flawless sherried Speyside exemplar. I want more of this. I want more of this! Now! Value: N/A; Sample from friend Charu. Bottled in 2016 it was during the era of different prices for alcohol so it wasn’t all that expensive so any original price to value is no longer relevant.
https://www.whiskyba … 7/glenrothes-1997-sv
Score: A+

Glenrothes 19, Wemyss Malts: “Italian Bakery Delight”, 46%
A departure from sherried examples above. This is yet another Glenrothes 1997, this time by Wemyss malts. This one was aged in what looks like refill bourbon. It’s color is rather pale yellow. Vanilla and apple/pear medley on the nose, a touch of nuttyness and fresh rain smell. Light bodied palate, more of the same from the nose. The malt savoriness plays well with the cask here. A nice double aftertaste starts with neutral vanilla custard and ends with a touch of pepper and bitter walnut that rises up from the back. It’s a fairly short but intense pop of flavor that is surprisingly welcome. Overall: This reminds me of a spiced custard that was made without any sugar. The custard image to some extent does evoke the italian bakery. An enjoyable proposition in the bottle. Unfortunately, the nearly-spent reused bourbon cask makes this a mix of excellent and forgettable. Fantastically refreshing summer pour, it’s forgettable during colder months. A welcome hug from a relative you haven’t seen in a long time and won’t be seeing again. This doesn’t ‘pop’ for me. This is as ‘good’ as it gets, without being ‘great’. A quintessential drinker that is enjoyable and doesn’t require a science degree to analyze. Value: Retailing at ~$150 this is… an average value for the distillery and age, bordering on a below average back in 2016 era.
https://www.whiskyba … 6/glenrothes-1997-wy
https://whiskeyrevie … cotch-review-081717/
Score: B+

Glenrothes 16, K&L SP, Old Particular, 57.2%
A more modern Glenrothes here, this time bottled by Old Particular for K&L wines and aged in sherry butt. I’m also fairly sure I have a bottle of this. Somewhat savoury sherry character and toasted woods dominate the nose and the dried fruits are playing secondary fiddles here. Oranges and chocolate are the primary flavors of the palate. Long, generously spiced, lightly numbing, peppery, yet very sweet aftertaste follows and really brings that orange chocolate liquor theme home. Overall: Did I mention this the ‘modern’ sherried scotch interpretation? A straightforward, consistent and ‘modern sherry’ cask-dominant profile is the king here. This isn’t old dusty sherry though, this is young and syrupy one. There are still plenty of flavors and depth but it’s very different beast from the old school examples. I’d still very much enjoy drinking this nonetheless. There’s something attractive in the combination of straight-forwardness and simultaneous abundance of flavors here. Value: At $119 … It’s alright in this day and age.
Score: A

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

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Bainbridge, Laws Rye, Bardstown Ferrand, NULU Double Oaked, Dry Fly, Bourbon and Rye

Definitely a mixed bag here. As usual catching up

A friend Rohan shared some American Wheat Whiskey from Bainbridge Distillery with me. They are located in Seattle WA. Some of my impressions are below going off memory on these.

Bainbridge Barbados (Rum) Cask — N/A years — 43% — Score: C — Drinkable, yet very forgettable. Any rum influence is lost. If anything the extra rum cask finish may be giving it a bit of a astringent note.
Bainbridge Maple Syrup Cask — N/A years — 43% — Score: B — Sweet, dessert-y and enjoyable. Not overly complicated but sometimes you don’t need anything complicated.
Bainbridge Battle Point Cask Proof — N/A years — 67.3% — Score: B- — I cannot recall anything about this. It’s that ‘memorable’. The high proof is a plus and base spirit is likely same as the others. The score is provisional.

Bainbridge Mizunara Cask, Cask Proof, 67.58%
This is a 100% Wheat whiskey, distilled in Seattle WA. distillery and aged in Mizunara Oak casks. Likely aged around 6 years. The nose is pure vanilla with a touch of green woodyness. It invokes images of sugar cookies throughout. The palate is sweet, with more vanilla notes dominating. Alcohol is quite prominent, bringing warm notes to the palate. Several fresh wood notes remain, bringing some balance and relief to initial hit of sweetness. A veritable cornucopia of baking spices follows with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves leading the charge into the medium length aftertaste. Overall: This is a reasonably enjoyable and layered bottling, that requires some time and contemplation to really enjoy and appreciate the flavors. Considering that this is a wheat whiskey, it’s certainly not for every bourbon drinker but it still stands on its own. Value: Priced at $150 and being a distillery-only limited edition this is… still a high price tag to swallow blindly. Though perhaps palatable based on exclusivity for the fans of distillery or fans of wheat whiskeys.
Score: B+

Sagamore Rye Single Cask — 8 years — 55.7% — Score: B — A Sagamore Rye. It’s a drinkable, flavorful, mildly spiced rye. Same style as the other Sagamore I’ve reviewed in the past…

Laws Rye 5 years, K&L SiB #504, 61.75%
This mash bill is called San Lois Valley Rye. And it’s an interested one to try. The nose is all chocolate with alcohol and not many places to hide. The palate has an oddly ‘dusty’ undertone, with notes of pine, chocolate, alcohol again, lot of baking spice. The aftertaste goes right down the chocolate malt stout beer path suggesting a strong presence of malted rye grain in the mashbill. Water helps a little bit with taking the edge off. Overall: The experience is extremely unique; feeling like a mix between 95/5 rye, malted rye from Old Potrero and a chocolate porter backed by a stiff proof undertone. Unique and unexpectedly different, it’s likely to be too different for many. This will 100% appear to a narrow segment that loves chocolate porters and malted rye together. Value: It’s great price on sale for $50 and somewhat passable at $75 MSRP.
Score: C+

Bardstown Collaboration Series: Ferrand, 55%
This a blend of 7 and 11 year old Kentucky bourbon aged in Ferrand (cognac) Casks for 8 months. Note: Ferrand and Bardstown are owned by the same company. This is very nutty on the nose… and there’s only one standout nutty producer in Kentucky (*cough*Beam*cough*). Thankfully with time some of the nuttiness from the nose fades into more of a toasted granola notes. Even still this reminds me of a peanut butter and chocolate granola bar on the nose. The palate is strongly floral, fruity solidly grounded… bourbon. Light nuttyness remains but it plays well with the floral notes. It’s notable that vanilla or wood notes do not overwhelm here, sweet baking spices, stewed dark fruits. vanilla rounds everything off. The finish brings some cinnamon into the game mostly continuing notes from the palate by replacing vanilla but keeping everything else mostly same. Overall: I’m torn here. This is hard to hate but also not quite easy to love without already being a fan of Beam products. Yet, the addition of cognac finish makes it not quite typical bottling from the distillery but something rather different. It’s floral, somewhat nutty, it’s sweet, it’s not over-wooded. It goes WONDERFULLY with a tiny piece of ice, opening up those floral notes. Value: Eeeeh, Bardstown is overpriced. This was like $140… For a finished 7-11 year old blend… that’s not a good deal. I wouldn’t have paid it blindly.
Score: B

NULU Double Oaked Bourbon, El Cerrito SP, 58%
It’s MGP, finished for 6 months in a fresh cask. The nose is a caramelized sugar and vanilla bomb in a good way. The palate is sugar, vanilla, alcohol bomb with a touch of spice in a good way. The aftertaste is all sugar with baking spice, in this case leaning towards cinnamon, in a good way. There’s a healthy amount of charred wood in the flavor mix, yet it doesn’t make it overly woody, but balances the extra sweetness well. Overall: This is a dessert version of a typical MGP bourbon with extra vanilla and sugar coming from the secondary aging. Sweet, vanilla-forward and reasonably uncomplicated. It’s tasty enough to keep on the backburner for that one-note dessert pour. Value: Total Wine has a similar bottle at $105… which isn’t all that of a bargain to be honest for a likely 5-6 year MGP distillate.
Score: B

Dry Fry Whiskey, K&L SP, Specialty Barrel #306, 72.05%
This bottling is from Spokane Washington Dry Fly distillery. Subtitled O’Danagher’s Hibernian whiskey, which roughly translates to be a four grain bourbon. I’ll also note the 72% abv which is usually way too hot for my palate. Sweet vanilla and toasted wood are the main notes on the nose. Then come aromatic baking spices and a touch of varnish from the cask char. The palate starts off sweet, then becomes somewhat funky, finishing off with a spice avalanche that rolls into the aftertaste. Wood varnish, toasted sugar and vanilla that is noticeably diminishing from the nose, alcohol that is well-tempered by 9 years in a cask, a touch of grain funk. This drinks like something that’s about 130 proof, solidly 15 proof points below it’s stated value. Aftertaste is all cinnamon, ginger and sichuan pepper numbness, likely from the proof that is well hidden here. Overall: Utterly different, utterly drinkable, very enjoyable. There’s not too much going on in the glass but it doesn’t need to be. Value: I’ll admit that I’ve bought it on a whim when it went on sale for $44 and at that point it was very worth it. Original price of $60 that is still very acceptable for a 9 year old single cask in the current market.
Score: B+

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