Feb 16, 2017

Roknar Minnesota Rye Whiskey...

Roknar Minnesota Rye Whiskey (47.0%): I have been introduced to Far North Spirits and to their line-up just a few weeks ago by Robin Robinson and Cheri Reese. The distillery is founded by Cheri Reese and Micheal Swanson in Skane Township, Minnesota. It is a farm to bottle distillery sourcing all the grains from the fields around the distillery except the malted barley which they buy from an outside vendor. Even the barrels are purchased from a cooperage within the borders of Minnesota. Cheri was amazingly kind enough to send me the samples from their entire portfolio and I will start today with the bottle I am most curious of: Roknar Minnesota Rye whiskey. It is distilled from a mash-bill of 80% rye, 10% corn and 10% malted barley, aged in 15 gallon casks for a year and finished in sherry and Cognac casks later. By the way you have to take a second to look at their entire line-up when you have chance... The photo you see below won't do the justice. Visit their website and spend some time. These bottles look absolutely gorgeous...

Color: Medium amber with an orange hue.

Nose: A little mute in the beginning. A minute of airing helps: Orange blossom honey, fennel seeds, beeswax. Rubber bands, green haystacks and toasted wood. Nutmeg, planed lumber and freshly varnished hardwood furniture. Milk chocolate pudding when it's still warm and heavy cream. Reminds me the winter weekends I used to spend in upstate New York: Snow, fire place, morning hikes in the woods and that bone freezing but beautiful breeze.

Palate: Much more interesting than the nose... Mostly thin in texture but sweet and spicy with vanilla, cloves and molasses. Allspice, burnt rice pudding and cinnamon dusting... Powdered ginger, anise and green oak. Very similar taste profile with the other small cask matured North American whiskies but it is somehow calmer, more balanced and definitely less edgy. Dry carrot cake, watered down Greek baklava syrup and chocolate milk. Liking it...

Finish: Short with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Overall: I think that it is a very well crafted whiskey. Like I said above it is very young and spirity but it is definitely showing a great potential for aging longer and aging also in bigger size casks. It also grows in you... Since the first time I tasted it a couple days ago I had it a few more times and actually sipping it now while I am editing my notes and it tastes better and better every time. Great fall/winter dram... Thanks a lot to Cheri Reese for the official sample. No need to add any water for my two cents by the way. It is bottled at a perfect abv and you don't want to thin out the texture more than now it is anyway.

Price: $45

Feb 13, 2017

Amrut Double Cask...

Amrut Double Cask (46.0%): And the second Amrut sample I received within this week... Amrut Double Cask is a marriage of two single casks. First one is a 7 year old ex-bourbon barrel (#3451) and the other one is a six year old PX Sherry butt (#3802), both filled with unpeated spirits. Some of you might remember the legendary first release of Amrut Double Cask from 2010 but I wasn't lucky enough to taste it back then. If I didn't miss anything between now and then this one should be the 2nd edition from the distillery under the same label.

Color: Medium amber, orange blossom honey.

Nose: I can feel the PX cask dominating on the nose... Bitter chocolate, cherry coke and dried cranberries. Zante currants, damson plums and ripe Black Mission figs. Dusty and slightly ashy... A little of aged Slivovitz. Noses like a younger spirit than it is actually. Adding water lifted ex-bourbon barrel aromas up a notch. Vanilla, burnt sugar and grilled pineapple rings. Oak and maple syrup.

Palate: Very dry... Ex-bourbon barrel takes the lead on the palate. Toasted new oak, allspice and ground cloves. It made me think of micro barrel aged North American bourbons immediately. Odd... A lot of young toasted wood and Middle Eastern spices. Cumin, cinnamon and cardamom. Some black garden soil, prunes and Christmas spice mix. Adding water works great: Nutmeg, cinnamon and freshly ground black pepper. Still dusty and chalky but in a very good way. Some Armagnac notes to enjoy as well... I am so curious now where they sourced the ex-bourbon barrel from. I would love to know if it is the Indian climate or the origin of the barrel causing this particular micro-barrel(esque) taste profile.

Finish: Medium long with cinnamon and cloves mainly. Some white pepper and eucalyptus drops.

Overall: Limited Amrut expressions are nothing but surprises... Right now when I was getting ready to taste a sherry dominated profile after what I got from the nose initilally it hit me with a dry and spicy new craft bourbon palate instead. I know the label says "barrel" for the size of the ex-bourbon cask used for the vat but it taste so much like a small cask matured American bourbon. If you are a fan of craft bourbons with a lot of wood influence and spices you will absolutely fall in love with this bottle. Thanks again to Raj Sabharwal and PVI Global for the sample.

Price: $180

Feb 11, 2017

Amrut Rye Single Malt...

Amrut Rye Single Malt (46.0%): Now this is a label which would make SWA go nuts if it was bottled in Scotland... But at the end the whisky is distilled from 100% malted rye, so technically it is a single malt. Amrut distilled this whisky from 100% malted European rye grain and then aged it exclusively in new American oak barrels. Since I heard about this whisky last September from Raj Sabharwal of PVI Global fame I was waiting for this day to come... Now the sample is on my desk and cannot wait for another second more to pour it in my glass.

Color: Dark amber, chestnut honey.

Nose: Rye it is... But definitely a less spicy more fruity nose compared to its cousins from New World. Stewed prunes, ripe mangos and baked pineapple chunks. Fruit cake right after you take it out of the oven, raisin-rye muffins and dense German rye bread. A couple of water drops open it for cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Black currant jam and fig paste... I have to move on but cannot stop nosing. Like walking around in an exotic food market somewhere far away... You simply don't want to leave.

Palate: Now this is unexpected... Not a rye palate I am used to get from any other rye whisky. A parade of ripe tropical fruits: Guava, mango, papaya, you name it... Apricot compote, hot cocoa milk, oozing caramel and hazelnut pralines. Molasses and golden raisins. With a few drops of water the syrupy texture thins out a little and it gets spicier and less fruity. Zaatar, cumin, star anise, nutmeg and Zante currants. Hell of a palate...

Finish: Medium long... And tart... First time I remember experiencing tartness so pronounced on the finish of a whisky. Freshly squeezed lemon juice, quince paste and pomegranate molasses.

Overall: If this was a blind tasting I would put all my money on this being a rye whisky right after I start nosing but then probably would have second thoughts in seconds: Can it be a very old Irish blend? But after taking a sip I would change my mind completely again and bet on it being an old sherry cask matured Scotch grain whisky... Impossible to categorize... It is so different than anything else I tasted before from nose to finish and this is the pure beauty of it. Amrut is not only releasing a new expression here but creating a brand new category for my two cents... It is an amazingly well balanced, layered and damn tasty but completely different at the same time. Inspirational and innovational work... It might be my favorite expression from the distillery since Amrut 100. They should be very proud of themselves. I hope Amrut will continue to play with rye and maybe with some other grains as well in the future. They apparently know something we don't know there and they better use this knowledge for creating more whiskies like this. Kudos to Amrut and thanks to Raj Sabharwal for the sample. Next review will be Amrut Double Cask.

Price: $180