Dec 20, 2014

Old Rip Van Winkle 15yo...

Old Rip Van Winkle 15yo (53.5%): Now, this is a fascinating bourbon to write about... The so called "barrel bottle" sitting on my desk is an Old Rip Van Winkle 15 year old. It is a long gone expression and replaced with Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old in 2004. What makes this whiskey so special for me though is not that it disappeared from the shelves ten years ago but the fact that it is distilled in legendary Stitzel Weller Distillery... Stitzel Weller is a distillery which has the same effect (if not more) on bourbon lovers like Port Ellen has among Scotch enthusiasts. It is a lost distillery which stopped distilling in 1992 after being purchased by Diageo and since then whenever a cask leaves their warehouses for whatever reason (if there are any left...) it creates a small scale mass hysteria among collectors. I have to admit that I got incredibly lucky with this one. Our friend Dave Russo showed up with this bottle in his hand for an American Whiskey tasting we did back in September and somehow I managed to steal the last drops left in it to bring back home after. And now this weekend it is time to say "Happy Holidays to Me..!" Color: Dark amber with a dark orange hue. Nose: Creamy and viscous. Maraschino cherries, strawberry/apricot marmalade and some sweet smoke. Mexican flan and toffee. Water brought up sugar cookie dough and toasted wood aromas. This is such an incredible nose... Palate: A little hot without water. Oak, bitter cinnamon and burnt caramel. Just a few drops of water work like magic: Marzipan, honey rock candies and baklava syrup. Finish: Long(ish) with a slight turn towards salty notes: Roasted pine nuts, salted almonds and cinnamon. Overall: What can I say? It is the best bourbon I tasted this year... So light, elegant but old and complex at the same time. It is sweet, creamy, fruity and so well balanced in every sense of the word it almost feels fragile. I also love the burnt and smoky notes of bourbons from 70's and 80's. Such a unique signature. It almost noses and tastes like pie crust burnt and stuck at the bottom of the skillet. I don't remember getting so much from this dram when I first tasted it back in September after a few cask strength younger bourbons we had on the table. Now with a clean palate it tastes absolutely heavenly... I am still nosing my empty glass. Many many thanks again to Dave Russo for letting me to keep the bottle.

Dec 17, 2014

Parker's Heritage 2014 Release...

Parker's Heritage 2014 Release 13yo Wheat Whiskey (63.4%): This year Heaven Hill pump-faked all the Parker's Heritage Collection fans with their first non-bourbon release: It is a thirteen year old wheat whiskey from the very first batches of Bernheim Original dating back to 2000. The mash bill contains mostly wheat with small percentages of corn and malted barley. The casks are aged on the top floors of Heaven Hill's Rickhouse Y. $5 from each bottle go to ALS Association. It is bottled at cask strength and unfiltered. Color: Deep red-orange amber, cognac like. Nose: Pretty much muted at this abv but I can get some vanilla, thick wool scarf and allspice aromas. Very chalky and dusty. Adding water immediately helps: Chestnut honey, grape soda, salted butter and warm apple pie. Palate: Very very hot on the palate without water. It hurts... Toasted oak and burnt skillet pie crust. No need to try more. First notes after adding water are more wood, unsweetened cranberry juice and tart cherry rhubarb pie. I expected a sweeter whisky but not at all. Subtle cinnamon, black pepper and red gummy bears.  Finish: It is long even after I cut it nearly to the half of its proof. A consistent and sizzling burn with jalapeno and cherry coke notes. Overall: No surprises here. It tastes exactly like an older Bernheim Original. It's not a very adventurous release (Deep inside I might be hoping for it, but well...) and definitely not a batch which will frustrate the PHC fans who were waiting for another bourbon this year. It's as close as a wheat whiskey can get to the bourbon profile without losing its characteristics. It's hard to find around since it sells out very quick every year and it's on the very expensive side of the spectrum as far as American whiskey goes to be honest but if you see it somewhere on the shelf it's definitely worth to try. It's holiday season after all and this bottle fits perfectly well to the concept...

Dec 15, 2014

Glenfarclas 15yo...

Glenfarclas 15yo (46.0%): Another whisky from last week's sherry matured Scotch whiskies line-up Dave Russo put together for us. That night this bottle was my clear favorite among all of the drams we tasted and I saved a sample bottle to bring back home to taste for a review. Let's see how I will feel after spending a little more time with it. So far I know (sadly) 15yo Glenfarclas is not offered as a part of the distillery's portfolio here in the States but in Europe. Color: Rich amber, clear orange blossom honey. Nose: Spearmint Altoids, rose water and clover honey cookies. Light peat, sticky toffee pudding and muscovado sugar. Adding water brings up more floral notes: Honeysuckle and hyacinths. Palate: Dry sherry, allspice and shortbread cookies. Toasted oak, roasted almonds and charcoal barbecue. We lost the texture a little bit with water but it's kind of worth it: Dry black garden soil, malt, fresh walnuts and peat. Finish: Long(ish) with melted butter, sugar cookie dough, soot and crystallized ginger. Overall: Yummy dram.... Exactly how I remembered. Not soaked in sherry and not super sweet. Incredibly balanced with equal amount of fruity and floral notes. It is a doughy and malty whisky finished with hint of salt and peat sprinkles. I deeply appreciate sherry finished whiskies like this: dry, still vibrant and exciting. Highly recommended, especially to European readers who actually can find this bottle around. Thanks to Dave Russo for the sample.