Jun 28, 2013

Blend Project #6 White Horse...

White Horse (40.0%): I remember my grandparents being deeply involved in politics throughout seventies. They simply loved to discuss and argue about, watch every debate, TV show and follow columnists on the newspapers. The symbol of the political party they were supporting was a White Horse. All my parents' friends and our relatives used to bring them the little white horses taken from the necks of the White Horse bottles as a joke. So, needless to say they had quite a collection... That's how I first got aware of the brand almost 35 years ago. The whisky contains 6/10 grain and 4/10 malt whiskies in the blend and the heart of the malt component supposed to be Lagavulin and Linkwood. The blend is distributed worldwide and a bottle costs just a little more than $20 in US depending in which state you are. A great value blend to review for our blend project. Too bad that they don't have the little white horses around the bottle's neck anymore though... Color: Pretty generic caramel coloring, clear medium amber. Nose: They were not kidding about Lagavulin. Young peaty Islay malt aromas with sweet oatmeal cookies and bartlett pears. Young grain whisky almost like white spirit and fresh cut grass. It very much reminded me the Black Bottle minus the salt. Palate: Grain whiskies are more dominate on the palate. Damp garden soil, subtle vanilla and cookie dough. Purple basil, parsley and fresh sage leaves. Thin but smooth and velvety mouthfeel with very pleasing honey notes. Finish: Longer than anybody would expect but I mostly give it to the young grain whiskies in the blend. Overall: It is a whisky showing all the mediocre characteristics of its price range but I really liked the old fashioned feel and peatiness of the blend. It is a decent whisky nobody can complain about after paying only twenty bucks and change. It's not my favorite one in the blend project so far but surely secured its place above some others.

And before I finish the post (sorry, I couldn't resist...):

If you're gonna ride
The white, white horse...

Jun 24, 2013

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac 2011...


Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey (2011 release) (64.3%): Another rare release from Buffalo Trace's "Antique Collection" which recently won the 2013 Whisky of the Year Award of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. The whiskey is named after Mr. Thomas H. Handy who owned The Sazerac Company back in 19th century in New Orleans and created the classic Sazerac cocktail by replacing French brandy with American rye whiskey in the recipe. The whiskey is bottled at 64.3%. Color: Dark amber with a pinkish gleam. Nose: In spite of its high abv. the nose delivers a lot even before we add water: Vanilla, sweet damp tobacco leaves, pencil shavings and old decomposing leather upholstery. Adding water starts the crazy parade of aromas. Cinnamon, allspice, cloves, golden raisins soaked in brandy and star anise. Actually this nose reminds me a young but very fine Armagnac. Burnt scrapings of a skillet apple pie and heavily toasted oak staves. It gets sweeter after allowing it air a little bit with coconut, spearmint and milk chocolate. Palate: First the alcohol burn numbs my mouth with charcoal dustiness but then water brings up cinnamon, dried unsweetened sour cherries and tart red berries notes. Over-brewed Russian blend black tea, caramelized brown sugar and burnt cranberry shortbread cookies. Truly amazing... Finish: Waiting for at least three minutes here but still can feel the tingling on my tongue: basically endless... Very dry with white pepper, heavily roasted pine nuts, thyme, eucalyptus leaves and charcoal ash. Overall: Wow, it will take some time to get back to my senses. It added literally a brand new layer both to the nose and the palate with every drop of water added throughout the tasting. What an astonishingly complex and multi-layered whiskey..! Airing helps as much as adding water to develop new notes on the nose and on the palate like a fine aged French brandy. It is definitely one of the best whiskies I have tasted this year. I don't know if you still can find a bottle anywhere but if you spot one on a shelf grab it right away...

Jun 21, 2013

Blend Project #5: Johnnie Walker Black Label...

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yo (40.0%): Number  five in our blend project is the celebrated JW Black Label... Ok, I know I am bending the rules here a little bit. It is not an entry level blend and it is slightly more expensive than the other whiskies got reviewed in blend project (still less than $40 though...) but since I already covered JW Red Label from Johnnie Walker range I thought I can make an exception. I actually have to admit that I always had a soft spot for JW Black Label. For  years and years it had been my go to dram and I always tried to keep a bottle at home back in the days. So, it will be fun to revisit my old friend. Color: Dark amber, old copper. Nose: Peach melba, dried Turkish apricots, tung oil and dried cranberries. Very gentle ocean spray, fresh cut grass, salted butter and orange blossoms. With water addition it gets very floral: magnolia flowers and rose petals. Absolutely beautiful... Palate: It is not as multi-layered as the nose and has a very thin mouthfeel but it incredibly silky. Aged corn whisk(e)y and subtle but comforting peat, fireplace ash. I wanted to say warm apple pie but it less sweet than that, more like apfelstrudel. Cinnamon, cloves and some allspice. Adding water makes it even more watery. I wouldn't go there. Finish: Fast and steep downward slope but with some good amount of vanilla, butter and cinnamon notes. The blend showing its age here. Overall: It is a fine blend, no doubt about it. Very easy to drink, solid and incredibly well balanced. I have to say it's a little too thin and watery for my palate. Also definitely more floral, more cereal and less peaty than I remember. I don't think that the formula has changed in years probably my palate did. Anyway at the end: Worth every penny! Still one of my favorite budget blends and one of the strong candidates for the top five of our blend project.

Jun 19, 2013

Blend Project #4 Grant's The Family Reserve...

Grant's The Family Reserve (40.0%): Although Grant's Family Reserve is very popular all over Europe especially in UK and Scotland we don't see it very often in bars across US. It is one of the bottles which started my interest in low shelf blends last summer in London and was also one of my favorites. The brand is owned by William Grant & Sons who has Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Kininvie malt whisky and Girvan grain whisky distilleries in their portfolio. The whisky is first introduced by William Grant himself in 1898 and now it is blended by Master Blender Brian Kinsman. It comes with an unbelievable price tag of $20 - $25. Color: Yellow gold, like polished brass. Nose: Quince jam, prunes and orange peel. Sweet malt, corn bread with melting butter on and cloves. Barely detectable fire place smoke. A splash of water added some nice peppermint and odd rubbery aromas. Palate: Pretty watery but flavorful. Diner style carrot cake, baked barley pudding with cloves and cinnamon dusting on. In spite of its low abv actually a few drops of water improves the palate. It adds some texture and gives it a creamier body with honey, brown sugar and cereal notes. Surprisingly enjoyable. Finish: Fast and short. Sudden death with malty and grainy sweetness. Overall: This is my kind of a blend... Smooth, easy going, not complicated but not bland... Would go great with a flat British Ale. It would make me very happy to see this bottle on the shelf of any bar I walk in. My favorite so far in our blend project...

Jun 17, 2013

Blend Project #3 Johnnie Walker Red Label...

Johnnie Walker Red Label (40.0%): A blend that doesn't need a long introduction. It is the third whisky of our blend project, the best-selling whisk(e)y all around the world and probably the most famous whisky bottle ever designed. Johnnie Walker Red Label carries no age statement, is bottled at 40% abv. and has a price tag of $23 - $28. Color: Medium amber. Actually it is the perfect definition of caramel coloring. Nose: Wowza..! Didn't expect that it will be that harsh. Very young and aggressive grain spirit fumes filled all my nostrils burning its way in. I had to take a break for a few minutes...  Now the alcohol is partially gone and I could get some lemon zest, golden raisins and faint peat aromas. Mineral spirits, a little bit dry gin and also cheap molasses based rum. Adding water helps a lot to bring down the unpleasant alcohol burn. I have to say that the first sniff threw me off pretty bad though. Palate: Lemon juice, toffee candy, plastic ziplock containers and some dusty soot. Everything is still enveloped with young alcohol notes. A few drops of water make it definitely more palatable. Finish: Burnt plastic, hot citrus-honey flavored cold remedy and water forgotten for a long time in Sigg bottleOverall: Sorry, not my cup of tea... I don't think that this blend can be enjoyed neat or just with a few drops of water. Maybe with a lot of ice or in mixed drinks... If I am not mistaken it supposed to have some Talisker and/or Caol Ila in but I couldn't get any of those notes. Chivas Regal 12 is still leading our blend project. Looking forward to the fourth blend...

Jun 14, 2013

Nikka All Malt...

Nikka All Malt (40.0%): I am taking a break of the blend project today and reviewing a blended malt from Nikka. It is a blend of whiskies distilled in two different distilleries owned by Yoichi Company one using traditional pot stills and the other one coffey stills. Basically it is a dram which could be easily Scotch Whisky Association's nightmare if somebody would try to bottle it in Scotland. Scotch Whisky Regulations do not allow whiskies distilled in a continuous stills to be labeled as "malt whisky". So, technically this whisky would be called a blended whisky instead of a blended malt even if the grain used in the coffey stills is 100% malted barley. Anyway, the whisky is Japanese, not Scotch; problem solved... Thanks to Teresa Hartmann for the generous sample. Color: Deep amber with slow and thick legs. Nose: Red bartlett pears, cold peach compote and cinnamon. Polished hard wood or more like wood treated with Danish oil. Caramelized brown sugar, hard pecan brittle and hint of smoke. Water brings up some grain whisky notes (even though we know there is none in there) with cloves, nutmeg and burnt corn syrup. Palate: Sweet but definitely less sweet than the nose suggested. Very malty with white pepper, ripe peaches and roasted walnut notes. Light pipe tobacco, golden raisins and toasted oak. Even with a few drops of water it got too watery, kind of lost its charm. At least for me... Finish: Warming with brown sugar, raisins and cloves. Overall: Pretty easy going whisky for people who like sweet(ish) whiskies. After tasting Nikka's Coffey Grain and Nikka's Coffey Malt whiskies before I admit my expectations were a little too high but if you think the price category All Malt is competing in I know that it's not so fair. It is a good tasting whisky for about $45 but I would prefer Nikka from the Barrel instead in that price range. Cute bottle with those love handles by the way...

Jun 12, 2013

Blend Project #2: Chivas Regal 12yo...

Chivas Regal 12yo (40.0%): The second whisky of our blend project is Chivas 12. Although Chivas Regal blends are known as luxury blends all over the world because of their consistent and successful advertising campaigns throughout the decades you can actually get a bottle of Chivas 12yo around $30 - $40 in US. It is also a very common blend you can come across in almost every bar especially in Europe. Color: Clear flawless amber, like a nicely polished copper coin. Nose: Milk chocolate, honey and some sea spray. Am I really getting some Scapa nose here or is it just a manipulated guess? Very gentle, fruity and light. Subtle smoke, spearmint, gummi bears and peaches. Way less offensive than some other entry level blends. No young spirit burn at all, very calm. Water brought up some grain whisky and cereal aromas which were missing in the mix. Palate: Thin and light. Mint leaves, vanilla, Flan Catalan, zante currants, roasted peeled almonds and oatmeal cookies. A few drops of water add some pleasant eucalyptus, sea salt and orange blossom honey notes. Finish: Short(ish) with white pepper and more eucalyptus notes. Overall: I think no one can argue that it is a pretty impressive whisky in its own league. As far as I am concerned it beats Dewars White Label in this price range. Again it doesn't have any quality to make it special or unforgettable but it is a very smooth, easy going and light dram. It would definitely benefit from a slightly higher abv level. So... As now Chivas 12yo is our leading blend in the blend project. I have to admit that this series is being more fun than I thought it is going to be. Cannot wait for the next one...

Jun 10, 2013

Blend Project #1: Dewar's White Label...

Dewar's White Label (40.0%): So, let's start the blend project of the summer I was talking about earlier on the blog. I don't know how many I will manage to try but I am hoping to come up with a list of my favorite bottom shelf blends. The plan is learning enough about the entry level blended scotch whiskies to be able to order one right away after taking a short glimpse at the shelves of any bar around the world. So, let's get it started with a classic: Dewar's White Label. It is the entry level blend of Dewar's. Especially in US you can probably find this dram almost in every bar. A bottle costs around $25-$30 in retail stores. Color: Nice, light and clear amber with surprisingly visible legs. Nose: Very young grain whisky notes jump out of the glass right into your nose. Not in a good way, almost like a citrus flavored vodka. After airing it a few minutes it settles a little and allows me to nose other stuff. Lemon juice and apricot scented hand lotion. Very thin flower honey, maybe corn syrup and peach sorbet. Adding water made it smell like lemon fresh Formula 409Palate: Hmm, didn't expect this creamy mouthfeel. Explains the legs around the glass. Still getting the harshness of young grain whisky though. Lemon zest, honey, underripe donut peaches and pine needles. I have to say the palate is much better than the nose. Adding water made it thin and kind of unpleasant. Finish: Medium long with very faint black pepper notes. Overall: Not my kind of a nose but the palate evened it out a little in the course of tasting. It misses something to make it memorable, something edgy. It's too flat... Since it is my first dram in the project I have nothing to compare it with and right now I don't see it making my top five but I am pretty sure I wouldn't say no to it when offered (I think). I might refer it to in later reviews.