Mar 31, 2014

Whistle Pig 10yo...

Whistle Pig 10yo Straight Rye Whiskey (50.0%): Next sample from the #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket is Whistle Pig 10yo, 100% straight rye whiskey. After its launch back in 2010 Whistle Pig created quite a buzz among whisky people about the unknown (hidden) origins of the spirit in the bottle. The controversy continued for a long time but I think it is mostly settled these days... The brand owner Raj Bhakta finally admitted officially that the whisky is distilled by Canada's Alberta Distillers and everybody calmed down a little. Very first releases of this whisky were all matured in Canada but so far I know the latest bottling have at least four years of aging at Whistle Pig Farm in Vermont. Whistle Pig also announced that they have a business plan for the near future to contract different distilleries both in US and Canada for new make rye spirits to age exclusively on theri own property in Vermont but for the moment what we have in the bottle is 100% Canadian whisky. If you want to learn more in detail about the story of Whistle Pig you should take a look at the latest post of Davin De Kergommeaux at Whisky Advocate Blog. Now if you don't mind I would like to jump ahead and taste the whisky. Color: Orange blossom honey, polished copper. Nose: Very floral first: Heather, wildflower honey, lavender and jonquils. After allowing it air a little, toasted oak staves, toffee and butterscotch aromas emerge. Adding water releases some beautiful bubblegum and spearmint aromas as well. Palate: More vegetal and herbal you would expect after that massive floral nose. Pine nuts, rosemary and oregano. Belgian endives, dandelion leaves, fresh green banana peppers and dried parsley leaves. Water adds some confectioners sugar and sweetened sap gum but also makes the mouth feel a little thinner. Finish: Medium long with toasted wood and cracked green pepper corns. Overall: Since I first tasted this dram back in 2010 I liked it very much and I still do but to be honest I also always had an issue with its price tag. I still think that it is hard to justify the $70 price, no matter how good the juice in the bottle is. Probably that's why I never owned a bottle. I am looking forward to see the changes in future releases though. It will be a fun thing to follow how the whisky will change after spending more and more time in Vermont and also with the new contracts Whistle Pig is planning to have. 

Mar 29, 2014

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004...

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 (43.3%): Evan Williams Single Barrel is one of my favorite yearly releases... Not that hard to find and moderately priced. This year my bottle's barrel number is 43. The spirit inside is distilled on May 4th, 2004 and bottled on November 6th, 2013. Actually it is sad to see that the retailers are pushing the price a little higher with every new release. It is getting more and more attention with the growing interest in whiskey and to be honest it is not a well kept secret anymore after all. But it is still worth the money even with the price tag more like in mid thirties instead of high twenties like it is used to be. Heaven Hill Distilleries released this single barrel expression every year since 1996. Color: Dark amber, chestnut honey. Nose: Maple syrup, orange bitters and pipe tobacco. Vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, dark molasses and chocolate covered salted caramels. Actually it noses like a fine Armagnac. Palate: Dark brown muscovado sugar, candied pecans and charcoal. Aged dry rum, a little anise and coriander seeds. Pine forest honey and some lavender. Finish: Toasted oak staves, cinnamon and thick baklava syrup. Kumquat jam and candied burnt orange peel. Overall: Again a great single barrel release with a great price tag but it is a little bit hot on the palate and finish this year. Apparently this barrel happened to be not as smooth and creamy like the earlier years' barrels, so far I can remember. Don't get me wrong though I liked it very much but if I had the chance to choose one barrel release between last three years' bottling I probably wouldn't make a move towards this one. Anyway, these notes are for barrel #43 and of course there will be differences between the barrels. I am pretty happy with mine and I hope I will have chance to taste some others throughout the year...

Mar 25, 2014

Jim Beam Black...

Jim Beam Black (43.0%): I never quite understood why Jim Beam never makes a big deal about the Black. I admit that I always had a soft spot for Jim Beam Black but I really think that it's one of the best price/value bourbon deals around with its price tag in mid twenties. I don't know why Jim Beam spends all their their time, energy and money trying to promote Devil's Cut, Jacob's Ghost or any other new flavored expressions. I never saw a serious commercial or an ad campaign for Jim Beam Black (not with Mila, with Willem or with Leonardo...) which really baffles me. Odd... On the label of the bottle it says that the spirit is double aged which means that the whiskey in it is eight years old and twice older than their flagship bourbon Jim Beam White. I have a cute wee bottle of Jim Beam Black on my desk tonight for this review. Thank to Joe Howell for the sample. Color: Polished copper, dark amber: Clear and shiny. Nose: Scrapings of a few vanilla beans, creme brulee and sweet corn muffin. Charcoal dying down under the grill soaked with all the barbecue fat and sauces after a long night. Butterscotch, star anise, candied orange peel and rose wood shavings. Adding a few drops of water brings pine needles, rosemary and spruce cones. Palate: Very sweet. Warm corn bread with salted butter melting on. Sweet rye cookies and sticky toffee pudding. Creme caramel, coriander, orange zest and toasted pine wood. A few drops of water did the same piny trick like it did at the nose: raw pine nuts and some pine forest honey. A nice early morning Spring hike in a North Eastern forest. Finish: Long enough to make an impression. Cinnamon, Christmas cake and campfire. Overall: Exactly how I remembered, a truly great bourbon... It gave me a nice Spring and/or Summer feel. Would go amazingly well with barbecue meat, on ice in a hot Summer afternoon with friends or to sip with a chocolaty dessert after dinner. This is the everyday bourbon you were looking for... By the way, I might be being a little skeptical but I have a weird feeling that it is getting harder and harder to find a bottle lately. I used to see it everywhere. Hmmm, maybe I should get a few bottles when I see them on the shelves just in case Jim Beam is getting second thoughts about its future... It is a serious competitor to Knob Creek after all and it is cheaper.

Mar 22, 2014

Canadian Club 15yo...

Canadian Club 15yo (40.0%): Continuing with samples from #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket. We have another Canadian Club expression on the table but this time a 15 years old one. Although this bottling used to be a long time favorite in Europe and Japan it is getting more and more difficult to see on the shelves due to Canadian Club's decision to discontinue the 15yo. It is still available in some markets in Europe but in very limited quantities. Another Canadian whisky filled in an oversized perfume bottle. The original bottle looks like a prop from an 80's TV movie... Color: Dark copper, clover honey. Nose: Creme caramel, lavender and rose wood. Cardboard boxes in the attic and a pile of old glossy magazines in a second hand book shop. Soy sauce and sesame oil. Mild, creamy and old. Palate: Damson plums, persimmon and zante currants. Crispy rye, ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon. It has a distinct salty palate but definitely not coastal. It is more of a salty cheese note; like a creamy and salty sheep's milk cheese. Salted almonds and caramel drops. Finish: Pretty short. Black pepper, allspice and burnt sugar. Overall: A very satisfying and old fashioned dram. I can totally see how some people got hooked on this whisky back in time... It shows its age, it's creamy, warm and full of rye character but not so much adventurous. 15 years in the barrel treated our Canadian Club spirit very well I think but I can see why Canadian Club chose to discontinue this expression. I would also want to use these type old stock whisky maturing in the warehouses to create newer, more exciting and more complex expressions.

Mar 17, 2014

Five bottles to bring back from your vacations that your friends will never ask for...

Strasbourg (Alsace), France
When you travel abroad, it’s kind of customary to bring back a bottle of booze that is identified with the region you visited. Sometimes just because your friends asked for them, sometimes to serve when you are boring everyone to death with your stories and endless slideshows of your vacation. You bring beer from Belgium or wine from France: easy… All purchased from the duty free shop at the last minute. But what if you wanted to bring a bottle which most of your booze lover friends are not familiar with and can create conversation around it? I have a list of my own favorites that I usually purchase when I am traveling for my own liquor cabinet and would like to share a few here just to give you some ideas.

St. Raphael from Alsace, France:  St. Raphael is a fortified wine served as an aperitif or digestif.  It has a secret recipe created by a gentleman named Doctor Juppet dating back to the 1830s and, back in those days, was sold mainly in pharmacies. The formula contains a blend of French wines, quinine, cocoa beans, bitter oranges, vanilla pods and calumba, among other herbs and seeds. It comes in red and white bottlings, often referred to as “twins” in France, depending on the grape varieties used in making them. It is mostly used in cocktails emphasizing its bittersweet qualities, but I really like it chilled with a single cube of ice served to with a rich chocolaty desert.  Despite its big fame and worldwide success after the Second World War, it was forgotten lately, became very hard to find, and disappeared completely around 2010. They even shut down the web presence of the company. Luckily the brand got resurrected within last year under new ownership and slowly is getting easier to find in northern France and Belgium.

Kastellorizo (Megisti), Greece
Metaxa from Greece:  The brand was created at the end of the 19th century by a Greek merchant named Spyros Metaxa.  Contrary to popular belief, standard expressions of Metaxa are not brandies but liqueurs. The process starts with dry white wines from different regions of Greece made both from fresh grapes and raisins. These are distilled and aged in French Limousin oak barrels for a period of time. Then a small amount of rich, sweet muscat wines sourced from Samos and Lemnos islands are blended with the aged spirits and, finally, a secret mix of herbs and floral extracts containing rose petals is added.  This unique process makes Metaxa a liqueur rather than a brandy. The brand has a wide range of products: 3 stars, 5 stars, 7 stars, 12 stars (stars refer to the age of the youngest distillate in the vat) and a Reserve Collection with Metaxa Private Reserve (30 yo) and Aen Metaxa.  Aen Metaxa contains aged spirit sourced from their Cask Number 1 also known as "Spyros Cask", which according to their press release holds some brandy over 80 years old.  It has a rich and syrupy texture with peach compote, candied pecans, Tokaji wine and rose water aromas. The palate is sweet, with chestnut honey, ripe figs and cinnamon. Absolutely the best pairing for your Greek coffee. They are meant to be together.

Montrachet (Burgundy), France
Marc de Bourgogne from Burgundy, France: Like any other wine country, the wine makers from Burgundy also didn’t want to discard the leftovers from the wine making process and decided to distill them. So technically what we have here is a grappa from Burgundy, but with a few differences. The seeds are also crushed and distilled, which adds a distinct bitter note to the palate, and they are aged in French oak barrels. So, because traditionally the good barrels were used mainly to age higher class spirits like Cognac and Armagnac, Marc de Bourgogne barrels used to be tired casks, which had no further use for other spirit producers, or big wine barrels recycled within the winery.  Also, aging for a long period of time wasn’t the idea. Wine makers wanted to have the spirit just mellow enough to make it drinkable, nothing more. So the resulting brandy is a little raw, bold, and has a pretty strong finish. Nowadays it’s possible to find fine aged and high end expressions but I strongly recommend to walk into a café in Burgundy and give a chance to one of the cheap brands made for the working class.

Ajerkoniak from Poland: Now, this is a confusing label... Actually Akerkoniak is the Polish equivalent of Advocaat, which is a Dutch liquor traditionally made from eggs, sugar and brandy but, despite the word “cognac” (koniak) in its name, this Polish version contains vodka instead of brandy as its main ingredient. I know how it sounds, and it requires a lot of convincing to take the first sip for the ones who are not comfortable having some eggs in their glasses, but it is beyond delicious. Some expressions are served with a spoon because it’s so thick and creamy. The liquor has a smooth, velvety mouth feel and the palate is sweet and custardy. Great when it is served a little heated on winter days and also very enjoyable on summer afternoons with an ice cube.

Zagreb, Croatia
Slivovitz from Croatia: I said Croatia since I had so many great nights involving many shots of Slivovitz on Tkalciceva Street in Zagreb, but Slivovitz is identified with almost every Balkan country in the region. Bosnia, Hungary, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania—all have their own versions of Slivovitz and they all share the same pride of naming it as their national drink.  It is basically a brandy distilled from Damson plums, usually bottled un-aged but it is possible to find aged varieties as well.  The uniqueness of the process comes from not removing the kernels of the plums when crushing and pressing and leaving them to ferment with fruit. I personally like the vibrant and young palate of the un-aged expressions with a pint of crisp lager characteristic to the region, and to consume them with a matching speed to the locals (which can end up pretty embarrassing), but sipping the aged ones slowly can be equally satisfactory.

[edited by Teresa Hartmann]

*Originally written for and posted at The Alcohol Professor on March 11th, 2014.

Mar 15, 2014

Highwood Ninety 20yo...

Highwood Ninety 20yo (45.0%): And a much older expression from Highwood Distillers this time... I really liked their 5yo. release I reviewed yesterday but had a few problems with the rushed aging efforts due to overpowering wood influence even at a very young age. Since distilleries didn't have these kind of methods twenty years ago I have very high hopes about this sample. Needless to say this one also comes from my  #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket. Color:  Pretty light in color in spite of its age. Bright light yellow, like white grape juice. Nose: Roasted crispy rye, warm German rye bread, mineral spirits and acetone. Dry and chalky: dried dates, powdered cloves and garam masala. Boiled corn on the cob with melting butter on. Pretty beautiful... Palate: Very creamy mouthfeel. Cotton candy, spearmint Altoids (green can) and kerosene lamp. Near Eastern sweet spice mix: allspice, clove, star anise, cinnamon and mild curry. Nice toasted, not charred oak notes, high end Manhattan cocktail and burnt orange peel. Finish: Long but gentle. Sweet cinnamon syrup, burnt hardwood sticks and thick, old cream sherry. Overall: This is a beautiful whisky. As Canadian and old school as it gets on the nose and on the palate. Masterfully and patiently aged. It's been a true treat. I hope these old barrels didn't get damaged during the flood last Summer. If you are lucky to spot the bottle somewhere you should definitely get it without thinking twice. By the way, kinda off the topic but I would like to start a conversation about Canadian whisky bottles sometime later... What is the story of this crazy late 70's, early 80's aesthetic in bottle designs which took the whole industry in Canada under its influence? When and how did that happen? Any ideas?

Mar 14, 2014

Highwood Ninety 5yo...

Highwood Ninety 5yo (45.0%): And the next sample I pick from the #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket is coming from Highwood Distillery. The distillery is founded in 1974 under the name "Sunnyvale" and was renamed as "Highwood Distillers" in 1984. It is located in the town of High River, Alberta and you might remember the sad news about the distillery getting totally flooded last Summer. The staff had to be rescued by helicopters and the majority of their whisky got washed out by the flood waters. They are recovering slowly but surely and are back to production. The distillery has a huge line-up of whiskies, rums, vodkas, gins, liquors add some other oddities which makes me feel a little worried about the attention and time they spend for their whiskies but they do have a good reputation indeed. Color: Rich yellow gold, oak aged Chardonnay. Nose: Hike on a hot summer day in a stone pine tree forest: young, earthy and fresh. Toasted pine barks under the sun, dried pine cones on the ground and resin gum. Hardwood shavings, shredded tobacco leaves, toasted rye and fire place ash. Palate: Sharp but in a good way, maybe the right word would be vibrant. Rye spiciness, cinnamon sticks, heavily charred oak and roasted pine nuts. Black garden soil, cream soda and barbecued corn on the cob. Finish: Strong but not so long. Anise seeds, paprika, cardamom seeds and toasted oak. Overall: It very much resembles the ultra small barrel experiments of American craft distilleries: strong and dominating wood influence a little overpowers the whole picture but the core of the whisky is still pretty damn good. I have to say that even at this age it is very enjoyable but I cannot stop thinking how this spirit can shine in a bigger or less active barrel when not being rushed. The layers of flavors need to fight hard against the woody notes in this expression. They will win but need more time. I am excited to taste older expressions from the distillery.

Mar 13, 2014

Blend Project #16 Slaintheva 12 yo...

Slaintheva 12 yo (40.0%): This is the last wee bottle from Stephen Mathis stash... As you will remember Stephen from Malt Impostor brought me some awesome samples from Scotland to help my Blend Project a while ago and sadly enough tonight I am sampling the very last one. I couldn't reach any useful information online about Slaintheva except some very very old bottles. I assume it was a popular blend back then. All I know is that the brand is registered by Alexander Dunn & Company Whisky Blenders and the company is based in Edinburgh. Oh, wait a minute... And the label says on its low right corner with the smallest print that it is a 12 year old whisky. Color: Pale yellow, like a Pinot Grigio. Nose: Pretty nice and light. Cavendish bananas, lemon cookie dough and fresh apricots. Flower honey and polished dashboard of a brand new car. Adding water brings rubber tubing, sneaker shop, oranges and dry clay dust. Palate: Touch (tiny, tiny bit) of smoke, lemon zest and musty black garden soil. Water amplifies vegetal notes: green asparagus, barbecued banana peppers, endives and baked potato. Finish: Way longer than you would expect from a cheap blend. Barbecue ash, Sigg water bottles and salty butter. Overall: I liked it... I don't know if ever can see a full bottle of it again or not but it's totally worth to look for. It reminded me of Springbank EIF blends: citrusy and earthy. Great summer time pub whisky... Kind of surprised that I couldn't reach any information about the recent releases of this nice blend but I hope our ways will cross again with it somewhere. Thank you very much for all your help again, Stephen..! 

Mar 10, 2014

Laphroaig 18yo (revisited)...

Laphroaig 18yo (48.0%): It's been nearly three years since I reviewed Laphroaig 18. Last week I uncorked a new bottle at home and when I started to nose it and nose it and nose it and nose it......... You get the picture: I got lost again, very bad. And right after I felt like I should revisit this beautiful dram on tire-bouchon. Any reason to make me spend more time with it... I am actually also curious to see how my notes will differ from last time.. Color: Bright and rich, polished yellow gold. Nose: Lovely Laphroaig nose: Early morning barefoot seaside walk, brand new rubber rain boots, iodine tincture and band aids. If you ever owned a small boat equipped with an outboard motor (9.9 hp) you would immediately know what I am talking about: Your hands would smell exactly like this after you connect your gas tank and use the starter rope to start the engine early in the morning. Kippers, seaweed, wet hemp rope and anise seeds. A few drops of water add lemon juice, banana cream pie and kumquat jam. Palate: Peat is less medicinal more smoky on the palate. Tar, barbecue ash and dark chocolate cacao nibs. Lightly roasted coffee beans and sweet lemon custard. Adding water makes it even mellower and sweeter: Wild flower honey and creamy vanilla pudding. Finish: Long and chalky. Soot, crystallized ginger and charcoal. Overall: I have a feeling that this dram gets better and better in time... It's very hard to say whether the whisky or my palate changed in years but when I check my earlier review I can see that it seems to be slightly less sweet and more phenolic on the palate and lighter in color... Anyway, like I said it is a fantastic whisky. It might be not your everyday dram and need your time and attention when you pour a glass for yourself at home but it sure feels awesome to have a bottle in the whisky cabinet. Many thanks to Simon Brooking for the sample by the way...

Mar 9, 2014

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel...

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel (40%): Another pick from my #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket. According to Davin de Kergommeaux  Caribou Crossing single barrel is the first single-barrel Canadian Whisky released by a major whisky company since the 19th century. Barrels are chosen from the inventory of Sazerac Company and every bottle supposed to have numbers on the packaging to keep track of which bottle is coming from which barrel. Since my wee sample bottle doesn't have that info on its label I can skip that part and start to taste the whisky. Color: Dark yellow gold, rich amber. Nose: Syrupy rye sweetness... Red delicious apples, jonquils and artificial vanilla extract. Eau de vie de pomme, raw almonds and warm sticky toffee pudding. Honeysuckle and damson plums. Adding a few drops of water had an effect like adding freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemon cookies, clementine peel and dry red grapefruit. Palate: Thin and light mouthfeel but very creamy and smooth. Ground cloves, cinnamon and sweet paprika. Sweetened lemon juice, polished laminate countertop, saw dust and corn bread. It's interesting how the nose and the palate are almost at the opposite ends of the spectrum. While the nose was suggesting a juicier and fruitier whisky the palate happened to be more on the spicy and dry side. Adding water thinned the hell out of it but made it to more citrusy. Finish: Not very long. With mellow oak, butter and sweet middle eastern spices. Overall: I really liked it... If all the barrels released are more or less in the same ballpark it's hard not to like this whisky. I wish it was more widely distributed though. Like with the most of the Canadian whiskies don't pay too much attention to the the crazy perfume bottle design. I guarantee that what is inside is pretty good...

Mar 8, 2014

An unofficial tasting of Maltman expressions...

A few days before Julio's Liquors' "Go! Whisk(e)y Weekend" I received an invitation from Brad Jarvis, the brand ambassador of Meadowside Blending to get together for an informal tasting of the Maltman line up. I did have a chance to taste some bottlings before but needless to say I was pretty exciting to taste the rest of the line... That Thursday night we met at Last Hurrah at Omni Hotel. Andrew Hart who is running Meadowside Blending with his father Donald Hart was in town to present his whisky and Frank Weber was kind enough to join Brad Jarvis, Randall Bird and myself at our table. And we started to pull the bottles from the bag one by one...

Andrew was great to let the night be a whisky geeks get together rather than a serious Maltman tasting. He let his whiskies to do the talking and I have to say he was also very patient throughout the entire night to answer my endless questions about the barrel selections, warehouses, distilleries, etc. Long story short we had a great time.

It is very hard to keep very detailed tasting notes in these kind of informal tastings but I will do my best to share what I have written down in my note book:

Glenlossie 19yo (43.0%): I first tasted this beauty in Whisky Live Boston 2012 and I remember it as one of the best drams of the show. I was so excited to see the bottle on the table again. Nose: Wet cardboard boxes, plastic food containers, fresh hazelnuts and crunchy malt. Palate: Marzipan, vanilla and canned peach. Finish: Long with white pepper and polished vintage furniture. Perfectness of pure ex-bourbon aging.

Mortlach 13yo (46.0%): This whisky is matured in Oloroso casks and shows some nice and thick legs on the glass. Nose: Bubblegum! Totally... Good old fashioned bubble gum... Freshly chopped mint leaves, whiff of smoke and burnt brown sugar. Palate: Bubblegum is still there and I am really enjoying it. Sweet and citrusy: candied orange peel and powdered sugar. Finish: Actually longer than I expected with the burn of thin baklava syrup. A rather less aggressive and calmer Mortlach.

Bunnahabhain 10yo (46.0%): Exclusively matured in sherry casks. Nose: Cooked prunes, cloves and beef stew. Warm sea spray. Palate: Chewy and thick. Cinnamon, zante currants and roasted almonds. Finish: Cinnamon and garam masala. I have to say I underestimated this youngster... Unbelievably thick and matured for its age. A true young sherry bomb... Not my cup of tea but I know a lot of people would love this dram.

Highland Park 11yo (46.0%): Nose: New raw leather jacket, fire place smoke, wet sand, beach walk at night. Palate: Creme brulee or creme caramel with heavily burnt top and vanilla pod scrapings. Very custardy. Finish: Long with sea salt and white pepper. A beautiful HP expression. I liked it almost as much as the Glenlossie 19yo.

Tobermory 18yo: Nose: A little sulphury. I am getting sulphur from almost every spirit distilled at Tobermory Distillery but fortunately I am not as sensitive as some people are. Struck matches, fresh cut grass and lemon peel. Palate: Very vegetal. Green asparagus and dandelion leaves. Finish: Medium long and pretty dry.

Linkwood 18yo: This is a new release... If I am not mistaken it is about to be released in US or already on the shelves. Finished in a port butt. Nose: Raspberry jam, forest fruits flavored Lipton ice tea and damson plums. Palate: Sweet cranberry jelly and maraschino cherries. Finish: Not very long but very satisfying. Drooling and dry sweetness of raspberries and cranberries. Wow... What a finale for the tasting... I have a winner I believe. I definitely want this bottle. Absolutely delicious...

Thanks again to Brad Jarvis for arranging this tasty night..! Also thanks to Randall Bird, Andrew Hart and Frank Weber for great company!

[I have also some notes about Royal Thistle which is Meadowside Blending's budget blend but I want to save it for the Blend Project in coming weeks. It looked like a strong candidate to me...]

Mar 6, 2014

Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18yo...

Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18yo (40.0%): Oh, the old good 18 year old Gold Label... It used to be my all time favorite Johnnie Walker expression and I still mourn the loss of it. It's been a while since Diageo announced that they will be killing the Gold Label 18yo and it's being harder and harder to spot this beauty on the shelves. Don't be surprised when Gold Label 18 yo bottles start to be sold in auctions all over the world for crazy figures in a few years. That's why I want to thank immensely to my friend Soner Tunay who offered this bottle from his whisky cabinet to me right away after he realized how much more I like this blend than he does. He just wanted to see the bottle enjoyed... Isn't it great? Color: Like it is written on the label: Shining yellow gold. Nose: Orange blossom honey, moist fruit cake clementines and candied apricots. Whiff of seaside bonfire smoke and cold ocean spray. Rose petals, malted barley and hard wood shavings. Palate: Honeycrisp apples, bosc pears, eucalyptus drops and wild flower honey. Pretty strong but not overpowering sweet peat, crispy cereals and candle wax with some soapy notes: Must be the Clynelish... Cinnamon, ground cloves and candied ginger. Nice thick mouthfeel despite its low abv. Finish: Long with sweet cinnamon, smoke and honey syrup. Actually it is way longer when chilled like they suggest. Overall: Bummer... It makes me really sad to think that this beautiful blend is gone. It is a great whisky and well worth to look for it around. I am pretty sure a lot of liquor shops around the country still have a bottle or two hidden in a corner. Meanwhile I will try my best to savor my bottle as long as I can. Again many thanks to Soner for offering his bottle to me. By the way I actually should try the new Gold Label Reserve and The Platinum Label sometime. I still didn't have a chance to do it and very curious.

Mar 3, 2014

Blend Project #15 Frasers Supreme...

Frasers Supreme (40.0%): Another blend from Gordon & Macphail which is very hard to find any info about. Not even on their own website... It's very odd that G&M tries to deny any connection between the company and the lower shelf blends they release. Excited to taste though since I liked the other blend Highland Fusilier very very much. Color: Yellow gold. Nose: Mr. Clean citrus scented multi-surface cleaner, polished hardwood furniture and lemon rock candy. Paper glue, candy apples, and caramel drops. If you are patient enough to air the whisky it gets way better with apple strudel and cooked prunes aromas. Palate: Sliced honeycrisp apples, cigar butt, burnt sugar syrup and allspice. Faint but very enjoyable charcoal and soot. Bitter greens and purple basil. Finish: Medium long with cinnamon, cloves, dandelion leaves and lavender. Overall: The key is letting it air for a while. As soon as you get rid of the kick of the young grain alcohol it transcends in the glass. Very easy going blend. Adding water is also a huge improvement despite if its low abv. Don't know if I am going to be able to see it anywhere else but I would definitely order one if I see the bottle on the shelf. Another good budget whisky from G&M. Many thanks again to Stephen Mathis for working very hard to get me all these wee bottles all the way from Scotland...

Mar 2, 2014

Masterson's 12yo Straight Wheat Whiskey...

Masterson's 12yo Straight Wheat Whiskey (50.0%): Another sample from #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket and the second Masterson's expression.  I reviewed the 10yo Straight Barley Whiskey a few weeks ago. Like its sibling this whiskey is also distilled by Alberta Distillers and bottled and distributed by the Californian company 35 Maple Street. Color: Pale straw, Pinot Grigio like. Nose: Dry pine needles, eucalyptus and calendula cream. Acetone, Linseed oil and mineral spirits. Adding water released some cedar and spearmint aromas. Palate: Definitely sweeter than the nose suggested. But there is a numbing alcohol burn which allows nothing but some faint vanilla notes only. Water is needed immediately. Otherwise it is almost not enjoyable at all. More stuff opens up after adding water... Unripened bartlett pears, butane gas (that was awkward) and nail polish. Very thin mouthfeel. Finish: You feel mostly alcohol burn, not on the tongue but in your throat. Flavor-wise it's just a steep and quick downfall. Overall: Hmmm... Don't know what to say. It reminded me very much Mellow Corn. It somehow tastes almost like the wheat version of it but Mellow Corn is $11 a bottle and this one $65..! To be honest I don't have any idea how this whiskey can be sold in any country for $65. I am really baffled... It must be something I don't see here. It's harsh, mute and immature. No wonder why our good friends at Alberta Distillery sold those barrels to 35 Maple Street. It would be a fun thing to taste if it was very cheap but again for this price tag it's a huge let down. Maybe less tired barrels could result better with the same spirit in 12 years. Anyways, if you are not looking desperately for an expensive adventure just avoid it.

Mar 1, 2014

Evan Williams Black Label...

Evan Williams Black Label (43.0%): I am a big advocate of price/value ratio in whisky. To release a quality whisk(e)y worldwide with a decent price tag and a consistent taste profile is a damn hard job. That's actually how I got into my blend project where I taste blended Scotch whiskies under $30 and trying to find the best bang for the buck. The situation is a little different in bourbon world. If we are looking for a fair fight among low shelf bourbon expressions I think we should lower the price category all the way down to under $20 dollar range where we can still find many decent bourbons to taste and talk about. Evan Williams Black Label fits pretty perfect under this category. This bottle can be purchased under $15 in most states. The spirit in the bottle is distilled from a high rye mash bill by Heaven Hill Distilleries Bardstown, Kentucky. It is aged between 5 - 7 years. Color: Polished copper, dark amber. Nose: Vanilla extract, agave syrup and unstruck matches. Cream soda, hardwood shavings and yellow gummy bears. Adding a splash of water made it dusty and chalky in a best possible way. I can nose baby bananas and mint leaves now. Palate: Corn bread, cloves and cinnamon. Dried sour cherries, allspice and soot. Water thinned out the texture a little bit and added some alcohol burn. Birch beer, butcher's wax and hardwood furniture. Finish: Hot on the sides of the tongue. Sweet and oaky. Overall: Unbelievable value for $12..! Smooth, easy going and pretty tasty. It's not very complex and layered but definitely still one of my favorite dive bar whiskeys all time. I think it is a perfect bottle to keep in the whiskey cabinet to be your everyday bourbon. It is unbeatable at this price.