Sep 30, 2014

Sheep Dip...

Sheep Dip (40.0%): The original Sheep Dip from Spencerfield Spirits Company from Fife. As you will recall I reviewed Sheep Dip "Old Hebridean" Vintage 1990 more than two years ago on tire-bouchon and I still remember how that dram knocked my socks off. It was really something... Sheep Dip is taking its name from an insecticide used to delouse sheep prior to sheering. The farmers also used to hide their home made whisky in barrels marked "Sheep Dip" to avoid the tax man's attention during thr inspections. So, It is a pretty good story to name a whisky after. Sheep Dip is a blended malt made from sixteen different malt whiskies and bottled at 40% abv. Color: Orange blossom honey, polished copper pot still you would see during distillery visits. Nose: Strawberries, bubblegum and stainless steel cafeteria trays. The way your t-shirt would smell after an afternoon walk on the beach. Fresh cut grass, shaved fennel and fresh celery sticks. Water adds some sour notes: spoiled milk, pomegranate molasses and candle wax. Palate: Fresh malt you taste directly from the malting floor, melon slices and lightly peated new make spirit. Tongue tingling and young. Even a few drops of water broke it down though. Now it is thin and I am getting only wet cardboard and diesel fuel notes. Finish: Salty and briny. Medium long with white tea and clay notes. Overall: I like these young but layered blends. Not crazy complex, not expensive but great to enjoy before dinner, with your ale or with your pals. It reminded me the early summer evenings at London pubs after an exhausting day with close friends and laughter. It is made to consume in rather large quantities but still be enjoyed. I have to admit that it is not a sample. I purchased this bottle last weekend and I am pretty happy with my choice. Another great everyday Scotch whisky I can enjoy in front of my TV and I can assure you that it won't last very long. Slainte...

Sep 29, 2014

Four Roses Single Barrel...

Four Roses Single Barrel (50.0%): Another sample from last week's bourbon/rye tasting. It is the single barrel expression of Four Roses. The casks are hand selected by Jim Rutledge and bottled at 100 proof. For Four Roses geeks it comes from Warehouse No: JE and Barrel No: 2 - 6C. Color: Dark amber with an orange hue. Nose: Pretty muted with some metallic aromas first. Sigg bottle, old leather boots and raisins. After letting it air a few minutes the nose starts to open up with maple syrup and cherry chocolate cake aromas. Adding water helps even more: Beef stew, cooked vegetables and polished hardwood furniture. Palate: Cloves, cinnamon and cooked prunes. Brown muscovado sugar and crushed red pepper.  Dry... It gets incredibly easy to drink but also (more) oaky and a little thinner after adding a few drops of water but still a lot going on there: Dandelion leaves, bitter greens, Belgian endives, orange zest jam and dried cranberries Finish: Powdered ginger, black pepper and Greek baklava syrup with cinnamon. Overall: Almost like a definition of high rye bourbon... Big, spicy and dry. Never disappoints... Another great value bourbon at its price range in 40's. I think last time I had a bottle was one of the 2011 releases. I remember that I liked it so much and realized only after I killed the bottle that I didn't save any sample for writing a review of. Great juice...


Sep 28, 2014

W. L. Weller 12yo...

W. L. Weller 12yo (45.0%): Last week we had a great night among friends tasting a huge line-up of American whiskeys. Our roster covered bourbons of different mash bills, rye whiskeys and even a hybrid and a Canadian. I managed to save a few samples from the bottles of the night and I will be posting the tasting notes one by one in coming weeks. But now let me start with the same whiskey we started the tasting with last Friday. W. L. Weller a.k.a poor man's Pappy is distilled from a high wheat mash bill at Buffalo Trace Distillery. It is the oldest expression of regular W. L. Weller releases and bottled at 45.0% abv. Color: Deep amber, clover honey. Nose: Acetone notes up front. They fade out very quickly though after letting the whiskey air a little. Almond cream cake, marzipan and toasted oak aromas. Dried sour cherries, Mexican wedding cookies and confectioners sugar. A few drops of water get rid of all the off notes if they were any left. Flour cookies right out of the oven and artificially flavored, concentrated vanilla extract. Toasted coconut flakes and eucalyptus drops. Palate: Hotter and more vibrant you would think from a 12 year old bourbon at 45% abv. Caramel bon bons, star anise and pumpkin spice cake. Water adds fresh spearmint leaves and pine needles. Some notes resembles a thick felt scarf wrapped around my neck at a cold winter morning. Finish: Way longer than I expected but the alcohol burn on the sides of my tongue continuing after all the flavors fade out is a little too much. Overall: It is a great bourbon for a price tag around 30 bucks... Amazing deal for a 12 year old... If you are lucky enough to see a bottle on the shelves just grab it. There are not so many ones around...

Sep 25, 2014

Longrow 18yo...

Longrow 18yo (46.0%): Longrow is the third brand distilled by Springbank distillery. It is the most peated member of the family at 55 ppm and distilled only twice while Hazelburn is going through triple distillation with no peat at all and Springbank is distilled 2 1/2 times with a peatiness level of 15-20 ppm. The brand takes its name from the old Longrow Distillery which used to be one of the earliest licensed distilleries in Campbeltown originally located next to Springbank Distillery. Color: Very pale, straw like. Pinot Grigio. Nose: Cotton wiping rags soaked in fuel, like the ones you use to clean the outboard engine of your little wooden boat. New wet paint on the very same boat, salty sea spray and wet sand. Blueberry rhubarb pie a little on the sour side, green wood, dirty martini and thick soot. Chalk and rose petals. Water opens up all the layers wide open: Grilled green asparagus, young calvados and raw honey. Palate: Crushed red peppers, cigar ash and chilled pear compote. Shepherd's pie and Dijon mustard. Even a few drops of water amplified the peat notes immensely. Juniper berries, black pepper and ginger. Finish: Long but a very gentle fade out with black pepper and black garden soil. Overall: Such a delicate and gentle whisky. For a 55 ppm peat monster I was expecting it to roar out loud but instead I found a purring old cat. It's amazing what eighteen years in well selected high quality casks can do to a highly peated spirit. With a whopping price tag close to 200 bucks it's far away from being your everyday whisky but it's a superb dram I have to say. Many thanks to Soner Tunay for the sample...




Sep 24, 2014

Glengoyne 12yo...

Glengoyne 12yo (43.0%): Glengoyne is owned by Ian Macleod distillers who also has Tamdhu and the famous independent bottling line Chieftain's in their portfolio besides many familiar brands. The distillery is the most southerly Highland distillery having their warehouses actually in Lowlands located just across the street which draws the line between two whisky regions of Scotland. I am not going to hide that Glengoyne became lately one of my favorite Highland distilleries and therefore I am trying to taste almost every expression I can put my hands on. This the second youngest in the line-up and not peated at all. Color: Yellow gold, light amber. Nose: Golden Delicious apples, orange blossom honey and artificially flavored cheap lemonade. Vanilla extract, white cardboard sheets you would usein your art class and lightly roasted hazelnuts with their skin on. A few drops of water opens it up with more citrusy and sweet notes: The way your fingers would smell after eating a sweet orange in a rush. Lemon bonbons and milk chocolate. Palate: Smooth texture. Malty and nutty. Unsalted butter, shortbread cookies and golden Oreos. Water breaks up the texture of the whisky and flattens its flavor profile quite  a bit. Didn't really help on the palate like it did on the nose. Finish: Lingering sherry sourness with sweet hazelnut spread and Jordan almonds. Overall: Great balance of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Malty, nutty and full of character but also fruity and vibrant. Exactly how a 12 year old whisky should be... It's a very enjoyable everyday dram. Thumbs up..!

Sep 22, 2014

Hazelburn 8yo...

Hazelburn 8yo (46.0%): This is one of the drams we sampled together during our tasting last weekend focusing on my trip to Scotland last June. It is the eight year old Hazelburn from Springbank Distillery. Hazelburn spirit was first distilled during 1997 in Campbeltown when Frank McHardy brought the idea of triple distilling back to Scotland after spending his years at Bushmills. The whisky is not chill-filtered and not peated at all. It is one of my favorite go to whiskies but produced only 5,100 bottles every year which makes it kind of hard to find and slightly pricey for an eight year old whisky. Color: Straw like, pale yellow. Nose: Fresh cut unripe peaches, wet hay and coconut cookies. Belgian endives, jonquils and wintergreen Altoids. Fresh, vibrant and floral. With a few drops of water I get some latex gloves just ripped out of their packaging and rubber bands. Quince jam and candied orange peel.  Palate: Creamy and soothing mouth feel. Jarritos pineapple soda, juicy Anjou pears, Chiquita bananas, fresh almonds, wild flower honey and fresh cut grass. Water added a touch of tartness: Granny Smith apples and... I almost said peat but I know there is none in there. Strange... Maybe I can settle for some iodine and cheap vitamin pills. Finish: Longer than I expected. Walnut oil and very mild white pepper. Overall: The spirit is on the lighter side for sure but maybe delicate is a better descriptive than light. I love it... If I ever have to choose a whisky for breakfast (and I really hope that I will have to someday...) this dram would be the one. It is a whisky for every season. Great dram in summer anytime and perfect apéritif in winter months.


Sep 19, 2014

Bowmore 16yo (1989 vintage)...

Bowmore Limited Edition 1989 vintage 16 yo (51.8%): And here is the second and last sample I received this week from Jens Fischer a.k.a. Mr. Whisky-Quiz. It is a cask strength Bowmore distilled in 1989 and the first in their vintage series. Aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks and it was the very first official Bowmore expression not to be chill filtered back then. The vat is a blend of 134 casks. Color: Pale, lemon chiffon. Chardonnay. Nose: Here we go... I'll be around here for about half an hour: Fresh, green and grassy. Very subtle and sweet peat, salty sea spray and green olive brine. Bitter greens, fresh cut grass and kumquat zest. Guava, seaweed, vanilla and cold pear compost. Gorgeous... Palate: What the what..? Hold your horses here! All of a sudden a bottle of perfume exploded in the glass (FWP..!). It's Christmas time, I am stuck at Macy's perfume department and desperately trying to find my way out... Rose water, lavender cologne, Chanel No. 5 and hyacinth flowers. I really didn't see this one coming... Adding some water cuts the alcohol burn but all the perfume notes are still there. Bone dry with oak tannins, very distant peat and artificially flavored raspberry soda water. Finish: Long and dry with white pepper and rose liquor notes. Damn, I still cannot focus straight. What was that all about? Overall: This is a very confusing dram... When I was nosing it I thought I found the holy grail but as soon as I tasted, the whole thing turned upside down. Like somebody swapped the glass or poured profusely perfume in it when I was typing my nosing notes. I am very baffled... I wish I never stopped nosing it. Well, needless to say it was quite an adventure. A very odd one but it was. Thank you again for sending me the samples all the way from the old world Jens..!


Sep 17, 2014

Springbank 14yo (Cask Sample) ...

Springbank "Local Barley" Cask Sample 14yo Sherry Barrel (N/A%): This is the first sample I pulled out of the envelope I received this week from Jens Fisher, creator of www.whisky-quiz.com and my classmate from Springbank Whisky School. The bottle is filled by himself in Warehouse No.15 at the distillery last June when we were there. The whisky is drawn from one of the legendary "Local Barley" casks. In different periods Springbank used locally sourced barley which became very famous especially the ones distilled in sixties. This one is distilled in 1999 and bottled like I mentioned above in June 2014. I don't have any info about its abv but obviously it is cask strength. Maybe he will have more info and post it in the comments box below. Color: Deep amber. Orange blossom honey with visible legs. Nose: Sour heavy cream, cooked prunes and dry raisin loaf cake. I can almost nose the sweet, sour, chewy, almost gooey Pedro Ximenez. Quite sulphury: somewhere between struck matches and thousand year old eggs. Adding water opens it up quite nicely. Sulphur level is down to unstruck matches now... Queen of puddings, Metaxa and Sauternes wine. Palate: Hot... Allspice, rum raisin ice cream and grape molasses. Quite a texture: chewy and thick. A generous amount of water helps to round the edges. Orange zest jam, ground cinnamon, roasted almonds and carrot cake. Hint of peat and marron glacé in thick syrup. Finish: Very long with sweet Greek baklava with cinnamon all over it, bitter almonds and creme caramel. Overall: It is a thick and bold whisky... A little too sweet for me but quite tasty. Would be a perfect dram for winter nights to sip after dinner with friends. I have to say one glass would last me the whole night though. Thanks again to my buddy Jens Fischer for sharing this sample with me. Danke vielmals Jens..!

Sep 16, 2014

Happy National Bourbon Heritage Month...

The Rum House - New York City
Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey in early 80’s, I witnessed a lot of changes in the country. We were blending into the capitalist world and for the first time in my life I was witnessing imported goods hitting the shop windows, taking over slowly but surely. As a kid, I have to say, I wasn’t aware too much about the social and economical aspects of the change but was very excited about the new toys filling the stores. That period was also hard on Tekel, the alcohol department of government, which didn’t have the necessary preparations to fight against the cheap booze from abroad that was now flooding the country. Tekel, which literally means monopoly in Turkish, weakened over the years, got sold to Mey Icki in 2004 and then eventually to Diageo. A true capitalist story… Anyway that’s the explanation for why we started to see imported alcohol brands on bar shelves in Turkey that late.

Istanbul is a big rock town and Jack Daniels didn’t miss that opportunity. It was the first big American Whiskey brand distributed widely and we all did our best to welcome this iconic brand. It was Slash’s choice after all. Who were we to judge? But then, soon enough, Jim Beam entered the competition… I don’t remember exactly why, but I started to favor Jim Beam and continued to do so for a long time.

So that’s the story of how I met bourbon for the first time in my life. Jim Beam White Label was my first bourbon that I deliberately chose to order. Every time I see that bottle it triggers beautiful memories from my hometown. Let’s count it as my first memorable bourbon.
 
Napoleon House, New Orleans

In 2003 I moved to New York as a whiskey enthusiast and was hungry to learn and to taste as much as I could. While I was educating myself with different expressions of old established brands like Heaven Hill, Four Roses and Wild Turkey, I was constantly making new whiskey friends and also meeting people from industry almost every day. I was on the clouds… There is one bottle in particular from those days that stands out though: Booker’s. - I first tasted it in a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when Williamsburg had only a few bars on Bedford Avenue, and I instantly fell in love with it. That bourbon was nothing but glamour. Its artisan-looking label and bottle was very clever marketing. It was hard to believe that it was a Jim Beam product. It was expensive for a bottle of bourbon but certainly affordable, especially when you think that it was over 120-proof. At least that was my excuse. In years it changed from time to time but it’s never disappointed. I would put Booker’s in the number two slot of my Bourbon story.

Bukowski Tavern - Cambridge
Moving from a major city to another is not an easy thing to do. I knew that I couldn’t keep my long distance love relationship with Istanbul and I desperately was trying to be a New Yorker. I started to follow the Yankees and Giants, was on a mission to learn every street in the city by walking for hours every day, was attending every possible social gathering to meet people in my neighborhood, was trying to support local artists and also to be more conscious about using local products. So, me discovering Hudson Whiskey wasn’t a big surprise. When they launched their first line-up I was all over their products. I loved the idea, the story behind it, and most importantly their spirits tasted good. I really don’t know how and when I met Gable Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits exactly but his personality sure did help to reinforce my thoughts. Since then I visited the distillery twice and, if I am not mistaken, sampled every single product they’ve bottled till now. I am still a big supporter and hope to see them continue to keep up the spirit. I would put Hudson Four Grain Bourbon in the third slot on my Bourbon story list.

Dorock Bar - Istanbul
After years of tasting whiskey I started to grow a different kind of appreciation for good cheap whiskeys. I really think that it is an extremely hard job to find a recipe that will yield a good whiskey with a reasonable cost and then age, bottle and distribute it worldwide and still be able to sell it for around 20 bucks. I think it is mind-blowing and way harder than releasing a superb single cask whiskey with a four-digit price tag... My unhealthy attraction to dive bars and my quest to find good cheap whiskeys combined together and I started to hit low-key bars wherever I travelled in the States. From my experiences I started to have my favorite low shelf bourbons — I chose two brands among them I respect the most and I would like to list those as my numbers four and five: Evan Williams Black Label and W. L. Weller Special Reserve.

I think the most exciting thing about bourbon is that by law bourbon distillers are allowed to try so many different recipes. We only know that 51% has to be corn, but the rest is all left to the master distiller’s vision. The possibilities are endless. Personally if I walk in a bar the thing that makes me most excited is to see a bottle on the shelf that I never tasted before. It is Bourbon Heritage Month after all, and I think that’s the best way to celebrate it — go out and taste a bourbon you’ve never tasted before. And if you feel like you can share your thoughts below in the comments box. I would love to hear them all..!


Robert's Western World - Nashville

[edited by Teresa Hartmann]

*Originally written for and posted at The Alcohol Professor on September 12th, 2014.

Sep 14, 2014

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12yo...

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 12yo (40.0%): Beautiful fall Sunday in Cambridge... A little cool but sunny. Perfect day to stay at home, keep your windows open and chill with a book on your lap and a dram in your hand. The book choice is the magnificent travelogue "Queer and Alone" of Jim Strahs and the whisky to pair with is Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt... It is a blended malt from Nikka to honor Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky and founder of Nikka Whisky Distilling Company. It is a 12 year old blend of malt whiskies sourced from both Yoichi and Miyagikyo Distilleries of Nikka. I love these plastic screw caps of Japanese whiskies by the way. Color: Deep amber, clover honey. Nose: First hit is a tropical fruit punch served in a half papaya with umbrellas, etc. Guava, diced pineapples and ripe mango slices. After letting it air a little we get cold brewed coffee, milk chocolate and subtle peat. With a few drops of water old glossy magazines, vintage vinyl covers and wet cardboard aromas add. Palate: Very thin mouthfeel which lets you down a bit after that very exciting nose. Lightly salted caramel ice cream, oak and candle wax. Splash of water makes it even thinner but also add some spiciness: Nutmeg, powdered cloves and carrot cake frosting. Finish: Medium long with toffee and Christmas cake spices. Overall: Well, it doesn't get more Japanese than this... It is not one of the boldest examples of the Japanese whisky around but a very good one for people who wants to enter this world. It is dangerously drinkable and a perfect after dinner dram. I wish it was bottled at a higher abv though. The palate definitely benefits from adding water but you also hesitate to make it too watery by doing so. It stands on a very delicate place at 40% abv. Is it worth of your money around 60-70 bucks? Yeah, I would say so (after a second or two of hesitation)...

Sep 13, 2014

Bowmore Dorus Mor 10yo...

Bowmore Dorus Mor 10yo (55.1%): This bottle is actually the 4th batch of the small batch "Tempest" release of Bowmore. But because the Tempest Winery from Washington State has the rights of the name within US, Bowmore couldn't use the name when they brought this expression to the other side of the pond. Instead they ran an online campaign to choose a new name for it and the name Dorus Mor got the highest vote. The spirit is distilled using Islay and Scottish barley only which is malted at Bowmore's own malt house. After the distillation it is filled in first-fill bourbon casks and aged in Bowmore's legendary Vault No.1 warehouse under the sea level. The batch is created by Rachel Barrie and only 2,400 bottles have been made available worldwide. Color: Bright deep yellow gold. Nose: Wintergreen drops, eucalyptus leaves, cold ocean spray and fresh cut peat blocks. Coconut macaroons, rubber bands and seaweed. Water brings greener and also some citrusy aromas: Bitter greens, arugula, tangerine peel and yellow grapefruit juice. Palate: Spearmint leaves and cucumber slices in your gin-tonic and lime zest. Some cream puffs, vanilla bean scrapings and high end blood orange sorbet. Solid peat, cigar ash and milk chocolate. A few drops of water brings earthy notes like dry black garden soil, crushed chipotle pepper, dried sour cherries and roasted pine nuts. Finish: Long with black pepper dust and campfire ash. Overall: An Islay whisky as it should be and exactly how I love it. Good amount of peat, matured in ex-bourbon barrels, still young and vibrant but tamed. Nothing fancy or experimental but solid and very firm. Pretty happy that I own a bottle now...

Sep 8, 2014

Springbank 17yo (Cask Sample) ...

Springbank Cask Sample 17yo Fresh Barrel (54.8%): This is the bottle I brought back from "The Cage" back in June this year. For those who don't know what "The Cage" is, it is the locked cabinet covered with chicken wire located at the back of the of Cadenhead's shop in Campbeltown where they keep the cask samples. I did spend some time during the whisky school at the Springbank Distillery to fill some of those bottles and believe me every single of them is special. I wish I could afford more bottles but I knew they will be expensive. So, I made up my mind before I even go there and got focused to find a Springbank from a fresh barrel. I waited patiently till my last day and voila! I nailed it... The sample is distilled May 31st, 1996 and bottled May 13th 2014 from the cask #245 from Warehouse No.5. It's almost 18 years old and bottled at cask strength of 54.8% abv. Color: Light amber, yellow gold. Nose: Newly bought cardboard boxes, Granny Smith apples, cookie dough and green wood shavings. Noses surprisingly young and fresh... Fresh fennel, grilled asparagus and campfire you find the next morning left to die from the night before. Water amplifies the green aromas: Fresh green banana peppers, dandelion leaves and Belgian endives. Palate: Very easy to drink without adding any water. Tobacco, half baked oatmeal cookies, anise seeds and cumin. Yummy... After adding water sweet spices cover the tongue: Green cardamom, powdered ginger, vanilla chai latte and sweet peat smoke Finish: Long, warming and very pleasing. Cookie dough, cigar smoke and pumpkin pie. You feel every note slowly going down your throat. Overall: I did nail it for sure..! This is an amazing whisky... I wish I was scoring my tastings. This bottle will be definitely above 90. Now very carefully I am putting this beauty back to my cabinet and will make sure that every sip out of this bottle will count. I want to share it with friends. Gosh, I want to go back to Springbank Distillery so bad... Slainte to all my friends there..!


Sep 1, 2014

Glengoyne Teapot Dram...

Glengoyne Teapot Dram Batch No. 003 (59.4%): Now this is a special dram to taste on Labour Day. It is the third release of Glengoyne's distillery only Teapot Dram expression. I purchased this beauty past June when I visited the distillery. By the way I think it is a good time to mention here that it was one hell of a distillery visit. I spent almost the entire day at the distillery with my tour guide Bill Gallacher who personally took care of my schedule there. We tasted, nosed, blended and geeked out about whisky non-stop... I pretty much couldn't ask more. If you happen to be in Glasgow area it is a great day trip and the distillery is very easy to reach with public transportation. Let me also tell you the story behind the Teapot Dram very quick: I have been told that in earlier days the distillery workers at Glengoyne were allowed three drams on duty throughout the day from different casks. The drams were measured as "three fingers". Since it is a quite decent quantity at cask strength some workers were not able to finish their shares and the leftovers were collected in a copper teapot to be enjoyed later. So, the term "teapot" refers to this tradition in the distillery. After the huge success of the first batch they decided to continue to release other batches and here we are with the third release. The spirit in the bottle is distilled between the years of 2002 and 2006. It is a vat of first fill sherry casks which yielded together 3484 bottles and the whisky is un-chillfiltered. Color: Mahogany and chestnut shells. Dark brown color with a nice red shine when hold to the light. Crystal clear, flawless. Nose: Pedro Ximenez, black mission figs paste and dark muscovado sugar. Ginger powder and molasses. Water shaves the edges a little. I am getting now some thick old wool sweaters, dried flowers potpourri and warm chocolate cake. Palate: Wowza..! We will spend a lot of time here: Brown sugar, ginger molasses cookies and dried dates. Unbelievably drinkable at this abv. Not hot at all, just muted... With water it opens up: Dark chocolate truffles, Christmas cake spices and raspberry jam. Time in the glass allows some citrusy notes: candied orange peel and limoncello. Finish: Forever... Mostly like the burn on your throat from the very sweet syrup of Turkish baklava. Fig jam and sweet, sweet Pedro Ximenez. Overall: This is a jackpot for sherry butt heads... I am not the biggest fan of heavily sherry finished whiskies but it sure does stand out. I dig it... Juicy, weighty and full of depth but for now it will wait for the cold and snowy days of New England winter in my cabinet. It will be a great example of its kind and a big hit during my wee tastings...