Sep 19, 2015

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye...

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (45.0%): This is my first Crown Royal review on tire-bouchon and if I am not mistaken it is the first Crown Royal bottle I ever purchased in my life. I drank it a lot before; in bars, whisky festivals, tastings, etc. but don't remember buying a bottle and bringing home before... Somehow the brand Crown Royal just wasn't appealing enough I guess (till now). Lately with the growing trend of Canadian Whisky worldwide and with the success of small distilleries like Forty Creek and Still Waters big whisky companies also felt the need of reaching out the so called "connoisseur" consumers with new and limited expressions like Canadian Club 100% rye, Pike CreekAlberta Premium Dark Horse, etc. Of course Diageo didn't want to miss that particular trend and started to release new whiskies under their Crown Royal label, even a few single barrel expressions. So, Northern Harvest Rye hit the shelves as a part of this new wave... It has a mash bill of 90% rye and 10% of who the hell knows. Bottled at 90 proof and carries a price tag just under $30. Ok, let's take a look at it... Color: Light amber with nice thin legs all around the glass. Nose: Scented moisturizing lotion, rose water, fresh spearmint leaves. Limeade, dried apple rings and lemon buttercream cake frosting. Thin but incredibly perfumy. Oddly adding a few drops of water released more alcohol on the nose but didn't add anything special. Palate: Granny Smith apples, lime flan and toasted oak with crushed red pepper, dried cloves and nutmeg. Peppermint, German no yeast rye bread, orange twist and purple rose petals. Water adds some newly milled black pepper corn aromas. Finish: Incredibly warming and hot with paprika, black pepper and melted butter. Overall: Well, this is definitely not your everyday Crown Royal you mix with Sprite. It has actually the same backbone but definitely way more delicate and layered. Not thick in texture maybe but fruity, buttery and full with gentle spices. I personally didn't like it with water mostly because it covered all those stunning rose notes that I loved so much in the beginning and thinned out the texture completely. Well crafted, and most importantly amazingly good priced whisky. Kudos to master blender Andrew MacKay... I hope to see more limited and experimental releases from Crown Royal since they sure have a lot of different barrels aging in the warehouses of Gimli distillery.

Sep 9, 2015

Longrow Red 11yo Fresh Port Casks...

Longrow Red 11yo Fresh Port Casks (51.8%): After Springbank Distillery announced that Longrow Red Pinot Noir will be the 4th edition of the Red series and is about to hit the shelves in a couple of months I thought that it's finally time to pop open the last year's release and make room for the new member of the family. The bottle sitting in front of me now is the 3rd edition and the whisky in it spent its entire life in fresh port casks. It was actually a special release for me. During the Springbank Whisky School in June 2014 I had the chance to taste this particular expression directly from one of the casks before it got blended and bottled. I have been already a fan of the Red series since its launch but I knew I will get at least a bottle of this particular edition as soon as it is released the moment I tasted it back then. Gosh, it was something... Cannot wait to sample it now after it got blended. Ok, let's get the party started... Color: Polished old copper, red gold. Nose: Wild mushrooms, damp soil under your boots during a hike in a shady forest after summer showers. Pomegranate molasses, sweet balsamic vinaigrette and damp tobacco leaves. Distant peat bog, decomposing apples and fireplace soot. Adding a few drops of water pulls peat tiny bit more forward: cigar ash, wet beach sand and salted mackerel. Palate: Creamy and incredibly mature for an eleven year old whisky. Very dry with sour raspberries, sour cherry juice and chipotle peppers. Sour Flemish red ale, strawberry jam, red currants and glossy eighties magazines. With water I have now some cracked black pepper, dry port and coriander seeds. Finish: Finish is the only time the whisky reminded me its high(ish) abv. Crushed red pepper and fresh cranberries. Let's add a few drops of water and go back. Even just a little water took all the sharp edges out. Smooth, sweet and sour and more fruity now. Overall: Beautiful whisky... Love the perfect marriage of peat and red fruit galore overall. Adding water made it definitely more approachable but also lost the tartness and thick syrupy texture which I loved a lot at the beginning. Love that multi layered sour character of red wine and port cask matured or finished whiskies. They are like red Flemish ales of the whisky world. Well there is nothing to do now except sipping my 3rd edition slowly while patiently waiting for the release of the 4th edition...

Tasting with Robert "Pop" Scally
photo by Frank Ryon-Dujardin © June, 2014

Sep 5, 2015

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005...

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005 (43.3%): Well, Labor Day Weekend and the second review of the month. I should definitely continue the National Bourbon Heritage Month theme. This is one of my favorite yearly releases in the whisky scene but I have to admit that I am pretty late this year. 2006 vintage is about to hit the shelves in about two months. The whisky in this bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Single Barrel 2005 vintage is put in cask carrying the number tag 410 on March 29th, 2015 and bottled on February 10th, 2015. It is almost ten years old and bottled at 86.6 proof. Color: Medium amber, Armagnac. Nose: Hold your horses here: I was getting ready for spicy and dry aromas but instead a juicy fruit bowl hit my nostrils... Yellow grapefruit, clementines and fresh grapes. Very refreshing compared to earlier vintages. Mexican flan, vanilla, custard and light honey. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and green cardamom seeds. Palate: Thin but pleasing texture. Light cinnamon dusting, touch of nutmeg and orange blossom honey. Toasted wood, pine cones, white grape juice and sea salt. Finish: Long. But mostly at the tip and sides of the tongue instead of at the back. Gently fuzzy with touch of black pepper, burnt firewood and more grape juice. Overall: Well, that was a nice surprise... Way more gentle and easy drinking than the other releases I had before. I know every barrel is different but this year I picked up a less active cask I believe. Less rye more corn influence. I am sure this bottle will drain in this household very quick. Again, one of the best price/value bourbons in the market. It is definitely a steal and something to look forward to every year. Oh, I didn't even add any water. Just perfect as it is...

Sep 1, 2015

Four Roses Small Batch...

Four Roses Small Batch (45.0%): Today is the first day of National Bourbon Heritage Month and I have a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch on my desk... After Jim Rutledge, the legendary master blender of Four Roses announced his retirement July 1st I will be looking for a good time to post a Four Roses review anyway and simply couldn't find a better day for it. Four Roses has a pretty solid fan base among whisky lovers all over the world. I am a fan by myself as well but never could achieve the level of fans who can decipher the different recipes simply by glimpsing the four letter distillery codes. Most of the time I have to cheat by checking their website. The famous letter coded recipe reference system of Four Roses can be reached simply by clicking the "our process" tag on the distillery's website. They use two different mash bills and five different kinds of yeasts to create ten unique recipes. Small Batch bottlings use barrels of four specific recipes: OBSO, OBSK, OESO and OESK. Every year batches might show subtle differences but sticking to the same recipes keep the releases pretty consistent. Color: Medium amber, orange blossom honey with thick legs. Nose: Spicy, almost like a high rye rye whiskey. Cinnamon to begin with, burnt sugar and scraped vanilla seeds. Christmas cake, toasted dark rye bread and buckwheat honey. Diner style cherry pie and boiled corn on the cob. Adding water pushes the nose to the sweeter side of the spectrum: Caramel popcorn and ground ginger. Palate: Good balance of sweet corn and spicy rye. Thick and creamy texture. Nutmeg, ground clove and toasted oak. Hardwood vintage furniture and polished leather dash board of a 70s car. Vanilla and cinnamon are pretty dominant throughout the whole time. With water: chestnut honey, molasses, dried dates and brown sugar. Finish: Long and piney with resin gum and black pepper. Overall: Great price/value bourbon with a price tag just over $30. It doesn't have an adventurous taste profile and doesn't necessarily pull you into different directions but it is very solid on its own path. And if you like that direction where this bourbon is heading to and like to taste a bolder Four Roses expression your next step should be the single barrels of the line-up. A very good bourbon with a distinct rye profile and it also handles a few ice cubes very well which is a very good feature these days. Just tested by myself... Cheers to 49 glorious years, Jim..!