Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 1, 2022Don’t let the fancy wood and cork topper fool you; this isn’t deserving of much more than a plastic twist off. Nose is candied corn from a fresh-opened bag…the sugar and chemical smell lingers at the top of the glass just above the ethanol which reminds you this is young and undeveloped. Palate is relatively smooth, but that’s the nicest think I can say about it. Tastes of stale Sugar Smacks, cheap checkout aisle caramel and the runny part of creamed corn. There’s no finish to speak of and nothing to remind you that you just had a sip of whisky. I figured I’d try it, and while it is unobjectionable, it’s also unremarkable in every way.
Oban Little Bay
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted September 15, 2022Nose is stewed fruits with a dusty light floral spritz; think eating orange marmalade on a cracker adjacent to a wedding bouquet. Go too deep and you’ll find ethanol, but keep your nose above that and it’s rather pleasing, if not exactly exciting. Palate opens creamy sweet with more stone fruits and vanilla, midway turning to bitter grass and then even more bitter wood before a tingly, dry close. Very similar to the Oban 18, lacking only a little depth of flavor and the silkiness and maybe a smidge of the sweetness. I actually prefer this to the 18 because it’s more steady throughout, there are no disappointing surprises. It’s 95% of the 18 year experience, at 40% of the cost. It’s also a glaring reminder to not spend more than $80 on anything Diageo (except maybe Laga 12).
Oban 18 Year
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted September 4, 2022This was a performance bonus purchase, because I’m loathe to spend hard-earned money on anything Diageo over $80. Nose is light and inoffensive, with jammy pears and apricots, a nice hint of honeysuckle and a small bit of very old, very sun-dried wood. Not bad, but nothing to make me nose it more than is necessary to actually drink it. Palate is almost oily, moderately rich, also fruity-sweet, and nicely balanced. Sweet apricot and bitter orange rind, sweet honeydew and tart apple, sugary canned pears and sour green grass. Finish is dry oak, which puts it a little too far into the bitter spectrum for my preference, and seems out of place with the rest of the palate. Overall it’s decent, but takes some work to pick the parts from the whole. If I sipped without thought, I would consider this an ok drink, but I say the same about Evan Williams BiB, and it’s $25 a handle, versus $155 a fifth. For that money, I want something that sings to me, that draws me in and compels me to keep coming back. This does not. What it does, is remind me to not spend more than $80 on Diageo, because I will forever be disappointed knowing I could have had a nice Laphroaig, Springbank, Ledaig, BenRiach or GlenDronach, and probably some extra money to spare.
Monkey 47 Dry Gin
Modern Gin — GermanyTasted August 31, 2022Firstly: Do NOT try to drink this out of a Glencairn. I’m certain you will not enjoy it. Nose presents like any other gin, as in juniper and alcohol. But take a slightly different approach, put your nose all the way into the glass and breath through your mouth and you’ll discover a world of oily citrus and an arboretum. This nose is as deep and complex as any bourbon and many Scotches. The palate is also quite wonderful…a rich, oily, cornucopia of flavors. Lemon, lime, grapefruit…hell, the whole citrus family is present and demanding that you pay attention. And while citrus leads the way, it’s not the whole show because this has more intricate flavors to hunt through than a well-stocked spice rack. I’d love to say I could identify most of them, but it would be a lie. I can find cardamom, basil, sage, rose, lavender and thyme, and it’s all supported by an unobtrusive juniper background. There’s impressive depth to this, and every sip was a new flavor. Finish is oily citrus/juniper, and lingers longer than expected. This is great neat, very, very good in a martini (go light on the brine), and makes the best G&T I’ve ever had. And a note of caution; I started this review with 2oz in the glass, and it’s now gone…which means this is also dangerously easy to drink. I never thought I’d spend $90 on a bottle of gin, but I’m quite happy that I have. This has earned a spot on my top shelf and will remain a semi-permanent fixture in my house.
Old Tub Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted August 29, 2022Nose is hay, clover and caramel with just a passing whisp of canned corn. Not remarkable, but also not bad. Palate is much the same, with burnt sugar passing quickly to dusty oak and then cinnamon. Close is all about the cinnamon spice lingering pleasantly for a few seconds before a clean, dry, finish. This does a lot of things alright; not too hot, not too bland, not too thin, but also not very exciting, memorable or special. For $26, it’s worth trying, but as a daily drinker it won’t replace my WT 101. Note: this does get a little sweeter and less spicy from a Norlan versus a Glencairn, and I think it’s probably better that way. The extra sweetness complements the nicely smooth mouthfeel and elevates at least one flavor beyond just ok.26.0 USD per Bottle
Glendalough Pot Still
Single Pot Still — IrelandTasted August 28, 2022Bottle 296, Batch 001, Cask 5, Tree 12. I once owned a Glen of Imaal Terrier. It’s ok if you’ve never heard of them; I’ll wait while you look them up, and please do…it’s worthwhile. Lineage says they likely originated from the farms of County Wicklow. He was the best dog I’ve ever known, and I figured if the county can produce whisky that’s half as good as the dog, it’ll be fantastic. So I finally found and grabbed this bottle. Nose is quite restrained, and hits me in three distinct segments, first as soft tropical fruits and then coconut and then weathered oak. Ethanol is low with this, so don’t be afraid to root around and look for others. A little more digging finds light honeysuckle and slight pine pitch, but that’s about all I could pull out. Palate opens very, very dry, and is yet somehow creamy, like a really nice Chardonnay; apples, pears, green grapes and honeydew dance lightly around your mouth before it too quickly turns to very bitter grass and blanched almonds. Close is so short it could aptly be called abrupt, leaving just the smallest bit of vanilla and honey before fading completely to a flavorless tingle that continues for another 20 seconds. So how did this compare to the best dog I’ve ever known? Not all that well, if I’m honest. The potential is there…creamy, vibrant, multi-faceted, but it just turns too bitter, too fast. A reasoned rating is probably a 3.25. However, I will try another offering because I’m nostalgic (and stubborn, just like the dog). Maybe a few more years in a different wood will make all the difference. Either way, I like that I can look at the bottle and fondly recall the dog. And this is my review, and my rating, and to me that’s worth another half a point, so 3.75 it is.
New Riff Single Barrel Barrel Proof Rye
Rye — Kentucky, USATasted August 15, 2022Barrel 3275, 52.3% ABV, bottled spring 2021. Nose is wet pine boughs, shaved cedar bark, stale black pepper and topsoil smoothed out with an undercurrent of vanilla. Ethanol is very present, so use caution here. Palate is obviously rye, but not painfully so; pine needles, spearmint and rosemary are tempered by rich caramel and vanilla which lingers for 15-20 seconds before closing cleanly with dry tea and a nice Novocain numbness. Very rich, mouth-coating, on the edge of oily but not quite there. I find this better from a Norlan than a Glencairn; it seems to change the balance of herbal/sweet just a smidge more to sweet, which makes it feel richer and takes the edge off the spice punch. I like rye. I approach it as a nice change of pace when Scotch is too Scotchy and bourbon too sweet. This bottle however, stands on its own, and is more than just a minor alternative to otherwise favored styles. This will be a regular on my shelf.
Chattanooga Whiskey Barrel Finishing Series Islay Scotch Cask Finish
Other Whiskey — Tennessee, USATasted August 14, 2022This is my introduction to Chattanooga distillery, and I won’t bury the lede by stating plainly and upfront that it will not be my last. I love Scotch. I’m developing a very deep relationship with bourbon and American whisky. I saw this and realized I had to give it a go. Nose takes some work to hunt out, but is worth it and very unique: Cedar chest, pine tar, powdered candy (runts, or maybe sugar straws?) and a running undercurrent of Old English furniture polish. Push too deep in the glass though and you’ll be quickly reminded this is young, and the ethanol is happy to say hello. Palate opens warm and crawls up the tongue dropping flavors along the way…pine and honey at the front, a splash of salt then caramel at the midway point, and finally a dryness almost like grapefruit at the close, all underscored by smoke and just the faintest bit of peat sweetness. I’ll admit that it took me a while to warm to this. It’s not bourbon. It’s not Scotch. At times it tastes similar to one or the other but that’s as close as it gets. I usually like bourbon for rich sweetness and Scotch for either herbal or meatiness (and of course the peat!), and this is neither. But I’m (now) okay with that, because overall I think it’s pretty damn good.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2021 Pedro Ximenez Casks
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTasted June 26, 2022I have finally found it. The first (and to date, only) whisky that I prefer in original form versus cask strength. I adore the Laphroaig PX cask. It is phenomenal. Dreamy. I won’t repeat my review, but it still sits in my top 5 despite my palate and budget having grown significantly since I typed those words of happiness into existence. This CS version shares the same notes and flavors…plum, earth, hay, iodine (band aide), peat, brine, et al, but the balance is off. Like, General Motors makes both the Cadillac CTS-V and the Chevrolet Corvette, and until 2019 they shared a chasssis and powertrain but were tuned and marketed much differently. The Corvette is unpleasant and coarse during most general motoring, but the stiff suspension shines in specialty events, whereas the CTS is a very good car that excels in most places, all of the time, and is only bested by the ‘vette on a track. Same applies here. This is good Scotch. All the flavors are there, but you have to hunt for them, you have to dig through the extra punch of ABV to pick them out, and the standard PX presents them on a platter for easy enjoyment. It’s more work than is necessary, and the rewards are minimal (and fleeting) in comparison to the effort. Please, do grab it if you find it because it’s great, but don’t pass up the OG, because honestly, I believe it’s actually better.
Knappogue Castle 14 Year Twin Wood
Single Malt — IrelandTasted April 12, 2022If your breadth of Irish goes beyond the standard offerings from Jameson and Bushmills, you will instantly recognize this as a kindred spirit on both the nose and palate. Cut apples, mashed grapes, and a bit of bitter chocolate powder make for an interesting aroma, provided you don’t nose deeply enough to get the ethanol. Palate is same song, second verse, except there’s no escaping the burn here; rich, full, sweet and smooth, and then suddenly whamo! Burn. It’s not a cask-strength burn or any such, but it definitely colors the entire experience, as though I’m offended that something so smooth and sweet could suddenly turn bitter and hot. And to me it’s more of an unrefined hot rather than a ‘duh, this is alcohol and alcohol sometimes burns’ kind of hot. As if 14 years wasn’t enough and it could use just a few more. That burn takes me all the way to the finish, which briefly flashes orchard sweet again before turning green-apple sour and fading to a clean lidocaine tingle that lasts several minutes. Also note that time and air are not friendly to this, washing out the good flavors and leaving more of the burn. It is certainly not bad, but it’s also a little disappointing because at $70, it’s not really distinguishable from most any Irish in the $40 and up range.