Laphroaig Cairdeas 2021 Pedro Ximenez Casks
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed June 26, 2022 (edited August 28, 2022)I 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 — IrelandReviewed April 12, 2022 (edited August 16, 2022)If 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.
Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed April 11, 2022 (edited February 12, 2023)Nose is soft and sweet; vanilla, caramel, honey and a little crème brûlée. Based on nose alone you’d never think this was 117 proof. The first sip however, will quickly and forcefully remind you, battering first your tongue and then your sinuses with a surge of hot cinnamon and burning menthol. A Norlan glass helps a little, but not as much as you’d like. Palate is just ho-hum…there’s your vanilla and your caramel chatting nicely, waiting for sugar and spice to introduce themselves when the brash cinnamon and oak twins crash the party and make so much noise that everyone else heads for the door. Abrupt end, and all that really lingers is astringent heat. Too bad. Even with water it’s still a bit hot, but at least the palate is manageable enough to get a little bubble gum and cooking spices to show before again fading to cinnamon and not quite as pronounced wood. If this was 4 years old and $40, I would be more accepting. At 7 years and $70 it competes with Knob Creek 120, Jack Daniel’s SBBP, Elijah Craig BP, and Maker’s Mark CS. It’s true that many of these have a different flavor profile, but that’s kind of my point; they aren’t just hotter, old(er) versions of a core line that brings only the bare minimum of stereotypical bourbon flavors…through careful cask management or no filtering or just not adding water, they offer an experience that is much removed from the standard line, and this just doesn’t.
Isaac Bowman Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Barrels
Bourbon — Virginia, USAReviewed April 8, 2022 (edited February 12, 2023)This is another example of how what works for Scotch cannot be universally applied to other whisky with the expectation of similar results (and vice versa). Nose is funky and musty, and reminds me of grape cool aid that sat outside for a day. Or maybe a baby’s bib, the day after they had grape juice. It grabs your attention, but not in a good way and toes the line of being off-putting. The palate is dominated by musty, wet wood from beginning to end; a heavy, vegetal, dirty flavor just overwhelms the smatter of plum and honey that would otherwise be quite nice. The finish reminds you that this is young, with a blast of hot and coarse ethanol that leaves the lips and tongue numb before fading to the now familiar musty, stale, grape cool aid. It was an experience, and I didn’t dump it, but I definitely won’t have it again.
Laphroaig Càirdeas 2019 Triple Wood Cask Strength
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed April 7, 2022 (edited August 28, 2022)This is the obviously Laphroaig. On the nose and palate it’s smoke, iodine, brine and ash. It’s also quite hot…get your nose too far into the glass and you’ll burn your nose. Take too large of a sip and you’ll burn the back of your tongue and then also burn your sinus and nose from the backside. It’s also raw, and despite the three casks comes across as unfinished. This is my least favorite of the Cairdeas series, and is easily bested by not just the 10 year Cask Strength but also the standard 10 year, which is readily available for half the price. Find a glass at a bar if you must, but don’t spend a lot of time looking for a bottle to call your own.
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal
Mezcal Joven — Oaxaca, MexicoReviewed April 5, 2022 (edited November 9, 2022)It took me the better part of a decade to learn how to find and identify flavor profiles in whisky, which explains my migration from Gentleman Jack and JW Black Label to ECBP and Laphroaig. It is not the fault of this Mezcal that I entered the fight punching well above my class, and therefore haven’t the proper words to describe it. There are flavors here that I can describe only as ‘vegetal’ and ‘mineral’ and ‘smoky’, none of which do it justice. This is really, really, good. Stunningly, amazingly good. It offers a fresh, clean change from whisky and you should try it.
Compass Box The Peat Monster (Painting Label)
Blended Malt — ScotlandReviewed March 30, 2022 (edited August 28, 2022)I broke my own rules so I’ll be brief: Out of a Norlan glass it tastes exactly like what I imagine a heavily peated Caol Isla 18 year would taste…lemon oil, smoke, and hay with the littlest bit of honey tying everything together. It’s amazing what a change of glassware can do.
Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker
Blended Malt — ScotlandReviewed March 29, 2022 (edited December 9, 2022)Nose is very light pear and honeysuckle. Body is full, and the palate is stone fruits, honey, and leather, leading to a splash of acetic heat before fading to a soft, sweet, and clean, close. I didn’t expect much out of this, and find myself pleasantly surprised. I went into this thinking of Black Label and Green Label, but its not really comparable to either. This is almost a young Dalwhinnie at half the price. But it won’t really replace my Dalwhinnie. Or my Green Label. Well worth the price for a good, easy, drink.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018 Fino Cask Finish
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed March 29, 2022 (edited November 6, 2022)I’ve had this bottle for almost 2 years, and a pending move has finally forced me to finish it off. Nose reminds me of a soapy car wash next to a windy ocean beach…there’s indiscernible fruits mixed with salt, kelp and a smidge of dust. It’s not underwhelming, but neither is it phenomenal. It does do a pretty good job of leading into the palate. And boy, that palate; it’s all that is good about Laphroaig without feeling like you had to lick an ashtray and get punched in the throat. But don’t let the softer side fool you. There’s still plenty of brine, soot, rubber, iodine and smoke to discover, except now it’s perfectly balanced by white grapes, figs, dark cherries and marzipan. Finish is medium long, and briefly recaps each flavor before closing with a wonderful rush of sweet salt spray. This is exactly what I want in an enhanced Laphroaig, and it loses to the PX cask only by the smallest bit of depth and richness. Well worth grabbing if you can find a bottle for under $125.
Nikka Whisky From the Barrel
Blended — JapanReviewed February 17, 2022 (edited August 28, 2022)I wish I'd had the sample reviewed by the pro staff, because mine is most emphatically not that! Nose is faint, primarily vegetal with just a whiff of smoke. Palate is prickly pear and lightly carameled apple, with a very pleasant novacaine numbness from start to finish. Very light, very fruity, and not much else. Finish is clean and dry, with a splash of oak and maybe if I think about it hard enough, some cedar. Altogether this is a pleasant drink, and I'm glad I bought a bottle. But, I doubt I'll buy another.