Kilchoman Machir Bay 2020
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTasted April 11, 2021This is quite tasty... Well-crafted. Composed. Quality. Pale yellow. Mezcal nose - smoke, salt, and a touch of vegetation, then buttery biscuit, faint almond, and raw grain. Rich and very sweet to start the taste, evolving quickly to embrace the peat. Smoked whipped cream with sea salt. Deeply pleasing flavors, but simple. A slap of smoke that somehow stays sweet and inviting. Admittedly not a side-by-side, but I'll be darned if this isn't Laphroaig 10's demure and cultured sibling that can get invited to any soiree, is friendly and personable and interesting, but doesn't ruffle any feathers and ultimately maybe isn't quite the life of the party either? Kilchoman is home by midnight while Lap10 is recounting the night's achievements at a diner at 4:30 am. Similar medicinal notes, but even though Lap is quite sweet somehow this tops it, and is even defined by it. Not complaining by any measure, and this bottle will go quite fast I'm sure... just wondering if I had to choose between the two why I'd lean this way.50.0 USD per Bottle
Hatozaki Finest Japanese Whiskey
Blended — JapanTasted April 11, 2021Extremely light color. Thin. Creamy vanilla syrup with a gentle green apple. Actually quite pleasant, but forgettable and nothing worth seeking out. More like a sweet soda than a whisky. No layers, but probably just fine to introduce a neophyte. Not sure where the brother in law dug this up or for what price. Considering it probably is quite affordable, truly not complaining. I’d drink it, but not on purpose.
Craigellachie 13 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTasted April 1, 2021Monstrous highs and lows today - needed to escape and try something new. Tugged foil, popped cork, long pour, and settled in. A solid orangey-gold. May be a touch of colorant. Semi-sweet aspartame, cinnamon, clementine peel, pineapple, and copper on the nose. Vanilla. Gentle floral notes. Quite sniffable. The palate delivers on the promise of the nose. Tart lemon, vanilla, copper, a pleasant sour edge. Creamy. Tangy. Modestly metallic. Interwebs didn't offer much insight, but Spidey Sense shouts of at least a modest component of Oloroso casks. Proof is nice - enough to linger on the tongue but not challenging. Didn't know until a little reading that some version of this distillate likely forms the backbone of Dewar's. Full disclosure #1: I am unapologetic in my relative distaste for Dewar's White Label. I will drink it, and find a handful of redeemable qualities, but may temporarily resent the offerer for their poor taste. Full disclosure #2: This is nearly EVERYTHING good that one can find in Dewar's, and almost NONE of the bad. I will resolutely proclaim the unassailable judgment, kindness, and valor of the offerer. Honestly, pulling on comparables, I feel like this is a skillful balancing act somewhere between Glenfarclas 12 and Springbank 10 - rich, funkadelic character with a heavy body, bold aspartame, dried fruit, proper ABV, and zesty spice. Unexpected, and unequivocally awesome if at a sale price. Half notch above 'farclas 12, and about on par with Springbank 10 (this night, at least - gasp!). Good stuff.53.0 USD per Bottle
Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential American Single Malt
American Single Malt — Iowa, USATasted March 28, 2021Red wine finishing is prominent in good and bad ways. This isn’t my ideal single malt, but it presents cleanly and is an enjoyable pour. Well done for an out of the way craft distiller, and will be a clear winner for those that like a spicier profile with those red wine barrel notes. Rich tawny red-gold. Grapey with a pleasant twinge of spice on the nose. A touch sour. Palate builds upon the nose. Grapes that edge toward grappa, persistent cinnamon, red fruit, and the vein of sourness stays. Aspartame. Walnut. Sweet start is overrun by a building spice that lingers. Shares a common hallmark with other CR products. A little young overall but a nice pour if you want a little assertiveness.
The Sexton Single Malt
Single Malt — IrelandTasted March 27, 2021Unexpectedly good. I’d say this is in the style of Tullamore DEW 12 but a step up in richness. A buttery shortbread thumbprint cookie with a dollop of raspberry jam, but in whiskey form. Delicious. Deep reddish orange and notably oily. Apricot, orange blossom, biscuit, cream. Wow, this belongs in the dessert aisle. Not complex, and not challenging, but this is tasty. Very hard not to pour a little bit more when you glass runs low.
Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star
Rhum Agricole Éléve Sous Bois — HaitiTasted March 20, 2021Sits just on the wrong side of the cutline for a balanced spririt. At 4 years, the fresh cane distillate and tropical aging just barely haven't coalesced, and instead end up presenting rough rather than assertive, and unfortunately call to mind some of my more regrettable experiences in the rum pantheon. All that said, there is quality here, and lineage of the longer-aged bottlings is clear, it's just not the snapshot in time where I'd prefer to take my cut. Light gold with a thin body. The nose is mostly top notes without much heft, but is sweet - vanilla, cantaloupe, and ephemeral floral notes before the hogo appears and ethanol eventually forces you out. Attractive overall and in-line with the 8-year plus a few rough edges. The nose is a plus. Light mouthfeel and trends towards sweet syrup off the bat. Pretty narrow band of flavor - a few gentle notes of clementine peel, honeysuckle, pineapple rind - then things go harsh quickly with aspartame, minerality, and some fusel notes. Tangy sweet lingers for the finish. To be clear, the promise of what this rum can become shows throughout and this is a reasonable value, but I would unequivocally recommend shelling out the extra 25% to upgrade to the 8-year, or opt for any number of blends at the same price that offer the same assertiveness but delivered with a much more elegant hand. The same bottle with a minimum aging of 5-6 years might be just right.20.0 USD per Bottle
Compass Box Great King St Glasgow Blend
Peated Blend — ScotlandTasted March 15, 20212019 bottling. A pleasant golden straw with orange hue. Medium weight. Peat controls the nose, but tempered with subtle fruits lingering in the margins waiting to reward those with perseverance. A bit grapey with touches of vanilla. Iodine teases, but remains restrained. Chestnut. Honeydew. Heather. Not overpowering, but not captivating either. Smoke opens - notably more ashy than meaty. Sweet sherry and malt rise up, then are beaten back by the phenols. Cantaloupe. Honeysuckle. Biscuit. Cigarette smoke returns and lingers, which is likely a negative. There are other smokes that I enjoy much more (bring on the applewood!) I had some unfounded optimism that I was surely to "discover" the ideal highball scotch when I purchased this - in my mind's eye: a balanced yet wildly affordable blend in which the peat affirmed one's manliness and the "scotchy" origins while the sherry and more genteel components made it refreshing and quaffable at any time of day. In short, I'm not sure my vision had any realistic basis whatsoever, and this bottle's failure to meet those expectations is 99.5% not the scotch's fault. The peat is far too pronounced for me to have, as yet, skillfully render an elegant and effervescent cocktail. In a stirred alternative it may shine, and assuredly as a neat pour I have few reservations for the price. In the recent past when I could find Laphroaig 10 for $35, I would see little rationale to own this bottle. But while the tariff effect is still in play preventing any single malt competition worth mentioning for less than $50, this bottle knocks the socks off most peated blends. Clean, cohesive, balanced, and little one might find objectionable beyond the cigarette note. You could do much worse.32.0 USD per Bottle
Glenfarclas 12 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted March 15, 2021Revisiting 2/3rds of the way down. Butter. Gently malted grain. Lemon tart. Gooseberries. Sherry. Fresh bread. Buttery butter. Astringent oak. Custard. Toasted pie crust. Oh god look at those legs. Boozy bananas foster. Rosewater. A snickerdoodle cookie where the cream of tartar stands front and center. OK. Me and this whisky are finally having a moment... I think I get it now. This ‘farclas distillate and aging are one of a kind. Creamy, grainy, salty kettle corn with a very sharp tanginess. Musty. Heather. Oloroso DNA is all over this but somehow doesn’t feel sherry-dominated. Challenging and aggressive, yet somehow still refined. This is not a crowd-pleaser. But it has a concentrated lemon drop hard candy essence and an “abuse me and I like it” intensity that get into you a bit.45.0 USD per Bottle
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Mezcal Joven — Oaxaca, MexicoTasted February 28, 2021Simple green wine bottle and a dead simple (nearly cartoonish) label that actually works pretty well - iconic and recognizable. An unusual black synthetic cork seems classy but is oddly rigid and ultimately quite annoying to squeeze back into the bottle. Neat. Glencairn. A beautiful “near clear". Some weight is evident with a swirl. Nice and leggy. Honey, jasmine, and Turkish cake soaked in simple syrup. Some nosings exude phenols, while the next beguilingly lack smoke entirely. Regardless, the sweet and floral backbone are consistent, along with a snap of crisp green bell pepper. An undercurrent of paint thinner follows: just one of those oddly appealing chemical smells you know you aren’t supposed to like but can’t help but to embrace and covertly enjoy. Not harsh in any way. The taste begins sweet and clean - then brisk vegetation, metallic notes, and finally back to rich simple syrup filling the mouth. Grapefruit. Smoke teases the periphery - sinuses, nasal cavity, and the back of the throat - filling in the edges without ever being the primary note. The classic (to me) mezcal profile of sweet, coppery, cooked carrots dances on the palate and lingers impressively with a lasting tangy bitter edge. This is a flagship mezcal qualified for sipping yet priced for mixing. No observable flaws, and showcases a quintessential profile: sweet, vegetal, and smoky, with a bracing metallic edge. This is my first bottle but I’d put it in a group of affordable espadin mezcals I’ve had that consistently deliver for the price, alongside Montelobos and Sombra. Highly recommended.34.0 USD per Bottle
BarSol Acholado Pisco
Pisco — PeruTasted February 23, 2021Extremely different from my wheelhouse. Fresh, sweet, round, and floral. Apricot and honeydew. Jasmine. Fresh white grape must. Quite distinct from aged spirits, there is a saccharine stevia sweetness that is inescapable, yet underneath that my tastebuds toggle between yeasty hefeweizen beer, Medjool dates, sweet simple syrup, and crisp green bean vegetal notes. Raw egg white. Agree whole-heartedly with the reviewer's oolong - somewhere between green and oxidized tea. Everything works surprisingly well but is totally in left field versus my expectations and preferences. The youth and single distillation seem to reinforce the impression of unaged spirit, but cohesive and soft, without any prevailing ethanol note that one would expect. I have to peg this as a success because most of the factors I could construe as detractors seem to be based in my lack of familiarity rather than a lack of quality. Fresh, young, vibrant, and inescapably floral, this is clearly a good value. I'll need to continue my pisco education.24.0 USD per Bottle