Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedLike a cranky centenarian, Old Grand-Dad 114 is not messing around and has no time for your nonsense. Time and a well-crafted batch of ingredients have turned Old Grand-Dad into a spicy, hot-tempered old coot that's not playing games. The similarities to a crotchety old man are not the only reason for the name of this hooch. In this case, Old Grand-Dad refers to none other than Basil Hayden who famously lived to be 114 years old and had 114 grandchildren. One of those progeny, Colonel R.B. Hayden, distilled this label in honor of his grandfather, aging his bourbon for 114 years and bottling it at a bold 114 proof. It is possible that time has caused some of the details I present here to have been exaggerated (or completely made up). At 114 proof, it's no surprise that there is a strong ethanol presence on the nose, but that is underpinned by luxurious cherries and faint notes of cinnamon and chocolate. The heat does kick in pretty quick on the palate, but before it arrives I am greeted with a rich and oily mouthfeel and the chocolate from the nose becomes a dominating flavor and the cherries show themselves to be candied and delicious. The heat is a red hot cinnamon one, but it is quite nice. The finish is long, radiating warmth throughout my chest and leaving behind a lingering candied sweetness, oak, and leather. I adjusted quickly to the proof and could see myself sipping this one. At the same time, cold weather is here and I am getting over my first illness of the season so I look forward to seeing how this plays in a hot toddy with some honey and lemon.27.99 USD per Bottle
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedHeaven Hill distills some of my favorite bourbons, so it is somewhat insane that I had yet to try the Elijah Craig Small Batch that seems to be a well-regarded label. Thankfully, the long passed Reverend Elijah Craig, patron saint of the charred oak barrel (if you believe the legend), smiled down upon me and matched up a free shipping credit with an online retailer selling the ECSB for $5 less than the state minimum. A bona fide beverage blessing from the benevolent bishop of bourbon, I bled a bottle to the brim of a beaker, breathed in a beautiful bouquet, and binged Bardstown booze. The nose is classic bourbon through and through with creamy vanilla, bruleed caramel, and toasted oak, not to mention the faintest hints of chocolate and coffee. A light and fairly dry mouthfeel brings with it a palate that is sweet upfront with the taste of candied apples. A surprising cinnamon tingle begins quickly, and on the way down the sip heats up into a beautiful black pepper warmth. The finish is long with oak, leather, and tobacco dominating and mint lifting everything for a refreshing end. It would be a lie to say this is my favorite of the Heaven Hill labels, but this is still a very good bourbon, and when you consider the outstanding quality to price ratio this is one to add to your collection for sure. Sip it neat or use it as a mixer, this bourbon can play any position.24.99 USD per Bottle
Long Road Distillers Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Michigan, USATastedHaving been in the bourbon game for a few months now, it seems crazy that I haven't tried any of my local distilleries' offerings. Long Road Distillers, Gray Skies Distillery, and Bier Distillery are the closest craft distillers offering bourbon. I opted for Long Road because I was in the mood for dinner as well and they have a very nice food menu to go with their spirits and cocktail offerings. I ordered the whisky flight, which normally comes with their straight bourbon, straight corn whisky, and straight rye whisky. I was initially disappointed to learn they were out of rye, but my disappointment quickly gave way to excitement when I learned they would be substituting their wheat whisky made with red winter wheat. I will say that all three tastes were smooth and delicious and I plan to get a bottle of each, but I was not compiling tasting notes at the time. On this particular occasion, I purchased a bottle of the straight bourbon for home and that is what I am reviewing here. Long Road's bourbon is a 93 proof, non-chill filtered, small-batch described as a "careful blend of three distinct barrels" that are aged "nearly 3 years." I do not know the exact mash bill, but they do reveal that the mash includes corn, rye, red winter wheat, and malted barley. The nose is a confectionary delight with strong notes of creamy vanilla and candied cherries layered on toasted oak. The mouthfeel is light, but not dry, and the palate is sweet with caramel apple and pralines. Not to be outdone by the sweet notes, there is a nice cinnamon heat leading to a fairly long finish of leather and oak. This is a delightful sipper and works well in cocktails, which I found out first hand at the distillery, not to mention a bottle that supports a local small business. I am very happy with this bourbon and am looking forward to the future of this label.44.99 USD per Bottle
Blade and Bow Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedDiageo had been sitting on the last bourbons distilled by Stitzel-Weller for years and finally decided to make something of the love and lore of the heritage distillery. Opting for the solera method of aging, likely to capitalize as much as possible on the Stitzel-Weller name, Diageo launched the Blade & Bow straight bourbon whiskey on Derby Day in 2015. I was drawn in as much by legend as by the beautiful bottle and dark, rich bourbon inside it, and never having tried a solera aged bourbon decided to pick up a bottle. The nose doesn't have the caramel or vanilla that I prefer in bourbon, but it has light and airy notes of toasted oak, peaches, and chocolate, and is enjoyable all the same. The mouthfeel is oily but not quite enough to be rich. The palate is sweet with earthy notes that I cannot place. Further sips bring apricot and a hint of baking spice. The finish is on the long side of medium and is warm with toasted bread and faint apple. I know enough to know this is good bourbon, but the flavor profile does not necessarily fit my taste. I am interested to see how some ice opens it up a bit and might make this something I use in a cocktail, but I don't see myself sipping it. Or spending another $50 when this bottle runs dry. There are better bourbons for the price.50.0 USD per Bottle
Old Forester 100 Proof Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedI am a huge fan of the Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style bourbon, but its $60 price tag makes it a little too pricey to be a daily drinker. Thankfully, there are a number of less expensive Old Forester labels, so I decided to pick up a bottle of the Signature 100 Proof Bourbon. The color alone has me excited for something good and the budget price point is simply an added bonus. Before serving myself a neat pour, I take a deep whiff from the bottle and I like what I smell. The nose is packed with vanilla, caramel, and cherry. It smells like I'm about to drink an ice cream sundae. The mouthfeel is silky smooth and the palate brings chocolate and oak into the mix. There is a slight black pepper heat in the back of the throat and a warm, but all too short finish. I was looking for a cheaper, younger brother to the 1920 Prohibition Style and I have found it. The Signature 100 Proof has similar tasting notes to the 1920 but is not as complex, which was to be expected. Easy drinking at an easy price will keep this in my collection, and in my mouth, from here on out.24.99 USD per Bottle
Lagavulin 16 Year
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedHere I am, at the third and final Scotch sample from my tasting box. Thus far, my experience with Scotch has been...fine. I am a bourbon guy, and while I can appreciate a good Scotch, it doesn't seem like something I would choose to imbibe. The notes I get from Scotch are light and dry. There have been some distinct flavors, but nothing too bold and certainly nothing I would say is complex, which has often been my experience and perception of bourbon. I view Scotch as the white wine to bourbon's red. That said, this third and final taste is, from what I have observed as a Scotch outsider, the "best" one. One that is well regarded and sought after. I know this label is the favorite of my older brother, so I expect to have one of two little brother experiences with this dram: I will either be excited that I can share in the enjoyment of something my older, wiser, and more sophisticated brother has said is good or I will confirm, once and for all, that he is an ignorant boob and I am the superior son. Onward! The nose is smokey and peaty and not at all in my wheelhouse. It reminds me a bit of a campfire and does not make me excited to taste it. I didn't give myself time to savor the first sip and identify any flavors because I did not anticipate I would like it. I notice that the mouthfeel is oily and smooth and the palate is just as smokey and peaty as the nose. There is no finish to speak of and there is a slightly sweet, slightly woody aftertaste. I try to give the next sip a bit more time in my mouth, but it's just like drinking moss and then eating a cigar. I do not like this. I'm sticking to bourbon and I am officially petitioning Congress to declare war on Scotland.
Cold Spell Intense Mint Whiskey
Flavored Whiskey — Kentucky, USATastedThe Mojito, the Mint Julep, the Whiskey Smash, even the Grasshopper. Mint and alcohol is a time tested combination sure to please, so when I purchased my most recent bottle and asked the man behind the counter if he had any interesting tasters, I was intrigued by the idea of Cold Spell Intense Mint Whiskey. I am normally not a fan of flavored whiskey and I must say...this is no exception. The nose is a bouquet of Crest Complete Whitening Plus Scope Dual Blast and a fine vintage of Listerine Cool Mint. It smells more like a dentist office than a whiskey. The palate has a mint that is far from intense, no mention of alcohol, and an amount of sugar rivaling only Pixy Stix. If you are looking for a mouthwash that is unjustifiably expensive and sure to cause cavities instead of preventing them, this may be the product you are looking for. If, however, flavored whiskey is your thing, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to renounce the citizenship of whichever country you call home and become a lonely hermit on a desert island. We don't need your kind here.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedWhen I choose a bourbon, I like bold flavors and complexity. What I have heard of the Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style is that it brings both of these things to the table. Today is my birthday, so I decided to treat myself to a bottle. This is the first Old Forester label I have tried, and at 115 proof it is also the highest proof bourbon I have purchased. This taste was a neat pour in a Glencairn glass and I let it breathe for a few minutes before diving in. I took my first sniff with my nose in the glass and my mouth closed, an amateur move that rewarded me with a punch of ethanol right in the schnoz. When smelling correctly, I was hit by the aroma of rich caramel, dark chocolate, toasted oak, cinnamon, cloves, and a trace of stone fruits. I think of both Christmas and luxury when I inhale these vapors. The palate has heat to be sure, but it is rich and smooth on the tongue. The taste is chocolate forward and is accompanied by cinnamon, vanilla, and notes of bright fruit. There is a smokey, peppery heat as the sip works its way back and down. The medium finish starts hot but quickly mellows into a warm, nutty spice and a lavish smokiness. By the third sip, I am adjusting to the heat and feel that I keep experiencing new flavors while at the same time being certain there is more underneath. Bold and complex is a great way to describe the 1920 and I am excited to see how a splash of water or some ice open this one up. If chocolate and heat are not what you are looking for, stay away from the 1920, but if you are looking for a bourbon that encapsulates the hedonistic and outrageous mood of the Roaring 20s, this is the one for you.61.0 USD per Bottle
Dalwhinnie 15 Year
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedNext up in the Whiskies With Names I Can't Pronounce Collection is the Dalwhinnie 15 Year. This Highland single malt Scotch whisky is the second of three samples I received in a tasting box. The first sample didn't scare me away, so on I shall go. I have not increased my Scotch knowledge since the last sample, so this review will be ideal for other Scotch virgins. I'm sampling this as a neat pour. The nose is very enjoyable. Sweet with aromas of tropical fruits, honey, and mint there is basically no alcohol smell and I am eager to find out if it tastes as good as it smells. The sip is light and dry with a bit of honey sweetness carrying over from the nose, but not a lot of other flavors are present. There is a slight black pepper spice and a hint of smokiness on the way down. The palate is not as good as the nose and a bit of a disappointment. There is virtually no finish to speak of. The drink is smooth and easy to drink, but does not pack a flavor punch and is not likely to be something I would buy a bottle of or even choose as a single drink off a menu. I don't know how typical the Dalwhinnie is compared to Scotch generally, so it's possible that this is just not a remarkable label or it could be that Scotch is not my forte. Either way, I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to try this one.
Glenkinchie 12 Year
Single Malt — Lowlands, ScotlandTastedBourbon is my drink of choice, and while this is not my first experience with Scotch, this is my first time attempting to review a Scotch. I received a Scotch taster box with 3 samples, and the Lowland single malt Glenkinchie 12 Year is what I am starting with. I don't know what the typical notes are in a Scotch, or if there are even "typical" notes, so I'll do my best to give an honest and accurate review. If you're a Scotch virgin like me, this review may be just what you're looking for. The nose is bright and light with honey sweetness, slight fruit, cereal, and some underlying smokiness. There is something about the nose that reminds me of white wine, but I'm not a wine guy so who knows what that means? The mouthfeel is smooth and oily with a palate that is sweet, light, and fruity. There are not a lot of standout flavors so describing this whisky in anything but general terms is difficult. The finish is moderate with an earthy smoke and apple followed by a bit of mint. I suspect that this is a good introductory Scotch and is easy to drink. There was nothing in here that scares me away from Scotch, but also nothing to bring me back. Scotch cocktails are not something I am familiar with, but I would imagine this would be a good one to use in a cocktail. It's fine.