Tastes

Dreaming-of-Islay

More extended versions of my reviews and whiskey bar reviews from around the world: https://jasonwu0509.wixsite.com/dreamingofislay

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  1. Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin

    Navy-Strength Gin — Victoria, Australia

    Tasted
    4.75
    4.75 out of 5 stars
    I got this on sale from an online liquor store. Its regular price probably would have made me shy away from it, as I have a slight aversion to paying a premium for "ultra-luxury" gins. However, the sale price took this down right around the price point of Plymouth Navy Strength, and I gambled. There are three or four big notes in this gin, all of them are great, and the intensity of the high proof really pays off: an intense citrus tartness or acidity; a sharp, almost acrid, pepper; of course, that aqueous and green juniper berry; and a cleansing, sweet ginger. This is world-class gin and it either makes a heavyweight martini or a real doozy of a nightcap.
    40.0 USD per Bottle
  2. Monkey 47 Dry Gin

    Modern Gin — Germany

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    This is quite a spectacular, complex, and well-balanced gin, which nonetheless hews close to the core profile that one would expect of gin by featuring a lovely, consistent juniper note throughout the tasting experience. With all that being said, it's also something of a puzzling entry in the genre because I'm not sure how I'd use it if I ever purchased a bottle. This is an insanely expensive liquor, relative to its peers, at $40 for a 375 ml. Is that something you could mix in a gin & tonic or a Tom Collins? Sure, but there's not much point to using this vs. other excellent gins available at the $25-35 price point (for a 750 ml, double the volume) like Plymouth, Bombay Sapphire, Botanist, St. George's Botanivore, or (a local favorite of us in Florida) St. Augustine's. It pours a great martini, but adding any vermouth at all is going to wash out a lot of the subtle flavors that are the reason for its price premium. So, at the end of the day, this gin needs to be sipped neat. Not many people do that (even I don't, other than to get a sense of its flavor before mixing it), so I find it hard to recommend this gin widely. It's a connoisseur's product, and too rich for my blood!
    10.0 USD per Pour
  3. Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof Bourbon

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    4.5
    4.5 out of 5 stars
    This E.H. Taylor expression -- Batch 7, from 2018 -- was my surprise favorite of a night where I also tried three Four Roses Private Selections, Kentucky Owl Bourbon (Batch 8), and 2018's George T. Stagg. I've had pours of earlier batches of this barrel-proof bourbon, and they never left a lasting impression on my mind. This newest release, dating from 2018, is astoundingly good and almost tastes like a sherry-finished whiskey. Raisin is readily detectable from the first sniff, along with dense blackberry preserve or compote. The fruit flavors on this one rival, or perhaps even exceed, the intensity of the Kentucky Owl. Despite being considerably younger than the Stagg, its palate had the strongest oak backbone and the most mouth-watering maple syrup note. It was incredibly viscous and full-bodied. The one slight flaw would be the overwhelming heat on the finish: turmeric, cinnamon, pie, and sweet tea giving just a glimmer of relief from that spice and alcoholic fire.
    12.0 USD per Pour
  4. George T. Stagg Bourbon (Fall 2018)

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    We've tried two earlier editions of Stagg and raved about both (2013 and 2017). Thankfully, Buffalo Trace has not let us down with this latest edition. Stagg is hands-down the best rye-recipe bourbon that I've tried, with the best Elijah Craig Barrel Proof editions coming a close second. It's so much older than typical bourbon releases, with an extra three years of age compared to the already well-matured ECBP, and has a characteristic and unmistakable resulting profile overflowing with stewed fruit, peanut oil, rich caramel, vanilla, green tea, salted dark chocolate, and lumberyard wood. I often associate great bourbons with a note that's reminiscent of chocolate, and Stagg offers the clearest and best example of that slightly bitter but intoxicating flavor. I doubt I'll be able to find or afford a bottle in the next five years, but this remains one of the best bourbons in the world and I can only hope that I'm lucky enough to try Fall 2019's release.
    12.0 USD per Pour
  5. Kentucky Owl Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Batch #8)

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    We had the pleasure of trying this $300+ bourbon at Old Owl Tavern, the bar/restaurant at the Beaumont Inn. The owner of the Inn and Tavern is the same person who revived the Kentucky Owl line and selects the batches that go into this highly coveted product (although it's since been bought out by Stolichnaya). Essentially, what we have here is a sourced bourbon picked by a person with generations-long connections in the industry, but which goes for a sky-high price. Online sources suggest that it's a blend of at least four different batches, ranging in age from 5 years -- which is quite young! -- to 14 years. Its impressive start recalls a berry-picking trip to a gentleman's farm, with ephemeral early chords of strawberry, brown sugar, buttercream frosting, and shortcake that emphasize that this is going to be a sweet pour showcasing the fruit-forward nature of young, high-quality juice. After about 15 minutes, a decent amount of dry cedar and guaiac wood announce their presence. Its nose is its highlight, as the palate reverts to a classic but spicy profile: caramel, charred oak, some chili oil and cinammon, no significant tannic grip. It almost tastes better after the swallow, when dark fruit and cherry flavors reemerge to duet with the charred oak and chocolate swirling around the back of the throat. This is a great bourbon but a bad value.
    12.0 USD per Pour
  6. Heaven Hill Bottled In Bond 6 Year

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    3.5
    3.5 out of 5 stars
    Sadly, Heaven Hill 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond was too good for this world. Farewell, sweet whiskey unicorn! This expression was a long-time Kentucky exclusive that nailed a rare trifecta for that lucky state's bourbon lovers: high quality, great value, and a clear age statement. In fact, it was such a good value that many people claimed that it was Heaven Hill Distillery's small "thank you" to the people of its home state. Compared to other Heaven Hill expressions, this one is a little different. It combines what I think of as Jim Beam funk -- roasted peanuts and anise -- with Buffalo Trace fruitiness -- orange rinds, tangerines, and mandarins. Yes, it's almost every orange-colored fruit in the citrus family in a dense and heady mixture. Light honey and those orange citrus fruits dominate the palate by far, along with some cereal grain and corn. The most notable absence in this bourbon is vanilla. If someone served this to me over an ice cube, I'd assume it was an Old Fashioned.
    18.0 USD per Bottle
  7. Woodford Reserve Straight Rye

    Rye — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    2.25
    2.25 out of 5 stars
    The third and most recent edition to the standard lineup, this is also the distillery's first wide release of rye whiskey. They promote it as a "sipping" rather than mixing rye, but I was quite disappointed in it. Perhaps it was just because my senses were exhausted at the end of a long day, but I got very little out of this expression. Its nose is faint and demure, with a young bourbon character rather than the bold, spicy rye impact I'd expect. The palate is more of the same, with light simple syrup and honey flavors with just a bit of rye. This is a kiddie-pool or training-wheels rye, inoffensive but not close to worth the $40 sticker price. Go for Old Overholt any day of the week, even as a "sipping" whiskey.
    5.0 USD per Pour
  8. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    Would you believe it, a spirit aged in two different fresh oak barrels picks up a ton of charred wood and dry flavors? This second standard lineup product forms an ideal contrast with Woodford Reserve, which is one of the most fruit-forward bourbons (along with Buffalo Trace) that I've encountered. This is one of the most universally available bourbons in the country, so I bet anyone who's a fan of whiskey or drinking in general has had a pour or two of this one. In all three flavors, it's slightly smoky, dry, and leathery, with some of those more delicate Woodford Reserve peach and vanillas lurking in the background. It's a really well-balanced bourbon, but not the best value in that $55 range.
    5.0 USD per Pour
  9. Glen Ord 2004 11 Year Cask #142 Cask Collection (A.D. Rattray)

    Single Malt — Highlands, Scotland

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Seeing the uniform opprobrium that greeted this youthful Glen Ord single cask has made me a little nervous about reviewing it! I tasted this a few months ago but neglected to do my Distiller homework and put my thoughts to paper. In a shocking turn of events . . . I really liked this one! My tasting notes on it indicate that the nose featured lots of sweet grain, vanilla cake, egg batter, and butter cookies. The palate was a mixture of butter and lemon, with hints of salt and scrumptious ripe apple. It wraps up with lasting lemon tartness balanced by warm butter and floral accents. The strangest thing of all is, I'm not really the biggest fan of Highland whisky, but I found this one to be a pleasure. Thanks @PBMichiganWolverine for the sample!
  10. Maker's Mark Cask Strength

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    This is exactly what it sounds like: Maker's Mark, undiluted with water. One of the unique features of Maker's Mark is that they barrel their whiskey at a relatively low ABV -- bourbon often goes into the barrel in the 60-plus percent range -- and so their "cask strength" juice is not going to blow your face open in quite the same way that an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (regularly 65%+) will. Maker's Mark Cask Strength generally weighs in at a svelte 55% or so, which is a near-ideal proof point. Oddly enough, although I'm not the biggest fan of the baseline Maker's Mark because it sometimes has a strong ethanol aroma, that spirit-like character is left evident in this much more potent version. Instead, a pure hit of vanilla greets the nose, along with cherries. The latter is a signature wheated bourbon note, so it's unsurprisingly strong here. The palate is more of the same, along with a prickle of cinnamon spice that's partially from the bite of the higher proof. In a shocker of the year, this bourbon tastes a lot like Maker's Mark -- just better. The pricing on this bottle seems to vary widely from place to place, but it's a fair value anywhere in the $50-60 range.
    5.0 USD per Pour
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