Wilderness Trail Bottled in Bond Single Barrel Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedThis is barrel 15B2820C; bottle 257 of 257. I got this bottle in late July and opened it promptly, anxious to see if was worthy of the high praise Wilderness Trail has been receiving from the likes of Fred Minnick and many others. I tried it on several different evenings within the first 10 days it was open. Had I rated it then, I would have composed a screed about an utterly over-hyped bottle of distilled pablum. In short, I found that it drank a lot hotter than 100 proof and lacked any distinctive taste or character. Heat, spice and muddled...mud, I suppose. But life intervened and I never got around to my review. About seven weeks later, I decided to give it one more shot. I've had many a dram that's better a few weeks after the neck pour, but...wow. This was a transformation that elevated my bottle of WT to the lofty level of the hype the brand has been receiving. This is a solid wheated bourbon - caramel and vanilla, oak and a touch of wood spice. Left to rest for almost two months, the excessive alcohol heat is gone. It's not complex and presents no surprises. But it's balanced, with the sweetness offset by a lovely oakiness that adds a nice touch of dryness to the finish. I'm still marveling at the transformation, the degree of which is unparalleled in my whiskey experience. This is a very solid effort, one that doesn't warrant the "I'll be interested to see what it's like in a few years" statement that concludes all too many craft whiskey reviews. This dram is solid right now.
Compass Box The Story of the Spaniard
Blended Malt — ScotlandTastedToday was one of those days where I felt like I was put through the wringer. All was well at the end, but it left me in the mood for an easy, relaxing dram. No peat monsters or cask strength bourbons this evening. My open bottle of the Spaniard was an easy choice. No surprises here - it's a bright, pleasant malt base with a well integrated fruity wine finish. Not complex, but very well done. I have an unopened bottle of Glendronach 12 that I'll have to crack before I finish the Spaniard in order to do a side-by-side comparison. I love the GD12, and my recollection is that it's a very similar whisky, with the Spaniard perhaps having some more dry red wine notes.
Tequila Chamucos Anejo
Tequila Añejo — MexicoTastedTequila night! I picked up this bottle from K&L a few months ago. For whatever reason, Chamucos blanco and reposado seem to be readily available, but the anejo is much less common. Since we're headind into a warm Labor Day weekend (with the New England winter potentially right around the corner), I was in the mood for something from the wonderful land of Mexico. This is a prototypical tequila. Plenty of agave on the nose and palate, with some pineapple and pepper thrown in. There's a bit of spice on the finish that I'd say most closely resembles nutmeg. I didn't find any strong barrel notes from the oak, which is typical for me with anejo tequilas (I have yet to do a meaningful exploration of extra anejos). Overall, it's an easy and pleasant sipper. A very nice if unsurprising and unspectacular offering. I bought this for $46, which I think is a reasonable price. Not only do I like the dram; I love the bottle and the label as well. Perfect for a tequila! "Bottleoir", is you will. This would be a great introductory anejo tequila, as well as a great tequila for anyone looking for an easy, familiar dram.
Few Single Malt Triple Smoke
American Single Malt — Evanston, IL, USATastedI love the creativity and expressions of terroir among various smokey American whiskeys. Not all are a hit with me, but I'm always willing to try a new one. Few Single Malt Triple Smoke seems to only be available currently in the UK, but I was able to add a sample to a recent order from The Whisky Exchange. The description says that the Triple Smoke is, "Made with barley smoked with cherry wood, mesquite wood and apple wood, this is a rich and oily American spirit with a distinctive smoky twang. Expect notes of apricot, apple, salty barbecue, toasted sugar and pastry, with a long savoury, smoky finish." The most noticeable element for me was the "smoky twang", which I found to be usual, but I knew I had experienced it in another whiskey. It took me just a moment to recall where - Fifty Stone Highland-Style Single Malt Whiskey. Fifty Stone is a distiller in Maine that smokes seaweed to dry its barley. The result is an unusual smokey note a bit reminiscent of burnt toast. In the Fifty Stone, it's accompanied by loads of salt and a very tasty malt base. The combination works beautifully. But the Few tastes thinner, despite having an ABV 1.5% higher. Ultimately, there's very little complimenting or supporting the odd smokey note. I'd don't find a burnt toast note to be a good soloist; it needs to be a part of a strong ensemble if it has any hope of success. I love Few's creativity here, and others may find the Triple Smoke to be more appealing. For me, however, this is a pass.
Waterford Ratheadon Edition 1.1
Single Malt — IrelandTastedSeveral weeks ago, I attended an online Redbreast tasting put on by the MIT Alumni Association. I did not attend MIT, which demonstrates it’s good to know smart people. The tasting utilized Redbreast’s sample pack - consisting of the 12, 15 and Lustau - with participants responsible for obtaining the whiskey on their own. I had a bit of trouble finding the sample pack in stock, but located it at The Whisky Shop USA in San Francisco. For reasons unknown, the package started it’s cross-country journey, stopped for several days in Kansas, and then was returned to San Francisco. The Whisky Shop offered to resend it, but alas, it was too late for the tasting. There would be no Redbreast for me. But I still wanted to attend the tasting, and I didn’t want to sadly sit in front of my laptop empty handed. Fortunately, I had the perfect Irish stand-in - a sample of Waterford Ratheadon, courtesy of @PBMichiganWolverine. If you haven’t read @PBMichiganWolverine’s review yet, do yourself a favor and scroll down the page. This is the ultimate in local sourcing and transparency. I love it. Did I love the whiskey? On both the nose and palate, it’s unmistakably Irish - fruitiness, mostly white grape and some lemon, cereal malt and caramel. The unusual part is the mineral note that has been noted in every Waterford review I’ve read so far. That’s no coincidence, because it’s unmistakable and it really stands out against the otherwise classic Irish profile. I had mixed feelings - it’s unique, but while it’s definitely maritime in nature, I found it trended slightly towards fishiness. As a pescatarian, I’m not shy about the taste of fish, but I found it to be a bit incongruent here. The ethanol is prominent, which was not terribly surprising for a young whiskey at 50% ABV, and overall, it runs a bit hot. I added some water, which the Ratheadon accepted beautifully. At an ABV somewhere in the low 40s, the heat is gone, the fruits and the minerality are toned down, and the maltiness takes a more prominent role. In the end, I liked the Ratheadon, but I am enamored with Waterford. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future releases, and I hope to see other craft distilleries emulate Waterford’s model. I’ll get to the Redbreasts eventually, but for now, I was thrilled to try the Ratheadon. Thanks @PBMichiganWolverine!
I.W. Harper 15 Year Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedI received a sample of this from @DigitalCork, and I'll save some space here by echoing his sentiments below. "Nice" sums it up - soft and uncomplicated; oak forward without any sharp edges. For those occasions when I'm in the mood for a kinder, gentler dram, it would do quite nicely. It would also be a great option for someone who's curious about bourbon but hesitant about drinking straight liquor. However, I'm not sure that either of those use cases is compelling enough for me to spend $80-100 for a bottle. Nevertheless, it's not easy to find comparably aged bourbons for less money, and as an easy going bourbon, it has plenty of merit. Thanks @DigitalCork for the pour!
Barrell Whiskey Private Release CS01 Irish Whiskey Finished in Spanish Brandy Casks
Other Whiskey — IrelandTastedAs a kid, I listened to a lot of radio. I hadn’t thought about it in many years, but I remember periodically hearing a game that involved a very short song clip (so short it seemed like less than a second), followed by, “...be the first caller to identify that song, and you’ll win…” This whiskey brought to mind that game. Let me explain. On the nose, there’s definitely ethanol (at 65% ABV, I’d expect nothing less), but there’s also nice fruitiness and grain sweetness. On the palate, there’s a great entry of bold cereal notes and fruit flavors that are more in keeping with the cognac finish than the apple and pear I usually find in Irish whiskeys. But the entry is so fleeting that I couldn’t pin it down any more than that, and a fraction of a second after the entry a tidal wave of ethanol crashes down. That pounding wave goes on, and on, and on, with the promise of the entry never to return. I slowly added water, but the effect remained the same, although everything got progressively more mild. I eventually added enough water to tame the ethanol, but by that time, the great notes from the entry had been diluted to something that vaguely resembled a watery cognac. I’m usually happy with higher-proof drams, but admittedly, it can get dicey for me above 60% ABV. Also, I have yet to understand why some whiskeys accept water well, while others do not (to use just one example, I find that Dovetail takes water beautifully - I find it to be virtually the same whiskey at any proof, just stronger or more mild). So I’m intrigued, but definitely not enamoured. Those of you who have never found a whiskey to be overly strong might have a very different experience. Thanks @pbmichiganwolverine for the pour!
Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish
Bourbon — Indiana (bottled in Tennessee), USATastedI'll make this short, because there's not much I can say that hasn't been said before. Belle Meade is doing a fantastic job of sourcing some great bourbon and finishing it to perfection. Thanks to the generosity of @DigitalCork , I was able sample Belle Meade's sherry, mediera,and cognac finishes. All were fantastic, but my favorite was the sherry. The finish on this whiskey is a perfect fruity offset to the spicy bourbon, and brings just the right amount of enhancement without overwhelming. Add me to the list of Belle Meade fans!
Barrell Whiskey Single Barrel A110
Other Whiskey — Kentucky, USATastedHow old is too old? Although I've had just a few American whiskeys over fifteen years old, I know this much - left in the barrel too long, our domestic drams can become oaky, dry, tannic and even astringent. @ScotchingHard described this well in his review of Rhetoric 23 the other day. The backstory here is that Barrell was able to procure a number of barrels of an 18-year old whiskey which was distilled and aged in Kentucky in used bourbon casks. This bottle was unfinished, but a significant number of finished versions will also be released, with finishing options ranging from ice wine to agricole rum. The nose is nothing unexpected, although it's certainly less bright than younger whiskeys - some maple sweetness, leather, corn and vanilla. But the palate is a different story. It's dominated by an overpowering oak that begins in a relatively benign manner, but gets progressively more harsh, sharp and dry. Typical American whiskey flavors of caramel, vanilla and cherry are nowhere to be found, and any spiciness has been muted by time. The finish is somewhat astringent and fairly short. The conclusion? For me, this whiskey would have benefitted from being pulled from the barrel well before 18 years elapsed. As I said, my frame of refenence is limited, so someone else might find it to be a fine example of an older whiskey. Interestingly, my experience with the few older bourbons I've tried has been much different and more enjoyable. Elijah Craig 18 comes to mind, as does Rhetoric 24, which trends in the oaky, tannic direction, but not so severely. It's led me to wonder if the use of a used barrel instead of new one accelerated the effects of time. Perhaps the finished bottles will be better, with the finishing notes providing a much needed offset. But I'm skeptical - finishing only does so much, and I'm not sure that anything is going to sufficently tame the oak. This is the first time I've been disappointed with anything Barrell has produced, but my overall experience with the brand is still stellar. The upside is that I won't spend the remainder of the year debating whether to prioritize purchases of additional bottles of the 18-year-old whiskeys or Barrell's upcoming bourbon releases.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedThe other day, I happened upon a comparison of the Wee Beastie with Arbeg 10 on Eric Wait's YouTube channel. Perhaps the most telling statement in his ten minute clip (slightly paraphrased) - "You should compare these to whiskies side-by-side...you'll appreciate the 10 more than ever." An interesting observation, and one that didn't inspire me to race out to snag a bottle of the Beastie. Fortunately, I didn't have to, thanks to a sample I received this week, kindly provided by @pbmichiganwolverine. Yes, the Beastie pumps out smoke like a huge mound of scrap tires in a backwoods junk yard after a lightning strike. There's more to it than that - some bitter dark chocolate, vanilla, pepper, salt, and a touch of fruitiness, but those notes are relatively restrained and don't offset the peat and smoke. That contrasts with the 10, which I find to be more refined and balanced. Perhaps most importantly, young heavily peated drams sometimes leave me with a note that's akin to chlorine. I get that note here. It's not awful, but it's not something I find at all in the 10, where the peat is simply beautiful. Still, the Beastie and the 10 are unmistakenly siblings; the additional five years of aging results in a nice evolution, not a transformation. I consumed my sample over two nights, and rewrote this review no less than a half-dozen times as I pondered two questions: First, do I agree with Eric Wait? And second, would I recommend this whisky? With respect to the first question, the additonal refinement and balance of the 10 is what I would expect for a whisky that's been aged for 10 years versus 5. But the 10 also improves on the Beastie more than the $5-10 price differential (at least currently in my market) suggests. Keeping in mind this is Ardbeg 10 we're talking about, the fact that I've twice described it as refined is telling. Perspective is everything. To answer the second question, if you're interested in a huge smack of peat and you don't mind the youthfulness, this could be the dram for you. For me, the Beastie begins to venture past enjoyably aggressive territory to punishingly aggressive. For that reason, I'd happily spend a few extra bucks to get the 10. There are other heavily peated whiskies in the same price range in my locale that I'd also choose instead, namely, Lagavulin 8 and Talisker Storm. Having said that, I may pick up a bottle. Drinking it alongside the 10 is a very interesting tasting experience, and one I'd like to revisit in the future. Thanks @pbmichiganwolverine for the pour!