Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Brora
Peated Blend — ScotlandTastedI've never had a particular interest in Johnnie Walker, and have never felt inspired to explore beyond some less than compelling entry-level JW bottles, specifically, the Red, Black, and White Walker offerings. But I was excited to receive a sample of the Ghost and Rare Brora, courtesy of @pbmichiganwolverine. Not only is this well-aged (the primary component is whisky from the Brora distillery, which closed in 1983), but there's something almost mythical to drinking whisky that's a relic from a bygone age, sourced from a distillery that was boarded up years ago. Diageo is apparently re-opening Brora later this year, which will dampen the Brora mystique in my mind. But perhaps we'll get some great new whisky. The whisky itself was not a letdown. I found the nose to be very complex - sweet, fruity, and nutty, with multiple notes of each. The palate was complex as well. I will often say that a good blended whisky is well integrated. In this case, I found the palate to be layered. The top layer was spice, some wood and some heat. The bottom layer was creamy grain and sweetness. I've sometimes found drams that have this type of split presentation to be a bit off-putting, but in this case it works wonderfully. I often consume samples in two sittings - half one day and half the next, and it's not uncommon that I find something new or different on the second day. In this case, the nose and palate remained the same through both tastings, but the finish had a notable shift. On the first tasting, the notes on the palate quickly disappeared, transitioning to dry, woody and slightly bitter flavors. Not enough to ruin the experience, but not totally agreeable. On the second night, the top spicy layer made the same quick exit, but the sweet layer remained as the drier, more bitter notes emerged. It was enough to balance the finish quite nicely. All in all, quite excellent! Johnnie Walker will always be a producer of outrageous amounts of mass-market whiskies that I'll continue to pass over, but it's nice to see what the brand and Master Blender Jim Beverage are capable of. Thanks @pbmichiganwolverine for a great dram and a cool ghost distillery experience!
Three Roll Estate Rhum Agricole
Rhum Agricole Blanc — Louisiana, USATastedA day or two after exchanging a few comments with @cascode and @bigwhitemike about rhum agricole (rum fermented from crushed sugar cane, as opposed to molasses), I discovered that we have two rhum agricoles in the house, the Three Roll Rhum Argicole and Clement VSOP. It was a pleasant surprise, and a predictable result of a household alcohol collecting habit. In all fairness to me, my wife takes the lead on rum curation and selected both of the rhum agricole bottles. She slipped this one in during my recent mezcal buy a Old Town Tequila in San Diego. I've now tried both rhum agricoles, which were markedly different. As for the Three Roll - First, if you haven't noticed, the bottle in the picture features the brand name Cane Land. As I write this review, I'm not intoxicated, in the middle of an 80 hour work week, or suffering from temporary insanity because we have multiple phones ringing constantly in advance of next week's New Hampshire primary. The Cane Land name was changed to Three Roll due to trademark infringement claims. But the rhum is apparently the same. Three Roll is made in Louisiana at a sugar cane farm that has apparently been active for generations. It is unaged with no additives, including sweeteners. This is unlike any other rum I've tried, and unlike any other spirit. It is pure grass and vegetation, with a slightly sulphurous note that brings asparagus to mind. Since this is the first unaged rhum agricole I've tried, I'll reserve judgement, along with a rating. While it's not unpleasant, it's not complex or compelling to me. If I was in the mood for a vegetal spirit, I'd be far more inclined to select any number of mezcals. This might be a very good mixer (perhaps a great mojito variant?), but I can't recommend it. That's not to say my impression of the rhum agricole category is negative - the Clement is fantastic. That review soon...39.99 USD per BottleOld Town Tequila Factory Restaurant & Cantina
Aged Rum — PanamaTastedThe last time I placed an order at the Whisky Exchange, I added a bunch of rum samples for my wife and me to try. She decided to pull out the Bumbu XO tonight. There are several rum samples that I'm really looking forward to - a Rhum HSE finished in Highland Scotch casks, a Plantation 1998 Guyana Ocho finished, and a Diplomatico Batch Kettle. But I expected the Bumbu to be sweet and simple - much more her thing than mine. While it's fair to say that she liked it more than I did, it exceeded my expectations. Perhaps my surprise was due in part to the "Cask Type" description of "Oak Sherry". I later discovered that the sherry cask was only part of the aging story - most of the aging was done in used bourbon barrels, and it really shows. I picked up virtually no trace of the sherry on the nose or palate, but big notes of corn-heavy younger bourbon - vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. This is not the first bourbon barrel-aged rum I've had, but I'm certain I've never had one that has taken on bourbon characteristics to this degree. And despite the 40% ABV, it's acceptably rich and the alcohol is in balance. Now for some perspective, lest I sound overly laudatory. The XO is very sweet and not particularly complex, and would not be something I'd choose over the many rums that offer more depth and complexity. Notwithstanding the bourbon notes, I'm sure that most of my whiskey compadres here on Distiller would agree. But it's a respectable dram, and I'll pick up a bottle for my wife the next time I hit Total Wine. When I do, I won't feel a need to shield it with a bottle of Lagavulin as I walk to the register.
Kilchoman UK Small Batch
Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedI bought a bottle of Kilchoman UK Small Batch from the Whiskey Exchange a few months ago, and I had assumed it was UK only until I was disabused of that notion about a week ago while visiting San Diego. Old Town Tequila (www.oldtowntequila.com) is located (not surprisingly) in the heart of Old Town. It happens to be in the same building as one of my favorite San Diego restaurants, El Agave. The store is a bit of a mess - to access some of the shelves, I had to push aside random boxes of unopened stock collecting dust. But the mess was the furthest thing from my mind as I perused shelves full of excellent and rare bottles of tequila, mezcal, scotch, bourbon and more. Among those treasures I noticed a bottle of the Small Batch - the US edition. Subsequently, I've learned that there were approximately 1250 bottles released in both the UK and US. Other than the UK and US designations, I see no difference between the two. I considered placing my review under the US Small Batch entry requested by @eli-mckenna-weiss, but for for the sake of clarity I opened a new entry. Perhaps there should be a single merged Small Batch entry. On to the whisky! This is a very enjoyable Kilchoman. It's full of flavor, perhaps due to the multiple casks - bourbon, sherry and medeira. Perhaps also due to the multiple casks, it has a more dense profile than some other Kilchomans, but not overly so. This a very pleasant whisky that can be thoroughly enjoyed without deep contemplation. But there are two characteristics are can be best appreciated with mindful sipping. First, the fruit notes run the gamut from mellow dark fruits to tropical fruits and a hint of lemon cream. Second, the peat notes are beautiful - a Kilchoman hallmark, in my opinion. But here, the peat makes a really wonderful transition to chocolate and caramel on the finish. So pick it up if you find it! And check out Old Town Tequila if you have the chance. I picked up several lovely mezcals that I hope to review soon. But note, while Old Town has some great web offerings, many bottles are not listed online. Your best option may be a trip to San Diego.The Whisky Exchange
Del Maguey Arroqueño Mezcal
Mezcal Joven — Oaxaca, MexicoTastedIt's January, and I have Mezcal on my mind. It's not inspired by the the New England winter, but by a pending trip to LA and San Diego. That's obviously not Mexico, but wonderfully close. Also, I've been doing Duolingo Spanish lessons on a nightly basis, occasionally with an evening dram. So breaking open a sample of Del Maguey Arroqueno, courtesy of @pbmichiganwolverine, was in order. The verdict? Stunningly good. The 98 expert and 4.5 user ratings are entirely reasonable, in my opinion. The nose is solid, with agave and citrus, but the palate is bold, complex, and balanced. It features lime, orange, pepper, aloe, mild smoke, and very dark chocolate. Each of these flavor notes are clear, distinct and powerful. I'm sure I'd find more if I had a full bottle to work through. Which could happen, because I think I've scoped out a couple of bottles in San Diego. Fingers crossed...
Nomad Outland Blended Whisky
Blended — (aged for some time in Spain), ScotlandTastedTo sum it up in two words - raisin brandy. That may not sound a lot more appealing than Raisin Bran, but if you like sweet drams, raisins, and/or brandy, this might be a winner. To my palate, it's extremely sweet (practically liqueur sweet) and not particularly complex. I can't say that I love it, but it's a unique dram.
Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt
Peated Blended Malt — JapanTastedI learned today that the entire Taketsuru line is being discontinued due to shortages. I had a sample of the Pure Malt a few weeks ago and I neglected to take meaningful notes. What I recall is that there was some malt, some sherry notes, and some honey sweetness. While I wasn't enamoured, it certainly wasn't offensive. That's as much as I recall. Apparently, It didn't leave much of an impression, so it's fair to say I won't miss it.
Caol Ila 10 connoisseur’s choice (Gordon & macphail)
Single Malt — Islay , ScotlandTastedMy third and final selection from my recent visit to the Flatiron Room in NYC. The Flatiron Room is well organized. Unike some whiskey bars I've visited, the requested bottle is always located, even when the staff have to climb ladders and crawl through the eves. But in this case, it took about 10 minutes and some consultation before our server found the bottle. "This one isn't frequently ordered," he said. For those who do order this whisky, an interesting and enjoyable dram awaits. Interesting, because I would not not have guessed it was Caol Ila had I been served it blind. While it's not radically different, the meaty, barbeque peat note that I find to be the signature of the 12 and 18 is not center stage. There's plenty of peat - more than the 12 or 18 - but it's a stronger smokier peat reminiscent of Lagavulin. Enjoyable, because a complex array of flavors accompany the peat, including prominent vanilla, some lemon custard, apple and earthiness. Notwithstanding the strength if the peat, I found it to be a significantly brighter version of Caol Ila. I haven't explored independent Scotch bottlers in depth, but this dram provides a compelling case for doing so. It is both a very nice whisky and a significant variation from it's well known siblings.The Flatiron Room
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedAhh, Ardbeg. I've fully explored Arbeg's core offerings, but never had any of the annual limited edition bottles. I began to remedy that deficiency during my recent visit to the Flatiron Room in NYC by selecting the Grooves. Quite simply, this is a gem. Full of flavor, both sweet and smoke, with a fairly gentle but lengthy finish. There's a lot to like here, but the two highlights are the red wine finish notes, which are strongest on the beginning of the palate and throughout the finish, and the peat smoke, which makes a grand entrance mid-palate. The wine notes are natural straightforward fruit sweetness. As for the peat, Ardbeg's is simply my favorite. Bold, barbeque and meaty, without ashiness or any trace of smoky bitterness. That peat note is on full display in the Groove. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came when I located a bottle for sale at a reasonable price. I expected they would be entirely gone. I look forward to exploring the Grooves in more depth!The Flatiron Room
Octomore Ten Years Dialogos
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTasted2019 was a banner whiskey year for me. I tried lots of great whiskeys, bought many fantastic bottles, and had great experiences at a variety of bars and stores. Most importantly, I spent numerous hours of quality time sharing with and learning from so many great people here at Distiller! To start 2020 off right, I needed a strong opening act. I've been holding a sample of the Ten Year Dialogos I received from @pbmichiganwolverine for the right occasion. What better way to ring in the New Year? I thoroughly agree with the enthusiastic comments that proceed my review - this is a wonderfully balanced, boldly peated, and complex yet instantly enjoyable whisky. But a few personal reactions - This is my first Octomore. Although I love peated whiskeys, the idea of a dram with approximately three times the peat PPM of Ardbeg seemed...unnecessary. I love peat blended with other contrasting flavors, and 167 PPM sounded like pulling heaps of cold ash out of the fireplace and adding it to my morning smoothie. But I could not have been more wrong. While it's heavily peated (from about five feet away, my wife immediately exclaimed, "peated whisky!"), it doesn't come across as more peated than the typical Ardbeg, which leaves plenty of room for the wealth of other flavors this whiskey has to offer. To my palate, there's a real difference between the peat flavors of different whiskies. For example, I find Laphroaig to be ashy in nature, Ardbeg to be barbeque, and Ballechin to be a thick cloud of billowing blackness. The Ten Year Diagalos peat is a bit fiery, with a quality that is almost a bit spicy. It's lovely. So thank you @pbmichiganwolverine! If the rest of 2020 is half this good, it will be an epic year!