Oban 14 Year
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedSome days I crack open a new bottle to grieve, like the day I realized that this surgery had to be my last, and to make sure it would be, I would have to give up my lifelong love affair with soccer decades earlier than I would’ve liked. This is not one of those days. Some days I crack open a new bottle to celebrate, like the day I get the all-clear from my surgeon to be done with weekly trips to physical therapy after months of hard work. This IS one of those days. I went to my local liquor store to pick out something new to celebrate. The manager was too busy with a shipment gone wrong, something about someone jamming too many wine bottles into one box, so I had to figure out something new and tasty on my own. Bourbon selection was depressing. There were a few scotches that I had never tried, but I landed on this guy for 2 main reasons. 1- On the back of the tube it recommends Talisker, which I know I like. That makes this bottle the friend of a friend. Edit: Talisker did not recommend Oban on the back of its box, so this just got awkward. 2- It calls itself a “western Highlands” scotch. I have no idea what that means. I’m generally positive on Highlands scotches, so western mean that plus cowboys, right? Forgive me Scotland, I know nothing of your history. Or geography. Nose is dough, green grapes, raisin, grain, tart yogurt. It’s gentle and inoffensive. Body is acidic. Spicier than I’d expected. I get jalapeño, cheddar, blue cheese. Finish is mild smoked meat, baking powder, and black pepper. Faint orange at the very end. A splash of water made some fascinating changes. It basically nullified the nose, which was already relatively mild. More interestingly, the water really helps this body, and introduces a sweet mouthfeel that I could not detect at that stage previously, along with caramel, pear, and rice pudding flavors. I can taste that mochi stuff I put on froyo sometimes. Finish still has a pleasant tongue buzz, but there’s vanilla, toffee, dark chocolate, and possibly raspberry. I like this scotch. I don’t love it, but that’s okay. At the price I paid for it, I doubt I will ever repurchase, and I’d probably recommend mooching this from a friend or buying a glass at a bar if you’re curious.93.0 USD per Bottle
Benchmark Top Floor Bourbon (86 Proof)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted“Whiskey Credit Score.” It’s a concept a buddy and I came up with to describe what you’d be willing to drop on a new bottle you knew nothing about, purely based on the distillery. For example, for me Journeyman has a WCS so low, you’d have to pay me to take it. And I still might not. What do you want me to do with this? Hotel Tango has a very high WCS, and if I ever get into gin, it’ll probably be because they make one and I get curious. Similarly, Buffalo Trace has a very high Whiskey Credit Score with me. I’m a little concerned that it’s a blank check. If Rock Hill Farms ever did the collectible topper thing like it’s younger sibling, maybe each glass topper came in different colored glass and you had to collect the whole rainbow... I’d probably have to sell my car and start biking to work. So there’s the scene. Enter Benchmark, stage bottom shelf. Out of thin air, one day my local liquor store had 5 new Buffalo Trace products on display that I had never seen. Thankfully, they were all under $20... because again, those bastards own my wallet. The question wasn’t which one, it was: “Where’s the nearest ATM?” So here’s the Benchmarks: Benchmark 8 (80 proof) Benchmark Top Floor (86 proof) Benchmark Small Batch (90 proof) Benchmark Single Barrel (95 proof) Benchmark Bonded (100 proof) Benchmark Full Proof (125 proof) These are all made using Buffalo Trace mashbill #1, which is BT’s low-rye mashbill. People that are smarter than me think it’s about 10% rye, 5% malted barley, and 85% corn. They think this, but I don’t think anyone outside of BT actually knows. I wanted to do a true mashbill #1 round robin, so I threw in: Buffalo Trace (90 proof) EH Taylor Small Batch (100 proof) Eagle Rare (90 proof) Stagg Jr. Batch 13 (132.3 proof) 10 mashbill #1 bourbons. 45 blind taste tests in glencairns. Only one can be the best. 10th place: Benchmark Small Batch 9th place: Benchmark 8 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 8th out of 10: Benchmark Top Floor. Nose is sugar, lemon, oats. It’s a lemon-frosted oatmeal cookie. Is that a thing? Body is caramel, honey, vanilla, milk. Mild apple and oats, but that milk is dominate. Finish is baking spices, citrus. This is the place in my experiment where mashbill 1 starts becoming enjoyable for me. This is a tasty whiskey at an incredible price. It’s a bit nuttier that I typically care for, but for $13.29 I don’t know if you can find a better bottle. Very low proof, so if you’re used to bonded or higher, this is going to taste like water to you. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have a few more Benchmarks, so if you want to play along next time, feel free to skip the intro. However, I did have trouble deciding which BT stopper to rainbowify, so I may have some fresh material next time. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fun new discovery about mashbill #1: The oats/oatmeal/oat cookie note is always there, but I never would have noticed it if it hadn’t been for these cheaper iterations.13.29 USD per Bottle
Glen Scotia 15 Year
Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTastedThis will likely be my last taste for a while, because when you open a new bottle almost every day for a month, turns out you have a lot of whisky to drink. To that end, if any of my distiller friends would like a sample for free plus boat of any of the stuff I tried in December (aside from the sample-sized stuff of course) hit me up. Let’s make some magic happen. I was talking to a few friends last night about my scotch tour over December when it occurred to me that I never hit Campbeltown. Oops. This is the only scotch from Campbeltown available in my area. Nose is... absent. I transferred to a glencairn. Faint lemon, grain, honey, salt. This nose feels a bit astringent, but the notes are very faint. Maple syrup and wet stones come later in the drink. Cinnamon and apple come on the second pour. Body is butter, citrus, raisin, creamed corn. Vanilla too. Again, on the second pour, apple showed up. I got ginger at one point. Finish is black pepper. Surprisingly spicy given the mildness of nose & body. If you let your palate rest for a bit, a very small amount of peat surfaces, I’d say in the form of smoked meat. Very faint, very late in the finish. This is a subtle but well-balanced scotch. I think the mildness of the notes contributes to their number. I could easily see 10 different people trying this and coming up with 10 different dominant flavors. The most opinionated part is that black pepper on the finish, but the rest is so muted. I like it okay, but I ain’t twitterpated. I think if I mapped “cost” vs “enjoyment” of all the scotches I have experienced over the past month, this would be on the wrong side of that regression line, but that’s less a problem with enjoyment and more a problem with cost. For that reason, I factually will enjoy this bottle to the last drop, but when I replace it, I will likely spend less money on a different scotch.70.0 USD per Bottle
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon (2020)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 31, 2020 It’s yearly release time! I made it through another December trying a brand new whiskey/whisky/rum each day. I really appreciate you Distiller friends for playing along, and pointing me in the direction of a lot of new things that I love. In particular, Spice Tree, Octomore, and Loch Lomond are 3 favorite new things on my shelf, and I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have found any of those on my own. Hell, the Octomore was a special order. So in addition to making this last month (of a very trying year) a lot of fun, you also changed my outlook on scotch and the look of my whiskey shelf. While about half of my bourbon supremacy schtick is for fun, I genuinely did believe that bourbon had a more diverse range of flavors and a greater flavor density. Leaving the Speyside region killed premise 1, and Octomore swallowed premise 2 whole without saying sorry. While I still prefer bourbon, I no longer view it as an argument to be won. Scotch has a lot to offer, so thank you for changing my mind. Nose is brinier than I’d expect. There’s pickles, lemon, apple, tea leaves, sugar, caramel, pancake batter, maple syrup. Fantastic nose. That body. The high rye influence is jarring at first, but it’s growing on me. With it comes heavy cane sugar, blood orange, green apple, and caramel. There’s a very grainy mouth feel, but it works. Finish is dark chocolate, cinnamon, pepper. Pepper over cinnamon. Nice buzz that trails off. I like this whiskey. Last time I tried one of these, my hair was 90% shorter, my family was 20% fewer in number, and my number of tastes was 95% fewer. A lot has changed, and I was afraid that I would be disappointed. It’s not quite what I expected or remembered, but I truly can’t find fault with it. It’s extremely well done. I added an ice cube on my second pour, and this is also phenomenal. Complexity goes way down, but the caramel and fruity notes emerge even more. On the rocks, this reminds me a lot of Rock Hill Farms or Hancock’s. And coming from me, that’s one of the biggest praises a bourbon can receive. Everybody have a safe and amazing New Years. Bugger off 2020, and cheers to 2021! ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!182.0 USD per Bottle
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 30, 2020 This is the first time I have tried to understand a non-Speyside regionally, though I’ve seen other people do this before. My current impression is that the Highlands are my jam, with Loch Lomond, Compass Box (Spice Tree), and Highland Park being three solid new discoveries for me this December. And I understand the caveats that go into calling Compass Box a highland scotch, but the argument could be made. So I’m going to attempt to nail down expectations for this one. I’ll start small, since I’m still learning here. I’m going to assume low peat, juiciness, some sort of citrus, and an oily, sweet mouth feel. This is my final sample from the very generous @PBMichiganWolverine and so one more big thank you for the many experiences you’ve given me this December. Nose is low burn, but also low in scent. I honestly don’t get a lot. Oats, bran cereal, and a very low smoked meat note with some effort. Body starts off subtly, then builds. Holy cow that’s fascinating. Notes are orange and sugar initially, but there’s a sharp turn mid-body toward bitterness. I’m not sure what I’d call that note. On a bourbon I might call it leather, but it’s different here. I’m going to go with (don’t judge me) the taste of dried sweat on skin. I said don’t judge me. Finish has some smoked meat on it, maple syrup, baking powder, black pepper, baked bread, cinnamon. It’s a punch on your taste buds, and I dig it. I need to say something about the mouth feel of this whisky, because it damn near knocked me out of my chair a second ago. I often like a mouth feel that comes at you like a sine wave, where as the drink develops on your tongue you have changes in texture, you have rise and fall of how you experience the flavors, and you have some wrap-up of all those things that makes the drink feel complex and dynamic. This is not that. Even if you wrap in the nose, this experience starts like a volume dial at 1 that gradually cranks up to 11 by the finish. There’s a reason I got few notes in the beginning and a boatload at the end, and it was because of that ever-increasing intensity of experience. That first sip I thought my head might explode. I don’t know what that is or how they accomplished it, but I really don’t remember having that specific experience before. The flavors were all good, and perhaps with more of it I could have figured out more, but the first few sips were pure survival mode. I both liked it and was confused by it. I think this makes sense as a manifestation of my very fuzzy understanding of “highland scotch.” I was kind of off on the juicy/sweet bits, but the rest of it tasted like what I was thinking. I maintain that the highlands are my jam! ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!
The Glenlivet 12 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 29, 2020 I wish I could say this was only the second gift set I have purchased specifically for the glassware during the 2020 holiday season. Or the third, or the fourth. But no, this is the fifth and seemingly unlikely final gift set purchased during holiday 2020 specifically for the glassware. And (for science) I have a Glenlivet 12 year rum finish to compare. Nose is peach ice cream. I can get that grape/raisin I expect from a Speyside, but there’s a sweet vanilla that turns the whole nose for me into delicious peach ice cream. Body is juicy. Grape jam, sugar, strawberry, bitter chocolate. Gummy bears. I can bring the peach in from the nose but it feels forced. Finish is heavy on baking powder, but that chocolate remains. Short and gentle finish. Peaches and cream return! I just had an epiphany. This is the scotch version of Jefferson’s Reserve. They have very similar mouth feels and share many major notes, which is remarkable given that they have completely different processes. While I don’t care for Jefferson’s Reserve, the grape jam/gummy bear notes work better on this scotch, which is drier and less sweet by nature. Also, this is the first time I’ve tasted peaches on a scotch, and I dig it. Unlike Jefferson’s, where a rum finish takes a mediocre product and makes it a solid contender, the rum finish on Glenlivet makes a very different but equally decent product. In both, the rum finish tones down the sweetness without obliterating the notes that work well with that finish, like the chocolate and the fruit notes. It’s fun to learn things! Oh, and I probably won’t by another bottle of this. Unless they pair it with some keychains or a pencil topper or something. ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!
Talisker 8 Year (2020 Special Release)
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 28, 2020 I tried this whisky side by side with my Talisker 10 to compare. Thanks for the sample @PBMichiganWolverine ! This is much lighter in color than the 10yr. Nose is meaty, I’d go with vinegar based barbecue or corned beef. Mildly sour, with vanilla too. The 10year is meatier, but you lose some of the complexity I find here. I prefer this nose. Body is oily and creamy, I get malt chocolate, cream, caramel, peanut butter. The flavors on the body are sweet, desert like, and muted in comparison to the finish. I think the smoked meat exists on the body, but it’s tough to notice compared to its presence on the finish. 10 year isn’t far off here on notes, but far less rich in flavor. That finish punches back intensely with brisket. It sticks around, and I dig it. Slight black pepper here, but the meat is the main star. Finish of the 10-year is nonexistent by comparison. It’s really fascinating to me that with less age and color (ie: effects from exposure to a barrel) you can get more intensity and complexity of flavor. I can tell this whisky is kin to the 10 year, but this one feels substantially more polished. The way they dialed in the body to finish experience is something truly special. I’d really like to know what techniques they use to pull this off, because while I more or less get the artistry behind bourbon making, the artistry behind scotch making is still a bit of a locked box for me. That said, I love this whisky, and I’ll know better in the future than to assume that older means better within a brand. Edit: I just read on PB’s review that this is a rum finish, and everything makes so much more sense now. I mean it. Everything. I think I learned C++ just by reading that. ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!
Rabbit Hole "Boxergrail" Kentucky Straight Rye
Rye — Kentucky, USATastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 27, 2020 This whiskey has a gold medal around its neck. That’s how you know that there’s no way you could possibly be disappointed. This little guy won “Best of Class” in the 2019 World Wine & Spirits Competition in New York. It also appears to be the 2019-2020 “Official American Whiskey” of the James Beard Foundation, which (turns out) is a real-life foundation that celebrates chefs. Good for you, Boxergrail. Nose is hot cocoa powder, dill pickles, maple syrup. Small amounts of caramel & leather. Body hits first with that pickle. Behind it is honey, lemon, tangerine. Chocolate notes build up over time on the back end of the body, making this drink just get better and better. Finish is mild, but there’s sugar, brine, mild pepper. That chocolate resurfaces, and the pepper transitions to a nice baking powder flavor. So good. For my money, this is a solid rye whiskey. I don’t know enough about ryes to do a proper value claim here, but I like this better than bottom shelf ryes (Wild Turkey, Bulleit, etc) and not quite as much as the various Whistlepigs I’ve tried over the years. So I guess what I’m saying Boxergrail is this: I feel like we could have something really special one day, but I’m just not looking for anything serious right now, you know? You’re a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t mind continuing to drink you from time to time, but we shouldn’t try too hard to define whatever this is that we have. Let’s just live in this moment, and we’ll see where the future takes us. ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Brora
Peated Blend — ScotlandTastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 26, 2020 So when @PBMichiganWolverine offered me a sample of “JW Blue Ghost and Rare Brora” I had no idea what any of those words meant. To me, “JW” is a prefix for “Dant” and “rare” typically means I’m going to be disappointed. I didn’t know until just now checking this in, that this was a Johnnie Walker product, effectively making this a blind taste test. I think that was optimal for me, because although I have never tried any Johnnie Walker whiskies, for some reason I thought Johnnie Walker stuff was garbage. “The Jim Beam of Scotland.” I have no idea where I got this prejudice, and perhaps my preconceptions are still accurate generally speaking. Yet I know now that I was wrong at least when it comes to this whisky: my first JW product. Big thanks to PBMW for the JW! Nose has grape musk, chalk dust, lemon, powdered sugar. Later I also found tangerine, strawberry, and chai tea, but those initial notes were more prevalent. Body has watermelon, lemonade, cherry, green apple. There’s milk, cream. All the things I like. The more concerning nose notes (musk, dust, chai) aren’t present here. This is simply juicy and delicious. It’s thicker than I’d expect given those notes, so I suppose a fruit smoothie is the overarching theme. Finish holds on to some tart fruit, both in feel and taste, but also fades away quickly with pure sugar. Small bite on the finish, which is always a plus. I’d say serrano pepper. When you admit that fact, you get a fresh veggie taste with it, like a bell pepper. Delicious. This is really really good. I’m having trouble finding fault with it, but something is holding me back from calling it perfect. Maybe that’s the JW effect. Still, even at the price point I’m seeing online, I’d pick up one of these if it showed up on a shelf. ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedIt’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! (I just learned from my daughters how advent calendars actually work.) Dec. 25, 2020 This is the true story of Milliardo’s exposure to scotch during December of 2020. I have brought all of y’all who provided kind suggestions down with me. I call this one: “Milliardo’s Song,” by Drink-182 I never thought I'd see the day My Rip Van Winkle got packed away My BTAC’s on the floor by the wall I never found a way to catch them all I took two years, then hurried up This Octomore is lurking in my cup I'm too impressed not to provide A place for my scotch collection to reside I never cracked OBSK 2019 held more bourbon days Days when I thought scotch was bland I couldn't wait to tell @Ctrexman CA still sucks, Scotland’s okay The trial was over, bourbon won the day I couldn't wait to prove to y’all Please tell @PBMichiganWolverine this is all his fault I never thought I'd drink roast beef Tell @cascode that I like the peat I made a space for Compass Box You guessed right @ContemplativeFox Still can’t pronounce: “Bunnahabhain” Thanks for the rec @Jan-Case anyway I found a home in a Dalmore cult @WhiskeyLonghorn that one is your fault I never cracked OESK I turned down Blanton’s just the other day The day I bought this 11.3 What the hell is happening to me The world is wider than KY The war is over, scotch survived Now I drink Highland Park I can blame that one on @DigitalArc Nose on this is indistinguishable from my memory of Octomore 10, but that’s not a bad thing. I wish I could compare directly. It’s tangy steak sauce, orange, brisket. This is amazing. Body follows directly from that nose. This is the most savory thing I can remember drinking. It feels thick and oily, and by the end, you can almost convince yourself there’s actual chunks of meat swirling around in there. That sounds gross, but I meant it as a compliment. Flavors are heavily smoked barbecue, steak sauce, black pepper. On occasion I can get caramel. Finish lingers. It’s that same smoked barbecue, but there’s a spicy barbecue sauce at the end now, especially on the top of your tongue. This feels like a fancy meal. I could literally drink this beast all damn day. That drink as a whole package was phenomenal. I remember feeling that way about the 10 year too, but my instincts are that this Octomore is fuller bodied in flavor and thicker in mouthfeel. This fits the flavor profile so well, that I can’t imagine Octomore 10 being as perfect on that one fact alone. Looking forward to trying the 11.1 soon, because again... what the hell did you guys do to me? In all seriousness: thanks for you named above and many others for guiding me into the scotch world this December. It’s been eye-opening and a very worthwhile endeavor, and I am very appreciative for you all! ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!269.99 USD per Bottle