Whiskey Sommelier, Certified Bourbon Steward. Guitar. technology, leadership. Bourbon is my wheelhouse, but at the end of the day good whisk(e)y is good whisk(e)y.
Laphroaig 25 (2018 Edition)
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed October 14, 2022Nose: A blast of brine, pinepple with tajin, smoke, seaweed. Celery, carrot vegetal sweetness. Brown sugar and vanilla - no doubt from spending so long in an ex-bourbon cask. I could live in this nose. Citrus peel, cream, black pepper. Subtle nutmeg and allspice. Tarry rope. It's unistakably Laphroaig, but with added depth and richness. Palate: Minty, fruity, peaty, smokey, briny. Oak and vanilla much more prominent than the nose. Black and pink peppercorns. Tannins show up and help make the mouthfeel interesting. Tea - black and green. The retronasal is ashy, worn-in smoke. Brown sugar syrup. Ultra-ripe apricots and peaches. Red apples. Heather honey. That the distillate character made it this far is pretty amazing - and a testament to the quality. Stunningly balanced - the smoke, ash, and peat aren't as punchy as you'd get in, say, the 10 year, but still hold up remarkably well against the rest of what's happening. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: That pinepple and brine combo again. Oak, vanilla, brown sugar set up a base. Ash, damp earth, mint. Raw phenolic content and ethanol provide a bit of a break before candied lemon peel, cracked black pepper, and anise start dancing around. Medium-long length. With a few drops of water: The tea comes forward, with a bit of eucalyptus. The pineapple turns into more of a mango. The oak a little drier. Palate mellows a little and becomes more friendly. Same with the finish, though there's an added effervescence that provides a nice contrast. The phenols also linger a bit longer on my tongue and give me a beatiful sensation (and taste!) of cherry Chloraseptic. In the best possible way. Other notes: Whenever I get into anything above $100 a bottle, I brace myself for tremendous disappointment. Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised that the liquid contained within meets my critereon for "great". Very rarely, it will rise to my definition of "exceptional". And there's a very high bar to meet that latter designation: it has to present something weird, increidbly refined, or otherwise outside the norm in a pleasant manner. In A/Bing this with the standard 10 year, the evolution is wildly apparently, and for the better. Behind the smoke and ash and peat, 10 is very pretty. Almost light. The 25's mid-palate is filled in while still keeping plenty of the top, bright, pretty characteristics. Considering this whiskey on it's own merits, I would place it in the "exceptional" category. Is it worth the ultra-high price tag? Probably not. But it's still fantastic. From memory (since I have none on hand), the 10 CS offers a similarly amped-up experience but misses the depth and richness, characteristics you're only going to get from this much age. Well worth a glass. Maybe not worth a bottle. Clearly not something I'll be able to keep regularly stocked. But something I'm very, very happy I got this for my collection. Bravo. Slainte!
Kirkland 19 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch Sherry Cask Finish
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed October 14, 2022Nose: Classic single malt character with a side of dark fruits and dark chocolate. Fig, drupes - ripe cherries and apricots. Honey drizzled on green apple with a side of granola. Some roasted nuts in the background. Ethanol present, but not overwhelming. Lemon zest. Maybe a touch of mint or wintergreen buried amongst everything else. Good nose - lives up to the expectations set on the label re: style. Palate: Toasted grain, cereals, honey, green apple. The dark chocolate and dark fruits are there again. Not a sherry bomb, but well balanced. The sweetness isn't cloying or overpowering. Lemon peel, including some pith, and a surprising amount of tannin bitterness and texture. Subtle vanilla. All flavors are well balanced, though this does tend to be a little prickly on the tongue. Mid-treble prominence. Mouthfeel is medium-thin though coats the palate well. Finish: We start with apples, honey, and toasted grain. Oak and tannin come in, along with some wintergreen and that lemon peel again. Things round out with berries, whipped cream, honey, green apples, dark chocolate, maybe a touch of barrel char. Medium length finish. With a few drops of water: Some vanilla and cream come to the fore on the nose - whipped cream with vanilla and mint. Oak, too. Palate softens a little. Not as prickly. The sweetness from the sherry cask comes forward some, too. Finish is relatively consistent. Other notes: The balance here is excellent. Though the sherry is definitely present, it's not taking over or burying the spirit. The extra age certainly helps add the vanilla, some sweetness, and oak qualities, which adds a level of cohesiveness. This is one of a handful of Kirkland-branded whiskies I've had to date and they all tend to be very good. Not standout, not best-in-class, just very good. If you're into Sherry finished Speysides, you'll likely dig this. The price point (around $70), especially, made this a very easy buy - a 19 y/o whiskey for less than $100 is hard to pass up. Maybe not a re-buy for me, but definitely worth a bottle.
Abasolo Ancestral Corn Whisky
Corn — Mexico, MexicoReviewed August 17, 2021Nose: Sweet corn - combo of artificial sweetener and sugar. Buttery and lactic. Very subtle baking spice and oak. Also some herbal and vegetal character. A little stewed strawberry with black pepper and balsamic. Unique but pleasant. Palate: Kettle corn. Bubblegum. Mint. A little dusty leather and cigar wrapper. White pepper. Clarified butter. Solid balance overall, if more subtle than I'd normally go for. Hits the front of the palate mostly. Light mouthfeel, though with some oil content. Finish: Rush of buttered popcorn without salt. A little oak floats by, though not much. Pepper, under-ripe stone fruits, just a flash of clove. Medium length. Other notes: THis is a unique pour, well suited to the summer. It's not overly sweet or intense, and it provides an excellent option against more traditional corn-based whiskeys. I picked this up purely on a whim and wasn't too sure the first time I tasted it. Now that I've sat with it a few times while the heat rises outside, I think I get it. A solid thumbs up for those who are looking for a different side of the corn whiskey world. Might not find a permanent place in my bar, but I might have to pick up another bottle at some point down the road after I kick this one. Cheers.
Ardbeg Scorch (2021 Committee Release)
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandReviewed August 10, 2021Nose: Unmistakably Ardbeg - peat, smoke, brine. Meaty - smoked black pepper bacon. Brown sugar and vanilla, char and barrel smoke. Lemon. Wintergreen. Strawberries and bananas. Chocolate, leather - anique leather furniture. Cardamom, cumin, cilantro. Charred green bell pepper. Nutmeg and anise. Not super dark and deep, but a solid amount of density and complexity going on here. Palate: Ash, smoke, peat. Black pepper, nutmeg, anise, wintergreen. Brown sugar, vanilla. Oak and char - like you find in bourbon. Good tannin. Dill, thyme, mint, orange. Clove. Bitter chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Midrange and mid-palate focused. Mediumn mothfeel. Finish: A splash of citrus oil ethanol-y goodness. Black pepper and charred oak slide into place. Campfire and ash, s'mores. Cigar tobacco, leather. Wintergreen, sugar, and bitterness linger for a good while, with really appealing oil content. Long length that cotinues to evolve. Other notes: A novel Ardbeg, and one that delivers on what it sets out to do. An enjoyable experiment, this adds a little bit of bourbon flair to your classic Ardbeg character. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at Ardbeg's special releases, I mighht skip this one since it colors outside of the lines. However, if you enjoy Ardbeg's propensity for exploring maturation options, this would be an easy suggestion. I might even try to get my hands on another bottle. Cheers!
Boondocks 11 Year American Whiskey
Other Whiskey — (bottled and aged in) Kentucky, USAReviewed August 10, 2021Nose: White sugar, metallic artificial vanilla, and subtle corn. Kettle corn. Caramel. Subtle hits of oak and mint. Just a thread of char and smoke. Wafts of walking by the part of the produce aile the has the packs of various berries. Not terribly deep or complex, but well integrated otherwise. Palate: Kettle corn, caramel, buttery, very suble lemon. Oak, but with minimized tannin. Pound cake with vanilla icing. Maybe a little banana. Focuses on the mid-palate. Top-heavy, but not in a bad way. Light mouthfeel, though with semi decent oil. Finish: Vanilla, lemon oil, oak. Grape skins. Cream. Short length, but pleasant. Other notes: This isn't trying to be the most complex, deep, rich, intriguing experience. Instead, it's a phenomenally executed glass that wants to accompany your good time, instead of being the center of attention. If you like Irish, you'd dig this. Maybe not something I'd feel compelled to always have on hand, but worth a purchase if this is your style. Cheers!
Rye — (bottled in) Kentucky, Multiple CountriesReviewed July 15, 2021Nose: Fruity, spicy, herbal rye character - cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, dill, rosemary, etc. A variety of sliced apples. Bits of vanilla, oak, and a some white sugar sweetness. Under-ripe peaches and apricots. Blueberry scones with a touch of icing. The proof keeps this bright and present without being over the top or too aggressive. Palate: Peach cobbler, apple pie, and vanilla bean ice cream. Oak and tannin throughout. Clove, nutmeg, spearmint, lemon oil. Dill and anise are excellently integrated, too. Black pepper and leather are buried in here - like strawberries with black pepper and cheap maple syrup. A little bright and shiny overall, with a decent amount of treble. Hits towards the front of the palate. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Apples, grapes, oak, and ethanol. Bitter lemon, naval orange come through, along with vanilla icing. A combo of rosemary and mint swirl show up, with touches of tobacco, black pepper, leather, and cocoa. Citrus, leather, spices... solid end to the finish. Medium-long length. Other notes: Fun expression, with the different casks really being put to excellent use. The madeira really helps keeps this cohesive and prevents things from getting too abrasive. If you dig rye or generally sweeter whiskeys, or are into interesting blends and finishing, this is right up your alley. I might try to snag a second bottle, even. Cheers!
Booker's Bourbon Batch 2021-01 "Donohoe's Batch"
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed July 13, 2021Nose: It's Booker's - dense, rich oak, brown sugar, and French vanilla ice cream. Barrel char and a little smoke. You get a sense for the rye in the mash bill, with warming baking spices. Roasted peanuts and almonds. Dusty corn, leather, cocoa - walking through a used bookstore with Parisian hot chocolate. Grilled apricots and peaches drizzled with honey. Just a little bit of cherry. Not the sweetest, not the driest - this sits right in the middle. Definitely presents as high proof, but it doesn't singe your nasal cavity nearly as much as you'd expect. Palate: Warming, with oak, char, molasses, sugar, and vanilla. Swirls of apples with natural peanut butter, those grilled peaches topped wiuth honey, and some whipped cream. Proof is much more evident on the tongue. That, along with the tannins, gives this the classic texture you want from this line. Hot cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little fennel. Again, sits about in the middle of the sweet/dry spectrum. Banana pudding, mixed chocolate/carob/white chocolate chips, Nilla Wafers. Great balance overall, with everything cranked up to 10, though the treble is up to 11. Hits all over the palate. Medium-heavy mouthfeel. Finish: Ethanol followed by exactly what you'd expect - charred oak, molasses, vanilla, and brown sugar. Apple pie, but with extra spices in the mix. Leather follows suit while the proof calms down. Roasted nuts, buttermilk biscuits, and dry coffee grounds. Tannin shows up late but is a welcome addition. And that's how we fade out. Medium-long length. Other notes: It's Booker's. Felt right to wrap this up starting with the same two words I began this with. While there's obviously variation from batch to batch, the profile fits within a particular bandwidth. This one does a fantastic job not letting any particular element dominate, giving a great sense of what this line is all about. While not my personal favorite release (2018-02), this is a great intro to the experience - if you wanted to know of a batch to start with, you'd be hard pressed to do better than this. I may re-buy this, something I tend to avoid in the post price-hike era. Good stuff.
Michter's US*1 Barrel Strength Rye
Rye — USAReviewed July 12, 2021Nose: Oak, brown sugar, herbs, and vanilla. Not a funky dill bomb, but does have all those baking spices - clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, etc. Strawberry and banana are way out front, as well. Sandalwood shaving cream. Subtle coffee and cocoa. Mint, thyme, basil, etc. A boozy take on a classic rye with added fruit. Nice. Palate: Oak, caramel, bananas, strawberries, canned vanilla flavored frosting. Mint, thyme, etc. Hot cinnamon. Tanning present will, alongside a solid whack of char (though not a ton). Also getting orange-flavored chocolate and leader. A little top-heavy, but that's likely the proof. Comes out mostly in the mid palate. Medium mouthfeel, with decent oil content. Finish: A swell of oak, vanilla, and bubblegum. A sprig of mint in a bowl of strawberry ice cream. Slightly creamy flavors mingle in as we slowly fade out. Medium long length. Other notes: Michter's distillery character carries through their expressions so well while never feeling out of place. The higher proof here just amplifies that character into some really great territory. If you're a fan of rye, this might be a fun adventure, though it may not be exactly what you expect, with the herbal and baking spice notes you might generally expect being crowded out a little by fruit. All that said, if you dig Michter's or Rye, I'd get a bottle. Probably not a re-buy from me though.
Barrell Bourbon Batch 028
Bourbon — USAReviewed July 11, 2021Nose: Big, bold, boozy oak and char. This is not shy about what it is. Classic brown sugar and vanilla are also here, alongside a bready, biscuity character I'm really digging. Tobacco, leather, and dusty corn. Splashes of fruits dancing around in the background. Baking spices, leaning more on cinnamon. Cocoa. There's also some sublty meaty characterists. Palate: Oak and bubblegum. Vanilla. Bananas. Light brown sugar. Grocery store sugar cookies with that colored coarse sugar sprinkled on top. Coffee and leather punching though - barrel bite is definitely coming through. Solid tannin to add texture and just a little bitterness. Black licorice and nutmeg. Solid balance and structure. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Classic ethanol pop and oak. That oak slowly gets charred while coffee grounds, earth, and buttermilk biscuits come and go. Berries, vanilla custard. As things fade some thyme and basil show up. Medium-long length. Other notes: This is an excellent bourbon. It's not coloring outside the lines or bringing anyhthing unique to the table. Instead, this executes the standard format very well. Barrell continues to impress, with releases like this definitely climbing into Booker's territory as far as quality is concerned. For being 108.86 proof, this presents much bigger and bolder than I was expecting. An easy recommended buy if you enjoy the style. And definitely one I'll be sad to see go.
Bourbon — (bottled in) Kentucky, USAReviewed July 7, 2021Nose: Rich vanilla and brown sugar with oak to back it up. The proof helps this present very clearly without being too excessive. Stone fruits - cherries, apricots, peaches. Some subtle lightly roasted nuts, too. Solid whack of baking spices - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg. Really digging this nose. It's a classic, dense-leaning take, without being too sweet. Char and smoke come in a bit, too. Palate: Again, classic bourbon that tips towards dry. Oak is much more up-front in the mouth, with high molasses brown sugar and vanilla coming in after. Anise, clove, nutmeg, and a touch of hot cinnamon. Leather, tobacco, and dark chocolate. Tannins present, but not overwhelming. Slight poutpurri floral character. Well balanced overall, with the mid palate lighting up a bit more from the proof. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Flash of proof and barrel char, then some oak comes in and settles down. Tannin, vanilla, cream, nuts, and leather. Maduro tobacco. Then the stone fruits come in - cherry pie filling. Fig newtons. Slowly fades off. Medium long length. Other notes: This has become a fast favorite. Normally I do notes within the first few glasses of the first bottle. This is my 3rd for this one. It's not without flaws. It could offer a little more density and richness. It could be maybe a bit more complex. But this isn't trying to be that kind of whiskey. It's clear the folks at Barrell were looking to craft a solid, middle to upper shelf experience. With a price point floating at/slightly above your Knob Creek Single Barrels, I'm not mad about it. Clearly something I'd suggest, and something that's quickly earned a permanent spot in my bar. Cheers!
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