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.
Knob Creek Cask Strength Straight Rye (2018 Release)
Rye — Kentucky, USAReviewed July 6, 2021 (edited July 7, 2021)Nose: Great combination of dark chocolate, barrel character, baking spices, and herbs. Sugar and vanilla, too. Soft, simple fruits. Dill, though not a ton. The ethanol makes itself known, though maybe not as much as you'd expect for the proof. Dusty leather. A little granola with yogurt. Whipped cream with a little vanilla and orange blossom water. Honey and toasted grains in the background. Really enjoyable. Palate: Oak, vanilla, brown sugar. Chocolate covered strawberries, bananas, plums. Mint, dill, rosemary. Clove and nutmeg. Maybe a touch of allspice. Barrel char and tannin. Ethanol kick. Almsot getting a savory note - smoked salmon, teriyaki sauce, etc. Citrus oils. Well balanced overall, which can be an issue at the extreme ends of proof. Lights up the whole palate. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Ethanol followed by berries, vanilla, and a little mint. Oak and char come in along with some tannin texture and brown sugar. Peaches and apricot pop into the center. Then things fade on mint, thyme, milk chocolate, and fruit. Medium-long length. Other notes: This stuff is a blast. Paired with very dark chocolate is a fun experience, but just as excellent on its own. Not something I'd use to introduce people to the Rye category, something Beam does very well. I'd love to see more explorations like this but alas, it's the hipster's category. Easy recommendation from me, and something I may try to find another bottle of to keep around a bit longer. Well done.
Sonoma Distilling Company Cherrywood Smoked Bourbon
Bourbon — California, USAReviewed July 6, 2021 (edited September 7, 2021)Nose: Plenty of oak, tannin included - almost reminding me of spirits aged in Texas. Vanilla, molasses, dusty corn. Plums and figs, but with the sweetness pulled back. Smoke character definitely present, though not dominating. Lemon peel and pith, wintergreen. Some subtle floral quality over the top. Nutmeg and burning cinnamon stick. Cherry, though not in the syrupy sweet way you might find in some other bourbons. Floating in between pine and thyme. Palate: Oak, smoke, ash, brown sugar. Prickly feeling. Some ripe naval orange is coming through, alongside banana and berry. Cream, bitter burnt coffee. Tart cherry. Anise and clove. Dry. Mids and highs are balanced, but there's not much foundation or depth for them to stack onto. Largely presents on the mid palate. Medium light mouthfeel, medium low oil content. Finish: Oak, coffee, smoke, ash. Bitter orange peel, vanilla, cream, and brown sugar. Things eventually settle down into angel food cake topped with lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream served next to an fire with a mismanaged flue. Medium length. Other notes: Unique. So much of the smoke character here reminds me of Garrison Bros. or Balcones, just without the tannins. This explores a niche you see a certain drinker ask about in various Facebook groups and forums. While this certainly isn't the idea perfected, I think it proves that there's some more discovery to be made. If the label "smoked bourbon" is of serious interest to you, go ahead and give this a quaff. If there's any reticence on your part, I might save your cash for something else. Likely not a re-buy unless I want something way off the beaten path for an event!
High West Campfire (Discontinued)
Blended American Whiskey — (bottled in Utah), Multiple CountriesReviewed June 29, 2021 (edited July 28, 2021)Nose: Honey, lemon, smoke. Much less intense than I recall. Lemon oil and lime oil expressed on apricots. Slight wet cardboard, but not in a tails-y way. Leather and tobacco. Smoked paprika, black pepper, nutmeg - classic rye spices in the background. Palate: Vanilla, honey, toasted cereal grains. Anise, pepper, leather, dark chocolate. Almonds. Nutmeg and clove. The palate seems very densely packed, so-to-speak. There's a little banana, strawberry, and lemon going on. Watered down apple juice. This comes across as on the brighter side, missing some heft. Medium mouthfeel, hitting mostly on the back. Finish: Star anise, black pepper, smoke, ash, green apple. Bananas and mangoes come in. A little oak and tannin also show up, along with some mint and other fresh herbs. Medium length, with decent oil content. Other notes: This is a unique ride. It doesn't fit squarely in any particular category, and the sum here winds up being different without being weird. It's definitely not something I would reach for regularly, and the one bottle I've got will definitely last for quite a while. Easy recommend for a purchase, though maybe not a re-buy. Just something a little out of the ordinary.
Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandReviewed May 18, 2021 (edited May 19, 2021)Nose: Classic Irish. Buttery, with a solid hit of banana. Clove, nutmeg, and orange blossom all sit in the background. Some mango is mixed into the front. Metallic vanilla. A little oak. I could be convinced there's some red fruit/berry going on in here. Also catching a little cashew butter in there. Palate: Thin, buttery, metallic vanilla. The palate has a touch of cinnamon and black pepper with that clove-studded banana. The icing that comes with a tube of unbaked cinnamon rolls. The filling of a Twinkie, though not as cloying. You get the idea. Shortbread cookies. This is a great example of a top-heavy, bright, shiny whiskey, though there's some solid midrange filling things in. So mild, it's hard to say where on the palate this falls - maybe towards the front? I know people have opinions about the term "smooth", but this squarely fits that descriptor. Finish: Metallic vanilla. Banana. Clove. There's consistency going from each phase of the taste. There's the smallest hint of oak underneath everything. Medium-short length. Other notes: It's a budget Irish. Interchangable with Jameson, and that's perfectly fine. Not every bottle on the shelf needs to be a dense, rich, high proof adventure. Sometimes you just need a shot of something inoffensive and easy. This is that. Do I think everybody should buy this? Not necessarily this specifically - I think everybody needs to buy a budget Irish at some point or another. And I think everybody needs to have one in their cabinet pretty much at all times. Add this to the list of candidates to fill that spot. Cheers!
Old Tub Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed May 11, 2021 (edited May 12, 2021)Nose: Solid combination of charred oak, dusty corn, vanilla, and a sprikling of brown sugar. Natural, chunky peanut butter. Touches of apricot, peach, banana, and strawberries buried way deep. Worn leather, tobacco, cocoa. Sandalwood and cedar. Just a touch of wet cardboard, but again, buried pretty deep. Clove, anise, and fennel. Black pepper. This leans away from the sweeter side, offering a great example of what bourbon can be on the other end of the spectrum. Buttermilk biscuits. Under-ripe banana. Palate: Consistent with the nose - charred oak, dusty corn, vanilla, and some brown sugar. We're now dealing with roasted, salted peanuts. Apricot jam, honey, butter, all on top a buttermilk biscuit. Tart cherries. Leather. Tannin. Apple pie with extra spices. Definitely plenty of midrange. Mid-palate focused. Medium-light mouthfeel with good oil content. Finish: A combo of that oak, char, and smoke alongside some ethanol heat. As the oak settles in, clove, nutmeg, pepper, anise, etc fade in. The tannin comes back to play, offering some good bitterness as contrast. Medium length. Other notes: This has quickly become my favorite budget bottle and one I may need to really stock up on if Beam decides it should stay a limited release. This occupies a similar space as Knob Creek, offering plenty of that mid-proof punch while dialing back on the complexity and depth. If it doesn't go the way of the dodo, I'll definitely try to keep at least one bottle on hand. Otherwise, I need to find some storage space somewhere in this house. Highly recommend.
Maker's Mark 101
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed May 11, 2021 (edited May 18, 2021)Nose: Classic MM character - brown sugar, vanilla, touch of oak, with that solid whack of cherry. A touch of hot cinnamon and clove. The added ethanol helps dial everything up and makes this a little more interesting than it's lower-proof bretherin. Red apples, raspberries, and just a touch of super-ripe blueberries. There's also a faint granola character waaaay in the back - giving me a bit of a fruit parfait with vanilla yogurt vibe. Also a small bit of maple is threading through, adding some dimensionality to the sweetness. Palate: Again, delivers the classic MM profile - vanilla, sugar, oak, and cherry. The oak here is a touch more astringent, though not in an unappealing or intrusive way - but that tannin is definitely present. Menthol. Big League Chew, complete with the powdery coating to prevent the shreds from sticking together. A little more baking spice punch, with more cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Plenty of upper-mids, this sits on the middle-back of the palate. Medium mothfeel, a touch syrupy. Finish: Begins oak forward, then a swell of ethanol comes through. As that subsides, the baking spices and classic MM sweetness show, along with a touch of barrel char and bitter chocolate. Just the faintest whiff of burnt peanuts going on. Medium length. Other notes: Standard Maker's just isn't my thing, but their variety of experiments with proof, maturation, finishing, etc have been pretty interesting. As a solid sipper that isn't trying to steal the show, I like this. There are plenty of other bottles at or around this proof I tend to prefer, but this is a solid entry into that arena and a great option if you want a break from the usual WT101s and KCs of the world. Worth a buy, though not compelled to always have it on hand.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Very Fine Rare Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed March 13, 2021 (edited April 11, 2021)Nose: Oak, molasses, and a touch of vanilla. Big dark chocolate character - think 90%+ bars. Smoke and char, Virginia/Perique pipe tobacco in the tin. Clove and nutmeg. Figs, red apples, and some toasted black pepper. Just a hint of orange oil perfuming throughout, along with a touch of floral notes. While a big selling point here is the inclusion of older stocks, there's a good whack of sweet dusty corn and wintergreen in here. Kix and Corn Pops type sweetness. The blending here is, frankly, pretty artful. A great example of using oak and age to provide density and body, instead of relying on proof. Palate: While oak is a dominating note on the nose, it takes over on the palate even more. Char and smoke are definitely more up front. Molasses and vanilla are also evident, but again that oak doesn't give them much room. Clove and nutmeg alongside some good tannin content - the bitterness is here but in a more balanced fashion than I'd normally expect. The dark chocolate has pulled back considerably, revealing more of that new leather sense you get when walking through those stores in Florence. Dark fruits - figs, blueberries, raisins, prunes. Fresh ground black pepper this time around. And again, dusty corn is here. Mid and back palate focused, with a lot of midrange and some top end. I do wish there was more richness and depth, something that often only really comes as a result of proof. Medium mouthfeel with a drying quality. Finish: A blast of charred oak, black pepper, and that molasses come is. Fresh vanilla beans and cream - youre making crème anglaise but with a bit more vanilla than you're supposed to. The black pepper falls away, and on top of the oak some nugmeg shows up, along with star anise and apples. Almost like making hot cider and then drinking it chilles. This hangs out and gives you a medium long finish, with that dark chocolate coming in at the tail end, with that bitterness providing balance and contrast. Other notes: The level of execution here is impressive. Another great entry into the ranks of "bourbon with its pinky out", the blending here is artful. While touting some highly aged stocks (though without saying how much), I'm more struck by the overall balance this has. The combination of high oak with enough sweetness and traditional Woodford distillery character keeps this more than interesting. And doing so at a sub-100 proof point should be appluaded. I do wish there was more dark brown sugar density, but I certainly don't fault this on that metric. I try to avoid comparisons between distilleries but this fits a similar niche as the Wild Turkey Master's Keep Decades. Is this something for the proof hounds? No. Nor is it a vanilla bomb, and while there's plenty of oak character on tap this does not get into, say, Balcones territory. Instead this shows what's possible when you take folks with great palates, deep knowledge of available stocks, and a desire to execute a blend at a particularly high level. While I can't easily suggest getting a full bottle of this, I can easily recommend trying a glass. Or getting some of your friends to chip in on a full bottle together. Althouygh I have to admit I'm very glad I pulled the trigger here. Maybe you will be, too. Cheers!
Redbreast Small Batch (2021)
Single Pot Still — Ireland, IrelandReviewed March 10, 2021 (edited April 20, 2022)Nose: Buttery shortbread cookies, but with some bright pineapple and citrus character floating on top. There's a warm, sweet, floral character also coming through, with a toach of oak and vanilla. Fig newtons with icing come to mind. The proof doesn't jump out at you, though makes itself known if you leave your schnozz in the glass long enough. Undeniably Irish, however. Just denser, richer, and a bit more interesting. Just a touch of herbal and grassy bits. Palate: Really concentrated Irish character - shortbread cookies with vanilla. Figs. Creamy with a solid medium-dense mouthfeel. A little barrel bite and some decent tannins are coming through here. Chocolate, raspberries, blueberry sauce. Nutmeg and clove. Black licorice. Black pepper. Slightly oily and coats the palate. This is all midrange and mid palate. Finish: A big splash of licorice, flowers, and ethanol. Oak and sweet vanilla slowly push forward, and then a hot cinnamon and pepper 1-2 punch. Some bitterness also shows up, then things mellow out with chocolate-dipped bananas, vanilla, and whipped cream. That oil content is helping this hang out for a while, lending a medium-long finish. Other notes: This reminds me of two things. One, it's almost like Stagg Jr., but for Irish. A whiskey concentrate that has flavors and aromas dialed up to 11. Two, like Jameson Caskmates Stout but with a pinky sticking out. While the proof absolutely makes itself known, it's not too harsh, instead opting for a more levelheaded, moderated heat that keeps things interesting. I don't have any familiarity with the fabeled Red Breast 12 Cask Strength, so this review is not influenced by that particular expression. That being said, as good as this is, it falls a little short. I want more richness, more density, and less bright fruit. There's nothing inherently flawed going on here, mind. It's just not the character I'm looking for from this particular label. Maybe something I'll seek out from time to time, though not something I'd feel compelled to always have on hand. Hard to reccommend given the price point, though if you're looking for something bigger and bolder and different than your standard Irish, this might fit the bill. Cheers!
Kavalan Distillery Select No. 1
Single Malt — TaiwanReviewed March 9, 2021 (edited January 11, 2023)Nose: Honey Nut Cheerios with sliced granny smith apples that have been tossed in lemon juice. Subtle oak character comes through a little, along with some fresh thyme. Pineapple and potpurri - perfumy. Relatively bright and shiny overall, though not unappealing. Palate: That honeyed malt character comes through, along with some herbal, vegetal character. Vanilla and honey. Lightly roasted nut and oak. Dark chocolate and maybe a touch of dusty leather. Maybe a little varnish. The citrus is still here, though much sweeter and less bright. Buttermilk. Tannins mostly in texture, though there's some bitterness. Very top-heavy, with almost no bottom-end to speak of. Mostly on the front and mid-palate. Light mouthfeel. Finish: Big splash of thyme, lemon, bell peppers. Oak and waxy nuts come in, along with a nice hit of black pepper. Lemon pepper comes to mind now, and a touch of mint - which we fade out on. Medium short length. Other notes: This is like a lighter, brighter Highland. What's present in this glass is clearly informed by a palate that's pretty different from my own. This brings some unique character that, while familiar as a whiskey, differs in overall profile in a really enjoyable way. Branded as something designed for mixing, this still holds up well by itself. I could see this being an excellent glass during a hot summer evening in a sour or with some soda water. Or even simply neat. If this is what they bring for the mixing crowd, I have high hopes for their other offerings. Not something I'd feel compelled to always have in my home bar, but something I can absolutely suggest for somebody seeking something a little different. Cheers!
WhistlePig FarmStock Rye Crop No. 003
Rye — Multiple CountriesReviewed March 8, 2021 (edited March 23, 2021)Nose: Nutmeg and cinnamon lead the charge, with dill and a little cumin. Cardamom pods, too. Some vanilla and icing, with a touch of oak - not much in the way of char here. I'm reminded of the slightly sweet vegetal character of red bell peppers. Also luxardo cherries if you dialed back the sweetness. Raisins and pine sap. Letting it open up a little and citrus oil and rosemary come through. And that pure rye character also shows up, too. Flat off-brand cola. The sweetness also ramps up a decent amount, alongside some solid toasted black peppercorn. Palate: Getting vanilla, white sugar, oak, rye, and nutmeg. Banana with chocolate and a little cinnamon. That hit of baking spices and black pepper are all here, too. Home Run apple pie but without the icing and a touch of lemon. Tannins come through just enough, with a little bitterness. Black tea is also here, though just barely. Everything is somewhat well balanced, leaning more on the subtle side. Mouthfeel is light. Finish: Sugar, vanilla, apples, cinnamon. A little oak comes into play and then we get lemon pepper and pine. Some very slight wet cardboard vibes, but not like you get from certain parts of the tail cuts. Medium length. Other notes: WhistlePig helped me understand the concept of a "distillery profile". Everything I've had from them shares some attributes that I actually quite enjoy. I have yet to be disappointed by any of their releases, and I'm glad that this meets my expectations. It's not perfect, however. This has bitter citrus character that I want contrasted some more with maybe some sweetness, oak, or a touch of char. Maybe smaller casks at a higher char level? Regardless, this is another solid release and though the line hasn't quite earned a permanent spot in my bar, it's still one I can recommend if you dig rye, enjoy WhistlePig, or want something a little different. Cheers!
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