Rock Oyster Blended Malt
Blended Malt — Islands, ScotlandReviewed February 23, 2021 (edited April 26, 2021)Nose: Brine and smoke are both wonderfully integrated here, swirling together into a wonderful combination. Green apples, toasted grains, honey. Soft vanilla and cream character are buried in there, as well, with a touch of mango. There's a slightly herbal character that's perfuming things - almost like walking past rosemary and thyme plants. Toasted cumin, too. Palate: The brine sits back and allows the smoke to come forward. The apples, grains, honey, fruits, etc. are all there. This isn't big, in-your-face character. Much more subdued and balanced. Vanilla whipped cream with some orange blossom water and a sprig of mint. This is all middle and back palate, along with an interesting bitterness on the sides. Light mouthfeel. Finish: Lemon-lime soda, sea spray, and mint. Smoke and just a hint of oak come in - that bitterness is still on the sides of my tongue. That vanilla and cream combo are back, and we fade out with pops of brine, mint, smoke, cream, and vanilla. Black tea shows up at the very tail end. Medium-short length. Other notes: Comparatively tame when placed against my usual cask strength fare, the subtlety and nuance here is really enjoyable. The belnding here is excellent but doesn't bury any of the components too much. You can definitely get the signature Highland Park black pepper/black tea, for instance. This would make a good middle-of the road introduction to the world of peat and brine, and would pair excellently with lighter fare. While not something I'll feel compelled to have in my home bar at all times, this is definitely something I could see myself buying again for the sheer enjoyment. Cheers!
Westland Sherry Wood American Single Malt
American Single Malt — Washington , USAReviewed February 4, 2021 (edited March 23, 2021)Nose: Wonderfully balanced. The oloroso and px sherry casks are both playing together, alongside a classic honeyed toasted cereal grain character. Some candied lemon peel, raisins, and fig newtons. There's also a touch of icing in here. Suble herbal character is weaved in - more in the mint/thyme side of things. Palate: The character from the nose carries through quite well - the cask influence with raisins and toasted nuts is all there, but not cloying or overly phenolic. Vanilla, mint, citrus, and a touch of brown sugar. Orange peels come in, and a little smoke. Oak character, too, but not super dominant. Coats the whole palate, with plenty of mids and highs - low-end isn't the star of the show, but things don't necessarily feel "top-heavy". Oily, but medium-light mouthfeel. Finish: Banana bread with raisins and roasted walnuts. Fruit cake. Oak and vanilla then fill in some gaps. Icing with lemon zest, which we trail off with, along with sublte pops of phenol and thyme. Medium length. Other notes: For a finished product, this is really solid. Context is critical with this one - taken by itself, it's a solid finished single malt without any flaws. Perfectly enjoyable and fun to explore. But knowing this is an American product? Takes this to a whole different level. Westland has a reputation that is well earned, and I'm really excited to dive into more of their offerings. This is a good example of something that exercises restraint without being boring. While this won't join the "gotta have" club, it definitely makes me want to keep bottles from this label in my cabinet more often than not. Good stuff. Cheers!
Booker's Bourbon Batch 2020-03 "Pigskin Batch"
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed January 23, 2021 (edited March 23, 2021)Nose: That classic biscuity, nutty Beam profile. Booker's tends to live within a 10-15% margin for me and this is no exception. Oak-forward, caramel, and vanilla. It's worth noting that the vanilla here is a little less pronounced than usual, something I actually enjoy but I know isn't for everybody. The proof keeps this big and bold, though this isn't jumping out of the glass at me like some prior editions. Chocolate covered strawberries and those chocolate covered cherry cordials. There's also an herbal quality - mint, thyme, etc, along with black pepper and clove. Cinnamon is present, along with other classic baking spices. Palate: Big and chewy. Again, this doesn't rock the boat. Caramel, oak, and vanilla. Red hots. Peanut M&Ms. The same herbs and spices from the nose are all here, too. This leans more into the sweetness, but otherwise remains consistent. The barrel bite and proof make this feel "big", and the tannins and lactones help reinforce that, with a bitterness that's helping balance everything else. This hits largely on the back and middle palate, with pronounced mid-range and highs. Mouthfeel is medium-heavy. Finish: Big ol' ethanol pope, then charred oak, vanilla, and then suddenly a swell of cinnamon candy. Think red hots or red tamales - rarely does a particular note match this strongly for me. The vanilla is here, but still quite mellow. Things quickly drop off and mint and thyme show up but are still buried in the leftovers of everything else. We fade out of some quite lovely canteloupe, apricot, and banana. Medium length, but while it's here it's mo. Other notes: It's Booker's. A relatively consistent and high quality release from Beam. If you've had a few, you know what to expect. While I try to not mention price save for those instances where I feel it notable or relevant, I would be remiss if I didn't join the larger discussion about the recent hikes on line. While I've been relatively shielded in my neck of the woods (there are some local retailers that confuse Booker's and Little Book, and have been selling both at sub-SRP prices), it's disappointing that others haven't been so lucky. I do know that this year netted 1 fewer release of this line, with quality not meeting expectations at the distillery for a particular batch if memory serves. I can only imagine that the recent price hikes are to make up for this lack of a release. I hope (however naively) that this will be temporary - we've seen other distilleries remove and add back age statements, or others announce proof changes only to later capitulate to customer demands and retain the original proof, all without influencing price. I would wonder if Beam might be willing to reconsider the recent price changes and roll back a few. Then again, if the line continues to sell just as well, that likely won't happen. Personally, it'll give me pause - I'll still likely buy one bottle of each batch, but I'll definitely be more hesitant to re-buy any of them. And I'll certainly struggle to suggest it as strongly as I have in the past. As always, cheers!
Wild Turkey Master's Keep Decades
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed January 23, 2021 (edited July 11, 2021)Nose: The density and richness here are higher than the proof would suggest, though there's no "burn" or challenge to accompany it. Classic charred oak, vanilla, and salted caramel here. All the baking spices you'd want are here, too. Roasted nuts, fresh ripe fruits, and dark chocolate. There's a level of craft and refinement on display that I really appreciate. An amazing expression of a bourbon that even my Islay-exclusive girlfriend beingwas able to appreciate. There's a buttermilk biscuit quality, as well, complete with salted butter brushed on top. Maple bacon. On top of it all is a delicate layer of orange oil and sweet flowers. Palate: The theme from the nose carries over, though here things lean more into the drier side. There's still the classic trio of oak, vanilla, and brown sugar, but the brown sugar has stepped back to allow the oak to reveal itself a little more. Orange peel and pith. Freshly ground cinnamon, clove, and anise, with a thread of sublte mint buried in there. The bite here is oak-driven instead of ethanol and it works. This is a rare exception where I'm not left disappointed over the proof - this seems to be exactly where it should be. A touch of tart cherry, too, along with a little fresh, unfiltered apple juice. This hits the entire palate and is very well balanced. Medium heavy mouthfeel. Finish: Oak, char, leather, and tobacco. Sweet oranges, apple pie, and bubblegum. Lactones come up next, along with a little mint and fennel. And then we ride out on a medium long finish, with the cinnamon and oak trading focus back and forth. Other notes: With these notes, this probably sounds like most other bourbons. The difference here is the level of quality on display. Kind of like comparing pre-ground spices to ones you've freshly ground yourself. It's the same essence, just better and fuller. I can easily suggest this to anybody that enjoys the Wild Turkey profile - I have yet to be disappointed by a single thing they make and this is no exception. However, the cost here is worth a mention - if you're not sure whether or not you should take the plunge, I might hold off. Though if you're looking for that once-a-year special purchase to have on the rare special occasion, this could easily fit the bill and should fit the bill for most bourbon drinkers. Cheers!
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Single Malt — Lowlands, ScotlandReviewed January 20, 2021 (edited March 23, 2021)Nose: Dense, thick, syrupy fruits. Stewed blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries sweetened with sugar and with lemon zests tossed in the pot. Bananas and persimmons. Slightly sulfuric, rubbery character. Splashes of malt, cocoa, and leather, alongside warm baking spices and roasted nuts. Ther's a touch of "green" notes - some vegetal and some piney. This smells sweet and unashamedly displays the cask influences. Palate: Though still sweet, it's not as much as the nose would make you believe. Cocoa, dusty leather, and cinnamon are all here. We've traded stewed fruits for ripe ones with a touch of honey drizzled on top - berries, cantaloupes, mangoes, persimmons, etc. Warm and rounded. There's a touch of black pepper "zing" here, though nothing too intense. Where the nose really displays the PX cask, the palate is more Oloroso-forward, with roasted salted almonds coming into play. Very much on the back of the palate, and very much focused between the mids and bass of flavors. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Chocolate covered nuts, red grapes, cocoa, and black pepper. Strawberries and bananas slowly reveal, with some dense balsamic vinegar. A bit of mint and vanilla come into play, and we get this nice ground coffee note to round things out as we fade away on this long finish. Other notes: I really want to pair this with thin mints. A fun expression, the cask influence here is unmistakable. Sweet, but wonderfully balanced and with plenty to explore. This is one of those bottles I could suggest to the bourbon or irish drinker in your life looking for a place to start with Scotch - casks and sweetness will give them a good anchor point, with enough "scotchy" character to really hold their interest and give them something new to explore. I may not find myself purchasing this again for my home bar, though I'll absolutely be exploring more of their expressions given when I'm seeing here. Cheers!
Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey (Discontinued)
American Single Malt — Colorado, USAReviewed January 18, 2021 (edited April 21, 2021)Nose: Sweet and fruity - apples. Leads off with this excellent maple syrup and black coffee combo. There's some malt funk behind those. Vanilla, salted caramel, and oak, too. I'm reminded of rum cask finishing, though this is all in new oak. Toasted cereal grains weave through. And a little earthy character. Subtle, warm spices, largely nutmeg and allspice. The sweetness you get from super-caramelized onions, with a hint of savory character, to boot, though not in a funky way. Palate: That maple and coffe combo come through. Now more in pear territory, with some apricot coming forward. The barrel influence is also present, with vanilla, caramel, and a touch of charred oak poking through. Honey nut cheerios, raisins, currants. Nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon come and go. White grape juice. This sits largely on the mid palate. Well balanced, though leaning into the midrange. Lighter mouthfeel, though that complements the friendly character of that's in the glass. Finish: Slightly vegetal and herbal to start. Chocolate, leather, and char sneak in. Dried fruits slowly come forward, and there's the coffee/maple character again. Malt funk and black tea get revealed and things just sort of hang out from there. Medium long finish - it does taper down relatively quickly, but then hangs out for quite a while. Other notes: I'm hoping to lean more into "new to me" bottles in 2021 - I want to explore and broaden my palate (and cabinet!). Through last year's advent, I discovered an appreciation for things outside of Islay, bourbon, and high proof, so I'm lookign for things that are more restrained, sublte, nuanced, or simply different. And this absolutely fits the bill - It's not big and bold, but still contains some solid complexity and nuance. This sits squarely in the midrange of intensity, while still offering plenty to explore. Highly approachable, very sippable, and ultimately not boring. This may not join the "need to have one at all times" club, but I could easily find myself grabbing a bottle on the way to a friend's place to share. Cheers!
GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 8
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandReviewed December 25, 2020 (edited July 27, 2021)Note - I'm doing the Really Good Whisky Company Advent Calendar. I've also decided to pour these whiskeys "blind" (or at least as blind as I can), then providing nose, palate, and finish notes. I'll then look at the label, proof, cask type, etc. before writing my other notes. I'll be providing some guesses around things like proof and cask type and then seeing how much I missed the mark. Slàinte Mhath! Nose: Salted caramel, bitter chocolate. Vanilla. Floral, citrus oils and pith. Some oak character. Definitely a single malt. Speyside? Berries, malt, and honey. Going to guess around 55%+ abv. 10-15 years? Ex-bourbon? Plums, figs, raisins. Nutmeg and black pepper. Not crazy, just a pleasant, subtle experience. Palate: Plenty of oak here - bitey. Guessing some sherry cask is involved, too, since there's a musty red fruit character. Black pepper, baking spices. Grilled under-ripe nectarines. Olives - green and black. Cherries, chocolate, and over-roasted coffee beans. Great balance between flavors, everything is just turned up to 11. Coats the whole palate and unfolds beautifully. Medium-heavy mouthfeel. Finish: Big rush of ethanol and oak, followed very quickly by dark fruits. Maple syrup and berry pie filling wash over, and then espresso joins in. Barrel char is evident, along with some over-roasted peanuts. A little mint, citrus oil, and floral perfume become apparent, and that's what we fade out on. Long length. Other notes: Didn't get region, only partially got cask (there isn't any ex-bourbon), off a bit on abv, and only partially got age. And I'm perfectly fine with that! I like this. Quite a bit. The rich, dense sweetness layered with the potent oak at a high ABV is excellent. Sherry casks can sometimes turn things into overly sweet, sulphur-forward funk bombs, but that's not the case here. The flavors are all well integrated and you can still tell there's a malt whisky in there. And as a proof hound, getting this at 61% makes me even happier. This would make an excellent dessert whisky. Another one to add to the list of things I may actually try to find a bottle of. This advent has been a total blast. I've learned a lot about my own palate, preferences, and experienced a lot of things I wouldn't have tried either due to accessibility or preferences. While my preferences are still toward Bourbon and Islay, I am much more open to others than I was beforehand. It was also a lot of fun to exercise my palate and see how well I'm able to pick apart certain attributes. I'm excited to do this again next year and see how my performance compares. As a palate development tool, blind tastings are killer - I high recommend it. Thanks for joining me on this ride. Until next time, cheers!
Deanston 18 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandReviewed December 24, 2020 (edited February 22, 2021)Note - I'm doing the Really Good Whisky Company Advent Calendar. I've also decided to pour these whiskeys "blind" (or at least as blind as I can), then providing nose, palate, and finish notes. I'll then look at the label, proof, cask type, etc. before writing my other notes. I'll be providing some guesses around things like proof and cask type and then seeing how much I missed the mark. Slàinte Mhath! Nose: Classic malt character. Floral, citric. Some tea also intertwined. Honey and toasted grain. Subtle herbal qualities. Is this a Highland? Almost getting lemon-lime soda vibes. Not getting a strong new make funk here - at the top end of around 10-15 years maybe? Ex-bourbon casks? Maybe some virgin oak as well? Just catching a thread of sweet vanilla and super-ripe apricots. Not getting any grain whisky here so guessing single malt. Overall, bright character on the nose. Almost prickly. Around 50% ABV? Palate will help nail this down. Palate: Bitey - there's definitely new oak in here, or re-charred. Or maybe there's just good age on this. Lemon pepper. Herbal, honeyed. Dashes of vanilla, char, and cocoa powder. Black licorice and pineapple. Some tannic structure, but this is very bright and shiny overall without much foundational sweetness to hold everything else up. Feels a little unbalanced. Light mouthfeel. Finish: Ethanol, oak, and bite. Menthol, cocoa, and dusty leather. Lemon oils get spritzed over everything, followed by some bitterness. Finish ends with white pepper, mint, menthol, and oak. Long. Other notes: I kept questioning if I was getting barrel bite or high abv and I'm glad I was leaning into the oak angle. For being so aged, however, I'm surprised by how "young" this presents. Not necessarily in a bad way, just with a lot more brightness and fight than I would've expected. I was off on ABV (though not by much!), under on age (too much of a range), and I'm not giving myself the cask type either. I did get region and mash. Not bad for tonight - especially since I'm feeling a little under the weather! This one is... interesting. It's goiod - the lack of balance isn't a bad thing in this case. This just doesn't fit within my normal profile. Still a fun one to explore, especially given how that 18 years presents here. Not bad. Cheers!
Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
Bourbon — Hye, Texas, USAReviewed December 23, 2020 (edited March 14, 2021)Nose: Hello Texas heat! Loads of dry, new charred oak character. But because this isn't super high proof, there's a waxy nut quality to it as well. Almost furniture polish. Biscuits sans gravy. Dusty corn. Hiding behind that wall of oak you find the vanilla and brown sugar, as well as some blueberries and blackberries. This is not a sublte or toned down experience - this is big, bold, and forward. Palate: The oak is a little more tempered here, though still front and center. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, black pepper. Smoked paprika. Dusty leather and cigar tobacco. A little tinge of chocolate and citrus, maybe even a little mint. A total wall of flavors. Maybe not the most complex, and there's still a touch of new-make funk hiding in there, but the balance of flavors in this context is pretty good. Medium mouthfeel, with a barrel bite and burn that helps it from being an oil slick. Finish: This is going to be shocking, but there's loads of oak here. Barrel bite, tannin, and char. The ethanol is a late comer, and is followed by Play-Doh, vanilla, clove, and mint also swirl in while that oak just doesn't stop. Berries and cream with honey eventually get revealed, and we ride out with ash and that slightly sweet, bitter oak wave for a long time. Other notes: If you need help understand what people are talking about when they say they're getting "oak", just pick up something from Texas, maybe a Garrison or Balcones. You'll know EXACTLY what it is from then on. Texas is almost the inverse of Scotland, in that the barrel impact is almost too fast. This can lead to not enough time letting new-make funk "age out", though I would assume that'd push a distiller to craft a new make that's a little more approachable. It's no secret that Texas is home to some kick-ass distilleries doing some kick-ass work. I might not seek out another bottle of this, but this is another one I'm glad I'll have tried. Fun adventure, this one.
Bulleit Bourbon Blenders' Select No. 001
Bourbon — Kentucky , USAReviewed December 23, 2020 (edited February 27, 2021)Nose: Can definitely tell this is a high rye mash bill - slightly vegetal and herbal alongside star anise, nutmeg, and a touch of clove. Under-ripe orange peels. Bitter chocolate. Some brown sugar and vanilla, though these are a little more subtle than you'd expect from most bourbons. Oak threads through in a much more "integrated" manner than I tend to experience with bourbons. Also a classic dusty corn note after the glass opens a little. Palate: Splashes of orange, mint, bitter oak, and black pepper. The way the vanilla sweetness mingles with those baking spices is interesting. More cinnamon on the palate than the nose. The tannins here are quite nice, giving some texture and bitterness that contrasts nicely. Floral and more bitter citrus peels. Salted caramel. Same experience here with the oak, and without that base layer this seems "top-heavy", though this falls directly in line with the Bulleit profile. Medium mouthfeel. Finish: Oak and ethanol, along with some char. All the baking spices and herbs from before. Cocoa, leather, and cedar slowly show up, and the outro is a medium-long balance between orange, mint, chocolate, and wood. Other notes: I'm not generally a fan of Bulleit. Save for their barrel strength, I just don't find myself ever seeking it out. And while this is comfortably in that general profile, I have to hand it to them: this is very well executed. This is not the most insanely complex or rich thing ever, but instead is a great example in the exercise of restraint, as well as knowing when to do something a little different. This is bold stuff, no doubt, but not bold in the same vein as, say, Stagg Jr. or anything coming out of Balcones. It's more bold in that it leans into a slightly less traditional set of flavors while still comfortably being a bourbon. Comendable stuff. Knowing that this is batch 1, it's very likely I'll at least try glasses of subsequent batches. Maybe even seek out full bottles. If you're a fan of Bulleit, I strongly recommend this. And if you aren't a fan, or just haven't picked up one of their distinctively-shaped-and-labeled bottles in a while, give this one a crack. It may not necessarily be in my top 10 whiskeys of the year, it's certainly worth your time and attention.