Hennessy VS Limited Edition Bottle by JonOne
Cognac — Cognac, FranceTastedConfession: Hennessy VS was the first spirit to draw me into the world of slowly sipping on an oversized sexy glass of liquor neat. It was my transition point, where I became pretty refined for a ghetto kid. I have come A LONG way. I still use this for cooking to make steak flambe, and find an excuse for a few sips. I’m both intrigued and appalled that the newest bottle (which contains the same liquid as standard bottles, I’m sure) features art by a Harlem-born artist. I’m pretty sure LVMH gives only one fuck about Harlem, and that’s how to extract money from it. Anyways… NOSE: Vanilla, oak, and alcohol. Young cognac suffers more from being young than young whisky, for sure. I can smell the fucking grape peels… like, I’m going to be acid, and I’m going to bite your tongue. PALATE: This has gotten less and less harsh for me over the years, as I have gotten use to cask strength whiskies. It tastes like white grape juice, with a liquorice and plastic note that I don’t appreciate. Maybe some apricots and peaches, which will come flowing forth with ease if you go full-on ghetto and smoke some obligatory ganja. It is watery and smooth. Reviews that claim the VS is harsh are from virgins to spirits. FINISH: There is a long aftertaste, some pleasant, some not so much. Liquorice, raisin, oranges, syrup, bittermelon. In the end, I do not want this to be the final thing I taste for the night. VERDICT: I pretty much departed the world of Cognac because you cannot find a good one for less than $100. The start of Hennessy’s excellence is the XO. VS holds a special place in my heart because it connects me with my humble beginnings and I still use it as my exclusive cognac for cooking, but let’s be honest, this is barely drinkable, and you do NOT want to order this as your sole desert. MARK: 63/100.
Blanton's Original Single Barrel
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedTried some ‘Murrican whiskey the other night! This one rescued me from the atrocious Maker’s Mark, but was not as good as Baker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon (review pending, because now I might pick up a bottle). Blanton’s original was just inoffensive and bland. Welcoming, and sweet on the nose. Vanilla, caramel – typical of bourbon. Chocolate-covered oranges on the palate. I hate that red liquorice taste in young bourbons! Blech. But very silky smooth to swallow. Not much of a finish. Toffee, caramel, vanilla. In a bar without a quality scotch, okay for $8 I guess, but I’m not interested in getting their fancy grenade-shaped bottles. MARK: 62/100.
Maker's Mark Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedI had this at a company event at a bar that only had Glenlivet 12 and JW Red for scotch. I decided to try some American whiskies, and one of them was a pour of Maker’s Mark for $5. This was bad. I immediately got a Blanton’s afterwards to rid myself of the memory. Nothing on the nose, except a foreshadowing of how much it’s going to suck in the mouth. Harsh youth. Cinnamon and vanilla without purpose. Red liquorice, and did they already put Diet Coke in there without me asking? I gulped it and moved on. MARK: 39/100.
Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedLaphroaig 10 is the end of scotch evolution. You want to introduce a timid Jack and Coke guy to the world of single malts? Maybe you start with a nice blended like Dewars, move into some real juice like Glenfiddich, get a touch of complexity and inkling of peat with Highland Park, get some real peat with Lagavulin, and then at last Laphroaig is the beast at the edge of the world. There is nothing after that. If you don’t believe me, put Laphroaig 10 cask strength side by side with an Octomore. Phenol level schmenol level, the only smoke you are smelling is the burnt bandaid notes of Laphroaig. I have previously tried Batch 5 at 57.2% ABV, and now have 3 bottles of Batch 8 at 59.9% purchased at $67 each. This is stronger and better. Rather than go into notes, I’ll just tell you about my favorite experience at a bar in Maryland with my wife, after which I decided to purchase 3 bottles of batch 8. MY POOR WIFE: So, we each have our own whisky. I knew I would like my CS, but it was even better than expected, and I made the perhaps hyperbolic statement, “This is the best shit I’ve ever tasted.” She wanted to try it, and I warned her she wouldn’t like it. She went for a sip, and her whole drinking night was ruined. She was on smoke street, and couldn’t taste her soft flower of a whisky anymore. POOR BALVENIE 21 YR PORT WOOD: This was a $30 pour that my wife could no longer enjoy, and so it was mine. How did it hold up after Laphroaig 10 CS? I thought it lacked complexity and lacked a spine. Several months later, I would try the Balvenie 12 double wood, on a cleansed palate, and thought it was so much better than the 21 year old. Terrible comparison, I know, but sorry Balvenie, I won’t be spending $200 on your 21 year old. POOR LAPHROAIG 10 YR STANDARD BOTTLING: I have not bought a bottle for years. It’s on sale now for $39, and I skip it every time. Add enough water to the CS - it can take a lot - and you can turn down the alcohol intensity to levels comparable to the standard 10, but you get a wonderful basket of tropical fruits and smoked fish as the CS opens up. POOR TASTEBUDS: Try this neat, and you will taste nothing except ash for a while. POOR PREGNANT LADY BESIDE YOU: you should not have this inside within 10 feet of a pregnant woman. Secondhand smoke is bad for the fetus, you know. In fact, best not drink this indoors at all. MARK: 95/100.
The Glenrothes Robur Reserve
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedI picked up this bottle back in September 2016 coming back to the US from Canada. It was around $60 for 1L, and came highly recommended by an elderly employee with a Scottish accent. I should’ve known better! Affordable (and most unaffordable) travel retail exclusives are disappointing, as a rule of thumb, and recommendations by people with Scottish accents do not override this. At least my wife liked it. We finished the bottle because she drank most of it. She’s a Macallan fan, and actually preferred the Robur cask to Macallan 12. I definitely prefer Macallan, but wouldn’t call myself a fan of Macallan. WHAT THE HELL IS A ROBUR? It’s Latin for Oloroso sherry, apparently. Forced exoticism, another clue for a disappointing dram. This is NAS and 40% ABV. Another clue. NOSE: Underdeveloped Oloroso. Dark berries, but not too sweet. Cedar. Maybe a little vanilla. Something’s a little off, like sourdough. Not a fan. PALATE: Sourdough pastry is actually more pleasant in the mouth than on the nose. Nutmeg wallop. Dry prune juice. Watery mouthfeel. FINISH: Short and unremarkable. Same flavors from the palate, dissipating quickly. Maybe vanilla and toffee giving a late introduction. VERDICT: The sourdough aspect was the most interesting for me. Aside from that, this is a watered down generic Speyside that I would skip next time. 74/100.
Lagavulin Distillers Edition
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedWho wants Lagavulin 16 flavored with PX sherry? Oh, did I say flavored? I meant finished. When you take a younger whisky like Laphroaig’s NAS, and you finish it in PX sherry, you add sophistication. When you take something that’s already been aged 15 years, is on its way to becoming a canonized whisky, and you finish it in PX sherry, you are doing subtraction. I have a 2015 bottle that I’m struggling to finish, favoring heavily the original Lagavulin 16. With it being almost a year opened, this bottle evolved from being a PX dominated profile to a castrated Lagavulin 16 with only hints of sherry. NOSE: From a fresh bottle, PX sherry and oak are definitely present, but enveloped by smoke. The smoke is definitely lighter and fruitier than the standard LV 16. With time, the PX influence disappears. I can’t smell the sherry anymore in my bottle. PALATE: Salty raisins and plums. It’s heavy PX sherry flavors. The smoke emerges from the sweet arrival to add some dryness. The smoke is shy, while the PX is what’s bold. This reverses with time for an opened bottle. My wife, who cannot stand peat stronger than a Talisker 10, and absolutely hates the standard Ardbeg/Laphroaig/Lagavulin, actually gets upset if I pour myself the DE without pouring her some – that’s how I know they castrated this Lagavulin. FINISH: Raisins and plums return. It is delicious at first, but PX for me is one of those things that start out welcoming, but then outlasts its welcome, and then it’s like, get the fuck out of my mouth you raisins. With the long-opened bottle, the raisin flavors aren’t nearly as strong, and all I get is a dilute sweet smoke, which just makes me miss the original Lagavulin 16. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good whisky that deserves a respectable rating, but it is PX contaminating the legendary Lagavulin 16. 85/100.
Patrón Silver Tequila
Tequila Blanco — Los Altos, Jalisco, MexicoTastedMy go to shot. This does not belong outside a shot glass. No point in notes. This is unabashedly shottable, which is the cousin of “sippable.” For anyone who rates highly a whisky as sippable, just know it’s just a euphemism for shottable, and you may as well go all the way. This is agave, and it’s smooth when I slam 1.5 ounces down all at once. By the way, pairs well with Karaoke. Spanish songs only. And I don’t know how to speak Spanish. 45/100.
Crown Royal Maple
Canadian — Manitoba, CanadaTasted$4 pour from the bottle into a tumbler. Up. There is nothing more Canadian than Crown Royal flavored with maple syrup! Except maybe hockey. I think the next Crown Royal should be aged in staves constructed by laminating hockey-stick-grade plywood and flavored with hockey puck shavings. It might taste better than this. What they did here was take stock substandard even for the standard Crown Royal, and add cheap maple syrup to it. I couldn’t smell it much, thankfully – bartender poured it into a tumbler. It tastes like maple syrup and butterscotch. Acetone cheap grain alcohol. Subtle hints of whiskey. Very fleeting. The finish is missing some insulin. This is undrinkable; but I drank it, because I love my country. Wayne Gretzky pours this over his waffles. 0/100.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Canadian — Manitoba, CanadaTastedIn celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, I decided to open up a bottle of Jim Murray’s “whisky of the year 2016.” I picked this one up on sale for $28. As a Canadian who grew up in Toronto, I know how bad Canadian whiskey is, and of course I’m intrigued by a Canadian product that has made such a large splash. While Jim Murray is probably the world’s best known whisk(e)y critic, he drinks over 1,000 whiskies per year. That makes him an alcoholic – and alcoholics are not to be trusted. NOSE: Big oakiness and spice. The typical inoffensive vanilla and toffee characteristic of Crown Royal is hiding like Bruce Banner here. The rye strikes a sharp second note. Quickly, this gives the impression that this not the pacifist Canada; this is Canada circa WWI; this is FLQ circa 1970 Canada. PALATE: So odd, a Crown Royal with bite. Typical apples and pears fruitiness quickly gets taken over by oak and spiciness from cinnamon, spearmint, and cayenne. There is a familiar vanilla sweetness definitely present, but dominated by the spiciness and bitterness of a 90% rye mash bill. The mouthfeel is moderate, initially tasting like a low ABV whiskey, but as you swallow, this burns like it was 50+ ABV. FINISH: There is a finish! That’s a big accomplishment for crown. The burn gives way to apples, pears, and toffee. There is a grassy freshness and something a little funky. Dare I say, cannabis oil? The aftertaste lasts 3-5 minutes. VERDICT: Not the best bottle of whiskey I bought in 2016 (that goes to Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength). Not the best Canadian whiskey I tried in 2016 (that goes to Glen Breton 17 Ice wine cask finish). Not the best rye whiskey I tried in 2016 (that goes to Whisky Pig The Boss Hog Edition 3). But this is the best bottle of Crown Royal in the world. Cheers Jim Murray Eh! Happy Canada Day. 82/100
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTastedBottle: I bought my latest on sale for $69 a few weeks ago. This is 57.1% ABV, no color, no chill filtering. Be careful with this dram! This is “fuck your tastebuds” in a bottle. Corryvreckan is the most intense whisky I’ve tried so far, and I’ve tried 4 different Octomores. It’s like they decided to turn up the peat of Ardbeg 10, and try to balance that by making it as sweet and spicy as possible. Nose: Salt and peat. Campfire and honey-coated smoked ham. Palate: So sweet and so smoky! The two profiles battle, and there is no clear winner. This is not the smooth, rich, sophisticated feel of Octomore. Corryvreckan is violent in your mouth. The sweet notes are honey, caramel, and cantaloupe. The smoke is dense ash, like licking a cigarette ashtray. This is salty, spicy, and fishy as well - kippers, as one who has tried kippers, might say. Tart fruits are present - like a gastrique. Ardbeg 10 is in there somewhere, but it is struggling in the vortex of flavors. There is definitely ingredients younger than the 10 in the NAS. The mouthfeel is not oily like the 10, despite being packed with flavors. The aftertaste is far less pleasant than Ardbeg 10 or Uigeadail. The smoke is harsher – cigarettes rather than cigars, and a coppery sweetness sticks to the back of the mouth. Water improves this dram by calming its rough edges. This can take quite a bit of water and will still have a youthful alcohol kick. But diluting down to less than 50%, and you will start to lose some of the flavors. Definitely a flawed dram, but I like to keep a bottle around for when I feel like to get beat up by a whisky. 88/100.