Jameson Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandTastedN: Caramel, vanilla cream, and a vague and generic fruitiness - peach? pear? apple? all of the above? none of the above? - hard to say, but not unpleasant per se. Occasionally (very rarely) that fruit hits like the distinctive character notes of the aged Dewar's blends, but that feels like too strong of a compliment here. Finally, there's the feeling of ethanol without the scent. Neat trick that. P: Sweet and generally just palatable. Not a lot of strong identifiable flavors. Some caramel and vanilla, of course. Finish is interesting: starts with a noticeably woody, tannic bitterness that sticks around a bit before giving way to cinnamon spice. The bitterness is almost too much and I think is a huge player in defining the character of this dram, but also feels like something nearly unpalatable (almost contrary to what I said above). It's an interesting choice. It basically functions as a beauty mark: something that is not generally objectively desirable, but when placed in a certain context, it creates a uniqueness that elevates the subjective desirability of the entire package. To do that on the mass production scale that Jameson is on is kind of a breathless thing to behold. It could so easily not exist, and yet it does, and so much of it too. I have a long history with Jameson. It may well be the first whiskey I ever had, and it is certainly the first I ever enjoyed/appreciated/abused/etc. From endless shots of "Jay-mo" during Chicago happy hours, to picklebacks in L.A. (why? I don't know), to asking for scotch in the lamest college dive in Ithaca, NY and being asked in response if I had ever tried Jameson... And I think this is the first time I've ever really sat and thought about it (which is why I bought this bottle - to do that for the first time). It's easier to drink than I remember, but then I've sworn off it enough times and returned to wincing swallows of Jameson shots anyway that there may be trauma in my brain related to how "easy" I think this is to drink. But it's also more complicated than I expected/remembered. On a numerical scale, it's not a zero in complication. Really, I think it's one damn well thrown curveball in a series of fastballs, and that's just enough to make Jameson the household name it is today.20.0 USD per BottleBevMo!
Compass Box Great King St Glasgow Blend
Peated Blend — ScotlandTastedN: Peat smoke. That's it. It is a robust peat smoke with what feels like a few layers to it, sometimes more earthy peat, other times more ashy smoke, and occasionally a nice burning wood scent. And, for as strong and overwhelming as the peat smoke is, it is not unpleasant or boring. There is some ethanol as well. As it warms and oxidizes a bit, seems to reveal some fruit notes, but I'm not sure if I'm imagining that or not. (Not imagining: there's a real orchard fruit note in it. Really nice.) P: More peat smoke, but many more layers on the palate: cola, chocolate, peach, and cherry, to start. Thick-cut white bread, like a Texas toast sort of thing. All of this is shot through with the peat smoke - every sip, inhale, and exhale is smoky. And I'm not complaining in any way. A nice, spicy finish builds through the glass. It's a cinnamon spice, but with more heat and power and a lingering hold on the tongue. It is the only taste in this that cuts against the peat smoke and it's a welcome foil and complication. This is a nice, balanced, smoke-forward blend. I really enjoyed it, but there are probably a few smoky single malts at or near the same price that offer a broader range in the nose and palate. Still, it's interesting, tasty, a bit complicated, and feels like it was made with a lot of thought and great care.40.0 USD per Bottle
Famous Grouse Winter Reserve
Blended — ScotlandTastedN: Honey, dried white bread, some orchard fruit, and then there's that sort of earthy, mineral quality that each iteration of the Grouse has. Caramel, maybe light cinnamon (or cooked ginger?), and a mild seafood salty idea of a scent on a second level. P: Sticky toffee and bread pudding, milk chocolate, sea salted caramel. Hiding in the chocolate are a bunch of fruit flavors, like chocolate covered fruits: orange zest, cherries, cranberries, and maybe just a hint of raspberry. Finish is soft and supple, mostly more chocolate, but there's a spiciness that builds at the tip and sides of the tongue over time. Spice is cinnamon or even chili pepper heat - the label on the bottle really wants to you think it's gingerbread spice... Maybe, but feels just slightly too hot and also lacks the ginger flavor (it might be in the nose, it's definitely not on the palate). It's closer to a Mexican hot chocolate. Mouthfeel is absolutely luxurious - hits the exact right spots for rich, heavy, and creamy - not too much, not too little of any of those traits. As a winter blend, this would do quite nicely next to a gas fire pit on those blisteringly cold 60 degree evenings in deep January we get here in Los Angeles. Sarcasm aside, I'd want more spice from a dram I actually intended to drink in cold weather, but this is smooth, rich, silky, tasty, and cheap. Hard to ask for more. Winter or not, this my favorite version of the Grouse so far. It's rich and full of flavor, basically at any price, but especially so for sub-$30. I'll probably grab another and save it for the gas fire pit in a few months. Side note: Great label! The white grouse foreground with the snow capped mountain background that comes into view as you drain the bottle... Loved it.27.0 USD per Bottle
Hampden Estate Pure Single Jamaican Rum
Aged Rum — JamaicaTastedN: Bananas, mint, and chalk first. Overall effect is medicinal and very funky. It's actually really hard to describe and I'm not gonna do it justice. Other fruits come later, then some brown sugar and cola. It's also herbal and grassy with some bitter tea-like characteristics. Then there's something like chilled vegetables in the nose - really stretching to describe this. It's odd, funky, not really engaging, but not so off-putting as to turn you off completely. P: Sweet, but not fruity. Tannic and bitter. Minty, herbal, and medicinal. Spicy and woody bite on the finish, and it builds nicely over time. There's not a lot in terms of flavor, just a lot of feel. Flavors really stay in the nose. This is reminds me of like a super funky white wine. Thinking of a really bitter and vegetal Sancerre I had once, for example. It's nice as a true curveball (or knuckleball, really), but it's hard to consider trying this again. Someone out there will super love it, but that's not me. I've actually enjoyed this bottle for being so different, but don't think I'll do it again.51.0 USD per BottleMission Wine & Spirits
Dewar's 18 Year The Vintage
Blended — ScotlandTastedN: Cola, sweet and dark red cherries, peach and pear, dried peat (but no smoke), caramel, vanilla, bread pudding with maybe a faint chocolate drizzle. Tried different glasses for this one (above is rocks with one ice cube, my normal preference as I like to see how a dram opens as it both warms and waters). Glencairn reveals some interesting characteristics: bacon and then s'mores - like, fully cooked, right off the campfire, not the component parts. I still don't get actual smoke, just smoked things. Very intriguing. Neat glass is a disappointment - fruit is more pronounced, but nothing is really added. P: Creamy, smooth and rich. Vanilla creme and/or custard, dark red fruit, hints of chocolate, and (yeah) Graham crackers (there's the s'mores, minus the smoke). Little corner hits of caramel and sea salt. A little woodsy and bitter at the start of the finish, then moves spicy. Spice doesn't seem to have a taste per se, just lingering heat (like capsaicin). The tannins and bitterness stick around, but at acceptable, maybe even pleasant, levels. Over time, there's more chocolate on the finish, but it's less pronounced than on the 15 year. (Also, no real difference on the palate between glass types.) Bought this thinking intentionally to compare it to the 15 year that I reviewed a few weeks back. Thought that was a great blend for the money and a substantial step up from the 12. This, however, is really more just different from the 15, not inherently better. This is, no doubt, subtler and perhaps more nuanced, particularly in the nose, but the overall experience is probably not worth the extra 10 bucks - unless you really like packaging that feels fancy, but is still cheap plastic and cardboard. This bottle has that in spades - overly large box with a side slide opening and a heavier, more ornate bottle. Tossed the box immediately and have no intention of keeping the bottle. Begin rant: (Actually, there's a hint of pretension (and waste) in all that that kinda annoys me, now that I think of it. It's all designed to be kept after drinking as some special prize, but it's a widely available $50 blended scotch, man! If you're keeping this for the display case... Never mind. I don't keep any bottles. Pictures of half empties are good enough for me.) End rant.50.0 USD per BottleMission Wine & Spirits
TINCUP American Whiskey
Other Whiskey — Indiana (bottled in Colorado), USATastedN: Mostly vanilla, caramel, and ethanol. So basically it smells like a sweet, cheap bourbon. If you work for it, there's some red apple and eventually you can separate the rye from the ethanol (maybe). P: The same standard vanilla, caramel, and booze combo rules. Really nice, spicy finish though. It's a very bready rye spice first, then a bit of alcohol burn, and a lingering cinnamon that feels like a little of both. Finish is the high point here. It lasts too. I think this is the third bottle of this I've picked up in the last year or so. Easily my least favorite, or I wouldn't have kept buying it. I remember it being softer and fruitier. Maybe my palate has shifted some since the last bottle. Regardless, there's not enough happening here to try it again. Not undrinkable, but mediocre at best.
Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandTastedThis is a strange chameleon for me. Writing this with the last ounce of the bottle in my glass. Some nights it seems to offer more than others. Tonight is a good night for this bottle. N: Peach and pear orchard fruits. Some floral, cola, and wood scents. Not terribly fragrant. Some ethanol, but not more than expected at the price point. P: The label proclaims "vanilla, honey, and toasted oak." I'll give it that. It is oddly rich and watery at the same time - thin at the tip of the tongue, almost syrupy on the sides. There are also some cereal and bread pudding like notes. Milk chocolate builds in the finish. The finish is all wood. It has that pungent tannic feeling of a cheap bourbon - more tannic even with just a hint of the black licorice that usually dominates the finish of those drams. Here, the finish is balanced, but meek: primarily a woodsy bitterness, then some almost sour black licorice, and finally a cinnamon spice that dies quickly, returning you to the bitterness of the beginning. On bad nights, this is has no nose and is only bitter with a touch of black licorice. On good nights, it reminds me of Jameson (well duh since that's the goal: a better Jameson). Tonight, I got quite a bit more, probably the best it's been. I had this elaborate allegory about how drinking this is like getting in the ring with McGregor, he winds up to deliver a roundhouse to your face, time slows (as it would), and you catch a whiff of "vanilla, honey, and toasted oak" as his foot harmlessly passes your face. He missed, you realize. That's this whiskey. You expect an awful kick to the head, but instead it's a mildly pleasant miss. Don't think I'm gonna use it, but I guess that's also most of the allegory. You get it.21.0 USD per BottleMission Wine & Spirits
Dewar's 15 Year The Monarch
Blended — ScotlandTastedN: Sweet fruit, then floral and medicinal notes. Fruit is peach first, then leaning orchard with pear and apple. Faintly bready and nutty as well. Very pleasant, but also a bit nondescript. Too hard of a swirl brings out way more ethanol than expected - casual drinking and nosing doesn't get there, but a hard swirl in search of more scents is rewarded with booze and numbness. M: Interestingly different from the nose. Dark cherries, milk chocolate powder, then apples with faint sourness. Very mild smoke with faraway leather and cigar like flavors. Heavy, coating mouthfeel, almost chewy - and quite nice in that way. Finish is light, but persistent, cinnamon and clove. Chocolate flavors also build over time and mingle pleasantly with the spice. Nothing really pops and wows in this bottle, but the overall experience is, as I said, quite nice. Feels about right for the price. Definite step up from the 12 year. I would buy this again, but wouldn't go out of my way for it either.41.0 USD per BottleBevMo!
The Singleton of Glendullan Select (Game of Thrones-House Tully)
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedN: Orchard fruit and dark berries - raspberry and blackberry. Something salty there too - not exactly sea spray, but similar idea that's hard to describe. Hint of some sour fruit too. Bit of cherry cough syrup, which is actually pleasant. Pretty solid. P: Rich at first, but fades in the middle. Same flavors as above, plus maybe a cornbread sweetness like you'd expect from a bourbon - a bit odd in a single malt. Vanilla builds over time. Finish is clove and cinnamon spice, but watered down a bit by the wimpy middle mouthfeel. Despite generally poor reviews, it's not bad. I wish it hung on in the middle a little longer as it's tough to call a scotch both watery and good, but this comes dang close. Hard to tell if "watery" is meant as a feature or a bug here, given the trout sigil on the bottle. (I have seen GOT, but definitely do not know enough to grasp the meaning of the family this bottle represents - some intended inside joke might be lacking a punchline in my brain.) I picked this up because it seemed like the only bottle not horribly overpriced in the shop I was at, and that seems about as good of a reason to try this as any other. Your mileage may vary.35.0 USD per BottleVendome WIne & Spirits
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandTastedN: The rum influence is immediately noticeable. Banana, molasses, caramelized brown sugar. More traditional Irish whiskey orchard fruits are there too - peach, pear, apple. There's a sticky bread scent, maybe with a hint of cinnamon. Quite the menagerie of flavors. Very interesting and engaging. P: Soft and supple mouthfeel, borders on oily. Less rum influence, maybe. You get the orchard fruits first, but they're baked into a bread pudding now. Finish is cinnamon and fits nicely with the bread pudding flavor. The rum influence is there, but more in the background on the tongue, which is honestly a nice complication. Makes this kinda smell like a rum, but taste like an Irish whiskey. I like that. A lot. This is unique and fantastic. I will probably grab a few bottles to keep and impress friends with. It's undeniably an Irish whiskey, but the rum influence is perfectly executed and the end result is fascinating and immensely enjoyable.42.0 USD per BottleBevMo!