Proper No. Twelve Irish Whiskey
Blended — IrelandTasted November 1, 2019In Mixed Martial Arts there is no one bigger as far as name recognition as Connor McGregor. Whether you love him or hate him, McGregor has a persona that is undeniably entertaining. Bold, brash, abrasive, flashy, and unappologetically in your face. Couple that with the fact that McGregor has been to every continent where whiskey is distilled and has the income to try some of the best whiskeys in the world, many people wanted it to be something exceptional and unique to match his character. What you have in Proper No. Twelve is something that is light, sweet, smooth, and approachable. It’s a blend of 3 year old malted barley and grain whiskey, likely from Bushmills as it claims to be from the “oldest” distillery. Nose, palate, and finish is full of pear, apple, honey, vanilla, and corn syrup sweetness. It is extremely easy to drink neat or on the rocks if you are new to drinking whiskey, and affordable enough to mix into cocktails. While Proper Twelve is not anything approaching McGregor’s personality, I’ve talked to a few people who have never drank whiskey before that told me they’ve tried it and enjoyed it. Although regular whiskey drinkers may find it simply average, majority of Connor’s fans are probably not regular whiskey drinkers and Proper Twelve reflects that. Connor McGregor is a brilliant businessman and the fact the he released a gateway whiskey that appeals to majority of his fans confirms that. Personally, I would love to see something that is representative of his persona...”The Notorious” on the label of such whiskey might be too obvious but a brilliant move nonetheless.
Baker's Small Batch Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted November 1, 2019Baker's looks like it belongs in a wine section of the liquor store more than the bourbon shelf. The name is in honor of Jim Beam's grandnephew, Baker Beam, who was the Head Distiller at the Clermont location and inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2007. Baker's was first released in 1992 as the third expression in Jim Beam’s "Small Batch Bourbon Collection." The label honors Baker Beam's love of bourbon stored in the top floors of the rickhouse and his belief that it achieved peak flavor profile in high storage at 7 years. Bottled at 107 proof and still proclaiming 7 year age, it is a fantastic bourbon that many may have overlooked because of $55+ price point. Some balk paying that much for a 7 year old bourbon when you can still pick up 10+ year bourbons for under $40. If you decide to splurge, you will most certainly not be disappointed. Baker's packs a lot of flavor with burnt sugar, toasted almonds, and kettle corn on the nose and palate, along with the usual vanilla, cinnamon, and charred oak that bourbon is known for. Finish is nice, long, spicy and brown sugar sweet at the same time. Excellent bottle for your shelf and should not be overlooked!
Clynelish 14 Year
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted November 1, 2019Pronounced "Kline-leash", the distillery is owned by Diageo, best known for Johnnie Walker. Supposedly, this distillery is heavily leaned upon in Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve blend. This 14 year old expression was first released in 2002. One of the most unique things about Clynelish is the oily and waxy texture on the tongue. It was discovered that this texture came from the oils that collected in certain parts of the equipment during distillation (the feints receiver for those familiar with such things). Normally, those oils are removed when the equipment is thoroughly cleaned during the annual "silent season" of the distillery. At Clynelish, these oils and gunk are kept and added back into the equipment in favor of retain this specific texture and mouthfeel. On the nose you get pear, flower blossoms, and salted caramel. On the palate you get hit with the highly unique oily and waxy texture, black pepper spice, fruit blossoms, fresh uncut grass, and sea salt. It finishes pretty long with caramel sweetness, floral, and almost seaweed character. Excellent pour!
Rye — Arizona, USATasted November 1, 2019Arizona Distilling Company is one of the first craft distilleries in AZ and is now bottling their own aged whiskey. Park Rye Whiskey carries no age statement but since the label states "straight" that means it is at least 2 years old. Love the aesthetic of the bottle, looks like it is made of sugar glass in similar style to High West bottles, with the distillery name molded in relief around the top of the bottle. Mashbill is 95% rye and instead of malted barley the other grain is 5% durum wheat which is grown locally in southern Arizona. On the nose you get sour fruit such as green apples as well as pencil eraser with a hint of earthy note at the end that is reminiscent of dry dirt or soil. The palate is very interesting and unique from most other ryes I've tasted. You get the same "earthy" flavor a bit, then more floral notes and green apple, followed by rubber tire that turns into hot chili pepper flavor and spice. On the finish, the chili pepper changes to black pepper as it fades. Most mashbills typically contain a little bit of malted barley because it has a high count of naturally occurring enzymes that kick start the fermentation process. Since AZ Distilling uses durum wheat instead, it probably means enzymes were added. It would be interesting to know if it is the wheat versus malted barley or the added enzymes that gives Park Rye the unique flavor. Maybe a little of both? Here's an article from The Whiskey Wash that discusses this topic: https://thewhiskeywash.com/lifestyle/commercial-enzymes-prevalent-whiskey-might-think/
Jefferson's Very Small Batch Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted November 1, 2019Jefferson’s brand was created by father and son duo, Chet and Trey Zoeller. Trey returned to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky after college and supposedly purchased bourbon from different distilleries in Kentucky, releasing it under the label in 1997. His father Chet Zoeller is a bourbon historian and actually wrote a fascinating book on the subject that was published in 2009. The brand is owned by McLain & Kyne which in turn is owned by Castle Brands. Kentucky Artisan Distillery (KAD), which specializes in contract distilling, proclaims to be the official “home” of Jefferson’s and mention they distill 1,800 barrels for the brand as well as handle aging, blending, and bottling for them. KAD was started in 2012 with Jefferson’s coming onboard officially in 2015. Based on the numbers, KAD is definitely not the sole source of bourbon found in Jefferson’s. This was first tasted about 6 months ago with some friends and everyone found an overpowering flavor of fresh sawdust on the nose, palate, and finish. The attached label proclaimed that it was aged in barrels with #1 char level, which is the lowest char level. Coming back to this almost 6 months later, the flavors have changed dramatically. On the nose there is familiar bourbon profile of vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar. The palate starts with charred oak and then changes to vanilla, honey, and mixed berry jam. On the finish the vanilla flavor lingers with wheat toast, and cinnamon brown sugar. This may not be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow but at $27 it's still quite a decent pour for the price. If you also get hit with an overwhelming fresh sawdust note upon opening the bottle, I would recommend to let it sit for a bit on a shelf without tightly sealing it and then coming back to it after a few months.
Paniolo Blended Whiskey
Blended American Whiskey — USATasted November 1, 2019Hali'imaile Distilling Company is very upfront and transparent that they source the base spirit for their Paniolo Blended Whiskey. What they do not divulge is how much percentage of their neutral spirit is added. This neutral spirit is the reason why the word "blended" is on the label. Neutral spirit can be distilled from any source such as potato skins, sugar, grape, or in this instance: pineapple. Whiskey can only be distilled from grain. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requires minimum 20% straight whiskey with the rest being neutral spirit to be present in the "blended whiskey" category. The distillery specializes in distilling vodka from pineapple and does it using a pretty unique set up with glass stills that look like they belong in a science lab. They actually bought Maui Gold pineapple farm and brand! In Paniolo Blended Whiskey, what you get is a Heaven Hill 3 year bourbon (confirmed by the person running the tasting room) with a bit of neutral spirit distilled from pineapple. After blending it is aged another 3 years. On the nose you get the familiar almost nutty, cinnamon brown sugar notes found in Evan Williams. The palate has vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and some charred oak. Finishes quickly with black pepper and slight sweetness. Everytime I visit Maui in particular, the everyday troubles and the hectic pace of life seems to dissipate. Worry is replaced with peace and relaxation. Paniolo Blended Whiskey is a perfect companion in paradise: flavorful enough to enjoy and not too complex to where you have to overthink it.
Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted November 1, 2019This is a bottle of Jim Beam Single Barrel No. JB8387 that I finally opened not too long. This is standard Jim Beam mashbill of 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley. At 95 proof, this particular bottle had a bit more ethanol on the nose which mellowed out after about 5 minutes of sitting in a Glencairn glass. In addition, the nose has red apples, vanilla, and honey sweetness. The palate is where this bottle differentiates from the standard white label. You get cinnamon brown sugar, a bit of caramel apple, some charred oak, and then a heavy hit of cayenne pepper spice that lasts for at least several minutes. The finish has a bit of charred oak and brown sugar but it's almost completely overpowered by the lingering hot pepper spice. I personally actually enjoyed the cayenne pepper in the finish and how it lingered for quite some time because it was something different from the typical black pepper spice I normally taste in most bourbons.
Sagamore Spirit Double Oak Straight Rye
Rye — USATasted November 1, 2019Sagamore Spirits is a brainchild of Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour. He was inspired by his 530-acre horse farm in Maryland that sits on top of a limestone aquifer and the idea of using the water from the farm to proof down the whiskey. Sagamore is not shy about admitting that they source their whiskey from MGP (Midwest Grain Products) out of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and actually blend their high rye and low rye mashbills together. Their actual distillery officially opened in 2017 in downtown Baltimore but it will be at least couple of more years before their stock is done aging. I'm definitely looking forward to picking up some bottles when they start bottling as they are triple-distilling the whiskey at their Maryland location. For this "Double Oak" expression, Sagamore takes their standard four year old rye out of Indiana and finishes it for additional 6 months in "wave stave" barrels that have grooves etched into them down the length of each stave. This type of barrel creates more surface area and has different char levels as well. I'm not certain if the finishing period occur at their location in Maryland or is done in Indiana. They also bottle it at 96.6 proof instead of the usual 83. On the nose you get toasted oak, brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla. On the palate there's a very well balanced flavors of baking spices such as cinnamon and cloves, toasted nuts, and molasses. The texture is fairly watery and finishes with some spice, honey sweetness, and slightly woody note. The flavors here are quite different from those that most people associate with rye whiskey. There are no herbal, dill, or grassy notes. If you're looking for particular flavors that rye is known for be prepared to be surprised. I quite enjoyed it and currently have it on my "repurchase when gone" category.
Remus Repeal Reserve Series I Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Indiana, USATasted November 1, 2019Remus Repeal Reserve was first released in November of 2017 by MGP. For anyone who is not familiar with Midwest Grain Products, they are probably the largest supplier of bourbon and whiskey for brands that do not distill, or non-distiller producers (NDP's). If you read the label on a bottle and it states "distilled in Indiana" then chances are it came from MGP. The Indiana distillery used to be owned by Seagram's and came into the hands of MGP in 2011 where it continued to be run strictly as a producer and contract distiller for other brands until recently. The George Remus brand was acquired by MGP in 2016 from Queen City Whiskey LLC out of Cincinnati. Looking at the bottle label, it has a very "Great Gatsby" feel to it for a reason. George Remus was a bootleger during the Prohibition and happened to hang out at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky at the same time as F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is believed that their interactions served as an inspiration for Jay Gatsby, the main character of the book. Remus Repeal Reserve I is a blend of two different mash bills distilled in two different years. 50% of the blend is from 2005 and 15% is from 2006. Both are 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. The other 15% of the blend is distilled in 2006 and is 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. This would make it at least 10+ year old bourbon. This means it was distilled before MGP fully acquired the plant and at the time the Master Distiller was Greg Metze, who is now is with Old Elk Distillery in Colorado (which uses bourbon from MGP that he himself distilled interestingly). On the nose you get vanilla, kettle corn, burnt brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. On the palate there's honey sweetness, charred oak, vanilla, and cinnamon that is quickly replaced by heavy black pepper spice. The finish is fairly long and spicy with banana bread flavor and sweetness at the very end. Excellent bottle that is definitely worth the price tag in my opinion.
Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted November 1, 2019Glenfarclas is unique in many ways. It is one of few major major distilleries in Scotland that is still family owned and operated. John Grant purchased the distillery in 1865 and it has remained in the Grant family's hands ever since. The stills are heated with direct fire, which is extremely rare nowadays. While Glenfarclas is located in the middle of what is considered the Speyside region, their labels proclaim that it is a Highland Single Malt. The distillery uses European Oak ex-oloroso sherry casks exclusively in maturation, which results in some of the most "sherried" whiskies available. 105° expression was first introduced in 1968, the first single malt to be bottled at cask strength. The 105° is actually the British equivalent of 120 proof. Supposedly, the distillery achieves 60% ABV through careful selection of barrels and without adding any water. On the nose there's lots of dried fruit, golden raisins, orange peel, berries. On the palate gummy bears candy, raspberry jam, orange marmalade, wood char. On the finish, more berry jam, grassy note and leather. This may be just me being used to higher proof with a lot of the cask strength stuff I've been drinking, but it does not seem all that hot at 60% ABV. This is one of the finest examples of sherry finished single malts.