The Glenlivet 14 Year Cognac Cask Selection
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTasted October 29, 2019Scotland has had long history of illicit distilling throughout 1700's and 1800's. When the 1823 Excise Act passed, George Smith was one of the first men to take out a license to distill. Smith had a reputation of traveling with a pair of pistols for protection from smugglers and gangs who were known to attack and destroy distilleries. Glenlivet was acquired from Seagram's in 2001 by Pernod Ricard. There has been a big push by the parent company to make Glenlivet the world's best-selling single malt Scotch. It has achieved that status in the United States but is in second place to Glenfiddich on the global scale. The single malt coming from the distillery is known for floral and pineapple flavor notes. This particular expression was launched exclusively in the U.S. in July of 2019. Consequently, the U.S. accounts for approximately 40% of all Glenlivet sales. On the nose: orange blossoms, golden raisins, vanilla, lemon drop. On the palate: honey sweetness, black pepper spice, milk chocolate, and pineapple. Sweet on the finish at first, then herbal bitterness and pineapple astringency before it's quickly over. This is a smooth and easy drinking expression that is perfect for anyone that is new to whisky. Lots of pleasant flavors, not overly complex, and very little bite at 40% ABV. For those who want a bit more complexity, this is still a good whisky to finish the night with after a few excellent pours.
Writers' Tears Copper Pot
Blended — IrelandTasted October 29, 2019Writer's Tears Irish Whiskey is bottled by Walsh Whiskey Distillery. It began with Bernard and Rosemary Walsh forming Hot Irishman Limited in 1999 to create an Irish Coffee brand. Then in 2005 they got into making Irish Cream followed by signing a long-term agreement of distilling and aging whiskey to their specifications. The Irishman whiskey was released by the company in 2007 and Writer's Tears expression was launched in 2009. Writer's Tears is a combination of 40% single malt (100% malted barley mash bill from single distillery) and 60% single pot still whiskeys (mix of malted and unmalted barley mash bill from single distillery). Walsh Whiskey partnered with Illva Saronno, the company behind Disaronno Italian liqueur, to break ground on new distillery construction in 2014 at Royal Oak in Ireland. That partnership and Walsh Whiskey Distillery involvement with Red Oaks distillery dissolved in 2019 due to disagreement on future development plans for the combined business. Walsh Whiskey retained ownership of their brands and Illva Saronno kept theirs as well as full control of the Royal Oak Distillery and the two companies parted ways. Writer's Tears is aged in American Oak ex-bourbon barrels. On the nose you get fresh crisp apples, vanilla, honey, and citrus zest. On the palate some simple syrup sweetness that's quickly replaced by bright apple flavors, followed by herbal and grassy bitterness. The finish has some charred oak, wood, floral notes, and black pepper spice. This is a bright Irish whiskey, with crisp flavors that are nicely layered. The absence of grain whiskey in the blend means the sweetness is subtle and not overpowering. At the current price of $47, it is a bit pricey for what you get but it's enjoyable enough that you won't hate yourself for paying it.
Booker's Bourbon Batch 2019-02 "Shiny Barrel Batch"
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 29, 2019Booker's Shiny Barrel Batch is the second Booker's release for 2019. The barrels that are selected for each batch come from the center of the rickhouses and are bottled at barrel proof and are not chill-filtered. It is said that when Booker Noe retired, his one request to his son Fred was "make sure they don't mess with my Booker's." There's some conflicting information about when Booker's expression was first introduced. In fact, Booker's own website states that Booker Noe coined the term "small batch" and it was introduced in 1992. Yet, the last batch released in 2018 was a 30th Anniversary batch, which would put the first released year at 1988. The Bourbon Exchange site shows batches released as early as 1979, however. "Shiny Barrel" is an affectionate term given to barrels that get sampled the most by the rickhouse workers. As the saying goes, "the shinier the barrel, the sweeter the whiskey," the best barrels tend to be a bit more polished from the workers leaning over them to sample the contents a lot more frequently. Each batch of Booker's has a label on the bottle that gives the name of the batch, official batch number, age, proof and ABV. On the nose, Shiny Barrel packs a punch with dried berry fruit, familiar Jim Beam peanut note, charred oak, leather, and vanilla. The palate is big with the many of the same flavors found on the nose plus cinnamon brown sugar, toffee, and some heavy barrel char and a bit black pepper spice. The finish is fairly long and mouthwatering with chocolate, candied orange peels, and nutty all with a nice gentle warmth that spreads down the chest. This is a batch that does not disappoint!
Johnnie Walker Black Label Triple Cask Edition
Peated Blend — ScotlandTasted October 25, 2019Johnnie Walker is probably the most recognizable brand of Scotch on the planet. Diageo moves over 20 million cases of Johnnie Walker per year, making it the top selling Scotch in the world. I've personally never been inside a bar that didn't have either Red Label or Black Label or both on the shelf. This particular expression is a variant of the brand's Black Label and is available at Dufry travel retail locations (i.e. duty free shops at most international airports, cruise ship ports, and other related locations). Not sure why the decision was made to release this as a Black Label instead of creating let's say an "Orange" or "Yellow" label altogether. The reason why I'm left wondering is that people who have tried the Black Label and didn't like it because of the peated component will more than likely not bother with this bottle. Those who do enjoy the peated component of Black Label will be disappointed to find out that this expression has no peat at all. To add to the confusion, Triple Cask Edition carries no age statement while the core Black Label is aged 12 years. Not a big deal when this bottle is picked up by whisky novices, but for those who know such things it may matter. This blends malt whisky from Cardhu and grain whisky from Cameronbridge distilleries. There are three different casks used in finishing: ex-bourbon, pot still rum, and refill Scotch (really). On the nose there's a lot of honey and fruit sweetness. This follows with some malt flavor on the palate with more simple syrup sweetness, applesauce and baked pears before finishing with a touch of coconut and pineapple. For those who enjoy sweeter whiskies, this is a perfect bottle to pick up.
Larceny Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 25, 2019Given the recent announcement of Larceny Barrel Proof launch, I thought this may be a great time to do a write up on this bottle. Heaven Hill introduced Larceny in 2012 with very specific notes on barrels used. While they don't officially disclose the actual mashbill, @modernthirst and @bourbonr both have it at 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. The early releases were stated to be bottled from batches of 100 or fewer barrels selected from rickhouses in Nelson County, Kentucky. Barrels were to be picked from 4th, 5th, and 6th floors and aged from 6 to 12 years. Not sure if the same barrel selection occurs to this day though. The expression name pays homage to a treasury agent by the name of John E. Fitzgerald, who used to pilfer the best tasting bourbon from rickhouses under government supervision during the Prohibition. The press release from Heaven Hill claims that Larceny has an "authentic brand history" and makes it sound like they are part of that history. Aside from acquiring the Old Fitzgerald brand in 1999, there's actually very little connecting Fitzgerald to Heaven Hill. In fact, the same press release points out that Heaven Hill was founded in 1934, which is the year after the Prohibition officially ended, therefore the company was not even around during Fitzgerald's "larceny" days. On the nose there's fruit notes and sweetness such as apricots and peaches as well as some snickerdoodle cookie flavors. On palate there's a big hit of cinnamon heat and spice upfront that dissipates over time. Barrel char, honey, and cinnamon apple cider also appear on the palate. On the finish there's slight bitterness at first that gives way to wood and simple syrup flavors at the very end. Larceny hype may have died down after it initially released in 2012 but it still remains a solid choice for a bourbon priced under $30.
Ezra Brooks Kentucky Straight Bourbon 90 Proof
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 25, 2019Recent discussion in a local whiskey Facebook group, Arizona Whiskey Community, on the subject of underrated bottles reminded me of this gem. Ezra Brooks comes from Lux Row Distillers, many times referred to as Luxco. At this time the label is widely believed to be sourced from Heaven Hill, though Luxco has not officially confirmed nor denied this. The label proclaims the bourbon is "charcoal mellowed," which is similar to Evan Williams' "charcoal filtered" language on their label. Unlike the Lincoln County Process for Tennessee Whiskey, the charcoal filtering here occurs before bottling instead of prior to barreling and aging. Lux Row officially opened their own distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky and filled the first barrel with their distillate on January 10th, 2018. Using a 43-foot custom copper still, they have the capacity to produce 3 million gallons per year. I've initially held off purchasing a bottle due to gimmicky language on the label: "aged the old fashioned way," what does that even imply?! After picking up and tasting my first bottle, this has convinced me not to judge whiskey simply based on dubious label language alone. Consequently, this bottle can also be blamed on me trying some subpar whiskey in search of the next affordable gem. Oak char on the nose with nuts, caramel, and hint of mint. On the palate there's oak, black cherry, almond toffee, and leather. Finish starts off sweet and ends with black pepper spice.
Rua American Single Malt Cask Strength
American Single Malt — North Carolina, USATasted October 25, 2019Rúa is Gaelic for “red head" and a very literal name for this whiskey made by Great Wagon Road Distilling Co. There is a very noticeable red color to this American Single Malt, though standard bottling tends to be a bit lighter. This particular batch is a special bottling that was aged 5 years as opposed to the normal 2 to 3. A good friend brought it over to share and ended up leaving the bottle as a gift. According to him, this particular batch was also aged in much smaller 5 gallon gallon barrels instead of the usual 25. Started by Oliver "Ollie" Mulligan, Great Wagon Road Distilling began in 2013. The name of the distillery comes from the trail that stretched from Pennsylvania through North Carolina and down to Georgia. It was known as The Great Wagon Road and was used by early colonists and their wagons to travel and settle southern states, including North Carolina. This is a very hands on craft distillery and apparently Ollie regularly transports water from a spring on his property for use in distilling. I would like to think that whoever bottled this batch knew exactly how great this particular bottling run was and sampled it liberally. This for sure would explain the handwritten "92%" ABV mistake on the label. On the nose there's a lot of fruit, apples, apricots, sweet berry jam. On the palate much of the same but with caramel, some barrel char, and leather. Finishes with baking spices, black pepper, and sour apple. This is one of the best American Single Malts I've personally ever sampled. Absolutely worth picking up their standard bottling even if it may not be nearly as great as this batch.
Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 25, 2019The Rebel Yell brand has been around since 1849 and used to be distilled out of the old Stitzel-Weller distillery before that closed in 1990's. Rebel Yell was acquired by Luxco and has undergone a label redesign along with a push to change it's bottom shelf status. Many have heard that this is the whiskey that inspired Billy Idol's album and song by the same name. That is quite true, however, the real story behind that inspiration has little to do with what's actually inside the bottle. While at a party with Rolling Stones, he noticed they had a bottle of whiskey with a confederate calvary officer on it, that was the label design of Rebel Yell at that time. Ironically, the Rolling Stones told him it was a bottle of Tennessee southern sourmash even though all the labels have always clearly stated "Kentucky." While Luxco never officially discloses the information, it is widely known that Rebel Yell is sourced from Heaven Hill. This is a wheated bourbon using the same mashbill as Old Fitzgerald: 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley. On the nose there's lots of ethanol, popcorn butter, honey, and saw dust at the very end. On the palate there's simple syrup sweetness, black pepper spice, golden raisins, and some oak. Finish is quick with more black pepper and slight bitterness. While not terrible, Rebel Yell is very simple and unremarkable in every way. The move to a higher price point is bewildering as well considering Ezra Brooks, which is also in Luxco's portfolio, is considerably better and priced lower.
1792 Full Proof Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted October 25, 2019For those who may not have heard, Jim Murray has named 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey as the 2020 Whisky of the Year in his annual Whisky Bible publication. He scored it 97.5 out of 100. What does that mean? I'm not really sure because no matter how much people attempt to explain or justify to me any type of rating or ranking system, it is simply a subjective number that is ultimately useless. To say that there is no bias when tasting whiskey is absolutely ridiculous no matter how much of a "professional" whiskey reviewer you are. People like certain flavors more than others as well as their ability to biologically detect certain flavors can differ wildly. Tasting whiskey in different environments can affect perception as well. For example: having a pour of whiskey at a beachside bar overlooking the ocean will have many people perceive that whiskey to taste much better versus if they were having that pour in a dimly lit room while it's raining outside. Whiskey purists can argue that it is not how that works, however, there's much more evidence exists that shows how much a person enjoys whiskey is influenced by much more than what is simply in the bottle. So is a 97.5 out of 100 score accurate and justifiable? Yes, no, and maybe. I honestly would prefer spending my time drinking great whiskey than arguing that point. My particular bottle is from a single barrel pick that was collaborated on by two awesome liquor stores in the Phoenix Metro area, Liquor Express and Gilbert Convenient Mart. Mashbill is 75% corn, 15% rye, and 10% barley, bottled at 125 proof and no age statement. On the nose there's molasses, caramel, vanilla, milk chocolate, and coconut. On the palate you get much of the same flavors along with oak, leather, coffee, and black pepper and cinnamon spice. There's buttery, thick, and creamy mouthfeel as well. The finish is long and hot due to the proof with charred oak, burnt brown sugar, and candied cherries flavors. Definitely the best 1792 expression I've ever tasted. For those who desire a numerical or quantifiable rating: I give it 5 feet 6 inches on a 6 foot scale, or 5 out 7 handlebar mustaches. Do with that what you will.49.99 USD per BottlePeoria