Brother's Bond Bourbon
Bourbon — USATasted January 2, 2022Yet another celebrity whiskey that nobody asked for. It turns out it actually wasn't me that really wanted this whiskey because I happen to know the names of guys who play vampires in some movie or show, as shocking as that is. Normally I would give every whiskey and distillery a fair chance to represent their product from a clean slate, but I've never met a single celebrity endorsed or made spirit that was even remotely palpable. Given that this was likely sourced from MGP gives it slight hope, in addition to the mash bill and barrel charring also not being too weird or different. The nose is full of charcoal, sweet corn, and just a touch of barrel character, leaning towards caramel and vanilla. I might also be detecting some harsh floral notes, almost botanical-like, but it's very similar to the charcoal, which is taking over hard. Naturally there's a very minimal amount of ethanol, since, well, this is the minimum amount of ethanol needed to pass off the minimum standard of whiskey. The body is extremely light, but the flavor starts off with heavy charcoal (think 3 or 4 times that of Jack Daniel's), shocking me to the point of needing several more sips to even detect anything else. The corn is here, very young, but thankfully not raw. The rye also comes through slightly with traditional cinnamon and some vegetal flavors. I don't taste the wheat specifically, but I can tell it's a touch sweeter than it would be without it. The finish is harsh and hot, but not from ethanol, instead letting the (likely) charcoal filtering coat the gums and quench the thirst for anything to rid the continued flavor. This is pretty bad. I really hope this didn't come from MGP, because that would be a shame to their brand. If it truly was sourced from MGP, I can only imagine these "celebrities" didn't want to spend big money (to increase return on investment), and opted for the "clearance barrels" of stuff that should never see the bottle. This is just marginally above corn whiskey, only because the rye provides a spiciness that just barely reminds me of bourbon. If I wanted a charcoal bomb, I'd drink Gentlemen Jack; corn whiskey with charcoal ice cubes may end up tasting better than this.
The Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Whisky Cask Finish Cask Strength
Peated Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTasted December 4, 2021Batch #PW1015 For some reason, I only thought Nadurra was one particular whiskey, and didn't consider it to be a line of cask strength items from Glenlivet. The previous one I had was aged in American oak, so I'm looking forward to the peat notes hopefully found one this one. The color is indeed a light gold, dark straw hue. The scent has plenty of burn to it, but also carries notes of honey, cereal, raw grain, and just a touch of smoke on the nose. The body is more approachable than I would have thought, although the proof picks up quickly on the tongue. A honey flavor is here, although is elevated to an almost spicy range by the proof. The peat flavors come through, but there's no feel of peat in the pores like a proper peated whiskey gives off. The finish is still approachable (as long as you get past the central mouth burn from the heat) with a bit of sweet grain and a light smoke. This may be the only whiskey I've ever had that has actually numbed my front tongue and upper gums. The flavors are still detectable in other parts of the mouth, but there's definitely something missing from the numbness of the aforementioned mouth parts. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable whiskey, but doesn't distinguish itself enough as being "heavily peated," and longs for a flavor enhancer of some kind (like age, a fresh barrel, a certain malt, etc) that just isn't showcased with what's in this glass.
New Riff Single Barrel Barrel Proof Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted November 21, 2021Barrel #5259, distilled 29AUG2017, bottled 21SEP2021, 108.8 proof, picked by Jay Erisman, Co-Founder. For some reason, I have not officially rated my many previous bottles of this single barrel that I've gone through. As always, I only buy the single barrel rye and bourbon directly from the distillery, only after I have tasted all 3 offerings and picked my favorite, mostly because I want to experience what members of the distillery thought good enough to pick from these barrels. Jay's picks have been my last few purchases, and although this was my favorite pick of the 3 at the distillery, I look forward to tasting it again in a slower environment. An expected color of a 4 year bourbon, very similar to their other single barrels. Bright rye, citrus peels, and bruleed brown sugar on the nose. The scent showcases classic bourbon notes remiscent of some older, more established distilleries and their bourbons. Compared to the other 2 available single barrels, this one is the most familiar and "classic." The rye immediately penetrates the gums on the first sip, giving cinnamon and deep mint flavors, but saving the burning spice for later on in the throat. The mashbill is already a decent balance, but this barrel really combines perfectly mellowed rye flavors with a good amount of sweet corn that allows a fuller body for the finish. The finish focuses entirely on the rye, letting some of the initial notes seep from the gums and combine with a high proof that gives plenty of spice when combine with air, but isn't so overpowering that it doesn't compliment the other found flavors. When reviewed by itself, this sounds somewhat bland and quite close to notes found on the standard New Riff bourbon. This is certainly true, but all of these notes are greatly elevated, and create a bourbon that's approachable by a good number of folks, but can be recognized still as a unique single barrel. One of the management members of New Riff once told me that their standard bottled in bond offerings fully represent their vision for their desired bourbon, and the single barrels are "experiments" and different takes on the standard stuff. I tend to disagree across the board; a single barrel selected by a distillery member should be an elevated version of whatever your standard offerings are, and should be just as susceptible for judgment as a batched blend, if not more so. This barrel is an ideal sample of this thought, and would really only benefit from a few more years age.
Cenote Reposado Tequila
Tequila Reposado — Jalisco, MexicoTasted November 16, 2021A recommendation from a close friend, who has drank enough in volume and in countries around the world to frighten the Irish. The teal bottle emphasizes the liquid golden color in a stunning way. This sounds like a simplistic tequila with no gimmicks, and the bottle art serves to further respect the Mexican heritage of the delicious agave spirit. Once out of the bottle, the color is closer to a bronze-gold combo, seemingly more crystal clear than usual, and yet showcases great oak character for the short rest. Sea salt and smoke lead the nose, giving me peated scotch parallels. The barrel notes of vanilla and caramel are present, but are more of an afterthought. The body, of course, is very light, but does allow initial flavors of sweetened agave through, with focus on molasses and brown sugar. The sweetness doesn't last, however, because seaweed and the vanilla and caramel barrel notes take over. A more raw agave flavor is presented at the finish, along with a rather impressive burn that's compliments the softer flavors found earlier. This was a great recommendation, but I fear that we may not have selected the most enjoyable age, even though we discussed going with reposado for quite a while. The raw agave and slight vegetal notes make me crave the blanco, where the softer flavors and very interesting smoky notes would definitely lend to a unique añejo. Either way, this will be a welcome addition to my collection, and enjoyed amongst friends.
Bombay Sapphire East Gin
London Dry Gin — EnglandTasted October 29, 2021You know, as much as I dislike London dry gin, it was very exciting to see additional botanicals that are definitely unique, given how boring those Brits make their gin. It's super disappointing to hear that it was proofed down and not up, for some reason, but if I had to think, I'm hoping this is to let the new botanicals shine through. I have expectations of savory and spicy flavors. A high lemon/lime zest scent, with a bit of milder white pepper, and just a touch of sweet wheat. The nose really does remind me of a American, rye based gin, so this is a good start for a London dry. Initial flavor suffers from the proof, as the body is quite mild, but classic juniper and citrus zest is here. A few seconds later is when things start to get very dry, as expected. The lemongrass may be part that I'm tasting initially, since the citrus notes are milder than what I got on the nose. Opening up with some air does spice things up, but not with a botanical, and instead some raw ethanol (surprising for the proof). In the end, the botanical blend, including the new peppercorns, seem to blend together into a martini perfect gin, but this was not what I was looking for. A mildy potent finish. Overall, this presumably new gin is simply a gimmick with the new botanicals added, and proofing it down didn't really help much. It's absolutely perfect for a dry martini, but it otherwise tastes like regular Bombay Sapphire, and if it costs any more than the original (thankfully it was cheap to begin with), I would ignore it in lieu of the original.
Don Q Cristal Rum
Silver Rum — Puerto RicoTasted October 28, 2021In a store looking for a budget unaged rum for a party cocktail this weekend, and all my usual brands that I like to peruse are either missing or do not have an unaged version. I've never heard of Don Q, but at least it is imported, and was cheap, as evident from being on the second to bottom shelf. Being next to a 151 proof aged version was also a little impressive, since overproof rums are hard to come by at all, let alone in toxic Ohio. What I did not know until looking it up after getting home is that this is actually aged, with the color removed. At no place on the bottle is this stated, which is such a lost reasoning to me, and I cannot understand why only bottom shelf rums do this (looking at you, Bacardi). I'm hoping this actually does taste more on the awful range than expected, so I can perhaps use it in my cocktail that calls for unaged rum. A nose of lemon, lime, and unripe banana begin things off, with an unequivocal note of high-quality, hospital-level hand sanitizer. Given the trickery here, I would expect to smell oak or barrel notes given the abnormally high age, but if they are there, it's very artificial. In fact, the remaining scent of white pepper and various citrus oils (a focus on grapefruit), are all what I would expect to find on an unaged rum. An initial taste comes up of a bright yet powerful floral flavor. The spirit slightly tickles the gums, and as it does so, a slightly spicy, floral, and citrusy flavor seeps in, very reminiscent of juniper berries and other gin flavors. This is where any fun had ends, however; as soon as the mouth is opened, all alcohol flavor seeps out, and a watery liquid is all that's left behind. As another slap in the face, a distinct finish note I'm getting is that of an unaged, neutral spirit or grain (such as corn or wheat), reminding me of vodka or new make; what is this distillery trying to make? A disappointment is a great word to sum things up here, because this is slightly worse than I expected it to be, but it also isn't a colossal, laughable failure. Instead, we have a spirit that clearly is not sure what it wants to embody or taste like, and I'm left a little more understanding of Don Q being one of the only other distilleries to create a rum they specifically label as "151." Fortunately (in all the wrong ways), I believe I can still salvage this for use in a batched cocktail, since everyone that's partaking in it has never spent more than $25 on any bottle of anything in their lives. Having said that, Don Q Cristal being the perfect candidate to fill such a roll does not a good selling point make.
Clyde May’s Straight Rye
Rye — USATasted October 13, 2021Recipe #003 It's been a little bit of time since I had the American whiskey or bourbon, so I'm going into this mostly fresh, but not with great memories. I get conflicting sources saying the minimum age is 3 years and 4 years (incorrect information on the internet, who knew...), so that's not a great start, either. More than anything, it might as well be a cardinal sin if you're not willing to reveal the mashbill of a rye whiskey; by not revealing, I expect a sane use of no less than 95% rye, with the only reason it's not 100% being because you used barely for distilling assistance. The color is so much lighter than the American whiskey or bourbon, so I'm leaning towards the 3 year age statement being correct here. The nose is noticeably spicier than the bourbon, but the same sweet corn scent is still found here in some regard, which is terribly disappointing. Instead of true cinnamon, it's more like a cinnamon roll, with copious amounts of sugar and sweetener added. I can't remember and am too lazy to look it up, but I believe the Clyde May's brand is charcoal filtered; either way, a faint hint of unwelcome charcoal does also exist on the nose. A bright, citrus-forward profile starts off the taste here, with floral notes existing with the mouth closed, and lemon zest coming up when air is introduced. The body is very light, and since 94 proof isn't that low, I'm starting to accept the reality that this is probably a low rye mashbill. To it's credit, a sharp cinnamon spice does hit around the middle of each sip, but instead of penetrating the gums (as expected from either high proof whiskey or a proper rye mashbill), becomes a ball of flavor on the tongue that can be "chewed" on to release additional spice. This is certainly a new experience to me for rye whiskey, and is actually quite enjoyable until a burnt, charcoal finish shows up and really, truly, refuses to leave. The worst part is that a new sip just restarts the cycle back at bright floral and citrus, leaving you with only a fleeting moment in the middle where you can get a proper rye experience. It's not a law and it shouldn't be (because laws on/against alcohol are unpatriotic as fuck), but if distilleries really care about their customers and want to properly expand, they need to release all information, including age statement and, most importantly for a rye whiskey, the mashbill. After all this bashing against this one, I really hope that it is the case where a really low amount of rye is used, because the alternative means that all the ingredients were right, and the distillery got pretty damn close to ruining some perfectly good rye grain.
Clyde May's Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Alabama, USATasted October 5, 2021Here I was hoping that, after trying Clyde May's American whiskey with the added apples, that this would be simply that but without the apples. Now I learn that it's aged 1 year less (why) and uses a hell of a lot of corn (bourbon is sweet enough as it is, chill on the extra corn). My hopes weren't originally high for this anyway, but if it's still a sourced MGP product, than at least the grain flavors should have no trouble shining through. Just like the American whiskey, the color is darker than is to be expected for only 5 years (God bless charred barrels). Thankfully, the rye scent leads, with cinnamon and some bananas foster, which I believe is also coming from the heavy corn. Moderate vanilla and less caramel are here from the barrel, ending with a basic corn syrup note. The scent is very similar to the American whiskey, so perhaps it truly is the same mashbill but without the apples. The body is light and watery, and has to be swished and swallowed before any flavor is acquired. Sweet corn and vanilla are present at first, with a more herbal side of rye present, while the spicier notes simultaneously dig into the guns (although only at a very shallow surface level). Barrel spice is present, but again, a little weak, with the grain surprisingly contributing the majority of the sweetness. The finish is slightly spicy, but still watery, and has a moderate charcoal note alongside some raw grain (somehow). This was indeed not a winner. This is a plastic bottle bourbon, a craft brand to rival Heaven Hill's "Quality House." I can tell potential is here, but nobody really wanted to go any further than to get something in a barrel and then into a bottle, and for me, it was easy to tell. Thankfully, this does allow just grains and oak to be the only flavors tasted without the addition of apples like the American whiskey, so this is better for a purist whiskey profile than that, but the lack of effort takes away a lot of character that is truly missed.
Clyde May's Alabama Style Whiskey (85 Proof)
Flavored Whiskey — USATasted October 4, 2021Incorrect info given by Distiller; not NAS, but instead aged for 6 years. Now, I certainly expect weird and uncomfortable to accurately describe Alabama, but a faux bourbon with apples added is certainly up there (moonshiners are an odd people). At least we've got rye here instead of wheat, the spiciness of which should work far better alongside apples than wheat would. Not to mention that 6 years isn't a bad age, either, so I do expect some apple flavor to be very present. The color is fairly dark, more reflecting a whiskey that's been aged several years longer than this, but perhaps this is the work of the added apples. Sweet corn, vanilla from charred oak, and cinnamon, grass, and mint from the rye are all here; standard notes that most "classic" bourbons would have. What I don't smell is anything that resembles apples, or even warm baking or autumn spice that cooked or stewed apples may impart. The first taste is weak, showcasing the very low proof here. Sweet corn is tasted, but more as a grain with the sweetness being lost. The spice from the rye is not tasted, and is only experienced as a slight gum and tongue burn near the finish. There is indeed a flavor of apples; the variety tastes like a neutral, only slightly sweet one (like Fiji), not overly sweet (like honeycrisp) or sour (like Granny Smith). This additive isn't entirely welcome, as it decreases focus on the grain, as well as gives the body an even weaker presence. See above for the finish, however, several minutes after a last sip does bring up notes of fresh apple flesh. It is so easy to tell that this whiskey has such a strong mashbill base, but the added apples really narrows down the target audience; I expect a flavor and body like this to come out of flavored, 40 or 50 proof whiskies. I'm hopeful that Clyde May's actual bourbon is simply this whiskey without the apples, because that may actually have a favorful outcome. Instead, what we have here isn't as fun or as flavorful as a proper flavored whiskey, but also doesn't have enough unique flavor notes to drink by itself, leaving you to find specific, usually distillery-written cocktail recipes to use fruitfully.
Peated Single Malt — Islay, ScotlandTasted October 2, 2021Always very happy to find a new Ardbeg to add to the stack of black boxes building on my scotch shelf section. One of my favorite things about Ardbeg is the short 3-6 word tasting notes right on the front of the box/bottle. I don't normally like having tasting notes up front, but given that the lads at Ardbeg truly have some quality whiskey and care very much for it, it's nice to see what they can narrow down each batch to on their palate. Honestly though, with a cask strength Scotch, I know I'm already going to enjoy it after this particular stressful day. Wow, the color on this is shocking; this could easily be mistaken for a 8+ year American whiskey out of level 4 char barrels. I didn't think the bourbon barrel aging would impart that much, but it has at least for the color tone. Barbecued and smoked meats for certain on the nose, but some of the smoke is swallowed up by a salty seaweed note. There's a bit of sweetness here as well, but it smells more like strictly sweet oak than anything artifical or additive. My initial sip really dug quickly into the gums, so much so that the shock and surprise caused me to miss any initial tasting notes. My second sip imparted raw dark corn syrup, moderate smoke (from a smokehouse that normally smokes meat, but all meat was removed when you happened to visit), sweet oak, and a bit of florality that seems to also circle back to the beginning of the next sip. Of course, the finish is fairly hot and lingers, but isn't sticky, and allows the mind to focus back on the flavors just had without being distracted. Not at all surprisingly, this is a wonderful Ardbeg, and is pretty unique as compared to some of the other batches. The meat smokiness is not as heavy here as Wee Beastie, but definitely more refined and rounded. The saltiness is not as potent as An Oa, allowing more barrel flavor to come through. Really though, being a cask strength just allows the Ardbeg profile to shine through better without being bogged down. All of these classic black box offerings really prove that Ardbeg produces a quality scotch, but knows how to properly play around with it to make it unique and different, and yet still represent, well, a fantastic fucking whiskey.