Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye
Canadian — Alberta, CanadaTasted November 1, 2022I am very happy to have rediscovered this whiskey, as I missed an opportunity to buy it several years ago while traveling and felt regret ever since. I've had it somewhere at a tasting longue, but don't recall anything that's worth remembering. Even still, the reason I remain excited and hopeful is simply because of this being a Canadian product, since some of the most quality rye grain comes out of the Canada. The country is big enough and I am ignorant enough that I don't know which regions grow the "best" rye, what those differences might be, and if there even are major differences, but I do know that some of the best rye whiskeys I've had have either been from Canada, or distilled elsewhere using Canadian rye grain. Adding to that fact that this is cask strength and a 100% rye mashbill gives me very high hopes that I hope the flavor can live up to. At an impressive 127.4 proof and the lack of added water after leaving the barrel, I'm a bit shocked at how light the color is, especially since charred barrels are used. In the end, I'm guessing this is due to a very short time in the barrels overall, or perhaps a very light char level used. Despite this, the nose is very simplistic and yet creates an air of a very full body. Notes of caramel and familiar wood sugars tell me the barrel did impart plenty here, but is balanced well alongside freshly cracked rye grain, with notes of spicy cinnamon and a floral background, but closer to grass than anything blooming. Not quite the best balance of sweet and spicy that I've encountered, but by smell alone, it's definitely very close to the top. Intially in the mouth, the sweetness leads the way, specifically with caramel and basic sugar, not quite flavorful enough to be wood sugar. The spicy notes come through with some air in the form of the familiar cinnamon, but doesn't penetrate very far into the gums like I would have expected of both the grain and proof. A strange flavor amalgam begins to surface near the finish, almost like that of a charcoal tinge, but not as aggressive. Thinking on it more along with a few more sips, my guess is that I may be tasting some of the unique minerality that could be present in the mountain water that was used. This isn't quite off-putting, especially if you continue to refresh the palate with continued sips; this is notably easy because, even with half the glass gone, the ABV isn't potent enough to slow tasting. There's one thing that I've learned for certain when tasting Canadian rye whiskeys versus whiskeys made using Canadian rye: every Canadian-distilled whiskey has been highly unique. In the case of this one, my assumption of the specific water used delivers a finish unlike any other rye whiskey, despite the immediate and intermediate flavors still being fairly predictable. A good representation of the "Great White North," but definitely outside the bounds of being worth it for the price, especially because the proof isn't that impressive as far as tasted than one would think at this high a level.
Lunazul Blanco Tequila
Tequila Blanco — Tequila Valley, Jalisco, MexicoTasted October 31, 2022I have never really known any of the background to this tequila or the distillery, but found an interest in it once it began popping up in bars all over as the new "well +" cocktail tequila. Since then, I've had it in many different cocktails with above average flavors, but never alone. At this amazing price point, there must be something to it, eh? The scent travels very well over a foot away from the glass, although is a but of an amalgam and hard to discern individual notes. Up close, a nose of very, very young agave takes hold, with secondary notes that are vegetal and have a harsh ethanol. An air of white pepper is also well present, and I can tell that some citrus is trying to come through, but isn't strong enough to make the cut. An initial sip is a bit ethanol heavy, but doesn't make the body any deeper. The harsh, young vegetal flavors appear while still on the tongue, and start to develop just a bit before the finish imparts a huge punch of both black and white pepper. The pepper truly carries, but isn't unto the realm of overpowering. Having said that, it does taste like the last few spoonfuls of a soup broth that has been marinating in freshly ground pepper. Although very one-sided, this tequila does have both a uniqueness as well as some bite, enough to give former well tequilas a run for their money, and their flavor. If it continues to be sold at the price I found it, it'll be a fairly strong contender for a bottom shelf replacement, but it's still fair enough that I wouldn't purposely choose it in a cocktail if I had anything better around, or had other options at a restaurant.
Bulleit Bourbon Barrel Strength Batch 07
Bourbon — Louisville, Kentucky, USATasted September 22, 2022I'm not usually one to create a new listing for batched whiskey (while some others will create listings for far less of a change), but this one does have a different ABV listed, and the distillery found it important enough to print new labels with this information instead of using write-in labels, so here we are. At least I take better pictures than damn near everyone else on here. A darker color from some decent time in the barrel around the outskirts of the glass, but a surprisingly thin and more translucent hue through the center. Lots of classic notes on the nose, including vanilla and wood sugar, but there are also some smaller notes of unripe banana, and some citrus-y grain. The ethanol is really quite weak through the nose given the proof. The body is a little weak at first, but it's mostly because the focus is simple, and really captures good, basic qualities of a bourbon. The corn is still young, but at it's full strength, it combines well with the small amount of rye here, giving a sweetness that has just a tinge of bitterness behind it thanks to the charred barrels. The gum piercing is mild, but the rye can still be tasted in the forms of cinnamon and some of the raw grain, again with the youngness. A slight spiciness on the finish, but far than I expected with this proof, which is interesting as well as it is dangerous. I really do love the simplicity that Bulleit captures, being a bourbon that's very approachable by all, and, as a side note, for making the most rounded and first (to me) proper 95% rye whiskey. As that stands, that also makes this a very approachable cask strength bourbon, but also makes it fairly plain as a result. For the price, it's a great pick-up, and although I don't believe there can be too much of a difference between batched whiskey, it's cheap enough to get a few of the different batches and work to detect the nuances between them. Other than that, as I continued to finish my glass, I was unable to come up with any further notes, further sinking in the simplicity of this whiskey, for better or worse.
Silks Irish Dry Gin
Distilled Gin — Meath, Ireland, IrelandTasted August 26, 2022A friend sent me a photo of this, and although the bottle and label art are very beautiful, I wasn't sold on just any random gin just yet. That is, until he told me the botanical list, and I thought this would be a wonderful welcome into the autumn season with the high floral notes and crisp apple to round it out. As I'm always looking for any other tasty gins (although I'm more looking for more navy strength gins, but that has proven to be a sullen waste of my time hoping I'll see more of that), the balance between some familiar botanicals and some very unique but tasty ones should definitely make for a different gin, and I'm just hoping that's in a good way. I can already smell a solid juniper, floral base from over a foot away with the glass on the table, but nothing specific pops out yet. This is further cemented with the actual scent inside the glass, as there's a plentiful juniper and a great base in place, with some florality for sure, but no more than would be found in other similar dry gins. If anything different, there's just the slightest push towards warmer notes, with the cardamon being somewhat detectable. A light body, and even though this has a lot of floral botanicals, I notice it's mostly light due to the low proof. The flavor is quite bitter and dry indeed, which does help the floral notes come out and, although blurred together pretty well, some of the citrus oils are evident, as well as a touch of honey, although not in a sweet form. The cardamon and some of the other warmer botanicals seem the very lowest found, definitely behind the floral wall, but it does start to surface slightly on the finish. So, in terms of this living up to the botanicals used and what I expected to taste, it's below average and a decent faceplant. However, it's one of the most dry gins I've had in quite some time, but one that has a good focus on a flavor profile that London dry gins definitely lack. I'm not satisfied having any part of this neat, but am fairly excited to use it in simpler cocktails, giving gin & tonics and martinis a curve that's both minute and still noticeable.
Blackened Rye the Lightning
Rye — Kentucky, USATasted August 20, 2022Holy shit do I love Metallica. Seriously, likely my favorite metal or heavy rock band of all time. I do have the classic Blackened whiskey, but it's definitely not my flavor profile, and is a little weak for my tastes. When this one came out a few months ago (near my birthday), I do not have shame in saying that I begged a lot of people to get this for me as a gift. That did not happen, mostly because the pre-orders sold out almost immediately (why does nobody budget the correct amount of whiskey for pre-orders?), and it was far overpriced. Thankfully, I found it locally for far less, and I definitely couldn't resist. As I listen to the Ride the Lightning album (well, I cheat and am listening to the Call of Ktulu version with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra because it's amazing), I will enjoy this no matter what, because Metallica kicks ass and a rye is always better for me. There's lots of fresh rye grain on the nose, with an impressive spiciness for the relatively low proof. Candied cinnamon and a bit of citrus pop out, with the classic cut grass behind it. A great amount of caramel is also present, which I am guessing comes from the triple barreling of sorts. A light body is what starts off, but the rye grain is present with a sweeter flavor, likely from the rum barrel. There's also a very dry follower, which I attribute to the wine barrels. The gum penetration is moderate here, and the spice level is also moderate, but only because the flavors imparted by the barrels also deliver to an almost equal amount. The finish is pretty hot, but it ultimately ends with a dry finish, which does keep you coming back for more, to refresh the cycle. Maybe it's the music playing (very loudly) behind me, or because this whiskey is both delicious and unique, but I'm quite enjoying this. It's definitely not a front runner of any of my rye favorites, but it also isn't entirely in the rye category, since the Madeira and rum deliver their own flavor notes that definitely do come through. For ~$70, this is way steep, but if this ever dropped below $50, this would easily be both the most metal and layered rye whiskey out there, and created with no other method that can be rivaled by any other distillery, similar to how Metallica cannot be rivaled in their music; if there is such a rival, I definitely need to crank those tracks.
Angostura White Oak
Silver Rum — Trinidad & TobagoTasted August 9, 2022I absolutely will, never in my entire lifetime, understand the impulse to filter beautiful barrel color out of an aged spirit, leaving a blank, pale, sad looking bottle behind. I honestly missed the fact that this was even aged due to "white rum" being on the label, in addition to how dumb it would be to get rid of the color initially. Simply needing an unaged rum for the bar, I went for this distillery that is new to me (as far as distilled spirits go, anyway), but I suppose all is not lost since this is at least aged in some quality used white oak barrels. The scent is very much of molasses, but a cleaner version with some of the sweetness taken out and perhaps a touch of citrus added. The ethanol is just slightly more aggressive than expected of an 80 proof. I get just enough vanilla and barrel sugar to know this is from a nice, charred barrel, and even some of the caramel-backed bourbon can also be smelled after backing off a bit. Very neutral flavor at first, with the body being very light and easily approachable. The molasses is there, but it's quite muted, but instead of being overshadowed by the barrel or any other flavor note, the neutral quality simply sticks around until the ethanol builds and starts to slightly enter the gums. At this point I taste some oak, but the charcoal starts to take over through the finish. I'm honestly shocked that the palate isn't overflowing with charcoal since this is double filtered, but it's clear that there are at least a handful of different flavor notes that could be here were the unnecessary filtering omitted. Angostura making rum seems surprising given that this is the spirit of choice, but it makes far more sense once the location is considered. Maybe some of this, bitters, and some fresh citrus could make something out of it after all, but I'll save that experiment for another day. Even with the slight disappointment sustained here, I can't say I wouldn't buy an aged Angostura rum, since I am quite curious, but I can confidently say that this isn't the stand-in needed for an unaged rum, and it certainly doesn't beat out a true, untouched aged rum.
Town Branch Single Barrel Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey
Rye — Lexington, KY, USATasted August 8, 2022Liquor Barn barrel select, barrel #2675, bottle #59, barreled December 2015, bottled May 2021, 50.5% ABV. Finally, I found a single barrel of this rye. I have been to the distillery over most of the summer asking about a single barrel rye, and was left to drink whatever else sounded good at the bar while planning my next trip in this search. This distillery has always been a little "off" to me, and it wasn't until writing this review that I think I've figured out why. Usually American distilleries will start "side project" distilleries once they become successful, sometimes as a friendly competition, to double profits, or just to experiment in different spirits or climates, usually done so in different countries. In the case of Town Branch, THEY are actually the experiment, with the "sister distillery" in Europe actually being the flagship safe route. Either way, the new rye whiskey in the square bottle is miles improved from the tall bottle with rounded shoulders, and having finally found a single barrel, I'd love to see exactly where the flavors travel. A typical dark caramel color of a rye whiskey aged this long, but still slightly darker than the batched version of this same whiskey. Sweet molasses and bold cinnamon battle it out on the nose, with the outcome being a malty, spicy confusion of scents in the end. I'm trying to ignore the abysmal low amount of rye in the mash bill, but the sweet corn on the nose makes it very difficult to do so. Hoping this doesn't turn out to be a bad barrel, since I do enjoy the batched version just fine. Yikes. The flavor is full of spicy malt, like this were some kind of single malt whiskey with some capsaicin added. Low rye is one thing, but just barely over legal requirements for rye is embarrassing, and the flavor really shows that. Even the gum burn leaves so much to be desired, and trying to reach by applying some air only makes the sugary sweetness of the corn stronger, truly making me forget that I'm even drinking rye whiskey. Despite the malty sweet finish, after enough time, there is enough rye left in the air and gums to not be a hateful attempt at a proper rye whiskey. For the life of me, I don't know how the standard batched rye whiskey, that I had just a few weeks ago at most, can be this many galaxies away in taste just because it's one barrel. A shame really, but it makes me happy that it didn't cost very much, and I still have something to add to my barrel pick section regardless. Still, this was definitely regretful how much time was spent searching for this, and had I remembered how low the rye percentage was initially, I may have stopped the search, but the call for barrel picks, and at this price point, means I still would likely have picked it up anyway.
Unflavored Vodka — Texas, USATasted August 7, 2022When someone leaves behind a bottle of the best damn American vodka in your house, you remember you've never rated it, despite having it fill most days, afternoons, evenings, and nights of your early military career. If that situation applies to you, then I'll walk you through the rating process. Despite all standard grain vodkas tasting very similar, Tito's somehow rises above all others, which, with my knowledge of grain alcohol having soared over the years, starts to make more sense since it's nothing but delicious corn. Whereas corn distillate tastes very sweet and has a great body by itself, it needs way too long in a barrel to transform to a remotely enjoyable, aged flavor. So, instead of letting the water rise on a continuous drowning culture of young American whiskey, I'd like to reward a distillery who takes this crop and turns it into something simple in just a matter of a few days. For someone like me, who has been around a lot of whiskey new make, the scent is so familiar that it's hard to break it down to describe. Raw corn is definitely there, and there's a decent amount of ethanol for only 80 proof. Just barely in the distance, there's a slight citrus note, usually typical of a fresh neutral spirit, but is otherwise very uncomplicated. A fairly medium body that's slightly on the light side, but the flavor is anything but light. Very sweet up front, almost like a very light caramel, which dissolves into raw sugar with a mix of a vegetal and citrus finish. Definitely far more sweeter during the first few sips and hotter towards the end of the glass. For someone who only has one bottle of vodka in their home amongst the hundreds of other spirits, this is definitely the choice to have; an American spirit that actually has some character behind it, which isn't easy to develop in the vodka world. Classic, yet full of flavor, and a shining star if you're the type of person who absolutely must partake in the dullest category of spirit.
Barrel-Aged Gin — Ireland, IrelandTasted July 9, 2022Jesus, pot-still cask? Barrel aged? "Ireland, Ireland?" Remember, people who make these postings are allowed to drive with no restrictions. Anyway, getting past this stupidity, I was fairly impressed (although also drunk) when I got to try this gin at it's sister distillery in Lexington, and found the mediterranean botanicals to be quite unique compared to their other dry gin offering. I love the Irish heritage this bottle takes on, as well as the art and the all-around "craft" design to it. So that I can finally file this away on my shelf, I'm ready for a *fairly* sober review. The botanicals used here are so unique and, in most cases, potent are their own, so it was a little shocking as well as disappointing that the nose was mostly juniper, some citrus, berries, and herbs, but none really jumping out specifically. Upon repeated smelling, however, the thyme and rosemary are both revealed, as are all the other botanicals, but very faint. This gin has a nice body, and moves around where I need it to as the flavors surface. The citrus and juniper are balanced and the only flavors tasted at first, but as more air is introduced and further sips play into this, I can taste a more sour, almost bitter fruitiness that becomes balanced from a herbaceousness, despite the herbs not being all that strong a tasted flavor. The finish is not as dry as I would have predicted, but while there is some dryness on the front of the tongue, a fairly moderate amount of citrus oil exists in the rear of the mouth, and makes me want to come back for more, to see if I can amplify any previous notes, or perhaps find new ones. Even if you DO choose to think really hard about this gin while tasting it, you're not going to taste things like kalamata olives or fresh basil. Instead, you will taste a gin that is unique all on it's own, and should be tasted many more times and in many different ways, to really pay homage to the unique botanicals used and in hopes of finding ways they can shine through even more. This is certainly a craft gin that stands alone, and is at a lovely price point if you're looking for something both different, unique, and approachable.
Jefferson's Ocean Aged at Sea Voyage 26 Rye
Rye — USATasted June 6, 2022Given as a birthday gift from my beautiful wife, I have been saving this to celebrate my first day on the new job. This is my second Ocean bottle owned, and probably my fourth or fifth tasted. I am a fan of this series because I love the unique aging at sea, and how nobody had done that before, and it's still not done by anyone now (at least that has good whiskey). Plus, the sea really does add a noticeable layer of sea salt that works well with the barrel notes. The price reflects this well, since there's a lot of added time that it takes for these ships to make their rounds, on top of Jefferson having no competition to this front. As always, I disapprove anyone who ages anything for close to a decade, waits even LONGER with the added sailing time, and then the first thing they do when they dump the barrel is add a bunch of water. I suppose 96 proof could be somewhat worse, but it's a shame there aren't more barrel proof Oceans (or other whiskeys, for that matter), and this does help to upset the price point. One final thing I noticed from my sweep of the bottle and labels is that this is actually a sourced Canadian whiskey, which I normally would be excited for with expectations of good rye strains and a proper 90%+ mash bill. However, with all the added changes to the flavor profile including the sea aging and double barreling, that would be enough to transform the base notes of any whiskey, so let's just see what our final product has become. Not at all surprisingly, the color is quite dark, thanks to the second barreling. It's only slightly lighter than some other double barrel American whiskeys I've had, so it seems the toasted ends did contribute slightly. Traditional (and delicious) rye spice notes found on the nose, slightly sweet, which normally I would think is due to a low rye mash bill, but it's likely from all the extra oak used. Whereas the bourbons in the Ocean series usually have an obvious salty scent from the voyage, this rye only has a very slight astringency that takes away from the other notes. There's both a lot to dissect for the taste, while also being fairly simple. Initially, the rye seeps into the gums a moderate amount, leaving behind a dry mouth feel, but not before the grains start to come alive. Traditional rye flavors are tasted, but it's quite focused on the cinnamon and spicier than some other rye whiskeys I've had recently. I wouldn't have expected this after double barreling and aging at sea, both of which are difficult to pin down against the bold rye grain. The extra oak is tasted closer to the finish, even the toasted oak ends, but I do wish it were more prominent earlier on. The sea aging doesn't seem to have done a lot here, other than the slightly bitter taste up front, and another bit right at the finish. Something done here is a recipe for a damn good rye whiskey. The problem is that too many things are floating around, some competing while others accompany, and it's hard for me to tell which elements helped make this work, and which elements (if any) hindered any flavors. I could do without the dry and bitter notes, which I can only imagine come from the sea aging, and I understand how ironic that is. This creates a whiskey that, although tastes pretty good in the end, isn't worth paying for the extra aging elements that don't provide a positive, noticeable difference. Now, and this may already have been done, but if Kentucky Artisan Distillery wants to make an Ocean bourbon that's also double barreled, I will definitely be on the lookout.