Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed November 30, 2021 (edited December 26, 2022)Night Two of my three part Balvenie sampler brings me to another river that I can’t step in twice. I shared a bottle of this with some good friends back several years ago; our general takeaway from the experience came down to “Good, but very sweet.” Trying it tonight, I can’t say that I find the dram off-puttingly sweet, though it is definitely sweet, but I also can’t say that I find this a particular step up from its younger sibling. There’s no question that the rum cask influence here is heavy - there’s a big, distinct brown sugar hit right away on both the nose and the palate. I also get honey, custard tart, and a little cinnamon, the latter two reminding of pasteis de nata, and a familiar whiff of pipe tobacco. The palate is heavy on the front end with brown sugar; it becomes the main thing I can taste, but eventually it makes some space for black cardamom, clove, peppercorn, and a green grain note that wouldn’t be out of place in a single pot still. Truthfully…this isn’t Balvenie’s best work. Finishing casks are tricky, and rum barrel finishes often end up feeling like that man in the elevator who used way too much aftershave. The rummy brown sugar masks so much of the vibrancy and intricacy of the actual whisky, which even a younger Balvenie expresses effortlessly. If this were a youngish NAS, I’d perhaps be more forgiving, but this is really an unfortunate way to treat this malt.
Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandReviewed November 29, 2021 (edited December 26, 2022)It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover a tasting note from what feels like a lifetime ago. 2015, in my early days of whiskey appreciation, I evidently gave this one a go. While that note left a bit to be desired in terms of details, I landed at the same rating. The nose: brioche/buttery pastry, honey, dried apple, almond, sultanas, and the faintest whiff of pipe tobacco smoke at the very end. The palate is as the nose suggests, a nicely balanced blend of all manner of delicious things all the way to the dry finish…and, just when you think it’s done, a last little note of prune and smoke drifts by.
Drumshanbo Single Pot Still
Single Pot Still — IrelandReviewed November 28, 2021 (edited March 17, 2022)Drumshanbo’s gin is one of the best offerings to have come out of the gin explosion of the last few years, so I decided to see if their foray into the whiskey world held up. And…it does, more or less, if not in as impressive a fashion. The nose is sweet and rich - birthday cake batter, strawberry jam, wildflower honey, brioche toast, marzipan. It’s a fairly impressive nose. The palate, however, lands a little more flat. The sweet, cakey notes override everything else; there’s none of the subtlety or intricacy found on the nose. It’s enjoyable, but hard not to think this dram could be more than it is.
Writers' Tears Double Oak
Blended — IrelandReviewed November 5, 2021 (edited December 27, 2022)Writers Tears, in any of its permutations, will always make me smile. This is partially because it's worthwhile to drink, but plenty of it comes down to St. Patrick's Day 2017. I had an almost-three month old at the time, and my wife (who was still in residency) was working an overnight at the hospital. Said baby's godparents were having people over for the holiday, so I decided it was worth bundling the little one up against the chilly Chicago late winter air to venture our way out for Irish stew, soda bread, and very generous pours of whiskey. Not wanting to come empty handed, I brought a bottle of the Writers Tears Copper Pot (the only one available stateside at that point, at least by me). It was gone by the end of the evening, as was the Redbreast 15 that the godmother's mom, incidentally the Presiding Bishop of my denomination, had brought over. And what an evening - good food, better whiskey, and the best friends, up chatting until the wee hours while my little one peacefully slept in her carrier...it couldn't have been better. Good memories aside, this sister bottle of Writers Tears has plenty enough to commend itself. A blend of single malt and single pot still whiskies, it's matured in bourbon and cognac barrels, and the influence of both is easy enough to find, though the cognac barrel inflection stands out the most. There is a mildly citrusy, very sweet note on the nose that reminds me of Circus Peanut candies that I only ever get from cognac barrel aging. The American oak comes through with a whiff of sweet coconut and spice. The spirit itself shines through, though, with lemon zest, frosted cereal, apple, pear, almond, and toasty wheat. The palate is round, rich, and oily in that delightful single pot still way, with sweet fruit leading the charge and drier, spicier notes toward the finish, which is medium length and drier than I expected, but still marked by that cognac barrel quality, which comes out to play just when you think it's all over. Revelatory? Maybe not. The best value ever? Maybe not, but it's fairly priced enough. Delicious, easy-to-drink whiskey? I think so, in that friendly, charmingly subtle way that good Irish whiskey excels at capturing. It's like "Linger" by The Cranberries in a glass...you may not want to listen to it all the time, but it's hard not to like it for what it is.
Yellow Spot 12 Year Single Pot Still
Single Pot Still — IrelandReviewed November 4, 2021 (edited December 27, 2022)If you've kept tabs on my tasting notes, you're probably aware that I'm generally a fan of Irish whiskey. True, there's less diversity in the field than, say, the world of scotch, but the general personality is one I enjoy - bright, a bit sweet, full of fruit and spice. Yellow Spot has long been on my list of whiskies to try, but I've always had trouble pulling the trigger because of the price point. Then, this week, my doctor wife got a very significant raise, and...well, a man has to celebrate somehow. I regret holding out for so long, as this is a particularly excellent example of single pot still whiskey. It's not that there are surprises here - both the nose and the palate are full of the usual suspects for a single pot still offering. On the nose, lots of fruit - apple, pear, banana. Some dried fruits and almond. Buttered toasted brioche. Hay. Honey. Marzipan. A hint of cinnamon. The palate has the rich, round, slightly oily profile that I love in a single pot still; it starts off sweet and fruity and progressively gets drier; mid-palate sees the emergence of some baking bar chocolate, and things are drier yet toward the end of the palate with more spice than fruit. Nice, lingering finish, and only a little bit of heat at 46% abv. It's really a quintessential example of the possibilities of single pot still whiskey, easily on the same level as anything from Redbreast or Powers John's Lane. I suppose I could still quibble about a $100 price point, but honestly, I still feel like I got my money's worth.
Furthur Straight Bourbon Whisky
Bourbon — Indians, USAReviewed October 7, 2021 (edited October 8, 2021)Different art on my bottle may indicate a different bottling, so YMMV, but...yeah. I *loved* "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when I read it in high school (and, of course, the movie adaption, as well), so Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, and their bus, Furthur, has long been a fascination of mine. Without knowing that, my aunt and uncle got me a bottle of this just because it was recommended to them at whichever liquor store they stopped by. I was both grateful to receive a gift, and also a little skeptical - sourced bourbon with a seeming novelty branding? You know what? It's pretty solid. Befitting a whiskey named for the ride behind "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," there is a sparkling, dazzling character to the dram - big, bright spice is the dominant feature, with light brown sugar, pecan pie, and caramel. For a 50.5% abv bottling, there's virtually no burn. It may be sourced, but it's sourced from the best - MGP knows what it's doing. I wouldn't pay out the nose for this, but if it's available for $40 or under, I'd say you're doing alright.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Straight Malt
American Single Malt — Kentucky, USAReviewed September 29, 2021 (edited September 30, 2021)I got this from a friend who was never going to open it and wanted room in his collection for things he was more interested in. Fair enough, I suppose - beats paying retail. The nose was not the most…encouraging introduction here. There’s a somewhat off-putting quality; I struggle to know exactly how to describe it, but I find it often in American single malts, especially underaged ones. Maybe it’s the calling card of youthful malt whiskey. Regardless, it’s there in all of its je ne sais quoi glory, and if you dig a little more there are very sweet cereal and praline notes. Palate is quite sweet - salted caramel, milk chocolate, candied pecan, peaches (especially at the finish), baking spices, even something a little biscuity. The peach note at the tail end of the palate really lingers. The mouthfeel is pleasantly rich and round, without too much boozy burn. Overall, I enjoyed this, but it’s probably not worth whatever obscene price tag it ostensibly commands. Woodford is out here doing some quality work, but half of the MSRP here is paying for the brand name and the perceived exclusivity of the “Master’s Collection” limited release. But, hey, if a friend’s willing to give it to you for basically a clearance price, it’s hard to complain.
Kaiyō Japanese Mizunara Oak
Blended Malt — JapanReviewed August 26, 2021 (edited April 9, 2022)Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived in harmony; then, everything changed when the Fire Na...wait, wait, wrong intro. If there is only one thing I've gotten out of the last year and a half's collective misery, it was finally watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, and then watching it become my oldest daughter and my's favorite show to watch together. The titular Avatar's principle task is to achieve balance in the world between its four nations, defined by which element they are able to manipulate, and the Avatar alone is able to master all four elements. If balance and harmony are the goals here, this whiskey nails it. Everything is in its right place; granted, this is a general goal of Japanese whisky as a rule, but Kaiyo manages to tick off all the boxes without any element overpowering another. Sandalwood and spice from the mizunara oak, sweet and creamy vanilla, an earthy smoke, lemon peel, light fruitiness, a lingering finish of cereal grains - somehow, all of these elements harmonize with each other, each noticeable but nothing overpowering the other. If I have a complaint, it's only that the finish is a little short and I wouldn't mind a richer mouthfeel...guess I'll just have to get the cask strength next time I see it. I also love the pricing on it, too - Japanese whisky is slowly coming back down out of the stratosphere as production at both the historic distilleries and the newcomers has started keeping up with demand, but even prior to that, this was a great value at around $50/bottle by me. Compared to $100+ for bottles of NAS replacements for unavailable aged stocks of big name brands like Yoichi and Miyagikyo, this is a steal. Try it if you can find it - it'll quench ya! Nothing's quenchier! It's the quenchiest!
Bib & Tucker 6 Year Small Batch Bourbon
Bourbon — USAReviewed July 28, 2021 (edited October 25, 2022)Maybe it’s the Scottish blood in me, but I absolutely love oatmeal. My favorite way to prepare it is with plenty of dried fruit (raisins, craisins, fig, blueberries, whatever’s in the pantry), a little brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and a dash of vanilla. If I’m not cooking for my kids, I’ve been known to soak the fruit overnight in whiskey. I initially had trouble figuring out why this new-to-me bourbon tasted so familiar,and then I realized that it’s basically my go-to cool weather breakfast in booze form. Unusually for a bourbon, I don’t get a ton of the usual tree fruit-maple-pecan pie kind of notes. Instead,there’s more of a dried fruit and brown sugar profile, with sweet vanilla core and a baking spice inflected finish. The very tail end of the palate has a peach cobbler-like quality, which is a bit more in the usual bourbon wheelhouse for me, but it’s hardly the dominant flavor. The mouthfeel seems a little thin; I’d be curious to try this at a slightly higher proof, but overall, this is an enjoyable departure from the bourbon norms.
Old Tub Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USAReviewed July 22, 2021 (edited November 5, 2021)It's hard for me not to feel some nostalgia when drinking Jim Beam. My dad was a Beam man, and my very first taste of bourbon was as a high schooler when I'd run drinks for him and my Mema as they'd sit out on the porch for happy hour. I, of course, had to ensure that their long drinks were up to par. Stories aside, I was intrigued to see a Beam offering that's both Bottled in Bong *and* non-chill filtered. For one of the true giants in the whiskey world to put out a product line without chill filtration to guarantee a certain consistency...it makes an impression as they ostensibly pay homage to how things used to be in the old days before Jim Beam was a global brand. And that impression is...pretty decent, all things considered. This is the Beam house profile dialed up a notch thanks to the higher proof and lack of chill filtration - peanut brittle, caramel corn, vanilla, a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and white pepper. The mouthfeel is round and oily (for me, in a good way), with a medium length finish. It's not fancy, it's not terribly complex, it's not going to change your life...but it is as good a $25 bourbon as you're going to find, and frankly, I've paid more for bottles I've enjoyed less.