Tastes

WhiskeyLonghorn

I would write shorter reviews but I simply don’t have the time.

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  1. The Macallan 12 Year Sherry Oak Cask

    Single Malt — Highlands, Scotland

    Tasted
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    Have you ever met a celebrity? Or a politician? Or someone with a public profile? Somebody who you’ve seen hyped and advertised foe years and years and built up an expectation of that person, good, bad, or otherwise? What was your reaction when you met that person? Did they meet your expectations, or did they come up short? I suspect ones first time drinking a MacAllan feels similar. MacAllan is one of the few names in the whisky world that non-whisky people know. It’s given as a gift as a symbol of corporate dick measuring. It’s featured in movies and television as a symbol of luxury. Older bottles sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. With all that hype, it may seem inevitable that the actual whisky is a letdown, but damnit all of MacAllan doesn’t make good stuff. Nose is redolent of rich oloroso, with clear evidence of quality casks. Perfumey, floral, fruity, nutty, and deeply enticing. MacAllan always shines on the nose. The palate translates that nose with the addition of the signature MacAllan almond/marzipan note I get from their spirit. Rich, creamy, and lovely. Finish is only medium length, but like a fine meal, you enjoy every bit of it. I must admit, I didn’t think I would like this. I didn’t want to like it. It’s overpriced (I got it on sale for $65...about $5 more than I would pay for a 12 year single malt). It’s overhyped. The packaging is ridiculous with all the holograms and security seals (see a 2017 issue of Whisky Advocate for more info). But the whisky inside is good. Very tasty. Easy to drink. Good dram to introduce someone to single malt scotch, and a bottle I will continue to enjoy. Cheers!
    65.0 USD per Bottle
  2. James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Bourbon

    Bourbon — Indiana (bottled in Kentucky), USA

    Tasted
    3.0
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Quick hit: somebody brought this over for Christmas dinner. Of all the different MGP products that have flooded the market, this one is decidedly middling. I appreciate the 50% ABV and the unfiltered nature, but despite that, this one still falls flat. Nice vanilla notes, but the oak is muted. Reminds me a bit too much of poor quality Canadian whiskey. You can do a lot better if you’re in the mood for MGP bourbon. If you can find the Smokewagon Uncut Unfiltered or an older Smooth Ambler, go for that. If not, grab anything from Belle Meade.
  3. Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon

    Bourbon — Kentucky, USA

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It's that time again. That magical time of year when all the "Best Whiskey of the Year" lists come out. I've been searching around and found that most of these lists consist of highly aged Scotch and limited release or allocated Bourbon, and while I'm sure these drams are delicious, the fact remains that most of us will likely never taste most of these, so over the next five days, I present to you this longhorn's humble top 5 whiskies of 2020. Most of us could agree that this was not our best year. However, all the time spent at home resulted in expanded imbibing of our favorite brown beverage. This is the criteria for my list: (1) The whiskey has to be readily available on store shelves. No special releases. This means the most excellent Wild Turkey Masters Keep expressions I tried and rated this year are out, though you should feel confident to buy on sight. (2) Every dram on my list is $80 or less. Everyone should be able to taste great whiskey, and yes, I realize my definition of "great" might be different than others, but that's the fun of what we all do here, and (3) I had to have tasted it in 2020. None of the whiskies on my list were released this year, but this year is when I finally got around to them. I was ready to give up on bourbon at the end of last year. After several years of sampling, it seemed like they all more or less tasted the same. I was also put off by the notion of paying over $40 for a bottle of whiskey made in this country, since I could get some scotch, old duties and all, for $60 or less. Then the tariffs hit, and suddenly Talisker 10 cost $90. What's a longhorn to do? Well, I regrouped and gave our native spirit another go, and wow I'm glad I did. Ever the perennial and consistent favorite, Wild Turkey comes out swinging again. While I adored this year's Masters Keep, and I polished off a bottle of Rare Breed early in the year, this bottle was the standout star for me. Just a perfectly balanced dram of spicy brown sugar, rich toffee, and salted caramel. I haven't read a bad review anywhere of this dram. Even the "off" bottles seem to be consistently above average. Whatever it costs near you, it's worth it. It's about $50 consistently where I'm at. No special gimmicks. No major promotions. Just damn good bourbon, and that's why Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is my #1 whiskey of 2020. Thanks to all here in the Distiller community that made this year more bearable with your tastings, your insights, and the community. Being able to share our mutual notes and interests was one of the highlights of my year, and I feel that my palate (and waistline!) have broadened as a result of having known all of y'all. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone here, and cheers to more great whiskey in 2021!
    55.0 USD per Bottle
  4. Compass Box Great King St Glasgow Blend

    Peated Blend — Scotland

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It's that time again. That magical time of year when all the "Best Whiskey of the Year" lists come out. I've been searching around and found that most of these lists consist of highly aged Scotch and limited release or allocated Bourbon, and while I'm sure these drams are delicious, the fact remains that most of us will likely never taste most of these, so over the next five days, I present to you this longhorn's humble top 5 whiskies of 2020. Most of us could agree that this was not our best year. However, all the time spent at home resulted in expanded imbibing of our favorite brown beverage. This is the criteria for my list: (1) The whiskey has to be readily available on store shelves. No special releases. This means the most excellent Wild Turkey Masters Keep expressions I tried and rated this year are out, though you should feel confident to buy on sight. (2) Every dram on my list is $80 or less. Everyone should be able to taste great whiskey, and yes, I realize my definition of "great" might be different than others, but that's the fun of what we all do here, and (3) I had to have tasted it in 2020. None of the whiskies on my list were released this year, but this year is when I finally got around to them. Coming in at #2, I present the only Scotch on my list this year, and a humble blend no less. I'm often asked what my "favorite" scotch is, or what my "favorite" distillery is, or what the "best" value for a good scotch is. There's a different answer to each of those questions, and it doesn't always stay the same. I pulled back from buying as much single malt this year because of the damn import tariffs here in the USA, and stuck mainly to my bottles of Glendronach and Ardbeg I had purchased last year, while purchasing mainly North American spirits. After a lengthy period of Bourbons, Ryes, and Canadian whiskies, I started to take another look at the blended scotch section at the store, which hadn't been impacted by tariffs. Compass Box was an early favorite of mine when I was first exploring scotch, and this bottle may be their best offering of any of their products. Peat? Check. Sherry? Check. Malt? Check. Grain? Check. This bottle quite literally is the "compass" to the four corners of Scotch whisky. Got a friend that wants to get into scotch? Tell them to buy this bottle, and then whatever flavors they like, you can point them further in that direction. Plus, it's just a delicious whisky, which of course is what John Glaser was going for in the first place. #2 whiskey of the year for 2020 is the Compass Box Glasgow Blend. Special thanks to @ScotchingHard for putting this one on my radar this year. Cheers!
    40.0 USD per Bottle
  5. Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish

    Bourbon — Indiana (bottled in Tennessee), USA

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It's that time again. That magical time of year when all the "Best Whiskey of the Year" lists come out. I've been searching around and found that most of these lists consist of highly aged Scotch and limited release or allocated Bourbon, and while I'm sure these drams are delicious, the fact remains that most of us will likely never taste most of these, so over the next five days, I present to you this longhorn's humble top 5 whiskies of 2020. Most of us could agree that this was not our best year. However, all the time spent at home resulted in expanded imbibing of our favorite brown beverage. This is the criteria for my list: (1) The whiskey has to be readily available on store shelves. No special releases. This means the most excellent Wild Turkey Masters Keep expressions I tried and rated this year are out, though you should feel confident to buy on sight. (2) Every dram on my list is $80 or less. Everyone should be able to taste great whiskey, and yes, I realize my definition of "great" might be different than others, but that's the fun of what we all do here, and (3) I had to have tasted it in 2020. None of the whiskies on my list were released this year, but this year is when I finally got around to them. Coming in at #3 is perhaps the most unique entrant on my list this year. Once derided, MGP juice is now sought after product in its well-aged format, which seems to hit its stride around 9-11 years. Some of these "craft" startups that build a line around MGP product are starting to come into their own, either by aging the juice further, doing unique cask finishes, or in the case of this bottle, both. I wanted to included the Wild Turkey Masters Keep Revival on this list, but it violates my rule of no special releases. This bottle is still readily available and checks all the right boxes for a finished bourbon. Finishing a bourbon in sherry casks is different than finishing a Scotch/Irish/Japanese whisky in a sherry cask. The latter tends to be dominated with the sherry, making it a much more sherry-forward experience. Because bourbon is a...feistier spirit shall we say, I want the sherry to complement and envelop the bourbon, not mask its inherent spicy, caramel flavors. This bottle achieves this splendidly, with a oaky, spicy, mature MGP bourbon wrapped in a fruity, jammy sherry blanket. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself with an empty bottle faster than you'd like. At around $80 depending on your market, this is the most expensive bottle on my list this year. If that's a bit steep for your budget, may I also recommend the equally excellent Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve for about $20 less depending on your market. Cheers!
    80.0 USD per Bottle
  6. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Proof

    Tennessee — Tennessee, USA

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It's that time again. That magical time of year when all the "Best Whiskey of the Year" lists come out. I've been searching around and found that most of these lists consist of highly aged Scotch and limited release or allocated Bourbon, and while I'm sure these drams are delicious, the fact remains that most of us will likely never taste most of these, so over the next five days, I present to you this longhorn's humble top 5 whiskies of 2020. Most of us could agree that this was not our best year. However, all the time spent at home resulted in expanded imbibing of our favorite brown beverage. This is the criteria for my list: (1) The whiskey has to be readily available on store shelves. No special releases. This means the most excellent Wild Turkey Masters Keep expressions I tried and rated this year are out, though you should feel confident to buy on sight. (2) Every dram on my list is $80 or less. Everyone should be able to taste great whiskey, and yes, I realize my definition of "great" might be different than others, but that's the fun of what we all do here, and (3) I had to have tasted it in 2020. None of the whiskies on my list were released this year, but this year is when I finally got around to them. Coming in at #4 is a surprise for me and anybody who had one (or more) nights in college praying to the porcelain god after imbibing too much Jack and ________ (insert sugary mixer here). This bottle was spoken about in back rooms and hushed tones as an available, affordable, equally high proof alternative to the ever elusive Stagg Jr., but everyone was reluctant to admit they liked a Jack Daniels product given the brand's...cultural profile shall we say. Even my regular drinking partners were skeptical. So was I. I bought a 375 initially to confirm my suspicions, and with those heartily confirmed, I bought a full bottle. My bottle rings in at a whopping 66.5% ABV, with powerful notes of dark chocolate, walnuts, toffee, caramel, and yes, the JD banana, which I very much enjoy. In my review, I compared it to Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. A little goes a long way, and water opens it up, but isn't necessary. As with any single barrel, mileage may vary, but feel empowered to buy with confidence. At around $50, it's a lot of whiskey for your $$$. Cheers!
    53.0 USD per Bottle
  7. Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

    Canadian — Ontario, Canada

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    It's that time again. That magical time of year when all the "Best Whiskey of the Year" lists come out. I've been searching around and found that most of these lists consist of highly aged Scotch and limited release or allocated Bourbon, and while I'm sure these drams are delicious, the fact remains that most of us will likely never taste most of these, so over the next five days, I present to you this longhorn's humble top 5 whiskies of 2020. Most of us could agree that this was not our best year. However, all the time spent at home resulted in expanded imbibing of our favorite brown beverage. This is the criteria for my list: (1) The whiskey has to be readily available on store shelves. No special releases. This means the most excellent Wild Turkey Masters Keep expressions I tried and rated this year are out, though you should feel confident to buy on sight. (2) Every dram on my list is $80 or less. Everyone should be able to taste great whiskey, and yes, I realize my definition of "great" might be different than others, but that's the fun of what we all do here, and (3) I had to have tasted it in 2020. None of the whiskies on my list were released this year, but this year is when I finally got around to them. Coming in at #5 was an early contender for this list. I've professed my love for Canadian whiskey and I don't care who knows. There's a lot of cool offerings out there once you move past the bottom shelf, even at 40%, and this one ticks off all the right boxes. Finished in Canadian oak barrels (who else can claim that!), this dram presents notes of maple, spice, butterscotch, toffee, and more. At $55 and bottled at 40% ABV, it packs a lot of flavor into a modern classic from the North. I've written (read: lamented) before about how Canada keeps all the best stuff for themselves, but this one makes it south to us here in the US, and any whiskeyfile should give this a go before they write off Canadian whiskey as a category. Those folks at Forty Creek know what they're doing. Pick up a bottle and try for yourself. Cheers!
    55.0 USD per Bottle
  8. Dewar's 12 Year The Ancestor

    Blended — Scotland

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    I've been slowly making the rounds around the city, popping into local liquor stores to see if there's any dustys or surprises. So far not too much, and I generally leave empty handed. On this particular day, I went to a shop on the other side of the city that prides itself on its bourbon selection. Fair enough. That's an excuse to get out of the house. I get there, and not only is the bourbon selection rather small, it's mostly bottles I can get for $15-$20 less at a big store. I get it, the little guy doesn't have the buying power of Total Wine. There was a store pick of 1792 Full Proof which intrugiued me, but I didn't feel like spending $80 for it, not when there's holiday shopping to do. Enter this bottle. I was about to leave when the owner made the sad puppy dog face at me. You've all seen it. The one that says, "Please sir. Just one bottle." I didn't want to be a total Scrooge (or Mallory Archer) and leave the poor guy high and dry, especially after the year we've had, so I quickly scanned the shelf (realizing their scotch selection was actually quite extensive. I will go back for that), and grabbed this. I like Dewars White Label in a pinch if the bar has nothing else, and I was intrigued by the age statement (plus they market the hell out of this in Whisky Advocate). For $30, I was willing to take the risk. I've been nursing this now for a few days and I've got about 1/3 of the bottle empty, and I gotta say, I can't find anything bad to say about this whisky. The big boys know how to play, I'll give them that. This is at once creamy, interesting, and has enough complexity to keep me interested while being completely unobtrusive and easy to drink. The nose is perfume and incense and spice. There's notes of coconut, marzipan, vanilla fondant, and kettle corn, all wrapped in a warm sherry blanket. Dewars makes a point of their "aging after blending", which I suspect takes place in some second fill sherry casks. The palate is creamy and enveloping, like if a strawberry short cake could hug you. It's sweet and inviting and velvety and makes you want to come back for another sip. Anybody who dumps on grain whisky for being harsh and metallic (present company included) won't find that here. The grain component has been aged well and complements the malt in more of a partnership than a supporting role. The finish is warm and velvety, and lasts longer than any 40% ABV dram has the right to. As I said earlier, nothing bad to say about this. I suspect the bottle won't last long. If I were rating this on the merits of blended whisky alone, it would get a high score, but honestly, it's just a damn good drink. Most places have it for $20-$30, so why not try it for yourself. At the very least it's a nice drink with some complexity to savor while we wait for the Single Malt tariffs to be repealed and prices to resume some sanity. Cheers!
    30.0 USD per Bottle
  9. Gooderham & Worts Four Grain Canadian Whisky

    Canadian — Ontario, Canada

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    I was excited to see this one finally arrive stateside at my local Total Wine. I've been a big fan of the work Dr. Don Livermore has done in the past, but a lot of his best work never makes it south of the Canadian border. Some of the best Canadien whiskies I've tried have been Lot 40 and the Wisers 18, both of which possess what I call "subtle complexity". This one is the highest rated of the four core offerings from Corby Distillers LTD. (Lot 40, Wisers, Pike Creek, G&W) here on Distiller, so what are we gonna find? At first whiff when I popped the cork, I thought I was smelling bourbon. Layers of oak and vanilla, with a hint of rye spice. After some time in the glass, the more "traditional" Canadian profile starts to show up, with maple syrup and dusty lumber making their fashionably late entrances. After that, it's vanilla. Vanilla pudding, creme brule, vanilla ice cream, cream cheese frosting, and cafe latte. Quite a bit of lovely stuff packed in to the nose here. It's unmistakably Canadian on the palate, but Dr. Don has shown us that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The expert blending really shines here, with corn and wheat sweetness, an oily mouth coating from the malt, and the rye shows up on the back palate with a spiciness that evolves into the finish. The proof is quite precise at 44.4 percent, and you can really feel it on the finish, which lasts longer than any Canadian whisky normally does. I'm going 4.25 on this. I like this just as much as Wisers 18, but it doesn't quite beat out 40 Creek Confederation Oak. Very happy with my bottle purchase. Don't go into this expecting bourbon, but do go in expecting a quality dram at an affordable price. Cheers!
    40.0 USD per Bottle
  10. Amaro Montenegro

    Amaro — Emilia-Romagna, Italy

    Tasted
    3.25
    3.25 out of 5 stars
    My new thing when going to an Italian restaurant is to order an Amaro after dinner in place of the traditional coffee and cake. I grew up in an Italian family and I never understood why they would drink coffee after dinner. It’s time to sleep after dinner. Enter the after dinner dram. At the time I tried this, it was a new category for me. Lot of folks said this was a good place to start, and if only ever had Monte in cocktails (where admittedly, it does shine). Neat, I was less impressed. Some nice notes of cocoa and hazelnut, but the bitterness seemed to overpower those flavors a tad too much while also coming across watery. I’m all ears for good cocktail recipes using this bottle, but I think it may not be a good after dinner sipper. I rather enjoyed Cynar for that role, but there’s also a nice Limoncello or Amaretto for that purpose too. Cheers!
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