Whiskey Reviews page 2

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Welcome! Here are some of my older reviews. Newer reviews are at Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog


Hirsch Reserve, selected straight bourbon whiskey

At $40 a bottle I wasn’t quite willing to try small batch Hirsch Reserve, selected straight bourbon whiskey. Aged 7 years. But when I saw it on sale for $22, I thought I would pick up a bottle.


The source is MGP, a major distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana that creates huge amounts of a variety of whiskeys, and then sells it to bottling companies which may finish it with additional aging in other barrels, or charcoal filter.  Those bottling companies then sell the finished product – which is often little changed from what MGP produces – under their own label (and sometimes sold misleadingly as artisan or small batch.) Here Anchor Distilling Company is the bottler, and they don’t hide the fact that this is MGP sourced whiskey. Aged 7 to 9 years. Light amber color. A smooth and unexpectedly tangy nose – floral and yeasty. On the palate there is a caramel corn flavor – and maybe some kind of nut, pralines? Faintly sweet and fruity.  Growing on me 🙂

Their website notes: The rye is sourced from Northern Europe, and the corn comes from Indiana and Ohio. The high rye content adds a distinctive spice character that balances the sweetness of the corn…barreled at 120 proof, which is amongst the lowest in the industry and imparts a smoother taste profile. The oak is a #4 char around the base and a #2 char at the head of the barrel. – from Anchor Distilling.com – Hirsch


Bozwin Palestine Whisky

Until the 1950’s, “Palestinian” referred to Jews, and “Palestine” to The British Mandate of Palestine – a part of the United Kingdom that included what today is Israel and Jordan, and related territories. This region previously was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. It existed from WWI to 1948.  During this era, there was a Jewish community known as the Yishuv (ישוב). Not only did Jewish residents of the British Mandate of Palestine produce wine – they also produced whisky! See “The Rare Find” by Gary He, on Drambox:

Bozwin, which roughly translates to “Beauty of Zion” was a brand created in the late 1920s by Mendel Chaikin, a Russian immigrant who founded M. Chaikin & Company, a London-based wine and spirit merchant. The company purchased kosher wine, spirits, and liquers in bulk from what is now modern day Israel, and shipped them back to London for bottling and sale to a growing Jewish community in the East End of London. The head offices for M. Chaikin & Co. were located at 72-74 Brick Lane, down the street from what was once the Spitalfields Great Synagogue.



Click here for the article http://www.drambox.com/blog/content/2015/7/22/the-rare-find-bozwin-palestine-whisky


Class act, gentlemen. We thank you for your service to our nation.
Pic courtesy of The Whiskey Wash.


Bird Dog Blended Whiskey
Candian Hunter Blended Canadian Whiskey
Canadian Club
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut


Bird dog Kentucky blended whiskey.  Bought it without thinking about what “blended whiskey” meant. Obviously it should mean a blend or 2 or more whiskeys, but due to misleading peculiarities of American liquor labeling laws, that’s not correct.

Under American law, American whiskey can be sold as a blended whiskey if it is as little as 20% whiskey, and the rest can be water and neutral grain spirits (basically, junk drinkable ethanol) It turns out that there are many different legal categories for American whiskies, and only some correspond to what we would call “real” whiskey. Anything labelled straight whiskey is real whiskey, while “blended whiskey” can be as little as 20%, plus filler. See this source for details TTB.gov Distilled Spirits homepage and TTB.Gov Distilled Spirits FAQs. To be clear, this is only true for American law: Other countries use the phrase “blended whiskey” is a more meaningful sense:  In Ireland and Canada, blended whiskies are simply a blend of 2 or more real whiskies, without grain neutral spirit filler.

Back to the Bird dog Kentucky blended whiskey: 80 proof. Medium gold color, with a caramel nose. I’ve never detected such a strong scent of caramel from whiskey before, and I’m pretty sure that it is an added flavoring. Drinks easy, but has a dark flavor that I’ve never experienced on the palate before. A bit too strong. It’s not what I want in a whiskey. It’s more like a flavored liquor, but there’s nothing on the label that indicates flavoring has been added.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. While making whiskey, a significant percentage is lost due to evaporation. This is known in the industry as the “angel’s share”; but some of the whiskey is also lost, as it is absorbed into the oak barrels themselves, Jim Beam playfully refers to this lost whiskey as “the devil’s cut.”  Jim Beam developed a way to remove these dregs of whiskey from the barrel, and combine them with the rest of the whiskey, to improve their profits. While many drinkers would find this wood-soaked whiskey “dregs”, when a small amount is mixed with other whiskey, some might enjoy it. The Jim Beam website states:

“Through a unique, proprietary process, we extract this formerly lost liquid from deep inside the barrel wood and put it back into our special Bourbon. The resulting liquid is deep in color, aroma and character with robust notes of wood and vanilla.”

The result? As always, a matter of personal taste. Very light color, a decent nose, very affordable. I’m detecting some of the same citrus flavors I found when I tried basil Hayden’s, but Jim beam’s Devil’s cut isn’t up to that league. This is harsher, less smooth. And definitely very woody, read about the process by which Jim bean extract liquid from the wood in the barrels. Eventually it grew on me a bit, I’m appreciating the woody notes. Would be best paired with food, especially chocolate. See this review for more details. Jason Scotchreviews Blogspot.com Jim-beam-devils-cut-kentucky

Canadian Hunter Blended Canadian Whiskey

From Sazerac (US). Region of original distillery: Canada. Category: Canadian whiskey. No age statement, and I haven’t found a mash bill for this.  80 Proof. As for the nose: Not great, had a slight rubbing alcohol scent. Palate: It’s not harsh, was easy to drink, but there was no depth, no meaningful flavor. Had a thin feel to it, I don’t see this as something that I’ll be coming back to.

Canadian Club

Commonly thought of as a bottom shelf offering, I thought that I would give this a try again. From the Walker distillery in Windsor, and part of the Beam Suntory company. Aged 6 years in new white oak barrels. Mash bill is rye, malted rye, barley and corn, aged in new white oak barrels.  80 Proof. Appearance: Deep gold color. Nose – perhaps a scent of barley? Not much else. Palate: Medium body, and perhaps I’m almost detecting a ginger ale-ish quality to it? It’s drinkable and good for a mixed. I’d put this in the same category as Crown Royal.


Pendleton 1910 Canadian rye whiskey

Produced and aged in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Purchased by Hood River Distillers in Oregon where it is finished and bottled.

100% rye mash bill. Aged 12 years in oak barrels. 80 proof.  Color in glass, pale gold.

Absolutely one of the most gorgeous bottles I have seen. Hint of vanilla, sweet, none of the alcohol burn that some associate with whiskey. The peppery rye flavor is more subtle than in other ryes. A very pleasant and easy drink. Not too complex, and lighter than the many higher proof offerings.



Basil Hayden’s bourbon whiskey

for the first time. It’s the lightest bourbon whiskey from the Jim Beam family (owned by Beam Suntory.) 80 proof. Has a higher percent of rye in the mash bill, compared to most other bourbons. Until 2014 Basil Hayden’s was aged 8 years, but after that the company removed the age statement.

Light golden color. Surprisingly, this has a slight citrus scent (but not flavor) almost an apple cider flavor on the front palate. I may have detected notes of oak and vanilla. This drink is sweet, crisp and clean, like a hard cider. Almost no alcohol burn when tasting. I really like it, and would definitely recommend it. But there’s just one thing: It’s triple the price of Old Grand Dad – and to a large extent, it apparently is almost the same thing! People studying the distillery report that both Basil Hayden and Old Grand Dad share:

* same mash bill
* same barrels, and same warehouse
* same lack of age statement
* same proof (80)

Hayden’s is just apparently is aged a little longer, and from select barrels. That indeed could make a modest difference in flavor, but perhaps not substantially so. So is it worth it to pay 250% more, for a slightly older Old Grand Dad – in an admittedly much more beautiful bottle? If you detect a substantial difference in flavor, sure. But otherwise, perhaps it would be good to choose something from the Old Grand Dad family.

There’s a great history of Basil Hayden’s and Old Grand Dad here, discussing the difference between Hayden’s and OGD.

Old Grand Dad 80 proof vs. Basil Hayden’s: From The Whisk(e)y Room


10/22/16 Knob Creek Rye Whiskey

Once again I was visiting the Winthrop Arms Hotel, Winthrop, Massachusetts, on Boston’s North Shore. This restaurant and hotel is an old-fashioned gem worth visiting. Has a turn of the century charm, beautiful restaurant and bar, and nice hotel rooms within walking distance of the water.

Wow, this Knob Creek Rye was a good choice. Has a beautiful golden color. 100 proof. From James B. Beam Distilling. Aged in white oak barrels. No age statement. I haven’t tried it yet, but other reviewers note that this may be very similar to the more expensive rī¹ (rye one) ,also from Jim Beam. Easy, warm, a little pepper in the front. The rye flavor strongly hits in the back palate. Not much of a burn. Very smooth.


At the Winthrop Arms Hotel.




10/2016 The Glenlivet 12 Year Old

An old best friend flew in from the west coast, always a reason to celebrate! Rob and I had hours to reconnect and trade stories and life experiences, and what better way to do so than over a drink?

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, from The Glenlivet distillery, near Ballindalloch in Moray, Scotland. An affordable, common, single malt scotch whiskey, aged for 12 years, first in white oak barrels, then in European oak barrels.

Apparently I’m still a whiskey, rye and bourbon man – most scotches don’t do anything for me. The Glenlivet has a smooth mouthfeel. It’s great that this was not aged too long – some aged whiskies have an oakiness to them, which their manufacturers try to pass off as a feature, yet which is clearly more of a bug.  There wasn’t any astringency, harshness, or off-putting aromatics. It’s a typical scotch, and I can see why people might it. But just not my thing.



10/16/16 The Glenmorangie Collection, gift pack

The Original – Glenmorangie aged 10 years, 43%, ex-bourbon casks. Has a white colour, and a bit of a bite to it. Really feel the alcohol burn. An absolutely delicious nose. Wish that I liked it as much I like the bourbons that I sampled.

The Lasanta, 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, then another 2 years in Oloroso Sherry casks. Noticably darker than the original 10 year old. Has a deeper, more complex flavor. A bit less of the burn. Has a nice mouthfeel on the upper palate, but becomes harsh/sour on the back.

The Quinta Ruban – 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, then another 2 years in Ruby Port casks. Has a nice honey/caramel color. A beautiful toasty warm aroma.  A bit less of the burn, and almost a hint of caramel.

The Nectar D’or – Finished in Sauternes wine barriques. Darker than the original, but lighter than the Quinta. While favored by some others, I didn’t appreciate the flavor at all.

I’ve tried all four a couple of times, over a week, but not thrilled with any of them at the moment. Perhaps I’m not a Scotch fan. But I’ll sample them again next month, & see if anything has changed in how I appreciate them.



Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
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