Tag Archives: bourbon

Whiskey reviews page 7

Hi! This blog has moved to a new domain,
Distilled Sunshine

Distilled

The old reviews and articles are still here for now, but some have already migrated over to the new website, and that’s where new entries may be found.

Useful articles on whiskey and Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?

Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye

The Cooper Spirits Co., 84 Proof, No age statement.
Price? Cheap as heck, $20 for 750 ml. $12 for 375 ml.

A modern release of a classic American cocktail:

“Rock and Rye was once believed to be a cure-all for the common cold. So famous were the phlegm-fighting qualities of the drink in days gone by that children used to be given rock-and-rye-flavored cough drops at the first sign of hacking and whooping. Now the drink is being revived by bartenders who see it as a cure for the common cocktail…. Rock and Rye held on to its reputation as a cure-all well into the 20th century. No. 434 in “The American Credo,” George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken’s biting 1920 catalog of things Americans believed in, was “That rock-and-rye will cure a cold.” At a 1952 conference of the Common Cold Foundation, a prominent Johns Hopkins virologist, Dr. Thomas G. Ward, was asked what medicine could do against the stubborn rhinovirus. “Personally, my favorite treatment is old Maryland Rock and Rye,” he replied.
A Cocktail for What Ails You, Eric Felten, June 2009, Wall Street Journal

Made with: straight rye whiskey (a blend, based around a 6 year old), Pennsylvania honey, air-dried navel oranges from Florida, Angostura-style cocktail bitters, and rock candy.

Nose : honey, bitters (perhaps a hint of cloves?)

Palate: citrus, honey, bitters, and the rye is just beneath. Very sweet – but not “well aged whiskey with hints of barrel carmelization” sweet, but “we added some rock candy” sweet.

Best served over a lot of ice: this classic cocktail is a bit heavy on the flavors to drink straight. The ice cools and cuts it, to turn it into a pleasant, classic cocktail.  If you’re used to drinking regular (unflavored) whiskey, this might seem too flavored, but in that case just cut it 50-50 with a favorite whiskey, and it might then magically match your palate.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit, Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey

A. Smith Bowman Distillery/Sazerac, made in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
90 proof, no age statement.  MSRP: $33, in NH for $29.99.

Bowman Brothers Virginia Bourbon

First, a bit of history from the company website:

John, Abraham, Joseph and Isaac Bowman were Virginia militia officers in the American Revolutionary War. In 1779, they led thirty pioneer families to Madison County, Kentucky and established Bowman’s Station. Later, the brothers helped establish and settle Fayette County. They were legends, admired and respected by fellow settlers for their courage and bravery. This hand-crafted bourbon whiskey is a tribute to these four heroic Bowman Brothers.”
A. Smith Bowman.com

Here’s a new one for you: A. Smith Bowman doesn’t make their own whiskey  yet they also are not a NDP.  Instead, they purchase whitedog – unaged whiskey distillate – from Buffalo Trace. Buffalo Trace makes the mash bill, ferments it, distills it twice, and then A. Smith Bowman gives it a 3rd distillation at their Virginia facility with an Irish style copper pot still. Bowman ages it in new, oak, charred barrels (reportedly 6 to 7 years, although I’m still trying to pin this down.) Easy enough for them to do, as both they and Buffalo Trace are owned by the same parent corporation (Sazerac.) Many reviewers say that this Buffalo Trace’s #2 mashbill, the one used for Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s.

Nose – oak, floral,a hint of tobacco,

Palate -a beautiful round mouth-feel, although not quite as thick as Michter’s bourbon. Notes of toffee (or is that mocha?) and toasted oak. Drier than some of the relatively sweet bourbons that I generally enjoy, yet less dry than dry wines. This stands out as one of the better whiskeys that I have tried – and that says something. Normally I’m wowed by notes of toffee (Michter’s Bourbon) or if it’s finished in a wine cask, such as Angel’s Envy bourbon. Yet this is a straight, classic, oaky bourbon that I’m digging, which tastes miles away from Jack Daniels, Jim Beam. This is something special. Several people have noted that this tastes like the more famous Elmer T Lee (Buffalo Trace), but alas I haven’t had a chance to sample that bourbon yet.

For more details I can point you to this article on A. Smith Bowman and their whiskeys: American Whiskey, Yes, Virginia, there is a Gentleman, Linda and John Lipman

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Glendalough double barrel Irish whiskey

What do we know about the contents? They state ” distilled in a Coffey still from a mash bill of Irish malted barley and corn. It spends three and a half years in American oak first-fill Bourbon barrels before being finished for six months in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. ” This is a new distillery, and as I understand they are using sourced whiskey for this product – which is perfectly fine. After coming out of the sherry casks, it is brought down to 42% ABV with local Wicklow Mountain water.

Sells for around $30, but one can find it on sale for cheaper.

Nose: fruit, floral – perhaps a hint of cherry.

Flavor: Moderately sweet, creamy, a hint of bourbon or toffee notes. This finished whiskey reminds me of Angel’s Envy Port finished bourbon – but that is $50, and I can find this for $22 to $28 in Massachusetts. This is an amazing value.

Glendalough Double Barrel Irish

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon

$30 in New Hampshire, from Wild Turkey Distillery

Aged 10 years in virgin American oak casks , #4 char.

Mash bill: Uncertain, but I’ve read 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley.

Visited the Cheesecake Factory, and perused their whiskey list. Found Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon, which I’ve heard a lot of talk about over the past couple of months, so I thought that I’d give it a try. This is supposed to be a big step up from their baseline, “bottom shelf” Wild Turkey 81 Proof. That Wild Turkey was a favorite of Hunter S. Thompson, famed gonzo journalist.  So, how is the 10 year old?

Color: Deep caramel

Nose: A delicious experience, some vanilla, butterscotch, and pepper.

Palate: Rich mouthfeel. Delicious and warm on the front palate: molasses, oak, and then a bit of crisp green apple! But an astringent taste going back that almost overwhelmed the initial sensation. I drank this slowly, over a half hour , and the rough landing past the back palate was consistent: alcohol, pepper, something oddly organic. Definitely going to try this again sometime, but based on this first experience I’m not planning on a buying a bottle at this time.

Russell's Reserve 10 Year

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

What are finished whiskies?

Finishing is the procedure that some whiskeys undergo whereby the spirit is matured in a cask of a particular origin and then spends time in a cask of different origin (generally 6 months to 2 years.) Typically, the first cask is an American oak cask formerly used to mature bourbon. The second cask may be one that has been used to mature some sort of fortified wine.

In the United States, finished whiskeys are legally classified as a Distilled Spirit Specialty, although that term doesn’t appear on whiskey bottle labels.  The formal definition is “any class and/or type of distilled spirits that contain or are treated with flavoring and/or coloring materials and/or nonstandard blending or treating materials or processes.”, in this case the flavoring simply being wine left in the wood of the second cask –  TTB (U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)

There is a debate in some sectors of the whiskey world of whether a finished whiskey counts as a true/straight whiskey, or whether it is a flavored product. However, if one were to consider it a flavored product, then all Scotch would have to re-defined as flavored whiskey, because all Scotch is aged in already used in a barrel that has already held bourbon. (Bourbon, in contrast, may only be aged in new oak.)

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Jefferson’s Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet Cask Finished

90.2 Proof,  Finished in French Oak casks that had held Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently tried a terrific bourbon, Angel’s Envy, finished in port wine barrels, so I was very excited to see this finished bourbon available for tasting at a Total Wine location in Massachusetts. If Jefferson’s could also create something wonderful, then perhaps I’d have found two new favorites within a month (something which has not happened yet.)

The nose was gentle, a bit sweet, but that’s not always indicative of the taste. So let’s see…. and….. WINE?!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this finished whiskey didn’t taste much like a finished whiskey – it tasted more like the Cabernet Sauvignon itself. I do understand the appeal of this, for some people.  But to me, this didn’t taste like a whiskey – it tasted like a whiskey-wine cocktail, which just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Finishing, in of itself, is a useful technique. For example, Angel’s Envy did pick up some of the port wine flavor, but only subtly altered the whiskey, without overpowering it.  My advice to Jefferson’s would be to continue their experiments in finished whiskies, but cut the amount of finishing time in half. Finally, the price is ridiculous. Regular Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon is $31, but this was $70, an unjustifiable price for the few months of extra aging, even for someone who really did enjoy the result.

Jefferson's Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet.jpg

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey: Bourbon Cask

($22) 80 proof. No age statement (3+ years.) . 75% grain Irish whiskey & 25% malt Irish whiskey. Matured in first fill bourbon casks. Simple, straightforward, and yes, it developed some bourbon characteristics. Mild, spicy, hint of toffee note. I liked this!

West Cork Black Reserve (Limited Reserve)

86 proof.  No age statement (3+ years.) Aged in lightly toasted, charred #4 bourbon first fill casks. Color is golden amber.  Smoky but not peaty. More of a traditional Irish whiskey – which is great for other Irish whiskey fans – but I actually preferred the cheaper Bourbon Cask (above.)

West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey

124 proof. 33% malt and 66% grain whisky. Matured in ex-bourbon casks.  Oak brown color.  Too strong for tastes – I’d need to water this back down to 90 proof to make it drinkable. But hey, to each his own.

West Cork Irish Whiskey

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Is there a kosher for Pesach (פֶּסַח, Passover) whiskey? Until now the answer has been negative. In the Jewish faith, one does not drink whiskey on Passover, as whiskey is a grain product, and Passover rules forbid consuming any products made from chametz (חָמֵץ ) : chametz is any food product made from wheat, spelt, barley, and rye (*) that is either leavened – or even left moist long enough to theoretically become leavened on it’s own. But it now appears as if we have our first justifiably kosher for Passover whiskey, Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey. (*) Most Ashkenazi rabbis also add oats to this list, but adding this grain is controversial.

Kosher for Passover Corn Whiskey

corn-whiskey-passover

Also see Jews and whiskey during prohibition

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

A plethora of new Irish whiskey reviews!

Glendalough Poutin Sherry Cask; Glendalough Double Barrel; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 7 years; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 13 years; and Glendalough Poitin
Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey-regular; Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey- aged 12 years
Flaming Leprechaun Irish Whiskey; Jameson Irish Whiskey; and Jameson Caskmates; and Jameson Black Barrel; Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey. Middleton Very Rare, Green Spot, Redbreast Aged 12 Years, Redbreast Lustau Edition, Power’s John Lane Release

Irish whiskey reviews

Glendalough

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Original Bourbon Whiskey

I’ve heard good things about Michter’s, but local restaurants didn’t have any on hand for me to sample. This motivated me to travel to Saloon, at Davis Square (Somerville, MA) modeled after a prohibition-era speakeasy.

It’s hard to spot – you have look for the doorway next to the Davis Square Theatre, which takes you downstairs. The “sign” is just the light in front. matthew-j-lee-boston-globe-staff

This pic by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Entering, I found myself back in time in a charming speakeasy, dark wood paneling, leather chairs, with a decent sized bar, and more cozy areas to sit at tables with friends.

The manager and bartender were knowledgeable and friendly, and they had well over 100 varieties of whiskey, rye, bourbon and scotch to sample.

saloon-somerville

Before reviewing it, let’s ask – what is Michter’s? The original Michter’s was made at Bomberger’s Distillery, from the 1950’s, until the 1980’s.  That original spirit is no longer available.  In the 1990’s Chatham Imports bought the name.

michters-at-saloon-somervilleChatham has begun distilling its own whiskey in Kentucky, but they haven’t released bourbon from their new distillery yet. So this Michter’s Small Batch has been sourced from some other major producer, making it an NDP product.

Chatham notes that they made an arrangement with a major, undisclosed, distillery in Kentucky to use to make their spirit for them, while Chatham was building it’s new distillery.  Chatham is currently aging large amount of it’s own whiskey and bourbon, which is not yet on the market.

However, they aren’t like other NDPs: Other NDPs just quietly buy some other companies whiskey and rebottle it, at a higher price. Chatham instead specified a mashbill and yeast strain, and had this whiskey made to to their specifications (Michter’s); they then aged it in their own warehouse, in air-dryed wood barrels, toasted as well as charred etc, and then bottled it. They state that the new bourbon they are distilling themselves has the same mash bill and yeast strain, and will age in the same type barrels, so they promise that their own new bourbon will eventually be the same as the one we are drinking today.

Their current US*1 bourbon is 91.4 proof. NAS (no age statement) but their website states that it is around 8 years old; it’s common to mention this on the website, but not the bottle, so as to have flexibility: it may contains blends of 6 year old, 7, 8 or older whiskies. The “small batch” is explained as being “typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels.”

Color: Amber. Nose: slightly dark, fruit. Taste:  Wow, this has a round mouth feel, full & flavorful. Thick body, caramel on the front palate. A bit sweet. Nothing floral or citrus like Four Roses, this is a totally different type of bourbon.  So full that it stands up to having a couple of ice cubes in it. Has a pleasantly long finish. This bourbon is a winner, and one I’ll soon be trying again.

Further reading: Michter’s Distillery Joe Magliocco Talks About Doubling Capacity to 1,000,000 Gallons and This Louisville distillery is doubling capacity — one year after opening

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Contents

Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Rum reviews
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey 
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher? 

Advertisements

Drinking and health

Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review Logo

No doubt that it is safe for most people to drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, and have moderate amounts of alcohol, more occasionally. But how much is a safe amount?

Alcoholism and other substance abuse issues certainly run in families, and people who know about this in their own family are wisely advised to avoid alcohol, or keenly monitor their drinking patterns. Some families have a history of certain diseases which alcohol can exacerbate, so the same caution is due here as well.  But what about people without high risk factors? For years medical studies have shown some small benefits of drinking wine, a few other studies showed small benefits from small amounts of any kind of alcohol. And we all know of family members or community members who had a drink every day, and lived well past 100.

For any person, too much alcohol at once can affect the brain, as such
(source of image unknown; corrections requested)

Alcohol and Brain

But a growing number of studies are showing that that for many people, there are increased health risks at lower levels of alcohol consumption that once thought. For instance:

=======

Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study

Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline, BMJ June 2017

Higher alcohol consumption over the 30 year follow-up was associated with increased odds of hippocampal atrophy in a dose dependent fashion. While those consuming over 30 units a week were at the highest risk compared with abstainers, even those drinking moderately (14-21 units/week) had three times the odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy. There was no protective effect of light drinking (1-<7 units/week) over abstinence. Higher alcohol use was also associated with differences in corpus callosum microstructure and faster decline in lexical fluency. No association was found with cross sectional cognitive performance or longitudinal changes in semantic fluency or word recall…. Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy. These results support the recent reduction in alcohol guidance in the UK and question the current limits recommended in the US.

When reading such studies, we first ask, what is a “unit” of alcohol? In the UK we find this definition:

1 unit of alcohol = 10 millilitres (8 grams) of pure alcohol.

Typical drinks may contain 1–3 units of alcohol.

A ten ounce beer (300 ml) at 3.5% ABV contains about one unit;

A medium glass (175 ml) of 12% ABV wine has two units of alcohol

A small glass (50 ml) of sherry or port (20% ABV) contains about one unit.

Most whisky is 40% ABV.
In England, a single pub measure (25 ml) of whisky contains one unit.

A typical American miniature bottle is 50 ml -> 2 units.

A typical American pour at a bar is 2 ounces -> 60 ml -> 2.4 units

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Possible health benefits of moderate whiskey consumption

http://coolmaterial.com/food-drink/health-benefits-whiskey/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/alcohol-full-story/

moderate alcohol usage and increased antioxidant intake decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.

Odds of dementia are lower among adults who consumed moderate alcohol, rather than none at all

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+–+

“There are small amounts of sugar in all whiskies. Scottish whiskies have some sugars dissolved from the oak cask and often some from optional caramel colouring (E150a). Total amount of sugars is quite low, usually well below 1 g/l, but in certain cases it is quite possible to reach a few grams per liter. The sweet aromas of whisky matured in refill bourbon or new oak casks mostly come from sweet aromatic vanillin and fruity esters, not from the sugars. However, sugars can have a significant role in the case of casks previously used for sweet wine or sweetened spirit….”

Sugars in Whiskey: whiskyscience.blogspot.com

“Whiskey is among the most diet-friendly alcoholic drinks there is, at least in terms of a calorie-to-booze ratio. A one and a half ounce shot of 86 proof whiskey contains just 105 calories. One 12-ounce bottle of craft beer that contains about the same amount of alcohol? You’re looking at double the calories….”

How many calories are in whiskey? The Whiskey Wash

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+–+

Contents

Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Rum reviews
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey 
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher? 

Whiskey reviews page 6

Hi! This blog has moved to a new domain
Distilled Sunshine

Distilled

The old reviews and articles are still here for now, but some have already migrated over to the new website, and that’s where new entries may be found.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Prohibition and the American Jewish community

The Prohibition, in the United States, was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages, from 1920 to 1933. But there were a variety of legal loopholes that allowed religious communities to use wine.  See Jews and whiskey during prohibition

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Chemistry of Whiskey

Whisky is one of the world’s most popular spirits, and comes in many different classes and types. The character and flavour of these differing types vary widely; this, of course, comes down to their varying chemical composition. Here,  chemistry teacher Andy Brunning looks at where these compounds come from, and what they contribute: Phenols, the whisky lactones, aldehydes, esters, and other organic compounds.

chemistry-of-whisky

The Chemistry of Whisky: Compound Interest

Many people notice that adding some water improves the taste; adding water is said to “open up” the whiskey. But what is the science behind this? When one mixes alcohol and water, a minor exothermic reaction occurs, releasing a tiny amount of heat. This could allow more volatile aromatic compounds to escape. Adam Whisnant writes:

What other heat sources besides enthalpy of mixture are at play in the mixture, given the following: solutions of equal temperature to the environment, minimal transfer of heat from your hand to the glass in the seconds after pouring, and relatively small concentrations of other compounds including aromatics and methanol (as is required to be potable)?

The heat release is actually quite significant when diluting alcohol with water. Assuming an 80 proof whisky, 40% ethanol in water would be a molar fraction of roughly 0.21. Diluting the just surface with a splash of water, or the entire dram with a lot of water to say 20% ethanol, would give a molar fraction of roughly 0.077 (remember pure room-temperature water is roughly 55.6M). Ignoring -which I admit is improper- the changes in entropy, the enthalpy change alone is on the scale of kJ/mol.

Raoult’s law refers to vapor pressures of a mixture equaling the molar fractions of the solution, but of course ethanol/water solutions are known to not be ideal mixtures due to the nature of inter-molecular interactions. Henry’s law is much more relevant given the small concentrations of compounds we actually sense – but both laws follow the same principles. In regards to the relevant volatile organic compounds that are more hydrophobic, reducing the ethanol concentration would indeed make them less soluble, but forcing compounds from liquid to gaseous states in the short timescale after dilution cannot be explained without an input of heat minimally equal to the respective enthalpies of vaporization. Otherwise they would precipitate or form another liquid phase separated by density.

As water has a considerable heat capacity, the overall temperature increase isn’t going to seem large to your 37°C hands without a calorimeter. However, our olfactory and gustatory neurons can detect some compounds at just a few parts per billion. I welcome correction or clarification.

Enthalpies of mixture of ethanol and water, by Boyne and Williamson

Endothermicity or exothermicity of water/alcohol mixtures, By Peeters and Huyskens

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Bruichladdich

At an amazing Scotch Whisky tasting event from the Bruichladdich Distillery, from the isle of Islay in Scotland. Hosted by Darren & George of the North Shore Whisky Club, with Thomas Carrara from SoHo Experiential.

bruichladdich-north-shore-whisky-club

We all had an amazing array set up for us:

Bruichladdich – Islay Barley – Rockside Farm 2007 – Heavy, peaty, salty. Notes of leather, some at the tasting called it medicinal – and to my surprise, the Scotch drinkers in attendance considered it desirable for whiskey to be leathery, medicinal and smoky.  I’ve been trying Scotches for a couple of years now, and to be honest, I don’t get it. I think that Scotch drinkers are convincing themselves that whiskey is better when the grain mash is dried over burning peat – but history shows us that the Scots didn’t do this in order to make better whiskey. They did it because peat was simply the cheapest thing to burn, and over centuries they got used to that flavor.

Port Charlotte – Scottish Barley – Open up with a few drops of water. Right off the bat, we’re not in Kansas anymore – this is nothing like bourbon. A bit of dark caramel, slight fruit sensation – pear? – and a ton of spiciness when it hit my back palate. Non-chill filtered. All the barley comes from mainland Scotland. This is a multi-vintage blend. Contains a blend of 8-12 year old malts.

Port Charlotte – Islay Barley – Very peaty, 40 ppm. Non-chill filtered.  There is a gentle, alluring nose – not warning me of what’s to come. Tasting it, and me not used to non-peated whiskies, all I am getting is the peat. I’m reminded why Americans create whiskey our way instead of buy burning old peat moss.  Eventually I detected a subtle sweet background, but the smoke overpowers it.

2009 Islay Barley – Islay Barley – 2009 – The barley comes from 4 farms Quite a fruity nose. A hint of heather, birch. A bit earthy.

Octomore 07.1 Cask strength. The smoke and peat are overwhelming. A brush fire must have gone through the distillery while they were making this batch? The only way to taste any whiskey flavor was to add enough water to bring the proof down by 20%.

Octomore 07.3 Islay Barley Peated single malt. Finally – a hint of butterscotch. Less peated than the previous Octomore.  More floral. Their website notes that “25% of it was aged entirely in virgin oak casks, while 75% of it spent 3 years in first fill bourbon casks, followed by 2 years in virgin oak casks and then 2 more years in first fill bourbon casks.” Yup – and that’s why it was good.  I would have been willing to buy a bottle, but not at $160!

Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak. Not much is available here, most is sold to Germany. It’s a bit more like a cognac. The nose is fruity yet also medicinal. Very sweet on the front palate.

Bruichladdich – The Botanist Gin – Made from a mix of 22 botanicals. Not aged, this is the only gin made on Islay. Limited production, as the still for this is only run twice a year.  Gin isn’t my thing – at all – and since I find gin repulsive, I’m not going to review it. But perhaps gin lovers would give it a go.

bruichladdich-tasting

Quite a display of Bruichladdich – heritage on display!

bruichladdich-bottles

From our friends at the North Shore Whisky Club

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Working on my first infinity bottle!

It currently has 2 parts Larceny 92 proof
1 part Baker’s Aged 7 Years, 107 proof and 1 part Old Forester Signature 100 proof.

I haven’t let it mix for long, just a few minutes – and am trying it out now.
Surprisingly not bad – and better than the Larceny on it’s own!

My family owns a couple of beautiful crystal decanters from the 1970’s, but I don’t trust that they are lead-free. Tests show that older decanters leach significant amounts of lead into their contents if stored for more than a month, so using those older decanters is a no go. Instead, I’m using the Larceny bottle itself.

Given the ingredients, it is a bit strong for my tastes (wine is just 12-14% alcohol, while whiskey is generally 80% – but this mix is higher proof!) so I added an ice cube and a splash of water.

Update: I added another ounce from a different whiskey…let it set for a week, but I hated the result. That’s Ok. So I then added yet another ounce from yet another different whiskey, but a week later it was still pretty bad. Continued this for 2 more attempts, but nothing really great developed. At best the result was tolerable, but nothing was as good as a straight bottle of whiskey. I ended up giving up on this.

Aaron Goldfarb writes about Infinity Bottles:

“…Whenever I had a few ounces left in a bottle and wanted to clear shelf space, I’d pour it into the decanter. I was, it turns out, inadvertently creating my very own “infinity bottle”—a personal history blend that’s become all the rage among whiskey nerds. The infinity bottle seems to have first entered prominence courtesy of a 2012 video by popular whiskey YouTuber Ralfy Mitchell. He asks “How can you create something which is 100 percent uniquely yours? That is part of your whiskey or spirit drinking history? That becomes, in fact, a family heirloom in time?” His answer is what he calls a “solera bottle,” likening his experiment to the world of sherry, in which casks are fractionally blended over time via the solera system in order to create consistency. Using an empty bottle from WhiskyBlender, Mitchell affixed a label to the back in order to keep a running tally of each new whiskey he added, and when. An infinity bottle, he says, can create “a taste that you just can’t buy,” one worth far more than what he paid for the component whiskeys.”

How the Infinity Bottle Became a Whiskey Nerd Obsession

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Old Grand Dad, Bottled-in-bond

old-grand-dad-bonded

It’s no secret that the bottom shelf Old Grand-Dad 80 proof has become one of my favorite bourbons. It just goes to show that there’s little relationship between price and one’s favorite flavor profile. I also enjoy Basil Hayden’s, which is simply an extra aged version of Old Grand-Dad. What we have here to compare it with is Old Grand-Dad bonded, a 100 Proof, bottled in bond version of Old Grand-dad. It’s aged for at least two more years than the standard version, but perhaps somewhat less than the Basil Hayden’s. Also the bonded version is 100 Proof, which packs a much more powerful punch.

People studying the distillery report that both Basil Hayden, Old Grand Dad, and Old Grand Dad Bonded, all share the same yeast, same mash bill, same barrels, and the same warehouse.

I’m enjoying both, and I find the bonded version to be deeper and richer in flavor. Unlike a lot of other serious whiskey drinkers however, I haven’t acquired a taste for the extremely high proof alcohol. So I find a better comparison is to add a splash of water, to compare the whiskies at equal proof. When the ice cube in the bonded melted, I could detect more of the flavors, and I do find it a bit more flavorful. This is definitely a winner. And much more affordable per liter than Basil Hayden’s. Highly recommended.

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

Cheers from New England! (Blizzard of February ’17)

whiskey-during-blizzard

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve
15 yr, 107 proof, $99.99 msrp

107 proof. Distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company, Buffalo Trace Distillery, in Frankfort, Kentucky

pappy-van-winkle-1

Went into Boston, and enjoyed my first taste of one of the most sought after bourbons in the world, Pappy Van Winkle. And did so in the elegant and historical The Last Hurrah, a bar in the historic Omni Parker House, Boston.

My understanding is that the contents of Pappy were originally the same as the contents of Weller 12, made in huge amounts and stored in a vast warehouse. Only those particular barrels which developed in a certain way we’re set aside to become Pappy. The rest had a slightly different flavor, and became perfectly good in other Weller products.

Van Winkle has a mash bill of corn, wheat, and malted barley, aged in charred new oak barrels. As such, this is a “wheater.”

Normally I disregard the distiller’s own remarks (found on their website and advertisements), but in this rare case I’d have to actually agree:

“See a hazy, copper color. Taste a rich, supple entry, leading to a decadent, huge, full-bodied palate with intense caramel, toffee and peppery brown spice flavors. Then, enjoy a finish with an extreme, long, complex, evolving fade of spice and wood notes. Experts deem it a seductive, exotic and virtually flawless bourbon.”

pappy-van-winkle-2

Any Van Winkle is hard enough to find as it is; this line of bourbons has become one of the most sought after whiskies in the world. One can’t even normally buy it in a store, as stores generally only get a handful of bottles which sell out almost instantly. One needs to win a chance to buy it in a lottery, or otherwise obtain it on the secondary market, where the 15 year sells for over $1000. This year, though, the new release is even harder to find, as explained in their press release:

The long anticipated annual release of the Van Winkle bourbons is nearly here, but unfortunately some of the angels were extra greedy over the past two decades, leaving us less bourbon than in previous years. “When bourbon ages over 15 years, much is lost to the angel’s share. Many of the 53 gallon oak barrels often yield less than 20 gallons,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director. “Unfortunately this year we experienced poor yields on the older Van Winkle whiskeys. Furthermore, we have strict quality standards here at Buffalo Trace and several of the older Van Winkle barrels did not meet those standards. This makes a drastic difference in volume, considering we have very few barrels as it is. The result is less 15 year-old Pappy Van Winkle than usual, and far less 20 year-old and 23 year-old. Frankly, about half as much as last year.”

Press release: Van Winkle Bourbon Available Soon Barrels yield less 15, 20 and 23 Year Old Bourbon than usual

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Baker’s Bourbon

From Jim Beam (Beam Suntory), Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Beam describes this as a line of “of ultra-premium bourbon whiskies handcrafted in limited quantities from unique recipes, some dating back two centuries. They are carefully matured for exceptional quality.” Ultra-premium is, of course, a salesperson’s purely nonsensical justification for selling a particular line of whiskey at a much higher than average cost.  No true whiskey aficionado would ever allow themselves to be swayed by ad copy. We only care about the product, not the hype. So let’s discover Baker’s Bourbon!

bakers

107 Proof. Aged 7 years. Mash bill: corn, and a high rye content. 77% Corn, 13% Rye, 10% Malted barley. Gorgeous deep red color. Very gentle nose, not as intense as I would have hoped. But the flavor on the front palate is much more intense.

When taken straight, the alcohol burn is a bit much (80 proof being standard, this 107 proof); I much prefer this with ice and splash of water, which actually helps bring out the flavors.

On the front palate Baker’s is obviously a Jim Beam whiskey, with some of that characteristic taste. Reminds me a bit of Knob Creek. A bit of a toasted nut tone, peppery bite, and on the rear palate one can taste the corn and characteristic yeast tones.

Very silky mouth feel. I see this being sold for $40 to 55, but it’s not better than the $30 whiskies that I would regularly drink, so I wouldn’t spend too much extra for this, unless you find it a favorite.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Had a great time at a whiskey tasting from Buffalo Trace Distillery. We tried four whiskies and two ryes at Redstone Liquors, in Stoneham, MA.

buffalo-trace-tasting

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

90 proof, No age statement (pegged at between 8 to 10 years.)

Nose: Nothing fun or exciting. Some other reviewer claimed that they smelled “caramel, honey, orange, and vanilla” – really? I honestly got none of that. Sometimes I think that reviewers write reviews to agree with each other, and based on expectations. I’ve developed some skill in this area, and all I can say is that although I have detected those aromas in other whiskeys, I got nothing much enjoyable here.

Palate: Sharp, tangy, but not as enjoyable as some of the others. I’ve seen others claim to taste “brown sugar, vanilla, and toffee” – but although I often find those in other bourbons (hello Woodford Reserve or Michter’s Bourbon!) I again found none of that here. The taste of Buffalo Trace – from 2 different bottles I tried – was dry, peppery, a bit of a flavor I can only call “buzzing”, and perhaps slightly oaky. The Master-of-Malt website claims that it  tastes like”espresso beans, a touch of chocolate-covered raisins and toasty wood,” which I find complete nonsense. That’s the most unrealistic bourbon review I have ever read yet. Overall – Hey, if you like this, that’s great. Everyone has a different palate but this wouldn’t work for me except as a bottom shelf mixer.

Old Weller Antique, 107 proof, Bourbon.

Reviewed here on my blog previously, this is simply my favorite! Always buy a bottle when I can find one. Almost fruity, perhaps a hint of vanilla. You can taste the oak. Smooth & easy to drink, with very little burn. And I am sensing a sweetness that I don’t get with a lot of whiskeys, which I am attributing this to being a wheater.

Eagle Rare

Now this bourbon is quite nice on the front palate, yet I’m not much enjoying the back palate. A bit disappointing, but perhaps this just isn’t for me.

Sazerac Rye

Wow, this has a nice rye flavor. Similar tastes on the front and back palate – THIS is something that I can see myself buying! This is generally six years old, although there is no age statement.

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

I’ve reviewed this previously, and I stand by my assessment that this is one of the best whiskies out there! Sweet, smooth, delicious. Color: Reddish amber. Palate: Full and smooth, sweet, with tones of caramel and orange. Mash bill: Corn, rye and malted barley. Aged approximately 9 years, no age statement, in American white oak barrels, #4 char.

And now for the Colonel E. H. Taylor Straight Rye, Bottled in Bond. What a terrible disappointment – an overpowering alcohol nose, and very sharp. I much preferred the Sazerac Rye, or from an earlier evening, Knob Creek Rye. Not just my opinion, a few other people at the tasting also didn’t like this at all.

buffalo-trace-tasting-choices

Here is an amazing find – one of the few whiskies legally sold for medicinal purposes during the prohibition. Spiritus frumenti (spirits of grain), commonly known as whiskey. No – we didn’t get to try it, we just got to hand it around 🙂

taylor-old-buffalo-trace-prohibition

A close up of the back of the bottle: from the parent company of Buffalo Trace.

taylor-prohibition-buffalo-trace

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Two Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Available from Total Wine, Clear Springs Distilling Company, 86 proof, $17

I always enjoy Total Wine; they have an amazing array of spirits and any other alcoholic beverages that you can think of, and it’s on my home to see family & friends on Boston’s North Shore.

two-stars-total-wine

The last time I was there I picked up a bottle of Old Weller Antique, and chatted with a few people. One of the things that I like about them is that they have staff on the floor to answer questions: one must appreciate a store that is still properly staffed – such a rarity in this day and age. He led me to a manager who a had a shopping cart full of open spirits available for tastings. Fantastic!

Two Stars is one of the house brands at Total Wine. On their website, it averaged 4/5 stars, with 29 reviews, so on that basis one would imagine that it’s a solid bet. Another reason for confidence is that the Clear Springs Distilling Company is a part of Buffalo Trace, owned by the Sazerac Company!

ttbonline.gov Dept of the Treasury : Document showing ownership Buffalo Trace

Unfortunately, I was disappointed: I wasn’t expecting much for $17, but this not good. Amber hue. Young, harsh, and with a noticeable ethanol taste. No nose to speak of. What really bothered me wasn’t the low quality, but the questionable reviews on the Total Wine website: There were a suspicious number of 4 or 5 star reviews for this terrible whiskey, including a 5 star review which read

“On the nose vanilla and honey, on the tounge apricots and vanilla, and finishes smooth with lasting vanilla and a hint of oak. Lots of mystery, definitely low or no rye. Taste a little young until the finish. Very similar to W.L. Weller.”

Really? This is the most unbelievable review that I’ve come across. It’s almost like someone was trying to drum up business for one of their house brands. As such, I might caution people to take the reviews there with a grain of salt.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Larcency

Larceny is basically the next level up from Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald. From Heaven Hill, Kentucky (they acquired the classic Old Fitzgerald franchise in 1999.)  Mash Bill: Details unknown, but it’s more than 51% Corn, and the next most common grain is wheat, then perhaps rye. 46% ABV/92 Proof. No age statement: Other reviewers who have spoken to people at Heaven Hill hold that it is between 6 to 12 years old.

How was it? When I first tried Larceny, I wasn’t overly impressed, but that may be because I tried it soon after two of my favorites: Blanton’s, and Old Weller Antique. So I have been trying Larceny a couple more times over the last two weeks.  Now my opinion of it has increased.

Color: Deep caramel. Nose – perhaps a hint of brown sugar, cherry and oak. Very pleasant, just the right strength. Palate: Just a hint of oak, corn and citrus.  This is really quite good for an inexpensive whiskey!

I did want to try an experiment. On rare occasion I’ve had a bourbon with cocoa notes, but that’s rather rare to find. So I wanted to see if I could recreate the experience. I took 50 ml of Larceny, and added just a drop of Creme de Cacao (Arrow), then let it sit for a couple of days.  I certainly didn’t add much – I’m not a fan of flavored/sweetened whiskies. Just wanted to see if a hint of cocoa would develop. Upon trying I discovered that the infused bourbon lost Larceny’s crisp, clean palate. It didn’t, at all, deliver the cocoa notes that I had been hoping for. Rather, the infusion simply muddled the original flavors, without adding much worthy of note.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

Contents

Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?