Spokane Whiskey Club

Midleton Very Rare 2013 Vintage Review

Concerning the Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy bottling released years ago, a promotional video on the various Midleton releases claimed that it “must be the ultimate expression of the art,” namely, the single pot still style of Ireland. Another marketing claim? I will say that I do not think it is. In fact, I think they are right. Midleton is the only distillery currently producing single pot still style, and their yearly Midleton releases are their very finest selections. Our review today doesn’t concern the Barry Crocket Legacy bottling, but of the yearly “Very Rare” edition. And if the standards are not as high as they are for “Legacy,” they are certainly high enough given the price tag and provenance of the Very Rare line. Let’s get to the particulars….

Midleton Very Rare (2013 Vintage) is a pot still heavy blend of Midleton stock comprised of whiskies ranging from 12 to 25 years old. Fewer than 50 casks are bottled every year. Once the master distiller has chosen his casks for bottling, all elements are vatted together and finished briefly in virgin oak, that is, oak that has not been previously filled with bourbon, for extra flavor pop and development. As is common with many Irish whiskies, Midleton Very Rare is distilled three times. The pot still portion is a mix on un-malted and malted barley, which, consequently, is best distilled three times to get the most out of the un-malted portion. Expectations are enormous for this, as damn well they should be for a $170.00 bottle of whiskey. On to it…

SWC Group Review

Nose-  A very quiet, strange start, but with time grows with complexity. Vanilla cream, spicy cinnamon apples, and confectionary notes abound. Dried fruit, nutmeg, applesauce, ginger. Pencil shavings. Buttered toast. Full and lively with time.

Taste- Oily. Creamy sweet, fruit cocktail. Spice cabinet with baked apples. Savory with citrus sour feel. Incredible.

Finish – Long and full. A lingering rehash of the taste.

Comment- Clumsy at first, but with time our curiosity is rewarded with a very unique flavor experience. Fills out nicely to a full bodied, wonderful Irish whiskey. Recommended if you have the coin and perhaps a bit of an acquired taste.

SWC Rating – 88/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review

As recently stated by Lew Bryson, Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey was once a “white whale” in the whiskey world, and not just the Irish one. But the pursuit for this rare pot still style was not quite at the vomit inducing level of Pappy hunting by the various Ahabs lurking among us. In fact, if you really wanted a bottle of Green Spot you could get one online or just by traveling to the famed wine and spirits merchant Mitchell & Son in Dublin, Ireland. What made it such a charming find was its equally charming story: in 1887, as was common in those times, Mitchell & Son was a “bonder” of whiskey. The whiskey was distilled at Jameson distillery (now Midleton), purchased by Mitchell & Son and then aged in their bonded warehouses, an arrangement that survived until recently. Throughout the years we saw a Blue, Yellow and Red Spot, even a Black. Only about 6,000 bottles of Green Spot were produced annually towards the end of this arrangement, but then of course the world finally discovered that whiskey existed and it was indeed wonderful, and one such fruit emerging from this new Golden Age was a massive expansion of the Green Spot brand that sent bottles all across the fruited plain. Green Spot is no longer a white whale. In fact, it’s not even the right whale: the new Green Spot is “inspired” by the original that sat in the warehouses under Dublin so many years ago. So the story now is a touch less charming, but still charming enough to give it a shot. The whiskey in the bottle is more interesting anyway.

Green Spot carries no age statement, but it is 7-10 years old. It is also single pot still, an absolutely gorgeous Irish export of malted and un-malted barley distilled 3 times in copper pot stills. Green Spot is aged in a mix of ex-bourbon casks and sherry casks and is bottled at 40% ABV (I shall protest, but a weak protest). Midleton may not be sending the whiskey as it used to, but how could it now that so much more is required? The price doesn’t insult, so why the hell not.

SWC Group Review

Nose – A delicate mix of floral meadow, green apple, dried fruits. Pears and vanilla with time. Light mint and tobacco. Good start.

Taste- A bit light but enough mouthfeel to stay in the game. Honey, sweet sherry with growing cereal notes.

Finish- Short length. Toasted bread. Fruitcake and honey. Fading cereal notes.

Comments- We like the simplicity and the nose is the highlight. For more flavor, we recommend the upcoming Yellow Spot, but you certainly are not going the wrong way with this lighter pot still offering. Glad it is around.

SWC Rating – 79/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Teeling Vintage Reserve Silver 21 Year Old 1991 Review

It is not without a sense of delicious irony that our selection today was volunteered by the one member of SWC who enjoys Irish whiskey the least. But where this story becomes less amusing is when this said member found himself at the Irish Beer and Whiskey Festival in, of course, Ireland, and speaking one on one with, of course he was, Stephen Teeling of the Teeling Whiskey Company. Bloody hell, Brendan. And upon sensing that the intrepid member of the SWC in front of him possessed an above average enthusiasm for whiskey, Stephen pulled out a bottle of Teeling Vintage Reserve Silver 21 Year Old Irish whiskey for a quick pour and maybe a story or two. But all was forgiven when Brendan purchased a bottle and carried it home to Spokane for SWC’s review. I suppose if there is any bottle to convert this poor, Scotch loving fellow to Irish whiskey, I think he found it.

Teeling Vintage Reserve Silver is a 21 year old single malt sourced from what is most likely Cooley Distillery. The majority of this whiskey’s life was in ex-bourbon casks, and then finished in ex-Sauternes white wine casks from the Bordeaux region in France. This 1991 vintage, chosen by Jack Teeling (of the two Teeling’s he is the nose), was bottled into 5,000 units at 46% ABV and will be followed by older bottled expressions. These super premium bottlings will keep the lights on while new spirit is distilled and aged in a new Dublin distillery converted from the former Dundalk brewery owned by Diageo. This three copper pot still operation will be Dublin’s first in over 125 years, and if the two Irishmen at the helm have anything to say about it, Irish whiskey will have an even stronger foundation to build upon as we skip through this wonderful golden age of whiskey we find ourselves in for 2015.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Sophisticated and interesting. Wet moss, rose petals, candied orange. Light, fresh fruit everywhere. Musty vanilla, cherry, and is that peat we detect? In time fruit gets fuller, bigger. Nice work.

Taste- Honey, sugary citrus, fresh flowers and fruit. Oily, viscous mouth feel. Full bodied and luscious. Light tobacco. The highlight.

Finish- Explosion of flavor. White wine, citrus, a pleasing bitterness from oak. That darn smoke again. Full and never ending.

Comments – Wonderul whiskey to enjoy and a great selection by the Teelings. Not just a beautiful single malt with the Sauternes finishing, but this is an extraordinary Irish whiskey, and that’s the best compliment we can think of at the moment. SWC Rating- 95/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com    

Angel’s Envy Bourbon Review

 

**This review was conducted by Ian Fallon, a founding member of SWC, and does not reflect the opinions of the entire club**

Angel’s Envy is a bourbon I have been wanting to experience for a while now. It’s about time, pretty much every other blog on the planet wrote their review years ago. And what’s not to like: small batch, barrel and bottle numbers clearly noted, finished in ruby port casks, and created by a Master Distiller by way of Lincoln Henderson. But thankfully interesting doesn’t always mean good. Angel’s Envy claims that it’s product is composed of straight bourbons aged up to 6 years, and then finished in Ruby port pipes for a period of 3 – 6 months.

I am somewhat new to port, but from what I’ve had, I really like. Ruby ports tend to be the sweeter range of the port selections, offering rich decadent fruit flavors of raisins, berries, and plums, to name a few. According to Wes Henderson, the mash bill consists of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 12% malted barley and clocks in at a humble 43.3% ABV. The Henderson family does not distill Angel’s Envy, they purchase the barrels from multiple Kentucky distilleries. Not that there is anything wrong with that, you know.

As a fan of port and sherry finished whiskies, I was ready to fall in love with this bottle. Let’s see how it held up.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Strong ethanol, hard to get around even after adding water; thick oak, faint whiffs of red fruit. Not detecting the rye here.

Taste: Comes across as a young whiskey; again thick oak; light (and I mean light) red grape; little sweet sugar-water kick; ethanol and oak dominate the palate.

Finish: One dimensional note of wood, hangs out for a fair amount.

Comments: Personally, I had high expectations when purchasing this whiskey. I really wanted to find the fruit notes one would expect. Unfortunately, they were not to be found. Instead, I got young whiskey that while not “bad,” it didn’t deliver anything of real particular interest, and I had to fight through a bunch of ethanol to enjoy!. At $40+ a bottle, there should be more going on here.

Rating: 78 – Perhaps I got weak/bad bottle. If that is the case, I hope someone can give me another go and change my mind on the matter.

Old Forester 86 Review

I suspect our frequent caterwauling on paying more for less and why that is, you know, bad, is falling on deaf ears. And maybe that’s okay. The whiskey category, especially American whiskey, is growing mainly because people are willing to shell out obscene amounts of money for whiskey that was cheaper five years ago, and especially giddy to pay $50 or more bucks for a brand that just showed up 5 minutes ago and no one seems to know who distilled it. We shouldn’t get so upset, because we get to enjoy the popularity and “new cool” factor. But when it’s over, and it WILL be over, eventually, we will greatly welcome the return to cheaper prices and increased quality. The return to general sanity will be greatly appreciated as well (we’re looking at you, Pappy). In the meantime, we will continue to promote bottles that we feel are “value” buys, that is, bottles that are affordable yet display an impressive overall offering of quality for the price. One of those bottlings is Old Forester from Brown-Forman. On to some particulars…

Old Forester started in 1870 as the first American whisky (that’s right, no “e” on this one) sold exclusively in bottles, as bourbon used to be bought from the barrel. At 144 years and counting, it is the longest running bourbon brand, and one of the very very few that survived prohibition. Distilled from a mash bill of 72% corn – 18% rye – 10% malted barley at Early Times Distillery in Shively, Kentucky, Old Forester is a touch over 4 years old. While sharing the same mash bill as Woodford Reserve, the sour mash and yeast strain is different. For a few more dollars, the 100 proof version has limited availability, but the more widely available 86 proof version is what we look at today.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Nice balance between soft corn and toffee/vanilla feel and a pronounced, spicy rye presence of mint, cinnamon and pine. Nice work.
Taste- Sweet oak but mostly a dry rye feel. Black pepper. Quiet.
Finish- Short finish with some barrel char and lingering rye notes.
Comment – Nothing overly exciting but a decent daily sipper. Great value buy. Nose is the highlight. Recommended for those looking for something good around the $20.00 range.
SWC Rating – 81/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

Bowmore 15 Darkest Review

I think we have fallen in the ever widening, deepening, sickening pit of “selective bias.” This happens when all reviews never go above 89 or below 82. You start reviewing what you know you will like and forget about the whiskies you truly wouldn’t drink even under threat of violent death. Today’s selection is by no means universally hated, nor is it an inherently bad whisky, despite the fact that this review’s present author wouldn’t drink it even with a loaded gun to my head, held there by my worst enemy. And to prevent any possible litigation from Bowmore’s lawyers, let’s stop with the smart assery and get to work, because we at the SWC are all about business.

Bowmore 15 Darkest is an Islay single malt that has spent 3 years in oloroso sherry casks after the first 12 in ex-bourbon oak. Bowmore shares its malting duties with Port Ellen to produce a 25 PPM starting point. After 3 years in sherry casks, one would think that the resultant whisky would be dark enough, but what the hell, Bowmore does add caramel coloring before bottling. Bottled at a modest 43% and, you guessed it, chill filtered to make that nearly $75.00 price tag hurt just that much more, the SWC presents to you our review…

SWC Group Review

Nose- Sherry heavy with raisins, dates, sweetly rich with cherries and dark chocolate. Coffee. Subtle peat with bacon. With water, smoke comes out.

Taste- Overpowering cherry cough syrup. Cocoa. Medicinal and funky.

Finish– Smoke and dark chocolate. Dull, no decent appearance of flavor. Short length.

Comments – Overall dull and unremarkable. Sherry is a bit overpowering and unbalanced with the competing house quality of Bowmore, which we are fond of. At best a good cigar malt. We’ll pass.

SWC Rating – 79/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

High West Rendezvous Rye Review

We have up until this time completely ignored High West Distillery. Not because the Park City, Utah based outfit is overtly boutiquey, or that they may be annoyingly riding the bull crap wagon that the craft whiskey industry keeps insisting upon us when they market their “artisanal” ways, nor because they have yet to sell their own whiskey. None of those things bothered me, nor did I think their blends were subpar. It really boiled down to one thing: I honestly didn’t think they were that interesting, to be frank. Their “Campfire” bottle, while it may taste just fine, seemed like just a punt of a blend by combining a Scotch, bourbon and a rye in one bottle. I pretty much disregarded the other blending efforts by David Perkins because I am too petty and fed up with the mockery the craft distilling industry has become. I counted them guilty by association. But my petty maturity level is not under examination today, High West Rendezvous Rye is. And when an SWC member brought this fine bottle for a recent club meeting, I , after nosing and tasting it, recanted my previous complaints and nearly killed him when he took the bottle away.

Rendezvous Rye is a blend of two ryes: the infamous MGP 95% rye currently found in 967 other brands and aged at 6 years, and the other, a 16 year old from Old Barton with an 80% rye, 10% corn and 10% malted barley mash bill. Bottled at a very appreciated 46% ABV and non-chill filtered, High West gives us an opportunity to taste a well-aged rye (not a whole lot of them out there) married with a lively teenager of a whiskey to keep things fun. Good idea so far. Let’s get to it.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Rye everywhere with minty grass, pine sol, herbal bouquet. Peppery, fennel. With time comes a wonderful burnt caramel sweetness with toffee flowing out of the glass. Incredible nose.

Taste- Spice blast on the tongue with spearmint sweetness. Cirtus sharp. Big and herbal. Black pepper. Mouth coating and oily.

Finish- Big punch of tingling spice, lingering and drying. Cola, chloraseptic, rye bread and copper.

Comments- New benchmark rye for us. Quintessential. Big, bold rye sharpness but balanced with just enough sweetness to woo you back. Not just a great rye, but a great whiskey.

SWC Rating – 90/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Knob Creek Review

A good whiskey connoisseur is able to relate his/her hobby to most people. And this skill has little to do with writing a well phrased review, but rather it has more to do with telling good stories about a special pour you had in the past or sharing some unique memory closely associated with a magical glass. Today’s review of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a fun one for me, as the evocation of memory is strong with every sip.

I always take a few bottles out with me whenever I go camping. After a particularly satisfying day, my campmates and I surrounded the fire and forgot our busy lives for a few hours, as we always should do around a good fire, and simply enjoyed ourselves. It was an incredibly clear night due to the lack of city lights and the temperature was perfect enough to not notice. I took my glass, a lawn chair and myself down to a nearby dock and transferred that solitude to a very still lake under an abnormally starry sky, sitting with just my thoughts. In times like this, you take inventory of yourself. I was content with where I was in a stressful, grinding time in my life. And the fact that the Knob Creek I was drinking was pretty fantastic didn’t hurt either. Enough about me, on to some particulars…

Jim Beam introduced in 1992 a group of four whiskies called the Small Batch Collection. At the time, one of these bottlings, Knob Creek, was actually a 9 year old Jim Beam White (same mash bill and yeast strain). Between then and now, subtle tweaks and changes have been introduced, enough to call Knob Creek unique in their vast catalog. Bottled at a blessed 50% ABV, this well aged, decently priced bourbon has paid off for Beam, and is a statement of classic simplicity. And in the words of Chuck Cowdery: “nothing unusual here, no sudden burst of chamomile, just bourbon flavors at high volume and in ideal balance.”

SWC Group Review

Nose- Initial classics of vanilla, toffee, caramel. Corn. Opens up with some clove, brown sugar and citrus peel. Plenty of oak with time. Lovely!

Taste- Oaky taste with some vanilla. Spice. Black pepper. Big and oily, smoldering.

Finish- That big charred oak feel at first. Lingering vanilla, but mostly dry, bitter effect. Not enough to deter another sip. Pleasant, medium length.

Comments – Great bourbon sipper, very approachable, but very weighty due to a bit of over aging. Taste and finish do not quite match the heights of the nose, but still a go to. Recommended.

SWC Rating – 83/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Elijah Craig 18 Single Barrel Review

Kentucky’s weather has a particularly unrelenting way about it when it comes to aging distillate. With the temperature extremes in that searing, hot, humid, hell like state, a multi story rackhouse does not need much time to perfect a fine bourbon. When temperature goes up, whiskey expands, forcing itself in the oak to those wonderful caramelized layers under the char, picking up all sorts of vanilla goodness. As temperatures goes down, whiskey contracts. This process typically plays out in no more than 6-8 years, as the whiskey has taken on a majority of its flavor from the barrel and is ready to go for bottling. Too long and the bourbon becomes too tannic and over oaked for its own good. For this reason, we do not see many bourbons bottled past this typical aging period, but when we do, and it’s done well, you’re taken to a new level of flavor development. Elijah Craig is one of the few brands that can successfully pull this off. Another is Pappy Van Winkle, but no one cares.

Elijah Craig 18 Single Barrel used to be a near constant on the shelf up until about 3 years ago when it was replaced by older bottlings, a “temporary” move by Heaven Hill Distilleries. A 20 year old was released in 2012 to much acclaim and premium price tag (oh, that’s why they did it). Because the older age statement bottlings were never going to be a permanent fixture, there are rumours that EC 18 will be returning to our cabinets in 2015. I cannot verify the source of these “rumors” as there are no press releases nor are there any new TTB COLA labels on the docket. This writer will not jump on the bandwagon because of dumbass whiskey bloggers reporting unverified rumors, but God help us, 2015 would be a fine year for EC 18’s return, as they would be bottling a 25 year old this time around and most likely too expensive for my blood. So I guess now is a perfect time to ramp up with a review of a bottle that stayed in my cabinet unopened for about 6 years.

Elijah Craig 18 is a rye based single barrel Kentucky Straight that, by its nature, makes traditional interpretations of bourbon flavor hard to generate. The developed notes of leather, musty shed, mossy oak and thick texture propel EC 18 in a class of its own, to use a tired phrase. Our club sampled this blind, just to see what would happen. But just like I thought, we agreed with Chuck Cowdery in his assessment: “Few bourbons demand so much from the drinker and fewer reward the effort so richly.” Let’s get to it.

SWC Group Review

Nose- One of a kind nose. Musty, old oak and dark cherry. Dry, dusty spice notes, dark chocolate and coffee. Eucalyptus and clove. Thick. Time and water brings out vanilla sweetness and blackberry. Leather. Wow.

Taste- Dark fruits with chocolate. Vanilla and oak. Thick and viscous. Excellent mouth feel. Savory spices.

Finish- Charred oak, dry and musty. Some fruits, barely sweet. Medium length.

Comments- What an intriguing pour. Strange flavor profile but this “old soul” of a bourbon has 18 years of interesting things to say with every sip. We hope EC 18 comes back soon. Very much recommended, but take your time with this one.

SWC Rating – 88/100

Agree Disagree? Let us know in the comments sections below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Maker’s 46 Review

Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker’s Mark, suddenly realizing that his distillery has only ever produced one product since the fifties, laughed uncontrollably that they managed to get away with it for so long. When finished, he called in his Master Distiller to his vast office and declared that they must make something new for the premium market. “Better late than never,” replied his Master Distiller, who then wept with relief. This story is in no way true, but I like to think it happened that way.

In reality, Samuels simply decided it was time to offer a new option alongside the insanely popular Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Wheated, and aged about 6-7 years, Maker’s already is approaching what must be its peak flavor profile allowed from maturation. Fans, however, were looking for more flavor from a toasted oak perspective, which would be risky: too much oak influence would increase the tannic dryness and render the experiment a failure, which many attempts by Maker’s until that time indeed were. Success came in the form of the work Independent Stave Company lent to the project with the use of seared (not charred or toasted) French oak slats. The searing caramelizes the oak enough to impart unique flavor, which are then inserted and spaced within the oak barrel that held Maker’s Mark previously for 6-7 years. A further aging period of 3-6 months occurs and thus cancels the “straight” nature of Maker’s Mark since no additional flavoring is allowed under that designation. The result is bottled as Maker’s 46, named after the project’s flavor profile, numbered “46.” Let’s see what a bigger, badder, bolder Maker’s can do.

SWC Group Review

Nose- As expected, the oak sugars explode with big, buttery vanilla, caramel/toffee. Riesen chocolates. Coconut and blackberries. Big.

Taste- A bit flat at first. With time, oak char with caramel, confectionary with time.

Finish- Short. Caramel, green apple, classic oaky char.

Comment- Still Maker’s but more fun. Nose is the highlight. Simple flavors on this one, taste needs improvement but recommended as a decent sipper.

SWC Rating- 82/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Review

basil-haydenBourbon brands do a great job, probably the best job, at tracing their lineage all the way back to the farmer-distillers of the late 18th/early 19th century. Way back then, farmers preferred to distill the grain they harvested and sell it for profit rather than travel the many miles to market hauling a few hundred pounds of it. Distilling seemed to make more sense, therefore many of the early Irish-Scottish immigrants found themselves making whiskey as a part of life. One such Catholic distiller, Basil Hayden, emigrated from Maryland to Kentucky in 1796 and founded a community of settlers in what would eventually be the world’s capitol of Bourbon whiskey. His grandson, Raymond Hayden, a commercial distiller, produced and named a very high rye based bourbon (as Basil made it) “Old Grand Dad” in honor of Basil. Old Grand Dad survived Prohibition and remains on the shelf to this day. Beam acquired OGD in 1987 and soon after produced an identical high rye recipe with the name “Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey,” and is the subject of our penetrating gaze today.

Basil Hayden’s bourbon contains an exceptionally high rye content, double the average percentage as claimed by Beam Suntory. Other than a curiously low 40% ABV, Basil Hayden’s trademark smoothness can be attributed to 8 years in the new, charred oak barrels that reside in the center of their rack houses, aging alongside Knob Creek, just one year older. Time in the barrel removes the rough edges and mellows out the spirit, which one would think is tough to do in the searing heat of a Kentucky rack house, but the cooler, more temperature controlled center will withhold the tannic onslaught of condensed flavor you can easily find in bourbon aged this long. Let us begin…


SWC Group Review

Nose- Rye begins with spice cabinet, clove, fresh cut grass and saw dust. With time, vanilla sweetness comes but on the light side. Dried apple. Ginger ale. Overall a rye forward affair.

Taste- Vanilla, black pepper with dry oak tannins.

Finish- Short. Sweet lemon citrus. Fades away quick.

Comments- Very light and non-bourbon like. Lacks depth, sweetness, and body. Some nice rye aromas but taste wise we’ll look elsewhere.

SWC Rating – 75/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Caol Ila 12 Review

In our humble yet devastatingly accurate opinion, the single best way to grow your whiskey palate is to challenge it. If you have a smoky Islay in front of you, pour a sherried Speyside next, then followed by a bourbon cask refill. In order to sharpen your sensory perception of the differences, you have to frequently introduce style changes and flavor distinctions to your palate. It will then be time to progress even further. Pour three Islay malts and attempt to evaluate the distinctions interchangeably. Why? Your remarkable grasp of the obvious in that the smoky Islay malt swirling before you is indeed smoky may do it for you, but this whisky thing becomes so much more interesting when you can determine what kind of peaty smoke aroma is rising from your glass and why it is different from the others. If you want to understand Islay, you must challenge yourself. If you are successful, you will probably never want to leave.

Caol Ila is one such distillery that has a distinct grouping of aromas among others of the same style. Caol Ila 12, today’s assignment, bears perhaps the most floral and light makeup of the Islay malts. The distillery is the largest on the island, and consequently produces by far the most whisky, mainly for blends such as JW Black, Bells or Black Bottle. Their malt comes from Port Ellen maltings clocking in at a respectable 35 ppm. The entirety of their output is matured off site in 2nd and 3rd fill bourbon casks. The lighter style of Caol Ila can attributed to low level filled stills allowing for plenty of copper conversation as well as a high heart cut points for the lighter, purer flavors. On to our review.

SWC Group Review

Nose- A lighter affair peat wise, Burnt grass/straw, sour smoky with salty sea air. Slight medicinal note. Mellon rind with citrus peel. Fresh cereal notes, juniper feel.

Taste- Light smoke with honeyed, roasted almonds. Lemony, oily feel. Bitter, charred oak.

Finish- Salty smoke with a fresh citrus feel. Drying with some roasted almonds.

Comments- Overall not a whole lot of depth, but a simple elegance remains for the Islay enthusiast. Clean and mellow with a nice nose. A bit overpriced as well.

SWC Group Rating- 81/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Laphroaig 18 Review

“There are times when I desire a sweet, hefty bourbon, or perhaps a lovely pot stilled Irish, maybe even a nicely sherried Speyside malt.

But today, friends, today nothing less than the tar soaked, burning brine and wispy salty sea, the peat fueled fire cooking a kettle of kipper on top of the mountains of Islay overlooking smoke from the victory fire of a mighty Nordic war party, yes friends, nothing less than the Hell Fire aromas of Laphroaig will do tonight.” – Me, said below my breath as I walked into the liquor store yesterday.

Laphroaig cannot claim the highest phenolic PPM on their malt, but what they can claim with vigor is the stiffest peat attack post distillation out of all the Islay single malts. How this works we will explain in more detail when we review the 10 year old expression, as today’s review will be of Laphroaig 18 year old. Time in the barrel calms the fiercest of peat aromas, therefore Laphroaig 18 poses an interesting interplay between high peating levels and the sophistication of flavor that comes from 18 years of oak development. As whisky matures, it extracts the oak sugars behind the toasted/charred  layer. Oxidation develops flavor, harsh elements are smoothed out and even fermentation to a small degree continues on working to create a complex makeup in the glass. After a whisky like Laphroaig settles in the cask over 18 Scottish summers, then friend, that’s a bet you can take the bank, cash it and buy me something nice with. On to some particulars…

Laphroaig 18 is matured 100% in first fill ex-bourbon casks sourced exclusively from Maker’s Mark. Although I am fairly certain that Laphroaig is caramel colored, I am 100% certain that our selection today is not chill-filtered and is bottled at a God blessed 48% ABV. Right on, brother. So for you sick, twisted, soon to be arrested for your sinful desires peat loving freak people, here is our review of Laphroaig 18 year old single malt.

 

SWC Group Review

Nose- Nice calm balance between toasted cereal, medicinal peat with antiseptic, mossy, pine and the sweet notes of creamy toffee, oak and fruit. Lovely, full flavors behind the smoke.

Taste- Sweet and lively with fruit (citrus and lemon) and honey. Develops into a smoky, savory feel.

Finish- Long, lingering notes of smoke and cereal. Some hints of citrus and pine/straw.

Comments- Certainly not the ferocious 10 year old, but there is a great balance between the smoke and the nicely developed flavors behind it. A very lovely sip. Recommended.

SWC Rating – 88/100

* Tasted Blind

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Writer’s Tears Irish Whiskey Review

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.”

This claim, made by one of the great writer/drinkers of recent times, Christopher Hitchens, may get a few things right when it comes to the value of alcohol. The third claim, however enticing to try, is perhaps the hardest to prove when you’re not someone as skilled as Hitchens. For the rest of us, we most likely will blow straight past this crucial point of inspiration to a state of, say, lit up-ness. We sure can at least try to find that rare spark of creativity with bottles such as Writer’s Tears Pot Still Blended Irish Whiskey.

The Irish whiskey distilling scene has been largely shaped by Cooley, Bushmills and Midleton distilleries, producing the vast majority of Ireland’s whiskey. However in recent years, much like in the states, small independent distilleries are popping up everywhere, although not with the numbers we in the US enjoy. In 1999, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh started the Walsh Whiskey Distillery Company primarily as independent bottlers of whiskey stock. They are now however breaking ground on a new facility and aim to become the biggest independent producer of Irish whiskey in the country. First came their brand The Irishman, then in 2009 came the new blend called Writer’s Tears. This brand is inspired by the period of time when the column still came along in Dublin, yet the pot still style whiskey being preferred among Irish writers, writers such as James Joyce. Or, this is all some tongue in cheek jab at writers being prone to alcoholism. I prefer to embrace both.

Writer’s Tears is a blend of Irish pot still and single malt whiskies, and is considered a “Pot Still Blend,” unique among Irish whiskey. Bottled at 40% and thank heavens non chill filtered, Writer’s Tears presents itself as a full bodied, triple distilled offering. Let’s see how it goes.

 

SWC Group Review

Nose- Big grain, straw and sweet floral notes. Honey and sugary raisins. Bran. Light tobacco. Classic, full Irish.

Taste- Wonderful continuation of the nose. Sweet, viscous with crossaint.

Finish- Honey punch and clean. Medium length. Ends with some tobacco notes. Lingering.

Comment- Nice flavor level considering triple distillation. Very drinkable, enjoyable delights here. Looking forward to the next bottle.

SWC Rating – 84/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Crown Royal Canadian Whisky Review

We’re doing a review of Crown Royal today. Why? I have 17 million reasons why. As recently as 2013, 17 million cases of Canadian whisky sold in the United States, Canada’s biggest market. And the top selling Canadian whisky is, you guessed it ace, Crown Royal Canadian blended whisky. And by golly, we will offer an opinion simply out of respect for this catergory’s very rich distilling heritage. Canadian whisky is on its way up, as long as they don’t screw it up, but hey, we have some believers in the club. Standard among most poker tables and in every bar on the planet is a brand started in the 30’s in honor of the then visiting King of England. And who can forget the cute bags.  Owned by Diageo, all of Crown Royal’s whiskies are distilled at Gimli Distillery, north of Winnipeg, and then find their way to shot glasses all across the fruited plain. On to some particulars…

Called a blend here in the states due to what I can only surmise as our own label regulations, in reality this and many other whiskies that share this designation are in fact “single distillery whiskies.” I don’t know if this is simply a coined phrase or industry term I have found in books by Dave Broom or Davin DeKergommeaux, but I much prefer this description as it is accurate per their makeup. Crown Royal is comprised of 50 whiskies all produced at Gimli, and these whisky’s grain bills vary from corn bases, various bourbon whiskies (high rye, corn based) and a variety of rye flavoring whiskies. All the components are aged in either new charred oak, first fill bourbon casks and used oak refills. All in all Crown Royal’s aging stock numbers around 2 million barrels to eventually be bottled here in the states. That’s a lot of purple bags.To the review…

SWC Group Review

Nose- Rye first. Confection feel with hard toffee and caramel. Faint maple. With time some spice notes with a pine touch. Floral. Balanced but mellow nose.

Taste- Mellow and subtle. Brown sugar and grapefruit.

Finish- Medium length and warming. Grainy and sweet. Lingering.

Comment- We tasted this blind to give it a fair shot. The overall flavor profile is no powerhouse, in fact we found it to be on the rather plain side, whisky speaking, but a blandish flavor profile can still sit well in a tumbler, as Crown Royal does.

SWC Rating- 78/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

George T. Stagg 2013 Review

Okay, so here’s the deal. Instead of writing a yearly, tired, and obligatory “Holiday Whiskey Buying Guide” like every other blogger does, I would like to instead focus my considerably charming efforts in writing something like “The Top Ten Horrible, Despicable, Illegal Things I Would Do To A Man In Order To Get The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.” But perhaps this will be for next year, as Christmas has passed and I don’t want to frighten any of you. But I do have stories. Terrifying stories.

While the Pappy brand is currently getting all the press, yet suspiciously isn’t exactly considered the greatest of all available bourbons, there stands alone at the top George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon, a frequent all-time favorite. Quite the subjective statement, I know, but it at least stands at the top of our club’s bourbon rankings. Whatever that means to you, have at it. To the gleeful delight of the whiskey enthusiast, Buffalo Trace provides an incredible amount of detail petrtaining to the process and details of the makeup of Stagg, and those details are as follows:

 Named after one of the original proprietors of Buffalo Trace Distillery, Stagg was introduced in 2002 as the flagship bottling of the Antique Collection, released every fall. One of Stagg’s main trademarks are the incredible ABVs released in previous years, some exceeding 140 proof. The 2013 release clocks in at 128.2 proof, still at the peak of most ABVs on the shelf. The mash bill is comprised of corn, rye as the flavor grain and the standard malted barley for the enzymes. This 157 barrel batch is aged for 15 years and 11 months in #4 char level casks with no chill filtration. While this release is a year old at the time of this writing, don’t fret, you will get the big picture of what a Stagg bottle brings. Let’s get to it.

 

SWC Group Review

 Nose- Pretty terrible. Terribly amazing, that is. Fudge, vanilla, deep oak. Butterscotch, caramel. Cherries, dark fruits. Red apples, raisins. Spices of clove and cinnamon. Tobacco. Superb balance and complexity.

Taste – Fruit explosion, medium bodied. Sweet tobacco. Big. Crème brulee crust. Largely a repeat of the nose.

Finish- Christmas cheer. Lingering, long, satisfying. Char, menthol, chocolate. Wonderfully expressed.

Comment- Best bourbon any of us has tried. All categories excel. Incredible whiskey, not just a great bourbon. World class. We hope your lips find a glass with this whiskey in it.

 

SWC Rating – 95/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

Pike Creek Canadian Whisky Review

You can thank Dave Broom for all of this. “This” being the Spokane Whiskey Club’s periodic focus on Canadian whisky. Canadian whisky as a category has responded well in terms of growth and style in recent years, but only after a century of existing somewhere at the bottom popularity wise. Consequently, most introductory whisky books (and the most popular ones) did not see Canadian whisky as worthy to sit among the big three of Scotch, Bourbon and Irish. But the World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom, thank you very much, felt it was just fine to feature Canadian Whisky without even blinking. If it is good enough for Dave Broom, then it is good enough for me, and if you have something to say you can go ahead and park it sideways. Anyways, his book was the first whisky tome I purchased, and therefore shaped how I viewed the drink. To me, Canadian whisky, despite occasional evidence to the contrary, is getting not just bigger but better. On to today’s selection.

Pike Creek is one among a whole new grouping of premium Canadian whisky that is driving the category with double digit sales increases at present. We have written about how this is working with whiskies like Lot 40 and so on, so we will move past that discussion. Pike Creek is another bottling launched by Corby Distillers and distilled at Hiram Walker. This particular expression is a re-launched version originally from the 1990s. This “single distillery” whisky is double distilled in copper column stills, matured in first fill ex bourbon casks and then finished in port pipes. It’s a 10 year old in Canada, 7-8 years NAS here in the states. On to our review…

SWC Group Review

Nose- Dessert in a glass – maple, brown sugar, toffee and caramel. Charred oak. Candy corn, honey. Peaches and almonds. Big.
Taste- Sweet (shocking, I know) with grapefruit. Creamy liquer feel. The port seems to give it body and heft.
Finish- Grapefruit pith. Pie crust, fades to sour. Medium length.
Comments- Straight forward dessert whisky. Doesn’t remotely approach any interesting complexity apart from the sweetness, but it doesn’t have any rough edges either. Sits well in a tumbler, not much fun in a tasting glass. For the sweet tooth in you.

SWC Rating – 78/100

-Tasted Blind

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

Ardbeg Ardbog Review


We arrive to yet another stop on the Ardbeg trail. It should be stated without winking or crossed fingers that Ardbeg has immense street cred among connoisseurs and commands childlike wonderment from the casual observers. You may be able to safely stamp a cult like following on this celebrated brand. This basically ensures that whatever bottling Ardbeg drums up within a given year WILL BE SOLD OUT before the sun sees the following month arrive. And Ardbeg has released quite a few in the last five years with no indication of slowing down. Despite our fond affection for Ardbeg and the glory they seem to bottle for us, we do humbly ask that a more determined effort be attempted to make them more different. With that said, it will never stop us from buying them. We cannot seem to help ourselves for we love them so. On to some particulars…

Ardbeg Ardbog is the distillery’s Feis Ile bottling for 2013 (Islay’s whisky & music festival) during Ardbeg Day. It is a NAS bottling but essentially it is a 10 year old single malt with about 60% aged in ex bourbon casks and 40% in Manzanilla sherry cask from Spain. Manzanilla is a fino sherry, the driest variety produced. As per the usual standard from Ardbeg, Ardbog is non chill filtered with no coloring added and is bottled at 52.1% ABV. To the review!

SWC Group Review

Nose- Typical but lovely smoked meat. Some industrial smoke and tar. Underneath, a sherry influence with some light sweetness. BBQ. Raisins and toffee.
Taste- Savory feel with olives. Creamy and full bodied. Vanilla and honey.
Finish- Charred, fatty steak. A1. Peat punches you on the neck as per usual on the Ardbeg finishes. Long.
Comments- Certainly nothing wrong here, but we are looking for what distinguishes Ardbog from its fellow bottlings. Taste is immaculate and finish is grand as always. It works.
SWC Rating – 88/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

Longrow 18 Year Old Review

There will never be a perfect whisky. Ever. Few are bad, most are decent, some are good, even less are considered great. Maybe a handful are considered legendary. Today’s selection is certainly not legendary, but it might as well be for lowly bottom feeders like us. I am not a rich dentist, I buy what I can afford. Fortunately for us, we have some disgustingly rich people in our club, so we make them traverse the world in their business travels and buy the good stuff for us. Longrow 18 is one of those bottles brought back across the pond to our tasting glasses. Let’s get to some particulars…

Longrow’s single malts comprise one of three brands produced at Springbank Distillery in the Campbeltown region. Besides being known for distilling good whisky, Springbank is one of two distilleries in Scotland that perform the entire whisky making process on site. Longrow is produced twice a year in small quantities and is double distilled, as per Scottish tradition. Longrow’s malt is “heavily peated” at 50-55 PPM, but you wouldn’t notice from the produced distillate. Where peating starts is not where peating ends, as distillation naturally strips those phenols from the malt, and in the case of Longrow, it feels more like a gentle Bowmore with minimal impact from the smoke. Our selection is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered with no coloring.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Rich, honeyed cereal notes. Some smoke with fresh scones. Nice fruit notes of apricot, tangerine and some sugary raisins. Full, aromatic and fantastic.
Taste- Honey over warm biscuit. Berries. Succulent.
Finish- Flavor burst of smoke and honey BBQ. Tad bit sour on the back end with some floral touches. Long.
Comments- Knockout on all fronts. Great display of frutiness, honey, and light smoke in a bottle. A very complete, satisfying whisky.
SWC Rating – 94/100

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

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