Spokane Whiskey Club

Benromach 10 Review

I think the American craft distilling scene could take a lesson from Benromach Distillery. Looking at the movement from afar, it seems that there are a number of things they can no longer get away with, but one in particular is simply this: no more riding on the coat tails of anything other than what you put in the bottle. The consumer is now firmly fixing their laser sights on your whiskey, and they don’t care that you’re the little guy or about the stories you can tell. I think five years ago you could get away with $60.00 for your 2 year old bottle of dreck, but those days are leaving, if not already over. Quality can no longer be claimed, it now must be demonstrated, and folks need to be kept honest. Stories are now less important, your authenticity now is. And what does this have to do with Benromach 10?

 

I don’t know if Scotland has a “craft” distilling scene as we do in the states, but if I were to choose, Benromach Distillery would qualify as such. Under Gordon & MacPhail’s new ownership, Benromach released in 2009 this 10 year old single malt using a non-automated system with as many traditional touches as humanly possible. Benromach is the smallest distillery in Speyside and is operated with only 3 onsite employees. There are no computers, no pressure gauges. Spirit cuts are made manually. Casks are filled by hand, weighed and noted by marks on a blackboard to then be rolled by hand to their traditional dunnage warehouse and stacked no more than three high. Benromach seems to be fond of pointing out that this (these days) unique, traditional process is more expensive to maintain than today’s ultra efficient systems, and there is immense value in that. Folks like to know that a crafter takes no shortcut in pursuit of quality, but Benromach may also be building justification in their high price tag passed along to their consumers, and this certainly does not bother me. The “it’s tough and expensive to start a distillery” excuse is growing tired, and that’s not a good enough reason alone to charge premium prices. Premium pricing requires premium quality, and I hope the industry, no matter where it is, sticks to that principle as much as possible.

 

Benromach 10 is aged in 80% first fill ex bourbon casks and 20% first fill ex sherry casks. A final 12 months is spent in first fill oloroso. This lightly peated single malt is bottled at 43% and is chill filtered with no coloring added. Ralfy complained a bit on that low ABV and chill filtration, and maybe he’s right to point out the apparent inconsistency of presenting hand crafted excellence yet  employing such non-craft techniques, but it may be a bit unfair as Benromach offers a 10 year old at cask strength with no chill-filtration whatsoever. So there’s that. On to it…

 

SWC Review

Nose- Impeccable balance. Dried fruit (raisins especially), dry sherry and lightly smoked. Wood shavings. Almonds and chocolate sweetness with time. Complex and wonderful nose.

Taste- Weighty, oily – sugary dried fruits. Creamy with chocolate and toasted almonds. Slight savory feel to it.

Finish- Long length with a smoke punch to start out, lingers on with light tobacco (maduro cigar), leather and slight fruit sweetness somewhere in there. Excellent.

Comment- A real quintessential Speyside malt and a fine composition of well balanced subtleties. Highly recommended and exactly what we are looking for.

SWC Rating – 90/100

 

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

 

Contacts us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

 

Glenlivet Nadurra 16 Review

I hope the good people at Glenlivet never read this review. Not that there is any remote chance they would anyway, but hope remains. You see, we as a club have tried every readily available expression from Glenlivet with the exception of their 25 year old. We’re not dentists, so we don’t count the glass case whiskies. All savored except one, the very whisky meant for whisky enthusiasts everywhere, a love note from Glenlivet to the snob: Nadurra. Nadurra is a single malt that has every quality we absolutely beg for and we criticize without blessed end when we find those qualities missing. Nadurra is Gaelic for “natural,” appropriately named since the goal is to offer something that changes as very little as possible coming from the cask to bottle. And since we formed back in 2012, it wasn’t even on our collective radar, or even on our individual must drink lists. Since I started this ridiculous hobby sometime last decade, I was the first of any of the mighty seven of the SWC to recently stumble into a joint and saunter out with a bottle. It’s a bit embarrassing that we have yet to submit an opinion. So there’s that.

Everything you need to know about Nadurra can be found on the label and the box. This Speyside single malt is bottled at a “natural” cask strength of 54.2%. This particular release was bottled in 2011, and clocks in at 16 years old, aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks. No coloring is added and no chill-filtration occurs, of course. An NAS oloroso sherry finished Nadurra is on the market currently, and is similarly priced. The Nadurra feature on Glenlivet’s website does not include an age-statement on the ex-bourbon version that we sample today, so I guess we can add the 16 year old to the growing list of age stated whiskies being replaced by younger ones in the near future. And so it rides off into the horizon like so many others. On to it…

SWC Group Review

Nose- Glenlivet standards of green apple and honey. Vanilla/butterscotch but not as strong as other releases seem to indicate. Almonds, sweet cakes and apricot. Cereal notes with herbal feel. Weighty and big.

Taste- Big, creamy peach/apricot – stone fruits. Honey sweet, ginger. Fantastic.

Finish- Medium to long. Grain punch with honey, big. Floral with drying oak notes.

Comment- Bold and full of character. Presents as advertised. Great taste and a strong option for those who wish to see Scotch whisky unfiltered, uncut and uncensored.

SWC Rating – 89/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Bastille 1789 French Whisky Review

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Bastille 1789 Blended French Whisky is a first for us. I am aware of no other French whisky available where I live, and of course cognacs and brandies abound. I’d say it’s about time we started seeing something from the Frenchies as their country is the biggest per captia consumer of whisky in the world. Perhaps they should start shouldering some of the load, oui? Daucort Distillery, started by Jean-Marc Daucort, released Bastille in 2012 as a clear “luxury” branded whisky. Folks, I have long mastered the ability to separate a whisky’s taste from its marketing, as the latter often times is designed to manipulate the sensory perception of the former, so I usually don’t pay much attention to it, and I am referring to Bastille’s website as the primary culprit here. Free advice: never claim a whisky is “luxury”, “rare,” “incredibly pure,” and “distilled with cutting edge technology” only then to immediately list without blinking cocktail recipes it goes well with. They call those kinds of whiskies “mixers,” and rightly so when Bastille is only 40% ABV and priced under $30.00. You certainly do not need to care. For me, I at most will offer an eye roll and then pour a glass, but really, stop trying so hard to convince people that you have just bottled something from the hidden vaults of Dumbledore only to then say it goes great in a whisky sour. Sigh…

Bastille is distilled from wheat and barley sourced from north east France (so is some Scotch, FYI) in the unique Alembic pot still, commonly used for distilling cognac. I noticed the curious “blended” designation on the label, curious because it appears the contents of the bottle all come from one distillery. I suspect that this label designation is included for the same reason that most Canadian whiskies are designated as blends when they actually are not. Each grain is distilled as its own whisky and is then blended with the other flavor grains later on, which our laws require to be described as “blended.” I don’t know if this is the case with Bastille, but 4 of you may care, so there you go. Pleasingly, Bastille is not some 2 year old “craft” bull, or even sourced from a 3rd party producer, but what we have is an honest to goodness original creation aged for 5-7 years in a variety of casks, namely Limousin French oak, cherry and acacia wood. If not for this interesting make-up, I might not even bother to try given the silliness, the silliness, the never ending silliness of that website. But our work continues…

SWC Group Review

Nose– Plenty of fruit to go around, much like our club: tropical, plums, summer fruit with melon rind, honey and sweet white wine. Gewurztraminer. Gesundheit.

Taste- Spiced pear, apple, honey. Delicate and light. The nose continued.

Finish– Some oak char, tobacco feel. Short and dry, souring.

Comment- Certainly a good candidate for a dessert whisky. Nothing really negative to say other than this isn’t the complex luxury whisky one may expect from the label, but a decent dram to relax with. A nice summertime feel to it. Give it a shot.

SWC Rating – 84/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhisky@gmail.com

Auchentoshan Triple Wood Review

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So we move on from the sassy fest of our last post to a more reasoned approach this time around. We present today a rather invigorating rhapsody of whisky geekery on Auchentoshan Triple Wood. The issues raised by this particular malt’s style inspire a quick word or two on distillation, as Auchentoshan distills their Scotch whisky thrice, rather than the, I guess, more modern method of distilling two times, as Bourbon, Scotch and various others are. So, let us simultaneously welcome you warmly to this discussion and also apologize to those of you who would rather be electrocuted to death than read about whisky production.

In the 18th century, most whisky in Scotland was distilled three times, especially in the Lowland region of Scotland. I don’t know what whisky tasted like back then, but I can tell you that the more you distill, the higher the ABV percentage and the purer that very alcohol gets. Think vodka. But there is a price: the more times you distill, the more flavor compounds are left behind. Distillation is essentially a stripping operation, so to speak, but technically, it is a way for alcohol to be separated from the beer that boils at the bottom of the still. This is done three times at Auchentoshan, hence their reputation for a lighter style. As time has passed, the Scotch industry now typically distills only two times, leaving in more flavor compounds that are inevitably stripped out depending on frequency and time length of distillation. After all is said and done, with this method you are looking at a new make spirit at 82% ABV. Kids, that’s high.

If Auchentoshan is the answer for those who like single malt but wish to avoid intensity, then Auchentoshan Triple Wood is an attempt to compensate the other way. Triple wood is matured 10 years in ex-bourbon American oak, 1 year in oloroso sherry casks, then a final 6 months in the prized Pedro Ximenez sherry cask. This level of finishing quite nicely fills any supposed flavor gaps, and clocks in at a clean $65.00 a bottle.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Obligatory sherry notes of dark dried fruits – raisins/dates. Cherry cola. Dry grass and a little mint. Citrus and mild soapy feel. Herbal and creamy sweet with time.

Taste- Musty, dark chocolate. Blackberry and sweet apple. Dry oak.

Finish – Hazelnut and sweet wine. Cinnamon and mint with bitter tannin. Spicy dry with medium length.

Comment- Decent enough. Would have no idea this was 3x distilled with the variety of flavors bounding out of the glass. Dessert whisky with a tannic feel on the back end. Buying a second bottle is up for debate.

SWC Rating – 83/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Talisker Storm Review

It seems we don’t write blog posts about industry happenings, trends, or even the dumb controversies we are supposed to care about. Could we? Sure. We pretty much only do reviews. To strike a balance, we throw in our opinions, if relevant, in the write ups. The NAS controversy is one of those topics making the rounds ad nauseum, but a defining topic nonetheless in this Golden Age of Whisky we currently enjoy today. Before we get into some particulars on Talisker Storm, an NAS bottling, I’d like to oh so very briefly offer a few thoughts that bear mentioning…

Here is the problem: more than a few brands declare their whisky’s age on their labels and have done so for some time, however some of these age statements are vanishing. The perceived issue is that an age statement became a mark of quality and authenticity, so the alarm sounds when it is removed. Whisky sales have never been bigger, and producers cannot meet the demand that they could never predict 12 or more years ago. You can imagine the producers predicament when trying to meet demand with limited stock. One solution is bottle their brands younger, which consequently, eliminates the age statement or lowers it. There is now a perception of lowered quality because of this reality. You could assume that price would then go down, but this is not the case across the board. In fact, you could be paying more for less, it seems, and this is the most contentious point. Producers have countered that the outrage is unfounded and that this is a simple reality of demand exceeding supply. This new reality is showing no signs of slowing down, and therefore we will see more NAS bottlings, and not necessarily cheaper. And the gravest sin, the cutting guilty count: the bloggers are pissed. Hell hath no fury. For a more comprehensive overview of this discussion, please see this article. But let us offer our view…

You have to stop viewing distillers/producers as anything other than businesses. Admittedly, this is tough to do for the new whiskey hobbyist or rookie blogger opening his freshly delivered sample, but very easy for jaded, miserable wretches like myself. And businesses make business decisions without much consideration to the hurt feelings of the bloggers. It’s the reality. Accept it, love it, live it. Because if you haven’t noticed, they don’t give much of a sweet good golly about the loudest voices against them in this debate, nor should they (sorry). Of course there has been a dab of creative marketing, maybe even some deception, but people are willing to buy NAS bottlings and pay lots of money for them. Therefore, you are rendered powerless for the time being. And not all NAS bottlings are that bad, either. I suggest a new mindset, one which we as a club use: judge an NAS bottling just like any other on the shelf and vote with your dollars, for this voice is the most powerful. If you believe that the whisky isn’t worth the price tag, do not buy it, and be calmly vocal about it. There is always another brand out there that’s better and cheaper to fill the recently gouged hole in your life. Bloggers don’t have the voice we think we have, so don’t yell even louder, please. I’m not sure anyone but yourselves care enough. So now that we got that out of our way, and possibly burned a few more bridges to add to our list, let’s talk about Talisker Storm before the bloody sun sees tomorrow.

Whisky writer Dave Broom once wrote that Talisker distills itself. I’ve never been to the Isle of Skye, but the place must smell like sea spray, smoke, oysters and brine. We have reviewed the 10 year old to fine results, and were eager to find out how different Storm could be being that the age statement went away and on top of that plus a price tag slightly more, say, robust. Storm is comprised of stock from as young as 3 years old up to 25 years old in a mix of re-filled, re-charred casks. They say Storm is supposed to be bigger, smokier, and spicier than the 10. Fine.

SWC Group Review

Nose- Sea spray on a beach with a bonfire. Honey. Oysters with ripe apricot and melon rind. Briny and big. Warm biscuit with a hint of toffee/vanilla. Leather polish.

Taste- Like the nose but with more fruit sweetness. Weighty.

Finish- Smoky and peppery punch on the way out. Dry herbal notes. Medium to long length.

Comment – Fairly solid malt that is indeed bigger and badder than the 10, but we are split on the value for money compared to other malts in this price range.

SWC Rating – 87/100

 

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

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

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