Spokane Whiskey Club

Jameson Gold Reserve Review

Jameson_Gold_ReserveIt’s been too long since I have spent a meaningful amount of time poking around the Irish whiskey scene. Last I looked, it wasn’t just all about Midleton, Bushmills and Cooley. Small outfits were popping up much like the American craft boom, although not quite at our pace. The most prominent of these new distilleries includes the Teeling Whiskey Company’s new joint in Dublin, and we are certainly excited for what’s in store for the Emerald Isle in the coming years. Jason Delby, while writing about Jameson Gold on his blog, noted that Irish whiskey “makes no demands of you.” This means that while the challenging, face bludgeoning flavors of Islay or the oak explosions of bourbon take a large market share of your senses, yet Irish whiskey for the most part imparts an agreeable elegance. And because this lyrical waxing is puzzling even to me, I will move on to a more grounded level of Jameson Gold’s make up.

Jameson Gold Reserve is a triple distilled blend of pot still and grain whiskies, three of them, actually, distilled at New Midleton Distillery. One of these whiskies is aged in ex-bourbon, the other in oloroso sherry butts, but the third is aged (or more realistically “finished”) in virgin oak. Virgin oak maturation is not common in Irish whisky or its close, personal cousin Scotch whisky, so I don’t really have a comparison in mind. And because we don’t know how much virgin oak is used in this blend, there is no real way to judge the success of this makeup. Probably for the best. Just taste it. This no age stated blend is priced over $70.00 and is bottled at 40% ABV. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Canned peach syrup. Honey. Roasted almonds and black tea. With time vanilla gets big with toffee. Dessert dram.

Taste- Toasted cereal, lightly charred oak. Peachy.

Finish- Medium. Warm and pleasant peach pie and toasted crust. Weird salty brine. Lingering.

Comment- Nothing terribly exciting. A simple collection of sweet flavors that is certainly drinkable, but might be our least favorite non-standard Jameson. Not worth the price.

SWC Rating- 77/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Amrut Fushion Review

If we just stuck with our standard rotation of Scotch, American, Irish and the occasional Canadian whisky, we would have plenty to do content wise. But it seems like we would be missing out on a whole new world of whisky making. We don’t want to be that kind of group, endlessly dogmatizing only what we know and ignoring that which we do not understand. Speyside will always be fun, but why not rhapsodize you all with something new, say, a malt from Kazakhstan? Maybe later, but for today we blaze our first trail into India and profile a malt from their most visible distillery, Amrut. So, gather round as a father instructs his bored teenage children and learn something new.


Amrut Distillery operates out of Bangalore, India, and since opening in 2001 they have amassed quite a range of whiskies and accompanying awards. Our selection today is perhaps their most awarded single malt called Amrut Fushion, namely because the malt combines home grown Indian barley fused with Scottish grown peated barley brought together in the milling portion of the process. Being that Banglaore sits 3,000 feet above sea-level and possesses what Dominic Roskrow calls a “dramatic and violent” environment for aging, you could rightly guess that Amrut typically does not, or indeed cannot age their stock further than 5 years.While Amrut’s casks suffer a punishing angel’s share of 16% per year, this short time frame is nevertheless industry coveted. Amrut does not have to wait for 12 years for their distillate to reach ideal maturation, and therefore their investment sees the shelf much sooner than their competitors. Fushion is bottled at 50% ABV, so we are certainly getting a good shot at some flavor here. On to it…


SWC Review

Nose- Where to begin…Ripe banana, toffee, dark chocolate. Peat is light with raspberry, pear and green apple. Raisins/dates and rum caramel. All together in ideal balance.

Taste- Salty and dark chocolate. Peat picks up. Grapefruit pith. Creamy mouth feel.

Finish-Medium to long. Hot smoke with some nice sweetness, chocolate covered espresso beans. Warm spice.

Comment- A rich reward for trying something new and unknown. Complex and cohesive. Worth a try, folks.

SWC Rating-92/100


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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com


Knob Creek Rye Review

While the Knob Creek brand under Beam started in 1992 as part of the Small Batch Collection, the timeline of the brand can actually be traced back to the 30’s. The significance of the name can be loosely attributed to Abraham Lincoln having lived near an actual “Knob Creek,” and his father working seasonally at a distillery that also happened to be located along the knobby waterway, according to bourbon writer Chuck Cowdery. These little historical marketing quirks really don’t matter much, because Knob Creek as we know and drink it today is pretty much self-defining. It has high ABV, long aging, and classic bourbon flavors held together in fine balance. Perhaps if Abe had an illicit still in his White House bathroom and shined the very first batch of Knob Creek, maybe, just maybe, it would sell a few more bottles. The strength of the Knob Creek label is probably the reason why Beam Suntory attached a rye to the brand’s coat tails, as Knob Creek Rye launched in 2012.

Beam Suntory, owners of the Knob Creek brand, distill only one rye recipe for all their rye offerings, just different labels and aging conditions. Knob Creek Rye, today’s selection, is a blend of rye whiskies aged up to 9 years. Mash bill details are not disclosed, but it is believed to contain the legal minimum of 51% rye content. This relatively low rye percentage might make for a drink that tastes like a high rye bourbon rather than a straight rye, but hey, we are not particular in that distinction. On to it…


SWC Review

Nose– Burnt caramel. Weighty vanilla. Rye spice of mint, pine, grassy feel. Dusty spice cabinet. Well developed oak aromas, including a musty cellar note. Light vegetal feel. Nice, full nose.

Taste- Oaky sweet with fresh cut meadow. Minty rye spice with citrus.

Finish- Long. Charred oak, drying to clove, toasted walnut.

Comment- Good bourbon lover’s rye standard. A rye lover might like this, too. Nice nose and decent complexity. Price is a bit up there, but hey, life is short.

SWC Rating- 84/100


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


Contct us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Woodinville Straight Bourbon Review

To say that Woodinville’s newest bourbon is great for Washington state’s whiskey industry merely starts the conversation. In this author’s opinion, Woodinville Straight Bourbon is a major step forward for the entire American craft whiskey industry, if I may be so bold. I should also stress that this opinion is not expressed flippantly or out of cheap enthusiasm, but from careful observation. Trust me, I’m a blogger.

For the time being, the “craft” designation has evolved a bit from what it used to mean. Because this term is not a regulated one, anyone can use it. Any 3 month old startup that bottles someone else’s 6 year old whiskey is called “craft.” Any distillery that phones in a subpar whiskey and charges $70.00 can call it “craft” because they used a small handmade still. Even companies seeking to bypass tradition with technology (machines that accelerate aging) are on the band wagon, all in the name of cashing in on the Golden Age of Whiskey we find ourselves in. But the true artisans, those that will be here to stay, will produce true quality products that will last. Woodinville Whiskey Company is one of those distilleries, and one that doesn’t need “craft” to be relevant. A few brief points on their new bourbon…

Simply called “Woodinville Straight Bourbon,” this bottling is not your typical 2-3 year old craft offering aged in a mixture of full size and small micro barrels (truthfully, micro barreling isn’t as common as it used to be). It is aged completely in full size, traditional 53 gallon barrels for 5 years. There is no other craft bourbon with that length of aging. More time in a full size barrel means more flavor development. This high rye mash bill, after a 4 day fermentation, is pot distilled rather than column distilled to afford the producer with more control over flavor. The resulting distillate then fills the seasoned 53 gallon white oak barrels from the Missouri based Independent Stave Company. Woodinville specified that their barrels be toasted first before the required charring (level 3 char, by the way). Toasting first essentially enlarges the “red” caramelized layer under the char for extra sweet oak extraction during maturation. Instead of aging on site in Woodinville, the barrels are instead freighted across the Cascade mountain range to slumber in central Washington for 5 years. The central region’s climate has the temperature extremes to maximize flavor extraction, yet the arid dryness remains, stealing nearly 30% of the barrel’s contents due to evaporation.

Bottled at 45% ABV and priced under $50.00, this bourbon has nearly every quality necessary to contend. But even with this new bottling’s impressive makeup and authentic credentials, the only thing that matters is how it tastes. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Warm toffee, vanilla bean. Sweetness blankets this bourbon but does not dominate. The oak aromas are nicely layered underneath. Sugared citrus, confection like. Chocolate covered cherries. Sweet corn, touch of almonds. Spices of cinnamon and nutmeg are light. Beautiful nose.

Taste- Sweet caramel, a gentle but flavorful mouthfeel. Tangerine. Perilously drinkable. Good balance. Light to medium body.

Finish- Classic barrel char, of course. Medium length with a pleasing bitterness. Drying on the way out. I’ll have another.

Comment- It appears that five Washington summers is enough to collect all these great flavors and bring them to an impeccable balance. A very enjoyable dram to say the least but allow me to get crazy: Woodinville just produced the new bourbon standard in Washington state and fired a shot across the rest of the US for craft bourbon quality. Well done, boys.

Jim’s Rating – 91/100

Editor’s Note: This selection was purchased off the shelf per our policy and the review is 100% independent.

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2015 Review

Not that it has ever stopped me in the past, but to use a tired yet accurate phrase, “success story” seems to be a nice tight fit for the Four Roses brand. Its history, however, is a rather strange one when you start at the beginning. The distillery was founded in 1888, and eventually the Four Roses brand was a best selling bourbon from the 30’s to 50’s. Its dark age began when Seagrams bought them out and sentenced Four Roses to the graveyard of blended whiskey for a good 40 years. This long, slow burn of a decline found its resurgence in 2002, when Four Roses was re launched as a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey under Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, a title he has held for 20 years. Day in and day out, the whiskey distilled and sold under his charge has climbed to the very top of the very best in Kentucky bourbon. Accolades and awards aside, the Four Roses limited editions in particular have not just reached the status of “highly anticipated,” and they are, but they are indeed considered beloved by bourbon enthusiasts, a status not easily earned.

2015’s Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch will be the last special release under Jim Rutledge’s tenure of Master Distiller for Four Roses, as he is retiring at the end of this year. This release is in his honor, and is perhaps the best note to go out on. This year’s edition is a blend of 3 distinct whiskies with four age statements from the distilleries unique stock comprised of 2 mash bills and 5 yeast strains: OBSK aged 16 years, OESK aged 15 and 14 years, and an OBSV aged 11 years.* Bottled at 54.25% ABV, my bottle is one of 12,600 released to celebrate Rutledge’s career, a career spanning 49 years in the industry. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose– And old soul of a bourbon. Deep oak with polished leather. Toffee. Layered under that is honeyed vanilla and orange peel. Red apples. Familiar Four Roses spice cabinet of nutmeg, cinnamon and herbal meadow. Benefits from some water.

Taste- Big, as you might imagine. Largely a repeat of the nose but now with toasted grain, cherries, and sweet toffee. A drying feel, but overall chewy and thick. Again, water helps.

Finish- Long. Oak char, nutty with minty spices. Drying, again, but very satisfying.

Comments- A fitting final gift from Rutledge to the whiskey world. Complex, developed and a fine picture of what a fully realized Kentucky straight bourbon can do. Bravo.

*…See this link explaining the Four Roses acronyms.

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Editor’s Note: This bottle was not sent to me from a marketing firm. I bought it with my own money at a liquor store, like a complete jerk.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Review

Meanwhile, up in Canada, Diageo’s small, heel nipping startup distillery called Crown Royal released Northern Harvest Rye whisky earlier this year. Should be interesting, as Canadian whisky has been trying to grow from the top down, meaning the premium category has seen quite a few new bottlings in recent years. Crown Royal is doing something that perhaps only Crown Royal can do, as Northern Harvest, being around $30.00 at retail, was released along with a cask strength single barrel rye in upwards of $50.00. The reason why is simple: Crown Royal’s facility is housing about 2 million barrels of aging spirit. And when you have that kind of stock, you can do anything you want. On to some particulars…

Northern Harvest Rye isn’t exactly some special type of rye, imparting some exotic type of space age flavor, it’s just rye grown in Canada. Rye, being the stout, scrappy grain it is, can thrive well in harsh climate conditions, being planted and sprouting in the fall, surviving the winter, and fully grown and harvested in late summer. It’s just rye. The label states that this whisky is 90% rye, which doesn’t reveal much about its precise composition, except to say that this is most likely one of 5 core whisky grain bills produced at the Gimli facility that is at least 90 percent rye or it is all rye but with additives. What the other 10% is, who knows. One surprisingly good thing about this whisky, other than the great price, is the fact that it is bottled at 45% ABV. Very positive! On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Youthful rye spices of mint, herbal garden and cloves. Orchard apples and unripened peaches. Bubblegum. Gentle overall and light.

Taste– Calm with rye character of pepper and clove with some light sugary sweetness.

Finish- Short bubble gum with a dash of barrel char.

Comments- Definitely a young whipper snapper, but with little depth of flavor. Decent mixer. Works well in a tumbler.

SWC Rating- 75/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 Review

We find ourselves bathing in the glory of Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary. One of the distillery’s celebratory bottlings is this year’s Cairdeas, Laphroaig’s selected trophy in honor of this year’s Feis Ile Festival of Music and Malt. Each Islay distillery is given a day to during the week long festival to promote and celebrate its contribution to society, and these storied and beloved distilleries like to bottle something special on their day. Each year it is something different, for 2015 Laphroaig is going old school with an ex-bourbon aged malt made in the traditions of old, according to boss John Campbell. On to some particulars…

This year’s Cairdeas was distilled in 2 small pot stills during August of 2003. This two week long production run is unique for a few reasons. 100% of the malt was processed at Laphroaig’s own on site malting floor. The two smallest pot stills were used for this legendary run, noted for the emphasis on flavor control and pronounced fruity aromas. Lastly, this 100,000 liter batch was aged in first fill casks from Maker’s Mark at Warehouse No. 1, positioned down at Laphroaig bay and whose walls are separated from the assault of the sea by a tiny strip of beach. Warehouse No. 1 is a dunnage style warehouse with soft, damp floors and is known as the best and briniest on Laphroaig’s grounds. Bottled at 51.5% ABV (get it?), this year’s Cairdeas aims to present as a lighter style of Laphroaig. Let’s see to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Slight peat, of course, but as expected, a light affair. Complexity abounds. Lemon peel, fresh herbs, meadow grass. Un-ripened peaches and nutmeg. Sweet pipe tobacco, citrus rind. Good marriage of light smoke, floral touches and sweetness. Lovely and clean.

Taste- Soft vanilla and smoke with sweet spice. Lemon cake with powdered sugar. Melon. Great taste.

Finish- Medium length. Sweet/sour lemon candy. Nutmeg. Ends phenolic with tobacco.

Comments- Well integrated, excellently composed and presented. Refined and complex with just enough Lahproaig house style to satisfy.

SWC Rating – 88/100

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

Let us know in the comments section below.

Laphroaig Triple Wood Review

Whisky writer Dominic Roskrow remarked that marrying smoky, peaty flavors with sherry finishing is a tricky thing. He covered the Lahproaig line for his book 1,001 Whiskies You Must Taste Before You Die and mentioned this in his write up on Laphroaig Triple Wood. If we are talking about heavily peated whiskies it’s not hard to imagine the difficulty of integrating highly contrasted flavors such as sherry wine finishing. In my own experience, sherried whiskies with light peating tend to work very well, but not a lot of the reverse that I have tried. One comes to mind, Bowmore 15, which was a complete mess. Achieving a sublime balance of peat and sherry may ultimately be a matter subject to the taste of the drinker, and if so, who really cares. If you like it, you like it. Let’s look at one such example in Laphroaig’s Triple Wood.

Triple Wood is a single malt aged in 3 types of oak. Essentially Laphroaig took Quarter Cask, being aged first in ex-bourbon barrels from Maker’s Mark, then a quick trip through small quarter casks, and finally finished it for a short time in European sherry butts. This young, NAS malt is then bottled at 48% ABV and is non chill-filtered. Let us begin…

SWC Review

Nose- Typical Laphroaig assault but now burnt toffee and faint vanilla. Salted caramel, damp moss. Snuffed out bonfire. Smoked berries. Ashy. Damp beachwood. Pipe tobacco.

Taste- Sweet at first but turns sour, citrus and smoky. Lemon butter. Earthy and thick.

Finish- Long, smoky. Sour lemon rind and charred oak. Tobacco pipe. Bitter, drying.

Comments- Interesting idea but unbalanced and disjointed. Flourishes of good things but overall not enough to justify the $30.00 increase over the 10 year. The Laphroaig that is most unlike the others.

SWC Rating- 80/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Review

Micro barreling used to be kind of a thing in the American whiskey industry. More like a craft thing, but a big thing. Without getting into it too much, the idea is that new companies, needing to get a brand to shelf as soon as possible, turn to aging their new make spirit in small “micro” barrels so the spirit to oak surface ratio is maximized in much less time. It doesn’t work very well, but these days micro-barreling is used more as a supplemental aging technique than the only one. I think this is a better way. You’ll notice, however, that the Scotch whisky industry rarely employs, or needs to employ, this small cask technique. At least not until demand exceeds supply.

Take Laphroaig, for example. Faced with a boom in demand but not necessarily the stock to feed the monster, John Campbell found a way to bottle some very young Laphroaig with a twist: finish the young, fiery spirit in small “quarter casks” so as to maximize the spirit’s contact with the oak (about 30% more), intensifying flavor and making up for time not available to age the spirit another five or so years. What you get is standard Laphroaig but this time with more accentuated flavor, and somehow, make an already big Islay even bigger. The inspiration for Quarter Cask? Scotch whisky was commonly transported via small casks on horseback in the 19th century, as the bottle states, but what the bottle doesn’t say is that the transporters most likely included smugglers transporting illicitly distilled whisky. Nice. No matter, on to some particulars…

Quarter Cask is rumoured to be about 5-6 years old in standard ex-bourbon casks and is then finished at most another year in the quarter casks. Bottled at 48% ABV and $30.00 more expensive than the standard 10yr, expectations are high for this NAS delight. On to it.

SWC Review

Nose- Fisherman’s wharf, but on fire. Tar boards, oily and briny. Iodine and creosote. Honey and pepper, vegetal, toasted barley. Tough, but a nice vanilla sweetness with lemon is there.
Taste- Peppery, smoked game. Mouth coating. Punchy sourness. Savory spice.
Finish- Huge peat and smoke. Charred oak. Light vanilla. Long, drying. Lingering.
Comments- Very well composed. A great whisky. Fantastic taste. A well built Islay. Recommended.
SWC Rating – 90/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

George Dickel Rye Review

A Tennessee whiskey company that buys bulk rye whiskey from Indiana, modifies it somewhere in Plainview, IL and then bottles it in Norwalk, CT is almost a quintessential example of the current state of American whiskey. Maybe a better way is to say that George Dickle Rye is a glimpse behind the curtain of the American whiskey business. Keyword, there. What George Dickel did was a simple business decision: capitalize on the surging rye market by sourcing a good bulk rye and applying their signature Tennessee modification in the Lincoln Country Process.

And being impeccably transparent about it.

And thus far, they have enjoyed fine success and no real pushback from the dreaded blogosphere. Simple as that, folks. The practice of bottling someone else’s product and bringing it to market is not new in American whiskey, which is why we should be careful when we display our outrage at acceptable business practices. You know, all 1% of us. Now onward to calmer, more sober minded blather on George Dickel Rye.

Distilled by Midwest Grain Products in Lawrenceburg, IN, George Dickel Rye ceases to be Tennessee whiskey but is still charcoal filtered per the Lincoln Country Process. The source rye is shipped to Plainview, IL and poured into large vats full of sugar maple charcoal to take on a “Tennessee” identity, just not officially. So we got through an entire write-up without anything negative. A turning point, really.

SWC Review

Nose- Thick sweetness with caramel and maple. The rye is retained with pine, grassy mint and an herbal garden feel. The two flavor groups compete a bit but overall a quiet affair in the glass.

Taste- Clean burst of rye, sweet mint, spicy. Flavors of the meadow. Light.

Finish- Classic char (duh) with pepper. Baked apples and herbal flourishes. Medium length.

Comment- Great value for money and decently drinkable. Not a whole lot of things to complain about. Cool idea, too.

SWC Rating- 82/100

Agree? Disagree? Don’t really give a shit?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

1792 Ridgemont Reserve Review

The old joke goes like this: “95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky and the rest just isn’t bourbon.” It’s a cute line, sure, but it’s kind of dumb and not really funny anyway, except if you live in Kentucky or if your name is Jimmy Russell. I don’t know for sure if this percentage is still accurate, but even if it is, it is bound to decrease in this fun craft distilling world we find ourselves in, however slowly. The fact remains sure and true that the number of distilleries outside of Kentucky producing bourbon is long and ever increasing year to year (for a good list click here). This was bound to happen, because after all, bourbon can be made anywhere in America, not just in Kentucky. Eater.com published an article profiling 18 non-Kentucky bourbons that supposedly should be on your radar. I have tried a few of these, and while I am certainly not mortally insulted by any of them (Breckenridge and Few are pretty good), their prices are absurd, frankly. When faced with the choice of grabbing a $60.00 dollar bottle of 2 year old craft or purchasing a $24.00 dollar handle of 9 year old Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight, then friend, I hope you understand how the free market works and are not flabbergasted when the vast majority of folks choose the latter, enjoy their fine Saturday night, and not give much of a flying ferret about the former.

Before our review of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, a most certainly Kentucky themed review, allow me to set the table a bit further on this 95% figure…

  • Bourbon is a 3 billion dollar industry in Kentucky.
  • Production has increased 170% since 1999.
  • 1.3 million barrels were filled in 2014 alone.
  • As of 2014, 5.6 million barrels are aging in the Kentucky rack-houses. For perspective, 4.4 million people live in Kentucky.

Kentucky sits on a huge bed of blue limestone. This limestone effectively filters the water source of unwanted hard iron and leaves in calcium and magnesium, aiding in fermentation and overall purity/taste. The climate offers huge temperature contrasts from summer to winter producing extraordinary aging activity. And plenty of farmland for corn, the base ingredient can’t hurt either. You want respect? You want to distill and sell your non-Kentucky bourbon? You are free to do so, just make sure you are putting quality in the bottle for a fair price and you’ll be well on your way, with me championing your efforts.

But in the meantime, we go through a few particulars on today’s selection, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve. Produced by Barton Distilling Company, this NAS Kentucky straight bourbon is Sazerac owned, contains a high rye flavor grain as well as more malt than most bourbons. In 2013, Barton dropped the 8 year old age statement, but still retains the “barrel select” designation and is bottled at 46.85%. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Big oak sugars of toffee and butterscotch. Burnt caramel. Nice herbal feel, lavender? Musty rye. Nice.

Taste- Oaky toffee, viscous and coating. Lovely. Toasted and dry.

Finish- Medium to long. Big barrel char with musty feel to it. Herbal, blackberry and toffee. Great finish.

Comment- Consistent, classic bourbon flavors. Gotta love it. I don’t think this bourbon will change my life forever, but I won’t prevent it from entering my glass either. Recommended.

SWC Rating – 84/100

Footnote- Yes, 1792 was the year Kentucky entered statehood and Ridgemont is the official toasting whiskey of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, but these facts were left out of the review because no one cares.

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Jefferson’s Reserve Review

Batch Variation. You see this cryptic phrase all over the whisky blogosphere. It is generally used to point out apparent differences from one batch to the next in whiskey production. Of course, whiskey is produced in batches, some small, some enormous, and for NDP’s, they have the perhaps the least amount of control from batch to batch. In other words, your batch is only as good as the source and quality available to you one month, the next month everything could change. So, when quality is perceived to decline in a sourced brand, batch variation is pegged as the guilty party. Of course, it’s also subjective in nature, so be skeptical when Dr. Blogger uses it. Our palates change over time, and therefore this “batch variation” may be just your evolving taste over time. The amateur experts of the world generally will attribute fault to the producer first and rarely him/herself. But hey, they can be right sometimes, too.

Another thing to point out before we get into Jefferson’s Reserve: NDPs (non-distiller producers, by the way) are at the mercy of the real producers on what stocks are made available to them. Think about it. In this current whiskey boom, do you really think producers are going to let their honey barrels go? Go to a big retailer and you will find re-bottled brands everywhere. Typically these brands contain lower quality stock for the very reason just stated. However, and this is a big however, it’s who you know, not what you know, and long time relationships in this industry are worth much. Trey Zoeller, creator of the Jefferson’s brand, has been doing this since 1997, LONG before this new age of whiskey we reside in. Much like a high end independent bottler of scotch like Berry Bros. & Rudd, one could safely assume that a long term relationship with a producer doesn’t mean he gets the runt of the litter. In fact, production may be planned and paid for long before hand.

Today’s selection is on Jefferson’s Reserve, Castle Brands flagship Jefferson bottling. Like with Small Batch previously, age and sourcing is difficult to decipher, and like last time, it really doesn’t matter. The bottle yields little information other than that the it is comprised of 3 straight bourbons aged up to 20 years old. That’s it. ABV is %45.1. Off we go…

SWC Review

Nose- The classic aromas missing from “Small Batch” are nicely seated at the table. Vanilla, toasted sugar, old oaky sweetness. Blackberry and cherry. Funky old oak shed, but nice. Rye under the surface.

Taste- Honey and oak, viscous. Buttery. Spicy and nice.

Finish- Medium to long. Barrel char everywhere with some oaky vanilla. Drying.

Comments- We are back to classic bourbon here, and that’s a good thing. What is not a good thing is the price. At $63.00 dollars you are competing with bottles like Booker’s, and for the flavor experience “Reserve” offers, we will go elsewhere with our money. A pleasant drink to be sure, but we’re not interested.

SWC Rating – 80/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Jefferson’s Small Batch Review

While we rage, rage against the dying of authenticity, or, the common business practice of companies purchasing already aged whiskey, bottling it under their label, and sometimes lying about it, you can’t fault a business group for being upfront about it. At least I don’t. Not too much, anyway. There is a perceived gap in the skill required with this model, and therefore when compared to Buffalo Trace or Dry Fly here in Spokane, your little outfit doesn’t look so “artisanal” or “hand crafty” as you say it is. The industry has certainly shown us examples of where this method can succeed, both financially and critically. High West comes to mind. Compass Box is another great example. But these outfits don’t just source a good whiskey, they source many whiskies and blend them together for something new, and that there is a big difference, friends. Trey Zoeller and his father Chet started doing this very thing back in 1997 for their sourced brand of bourbon whiskey: Jefferson’s. And they remain a good example of how an NDP can retain some artistic acumen while not producing a single drop of their brand themselves.

Today’s selection, Jefferson’s Small Batch, now owned by Castle Brands but still run by Trey Zoeller, is the youngest offering in the Jefferson’s line. After much research, there is really no good hard source on where Jefferson’s comes from, and really it doesn’t matter much at this point, frankly. What we do know is that Small Batch is a blend of four Kentucky straight bourbons, and is 6 to 10 years old, aged in #1 charred barrels. The often cloudy and mysterious “small batch” designation may be accurately used in this case, as each Jefferson’s batch is from 8 to 12 barrels. Bottled at a curious 41.5% ABV, I don’t image pulse pounding flavor, but here goes nothing…

SWC Review

Nose- Light vanilla and candied toffee, as one might expect, with a honeycomb thing. Light mix of berries and fresh cut wood. Herbal. Marinade. Off putting meaty note after time.

Taste- Mellow buttered corn, mild medicinal notes. Bland.

Finish- Short. Some corn sweetness with a bit of barrel char, drying with spice and a metallic note.

Comment- Ouch. Lack of cohesive classic bourbon flavors, not that there must be, but overall is missing a basic drinkability. Finish is drying but approachable. Perhaps we are dealing with some bad batch variation here. Serviceable, but disappointing.

SWC Rating- 76/100

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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Old Pulteney 12 Review

The French wine industry coined the word “terroir” as a way to romanticize not just the wine but the very ground from whence the wine is derived. Terroir is defined as “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.” Ever see that documentary “Somm?” The sommeliers featured in that remarkable film were able to determine the type, region, and overall composition of a certain wine completely blind. While the concept of terroir may be certainly verifiable in the wine world, debate is ongoing on whether or not it is in the whisky world. Industry voices, perhaps recognizing the marketability of the concept of terroir when selling their brands, seem to embrace the term, while independent critical voices are skeptical. I have found kernels of truth on both sides.

One of the reasons why terroir is so difficult to apply to Scotch whisky, for example, is that no region is as clear cut in terms of distinct, earth derived flavor in relation to others. Islay whiskies, while undoubtedly the reigning smoky, peaty whiskies of the world, are not required to be anything near smoky, and regions far away from Islay are free to make single malts a hundred times more smoky. While Speyside certainly contains light, fruity whiskies, what is the real dividing line between those and malts of the Highlands? What about the overwhelming flavor influence of oak on a brand’s house character? On the other hand, the “sense of place” in a whisky’s terroir is not completely lost. Do the coastal distilleries of Islay and the Highlands not impart a sense of place when their whiskies display a seaside, salty impression? Does the heathery peat of Orkney distinguish itself from the briny, medicinal peat of Islay? Terroir is romantic for a reason, and therefore useful, but I have yet to find a whisky writer that can distinguish from differing strains of barley as one could with grape varietals. Maybe there is, and I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Old Pulteney 12 may have a “sense of place” when it comes to connecting its flavors to the coastal fishing town of Wick on the Scottish mainland. Technically, this malt is considered a coastal Highland and is distilled at the most northern mainland location in Scotland. The savory, salty sea air one detects from a casual nosing is not by accident. Distilled in alembic pot stills with enormous bulbs, Old Pulteney sees a lot of reflux, yet is condensed in traditional worm tubs that leave in more flavor. We are high on esters but still retain some tough leather like notes, a weird approach indeed. Bottled at 40% ABV, modestly colored and filtered, and aged in predominantly ex-bourbon casks, one might think there isn’t much on the surface here, but let’s see….


SWC Review


Nose- Simple savory notes of the sea. Lemon rind. Honey and salted caramel with time. Ripe banana and vegetal feel.

Taste- Honey sweet with citrus rind. Surprisingly creamy with some weight. Departs a bit form sea side feel, but those notes remain.

Finish- Medium length. Nice medicinal feel with leather polish. Light spice with citrus peel, again. Touch of smoke. Lovely.

Comment- This malt will hold your interest, if anything. An approachable offering with some contemplative subtleties to it. Some quirks but the savory is nicely balanced with some sweet peeking through.

SWC Rating – 85/100


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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

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


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


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


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