Spokane Whiskey Club

A Word on the Current Whiskey Scene

mediumYou may have noticed that not a word has been posted to this site since last December. I needed a break, badly, and took some time off.

It’s June now, and every time I think to start again, an uncontrollable feeling of dread and despondency comes over me like a warm blanket of death on a cold bed. In other words, I am tired of the mounting horse dung in the whiskey industry. Whether it is the ever increasing prices (now bourbon is joining in on the fun) or the vomit inducing marketing or the endless PR spin of the company suits, I honestly would rather have a live badger released in my pants than promote the industry further.

That being said, it’s worth it to finish what I started, so, the reviews will come back along with any sad commentary I wish to present. An expanded word or two might be warranted on industry trends. I will probably swear more and produce content that will have a better chance of getting me sued, so, I will have that going for me, which is nice. See you soon.



Lawgiver of the SWC

Ardbeg Supernova 2015 Review

My first recollection of Ardbeg Supernova occurred in 2009, the year of its first release, during an interview between Whisky Cast and whisky writer Jim Murray. Murray  recounted his sensory experience with Supernova as intense, to say the least, but perfectly caught the moment when he described swirling his last sip in the mouth for a full 2 minutes, certainly much longer than most folks, during a walk from tasting lab to his home. According to Murray, the finish did not subside until sometime that evening. Ever since hearing this, I have endeavored to secure a bottle without success until last week, when I spotted the 2015 release of Ardbeg Supernova.

Throughout the years, there have been four total releases of Supernova. The first two, in 2009 and 2010 were matured in ex-bourbon casks exclusively, and represented somewhat the chief experience of Scotch whisky orthodoxy for peated Scotch fans given its extraordinary peating level of 100ppm. Since then, Octomore is the only whisky that exceeds this phenolic content. After a three year absence, 2014 saw Supernova with sherry finishing, however minimal. This is when the reviews got interesting, as folks seemed to lament that decreased phenolic attack as less then brutal (peat freaks are truly disturbing, and I know, I am one). And ironically, the leg breaking intensity of smoke now balanced with the underlying flavors became a negative one. Early reviews of 2015’s Supernova seem to hint at this. It’s unfortunate, as balance seems to be one of the chief quality markers of a good Islay whisky. Some quick particulars before we jump in…

This year’s Supernova is a blend of various single malts from Ardbeg’s warehouses, all possessing a phenolic level of 100 ppm vs the standard 55 ppm. These whiskies are included in the standard Arbeg releases but in limited fashion, and being that demand for those bottlings is sky high, future Supernova releases are discontinued, as the label notes this year is the final release. Of course, this isn’t true, we will see more Supernova’s in the future I’m sure. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Deep reservoir of peat notes. Rich smoke from a fire with roaring coals. Ashy and a big salty blast of sea. Like taking a log still smoldering and charred and smelling it. Fruit cake. Charred steak. Musk mellon and buttered biscuit.

Taste- Much sweeter than nose suggested with vanilla and fruit. Creamy, oily and viscous. Light toffee. Herbal feel with lemon rind and pine tree. Big and permeating.

Finish-Long with an initial burst of smoke and ash, naturally. Fruity with ripe berries, citrus and satisfying grains. Peppery intensity waters the mouth.

Comments- I have no thoughts comparing this year’s release with previous ones as this is my first Supernova, so I approached this as a smokier 10 yr old. With or without that frame of reference, I quite like this pour, and I have not been let down taste wise. Well overpriced I must say, but I tend to overpay for the white whales in my whisky world. Recommended for the experience.

SWC Rating – 91/100


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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Stagg Jr. 132.1 Proof Review

brbon_geo33Stagg Jr. was a joy to see launched. Anytime an uncut, unfiltered, barrel proof bourbon aged nearly a decade by Buffalo Trace goes to market, any bourbon fan should be grateful. But of course, when you appropriate the mighty, beloved brand name of George T. Stagg and attach “Jr,” as sure as God made green apples you’re going to ruffle some bourbon enthusiast feathers. Released in 2013, Stagg Jr. claims the same mash bill as the elder Stagg but is pulled from different warehouse locations (makes a difference), and is batched together differently with barrels aged no more than 10 years. I remember reading the early reviews. I couldn’t possibly imagine how a bourbon with this makeup could sour with bourbon big shots, but its reception was so-so. My theory is the fact that some people couldn’t get past the very name “Stagg Jr.” and its implied inferiority or that they feared this early bottling would deplete future stocks of George T. Stagg. Both of which are not true, but perception is stronger than reality at times.

Because SWC is normally late to the party, we did not try this as a group until batch three, nearly three years in. I have tasted batch two and enjoyed it, and other members of the club are frequent purchasers of Stagg Jr. Today’s Stagg is bottled at a wimpy 66.05% ABV and is a blend of bourbons just under 10 years old. Uncut and unfiltered, this is about as rage filled as you can get for Kentucky bourbon. On to it…

SWC Review

Nose- Classic, big flavors of caramel and toffee candies. Brown sugar baked on an oak slab. Fruits of blackberries, dried cherries, cough syrup and Christmas cake. Pipe tobacco. Cinnamon. Dark chocolate with coffee. Great balance.

Taste- Largely a repeat of the nose with a full, cloying mouth feel. Big peppery spice.

Finish- Long. Huge heat, oaky. Barrel char with dark coffee. All spice, toffee.

Comments- Hot as living hell, needs water to fully enjoy. Wonderful, full flavor develops into a big hearted bourbon. And as a member noted during the meeting, this is the leather and chains of the bourbon world….woah.

SWC Rating- 89/100

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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Dry Fly Cask Strength Wheat Port Finish – Total Wine & More Exclusive Review

DSC_4822It seems that every time I sashay into a local Total Wine and More here in Spokane I find some new, out of no-where Dry Fly product showing up on the shelf. This pleasant reality, along with the fact that most of their products are now older and possess a higher ABV, means that I need to get to work and update our war chest of reviews. I’m simply tickled pink that my most recent discovery is of a new cask strength wheat but finished in port casks. We were pretty gonzo about their Creel port finished version, but a 60% ABV wheat whiskey with port finishing? You can take that bet to the bank, cash it and buy yourself something nice with it.

However, this new wheat offering is exclusive only to Total Wine and More with a limited number of bottlings. At the time of this writing, the good folks over at Dry Fly have one barrel remaining, and if my math is correct that is only an additional 250 bottles along with whatever inventory is still on the shelves. So in other words, go and get it NOW. Dry Fly has a number of specialty whiskeys made in mind for exclusive bottlings, so expect more in the future if you cannot get your hands on this one. A few particulars on the makeup…

The whiskey itself is their standard 100% Washington wheat grain aged for three years in new American oak barrels. After this maturation period it is then filled in casks that previously held port wine from Kestrel Vintners and is aged a further eight months. Kestrel is a Yakima valley based winery that produced this particular wine from the traditional Portuguese grape varietals of Tinta Roriz and Souzao. The winemaker tasting notes on this wine included the phrase “brandy soaked fruit cake,” and once you try today’s selection, I think you may taste the parallel. On to it….

SWC Review

Nose– Big and sweet. Mile wide river of caramel and toffee candies. Thick and rich. Cinnamon roll. Perfumed floral notes with rosewater. Seasoned oak with spice cabinet. Brandy, of course.

Taste- Port is most pronounced here with a brandy like feel. Savory wheat croissant. Oily, chewy and viscous. ABV is hidden quite well here, but a dash of water is helpful.

Finish- Fruit explosion of port flourishes – dark cherry, blackberry, red apple. Barrel char underneath. Very satisfying.

Comments- Bloody fantastic. Very balanced finishing with house character of Dry Fly retained. A whiskey that demands and rewards your undivided attention. Highly recommended.

Jim’s Rating – 91/100


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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Westland Sherry Wood Single Malt Review

dsc_4772-e1449471405454It was at one time customary for this blog to introduce a new brand with a quick history overview. That’s becoming less and less necessary in my view, so I will leave Westland Distillery’s story to the internet, as their story has been told already in numerous places (here’s a good one). Let’s spend the brief blessed time that we have left on a few particulars that bear mentioning concerning one of Washington state’s top distilleries.

It’s already been said numerous times, and I’m sure Westland is well aware that American single malt is low on the priority scale under our beloved bourbons and ryes. But where one distillery may see a road to no where when it comes to producing this style, it appears that Westland said “bring it on.” Since beginning in 2010, the Westland crew has ensured that this emerging, important style is given the care and sophistication needed to succeed. They enjoy national distribution, a premium price tag and three elegantly branded options ranging from their flagship straight single malt, sherry wood finished and peated version. Based on a fairly extensive search of what has already been published, Westland seems to be built to dominate the market for this type of whiskey. As long as they are committed to putting the best possible spirit they can on the shelf, I see no reason why Westland won’t be miles ahead of anyone else across our fruited plain.

We focus today’s review on Westland’s Sherry Wood single malt expression. This whiskey is comprised of a staggering six different barley malts distilled and aged in four, yes, four different oak types. After spending time in new and refilled bourbons casks, it is then finished in two more types of sherry casks: olorso and the mighty Pedro Ximenez. Some distillate is aged on site in their downtown Seattle location, but most is matured near the coast over in Hoquiam, WA. Westland bottles their Sherry Wood expression after little over two years, and they prefer to state the age in months at twenty six, much like a parent ages a toddler in months, not years. Our selection today is bottled at a nice 46% ABV and is non-chill filtered. Let’s get to it….


SWC Review

Nose- Youthful grain underneath the Macallan like dried fruit/dates. Thick wine influence. Fresh greenery. Lively. Figs and toffee with faint pine notes. Decent balance, sherry finishing is certainly front and center but is not overwhelming.

Taste- Raisinettes with some heat. Nice mouth feel with milk chocolate feel. Fruity and sweet with some weight. Well done.

Finish- Charred barrel, full and chewy. Meaty fruit. Medium to long length. Young barley. Plenty happening here.

Comments- It is certainly not lost on most reviewers that this whiskey is quite young. The sherry finishing does not mask this in any way, but I would argue that these immature notes are not a big negative. Much care went into the composition of this malt and I believe it shows well in the final product. Nice branding and overall presentation and I think that a few more years in oak will fill out the flavor gaps. Our only real criticism is the high price ($70 avg), as this is a big deterrent for repeat purchases of a bottle that still needs more development. I’m confident I will enjoy the rest of my bottle, if that’s any consolation.


SWC Rating – 85/100


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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Dry Fly Straight Washington Wheat 2015 Review

dsc_4765Dry Fly Distillery is not only Washington State’s first distillery since prohibition, but they’re also credentialed as one of the original pioneers of the craft whiskey boom. In 2007, they laid down new fifty three gallon barrels filled with whiskey made from a mash bill of 100% Washington wheat. This whiskey was released two years later in 2009 to a very excited and eager Spokane. I remember it being so scarce and in demand that it took me a few months on a waiting list before I could buy my first bottle. Back then this wheater was bottled at 40% ABV and was around 2 years old. Dry Fly progressed their wheat wizardry when they released the Creel Collection in 2012 which included a cask strength version and a port wine finished version. Even their Triticale hybrid rye whiskey is half wheat. No other craft distillery has explored this versatile grain more than Dry Fly.

It’s been years since we sat down seriously with Dry Fly’s wheat. The cask strength version became my go to bottle (how could it not, it’s wheat but with steroid rage). But a casual sauntering through a local liquor joint, however, brought a spring to my step as I spied a few changes on the already iconic bottle design of their flagship expression. It is now designated “straight,” carries a three year old age statement and is now bottled at 45% ABV, no longer 40%. It cannot be stressed enough that these are not small, casual changes. Dry Fly is progressing their most recognizable expression in the interest of quality for their consumers. Stronger, older, and now defined as “straight,” this face lifted flagship is a big thing for an industry that has to keep moving forward.

As we have stated over and over, you cannot get by with “craft” on your label anymore. You either innovate and improve your quality or you will diminish. And as usual, Dry Fly Distillery is leading, not following.


SWC Review

Nose- Lovely citrus and vanilla. Lemon cake. Tangerine juice. The appetizing wheat grain/bakery notes are still here but now a bit more elegant and mature. Werthers candies. More depth and richness than in years past. Beautiful , complex nose.

Taste- Pound cake. Light. Sweet pastry and lemon candies. Savory caramels.

Finish- Punchy. Vanilla wafer and nice barrel char. Bursts but fades off. Citrus peel and sourdough.

Comments- What an improvement from years past. The big citrus feel is cool, it’s not just a wheat grain show anymore. Elegance with flavor and wonderful balance. Feels like an aperitif for springtime. Very relevant brand with distinction in the craft industry.

SWC Rating – 88/100


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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Baker’s 7 Year Old Bourbon Review

bakers-7-year-old-whiskeyBaker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a whiskey that took me years to figure out. Liking a dram your first time seems almost too easy, too…lazy, maybe? The idea that multiple tastings with patience and contemplation, which are eventually rewarded with enlightenment, is much more fun. Some whiskies just take time to get, and Baker’s is one those for me. From the beginning of this little ding dang whiskey hobby the various reviews smattered about of Baker’s were confusing at best. Some absolutely loved it whilst others wrote of odd flavor combinations despite its rather classic bourbon make-up. Baker’s shares a mash bill with three other bourbons of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, yet its uniqueness is quite clear. Let’s talk about why…

Baker’s is a 7 year old straight bourbon bottled at a strong 53.5% ABV and is distilled at the Clermont, KY facility. Named in honor of Baker Beam, a daytime distiller at Clermont until his retirement and great nephew of Jim Beam himself, Baker’s is blended from barrels pulled from the top floors of the rick houses. In Kentucky, the barrels up there experience the extremes of the already intense aging environment, and as a result, Baker’s possesses an intensity of oak development not found in Knob Creek, Booker’s or Basil Haydens. Instead of vanilla bean and warm toffee you get smoked meat and old leather. This isn’t an old soul of a bourbon but more like a Viking…and it only took me a few years to figure that out. Viking. I like that.


SWC Review

Nose- Concentrated oak roughness. Rye forward. Peach, blackberry. Leathery but in time a layer underneath of vanilla/toffee. Hmmm.

Taste- Very fruity. Creamy. Corn. Cognac and spice.

Finish- Big. Spicy pepper kick. Oak char, cedar, toasted sugar.

Comments- Confusing. Nose was underwhelming but taste was decent. Club was a tad divided on this one. Some found it enjoyable, others found it odd given its rather orthodox makeup. Dare I say oddball, but decent enough. However, price is a detriment to repeat purchases.

SWC Rating- 81/100

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


Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond Review

10630611Some time ago another club member and I were prepping work on a “Best Bourbons under $20” project that would surely sweep the interwebs by storm and propel us into the stratosphere of whiskey blogging. While I am sterling certain that our popularity will be irresistible, the project probably stays in the hopper for the time being. For one, I find that these endless “Best Value Whiskeys” or “Holiday Bottle Picks” blog posts really don’t offer much in terms of usefulness or staying power. They bring clicks to your site, yes, which is why they are posted, but I like to write what I like to read: something interesting. Secondly, I’m sure either Old Forester or Evan Williams would win anyway. We took care of Old Forester a few months ago to fine results, and now we look to Evan Williams Bottled in Bond. We will save a proper introduction to the storied Evan Williams brand for when we review Black Label eventually, so  just a few particulars for you today on “White Label.”

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond is basically Black Label but bottled at 50% ABV, per the regulations required for bonded whiskies (explained here in our review of Rittenhouse Rye). Distilled by Heaven Hill Distillery, the Evan Williams brand is the 2nd best-selling Kentucky straight bourbon behind Jim Beam White. Years ago Evan Williams was aged for 7 years, and information is scarce on its age today, we just know it is less. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. Mash bill is 78% corn, 12% rye, 10% malted barley. While Black Label is pretty much everywhere, White Label is not, and its a shame since it is only $2 more per bottle. Now THAT’s a value bourbon, if you’re looking for that kind of blog post. Let’s get to it….


SWC Review

Nose- Corn bread and vanilla. Black pepper, cocoa and some sharp ethanol. Clove and nutmeg. With time maple bar (hello) and cake.

Taste- Repeat of nose. Some viscosity and a slight sour feel.

Finish- Short. Barrel char and burnt caramel. Minty and drying.

Comments- Can’t complain much for a bottle that cost me $13.99. Best bourbon for the money you can find in an ash tray (thanks, Mr. Gray). Straight forward and simple. Go for it!

SWC Rating – 78/100


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

Contact us at SpokaneWhiskey@gmail.com

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