Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Chicken Cock Island Rooster Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


Chicken Cock may have a funny name for a whiskey; however, what’s inside the bottle is no joke. It is one of the oldest Bourbon labels around. Founded in 1856 in Paris, Kentucky, the label survived Prohibition before a fire devastated the distillery in the 1950s. Then, in 2013, the brand was relaunched by Grain and Barrel Spirits.


Grain and Barrel Spirits entered into a collaborative distilling agreement with Bardstown Bourbon Company in 2017, bottling Chicken Cock ever since.


Today I’m exploring Chicken Cock Island Rooster. The mashbill is 95% rye and 5% malted barley. So, what’s Island Rooster all about?


“Island Rooster is a limited edition Kentucky Straight Rye finished in rum barrels. Inspired by a trip to the Caribbean, where roosters announce the coming day, we decided to finish 25 barrels of our Signature Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey in Caribbean rum casks. The result is a relaxing blend of spicy notes from the rye with candied molasses notes from the rum barrels. Sun and sand meets the Bluegrass state.” – Chicken Cock Whiskey


It carries no age statement, but we know that’s at least two years because it is straight. And, because of the lack of the statement, we know that’s a minimum of four. We do know the finishing process was six months. This Rye is bottled at 95°, and a 750ml package runs $199.99. It is an apothecary-style embossed bottle that comes with a metal cap.

Distribution is limited to CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, KY, MA, NY, SC, TN, TX, and WI, but if you’re not in those states, you can acquire it from the distillery, its website, or ReserveBar.  


I’ve reviewed Chicken Cock whiskeys before. Of the standard releases, I preferred the Rye over the Bourbon. Finishing, of course, takes this into another realm altogether.


Before I start tasting this whiskey, I must thank Grain and Barrel Spirits for providing me with this sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and dive deep.


Appearance:  Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Island Rooster presented as copper. A micro-thin rim created tiny, sticky droplets that clung to the wall.


Nose: Despite the finishing process, the first thing I smelled was dill. It was dominating, making it difficult to nail down others. However, after effort, my olfactory sense plucked floral perfume, brown sugar, and freshly cut grass. Oak was buried beneath all those notes. When I pulled the air into my mouth, I discovered molasses, obviously due to the rum casks.


Palate:  A silky texture led to various flavors, including molasses, toasted oak, and vanilla on the front, while butterscotch, maple syrup, and candied orange slices formed the middle. The back became spicy with black pepper, nutmeg, and more oak.


Finish:  What remained was in no rush to leave. Butterscotch and black pepper made most of the finish, making it pleasantly sweet and spicy.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Island Rooster comes across as young. There’s not any sort of harshness to it as can occur with some younger Ryes, yet nothing has mellowed as older Ryes do. It is enjoyable, but what’s there doesn’t justify the price. I would highly recommend buying a pour at a good whiskey Bar first. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Monday, August 15, 2022

Harleston Green Blended Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


The opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf is one I take seriously. When I first became a fan of whisky, I was anything but wealthy (I’m still not). I had no idea what I was doing, just that I didn’t want to spend gobs of money on something that was going to be questionable. I invested in whiskies that were generally under $30.00. As my palate matured, I never left my quest to find gems that many would overlook due to price.


Something else I always appreciate is transparency. That’s becoming more common for American whiskeys, but things are less so outside the country. Imagine my shock when a bottle of Harleston Green blended Scotch whisky showed up, and while inspecting the bottle, I saw “Distilled and Bottled by Loch Lomond Distillery” on the back label.


Harleston Green isn’t a green whisky (thank goodness!). The origin of Harleston Green is it was the first golf course established in America.


“In 1786, a group of Scottish merchants absconded with two of European high society’s most treasured pleasures, golf and Scotch, and brought them together at Harleston Green in Charleston, South Carolina for all people to enjoy. We’d nominate those merchants for sainthood if it didn’t risk getting in the way of their drinking and carousing.” – Harleston Green


Composed of three, four, and five-year-old whiskies from the Highland, Lowland, Speyside, and Campbelltown regions, Harleston Green is bottled at 40% ABV (90°) and is quite affordable at $24.99 for a 750ml package.


Some of you may find it hard to swallow the notion that a three-year Scotch at this pricepoint will be even remotely good. The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious, so let’s get at it. But, before I do, I must thank Harleston Green for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, when poured neat, this Scotch was the color of honey. It formed a thicker rim, something not surprising for a low-proofed whisky, and wild, long legs that crashed back to the pool.


Nose: A puff of smoke was the first thing I smelled. Beneath that were dried apricot, peach, honey, nut, and English toffee. Vanilla was hidden underneath. When I drew that air into my mouth, honey rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  A creamy, medium-bodied texture introduced itself, offering honey, vanilla, and citrus on the front of my palate. Midway through, I tasted nutmeg, green peppercorn, and apple, while the back featured smoke, cinnamon, and roasted almond.


Finish:  The smoke carried all the way through. I need to make it clear that it was far from overpowering. It didn’t taste like peat. It didn’t dry my mouth. It was merely a flavor. Apple strudel and almond hung around, making for a surprisingly long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The first thing I’ll say is I’ve shared this Scotch with a few friends, one of whom is a well-known distiller. The consensus was it was pretty damned good, especially for a young whisky. I was well-blended, and while there is a smoky quality to it, it would not turn off those who dislike peat (or who are newbies).  Harleston Green is a great Scotch to explore if you’re new and curious. Harleston Green is a tasty gem for those who are more experienced. I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy this one, as such it earns its Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Friday, August 12, 2022

Dovetail Gray Label Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

While handing out the 2020 Whiskeyfellow Awards, a whiskey called Dovetail won Best American Whiskey.  It was a marriage of MGP and Dickel whiskeys perfectly blended by Barrell Craft Spirits. You can read my review of Dovetail here.


Since then, I’ve not yet had a chance to revisit Dovetail. I was understandably intrigued when Barrell Craft Spirits announced it was releasing Gray Label Dovetail. The Gray Label releases have been consistently lovely and a significant step up from the originals. They normally involve older whiskeys folded into the standard blends.


Dovetail combined whiskeys finished in Blackstrap rum casks, Port pipes, and Dunn Vinyards Cabernet casks. Gray Label Dovetail goes a step further. Aside from the MGP and Dickel components, there is an added Canadian element. Barrell harvested whiskeys as old as 20 years.


Barrell does not disclose its distilleries, yet it also does not make it difficult to nail down which distilleries are involved. My big weakness in whiskey experience is on the Canadian side. As such, I have no clue which distillery was used.


Gray Label Dovetail is bottled at 131.54°, which is a significant number by itself. There is no age statement, and this Gray Label whiskey is priced in line with the others at $249.99.


Before I go any further, I must thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste how it performs.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Dovetail appeared as deep orange. A thick rim formed, which strangely yielded both slow droplets and fast legs.


Nose:  The waft of air that escaped the glass contained caramel, molasses, cranberry, cinnamon, mint, leather, and freshly-shredded tobacco. I found leather and strawberry preserves when I inhaled that vapor through my mouth.


Palate:  I encountered an oily texture while the front of my palate plucked leather, strawberry jam, and molasses. The middle was chocolate, ginger, and cinnamon, while the back held old oak, caramel, black pepper, and tobacco leaf.


Finish:  The finish was crazy, with things happening randomly and everywhere in my mouth and throat. It was fruity; it was sugary; it was spicy; it was mineral; it was earthy. It also lasted forever, with bold ginger beer holding the longest.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Gray Label Dovetail is in a class by itself, and I’ve never tasted anything quite like it. I savored each sip and yearned for the next when the finish morphed yet always crescendoed the same. Is it worth $249.99?  That’s a steep price, but you’re not going to find anything else like this whiskey. I say Bottle for those who can afford it; if not, get yourself to a good whiskey bar so you can try it for yourself. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Did you know that Irish whiskey used to be the best-selling spirit in the world? It also has a rich history. The first documented production of Irish whiskey was in 1405, and in 1608, King James I issued the first distillery license. In 1661, King Charles II instituted a tax on its production. Demand was at an all-time high, which meant that distillers were concentrating on pumping out as much whiskey as possible, consequences be damned.


That prompted Parliament to pass a law governing the quality of Irish whiskey. It also changed the tax structure from actual production to potential production! That killed off, at least in a legal sense, much of Ireland’s smaller distilleries. In 1823, Parliament realized its mistake and slashed taxes by half, which encouraged growth and led to the high point of Irish whiskey’s popularity.


What caused the downfall?  There were several factors. First, there was a temperance movement in Ireland during the mid-19th century. The second was the invention of the Coffey still in 1832. Then there was the Great Famine of the 1840s. That was followed by the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War, and a trade war with Britain. That trade war eliminated exports to Britain and its commonwealths. If that wasn’t bad enough, Prohibition in the United States, followed by protectionist laws in Ireland and serious financial mismanagement by distillers, nearly killed the entire industry. The 1970s was Irish whiskey’s lowest point, with only two operating whiskey distilleries remaining!


In the mid-1980s, the world again wanted to embrace Irish whiskey, and new distilleries started to emerge. It soon became the fastest-growing category. As brands were trying to satisfy the demand, like the recent surge in American whiskey brands, new Irish whiskey producers had to source aged distillate to fill bottles.


One such company was Walsh Whiskey. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it produces two product lines: The Irishman and Writer’s Tears. In 1999, co-founders Bernard and Rosemary Walsh established their brands, intending to revive the heyday of Irish whiskey.


“As whiskey creators, we work with a range of carefully selected partners to explore how different grains, whiskey styles, and woods interact and contribute to taste over time – plenty of it! We seek out the best styles and distillates in Ireland, as well as casks from the four corners of the world. When cask-hunting, we look for, not just those of the highest wood quality and barrel structure but, most importantly, the ones that have been seasoned with exceptional liquid.” – Walsh Whiskey


Today I’m sipping on The Irishman Single Malt. As the name implies, it starts with 100% Irish barley that, after triple-distillation, rested in both former Bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry casks.  It carries no age statement, and the bottle suggests it was produced for Walsh Whiskey, meaning it was sourced, and was actually distilled by Irish Distillers Ltd. at its Midleton Distillery. The entire line of The Irishman was relaunched in 2022 with new bottles and labels. The Irishman Single Malt is made in batches limited to 6000 bottles or fewer. You can expect to pay about $45.00 for a 40% ABV (80°), 750ml package. 


Before I start the review, I must thank The Irishman for providing me a sample (and this lovely gift box) in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Served neat, this bright gold liquid formed a thin rim in my Glencairn glass. Thick, slow tears fell from it.


Nose: As I sniffed what was inside, a blast of orchard fruits, including apricot, peach, apple, and pear, were joined by honey and cinnamon. It had a definitive maltiness when I drew the air into my mouth.


Palate: A creamy texture commanded a medium-to-heavy weight, which was truly unexpected from a 40% ABV whiskey. Caramel, honey, and bright apple were on the front of my palate, while the middle featured Fig Newtons, graham crackers, and black pepper. As things rounded out, I tasted golden raisin, cinnamon, and dry oak.


Finish: The finish went from soft to bold and seemed to last forever (again, this is only 40% ABV?). Notes of fig, raisin, cinnamon, and oak stuck in my mouth, but then, from completely out of nowhere, was a blast of chocolate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There are a lot of 40% ABV Irish whiskeys out there for less than the cost of The Irishman Single Malt. If you’re shopping based on price, you’ll cheat yourself out of something special. Even Mrs. Whiskeyfellow took a sip and smiled, then begged for a second. I’m thrilled to crown this with my Bottle rating and have this in my whiskey library. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly. Must be 21+ to enjoy.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Bushmills "The Original" White Label Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


What can you say about a brand's flagship whiskey?  Come on, I'm a reviewer... I can say plenty! Today I'm sipping Bushmills "The Original" White Label Irish Whiskey.  I've reviewed Bushmills before, it was Red Bush, and you can peruse that review if you're interested.

Old Bushmills Distillery has been distilling since 1608, making it the oldest licensed distillery worldwide. It hasn't been a continuous run - it was shuttered and reopened a few times, and back in 1885, the distillery was pretty much destroyed by fire. But they rebuilt and resumed operations and even survived Prohibition, a feat most other Irish distilleries failed to overcome.

Bushmills has also changed hands several times. Founded by an Irish adventurer named Thomas Phillips, it didn't officially become Bushmills until 1784, when it was purchased by Hugh Anderson. It changed hands a few times, and then, in 1972, it was taken over by Irish Distillers, the holding company that controlled all Irish whiskey production. Then, in 1988, Pernod-Ricard took possession, sold it to Diageo in 2005, and traded it off to Jose Cuervo, its current owner, in 2014.

Bushmills White is triple distilled, like most Irish whiskey, and is a blend of malts and grains.  This is one where the age statement keeps changing.  In recent years, it carried no age statement, then the one I'm reviewing is three years, and according to its website, that's now been bumped up to five, which may explain why I snagged my bottle at the rock-bottom price of $16.00 (it retails typically about $25.00).  It weighs in at 40% ABV (or 80° for those of us who, like me, are stuck in an empirical world). For the record, Bushmill's White is one of the best-selling Irish whiskeys on the planet.

That last statement doesn't mean much to me. The best-selling American whiskey in the world is one I'm not a fan of. Same with the best-selling Scotch. There's a vast chasm between "best-selling" and "best tasting." I care about the latter.

So, how does The Original hold up? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  Let's get to it.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Irish whiskey presents as a bright gold. It left a medium-thick rim on the wall, and fat droplets fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: There was a blast of pineapple that almost overwhelmed my nostrils. I enjoy pineapple, so that was cool. Also in attendance was a strong malt fragrance with honey and green apple. When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted green apple and vanilla.

Palate:  The mouthfeel started off thin, but subsequent sips became more the viscosity of water. Green apple kicked things off, followed by pineapple and malt.  Yeah, I know, that is darned close to the nose. Come mid-palate, a blend of honey and vanilla rounded out all the aromas.  It wasn't until the back, when I tasted ethanol and black pepper, that something new appeared.

Finish:  A medium finish of oak and barrel char was all that I found. Well, that and some unexpected alcohol burn. But there wasn't much else to savor at the end.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $25.00 bottle.  You don't expect much from that, and Bushmills delivers on that expectation. This is a disappointing Irish whiskey that should be pretty hard to screw up in theory. When I went on the Bushmills website, even the distillery suggests it is a mixer.  

With a recipe that dates back before Prohibition, there is no better whiskey for making a classic, pre-Prohibition cocktail than Bushmills Original. Combining our pure single malt whiskey and a lighter grain whiskey, you’ll notice its rich, smooth, warming taste almost instantly, just as generations have done before.

I don't buy whiskeys to be mixers; I drink them all neat. As much as I hate to do it, I will toss a Bust rating at this. If I had $25.00 to spend and I wanted an Irish whiskey, check out my review of Slane, which costs the same yet I believe is superior.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Cluny Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

When Dad passed away in June, I was charged with going through some boxes in his office. There were boxes and boxes of old photos, books, client files, financial statements, etc. But, there were also three boxes tucked away in the back. I opened them, and lo and behold; they contained booze. Much of what was there was wine, but there were a few bottles of gin and a few of whisky.


Dad was not a whisky drinker. He was into gin, wine, and beer. I tried for several years to talk to him about whisky, which he found interesting, but had no desire to drink it. I think it is safe to assume the whisky I found was for friends who may have wanted a pour. It is funny, though, that he never offered me one. Of course, his dementia may not have allowed him to remember he had any on hand in the last several years.


One of the bottles I came across was Cluny. It was interesting because it was a fairly nondescript label, and I’d never heard of it. I knew it couldn’t have been too old; it had a UPC label on the necker and a laser code on the bottom that suggested it may have been bottled in January 2007.


I spent some time researching this whisky and became even more curious. I saw this statement repeatedly, obviously written by marketers:


“Cluny Scotch Whisky is one of America's top-selling domestically bottled blended Scotches, made up of a marriage of over 30 malt whiskies from all regions of Scotland and the finest aged grain whiskies. Cluny's high malt whisky content gives it a richer flavor and superior taste to like-priced competitors, making it one of the best overall values in the Scotch category today.”


Cluny has been around since 1857, or roughly 165 years. And according to the quote above, it is one of America’s top-selling blended Scotches. So, why am I finding little-to-no information online about it?


I can verify that Cluny is still in production, as a variety of websites offer it for sale for around $11.99 for a 1000mL bottle. I confirmed with a friend who owns one of Wisconsin’s largest liquor stores that while he’s never heard of Cluny (I’m asking this a second time:  Isn’t this supposed to be one of the top-selling blended Scotches in the country?), he can order it.


The brand is owned exclusively by John E. McPherson & Sons; however, in their most recent filing with UK authorities, it had assets of 1 GBP. The label stated it was imported and bottled by Premium Imports out of Bardstown. That’s a subsidiary of Heaven Hill, but Cluny is not listed as one of its brands. Liquor brands are bought, sold, and traded all the time, so someone else may have it.


The one thing that left me dumbfounded, however, was the lack of reviews. That forces me to inquire a third time: Isn’t this supposed to be one of the top-selling blended Scotches in the country? Indeed, if it is that high-profile, there would be many reviews, right?


“Legend has it that the wild cat was the totem of tribes who settled the north of Scotland from Europe. These ‘cat people’ later became the Clan Macpherson, whose crest shows a seated wild cat, its claws extended. The motto ‘Touch Not The Cat Bot A Glove’ means do not touch an ungloved cat, an apt slogan for a fearless clan.


A Scotch worthy of its heritage, Cluny epitomizes the proud Scottish tradition of high quality and distinctive taste. Artfully distilled, aged for thirty-six months, and blended skillfully of the highest-caliber malts and grains.” – Cluny Scotch (from the back label)


I do love a good mystery, and this one has me stymied. The only things left to tell you are it is packaged at 40% ABV (80°), and, per the label, in 1895 and 1899, it won gold medals in some competitions that my old eyes can’t make out. I’m not sure those medals are something I’d brag about, but let’s get this #DrinkCurious thing done and hammer out a review.


Appearance: As a neat pour, this Scotch presented as brassy. I’m assuming there is e150A involved in enhancing its color. A bold rim formed on the wall, releasing fat, wavy tears that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  A sweet aroma escaped the neck of the glass, smelling of honey, apple, and nutmeg. Taking the air into my mouth, I experienced vanilla.


Palate:  A watery texture greeted my tongue. There was a blend of dried apricot and golden raisin on the front, with vanilla controlling the middle. The back tasted of honey and nutmeg.


Finish:  Cinnamon and toasted oak remained in my mouth, with something medicinal (not astringent) as the other two flavors faded.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cluny is an unremarkable whisky, which probably helps explain its longevity. It isn’t bad, but there’s also nothing memorable about it. I can’t say I’ve had a better $12.00 Scotch, but I also can’t say that, until now, I’ve ever had a $12.00 Scotch. I could see this being an attractive rail pour at a Bar, which is what I’ve rated it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Singleton Game of Thrones House Tully Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


If you’re into Scotch and you’re into Game of Thrones, then you’re probably aware of the Diageo and HBO collaboration to produce a line of whiskies to celebrate the show. And, if you’re not, well, there are eight single malts plus two blends from Johnnie Walker. They were released two years ago, but you can still find them every so often on store shelves.  There are, of course, folks who collect them to have the whole set.


One of the single malts came from Glendullan under its exclusive brand, The Singleton.  Glendullan is located in the Speyside region and was founded in 1897 by William Williams & Son. In 1972, a second distillery was built immediately adjacent, operations were moved shortly after that, and the original shuttered. The distillery has changed hands many times before finding itself under the Diageo umbrella. And, while you’ve likely not heard of Glendullan, it is the second-largest Scotch distillery in the colossal corporation! Similar to many big distilleries, Glendullan is a workhorse whose majority distillate is used for blends.


As stated earlier, The Singleton is the only brand, and all of the single malt releases are destined for North American markets. The whiskies are aged exclusively in former Bourbon barrels. Any single malts are aged on-premises, and any barrels used for blends are shipped elsewhere for aging. It is an interesting way to do things, but it works for Diageo.


The Singleton’s edition of the GOT collection is called House Tully. It carries no age statement; it is chill-filtered, contains e150a caramel coloring, and then bottled at 40% ABV (80°). It is pretty affordable at between $30.00 and $35.00. I picked mine up for just under $30.00 at a liquor store in Minnesota.


Did I do well with my purchase? The only way to find out is to crack the bottle and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, House Tully was a deep bronze, which is irrelevant due to the e150a caramel coloring. It formed a medium-to-heavy rim that lent to fat, watery legs.


Nose:  The aroma of malt was aggressive. Once I was able to get past that, I smelled banana, honey, apple, and nutmeg. As I drew the vapor into my mouth, it seemed grassy.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was relatively thin and never gained weight, remaining watery throughout the tasting experience. Grass, green apple, and apricot started things off, then moved to banana pudding and citrus (an unusual combination), with honey, caramel, and char on the back.  


Finish:  The duration was short and medium and consisted of charred oak, banana, and clove. There was no astringent quality.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  House Tully turns out to be an unremarkable whisky. Granted, it is only a $30.00 to $35.00 bottle, but I’ve also had some wonderful Scotches at that price. It isn’t bad; it is just forgettable. Is it proofed down too much? Probably. Did it need more time in oak? Again, probably.


I catch a lot of flak whenever I say this about a whisky, but this would be a good beginner’s single malt. There’s nothing in it that would be a turn-off. And, due to the price, the fear of buying something overpowering or rough makes it an easy choice.


Saying all of that, it is still somewhat boring, and I’m not a novice. I would not repurchase this one, but I don’t believe it deserves a Bust.  As such, my rating is a Bar. Try this one first, especially if you’re new to Scotch. It is a good starting point.  Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Monday, August 1, 2022

Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Some people are not fans of peated whiskies. I’ve been there myself. It took me years to wander into the land of smoke after I was introduced far too early to Lagavulin 16 as an entry point. But, once I was ready, I did things slowly – the right way – and fell in love with smoky peat.


I’m at the point where I see a peated whisky I’ve never tried, and it cuts to the front of the line of everything else I’ve queued. One such whisky is Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang single malt Scotch.


Tomintoul calls itself The Gentle Dram. It is a Speyside distillery founded in 1964 and is located on The Ballantruan Spring which runs through the Glenlivet Estate. The name comes from the highest village of the Scottish Highlands. Like most Speyside distilleries, Tomintoul is known for unpeated whisky. However, twice a year, it uses peated malt. It is owned by Angus Dundee.


“Pure ingredients and the natural environment add to smooth and mellow character of our award-winning Tomintoul Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky, “the gentle dram”.

Tomintoul “With A Peaty Tang” has been made with peated malt barley to give it a deep smoky flavour. This makes “Peaty Tang” very unusual, most distilleries in the Speyside region do not use peat.” – Tomintoul Distillery


With a Peaty Tang is a marriage of peated whisky that’s been aged between four and five years with unpeated whisky aged eight. Ex-Bourbon casks were used for both. This is a fairly new whisky for this young distillery – it was introduced in 2017.


Despite knowing the ages, it carries no age statement. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can expect to pay about $41.99 for a 750ml package. I found a 50ml taster for a couple of bucks.


How’s this one fare? The only way to find out, of course, is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s do this!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch looked the color of light gold. A thicker rim created slow, sticky droplets. I couldn’t really call them legs.


Nose:  I could smell the peat the second I cracked the bottle. I let this one sit for almost 20 minutes as campfire smoke filled the room. Once I determined it rested enough, I brought the glass to my face, which usually results in an ability to get through the peat (because at that point I’m used to it). Nope. Campfire smoke was still dominating. Eventually, my olfactory sense cut through it and found citrus, apple, honey, and caramel. I then inhaled through my lips and smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and airy and, despite the alcohol content, warming. The front featured heavy peat, brine, and malted barley. The middle became earthy and fruity with mushroom, pear, and vanilla. The back got super spicy with clove, black pepper and a big blast of burnt oak.


Finish:  Medium and dry, barrel char, clove, dry oak, and vanilla stayed for the encore. And then, without warning, a wave of astringent.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang was similar to a low-end Islay, except with less complexity. I can usually find something nice in those Islay whiskies, I struggled with this Speyside. I initially didn’t find the Band-Aid flavor until after my fourth sip, then couldn’t get it out of my mouth. Some astringent is fine. Bold astringent is not (but it does have its fans). There was nothing gentle about this dram. I am willing to try other things from Tomintoul. I would never drink its With a Peaty Tang again. This takes a Bust. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Sunday, July 31, 2022

McAfee's Benchmark Old No. 8 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Do you like Buffalo Trace?  How about George T. StaggEH Taylor?  If you're a fan of all of those, they're made from the Buffalo Trace #1 mash bill. Well, guess what? McAfee's Benchmark Old No. 8 is made from the lineage.

Benchmark's history is fascinating. It began with Seagram's in the 1960s as a luxury Bourbon brand. It was distilled and aged at Four Roses back when Seagram's owned it. Before Four Roses was sold off, Benchmark was acquired by Sazerac (the parent company of Buffalo Trace) in 1992. Sazerac also tacked on McAfee's to the branding to pay homage to the McAfee brothers.  

"Named after the McAfee brothers who surveyed a site just north of Frankfort in the late 1700s, this rye recipe bourbon is yet another label that honors the storied history of the Distillery and the land it sits on." - Sazerac

This is a dirt-cheap whiskey that carries a 3-year age statement. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and if you want a 750ml or even a 1L, you can expect to pay around $15.00 for it.

I picked up a shooter on one of my various liquor store runs for about $0.99. I couldn't even get a soda for that price, so I considered it a wise investment no matter the outcome. Plus, I'm always on the prowl for something that makes me #RespectTheBottomShelf. Let's see if that happens while I #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Benchmark was the color of golden straw. It formed a medium rim that gave way to fat, medium-weight droplets that fell back into the pool. 

Nose:  The nose was lovely with candied green apple, candy corn, and vanilla sugar wafers. Those were joined by a tad of tartness with lemon zest. As I pulled the air into my mouth, I discovered more candied green apples. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was extremely thin. The front featured corn and vanilla. The middle was almond and light caramel. Feint oak and bubblegum were on the back. 

Finish:  Short-to-medium in length, the finish consisted of corn, nuts, allspice, and bubblegum.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a tough one. There's nothing remotely offensive about Benchmark, but at the same time, there's nothing memorable, either. Was I to introduce someone to the world of Bourbon, and they feared burning or being too strong, this would be a perfect toe-dipping opportunity. 

I hear all the time from folks that something they're not a big fan of would be a "good mixer." I don't believe in good mixers. Oh, I know they exist, and sometimes you're stuck staving off buyer's remorse that way, but I don't recommend whiskey thinking of its mixing potential. Every whiskey I try is poured neat and perhaps a drop or two of water if I'm curious what that may do. They're all judged on that basis.

You could use Benchmark Old No. 8 as a mixer. It could also be a Bourbon to drink on a hot summer's day when you want something light. And, if that's your goal, this would be a Bottle rating. However, for me, this is far too muted. This isn't a Bust by any means, but unless you can find a 50ml sample bottle at the store, you'll want to try it at a Bar first.  That's my rating; cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.