Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Sometimes, as a whiskey reviewer, I run into some outstanding whiskeys.   Then, there are the ones that are okay. Occasionally, something bad that earns a Bust rating.  Then, there are things that are so bad they become more of a Public Service Announcement rather than a review.

My review of Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky can be found at Bourbon & Banter.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Starward Nova Australian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

About a month ago, I had an opportunity to review Starward Distillery's Two-Fold Double-Grain Whisky.  Starward is an Australian distillery located in Melbourne and is part of the Diageo portfolio. When Starward was established in 2007, founder David Vitale suggested this is "what whisky can be" and set out with a vision to create a unique Australian whisky to offer the world with pride. 

Starward's Nova is a single-malt whisky that has been aged two years in Australian red wine barrels. Those Shiraz, Pinot and Cabernet barrels were not charred and were used exactly how they came from the winery. Nova is non-chill filtered, not artificially colored, is bottled at 41% ABV and can be found at about $54.99. That's affordable for a single malt anything in today's market.

I'd like to thank Starward for providing me with a sample of Nova for a no-holds-barred, honest review of their whisky. And now, let's get on with it, shall we?

In my Glencairn glass, Nova appears as a reddish copper.  It left a thin rim that generated medium-thick legs that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Aromas of honey and malt were upfront, leading to an enticing start. Behind those was nuts and beneath that a fruitiness that is undoubtedly attributed to the wine casks. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a chocolate-sherry blend that I found quite interesting.

Nova's mouthfeel was thin yet creamy. On the front of my palate, it was all heavy, thick honey. Then, at mid-palate, the honey changed to red wine, and then, at the back, it was a combination of raspberry and sherry.

The finish was a short hint of black pepper, an astringent quality, and long-lasting honey. The astringent honey hung on and was very sweet.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I routinely suggest when sipping whisk(e)y that you never judge something on the first sip. You have to give your palate a chance to get over the "shock" of whatever is initially presented. Nova starts off very bland and muted but does get more flavorful as you continue to sip it. To me, Nova was akin to drinking sherry, but at the same time, it is not what I would describe as a "sherry bomb" that many Scotch fans would recognize. 

The best thing about Nova was the nosing experience. The problem is the tasting itself never became enjoyable. I returned to this one again, particularly since I enjoyed Two-Fold so much, hoping for a different result but ended at the same place. Nova winds up in the unfortunate position of a Bust on my scale. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Lux Row Double Barrel Aged Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

The world is full of expensive whiskeys and, for the most part, I'm a pretty price-conscious shopper. Whiskey appreciation can very easily become a rich man's (or woman's) game and that does not describe me very well. So, when a $150 new Bourbon comes on the scene, my gut reaction is to question its value. There is always the #DrinkCurious factor with no matter what I'm trying and Is it worth it? is always part of the equation.

Enter Lux Row Distillers Limited Edition Double Barrel Bourbon into the mix. This is a 12-year Kentucky-only whiskey that weighs in at a purposeful 118.4°.  Obviously, this isn't Lux Row's own distillate, they've not been distilling that long. Based upon prior Lux Row/Luxco releases, chances are this comes out of Heaven Hill.

The kneejerk question becomes, isn't this just some version of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and, if so, why would I pay nearly twice the price for it?  Excellent question. Let's examine this further.

I'm a bit of an Elijah Craig junkie. Of everything in my whiskey library, there are more editions of Elijah Craig than anything else. It may be Heaven Hill's distillate, but this is certainly not Elijah Craig. This was, however, aged in two different barrels for a dozen years before being married. This is also not barrel proof. According to Head Distiller and Master Blender John Rempe, "Even the proof, 118.4°, commemorates the distillery's grand opening of April 2018." It was distilled from a mash of corn, rye, and barley and yielded about 6,000 bottles. 

I'd like to thank Lux Row Distillers for providing me a sample bottle in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. And, that being said, let's get on with it.

When I first unpacked it, there was an Oooh, Ahhh moment. Even Mrs. Whiskeyfellow said, "Look at that color!" In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented itself as a deep, dark, reddish amber.   It left a thin rim and thick, wavy legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of vanilla and caramel thwapped my nostrils, which was quickly followed by cherry and cinnamon. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a thick bouquet of dried fruit.

The mouthfeel was very light and the front offered vanilla with a hint of orange peel on the palate. Mid-palate, it was a blend of toasted oak and mace. On the back was a serious rye spice that morphed to clove. It culminated in a long, spicy, black pepper finish. I had expected the clove to keep going but it was subdued by the pepper.

Just for kicks, I added two drops of distilled water to the glass. The nose transformed into a massive caramel bomb mixed with heavy stone fruit. The mouthfeel, as expected, became creamier. Caramel and pumpkin pie coated my tongue before cherry and light rye usurped it.  The finish was much shorter, and it was heavy on pumpkin pie. That's how much the mace was affected. It became a liquid dessert.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I'm back to the $150 price tag on this. I found this Bourbon to be very well balanced when sipped neat, and there was a bit of a Wow! factor with adding the two drops of water. They became very different whiskeys, and I enjoyed both immensely, leaning slightly to the neat version, but I would have gladly sipped it either way with a smile. It takes a lot for me to give a Bottle rating to such a pricey whiskey, but dagnabit, Lux Row knocked this one out of the park.  Cheers!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Alacrán Tequila Blanco Review and Tasting Notes

Wait a sec... why is Whiskeyfellow writing a review on Tequila?  I've done it before, and it was fairly worthless because I readily admit I don't like it and I can't pick up anything but, well, tequila.

But (and this is a big one), my wife, Michelle, the woman I refer to as Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, happens to be a tequila sommelier, and while I did the wordsmithing, she is the true author of this review of Alacrán Tequila Blanco.

And the cool thing is, the review is up on Bourbon & Banter!


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Knob Creek 120 "Cellars WS" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I'm always honored to have a store ask me to review one of their private barrels. I do realize that I've been reviewing quite a few of these picks as of late and that's just how the rotation comes up.

Today, I've got a sample of Knob Creek 120 Bourbon from Cellars Wine & Spirits in Neenah, Wisconsin. This one was aged nine years before being barreled. If you're unfamiliar with Knob Creek, this is a Beam Suntory product and the number refers to the proof. Knob Creek is one of those brands that enjoys an almost cult-like following. And, if you are familiar with Knob Creek, it is in the process of going through a price increase. Cellars sells this Bourbon for $39.99 and this may be one of the last ones you see at about this price point. 

I'd like to thank Cellars for providing me with a sample of their pick in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.

In my Glencairn glass, this presented as a fairly typical Knob Creek 120. It was a bright amber and left a thin rim on the glass that created thick, fat legs.

Aromas of candied oranges and butterscotch made for a very interesting nose. There was nothing else that I could pick up, and for Knob Creek to have only two notes on the nose is a curiosity, especially when there is no oak, which is also a typical note. When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up what reminded me only of a creamsicle - all orange and vanilla. 

This Cellar's pick had a mouthfeel that was thin, oily and coating. At the front of my palate, it was simply heavy orange cream, again, just like a creamsicle. Mid-palate, it switched to cereal and vanilla. On the back, it was a punch of clove. 

A very long and spicy finish from the clove remained, and the orange cream snuck back for yet another round. When the orange cream finally faded, it left behind a pleasant rye spice.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I've tasted many, many picks of Knob Creek 120 and truth be told, to stumble on one that doesn't perform well is like finding a needle in a haystack. This particular barrel may be the most unusual one I've ever tasted. I pick up fruits and vanilla from Knob Creek all the time, the fruit and the level of vanilla differ. But I can't say that I've had one where the orange flavor was this dominating. Plus, for $39.99, I don't see where you can go wrong. This one deserves my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers! 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Russell's Reserve "WI Whiskey Sipper" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I hate to admit this because it gives an aura of bias, but I've not been the biggest cheerleader for Wild Turkey. I have a ton of respect for Eddie and Jimmy Russell, but I've never felt the need to chase down various releases. When approached with an opportunity to do a Russell's Reserve barrel pick for The Speakeasy_WI and Monumental Enterprises, I was determined to keep an open mind. It had been a while since I had my last Wild Turkey pour and, after all, there's the whole #DrinkCurious thing to deal with. Lord knows I've come back to previously overlooked whiskeys and found out I really did like them after all.

When we selected our tasting panel, we invited Jon Watson, a Speakeasy member who is one of the biggest fans of Wild Turkey who I've run across, to be the Special Guest Picker. This was a big asset because he seemed to know everything inside and out about Wild Turkey.

Jon explained to us that Camp Nelson is where the premiere barrels are aged. This Bourbon was distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley on December 22, 2009, and rested in #4 charred barrels until July 2nd, 2019. We selected Barrel 0125 from Warehouse A on the 4th Floor. It is non-chill filtered and because it is Russell's Reserve, it is bottled at 110°.  We named this pick WI Whiskey Sipper because that's the name of Jon's Instagram account. WI Whiskey Sipper is available exclusively at McFarland Liquors and retails for $52.99.

In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as a bright amber with a thicker rim that gave way to fat slow legs.  Aromas of caramel and berry fruit were thick on the nose, and underneath those were oak and a light mintiness.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was a strong vanilla with a bit of orange peel that rolled across my palate.

The mouthfeel was very thin. At the front, it was an obvious vanilla and caramel. Once I got past those flavors, it offered a pleasant orange mid-palate. On the back, it was a combination of dry oak and mint. All of this completed in a medium-length finish of pepper and rye spice. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  When I'm involved in barrel picks, I'm always prepared to reject all the samples and go home empty-handed.  I'm very selective of any whiskey that I am attaching my reputation on. I went into this pick not appreciating Wild Turkey and I came out with newfound respect. As such, the obvious ranking is a Bottle.

There are a few things that I'd like to say before I close. First and foremost, we've been blessed that Speakeasy picks have become very popular, and the last several have sold out in just a few days. 

Secondly, I've pushed out this review after being informed that, in only 24 hours, half the 144 bottles have already been sold. This means there is no time to dilly-dally. 

Finally, I've subsequently been involved with other Russell's Reserve picks and am heading to Kentucky to do another in a few weeks. Apparently, it tuns out I'm a fan.  Cheers!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Border Bourbon Cask Strength and 92-Proof Niemuth's Pick Review & Tasting Notes

Being the first with something can be really exciting, especially if things turn out well. Then again, it can be very disappointing if things don't quite turn out as expected. Think of it like virginity. For some, losing it was exciting, for others, not so much. 

Now, I know what you're asking yourself... Why on earth would he bring up losing your virginity in a whiskey review? I swear I do have a purpose. 

Border Bourbon has been around for several years. If you're not familiar with it, it is distilled in New Richmond, Wisconsin by 45th Parallel Distillery. They aren't new to the game, they've been distilling since 2007, both for themselves and as contract distillers. What they've not done is have anyone do a barrel proof store pick before... until now.  Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, WI took the risk and named their pick Like a Virgin, which is Barrel 141.

Like A Virgin actually comes in two versions:  The barrel-proof and a 92° from the same barrel.  The former is bottled at 120° and retails for $49.99, while the latter retails for $39.99.  It carries no age statement (I could make a crass joke but will pass), it is pot-stilled from a mash of corn, rye, wheat, and barley.  45th Parallel uses grains sourced from eight miles from its distillery, and ages in medium-char, Ozark white oak barrels. 

I am reviewing both versions, and want to thank Niemuth's for providing me samples in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review of each.


In my Glencairn, Like a Virgin presented as a deep, dark amber. It left a medium rim on the glass that created fat droplets. And, despite how heavy those droplets appeared, they took over 60 seconds to even start working their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of sweet corn, cinnamon, and vanilla permeated the air. As I continued nosing, I picked up caramel and then, behind that, what I can only classify as raisin bread. That's a new descriptor for me.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all thick, rich caramel.

As I sipped Like a Virgin, the first thought that hit me was, This is 120°? Really? It was very light and airy in my mouth. That was the mouthfeel. The palate? That was a completely different story.

On the front, vanilla abounded. That yielded to a blend of light rye spice and black cherries mid-palate. But, then, on the back, BOOM!  White pepper and coffee hit hard. 

The finish, or in this case, the climax (I tried not to have any more jokes, but hey, sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns) was the very long, with oak and white pepper. It seemed to go on forever, wave after wave.

Standard Proof 

Despite a significant dilution of 28°, the color of Like a Virgin didn't change much. It was a few shades lighter, but I would still describe it as dark and deep. The rim on my glass was much thinner that left very small legs, but they dropped quickly into the pool.

The aromas of sweet corn and vanilla remained, although more muted. While there was no cinnamon, an addition of toasted oak arrived just before the dried fruit. When I inhaled through my lips, it was pure vanilla.

As I sipped Like a Virgin, it had a heavier, creamy mouthfeel. That can be fairly common with dilution. The vanilla bomb from the barrel-proof version remained. Mid-palate kept the light rye spice, but instead of black cherry, it was dry oak. And then, almost out of nowhere, black cherry and walnut dominated the back.

This climax from Like a Virgin was long with black pepper and oak. The length wasn't nearly as long as the barrel-proof version, but it was enough to make you remember it afterward.

Bottle, Bar or Bust

Here's where you get to ask, So, was it good for you?  I find whiskeys that offer me something unusual attractive. In the case of Like a Virgin, that raisin bread was definitely unique. The airiness of the mouthfeel with the barrel-proof version was certainly an attention-getter.  I really enjoyed the barrel-proof version. I enjoyed it a lot. And, for $49.99, that's very affordable. It definitely takes the coveted Bottle rating.

With regard to the 92°, I enjoyed it, but I have to admit I didn't enjoy it as much as the former. I do realize comparing the two might seem unfair, but remember, these are literally the same Bourbon from the same barrel, just at different proofs. While I did enjoy the creamy mouthfeel, I much preferred the nose, palate, and finish of the barrel-proof version. $39.99 is certainly affordable and this is rated as a Bar with the understanding that you can't get it at a bar. You can always ask the folks at Niemuth's if they have a taster available (no promises on that).