Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Store Pick 101: The Private Barrel


One of my favorite aspects of being a whiskey reviewer isn’t writing reviews. Oh, believe me, I love writing reviews. I try to compose one at least weekly. But what I enjoy best is helping folks new to the Wonderful World of Whiskey learn everything they can. I think that’s because I had great people guiding me when I was new to the scene.

Many of you have heard the terms Private Barrel or Store Pick. While these words are commonly used amongst experienced whiskey drinkers, they may not mean much to those who are not. I’m about to tell you everything you’ll ever want to know about the Private Barrel or Store Pick...

You can read the rest of this article at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

George Dickel No. 8 Classic Recipe Tennessee Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


I've never reviewed Tennessee Whisky before, mostly because I rarely drink it. I have been in a very #DrinkCurious mindset; lately, an opportunity has presented itself, and, well, here we are.

There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not Tennessee Whisky meets the standards of Bourbon. I remember asking Jim Rutledge of Four Roses what his thoughts were; he gave me a definitive "No," but he also had a huge smile when he said it.

I can tell that Tennessee Whisky meets every standard required to be labeled as Bourbon.

Today I'm pouring George Dickel No. 8 Classic Recipe. It has been a few years since I tasted anything Dickel. And now, it is time for the review.

Appearance: The appearance is dark amber. Swirling it around in my Glencairn glass leaves thin, watery legs that quickly drop back into the pool of whisky.

Nose: The aroma is heavy citrus that then becomes reminiscent of Old English furniture polish. It is pleasant at first but then causes me to wrinkle my nose. Behind that is some faint oak. Breathing through my open mouth yields many levels of unpleasantness.

And, I will do something I have never done before in a review because I want to be fair. I've already let this rest several minutes, and I'm letting this sit another ten minutes before continuing.

That extra resting period was what was needed. That up-front citrus remained, and behind that, apple or pear. The oak is not coming through. Inhaling through my mouth brought more apple or pear.

Palate: The first run on my palate gives crisp apple, honey, and mild wood. There's not much else. A second sip brings more wood that becomes very dry, and that apple is muted with mint in its place. The mouthfeel is creamy and amazingly smooth.

Finish: The finish is all front and consists of spice and dry wood. It lingers for several minutes. Some may think there is a lot of burn in that finish, but in my opinion, that's just dry.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: At 80°, George Dickel No. 8 is easy to have in your mouth, it has a welcoming texture, but I'm not enjoying the flavor. As such, I can't recommend this, even with its attractive $20 price point. It 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.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Laphroaig Select, 10-Year Cask Strength, Lore, 15-Year, Quarter Cask


I’m breaking new ground. I’m into that lately. Last night I attended a whisky-tasting event, and I’m ready to review six whiskies in one consolidated read.

If you’ve picked up on how I spelled whisky, you’ll notice I left off the “e.” That’s purposeful because last night I was drinking Scotch. The Scots typically leave out two things: aging whisky in new barrels and an “e” when spelling whisky.

I was at The Malt House in Madison. The Malt House does a lot of these tastings throughout the year. They have usually priced these events very attractively, in this case, $26 gets you a flight of six whiskies from Laphroaig. Laphroaig is a distillery in the Islay region with a rich history going back to 1815. If you’re unfamiliar with Islay, whiskies that come from the region are typically peaty. If the term peat is foreign to you, that’s a plant material that’s burned to dry malted barley. Peat usually gives a whisky a smoky or ashy flavor. The more peat used, the smokier the flavor in the whisky.

Peat is usually something folks need to grow into to enjoy. For example, when people tell me they don’t like whisky, they usually cite the smokiness or ash flavor as being one of the two main reasons.


Laphroaig Select Review

A decent starting point for those new to peated Scotches would be Laphroaig Select. This 80° Scotch is blended from whiskies aged in a variety of casks, including sherry, American white oak, quarter and ex-Bourbon.

The appearance is a very pale yellow. Swirling it in my Glencairn glass left extremely thin legs that quickly dropped. The nose offered peat up front. I also picked up barley and chocolate, along with a certain sweetness. Inhaling through my mouth didn’t reveal what the sweetness might be.

The mouthfeel was light, and first taste a bit shocking. I expected peat and while there was some, it was very faint. A second taste presented mint, a slight spiciness and behind that, chocolate.

The finish hangs around a bit, giving the spiciness and that slight peat that warms the throat.

Overall, Laphroaig Select is a pleasant pour. A bottle was available for $60. Considering how pricey Scotches typically are compared to American whiskeys, this is one you may want to try at a Bar before buying a bottle on your own.


Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength Review

The next selection was Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength. Bottled at 111.4°, this one has a bit of a punch.

The appearance was a deep gold that produced thin legs in my glass when swirled. Despite being thin, the legs slowly dropped back into the liquid. The nose was very rich. I picked up caramel, wood, an astringent quality, iodine, and peat. The peat was not the dominant aroma but it did work its way through much of the others. When I inhaled through my mouth, I also picked up a grassy taste.

The mouthfeel was very creamy. My first taste was distracted by all that creaminess. The second pass gave way to thick caramel, pepper, chocolate and a sugary sweetness in the back. That’s not something that I find in a lot of Scotches.

The finish is long and warm, full of mint, wood, and a sweet smokiness. There was, behind all of that, something metallic that took away from my total appreciation of this Scotch. I still enjoyed it, but at $70 a bottle, it leaves something for consideration. As a big fan of cask-strength whiskies, I’m not completely convinced. It takes a Bar rating.


Laphroaig Lore Review

Laphroaig Lore is made up of whiskies aged in quarter casks, sherry casks and ex-peated casks. Bottled at 96°, it is presented as the richest offering and said to come from the distillery’s “most precious stock.” It comes bearing no age statement.

The appearance is a dark gold with very thick legs. Those legs take their time making it back down into the pool of whisky. The nose is saline, smoky, ashy and when inhaling through my mouth, I picked up leather.

The mouthfeel was on the oily side. But, the palate presented creamy vanilla, spice, and peat. Behind that was a certain sweetness along with a slightly salty quality. Think salted caramel.

The finish was most interesting. While concentrating on the salted caramel, there was a spice beginning to build, which then remained on the upper palate.

Lore comes with a $120 price tag. It certainly is complex and worth exploring. For the price, I’m going to suggest finding a good whisky Bar and sample for yourself.


Laphroaig 15 Review

Laphroaig 15 is an amazingly different choice. It reminded me a lot of a good Bunnahabhain. The peat on this is muted and at 86°, it allows you to explore other flavors.

The appearance of this whisky is bright gold. Swirling it in the glass left very light legs. You don’t even notice them dropping back into the pool. The nose has a saline quality, there’s no real peated flavor behind it. Also picked up was honey and vanilla. I picked up citrus when inhaling through my mouth.

The mouthfeel was soft and gentle. The first pass on the palate brought smoke, citrus zest, and a malty chocolate. Behind that was honey, a fruitiness that was difficult to identify (but not the citrus presented on the nose).

The finish was very mild, a mix of smoke, salt, and caramel. It faded quickly but encouraged me to take another sip.

At $85 a Bottle, I’d be very interested in adding this to my library.


Laphroaig Quarter Cask Review

Next up is the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I’ve heard a lot about the Quarter Cask, but never had an opportunity to try it until this event. Bottled at 96°, this peated Scotch shocked me.

The appearance is more golden than any of the other previous selections. Swirling it in the Glencairn left very thick and short legs that never really seemed to descend back into the whisky. The nose was heavy on wood. Then, almost shoving that wood out of the way came a mixture of citrus and berries. Peat was also present which built up smoke each time I swirled the whisky around. Inhaling through my mouth brought more berry sweetness.

The mouthfeel was thin, but that’s nothing like the palate or finish. Sweetness takes over nearly everything on the palate. There’s a light amount of peat, the berry really pounds through and wants to take front stage. Behind that, the malt offers a cereal and nutty quality.

The finish doesn’t disappoint, either. There is a light smokiness that just hangs around, followed by a bit of a building spice. That sweetness doesn’t let go.

At $60 for the Bottle, this becomes a very exciting pour.


Laphroaig Triple Wood Review

Laphroaig Triple Wood was my favorite pour of the night. What is surprising about my saying that is that I tasted Triple Wood several years ago at Whisky Extravaganza in Miami… and I hated it. Thankfully, I try to keep an open mind and am usually willing to revisit things I don’t initially care for. The Triple Wood is bottled at 96°.

The appearance is a lovely darker amber, which reminds me of so many Bourbons. Swirling it around left thin legs that quickly worked their way back down the glass. The nose offered very heavy wood, light peat, vanilla and saline. I also picked up chocolate when I inhaled through my mouth.

The mouthfeel was beyond creamy. A first pass over the palate made it difficult to identify tastes beyond the cream. The second pass brings bright fruit and then what can only be described as rolling vanilla. It just rolls over the palate in waves with light smoke. I was shocked that, despite making a presence, the wood did not overtake the rest of the flavors.

The finish was incredibly mild. The cream just keeps coming and that light smoky woodiness hangs around.

At $70 for a bottle, this is almost a bargain. I would buy this with absolutely no regrets. It takes my Bottle rating.

Final Thoughts:  In the end, I had a lot of fun at The Malt House’s Laphroaig sampling. I was able to enjoy tasting these Scotches with many other fans. It was great to see Bill Rogers, the owner of The Malt House, and Fred, who is usually the one pouring for everyone again. It was a nice surprise to have Adam Clark of Beam-Suntory and Patrick Quinlan from Frank Liquor represent their brand in style.

I’ve had my eyes opened to Laphroaig. I’m paying attention. Cheers!