Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Peerless Kentucky Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I’ve been watching Peerless Distillery for the last few years, mostly following them on social media. When they released their 24-month Rye, I was excited. And, earlier this year, I was able to taste Kentucky Peerless. I’m generally a fan of younger Ryes and found Kentucky Peerless to be very similar in taste to Willett’s Two-Year Rye, which I enjoyed.

Kentucky Peerless 3-Year will soon hit store shelves. I want to thank Peerless Distillery for providing me a sample for a no-strings-attached review.

As you may know, running a distillery is very expensive and starting a new one requires a lot of start-up capital and sunk costs. Many brands source whiskeys to generate income while waiting for their distillate to mature. There’s nothing wrong with that business plan, so long as the brand is being transparent. Other brands wait it out, not wanting to risk a possibly radical change during the transition from sourced to non-sourced distillate. Peerless opted for the latter.

Peerless has also jumped on the non-chill filtered bandwagon. They also do something a bit less common: they distill using a sweet mash versus a sour mash. If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, sour mash means the distillery saves a portion of the mash from an older batch and uses it to start the fermentation process of a new batch. Sweet mash, on the other hand, means that each batch starts with freshly developed yeast.

Peerless also uses a lower barrel entry proof of 107, with the theory that adding water prior to aging means the water becomes an ingredient instead of adding water after dumping the barrel when proofing it down dilutes the flavor.

Peerless is priced in the super-premium category. That makes the big question, “Is this worth it?” Time to #DrinkCurious to get the answer.

In the glass, this barrel proof Rye is a deep amber. It left a thin rim on the walls of my Glencairn that to a fat, wavy curtain to drop back to the pool.

One of the notable differences between the 24-month and the 3-year is a lack of ethanol punch from the 3-year. An aroma of caramel was initially picked up when my glass was at chin level. Underneath that was a familiar floral rye. Raising the glass to my lips added cinnamon. When lifted to just under my nostrils, semi-sweet fruit, and when I inhaled through my mouth, vanillas and cinnamon rolled over my palate.

The mouthfeel was lighter than I expected. I recalled a young Rye sharpness from the 24-month, and it is amazing how another 12 months in the barrel changed a whiskey. Picking up flavors was easy, and the palate was a complex rollercoaster of dark chocolate, clove, stone fruit, oak, and, finally, back to dark chocolate. It was, however, difficult to determine what hit the front, middle, and back of the palate.

At 109.1°, it definitely tingles the hard palate but there is only a muted burn. The finish was a tandem of dark chocolate and oak that gently warmed the throat.

Bar, Bottle or Bust: I was okay with the 24-month, but believed it was overpriced for what it was, especially since I could pick up a similarly-tasting Willett for a third of the price. Assuming a similar price-point as the 24-month, I’d normally be uncomfortable with paying that amount for a three-year. However, this is downright delicious and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. Peerless Distillery did well here, and I’m already curious what the four-year will bring. If you’re unsettled about paying $110 or so for a three-year Rye, try it at a bar. But, I think you’d come to a similar conclusion when I rate this as a Bottle.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Highland Park Valknut SIngle Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

If you’ve never heard of the Scottish city of Kirkwall, that’s okay. There’s not a whole lot that earns attention. Kirkwall is located near the Arctic Circle, at about the same latitude as Anchorage, and is one of several that make up the Orkney Islands. What Kirkwall does have is a remote distillery called Highland Park.

Recently I was provided with a sample of Valknut, the second in Highland Park’s Viking Legend series. I’d like to thank Highland Park for providing me it with no strings attached for my unbiased review.

According to Highland Park, Valknut means “knot of those slain in battle” and represents the story of Odin, the Norse god, guiding souls from the land of living to the underworld and back again.

Highland Park suggests they are located outside Scotland’s five whiskey regions, however, legally they are in the Highland region. Valknut is a peated Highland Scotch. As such, I expect some smokiness associated with the flavor along with a certain amount of fruitiness. For the most part, I enjoy whiskies from this vast, diverse region. Highland Park uses sherry-seasoned oak casks to age Valknut. I assume this is the same as using a sherry cask. Regardless, the big question is, is this Highland Park release worth the suggested $76 investment? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out...

For those unfamiliar with Scotch, it is perfectly legal to add caramel coloring to the finished product to garner a more appealing appearance. Because Scotch is typically aged in used barrels, it often lacks the deep colors we see in Bourbon and American Rye. Highland Park makes a point that Valknut does not contain artificial coloring or additives. The appearance was a rich gold and created a medium-thick rim that led to fat droplets to fall back into the pool.

At chin level, I picked up aromas of vanilla and very slight smoke. When the glass was raised to lip level, pear and oak became evident. Held just under my nostrils, the smoke was more prevalent, effectively muting the pear and vanilla. When I inhaled through my lips, black pepper and vanilla danced on my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thin but creamy. The whisky was initially sweet with raisins which lasted through the mid- and back-palate. Other flavors mingled with the raisins as it traveled across the tongue. Up front was honey and oak, which led to pepper and smoke, and finally morphed to clove and other warm spices.

I found the finish very creamy and long-lasting. The peatiness died out quickly, while the sweetness carried through.

At 46.8% ABV (93.6°), this is almost perfectly proofed. However, I’ve also had several nice experiences adding a few drops of water to peated Scotches. Using an eyedropper, two drops were sufficient to provide noticeable, unexpected changes. I had anticipated a thicker mouthfeel with stronger vanillas. Instead, that small amount of water made the clove explode without changing the mouthfeel but completely wiped out the sweetness. Proofing it down definitely diminished the quality.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If this was proofed down to 40% or 42% ABV, I’d rate this as a Bust. As I stated, 46.8% seems almost perfect and makes a world of difference. I truly enjoyed it neat and, in the world of Scotch, $76 is a moderate price, and I would be happy to have a bottle in my whiskey library. As such, it earns the Bottle rating. Cheers!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Yellowstone 2018 Limited Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Last year, I reviewed Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition Bourbon. I came to the conclusion that it was enjoyable, but didn’t believe it was worth buying at $99.99. Recently, Limestone Branch Distillery sent me the 2018 version, and I’m grateful they were agreeable to send this with, as always, no strings attached.

Yellowstone 2018 is billed as their “third and final” barrel finishing experiment. It is a blend of Bourbons ranging from between four and twelve years and then finished in #3 char wine casks. Some of the Bourbon does include Limestone’s own distillate. The wine casks are the same as the ones used in the 2016 and 2017 Limited Editions, this time with a much deeper char.

There are approximately 12,000 101° bottles available for release, and the suggested retail is the same as last year: $99.99. The big question in my mind is, is this year’s release worth the price? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out...

In the glass, this liquid sunshine was a deep, dark, almost reddish amber. It produced an ultra-thin rim but created fat, thick legs that dropped back down to the pool. The rim itself remained on the wall of the Glencairn long afterward.

At chin level, the only aroma I picked up was thick, rich caramel. When I raised the glass to lip level, the caramel gave way to cinnamon and vanilla. Just under my nostrils, there was a hint of fruitiness, possibly from the wine, and the caramel returned. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was all crème brulée. Overall, the nose could best be described as “luxurious.”

The mouthfeel was thicker than I expected and coated everywhere. There was also a lot going on with the palate. At the front, there was a much lighter caramel than the nose suggested. The wine cask immediately became a big deal. Without knowing what varietal of wine was used, I’d hazard a guess at either Cabernet or Bordeaux. At mid-palate, the caramel was more obvious, and was joined by brown sugar and barrel char. Finally, vanilla started to shine through.

At 101°, I expected a hotter finish. That reminded me don't assume. Instead, the finish was creamy caramel and vanilla and never even hinted at a burn. I even tried forcing it by having it hit the back of my palate first, and while I got some smoky char, it didn’t warm my throat.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I very much enjoyed this year’s release, it completely eclipsed last year’s, and the comparison isn’t even close. But, we’re back at the question of, “Is this worth $100?” Bourbon inflation is up this year. If I were to blind taste this, I’d guess somewhere in the $70-$80 range. I’m much closer to the $100 price tag than I was for 2017. For those of you skittish at dropping $100 for Bourbon, try it at a bar. I believe you’ll be convinced to grab a Bottle. I don’t believe you’d suffer from buyer’s remorse. Cheers!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Black Feather American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

I'm always excited to #DrinkCurious. When I was first approached to review Black Feather, it was something I'd not ever heard of, so I jumped at the chance.

Black Feather is a younger, MGP-sourced Bourbon. It comes in a very nice presentation, using a heavy bottle with “Black Feather” embossed in the glass, a thick, paper label, and a wax top. My bottle is from Batch 1...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Old Ezra 7-Year Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Every so often, something in the whiskey world hits the market and generates excitement. I’m not talking about BTAC or Pappy Van Winkle. I’m talking about things you and I and everyone else can find and actually afford.

Luxco has just released Old Ezra Barrel Strength Bourbon. It is slated to hit shelves nationwide very soon and has a suggested retail of $39.99. Considering this is a barrel proof, seven year old Bourbon, Luxco definitely piqued my curiosity. Of course, age is just a number, there are bad barrels out there, and an attractive price won’t ever make up for a poor product.

How does Old Ezra Barrel Strength fare? Before I spill the details, I’d like to thank Luxco for providing me a sample with no strings attached.

In my Glencairn, the appearance was a very appealing, clear copper color. It left a thin rim on the wall of the glass which produced thin droplets that never became legs. They simply hung on the rim.

When I lifted the rim to my chin and inhaled, sawdust and caramel permeated my nostrils. I raised it higher to my lips and the caramel became more bold, and I also picked up cinnamon. Letting it hover under my nose changed up the cinnamon to almost Red Hots candy. When I breathed the vapors through my mouth, cinnamon and vanilla flavors raced over my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thin but coating. For 117°, it packed far less of a punch than I anticipated, especially after the nosing.

Cinnamon and oak were definitely up front on the palate, but it toned down quickly with flavors of caramel and a creamy vanilla. On the back, a blend of clove and thick caramel led to a lasting finish that allowed the clove to continue and warm the throat. There was also a very slight stone fruit that came several minutes after the swallow.

Although it wasn’t necessary, I added water to see what would happen. I always use an eyedropper to add exact amounts (two drops). Caramel exploded on the nose, and when inhaled through my mouth, it was all vanilla. The mouthfeel became creamy, and prevalent pepper on the palate soon transformed to strong cinnamon on the tip of my tongue. The finish was still warming but that fruit never appeared. Interestingly enough, the clove didn’t manifest but pepper with water was stronger than the clove was on the finish when neat.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Overall, I found Ezra Brooks Barrel Strength Bourbon enjoyable. I would have preferred that hidden fruit to be less so, but I have to take the whiskey at face value. I also found the proof to be surprising considering the mouthfeel. There just wasn’t much in terms of “burn” that you’d expect. For $39.99, I would happily add this to my whiskey library and as such, will rate this as a Bottle.