Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!


Have a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!  Please take a moment to reflect on your blessings. I promise you no matter how difficult that may be, there is always something to be thankful for.


Cheers!   

Monday, November 25, 2019

2019 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Before I get started, I know what you're thinking after looking at this review's photo:  Hey, Whiskeyfellow, that's an empty bottle! And, you'd be absolutely correct. What you see there is a media sample of the 2019 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch bottle that was passed around to a handful of other reviewers and I got the last pour.



If you've never heard of the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch before (many folks simply refer to it as SmBLE), it is an annual release from, you guessed it, Four Roses. It is also one of the most coveted American whiskey releases, along with the Van Winkle and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) lines, that people chase down as soon as they're available.




Four Roses distills ten different recipes of their Bourbon. They are always coded as O__S__.  The O and S never change.  The blanks do. The first blank is always either a B or an E. The B refers to their high-rye (35%) mashbill and the E refers to the low (20%) mashbill. 




The second blank refers to their proprietary yeast strains, which are F, K, O, Q, and V.  F is supposed to have herbal notes, K will have slight spice, O will have rich fruit, Q will have a floral essence, and V will have delicate fruit.  If all that sounds confusing, it is, and the reason I say that is I've tasted these recipes and sometimes the guide and what you're actually tasting don't match!  But, like anything else, these are a guide.




The 2019 SmBLE is a barrel proof combination of an 11-year OESV, a 15-year OESV, a 15-year OESK, and a 21-year OBSV.  On an interesting side note, this is the first time Four Roses has included a 21-year Bourbon in the blend. It winds up hitting the bottle at 112.6° and the suggested retail price is $140.00, but in all honesty, that number is meaningless because the chances of you finding it at retail for retail are exceedingly slim (sorry, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger).  The secondary market (call it black or gray) probably has this one closer to $500.00.




I've also been blessed with the fact that I've at least sampled (if not owned) every release since 2012. I mention that because it is important for you to know because I can relate to this year's bang for the buck compared to previous releases.




And, with that being said, let's get on with the tasting notes...




In my Glencairn glass, the 2019 SmBLE presents as a deep, caramel color.  It left a very thin rim and legs which raced back to the pool of Bourbon. 




I was taken back by how mellow the nose was - there was no wallop of alcohol fumes. Of course, that might have been due to my getting the last of the sample bottle.  But, it made for picking up aromas rather easy.  First up was sweet orchard fruits of peach and apricot.  Then came the oak, followed by vanilla and baking spices. When I inhaled through my lips, it was thick vanilla.




The mouthfeel was thick and creamy and I had no problems coating my entire palate. At the front, I enjoyed salted caramel and what I would swear to be whipped cream. Mid-palate, it morphed to candied fruits and honey. At the back, a surprisingly mild oak considering how old the component Bourbons are. 




A medium finish greeted me with clove, white pepper, and cinnamon which, when it fell off, yielded sweet fruit and oak. 




Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I really, really enjoyed the 2019 SmBLE and wish I could score my own bottle. Would I pay retail given the opportunity?  In a heartbeat.  This was a fantastic pour and absolutely worthy of the Four Roses annual release. There were a ton of good things going on from the nosing to the finish.




As far as secondary market pricing, that one is up to you.  I'm not a fan of it and don't participate. The risk of getting a counterfeit bottle is too high for me and so is the risk of getting stiffed if you're in a faceless transaction. Moreover, it isn't legal and if you wind up in either of these situations, you can't exactly call law enforcement to assist. Cheers!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Wollersheim Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


In Wisconsin, post-Prohibition Bottled-in-Bond is a very new thing. Unlike the law itself, dating back to 1897, my home state is a little late to the game. My favorite category is Bottled-in-Bond, so this naturally brings a smile to my face and piqued my interest.


On November 16th, Wollersheim Distillery released the second Bottled-in-Bond whiskey in the state since Prohibition. I was there, in line, in the cold, waiting for a chance to buy a bottle. I had tasted this several weeks before the release, but it was straight from the barrel and not proofed down. I enjoyed the straight-from-the-barrel taste I had and was excited about what might wind up in the bottle.


A small, but necessary segway if I may.  There are older Bourbons and there are younger Bourbons.  The same thing goes with American Rye.  Younger Bourbons and Ryes tend to have a much different profile than older siblings. As such, I consider each a unique category and don't compare younger to older unless there is a valid reason to do so.


Wollersheim's Bottled-in-Bond is their first-ever Bourbon release. It is aged four years and, as Bottled-in-Bond legalities require, it is bottled at 100°. I would consider it a younger Bourbon. Wollersheim used five different barrels in the initial blend. The mash is 75% white corn, 15% malted barley, and 10% rye, with the corn and rye grown about a mile from the distillery.  The barley is from Wisconsin, and the barrel staves are Wisconsin-grown and seasoned on site. Retail ranges between $50.00 and $65.00.


Wollersheim even mimicked a Wisconsin tax stamp to show the age of the Bourbon.




Packaging is nifty but can at times be deceiving. We all know there are some gorgeous bottles out there that are worth more than the whiskey inside. Does Wollersheim's first Bourbon fall into that category? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious, so here we go.


In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presents as an orange amber. It left a very thin rim on my glass that created no legs whatsoever. It was just a curtain of whiskey that dropped back down into the pool of liquid sunshine. Sometimes that happens with glasses that have an interior hydrophobic coating. I used a glass that I have used many times and am positive does not, so that was a bit of a shocker.


Despite the low rye content, my initial nosing was on the spicy side. First, it was oak. Behind that came cinnamon. Subsequent sniffs unveiled caramel and sweet corn. When I inhaled through my lips, it was corn, but more like standing in a cornfield rather than simply shucked corn. There was something earthy about it.


An oily, coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. At the front, it was corn and dark chocolate. Mid-palate, it became caramel and cocoa. On the back, it was a mixture of tobacco leaf, coffee, and vanilla. Moreover, the mouthfeel went from oily to creamy.


The finish was downright strange. It started off as oak. Then, it slid into caramel. From there, it altered to coffee.  But, these weren't individual change-ups. Rather, the finish notes would melt from one to the other. And, while all that diffusing occurred, my hard palate was sizzling with black pepper.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Mid-point on craft whiskeys is about $50.00. A few bucks either direction doesn't shock me anymore.  If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you know that I'm a fan of the strange and unusual so long as it is pleasant. Well, Wollersheim fits that. This is absolutely a younger Bourbon that has a lot of interesting things going for it. While I did enjoy this more at barrel proof, I'm happy with my purchase and believe you'll find this worth adding to your whiskey library.  


The second bottling of this Bourbon will be in June of 2020 if you are unable to find the initial release. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Blood Oath Pact 5 Review & Tasting Notes

I've really enjoyed what Lux Row Distillers has produced lately. Their distillery-only Double Barrel Bourbon is one of the top whiskeys I've tried this year. Their sister distillery, Limestone Branch, has also done a great job overall.  While both sisters are working distilleries, most of what's out there is still sourced. 


Last year, on Bourbon & Banter, I reviewed Blood Oath Pact 4. My recommendation was to try it at a Bar. As such, when Luxco sent me a bottle of Blood Oath Pact 5 for a no-strings-attached, honest review, my curiosity was piqued. Would it be better than Pact 4? I'd soon have the opportunity to find out. I'd like to take an opportunity to thank Luxco for this opportunity.


One of the consistent qualities of the Blood Oath line is proof:  98.6°.  Why?  Because that's the average human body temperature and its blood inside. Pact 5 is a blend of 13-year high-rye Bourbon, an 11-year wheated Bourbon, and an 8-year Rye.  Then, the concoction was finished in Caribbean dark rum barrels. Retail is $99.99, and while we don't know who the actual distiller is, it is an educated guess that it is Heaven Hill.


In my Glencairn, Pact 5 presented as a medium amber with a very definite orange hue. The rim was thin and the legs were among the fastest I've seen as it raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


There was a complicated mixture of vanilla and raisin on my initial sniff. Beneath that was brown sugar and light citrus.  Just as I was getting ready to move to what aromas would greet my mouth, I picked up wet oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was thick molasses that coated my palate.


The mouthfeel was almost like molasses.  I picked up black pepper first, which was followed by oak and honey. On the back, it was a lovely mix of caramel and chocolate. The finish was long, with black pepper, wet oak, and caramel. And, as I was quite impressed, that long finish became bitter, just like I had placed bitters on my tongue.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I really, really enjoyed Pact 5 until the finish finished. I did polish through the sample bottle, and the more I sipped it the more I enjoyed it - again, until the finish, which became a turn-off. With that, combined with the $99.99 price, I'm going to recommend trying this one at a Bar and taste if that finish is a deal-breaker for you or not.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

My Visit & Tour of Waldschänke Ciders



Life is sometimes more than just whiskey. Wait, what did I just say?

Last week I was in Denver visiting my parents. Last time I came out, my mother wanted to visit a distillery. We visited A.W. Laws Whiskey House.  This year, they heard about a brand new cidery called Waldschänke Ciders (pronounced Vahld Shen Kee) and both Mom and Dad wanted to visit. While I don't drink beer, I do love a good hard cider. But, unlike whiskey, I know virtually nothing about hard cider or how it is made, so this prospect was exciting to me, too.

Waldschänke Ciders is located at 4100 Jason Street just outside of LoDo (Lower Downtown). I met with owners Keane, Kelley and John Dufresne. Keane and Kelley appear in the photo below.


Forgetting for just a second what Waldschänke Ciders has to offer, I was able to speak in-depth with Kelley and Keane. These two young entrepreneurs have their heads screwed on straight. They understand the very long, sometimes brutal hours that lay ahead for them, they know they're not going to magically strike it rich next week, and they have a solid business plan. We bantered about ideas for attracting customers and packing the house. They and father John are in this for the love of making cider and having happy customers. 


Now that tangent is over, let's get to what Waldschänke has on tap.  As I stated earlier, this is a brand new business, open just over a month. They are currently mashing their own cider that will be ready soon. In the meanwhile, they pour 16 different Colorado ciders and two specialty bottles. When their cider is ready, they plan to place it side-by-side with their competing brands. Frankly, I like that idea - let the customer explore what they like best and show how your product can shine. No fear!


Ciders are served in three sizes:  16oz for $8, 10oz for $6, or 4oz for $3.  But, the fun part is you can buy a flight, where you can select any four ciders for $11.  That's the route I chose.


Keane has a lot of woodworking experience, and he created these serving trays for the flights. If nothing else, it made for a beautiful presentation. The menu tells you enough about each option as well as whether it is sweet, semi-sweet, off-dry or dry.  I went with Grow A Pear (a semi-sweet pear cider from Talbotts), Sour Cherry (an off-dry cherry cider from Snow Capped), Blueberry Hibiscus (an off-dry blueberry cider from Wild Cider), and Colomosa (a dry cider made with apples, orange juice and lime from Talbott's).  While I enjoyed all of them, Blueberry Hibiscus was my favorite, but I'm admittedly a blueberry freak, so perhaps it had an unfair advantage. 


There is a lot of construction in the area, with revitalization occurring all over and a 400-unit apartment complex going up directly across the street. Connected to that is a Light Rail station, so Waldschänke has a very good chance of being in a high-traffic area once things are over and done.


John gave me a tour of the back of the house, showing me the mechanics and the private tasting room. 



While this is a different way of doing things than a whiskey distillery, I was able to understand the basics.  They've partnered with Mad Loon Roasters and are getting ready to open up a European-style coffeehouse that will serve traditional pour-overs, french presses, and drip coffees for the morning hours. 


I head to Denver at least annually to see my folks. I made some new friends in Kelley and Keane and it should be exciting to see how much has changed when I visit next. While Denver has a ton of breweries and several distilleries, if you're into doing something off the beaten path, I think you'll enjoy Waldschänke Ciders.


Cheers!
    

Friday, November 15, 2019

Something beautiful happens...

Sometimes, Mother Nature is super cooperative and things just line up perfectly for a photo opportunity... cheers!


Fukano Whisky Vault Reserve #1 Review & Tasting Notes



And then, sometimes something damned unusual just falls in your lap...


I've enjoyed discovering Japanese whiskies lately. It is an interesting category because there can be an almost level of perfection that goes into their single malts, but then there is the whole, Who really distilled this? factor. Many times, Japanese whiskies aren't even Japanese.  They can be distilled in Scotland (Canada is also a common source) and simply shipped over to Japan. It doesn't even have to be aged there! You see, Japan has the same issue that India has:  There really are no rules and it is a complete free-for-all.


On the other side of the coin, you have several legitimate distillers where everything is sourced, distilled and aged in Japan.  One such example is Fukano Distillery, located in Hitoyoshi City. This distillery was founded in 1823 and utilizes a pot still instead of a more efficient, higher capacity Coffey (column) still. They also use both malted and unmalted rice instead of barley as the mash. Fukano can also be considered a craft distiller of sorts. Everything they distill is barreled in only a handful of casks and each expression is different from the next, with the goal of Shigeruriku Fukano to never repeat them.


I have some amazing friends in the liquor business who are kind enough to let me sample their products. Good or bad, I'm always thankful for the opportunity. In this case, one of those friends let me try Fukano Vault Reserve #1. With this release, Fukano's mash came from polished rice. Polished rice is another term for white rice, where the outer, brown husk has been removed and stripped of much of its nutrients. It is also more difficult to distill. It is bottled at 40.5% ABV (or 91°), comes with a screw top closure, and retails for about $74.99.  There is no age statement, but it is a blend of whiskies ranging from three to eleven years old. 


I've given quite a bit of background, and as you and I know, all of that is really nice but the important question is how does it taste?  Let's get on with the show, shall we?


In my Glencairn glass, Vault Reserve #1 appears as a bright gold. It created a thin rim that left fat legs to race back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


The first aromas to hit my nose were sherry and orchard fruits. But beneath those were a combination of toffee, caramel, and oak. When I inhaled through my lips, it was very starchy, exactly what you'd expect from white rice. 


The mouthfeel was very thick and coated my entire mouth. Dark cherries and plums danced across the front of my palate. Then, those fruits took on a chocolate coating mid-palate. On the back, there was a slightly astringent quality reminiscent of many Scotches. All of this led to a very long finish of oak and light spice.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Fukano Vault Reserve #1 is absolutely different. I've never had a rice whisky before (or at least not that I'm aware of) and I was shocked as to what flavors were produced. This was a very enjoyable experience and in the realm of Japanese (including pseudo-Japanese) whiskies, $75 isn't out of line. As such, this one grabs my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Auchentoshan "The Bartender's Malt" Lowland Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



If you don't like peat and you don't like "band-aid" flavors, there are still plenty of options for drinking Scotch. Auchentoshan "The Bartender's Malt" has neither of those qualities, read my review at Bourbon & Banter to see if this affordable Scotch is right for you. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Starlight Huber's Single Barrel Old Rickhouse Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to visit Starlight Distillery, which is located in Borden, Indiana. I know what you're thinking, if it is Indiana it must be MGP, right?


Flashback to about six weeks ago, I was introduced to Starlight Distillery via Niemuth's Southside Market, which had a barrel pick of Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. My first question was what I asked above. As it turns out, no, Starlight has nothing at all to do with MGP aside from the fact they're housed in the same state.  Starlight is housed on the Huber's Winery campus, a winery that has been family owned since 1843, is in its seventh generation, and they've been distilling since 2001 when they started off with brandy, and now distill gin, rum, whiskey, grappa, and vodka.


Today I'm reviewing Barrel #1350, selected by the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club and lovingly called Tasty Tuff. This barrel was distilled from a mash of 85% rye and 15% malted barley, then aged 5-1/2 years old before being dumped at 119.6°.  It yielded 210 bottles and retails for $54.99. I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.


In my Glencairn glass, Tasty Tuff appears as an enticing orange amber. It left a thin rim on the wall that led to fat droplets that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Aromas of plum and cherry greeted my nostrils. Beneath that stone fruits were mint and prevalent oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a combination of the plum and mint, creating an interesting flavor.


The first sip offered a thin and coating mouthfeel.  The plum and cherry made themselves known at the front. Mid-palate changed those up to cinnamon and rye spice, finally yielding to cocoa and oak on the back. If this sounds like a dessert whiskey, it isn't but the dessert flavors are there nonetheless. The finish was a massive blast of dark chocolate complimented with a long, spicy clove.


I opted to try Tasty Tuff with two drops of distilled water to discover what might change. The nose was definitely sweeter with more fruit, this time closer to berries and cocoa. When I inhaled through my lips I got the same plum, but it was now married with vanilla.


The mouthfeel was still thin and coating.  On the palate, the chocolate that was on the finish was way up on the front. The cinnamon remained at mid-palate and was joined by oak, with the rye spice on the back. The finish itself was unaltered with that dark chocolate and clove.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I've been a fan of Niemuth's ability to pick barrels and I'll be frank:  Tasty Tuff is no exception to the rule. There were so many good things going on with this Rye and "tasty" doesn't provide an accurate descriptor. When you consider this is bottled at barrel proof, the $54.99 outlay is an easy Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon Series III Review & Tasting Notes



George Remus was an American icon. Oh, maybe not the best example of a decent person, but he was, nonetheless, an icon. He was known as King of the Bootleggers.  Remus was a criminal defense attorney. Some of his clients were bootleggers, most of them were murderers, and he got a green tint in his eye watching his bootlegging clients making a fortune. One day, he decided he knew more about the criminal justice system than anyone else and he could make a ton of money by using his legal knowledge to do illegal activities and not fall prey to the authorities. 


Remus was, indeed, very clever.  He found a loophole in the Volstead Act that allowed him to buy distilleries and distill medicinal whiskey. He wound up buying most of the operating distilleries in and around Cincinnati, and his schtick was that his employees would hijack his finished product, which he would then turn around and resell on the black market. 


One day, Remus found out he wasn't as clever as he thought as the government indicated him on thousands of violations of the Volstead Act and was quickly convicted by a jury. He was sent to the federal pokey in Atlanta.


The story gets even better. Remus buddied up to a fellow prisoner and bragged about how all of his money was controlled by his wife. What he didn't know was this new pal of his was an undercover agent named Franklin Dodge. Dodge then resigned his position and then started an affair with Remus's wife. The two fell in love and started selling off Remus's assets, leaving him with a mere $100.


But wait, there's more.  Remus was on his way to court for his divorce proceeding when he chased down his ex-wife's car, got out, and shot her to death in true gangster fashion. He pled insanity and the jury believed him, taking less than twenty minutes to deliver the verdict. 


What's this history lesson have to do with a Bourbon review?  It is meant to provide some insight not only of a megastar during Prohibition, but also to show you this guy was a character. And, he was chosen by MGP to be the namesake of the brand of their Bourbon.


Remus Repeal Reserve is a limited-edition Bourbon in its now third incarnation, conveniently called Series III.  MGP has geared the full release of this Bourbon to coincide with Repeal Day on December 5th. MGP indicates this is made from one of the highest rye recipes they distill and is a blend of two mashbills:  12% of a 2007 Bourbon distilled with 21% rye, 78% from a 2008 Bourbon with the same, and 10% from a 2008 Bourbon with 36% rye. Series III has been bottled at 100°, is presented in a very attractive bottle has a suggested retail of $84.99.


I'd like to thank MGP for providing me with a sample of Remus Repeal Reserve Series III in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. And now, on with the show!


In my Glencairn glass, Remus Repeal Reserve appeared as a deep, orangish amber. It left a hairline rim that stuck to the wall before finally creating fat droplets that seemed to defy gravity.


Aromas of candied orange peel and vanilla were apparent. Hiding behind those was soft oak and just a touch of cinnamon spice. When I inhaled through my lips, a blend of stone fruit and chocolate ran across my palate. 


The initial sip offered a thin and oily mouthfeel that took effort to fully coat my palate even while doing the Kentucky chew. Caramel greeted the front of my palate, and I was initially concerned this would be boring. But, mid-palate, flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and allspice took over, followed by leather, and a very brief wisp of cherry. There was no real back no matter how much I tried to force the Bourbon that way. 


The super-long finish consisted of leather, dark chocolate, smoke, white pepper, rye spice, and oak. Complexity in a Bourbon's palate isn't all that unusual, but it has been quite some time since I've had one that was this complicated on the finish. It was a welcome diversion and pleasant surprise. It also had a nice tingly effect on my hard palate. For what it is worth, the white pepper stuck around at least five minutes.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The more I'm sipping this, the more I'm digging it. There is so much going on with Remus Repeal Reserve that it almost matches the convoluted backstory of the King of Bootleggers. I enjoy whiskeys that challenge me, and MGP did a great job of doing that.  Is this worth $85?  You betcha. This one earns an easy Bottle rating. If you see it, don't pass it up. Cheers!




Sunday, November 3, 2019

2019 Yellowstone Limited Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



Luxco, the parent company of both Limestone Branch and Lux Row Distillers, has been on a good run in 2019. They've released several limited-edition whiskeys that have proven very interesting. Limestone Branch is headed by brothers Stephen and Paul Beam, descendants of JW Dant, the original distiller of the Yellowstone brand. Limestone Branch is doing its own distilling now but still relies on sourced whiskeys for its portfolio.


I've reviewed the 2017 and 2018 Yellowstone Limited Editions. I was not overly impressed with the 2017 LE and rated it a Bar.  The 2018 LE blew me away and it took that coveted Bottle rating. When Luxco sent me a sample of the 2019 LE, I have to admit I was excited.


The 2019 version is a blend of 9- and 12-year Bourbons.  One could assume, based upon Luxco's historical reliance on Heaven Hill for sourcing whiskey, that these Bourbons come from the same source.  The 2018 version had some of Limestone's distillate, but none of what they have is old enough to make this bottling.  That's definitely a curiosity, but I digress.  Limestone Branch produced 12,500 101° bottles with a retail price of $99.99.  Because we don't have a firm grasp on the distiller, the mashbill is unknown but must, by law, be at least 51% corn. I suspect rye and, obviously, malted barley.


I want to thank Luxco for sending me this sample of Bourbon for a no-holds-barred, honest review. And now, let's get to it.


In my Glencairn, Yellowstone appears as a brassy chestnut amber.  It left a very thin rim and thicker, fast legs that dropped down the wall and into the pool of liquid sunshine.


The most obvious aromas were brown sugar and cinnamon toast.  Think of the cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch and that pretty much nails it. Underneath those was a blend of citrus, light oak, and cocoa.  This was almost like sitting down for breakfast.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was heavy, dark fruit and vanilla.


The initial sip was thin, oily and coating, and the first flavor to hit me was plum. As the liquid worked its way across my palate, I discovered a lovely combination of dark chocolate and thick caramel. Then, way at the back, a mix of oak and cocoa led to a finish of white pepper, dry oak, and dark chocolate.  That finish was lasting and warmed my throat.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  There is so much going on with this year's release and it is very well-balanced. Flavors seem to naturally blend with one another as they worked across the palate. Everything seemed to go right and I can't think of a negative unless I wanted to whine about the c-note pricetag. But, we're at the point in Bourbon and Rye where that is becoming less and less unusual.  Like 2018, the 2019 Yellowstone LE is going to snap up that Bottle rating.  Cheers!

Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



When you think Islay you think about peated whisky. After all, that's what this Scottish island is known for.  Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Kilchoman, are all known for their peated, smoky (sometimes ash) flavors. And then, there's Bunnahabhain, who tends to kick Islay tradition and is recognized for distilling unpeated whiskies. This isn't to say Bunnahabhain doesn't make peated whisky, just they're not known for it.  Bunnahabhain was founded in 1881 in the village of Bunnahabhain, and this village caters almost exclusively to the distillery. It is in the most remote part of Islay.


Time for a segue.  If you're new to (especially) Scotch, you may be unfamiliar with the term peat. Peat is peat moss, which grows in bogs around the world. Each bog is unique in its characteristics and offers a variety of flavors. Distilleries have to malt their grains, and that's done primarily on what's called a malting floor. The grains are soaked in water so they begin to germinate, and once that happens, the process has to be stopped, and the way to stop it quickly is to apply heat. Heating can be done quickly and efficiently by burning peat. The peat, in turn, naturally adds a smoky flavor to the barley itself. 


Getting back on track, I've enjoyed Bunnahabhain for several years. Admittedly, I've never tried one of their peated whiskies. But that changed last night with Toiteach (pronounced Toch Chah and translated to English means smoky). This is a non-chill-filtered single malt Scotch, carries no age statement and is bottled at 46% ABV. Retail on this is about $69.99, which is quite affordable in the wide world of Scotch.


How does Toiteach taste, and is it worth tracking down?  Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.


In my Glencairn glass, it presented as a pond of light gold, leaving a thin rim on the wall that created medium legs that ran back to the liquid sunshine.


As I let the whisky breathe, I couldn't help but notice how the aroma of peat filled the room. My glass was nowhere near my face but it was absolutely attention-getting. Once I brought the glass up for the nosing experience and got beyond the peat, it was a fragrance of both orchard and dried fruits, making an unusual combination.  When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted vanilla and toffee. 


When I let this Scotch hit my tongue, it was light and airy. At the front, Toiteach was sweet, which is typical of Bunnahabhain. Mid-palate was when much of the flavor was exposed.  It started off smoky, thanks to the peat, then iodine crept in, followed by peach and plum, again giving that very different combination.  On the back, it was a lovely mix of chocolate and black pepper. 


The finish was long-lasting and very complex with smoke, seaweed, charred oak, black pepper and a hint of cocoa. I never really wanted it to end, and when it did, I was quick to take another sip. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I enjoy both peated and unpeated Scotches, so this Bunnahabhain was a big curiosity for me.  As it turned out, I've fallen totally in love with Toiteach. It is very creative, full of flavor without being overly peated and surprisingly well-balanced considering everything that was going on, especially on the finish. And then there's that affordability factor. If you do the math, that combination makes this a no-brainer Bottle.  Cheers!