Friday, May 28, 2021

Evan Williams 12-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.


But, a 12-year old Evan Williams?  Red Label?  What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?


It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product:  78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum. 


Palate:  When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft.  On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new:  clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.


Finish:  The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Was this Evan Williams expression good?  Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar rating. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 


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

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Caol Ila 12 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


I love smoky Scotches. Don't get me wrong, I love unpeated ones as well. The peat adds an entirely new layer of adventure to the drinking experience. The peatiest stuff comes from Islay, a relatively small island off the coast of mainland Scotland. 


You've probably heard of the Islay distilleries:  Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig.  There are two others that aren't quite as well-known: Ardnahoe and Caol Ila. The weird thing is, the largest Islay distillery is one of those two, namely, Caol Ila.


Pronounced Kull eye-la, the distillery was founded in 1846 and mostly remained active except during World War II. It was then taken off-line and demolished in 1972, with the plan to build a brand-new distillery that opened in 1974.


The reason Caol Ila is less recognizable despite its production capacity is about 95% of what's produced winds up going into blends, most notably, Johnnie Walker Black and Double-Black. Caol Ila makes both peated and unpeated whisky. Its peated versions use the same Port Ellen malt as Lagavulin at 35ppm. 


One of the most interesting things about Caol Ila is its distillation process. The stills are filled at about 33% capacity and run 24/7. What this does is allow more contact with air and copper, which, in turn, produces a more mellow whisky. 


Today I'm reviewing its core single malt, Caol Ila 12. As you've probably figured out, this one's 12 years old. This is a peated Scotch and is bottled at 43% ABV (86°). You can expect to pay about $69.00 for a 750ml.  And now, let's #DrinkCurious and find out what this is all about.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Caol Ila 12 presented as the color of straw. It produced a medium-thick rim that generated fast, fat legs to drop back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  I could smell the peat the second I cracked open the bottle and poured my dram. I allowed it to breathe, and peat filled the room. As I brought the glass to my face, beneath all that peat, were pear, green apple, honeydew, and brine. When I pulled the air into my mouth, I sensed melon rind and light smoke.


Palate:  From my first sip, it was like I took a spoonful of a smoky chocolate mousse. That was both the mouthfeel and what I tasted on the front. The middle was almond, brine, and melon, while the back offered flavors of citrus, sweet tobacco, oak, and peat.


Finish: The finish was a nice combination of sweet and smoky. The peat remained and was joined by sweet tobacco, smoked oak, dried fruits, and then, late to the game, black pepper. Initially, I thought the finish was short, but after another sip, it grew into medium-long.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the start, I love peated Scotch. Despite the fact this has a 35ppm phenol, placing it in the heavily-peated category, the distillation process tamed it, and it worked. It was a welcomed surprise. There was no astringent (Band-Aid) quality to it. As simple as the palate was, I found it enchanting. Frankly, it is a shame that most of this winds up as a blended component for other whiskies. I'm happy to spend $69.00 on Caol Ila 12 and it is a welcome addition to my whiskey library. An obvious 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 that you do so responsibly.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Mythology "Hell Bear" American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Colorado is known for many things. Gorgeous mountains, snow skiing, whiskey, beer, wine, and professional sports teams. Oh yeah, there's also that other Rocky Mountain "high" people can experience. I mention that because when I read what a Hell Bear was, it requires some pharmaceutical assistance to imagine. 


"…. A Colorado prospector ventured into darkness. In the mine, he heard a loud snap– then he was falling! In a daze, in pitch black, he awoke, face-to-face with a unique creature– part bear, part badger. Resolved that today wouldn’t be his last, he rose and followed the glow of the creature’s eyes. The Hell Bear guided the explorer to the surface, then vanished back into the mine."  Mythology Distillery


So there you have it - a Hell Bear!  Mythology felt the story was inspirational enough to name one of its whiskeys for it, an American whiskey that is a blend of three whiskeys:  A 2-to-3-year Rye with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, a 4-year Bourbon with a mash of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, and a 5-year wheated Bourbon, made from 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. The actual percentages are undisclosed.


Because of the blend, it carries a two-year age statement.  If you're interested in learning more about Mythology Distillery, I'll invite you to read my review of its Best Friend Bourbon. At 90°, you can expect to pay around $49.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Before I get to my tasting notes, I'd like to thank Mythology Distillery for providing a sample of Hell Bear in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Shall we #DrinkCurious?


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Hell Bear presented as a bright, orange-amber. It made for a thin rim and thinner, slow legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Rye and cinnamon were easy to pick out. More challenging were apple, corn, and sweet dough. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, floral rye danced across my tongue. 


Palate:  A bit unexpected, the mouthfeel was thick, oily, and heavy. It filled my mouth.  On the front, I found caramel, cinnamon, and baking spice. The middle offered vanilla, roasted almond, and corn. Flavors of white pepper, rye, dry oak, and tobacco leaf were on the back.


Finish:  Dry oak, vanilla, white pepper, and tobacco leaf provided a long-lasting finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Hell Bear drinks rye-heavy, which makes me suspect it is the largest portion of the blend. Yet, the Bourbon portion was easy to discern. The mouthfeel was inviting. I enjoyed how unusual yet uncomplicated this whiskey was and am happy to crown Hell Bear with a Bottle rating. Grab one, you won't regret 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 that you do so responsibly.

 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Compass Box Asyla Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



Scotch is a wonderful category of whiskey. You have distinctive regions that, while there are exceptions, give you a few qualities to expect depending on where they're distilled. The Lowlands offers whiskeys generally light and floral. With Islay, you can usually rely on peat. Speyside, the largest per capita region is very diverse, but you can count on sweet and rich whiskeys. Campbeltown suggests briny, smokey choices. The Highlands is probably the most challenging to pin down, as the region is incredibly vast, consisting of islands, grasslands, and mountains. You can find peated, fruity, floral, and everything across the spectrum.


There are Scotch drinkers who will only drink single malts and simply do not consider blends. My whiskey philosophy has always been to #DrinkCurious and I believe anyone who limits what they drink does themselves no favors. Single malts are easy, and not all single malts are great or even good - just like any other whiskey category. And, while there are some poor blends, there are some purely amazing representations, with everything in between. A blend is when a distiller wants to arrive at a finish point and has to map the way there. I describe it as an art form.


Today I'm reviewing Compass Box's Asyla, which is (as you can guess) a blended Scotch. By a blended Scotch (different than blended malt or blended grain), it means it is distilled of both malted barley and grains.  One of the things I always give props to Compass Box for is its transparency. Compass Box has no issues telling you where they source from and what the makeup of each whiskey is. 


Asyla is blended from four different distilleries:  Cameronbridge (Lowland), Glen Elgin (Speyside), Teaninich (Highland), and Linkwood (Speyside). Cameronbridge is 50% of the blend and the only grain content. It was aged in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels.  Glen Elgin, on the other hand, is the smallest component, with only 5%, and used refilled hogsheads. Teaninich was 23% using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, and Linkwood the remaining 22%, also using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels. It is non-chill filtered, naturally-colored, and bottled at 40% ABV.  Retail for a 750ml is approximately $49.99.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Asyla presents as very light, almost like straw or hay. It left a very thin rim on the wall that generated fast, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose: Very fruity aromas consisting of peach, honey, and apple permeated my nostrils. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a combination of big, strong apple and vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was airy and delicate. As it flowed across my palate, the front was a marriage of apple and citrus flavors.  Then, at mid-palate, it became grassy and earthy. But, try as I might, I could not find anything on the back. It was so muted there was just nothing to discern.


Finish:  All of this led to the finish which, despite the lack of anything on the back, was longer than I anticipated. It was all pepper and oak, most likely from the Bourbon barrels.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Compass Box whiskeys are a mixed bag. Some are priced well into triple digits, others are very affordable. Some are excellent, others not so much. I have high regard for it, though, and a willingness to stick its neck out there and experiment. So, where does Asyla fall on this range?  Somewhere in the middle. It is a decent bargain Scotch and very uncomplicated, but due to the muting on the palate, this may not be for everyone. I was happy to taste it but wouldn't buy it myself. As such, Asyla earns a Bar rating. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Deadwood Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



I don't know about you, but I love searching for gems on the bottom shelf of your local liquor store. These are things that have the potential to be high-turnover sales, but since they're not pricy, the retailer wants you to check out the more expensive offerings and puts those more at eye level. This is why, many years ago, I created the hashtag #RespectTheBottomShelf.  I want to always encourage whiskey drinkers to look down and see what's buried there.


Today I'm reviewing Deadwood Straight Bourbon. This is another release from the folks at Proof & Wood Ventures, which doesn't distill, rather they source whiskeys typically from MGP and Dickel. For the most part, Proof & Wood knows what they're doing.  I've reviewed several of their whiskeys and am impressed with their ability to select barrels, sell them at a very fair price, and their transparency.


Deadwood Bourbon is sourced from MGP.  If you're not familiar with MGP, they're probably the largest distiller in the country and provide whiskey for dozens upon dozens of brands. Like most any distillery, they create excellent barrels and mediocre barrels. I've had plenty of MGP's whiskeys featuring both extremes and everywhere in between. The trick is to be patient and find those good barrels and nix the remainder. 


The mashbill for Deadwood is MGPs typical 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It was then aged "at least" two years in new, 53-gallon charred oak barrels. It weighs in slightly over the bare minimum to be called a whiskey - 81° - and a 750ml bottle will set you back only $20.00.


I'd like to thank Proof & Wood for sending me a bottle of Deadwood Straight Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  With that, it is time to #DrinkCurious to learn what Deadwood has to offer.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Deadwood presented as a most definitive orange amber. A medium rim led to fat, watery legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose: Aromas of fresh corn and sawdust were evident. Beneath those, however, was mint and vanilla. There was no blast of ethanol, despite the age and mashbill. When I breathed the vapors through my open lips, caramel and raisin danced across my tongue.


Palate:  I was greeted by an oily mouthfeel that came with a light Kentucky hug. Flavors of caramel and orange peel complemented each other on the front of my palate. They changed to a blend of almond and honey-roasted peanuts in the middle. Then, on the back, a combination of oak, vanilla, and rye spice seemed to round out the front to back.


Finish:  A longer than expected finish came from a combination of black pepper, char, caramel, toasted oak, and corn to sew things up.  Despite the lower proof, Deadwood did leave my hard palate tingling just a bit.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Deadwood isn't going to knock your socks off.  At the same time, it isn't going to disappoint you. Surprisingly, there are more things going on with this low-proof Bourbon than you'd otherwise imagine. When you take into account the $20.00 investment, well, it is almost foolish to not give it both a Bottle rating and add this to the #RespectTheBottomShelf section of 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 that you do so responsibly.
 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Grand Traverse Distillery Islay Rye Review & Tasting Notes - Updated 5-18-2021

 


I love peated whiskeys. Peated American whiskeys are so rare that when I stumble upon one, I just feel like a kid at 4:30am on Christmas morning who can't wait for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can bust into my presents. I have samples that I have to review, but sometimes I shove something to the front of the line because it is so unusual that I must satisfy my curiosity.


That's exactly what happened when the FedEx dude dropped off a package of Islay Rye from Grand Traverse Distillery.  I couldn't psych myself up too much, otherwise, it would bias my opinion before I had a chance to try it.

"Islay Rye is a small-batch Rye Whiskey that takes two of our favorite things and combines them ton something awesome and unique!  [T]his is a Rye Whiskey with a heavy nod to Islay Single Malt Scotches." - Grand Traverse Distillery

The first thing to know about Grand Traverse is they're not sourcing anything.  It is a grain-to-bottle distillery located in Traverse City, Michigan.  It utilizes a custom-built Arnold Holstein still.  All of the grain is supplied by Send Brothers Farm in nearby Williamsburg. The Rye itself is distilled from a mash of 80% rye and 20% peated malted barley. It carries no age statement, which means it is at least four years old and is non-chill filtered, then proofed to 90°.  A 375ml bottle runs about $50.00.


How's it taste?  Well, before I get to that, I thank Grand Traverse Distillery for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let's #DrinkCurious...


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Islay Rye appears as a bronze amber.  It created a medium rim that left a heavy curtain that fell back to the pool. Behind that were fat, slow drops. 


Nose:  The smell of peat filled the room, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow commented how strong it was. But, as I raised the glass to my face, that peat was surprisingly muted. Aromas of grass, oak, malt, caramel, nutmeg, and rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered brine and grass.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and oily.  I had no issues having it fill every corner of my mouth. The first flavors were peat, dry oak, and earth. Mid-palate, mace, allspice, caramel, and dill take over. Then, as it approaches the back, banana, citrus, tobacco leaf, and rye spice round things out.


Finish:  The long, dry, and sweet finish was a blend of clove, dry oak, raisin, citrus, and rye bread. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let's talk about a few things. I really, really enjoy Islay Scotch. This isn't it, it isn't even close, and to be fair, I didn't expect it to be.  The peated malt was a nice addition but the rye overwhelmed the barley. This was absolutely unique, and that's something I find attractive. Value is part of the recommendation process. At $50.00, that's not obnoxious. But, this is also a 375ml, so in reality, this is a $100.00 bottle comparatively speaking. For me, the return on investment wasn't there. I enjoyed this, I'd enjoy it a lot more if it were less painful on the wallet. I'm giving this one a Bar rating - you should definitely try this for yourself before making the commitment. Cheers!


Update - 5/18/2021:  Grand Traverse reached out to me today after taking my recommendation above to heart. Islay Rye is now available in 750ml packages with a retail price of $68.00. As an added bonus (you're going to love this), it is now a Bottled-in-Bond whiskey! That drives the proof up a full 10 points to 100°, and, moreover, that means a minimum four-year age requirement. All three are big deal issues and I'd be very interested to try this new version, which is now called Isles O Rye


This is one of the reasons I try to provide details in my overall rating, especially with Bar and Bust ratings - to give the distiller a chance to revise and improve.  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 that you do so responsibly.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Breckenridge Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


If you can pardon the double entendre, Breckenridge Distillery claims it is the "highest distillery in the world." Founded in 2008, the distillery has made a name for itself with its blended whiskeys. 


"Since coming online in 2008 and releasing its first vodka and bourbon three years later, Breckenridge Distillery has quickly become an award-winning producer of fine spirits, being designated one of the top three bourbons in the U.S. How it all came to be, however, stems from a mix of just the right ingredients, a hint of luck and a deep love for quality whiskey." - Breckenridge Distillery


As luck would have it, my review today is of their Bourbon. I will say this much:  If you're going to claim you make one of the top three Bourbons in the U.S, it better be game-changing.  As I'm writing this, I've not yet sampled it, and I don't believe I've had a pour of Breckenridge Bourbon before. 


This Bourbon is, depending on how you want to interpret things, either two or three years old. The bottle states it is "a blend of Bourbon whiskeys aged a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels." If you go to their website, it says, "Our award-winning Bourbon is aged a minimum of three years in charred, new American oak barrels, blended to reveal the unique qualities of the Bourbon Whiskey." Regardless of the actual age, Breckenridge utilizes 53-gallon barrels.


Breckenridge sources the Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana Bourbons and then blends them with its own Colorado distillate. It has a copper pot still on the premises. The mashbill is said to be 56% yellow corn, 38% green rye, and 6% unmalted barley. That last ingredient is interesting, most of the time, at least in Bourbon, the barley is malted. At this point, Breckenridge has my full and undivided attention, because as you know, I'm enchanted by the unusual. 


The distillery taps into the city water supply to proof things down. In the case of their Bourbon, it winds up being 86°.  A 750ml bottle will set you back about $39.99, which is in the sweet spot for craft Bourbon. I acquired the 50ml taster at some liquor store during my last trip to Colorado.


Let's find out if this Bourbon holds up to the marketing statement and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Breckenridge Bourbon appears as the color of honey. It left a thicker rim on the wall that generated fat, very slow droplets to fall back into the pool.


Nose: The aroma of ripe banana was the first thing that hit me. Brown sugar, caramel, and citrus followed, but it was a struggle to pick those out. As I kept sniffing, I pulled out a smidge of mint. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, it was pure butterscotch.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and warming. Caramel, mint, and honey began the journey on the front. At mid-palate, the caramel faded and became butterscotch. The back consisted of rye spice, malted milk, toasted oak, and corn.


Finish:  Peppermint Starlights (the candy) grabbed my attention. There was a woody quality as well, much like wet oak. I could swear there was the flavor of mushroom in there somewhere. The finish was on the shorter end of the scale, falling off early.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let's get this out of the way immediately:  Breckenridge Bourbon is not one of the top three Bourbons in the US, and it isn't even close. I'm not suggesting this is a bad whiskey, but this would get lost amongst the plethora of mid-tier Bourbons out there. There was no Wow! factor, it was basic and if I had tasted this in the past, it isn't something that jogged my memory. Fortunately, I don't rate whiskey based upon marketing claims.  I would highly recommend tasting this one at a Bar before making any serious commitment. 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 that you do so responsibly.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Arran Malt 10 Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


Scotch distilling is an old, respected trade. Many distilleries go back a couple hundred years. Just off the west coast of Scotland is the Isle of Arran, a pair of distilleries stand, busily cranking out whisky.  But, Isle of Arran Distillers is a relative newcomer - it wasn't erected until 1995!


Way back when, the island was home to over 50 distilleries, but they're long and gone. Most were illegal operations, with a handful were on the up and up. But, for whatever reason, they all folded. Construction on this new distillery started in 1994 but was quickly shut down. Of all things, it was a pair of golden eagles that decided to nest. Once the eagles vacated, construction resumed and the Lochranza Distillery opened. Most recently, they opened a second location called the Lagg Distillery.  Due to its location, it is considered part of the official Highland region (and the unofficial Islands region).


Arran Distillers is part of a shrinking breed of independently owned Scotch distilleries. Its Production Director (which most folks would call a Master Blender or Master Distiller) is James MacTaggart. He's been there 14 years, and prior to that, he was at Bowmore just over three decades.


Most of what Arran produces is unpeated single malt whisky, is non-chill filtered, and naturally colored. Also interesting is that nearly everything is 46% ABV (92°). It is said one thing that makes Arran special is the quality of water it utilizes. It is uniquely sourced by Arran. 


Today I'm reviewing one of its core products:  The Arran Malt 10. The malt is a blend of Optic (the most commonly used for distilling) and Oxbridge (fairly new to the distilling world) barleys. As you can likely gather, it has been aged at least a decade before being bottled. You can expect to pay about $49.99 for a 750ml package. I purchased my bottle locally in Wisconsin.


Let's #DrinkCurious and learn what this pour is all about.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Arran 10 presented as clear and pale gold in color. I found it left a medium rim and sticky legs that had difficulty making their way back to the pool of whisky.


Nose:  Strong, sweet notes permeated the air long before I engaged my nose with the glass. Honey, vanilla, lemon curd, and grass were joined by definitive malt. When I inhaled the vapor into my mouth, the honey and vanilla were even bolder.


Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium body and had a zing of warmth. On the front of my palate, I tasted orange and apricot, along with a classic maltiness. The middle became vanilla and lemon curd. That transformed on the back to spiciness with cinnamon, chocolate, oak, and leveled out with almond. 


Finish:  Slow, rolling, and building, the finish included chocolate and oak from the back, honey, and black pepper. The honey and black pepper played off one another. Once the finish hit a crescendo, it simply vanished. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you only drink peated Scotch, Arran 10 isn't for you. There's none of it, not even a hint. But, if fruit is your jam, Arran will make you smile. There was enough spice on the tail end to offset the sweet and tart fruits. I found the price to be very fair, and I believe I made a great decision picking up this addition to my whiskey library, and you will as well. On the BBB scale, this one takes a strong Bottle rating. Cheers!


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

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Cat's Eye Obtainium 13-Year Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes




There are whiskeys out there that are legally classified as Haz-Mat. I love high-proof whiskeys, they're full of flavor and give you, the casual drinker, an opportunity to tinker with them by adding water and tasting how proof changes character.


Today I'm reviewing an MGP Light Whiskey packaged by Cat's Eye Distillery under its Obtainium label. I've been lucky and had several opportunities to review stuff out of Cat's Eye, and as such, I won't rehash the company information beyond the fact it sources and blends whiskeys from different distilleries from both the United States and around the world.


Light Whiskey is a remnant from the 1960s that is enjoying a small resurgence in today's market. While not distilled exclusively by MGP, almost all of the well-aged stuff is sourced from it. In a nutshell, it is distilled between 160° and 190° (compared to Bourbon which is distilled at 160° or less) and aged in either used or new, uncharred oak containers. 


For this particular whiskey, it aged for 13 years before being bottled at its cask strength of 136.6°. That's not quite Haz-Mat but is darned close to it. You can expect to pay about $54.99 for a 750ml bottle.


I'd like to thank Cat's Eye's Wisconsin distributor for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Light Whiskey was the color of rubbed copper. It left an almost indiscernible rim but produced fat, sticky droplets that didn't seem interested in falling back to the pool.


Nose:  Cedar was the first aroma to hit my nose. That was joined by cinnamon, spearmint, and nuts. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, it was a blast of wintergreen.


Palate:  If you took a grenade, pulled the pin, and stuffed it in my mouth, it might adequately describe the mouthfeel. My hard palate sizzled almost immediately. I was able to pull out some flavors, including oak, nutmeg, and cinnamon Red-Hots, but I couldn't tell you where on the palate they fell or in what order.


Finish:  The only thing I could pick out was more Red-Hots. The finish was like a freight train, there was no stopping it. I had to munch on some animal crackers to calm my mouth and give me a sense of normalcy.


I don't always add water to whiskey, I prefer most neat. But, when something is so dominating that I have trouble even picking things out, to give a fair review, I will. Using an eyedropper, I added two drops of distilled water. With a bit of recovery, I was ready to address this Light Whiskey again.


Nose:  This time, I pulled aromas maple syrup and vanilla from the glass. There was only a hint of cedar.  Drawing air in my mouth, I sensed vanilla and light mint.


Palate:  It is sometimes amazing what just a minuscule amount of water can do to a whiskey. The mouthfeel was silky and much easier to handle. On the front, the only thing I picked up was caramel. But, at mid-palate, I discovered cinnamon, clove, and sweet tobacco leaf. The back featured that familiar cinnamon Red-Hots and oak.


Finish:  The Red-Hots was less aggressive and joined by dry oak and black pepper. Spicy and very long-lasting, when the finish finally curbed, a kiss of caramel ended the show.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'll be frank. I did not like this neat. I've had higher-proofed whiskeys that were nowhere near as lava-like as this. Water definitely helped make this drinkable. Proofed down, the best things were the nosing and the caramel kiss at the end. There was just not a lot beyond that I could call a pleasure to drink. I hate to say this, this is the first thing out of Cat's Eye that is taking a Bust rating from me. This is not representative of my Light Whiskey experience. Cheers!


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

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mythology Best Friend Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


Colorado has experienced explosive growth in the distilling world. The state, home to Coors, used to be all about beer and wine, but the last few years have been all about whiskey.  Head on out to Denver, and you have a decent number of distillers to choose from. 


One such option is Mythology Distillery, which was founded in 2018. Its president, Scott Yeates, enjoys discovering a new Colorado spirit whenever he can. To me, that means he's got an open mind and willing to explore different things beyond me-too bottlings. 


"Founded by three Colorado natives that seek out experiences through travel and adventure, we love to share and hear stories from others. Our philosophy is that we each form our own Mythology through travel, connecting with others, and our experiences. It’s based on this that we named the distillery Mythology." - Mythology Distillery


Mythology's Head Distiller is Chris Ritenour, formerly of Blaum Bros. out of Galena, Illinios. Mike Blaum told me Chris is a hell of a distiller and was with them for five years before venturing out West.


One of Mythology's whiskeys is called Best Friend Bourbon.  It starts with three different straight Bourbons:  a 15-year from an undisclosed Kentucky distillery (78.5% corn, 13% rye, and 8.5% barley), a 5-year from Indiana - meaning MGP (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley), and a 2-year, again from Indiana (75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley). It is bottled at 88° and you can expect to pay around $49.00 for a 750ml.  If you purchase it through the distillery, they'll donate 10% to the Mountain Pet Rescue.  As a recent parent of a rescued dog, that makes my heart smile.


Currently, Mythology's distribution is limited to Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. You can also buy it directly from their website.


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I'd like to thank Mythology Distillery for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Best Friend Bourbon showed a deep copper color. The rim was thicker than I expected, which generated medium, slow legs to fall back into the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of sweet corn, brown sugar, vanilla, toasted coconut, and oak permeated my nostrils. When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted vanilla and a touch of mint.


Palate:  I discovered a rich, creamy mouthfeel that was on the weightless side. The whiskey just hovered in my mouth. On the front, I tasted dark chocolate and caramel. Mid-palate offered cocoa, tobacco leaf, and corn. Then, on the back, a nice blend of coconut, cinnamon, and oak meshed well. 


Finish:  Initially, I thought the finish was way too short with little to pick up and I was disappointed. But, subsequent sips elongated it, with flavors of vanilla, almond, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. In the end, I'd describe it as medium in length.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The average craft Bourbon or Rye runs between $40.00 and $60.00 with a sweet spot at $50.00. Best Friend Bourbon retails for just under that sweet spot. There is a 15-year component to it, and that's certainly worth a premium, but we also don't know how much of that is the makeup of this blend of straight Bourbons.


The mouthfeel was lovely, the nose was inviting, and the palate was tasty. It would be interesting to taste this four- to six-points higher on proof. As it stood, I felt nothing as far as intoxication or even a tingle on my hard palate. It made it more than easy to sip on.


In the end, the overall experience is what matters. I enjoyed Best Friend Bourbon. I'd love to see it a couple bucks less expensive, but that's not a make-it-or-break-it thing with me. Mythology did a good job with this blend, I'll crown my Bottle rating for it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Friday, May 7, 2021

Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


The term blended Bourbon used to have a negative connotation. That's because the legal definition of it is unspecific and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Basically, blended Bourbon means that at least 51% must be made from Straight Bourbon. That's up-front. It is that 49% remainder that gets squirrely. You can add artificial coloring, artificial flavors, neutral grain spirits (NGS), younger whiskeys, etc.


Despite that definition, there are some good blended Bourbons that are simply straight and younger Bourbons blended together. This shouldn't suggest there's not pure garbage out there, because that would be untrue. 


One such attempt into the former is called Crooked Fox. It is a blend of 51% straight Bourbon aged at least four years and 49% small-barrel Bourbons aged at least six months. The Bourbons come from both Texas and Kentucky. Crooked Fox is part of the Southern Champion family of spirits out of Carrolton, Texas.


"After carefully maturing (our bourbon) in wooden casks, we go barrel by barrel, selecting the best tasting bourbons to create a whiskey with rich flavors of smoked maple, vanilla, nutmeg, oak, and malted barley with hints of rye. The result is a high-quality whiskey that even the most sophisticated bourbon drinkers will appreciate." - Southern Champion

Packaged at 80°, the label pictures the heads of two foxes, one with a black line over its eyes, the other not. The caption says, "Never trust the eyes you can see. Trust your instinct."  There's not much more information on the label aside from stating it is distilled from grain. You can expect to pay $24.99 for a 750ml bottle. I acquired this from a liquor store, I simply don't remember what state that store was located in.


Time to #DrinkCurious and see what this is all about...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Crooked Fox presented as the color of golden honey. It formed a medium rim on the wall that led to husky, slow legs.


Nose:  This whiskey was not overly fragrant. Aromas of honey, brown sugar, and oak were easier to pick out, and as I kept sniffing, I pulled out orange peel. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I tasted vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and light-bodied. On the front, there was a blend of vanilla with baking spice. The middle consisted of malted milk balls and subtle mint. On the back, flavors of smoked oak and fennel rounded things out.


Finish: Initially, the finish was very short. Additional sips, however, brought a longer experience. Oak, vanilla, and fennel hung around, and then a wave of white pepper rose and fell fairly quickly. It was the only warming component of this whiskey.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is, simply put, very forgettable. I could see using it for cocktails. As something I'd drink neat (or on the rocks), I wouldn't. Again, not because it was terrible, but pretty much every other choice would be more interesting. I'll be frank - I don't buy whiskeys with the intention of using them as mixers. I'd rather use a good whiskey as a mixer, it would make the rest of the cocktail taste better. Unfortunately, this one 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 that you do so responsibly.

Cat's Eye Obtainium Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes

 


It is difficult to give an introduction to Cat's Eye Distillery because I've reviewed many of its expressions. Cat's Eye buys a lot of whiskeys, often (but not always) from MGP, and packages it under its Obtainium label. Cat's Eye is headed by Gene Nassif, and in full disclosure, he's a friend. However, that won't change the outcome of this or any review.


Single barrel whiskey is cool because once that barrel is gone, it won't be repeated. If you took two barrels, coopered them the same day from the same stack of staves, charred them the exact same amount of time, filled them with the same newmake, and put them adjacent to one another in the same rickhouse for the same amount of time, they'll be different. That's just the nature of whiskey in the barrel.


Today I'm drinking its 5-year single barrel Rye, specifically Barrel SC90. This weighs in at a hefty 118.3° and is distilled by MGP.  This whiskey runs about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.  


I obtained my sample of this Rye from Cat's Eye's Wisconsin distributor and would like to thank them for it in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out what this one's all about.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye presented as deep, orange amber in color. It generated an ultra-thin rim which, in turn, formed medium-thick, slow legs.


Nose:  The aroma of dill was obvious. It was joined by mint, cinnamon, and rye spice. When I drew the fumes in my mouth, caramel rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  An oily mouthfeel with a medium body started things off. On the front of my palate, I tasted rye bread, vanilla wafers, and nutmeg. The middle featured mint and very light, dried cherry. On the back, flavors of dill, rye spice, cinnamon, and oak gave an unusual experience. 


Finish:  Medium in length, the finish consisted of smoked oak, cinnamon spice, rye bread, and then an explosion of dill pickle muted everything else. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Rye drinks much lower than its stated proof. If I had no idea what it was, I'd guess about 100°. If you're looking for heat, you'll want to go elsewhere. I like dill. I'm a pickle freak. However, it dominated both the back of the palate and even more on the finish, and while I understand some folks like a pickleback, that's not my thing. If that's your jam, you're going to love this whiskey, but I found it distracting. I'm conferring a Bar rating for this. Cheers! 


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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Port Charlotte OLC:01 2010 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


Experimental whiskies are something I find exciting. It really doesn't matter if it turns out good or bad, because I love it when a distiller does something outside the box. Obviously, my hope is that things would turn out good (or great). But I'll try any experimental whisky to see what was done.


The fun happens when a distillery is fully transparent about what it tried. That's something Bruichladdich is known for. If you visit its website, they'll tell you pretty much everything you'd want to know, to the point where even a whisky geek will, if you'll excuse the pun, geek out


Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's heavily-peated brand (with Bruichladdich as its unpeated lineup, and Octomore as its super-peated brand).  I've reviewed some from each of the expressions, and for me to be truly transparent, I'm a fan of Port Charlotte. As such, when Bruichladdich sent me a sample of OLC:01 2010 to review, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of it, and had no idea what to expect.


What I learned is OLC:01 is part of Port Charlotte's Cask Exploration Series, which is an experimental line of single malt Scotches. It starts with a 2009 harvest of 100% Invernesshire malted barley. Once distilled, it was then aged from 2010 to 2018 in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon barrels, first-fill Vin Doux Naturel barrels, and second-fill Syrah wine barrels. Once that's done, it was then transferred to first-fill Fernando de Castilla Olorosso sherry hogsheads where it rested for another 18 months. 


"These Olorosso hogsheads are superb casks. They're smaller than your average butts. So they've quickly left a lasting impression on this complex single malt." - Adam Hannett, Master Distiller


It is non-chill-filtered, naturally colored, and has a 40ppm phenol rating, which is something you'd expect with Port Charlotte. Bottled at 55.1% ABV (110.2°), it carries a nine-year age statement and you can expect to pay around $124.99 for a 750ml.


The big question, of course, is, How did this experiment turn out? That's answered by a simple tasting, and I'd like to thank Bruichladdich for sending me the sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, OLC:01 presented as a soft mahogany color with an amber tinge. It formed a medium ring that created slow, medium-thick legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This was an extremely fragrant Scotch. As I allowed it to breathe, the aroma of barbeque filled the room. When I went to nose it, I smelled peat, plum, cherry, apricot, apple, honey, and chocolate. Yes, it seemed like I was in an orchard with a bit of smoke in the air. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out honey and milk chocolate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and very oily. My first sip consisted of a peat bomb - more than anything I've had from either Port Charlotte or Octomore. Once I got past the palate shock, the second sip had amazingly muted the peat. Orange, apricot, and peach were at the front. The middle offered flavors of honey, date, and vanilla. On the back, I tasted tobacco leaf, clove, and citrus.


Finish:  A medium-long finish started with citrus, smoked salt, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. One thing to note is this Scotch drinks at its stated proof, and that was eye-opening.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was happy when I smelled the typical Port Charlotte barbeque but it was missing from the palate. I was shocked with how heavy the punch of peat was and how quickly it dissipated. I expected fruit, yet not the entire orchard on the palate. Finally, this may have been the "hottest" Scotch I've ever had, and I've tried plenty of cask-strength offerings. All of this makes for a unique drinking experience, and I believe that makes OLC:01 well worth the price tag. Obviously, this one earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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



Monday, May 3, 2021

Dubliner Irish Whiskey with Honeycomb Liqueur Review & Tasting Notes

 


There are days where it is hot, you're tired, and you just want something refreshing to sip on. It was the first such day in Wisconsin for 2021, Mrs. Whiskefellow and I did yard work, and we were both pooped. I didn't want a full-blown whiskey, it was just not the right day (weird, right?). But, I was hurting, I wanted to relax, and I was hoping for a little treat.


That added up to the perfect opportunity to crack open a bottle of Dubliner Irish Whiskey with Honeycomb Liqueur.  Legally speaking, this isn't a whiskey. It is below the 40% ABV (80°). While there's no age statement, because it is a liqueur, it doesn't have to meet Irish whiskey standards. It also has, if I had to guess, way beyond the allowable limit of E150A caramel coloring for Irish whiskey. What's the allowable limit? That's a fair question. An amount or percentage isn't specified, but the rule is that it can only affect color and not the flavor. 


Produced by The Dublin Liberties Distillery, and packaged at 30% ABV, you can expect to pay about $20.99 for a 750ml bottle. There is no indication of what the various percentages are of each ingredient (whiskey, honeycomb liqueur, and caramel coloring), and I'm not entirely sure it matters.


Before I get started with the review, I'd like to thank The Dublin Liberties for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this is all about.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Dubliner presented as the color of a new, copper penny. Now, keep in mind, there is caramel coloring added. A heavy, sticky rim was formed, which yielded watery legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose:  An explosion of butterscotch walloped me in the face before I even attempted to take a sniff. Once I managed past it, smells of saltwater taffy, chocolate, and orange candy slices permeated my nostrils. When I drew the aroma into my mouth, that butterscotch bomb returned.


Palate:  I expected this to be sugary-sweet, but instead I was greeted by a soft, airy mouthfeel that offered just a hint of warmth to remind me this was still whiskey-based. Butterscotch discs and pecan started things off, which gave way to caramel and white chocolate on the middle. The back featured honey and cinnamon.


Finish:  Sweet with honey, pecan, and white chocolate, the dusting of cinnamon at the end seemed near-perfect. It was a longer finish than I anticipated, especially considering the 60°.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cutting to the chase, I loved it. So did Mrs. Whiskeyfellow. The nose sucks you in, the palate convinces you, and the finish just makes you smile. Would this make a great cocktail base? Probably. Am I making a cocktail with it? Not likely, because I don't see the point of going beyond a neat pour. This is delightfully sweet, but not overpowering, and perfect for a hot summer's day. In fact, I'd declare this one of those dangerous drinks, one you can drink several pours before things sneak up on you. With or without the low price, it a very easy Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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