Monday, July 26, 2021

Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


As I peruse my whiskey library, deciding on what to sip on, I'm sometimes stunned with what I have that I've not yet reviewed, especially as it pertains to my Scotches. And, from that, especially when it comes to anything Ardbeg


Full disclosure:  I am an Ardbeg fanboy. It doesn't mean I love everything out of that distillery, but it does mean given the choice between an unknown Ardbeg and an unknown pretty much anything else, I'm choosing the Ardbeg. I've experienced a loser or two (think Auriverdes). 


Today I've chosen one of the core Ardbeg expressions:  An Oa.  Pronounced an oh, it is named for the southernmost point on Islay, the Mull of Oa. Made from a mash of 100% malted barley from Port Ellen, it offers the typical Ardbeg 50-55 PPM level of peat, carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. An Oa is aged in former first-fill Bourbon barrels, PX sherry casks, and virgin, charred oak.  The vatting (or where the whisky from these various barrel types) happens in French oak. An Oa requires little effort to find and you can expect to lay down about $59.99 for a 750ml package.


"The water we use to produce Ardbeg comes from Loch Uigeadail, 3 miles up the hill behind the Distillery. The water flows down the hill and runs into Loch Airigh Nam Beist – from there the burn takes it to Charlie’s Dam at the Distillery and from there it is piped into the Mash House." - Ardbeg

Now that you know the background, it is time to #DrinkCurious and learn if this expression is worth the investment. For the record, I purchased this bottle from a Wisconsin retailer.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, An Oa presented as dull gold in color. It formed a medium-thick rim that created heavy, wavy legs that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  If you think Ardbeg and you expect a blast of peaty smoke in your face, you're going to be disappointed with An Oa. Instead, I found aromas of sweeter peat, light tar, coconut, peach, and vanilla. When I took the vapor into my mouth, all I could sense was stewed peaches. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel of An Oa was creamy.  The front of my palate picked out milk chocolate, tobacco leaf, and peanuts. As the liquid moved its way across my tongue, I tasted peach, nutmeg, and cinnamon on the middle, then a punch of dry oak, joined by tar, plum, ginger, and brine on the back.


Finish:  Medium in length, this is one of the shortest finishes out of Ardbeg that I can recall. There was smoke, but it was akin to roasted ancho chile pepper than anything else. The tar and dry oak remained, as did the plum, chocolate, and nutmeg. But, I also experienced clove right before everything fell off.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you were new to peated Islay scotch and curious about a toe-dipping point, An Oa would be a good choice. While it is heavily-peated, it isn't peat-heavy. The peat is subdued, the stronger notes come from wood. I didn't identify anything except possibly the plum that hinted at PX sherry casks, which is a shame, but overall this is a well-balanced, easy-to-drink whisky. At the same time, an experienced Islay lover won't find anything to complain about. When the price is considered, this is one of those slam-dunk Bottle ratings. Cheers!


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


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

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Twenty Different Whiskeys in One Night? You Bet!



Last night I joined forces with Kenneth Boll of Cask & Ale as we made our way to Milwaukee to host a charity tasting event... with twenty whiskeys.  This wasn't a choice of twenty, it was twenty pours for each attendee!


That sounds like a lot and it was, but we did it safely. Anyone who drove to the event required a designated driver, and those who didn't drive walked in from their nearby homes. There was also plenty of food and water. Most folks were good about using dump buckets.


The venue was a lot of fun. Dave, the organizer, held the event at his home - but we were on top of his garage - he converted the rooftop to a deck!  Thankfully, the weather mostly cooperated, no rain, not overly hot, but it was very humid. As such, no photos of me melting in my shirt will be posted.




This was a worldwide whiskey tour, giving folks a chance to taste a little of everything. There were a few selections I would have liked to have added in, but we had a few requests which included not to serve anything peated, and for a majority of the pours to be American. Here's what was served:


    • Russell's Reserve 10 Bourbon
    • Michter's 10 Bourbon
    • Jos. A. Magnus Triple Cask Bourbon
    • Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon
    • Redemption High Rye Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Jefferson's Ocean Voyage 10 Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Old Forester 1920 Bourbon
    • Booker's Country Ham Bourbon
    • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A119 Bourbon
    • Thomas S. Moore Extended Port Cask Finished Bourbon
    • Whistlepig 12 Rye
    • High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Rye
    • Angel's Envy Rye Finished in Rum Casks
    • Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
    • Midleton Very Rare Irish Whisky
    • Redbreast 12 Cask Strength Irish Whisky
    • Brenne 10 French Single Malt
    • Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch
    • The Glendronach 12 Single Malt Scotch
    • Paul John Classic Single Malt Indian Whisky



The crowd favorites seemed to be equally split between the Remus Repeal Reserve, A Midwinter Night's Dram, Michter's 10, and Paul John Classic. 


When all was said and done, everyone said they learned a lot and had a great time. They asked about conducting a future whiskey event, and I even had Dave agree that the next one could include some peated whiskies!




My favorite part of whiskey, even beyond sipping it, is sharing the knowledge and watching folks expand their horizons.  If you're interested in an event of your own, let's talk. Learn, Laugh, and Enjoy Great Whiskey! 


Cheers!


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

Friday, July 23, 2021

WhistlePig PiggyBack 6 Year 100% Rye Review & Tasting Notes

 



I'm a big fan of Dave Pickerell and had an amazing visit with him here in Wisconsin at one of his last appearances before his untimely death.  If you're unaware, Dave was the mighty force behind WhistlePig as its Master Distiller. He didn't really do the distilling, though. That job belonged to Rick Murphy of Alberta Distillers


Alberta? Like Canada?  You betcha!  WhistlePig sources its whisky from our northern neighbor, ages it in Vermont, and fully discloses that. WhistlePig does have an operating distillery with a copper pot still designed by Dave. 


"WhistlePig began when we purchased our farm in 2007. After a few years of deep consideration and personal reflection we committed ourselves to crafting the world’s finest and most interesting Rye Whiskeys... [We] discovered and purchased an incredible stock of 10-year-old blending Whiskey in Canada that was being profoundly misused. That initial stock, for which we are forever grateful, is what kicked off our grand adventure." - WhistlePig


Today I'm reviewing PiggyBack 6.  As the name suggests, it carries a six-year age statement.  PiggyBack starts with a 100% rye mashbill from Alberta. It is aged in new, charred oak barrels to follow the American Rye whiskey regulations. It is also certified kosher. Bottled at 96.56°, you can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml package.


I acquired my sample at The Malt House, a local bar located in Madison.  That explains the less-than-interesting photo, but the whole #DrinkCurious thing applies nonetheless. Let me get started.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, PiggyBack presented as pale gold in color. It made a thin rim that created a curtain of legs that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose:  Aromas of citrus, cinnamon, and caramel were fairly easy to pick out. When I brought the fumes into my mouth, a wave of vanilla flowed over my tongue.


Palate:  With a silky, medium-bodied mouthfeel, the first flavors I tasted included rye spice and cocoa powder. The middle was soft leather, and the back offered oak, vanilla, and white pepper.


Finish:  Medium in length, the oak and white pepper carried through, and vanilla was swapped out with cinnamon spice. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: As much as I respected (and still do) Dave, as much as I recognize his amazing talent, at the end of the day, PiggyBack is still a nondescript Canadian whisky that has been aged in the United States. If I was at a friend's house and was offered a pour, I'd drink it. But, I don't see myself laying down money for a bottle. Someone newer to Rye whiskey may find this very approachable. Because of that, I'm giving it a Bar 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 you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Glenlivet Caribbean Cask Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


If you've heard anything about Scotch, you've likely heard of The Glenlivet. I say that with some authority as it is the #1 best-selling single malt Scotch in the United States and the #2 best-selling in the world overall. 


The Glenlivet has a storied history. Established in 1824, this Speyside distillery was started by George Smith. According to The Glenlivet, in 1822, King George IV wound up in Scotland and asked Smith if he could part with a pour or so of his illegal, but still respected Glenlivet whisky. Smith was no dummy and gave the king what he requested. Two years later, Smith applied for the first legal distilling license in Glenlivet Parish. About a decade later, Smith was distilling almost 200 gallons weekly, which naturally caught the attention of his competition. 


In 1871, Smith passed away, and his son, John Gordon Smith, stepped up to continue operations. The competition decided they were going to also call themselves Glenlivet, and Smith, a former lawyer, successfully obtained the exclusive rights in 1884 to have his whisky called The Glenlivet. The distillery has been running continuously sans a hiatus during World War II. 


Recently, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow picked up a bottle of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a single malt Scotch that touts it is selectively finished in barrels that held Caribbean rum. What selectively finished means is that only a portion of the whisky was finished, the rest aged normally. She paid about $29.00 for it, making it an easy, low-risk purchase. It carries no age statement, no indication if it is chill-filtered or not, and without any suggestion that caramel coloring was used or avoided. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°).

"To create whisky with a tropical feel, our makers finished a portion of our smooth whisky in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum. The result is a well balanced and exceptionally smooth whisky. Single malt, meet summer." - The Glenlivet

 

I'm unsure if this was a purposefully limited production or if sales didn't meet expectations, but Caribbean Reserve was introduced in 2020 and appears nowhere on The Glenlivet website. The bottle my wife procured was produced May 2020, which tells me at the very least the store wasn't selling these like hotcakes.


Of course, I try everything that I can when it comes to whiskey. That's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Disappointing sales or someone's negative opinion doesn't shy me away. We all have different expectations and desires to make us happy.


Without further ado, it is time to dissect this whisky and discover what Caribbean Reserve is all about. 


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Caribbean Reserve suggested a brassy amber appearance. It formed a very heavy rim that left sticky droplets that crawled back to the pool. 


Nose:  I expected rum notes to dominate. They didn't. Instead, it was very malt-forward, with undertones of honey, orange citrus, and apple cider. When I took the vapor into my mouth, vanilla and brown sugar slid across my tongue.


Palate: Caribbean Reserve had a full-bodied, creamy mouthfeel. While it filled my mouth, strangely it wasn't coating. The first thing I tasted was coconut, lemon, banana, and honey. Mid-palate, flavors of brown sugar, vanilla, raisin, and pineapple were fairly easy to discern. On the back, I discovered clove, cinnamon, and chocolate.


Finish: Most of the finish was medium in length. A hint of wood was accompanied by apple cider, brown sugar, clove, and banana. What lasted much longer was toffee.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  What will Caribbean Reserve not do? If you're looking for something to compete with, say, The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, this will fall short. It is also obviously younger. But, Caribbean Reserve is also more than half the price. What this will provide is an affordable, tasty, whisky that performs as advertised - an easy-sipping Scotch to be enjoyed on a hot, summer's day. I'll give it a Bottle rating, I believe it is worth that. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to drink your whiskey as you see fit, but begs you to do so responsibly. 



Monday, July 19, 2021

Remus Repeal Reserve V Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


Do you know who George Remus was? He was known as the King of the Bootleggers during Prohibition. He was absolutely not a nice man. In fact, the term psycho might be appropriate. 


Remus was a criminal defense attorney. Some of his clients were bootleggers. Many were murderers. He watched his clients make an illicit fortune while he was getting them off the hook. After finding a barrel full of loopholes to get bootleggers off the hook, Remus figured he could do it better and, after ditching his briefs, got rich.


One loophole he found was in the Volstead Act, which allowed someone to buy distilleries and legally manufacture medicinal whiskey. Investing heavily in the purchase of just about every operating distillery in greater Cincinnati, he discovered he could have his employees hijack his finished product, then turn around and resell it on the black market. 


Well, as luck would have it, George found himself indicted on several thousands of violations of the Volstead Act, and it took very little to convince the jury of his guilt. He was sent to a federal prison in Atlanta. 


Don't buy the story just yet, there's more!  Remus had a big mouth. He got affable with a fellow prisoner and made a big deal about how his wife had all of the assets in her name so that nobody could get it. That fellow prisoner just happened to be undercover agent Franklin Dodge. Oh, Dodge wasn't a saint, either. He resigned his position and started an affair with Remus' wife. They fell in love and started selling off George's assets, leaving him with a mere $100.00 to his name!


Oh, I'm not done yet. Remus was on his way to court for his divorce proceeding when he staked out his wife's car. He shot her in the stomach. Rumor was she was pregnant with Dodge's child. He was arrested, pled not guilty by reason of insanity, and the jury took less than twenty minutes to deliver its verdict supporting that. And that, my friends, is the story of George Remus.


MGP named its flagship Bourbon after Remus. MGP also acquired Luxco, which owns Lux Row Distillers and Limestone Branch. MGP transferred its Remus brand to Luxco, presumably to keep the MGP name a parent entity rather than a brand. This year, Remus Repeal Reserve V will be released in September, just in time for Bourbon Heritage Month. As you can gather from the name, it is the 5th incarnation of this annual release.


The whiskey is 100% MGP, but this year, it is the oldest batch yet.  It is a blend of 9% 2005 Bourbon with 21% rye mash, 5% 2006 Bourbon with 36% rye mash, 19% 2006 Bourbon with 21% rye mash, 13% 2008 Bourbon with 21% rye mash, and 54% 2008 Bourbon with 36% rye mash. While it carries no age statement, that makes this a 13-year MGP Bourbon. Bottled at 100°, the suggested retail is $89.99. If history is any guide, unlike many annual releases, Repeal Reserve tends to be fairly easy to find and hangs around on shelves longer than others. 


September is a few months away, but I've been provided with a sample of Repeal Reserve V in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I'll #DrinkCurious here and share my tasting notes with you.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as deep, dark mahogany. It formed a thin rim, but heavy, slow legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Aromas of caramel, toasted nuts, cinnamon, and cherry hit my nose. When I took the vapor into my mouth, a wave of cherry vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and silky. In fact, it may have been the silkiest texture I've come across in a whiskey - any whiskey. It gave me a bit of a Wow sensation that made me forget about everything else. When I gathered my senses, I was able to taste cherry, vanilla, and English toffee on the front of my palate. The middle suggested cream, cherry (again), and rye spice. On the back, there was a bold taste of oak, leather, and black pepper. 


Finish:  Big shocker, cherry remained. It was joined by char, dry oak, cinnamon, clove, and tobacco leaf. As those faded off, rye spice stuck around. And remained. And remained some more. I timed it. It went almost five minutes before finally ending.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Everything about this Bourbon was delicious. But strange as this may sound, the luxurious mouthfeel eclipsed all that. This was easily the best batch of Remus Repeal Reserve I've had, the price is right, and I love the fact it is fairly easy to get your hands on. This is a slam-dunk Bottle rating. If I had, say, a Case rating, this would take that. Cheers!


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


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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

18th Street Distillery 100-Proof Rye and 110-Proof Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Indiana makes some incredible whiskey. It may not be the first to come to mind, but Indiana is the home to MGP, and I'm sure you've likely heard of it. There are some excellent craft distilleries, such as Spirit of French Lick and Starlight.  There are others, many others, and one such entity is the 18th Street Distillery of Hammond. 


Founded in 2017 by Drew Fox, 18th Street Distillery shares production space with its older sibling, 18th Street Brewery. It is the first legal distillery since Prohibition to open in Northwest Indiana. The distillery has a 10,000 proof-gallon per year capacity. Everything is distilled on-site and not sourced.


Today I'll be reviewing both its 100-proof Rye and 110-proof Bourbon. Despite the fact the samples were provided to me by 18th Street Distillery in exchange for no-strings-attached reviews, when I asked for additional information, those requests went unanswered. I'm not reading anything into it, but it forces me to deduce and make assumptions about the whiskey as I explore it blind. In searching the Internet for more information, I found very little. Regardless, I would like to thank Drew for the samples and the opportunity to review his whiskeys.


100-Proof Rye


I was able to learn that the Rye is made from a mash of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley. No information was provided on aging, the type of cooperage, or anything else that I'd normally share. One assumption I'm making is that aging was fairly short in smaller, oak barrels. I'll explain why in a bit. I was able to find an online store that sells a 750ml bottle of this Rye for $42.99.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Rye presented as the color of deep, dark caramel. That color was the first clue. Assuming a maximum age of just under four years (remember, the distillery was established in 2017), this is amazingly dark for being that young. A medium ring was formed, which led to heavy, quick legs that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of sawdust, barrel char, and cherry cola hit my olfactory sense. The sawdust was weighty, and that too hints as to both younger age and smaller cooperage. When I inhaled through my lips, it was as if cherry vanilla ran across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was a medium body and somewhat oily. At the front, I picked out rye spice, cherry, and sawdust. The middle was challenging, but I did find a hint of vanilla. Then, on the back, charred oak and rye spice.


Finish:  Medium in length, there were further clues to give credence to my suspicion.  The whiskey wasn't rough, but it was definitely young. There was more sawdust, joined by cherry, oak, and rye spice.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The flavor profile on this was uncomplicated. It was somewhat flat and seemed very typical of smaller cooperage being used. I'm absolutely willing to be wrong here, and I want to stress this is just what my experience tells me. That being said, I found nothing to remember aside from the sawdust and char. Rye does age faster than Bourbon, but this still needs additional time in the barrel no matter what the size. While I appreciate 18th Street Distillery 100-proof Rye being a true craft whiskey, it isn't something that I would spend $42.99 on. As such, the Rye takes a Bust.


110-Proof Bourbon


If finding information on the Rye was difficult, there was even less available on the Bourbon. I was, again, unable to learn about cooperage, age, or even a breakdown of the mash aside from it is a standard corn/rye/barley combination. Another online store suggested $48.99, but I saw another for $59.99. For the sake of this review, I'm going with $48.99.


Appearance:  Served neat in a different Glencairn glass, the Bourbon was slightly lighter in color than the Rye counterpart. I'd call it deep caramel as well. The rim was thin and the legs sticky, they took a bit to work their way down the wall.


Nose: Even though I allowed the glass to sit for about ten minutes, I was greeted with a blast of ethanol in my face. Once I was able to get beyond that, aromas of corn, nutmeg, vanilla, and peanuts came through. I brought the vapor into my mouth and only found ethanol that muted anything else. 


Palate:  A medium body led to corn and caramel on the front of my palate. The middle tasted of green, young oak. The back offered rye spice, pepper, and tobacco leaf.


Finish: Medium-to-long in length, the finish started with vanilla, corn, and tobacco leaf. While the tobacco leaf stuck around, it was joined by the greenish oak. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'm a lot less sure of the cooperage for the Bourbon than compared with the Rye. The only real hint I have is the color, but again, as I don't know the age, there were no real telltale signs. I do suspect based on the amount of ethanol and the notes of green oak that this is a young Bourbon. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I enjoy plenty of younger Bourbon and Rye whiskeys. But, I didn't find much to like about 18th Street Bourbon. It was hot and lacked any real depth. 


To try and be as fair as possible, I poured another glass and this time added a couple drops of distilled water. That took care of the ethanol blast on the nose but failed to bring out other notes. The palate improved and transformed into stronger caramel notes, but it also featured even more green oak. 


If I were going to change something with this Bourbon yet not change the mash or cooperage, I would suggest lowering the proof at least ten or so points and have it rest longer in the barrel.  As it is, I cannot recommend it and, unfortunately, have no other option but a Bust 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 you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Holmes Cay Single Origin Edition Fiji Rum Review & Tasting Notes



When a brand approaches me and asks if I'd review what they've got, I try to keep a very open mind. As an example, even though I do not enjoy tequila and can barely tolerate it, I've been asked to pen a tequila review. Same with gin. In both cases, I let distillers know upfront that I don't like gin or tequila and they need to prepare for a less-than-flattering review. After all, I advertise they're all honest, no-strings-attached reviews and I stand by that.


I enjoy rum, but I've not studied it, and I've certainly not put in the time and effort as I have with whiskey. I can, regardless, tell you what's good and what's not up to par. But, I couldn't consider myself an authority on it, which is why I'm not Rumfellow.


When Holmes Cay suggested I try its new Single Origin Edition: Fiji Rum, I thought it would be a good challenge and accepted the offer. The sample arrived and I poured it. I took notes. I kept my #DrinkCurious attitude. 


"Holmes Cay [pronounced "key"] Rum curates a continuously evolving collection of the best small-batch, limited-edition rums, distilled with integrity and without additives. Single Cask editions are aged in cask, while Single Origin editions combine multiple casks and production styles to offer exceptional expressions from a distillery or country." - Eric Kaye, Founder

The Fiji Rum is blended from "lightly-aged" casks of molasses rums run through both pot and column stills at South Pacific Distilleries of Lautoka, Fiji. In this particular case, Kaye was joined by the minds of Will Hoekenga and John Gulla of the Rumcast podcast. On a side note, I think that's super cool and I would love to do something whiskey-related like that! The rum is just that:  rum. There are no added sugar, coloring, or flavors to adulterate it. What we get to sip is what Holmes Cay calls honest rum


Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), there were only 2260 bottles produced. It carries no age statement. Distribution is exclusive to the US market, and currently available on shelves in AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, NY, and OR. It can also be obtained online. It is priced at about $49.99 for a 750ml bottle.


I'd like to thank Holmes Cay for this review opportunity. Let's get to the tasting notes...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass only because it adds some level of consistency to the review process, Single Origin Fiji Rum appeared as the color of blonde straw. It created a medium ring on the wall that led to thick, oily legs that came down like a curtain.


Nose:  When I sniffed this from the bottle, I was not a happy camper. I smelled plastic and something else "industrial." But, in the glass, that became a minor player and, instead, agave, green pepper, and freshly-cut grass took the spotlight. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I tasted agave and citrus notes. 


Palate:  The initial mouthfeel was thin and lacking, but an additional sip lent both weight and substance. It offered a medium body and was coating. Flavors of agave, honey, and vanilla cream formed the front, then the middle had funky flavors that I just couldn't identify. The back was far easier with black pepper, brine, and clove.


Finish:  A locomotive finish started slow and then could not be stopped. It began with black pepper, then clove, followed by resin (not raisin), and brine. It stuck around for many minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated earlier, I know what I like and what I don't, and that's without the technical knowledge of this type of spirit. In the case of Single Origin Fiji Rum, I found it interesting and much different from other rums I've had. Some of that was enjoyable, some of it was strange, but this was very drinkable. I appreciated the higher proof than what is normally acquired from mainstream brands. I respect the purity of Holmes Cay's mission. The price is certainly affordable, especially something that you'd sip rather than you'd liberally pour into a cocktail.  While I'm not adding a rum wing to the whiskey library, this rum earns my 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 you do so responsibly.






 

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


Japanese whisky is an interesting category. Until very recently (meaning 2021), Japanese whisky could be pretty much anything. It just has to be sourced and bottled in Japan. The result was many brands were simply blending and bottling whiskies from other countries and slapping a label on them.


This year, the regulations changed. To be considered a Japanese whisky, it must be:

  • Malted from grains as the initial material, but additional grains can be added later
  • The water used in the entire process must be from Japan
  • The whisky must be mashed, fermented, and distilled in a Japanese distillery
  • 95% or less ABV
  • Stored in wooden barrels of no more than 700 liters for at least three years
  • Must be bottled at no less than 40% ABV
  • E150 caramel coloring is allowed

That takes care of many Japanese whisky brands. Nikka is one of the few brands that have consistently distilled, aged, and bottled in Japan. 


Today I'm reviewing Nikka Coffey Grain, which is a Japanese whisky created at the Miyagikyo Distillery. If you're looking at that name and thinking that coffee has something to do with it, you'd have guessed wrong. Coffey refers to the type of still used in the distillation process. The Coffey still was invented in 1830 by an engineer named Aenus Coffey. The Coffey still is a pot still that runs continuously versus batch distillation.


Nikka Coffey Grain starts with a mashbill of 95% corn and 5% malted barley. It carries no age statement, is packaged at 90° (45% ABV), and retails for about $64.99. It can sometimes be difficult to find but is not allocated and is available throughout the United States.


So, is it any good? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  For the record, I purchased my bottle back in 2019.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Coffey Grain was brilliant gold in color. It made a thin rim and heavy, watery legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Considering the mashbill, I was unsurprised when corn was the first thing I encountered. I found aromas of dried hay, caramel, and apples as well. When I took the vapor into my mouth, honey danced across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick, full, and rich. It coated everywhere. Chocolate and English toffee were on the front, then on the middle, honey and caramel apple took over. The back offered smoked oak, clove, and creamy vanilla. 


Finish:  Medium-to-long in duration, the finish highlighted barrel char, oak, corn, and vanilla. It seemed well-balanced.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: If you love Bourbon but want to explore things beyond the United States, Nikka Coffey Grain is an interesting alternative. You get many of the typical flavors you'll find in Bourbon, including the charred oak. The mouthfeel is luscious and gives the whole experience a lovely start. It may be a tad expensive for some, but in the end, I believe you'll find it a good investment. I crown Nikka Coffey Grain with a 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 you do so responsibly.



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Diznókõ Tokaji Aszú (2008) Review & Tasting Notes



You've looked at the title. If you're like me, you can't even figure out how to pronounce it. So, what the heck is Diznókõ Tokaji Aszú?  


My 2020 Whiskey of the Year was The Dublin Liberties Murder Lane Irish whiskey. What made it special was it was finished in Tokaji wine casks. I was so in love with it that I had to chase down the wine in the cask.  By the way, that's something I've never done before. On a side note, Tokaji was also used to finish Glenmorangie's Tale of Cake


So, what the heck is Tokaji wine?


Well, the most important thing to know is it is from Hungary, and that explains why unless you're fluent in Hungarian, you'd have difficulty saying the name.  Tokaji has to come from the Tokaji region of Hungary. Neighboring Slovakia may also legally use the term, but only if they follow the established Hungarian methods. Six varietals of grapes are used in the production of Tokaji: Furmint, Hárslevelű, Yellow Muscat, Zéta, Kövérszőlő, and Kabar. While there are several types of Tokaji wines, the most famous and revered is Aszú. Aszú is made from grapes subjected to noble rot. Yup, you read that right. Rot. It is a fungus that grows on the grape. It creates a sweet, luxurious wine. 


Diznókõ's release is a 2008 vintage and has a puttonyos rating of 5, which measures sweetness. In the world of affordable wines, it doesn't come cheap, although the $35.00 cost for the 500ml bottle wasn't obnoxious (you can spend much, much more on Tokaji). 


Before I get to the tasting notes, remember, I'm a whiskey guy. I don't write about wine, and unless Mrs. Whiskeyfellow asks nicely, I rarely drink it. I'm handling this just like I'd do a review for whiskey, and it will be rated on the same Bottle, Bar, or Bust scale.  Let's get to it!


Appearance:  In my Riedel Copita glass, this Tokaji wine presented the color of topaz. It created a heavy rim with thick, sticky legs that eventually fell back to the pool.


Nose:  An explosion of orange blossom filled the air as soon as I pulled the cork. The only other thing I smelled was honey. When I breathed in through my mouth, I tasted a bit of vanilla, but it was mostly honey. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and silky. The flavors were exactly like the nose. Orange blossom and honey. Front, middle, and back. There was nothing else going on.


Finish:  Here's where things changed up.  The citrus flavor that came through was lime, not the expected orange. It was joined by oak tannins. The oak fell off early. The lime was medium in length.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While composing this review, I've had two glasses of Tokaji. The wow factor is definitive. Distillers, take note: If you're interested in finishing a whiskey in something unusual and flavorful and not what everyone else is using, you may want to consider Tokaji wine casks. As for me, I'd buy this all day long - it takes a 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.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes




I'm often amazed, with all the whiskeys that I've had checked into my library, what has never been in the catalog. When you get into what I'd classify as The Basics, that should be a part of pretty much any whiskey bar.  Evan Williams. Buffalo Trace. Jim Beam. Four Roses. Maker's Mark... you know, the basics. 


Except, I left one out. One iconic American Bourbon distillery - Wild Turkey.


It isn't as though I've not had Wild Turkey products grace my shelf. I have Russell's Reserve. Four different barrels that I've picked, as a matter-of-fact.  And, if you've read any of those reviews, you'll know that until two years ago, I pretty much avoided Wild Turkey.  It has nothing to do with Eddie or Jimmy, they're great guys. But, I didn't care for it.


And then I got into an Austin Nichols Wild Turkey. It was at some American Legion Post and it was hiding behind a bunch of other stuff. It obviously hadn't been poured in a long time. I tried it, and it was simply amazing. I remember asking the bartender if they had any bottles left, and he confirmed that the bottle was just sitting there and they had no more.


Well, flash forward two years and I'm invited to do my first Russell's Reserve pick. Then a second. Then the third. And, I'm loving it. Then I start telling myself that I need to explore other Wild Turkey expressions. I went to a bar and tried Kentucky Spirit. I enjoyed it. I told myself I'll have to grab a bottle of 101. Months passed. COVID hit. And, then my little town, which had been lacking a liquor store for a few years, had a brand new liquor store open up.


I went there on opening day to introduce myself and support them. Because of COVID, they had not received much as far as stock goes. I checked out their whiskey selection, and there it was:  Wild Turkey 101


If you're unfamiliar with 101, it is named after its proof, 101°. The Russells start with a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is distilled to an entry proof of 114 °, then is then poured into #4 charred white oak barrels where it is allowed to rest between six and eight years. Retail is about $23.99.


So, how does Wild Turkey 101 taste? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Wild Turkey 101 presents as caramel in color. It offered a thin rim that created fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.


Nose:  This one starts as thick caramel and joined by mint. As I continued to explore, I found toasted oak and cinnamon. And, finally, sweet butterscotch. When I inhaled through my lips, stewed peaches glazed my tongue.


Palate:  Wild Turkey 101 has a medium-thick mouthfeel. Drinking this is like eating cinnamon-dusted vanilla custard. As you continue to dip your spoon in the custard, there are raisins down there. Then, you hit some crust - gingerbread crust. At the very bottom was a puddle of maple syrup.


Finish:  Once I got past the sweet, things became spicy. It began with black pepper and dry oak. Then some of the sweetness returned with berry, raisin, and creamy caramel. Overall, it was a medium-to-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  One of the really awesome things about the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is that it forces you to keep coming back to things you haven't enjoyed in the past.  Wild Turkey 101 is flavorful, affordable, and for the money, this is one hell of a Bourbon. It is absolutely a Bottle rating and proves yet again why you offer second chances for redemption. 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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


Lately, I seem to be craving peated whiskies. I can't explain why... I mean, I know I'm not pregnant, and I don't think that I'm missing anything in my diet... but that smoky quality is just something I'm gravitating to whenever I have a choice.


I've been blessed recently with incoming samples of Scotches I've never tried. Today, it is a distillery I've never tried:  Kilchoman.  This is one of nine working Islay distilleries and is located on the northwest coast. Founded in 2005 by former independent bottler Anthony Wells, this distillery has the smallest still of any on the island and one of the smallest in all of Scotland. It claims this gives it better contact with the copper and adds to the whisky's flavor.


Kilchoman is Scotland's first single-farm distillery (Rockside Farm) and uses only 100% Islay-grown barley.  Its best-known single malt is Machir Bay. With a peat level of 50ppm and a mashbill of 100% malted barley, it is non-chill filtered and naturally colored.


"Named after one of the most spectacular beaches in Islay, Machir Bay is the flagship of our range. Matured predominantly in bourbon barrels, it balances classic Islay peat character with caramel, vanilla, and citrus sweetness." - Kilchoman 


As indicated above, most of the cooperage is former Bourbon barrels, specifically from Buffalo Trace. The remainder is Olorosso sherry butts from Jose y Miguel Martin. It carries no age statement and is bottled at 46% ABV (92°).  You should expect to pay in the neighborhood of $59.00 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to the tasting notes and final verdict, I'd like to thank Impex Beverage for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Machir Bay was the color of golden straw. It established a rather thick rim and left weighty legs that quickly fell back to the pool.


Nose:  When I first poured the whisky into my glass, I could have cut the smoky peat with a knife. But, after allowing it to breathe for about ten minutes, that smokiness transformed to sweeter, mild peat. It was joined by honey, apple, pear, and citrus. When I breathed in through my mouth, I found thick vanilla.


Palate:  An oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel featured vanilla, honey, pineapple, and orange peel on the front of my palate. As it moved to the middle, rich butterscotch, cherry, tobacco leaf, and brine tangoed with one another. Then, on the back, I tasted a blast of charred oak from the Bourbon barrels, black pepper, clove, and a hint of leather. 


Finish:  The finish was long, long, long.  It commenced with deep smoke that went beyond char. Black pepper, clove, a certain earthiness, and something herbal joined it. The herbal portion lasted the longest, and when it finally fell off, there was one more kiss of smoke.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'm not a big fan of the astringent flavor some Scotches have, and thankfully, Machir Bay lacks any of that Band-Aid quality. I also found this Islay whisky to be atypical. The herbal essence was the kicker. At first, I thought it was like tar, but after other sips, it became obvious it wasn't. 


I can't believe I've waited this long to try Kilchoman. Now I want to kick myself. I enjoyed this immensely, and when I take into account the affordability aspect, this becomes a very easy 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 you do so responsibly.