Monday, January 31, 2022

Glendalough Double Barrel Single Grain Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Irish whiskey is a lovely category. It was once the most popular spirit in the world. Trade wars, taxation, malpractice, war, and, of course, Prohibition in the United States nearly killed it off. There were only three working distilleries in Ireland at its low point, but Ireland has been enjoying a resurgence in distilling over the last several years.

 

Irish whiskey is defined as a whiskey distilled in Ireland from a mash of malted cereal grains, which can be combined with other cereal grains. It must age in wooden casks no larger than 700 liters for at least three years in the country. The only additives allowed are water and caramel coloring and must retain the color, aroma, and flavor of this process.

 

One of the four types of Irish whiskey is called single grain. That term can be confusing. As is in the case of Scotland, the term single refers to one distillery used in the distillation process. As such, you’re not looking at a single grain containing only one type of grain. Instead, it can have multiple grains and still be called single grain.

 

Today we’ll explore a single grain from Glendalough Distillery called Double Barrel Whiskey. The exact distillery is undisclosed, but the mash is made from corn and malted barley. The double barrel part refers to the aging process. The whiskey spent at least three years in ex-Bourbon barrels from Wild Turkey then spent another six or so months finished in former 700-liter Oloroso sherry butts.

 

Once that process is complete, spring water from the Wicklow Mountains was used to proof it to 42% ABV (84°), and there are no statements regarding chill-filtering or added color. Due to the proof, the assumption would be that it is chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $35.00 for a 750ml package.

 

Before I get started on the tasting notes, I want to thank Glendalough for providing me a sample of Double Barrel Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, I’ll #DrinkCurious to learn more…

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Double Barrel Whiskey was the color of deep gold. A medium-thick rim formed that created wide, fast legs.

 

Nose:  I was taken aback by how complex the nose was, made of apple, nuts, honey, date, toasted oak, and then, behind all that, was a floral bouquet you might expect from rye. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, a wave of honey and vanilla rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  The texture was light-bodied but creamy. Brown sugar, apple, and pear were on the front. The middle consisted of vanilla, honey, and toasted nuts. Then, I tasted cocoa powder, roasted coffee, cinnamon, and dry oak on the back.

 

Finish:  Medium in length, the first note I discovered was smoke. Where did that come from? Cinnamon, oak, vanilla, and toasted nuts followed.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I honed in on that smoky finish. There were no hints on either the nose or palate that it was coming. Did it come from the sherry butts or the Bourbon barrels, or was it just dumb luck? I appreciated how much Double Barrel Whiskey kept me guessing. Frankly, I think this is genius, especially for the price. I can’t think of a single reason why this shouldn’t have it, so I’m crowning it with my coveted 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.

 


 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Smokey Joe Islay Blended Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Blended whiskies can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too many “purists” poo-poo on blends, insisting that the only way to go, at least with Scotch, is single malts. Let’s get something out of the way – single malt purists cheat themselves out of delicious experiences. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!

 

That’s not to say that all blends are fantastic because that’s not true. Like mediocre single malts, there are mediocre (and worse) blends that are good for stripping furniture. Blending is an art form. Those who are skilled make masterpieces. The master blender has a result in mind, and the challenge is how to get there. They may blend malts, grains, or a combination of the two.

 

Today I’m tasting Smokey Joe Islay Blended Malt Whisky. This means there are no grain whiskies involved. The producer, Angus Dundee, owns the Tomintoul and Glencadam distilleries. As neither are Islay operations, we know that Smokey Joe is sourced, but from whom?  Well, that’s not disclosed, and we’d be subject to guesswork if we wanted to go out on a limb. The rumor mill (a/k/a the internet) suggests either Laphroaig or Bowmore (or a blend of the two).

 

Smokey Joe carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46% ABV (92°). I can’t swear by it, but I believe this is a Total Wine & More exclusive under its Spirits Direct program. A 750ml package will set you back roughly $37.00.

 

The price is excellent but is it worth the investment? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  Enough jibber-jabber, let’s get on with the show.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Smokey Joe was a golden amber. It formed a thick rim that generated heavy, wavy legs that collapsed into the pool.

 

Nose:  It is obvious this is an Islay whisky because the aroma of sweet peat filled the room. I allowed this one to rest about ten minutes before approaching it, and then I found citrus, vanilla, honeydew melon, and seaweed. When I drew the air into my mouth, I experienced that medicinal astringent quality that many Scotches are known for.

 

Palate:  The initial sip provided a thin mouthfeel. But, the more I tried it, the creamier it became. It never morphed into anything weighty. The front of my palate tasted pear, honeydew, and a massive scoop of cantaloupe. As it approached the middle, that changed to smoky vanilla, pear, and lemon citrus. The back was medicinal, with smoke, seaweed, and clove.

 

Finish:  Medium in length with that same astringent quality, the finish included smoky peat, clove, and another heaping helping of that cantaloupe.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Smokey Joe is undoubtedly an affordable dram, but the big question is, Is it worth it?  If the Band-Aid thing makes you happy, Smokey Joe will be a winner. If that’s not your jam, you don’t even want to try this one. It has more medicinal influence than I’ve come across in several years. I can handle the astringent stuff just fine, as a complimentary note. Smokey Joe goes well beyond that. My recommendation is for you to try this one first, maybe the way I did with a 50ml taster before committing to an entire bottle, and because of that, I’m giving this one 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, January 26, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


I’m no stranger to Barrell Craft Spirits. With its Master Blender Joe Beatrice and his team, they bring us (always) barrel-proof whiskeys that go beyond the average sourced offerings. Sometimes the whiskeys are US-based, occasionally Canadian, sometimes from other venues, but you can count on what’s in the bottle to be decidedly different from what you’re used to.

 

Recently, Barrell introduced us to its Gray Label whiskeys. These were premium offerings, above and beyond the “standard” releases. Made from older stocks, they commanded a premium price tag. And, now, there’s something called Gold Label, which is a step above the Gray.

 

Today’s review is Barrell Gold Label Bourbon. What’s inside is sourced from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. You can read that (in my opinion) as George Dickel, Jim Beam, and MGP, respectively. These are 16- and 17-year stocks! Barrell opted for four lots of barrels:


  • Cherry-bombs
  • Nut/oak-forward
  • High-proof
  • Milk chocolate


The exciting thing is that the last group was finished in toasted virgin oak barrels.

 

“Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Bourbon is a blend of 16- and 17-year-old straight bourbons. Barrels for this release were selected from four different collections: cherry bomb barrels with a rich mouthfeel, nutty oak-forward barrels, high proof and high complexity barrels, and barrels with pronounced milk chocolate notes. The last group underwent a secondary maturation in toasted virgin American oak casks before being added to this intricate and seductive blend.” – Barrell Craft Spirits.


The resulting product is a Bourbon that weighs in at 113.54° and the price – hold onto your seats – is $499.99. On the plus side, it comes with a red gift box.

 

I want to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample of Gold Label Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. That means it is time to #DrinkCurious and figure out what this is all about.

 

Appearance: Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon was deep and dark, the color of burnt umber. It took an effort to create a rim, and when it did, it was micro-thin but led to long, wavy legs.

 

Nose: Crème Brulee was the first thing I smelled, and it almost punched me in the nose. Beneath that were toasted marshmallow, hazelnut, almond, oak, cherry pie filling, and apple pie filling (yeah, I had to come back several times to confirm those last two). When I drew the aroma in my mouth, it was like sucking on chocolate-covered cherries.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and thick. Caramel, vanilla, peanut, and leather ruled the front. The middle featured fresh mint, cherry, plum, and berry. I tasted ginger, oak, cocoa, and tobacco on the back.

 

Finish:  This was one of those never-ending finishes. Sure, it ended eventually, but it seemed to run forever. Mint, oak, black pepper, ginger, chocolate, and marshmallow cream stuck around for a captivating experience.  There was no Flintstone vitamin quality from the Dickel portion. This is one of those sneaky bastards – it drinks much lower than its stated proof, but, dang, it makes up for it with a 2x4 once it catches up.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ll get this out of the way. I’ve never paid $500.00 for a Bourbon, and I don’t see myself doing that anytime soon. That’s me. Barrell Gold Label Bourbon is stupendous. It is gorgeous. It is delicious. It is amazing. If you have $500.00 burning a hole in your pocket, this would be a nice investment. It would be a real treat for those of us who have lighter wallets to try this at a Bar. 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, January 24, 2022

Glenmorangie A Tale of Cake Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes




The Glenmorangie Distillery is located in Scotland’s Highland region. Unofficially founded in 1703, it began as a brewery on the Tarlogie Spring. In 1843, two former gin stills were installed, and it changed from a brewery to a distillery named, aptly, Glenmorangie. The distillery shuttered between 1931 and 1936, then resurrected until 1941, when it closed again until 1944. In 1977, it added two more stills, then doubled in 1990 and again in 2002, bringing the total to an even dozen. Glenmorangie claims ownership of having the tallest stills in Scotland.

 

Glenmorangie’s Director of Whisky Creation is Dr. Bill Lumsden. He probably doesn’t remember it, but Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, some friends, and I had dinner with him way back in September 2014. Never mind how dorky I look.




Dr. Bill has been developing new expressions while hanging out in The Lighthouse, which is the experimental venue for the distillery.

 

The 2021 release was A Tale of Winter, and as I stated in my review, I was impressed. The 2020 release was A Tale of Cake. I spent over a year tracking this one down. It seemed no matter where I went, I was told they had sold out long ago. And then, at some random store in Colorado, I found it.

 

“Some time ago, Dr. Bill found himself musing over how some of his most joyous memories came from cake – from the pineapple upside-down cake his daughter made for his birthday to baking with his granny in her kitchen. He devised this whisky to conjure the magic of a cake moment, finishing his favourite Glenmorangie Single Malt in the finest Tokaji dessert wine casks.” – Glenmorangie

 

Tokaji is pretty unique, and it was the main driver for my searching out A Tale of Cake. My 2020 Whiskey of the Year was The Dublin Liberties Murder Lane. It, too, was finished in Tokaji casks. That drove me to buy a bottle of Tokaji wine, which I found amazing.

 

A Tale of Cake is a single malt whisky – pretty much the standard Glenmorangie 10 aged in first-fill Bourbon barrels and then transferred to the Tokaji casks. It carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, is bottled at 46% ABV (92°), and the retail price is $99.99. Finding a bottle, of course, would be difficult, although as recently as late November, I saw a few on the shelf in Chicagoland.

 

Was this worth my almost year-long quest? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s get to it!

 

Appearance: Sipped neat from my Glencairn glass, this Scotch appeared as crystal clear copper. It formed a thicker rim which developed glazed, heavy legs.

 

Nose:  A deliciously-sweet aroma was made of honey, apricot, lemon zest, pineapple, and pear. It could have been a subliminal suggestion, but I thought I also picked up vanilla frosting. The pineapple and apricot were more prevalent when I drew the vapor past my lips.

 

Palate:  The texture was creamy and full-bodied. At the front of my palate, I tasted honeycomb, orange zest, dried apricot, and pineapple. The middle featured milk chocolate and, again, that vanilla frosting. I discovered almond paste, cinnamon sugar, clove, and dry oak on the back.

 

Finish:  A very long, warming finish began with pecan, almond, and milk chocolate, then moved to clove, cinnamon, and climaxed with dry oak.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I guess I’m a sucker for things finished in Hungarian Tokaji casks because I loved every moment of this whisky. I’d describe it as heavenly. I’m a tad upset that I didn’t snag one of those extras I found on the store shelf in Chicago. I found A Tale of Cake to be an easy Bottle rating for me, and I believe it would do the same for you. 


Epilogue:  For what it is worth, both Cake and Winter were delicious. Of the two, I preferred Cake. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Lonerider Spirits Nutcracker Pecan Flavored Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 


Flavored whiskeys are polarizing. You have the purists who won’t even consider one, believing that everything flavored is just Fireball, and you have others who will only drink flavored whiskeys. I fall nicely in the middle. I’ve had some lousy ones, and I’ve had some that I found impressive.

 

When the folks at Lonerider Spirits reached out to me about its Pecan Flavored Whiskey, I decided I was up for the challenge of tasting a newcomer to the pecan-flavored whiskey field. I’ve reviewed a handful of those and can discern which ones are worthwhile and which are, well, not.

 

Lonerider Spirits started as a North Carolina brewery, with Sumit Vohra and Chris Mielke at the helm. The partners then decided to go a step further and entered the spirits game. The distillery side was established in 2018.

 

“Over a dram of small-batch whiskey in their favorite saloon, they pondered how a craft brewery could expand into the Wild West of the spirits market.

They came to the conclusion you needed to be tough, go against the grain, and use whatever you had at your disposal to get unique liquor into people’s hands to savor. Most of all – you needed to be an outlaw.

That’s what Lonerider Spirits does – we make spirits by outlaws for outlaws.” – Lonerider Spirits

 

Lonerider has a few finished Bourbons, ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, and liqueurs beyond the Pecan Flavored Whiskey.

 

The Pecan Flavored Whiskey carries no age statement or information about the actual distiller. We do know it wasn’t Lonerider, as the label says “Produced and Bottled by” on it. And, because of that, we don’t know what type of cooperage was used. That’s not the end of the world, especially since this isn’t a high-end whiskey. You’ll find this one on store shelves right around $17.95 for a 375ml package.

 

Before I get started on my tasting notes, I’d like to thank the team at Lonerider Spirits for providing me a sample of its Pecan Flavored Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is time to #DrinkCurious and get down to brass tacks.

 

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn Glass, Nut Cracker offered an attractive blonde-amber color. A slight swirl created a thick rim and slow, fat tears.

 

Nose: An enticing aroma filled the room, made of pecan praline, thick caramel, vanilla custard, and honey graham crackers. When I pulled that into my mouth, the pecan came into its own.

 

Palate:  For only 80°, I was taken aback by how creamy and full-bodied this whiskey was. I tasted a huge dollop of vanilla cream on the front, then cinnamon and pecan. The middle featured pumpkin, nutmeg, and caramel, while the back had toasted oak, allspice, clove, and black pepper.

 

Finish:  Medium-to-long in duration, the finish gave flavors of caramel, Cool Whip, toasted nuts, clove, rye spice, and black pepper.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Several companies are making pecan-flavored whiskey, but few hit the legal requirements of whiskey. Most of the flavored whiskeys I encounter are below 80°. Lonerider’s Nut Cracker does the full Monty with its version. With its attention-getting flavor, creamy mouthfeel, and welcoming nose, it is easy to understand that Lonerider wasn’t playing any games when it made this whiskey. If there ever was one, it is a true dessert drink, and I’m happy to slap a Bottle rating on 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 you do so responsibly.

 


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Glendalough Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Glendalough, which means “The Glen of Two Lakes,” is named after a scenic area in County Wicklow at the base of the Wicklow Mountains. Wicklow is considered “the garden of Ireland” and is located just south of Dublin. Back in the 6th century, a monk named Saint Kevin founded a monastery in the area, and some believe that his monastery was one of the pioneers of distilling spirits.

 

The Glendalough Distillery sources its water from those mountain springs. Established in 2011, friends Barry Gallagher and Brian Fagan quit their big-city careers and followed their dreams to distill.  They started with poitin, which is a precursor to whiskey. In keeping with Irish law, it is made in a small copper pot from cereals, grain, whey, sugar beet, molasses, or potatoes. From there, the distillery moved to whiskey and gin. Mark Anthony Brands purchased the distillery in 2019.

 

“The idea behind Glendalough Distillery is to make innovative spirits while staying true to the tradition and heritage of our ancestors.” – Glendalough Distillery

 

Today I’m sipping on Glenalough’s Pot Still Irish Whiskey. It begins with an unusual 2:1 ratio of unmalted barley to malted that’s been triple-distilled and non-chill filtered. It matured three years in former Bourbon barrels, then spent up to a year resting in Irish oak casks.

 

Here’s where things get a bit more exciting. A virgin Irish oak cask is very rare. The wood is harvested from 140+-year-old trees surrounding the distillery, then sent off to Spain to be coopered. If you have a bottle of this whiskey, the label will tell you the very tree the barrel came from!

 

Bottled at 43% ABV (86°), a 750ml package can be acquired for around $54.99. I was provided a sample by Glendalough in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review, and I thank them for the opportunity. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

 

Appearance: Glendalough appeared brassy and formed a medium rim on my trusty Glencairn glass. There was a combination of thick, fast legs and sticky, tiny droplets left behind when it released.

 

Nose:  A relatively strong aroma of malted barley greeted my nostrils. Hidden beneath were nectarine, grass, apple, vanilla, and toasted oak. As I drew the air past my lips, malt continued. I have to admit I was curious why the malt notes were so strong when only a third of the barley was malted.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy with a medium body. On the front, I tasted coconut, apple, and caramel. The middle offered dried dark fruit, muddled orange, and malt. The back was oak, ginger, clove, and pine (not to be confused with juniper).

 

Finish:  Ginger, clove, and oak tannins remained, along with barley and coconut. I have no idea what portion of that (aside from the oak) belongs to the virgin Irish barrels. Medium in duration, it strangely left a buzz on my hard palate. Remember, this is only 43% ABV; it shouldn’t do that.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’ve been sampling some off-profile Irish whiskeys for the last year or so. Glendalough Pot Still falls into that category. I appreciate the bonus of the virgin Irish oak and the opportunity to taste something aged in it. The whole 2:1 ratio of unmalted to malted barley works, although to be fair, there shouldn’t be a significant difference in taste between the two. However, the dominance of the malt on both the nose and palate was unexpected. I believe this Irish whiskey is enjoyable and reasonably priced, and as such, it takes 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, January 17, 2022

Cedar Ridge Double Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is a grain-to-glass craft distillery located in Swisher, Iowa. Founded in 2005 by Jeff Quint, Cedar Ridge is the first Iowa-licensed distillery since Prohibition. He came from a long line of farmers, and he began his operation to realize that it was time for Iowa to earn its way onto the Bourbon distilling map.

 

"Fine craftsmanship is a true reflection of Iowa’s mentality of doing the best with what nature gives them. No temperature control aging, minimal waste, and that Midwest resourcefulness put production first, favoring quality over quantity." - Cedar Ridge Distillery

 

Double Barrel Bourbon was distilled from Cedar Ridge’s standard 74% Iowa-grown corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley recipe. While it carries no age statement, the regular Bourbon is aged three years. Once fully matured, it is then dumped and poured into a new, charred oak barrel for an undisclosed time. It is a limited-release Bourbon available in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota, and you can expect to pay about $49.99 for a 750ml package.  Cedar Ridge plans to make this an annual limited release.

 

I want to thank Cedar Ridge for providing a sample of Double Barrel Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, I’ll #DrinkCurious to see how Cedar Ridge did with this whiskey.

 

Appearance:  I drank this neat in my Glencairn glass. It presented as rich caramel color. I gave my glass a gentle swirl, and it formed a thinner rim with fast, medium-thick tears that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose: The first aroma that hit was root beer, which was interesting. I also found clove, oak, vanilla, and berries. When I took the air into my mouth, I discovered more root beer.

 

Palate: The mouthfeel was warm and oily. I tasted caramel, corn, and vanilla cream on the front of my tongue. The middle featured cola, raw almonds, and nutmeg. On the back, I picked up butterscotch, clove, and smoke.

 

Finish: The duration ran between medium and long and consisted of charred oak (lots of charred oak), black pepper, clove, butterscotch, and root beer.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This pour was unusual and kept my attention as I tried to figure out what was happening in my mouth. The first sip was oak-heavy, but subsequent ones toned down. The root beer was fascinating because it is an uncommon note. It is a limited-edition, higher-proofed craft Bourbon and provides a ton of bang for the buck. I enjoyed Double Barrel Bourbon immensely and believe you will, too. A Bottle rating all the way. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 


 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Seagrass Review & Tasting Notes


Barrell Craft Spirits has recently released some high-end and premiere whiskeys that go well beyond its portfolio most of us find familiar. There exists a Gray Label series and a Gold Label series. The Gold series is a step above the Gray, and the Gray is above the standard releases.

 

In 2021, I named Barrell Seagrass the winner of my Best Blended Whiskey Award.

 

“This is probably the most unusual whiskey I’ve tried. It was sweet. It was spicy. It was earthy. The challenge became both exciting and a little frustrating. But, as I experienced the frustration, I caught myself smiling because the mystifying quality just worked for whatever reason.”  

 

As such, you can imagine my excitement as I came across a 16-year age stated Gray Label Seagrass. At the same time, I found myself concerned. Would Gray Label be like the original? Would it be a completely different whiskey? Would Barrell take away some of the magic I found in Seagrass?

 

Gray Label Seagrass starts with 16-year 100% Canadian Rye barrels. The distiller is undisclosed. The original Seagrass was a blend of Canadian and MGP-sourced Rye whiskeys. So, this is already a bit different.



Those barrels were divided into two groups. A portion of the first was finished in apricot brandy casks. A selection from the second group was transferred to Martinique Rhum barrels. Then, a blend of the first and second groups was finished in Malmsey Madeira barrels. From there, all were blended into a single batch. Barrell indicates that Gray Label Seagrass is aged in Canada and the United States and bottled at a cask strength of 130.82°.

 

A project like this isn’t going to come cheap. The suggested retail for Gray Label Seagrass is $249.99 for a 750ml package.

 

Before I get started on my review, I want to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing me a sample and the opportunity in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and taste how this pans out.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Gray Label Seagrass was the color of gold bullion. It even looked thick like melted gold. When I gave it a gentle swirl, a thin rim led to slow, sticky tears.

 

Nose:  As I let my glass rest on my bar, I could smell a mix of spices filling the air. Once I brought it near my face, things became more apparent. Well, kind-of-sort-of. The first thing I identified was cinnamon. Then I found allspice and nutmeg. Then there was a smidge of tobacco leaf. The aroma then changed to sweet with caramel and fresh grass. That transformed to earthy with mushroom and ripe olive, which gave off a puff of brine. When I drew the air through my lips, I picked out what I could swear was buttered cornbread.

 

Palate:  The unusualness of Seagrass continued with an airy and oily texture. I know that doesn’t sound like a plausible combination, but that’s what it was. The apricot brandy slammed into the front of my palate. It fell off in the middle, allowing notes of soft rye, fried plantain chips, shelled sunflower kernels, and cherry cola. A complicated back featured oak, citrus, green grape, plum, and smoke.

 

Finish:  The smoke and oak flavors continued into the finish and stuck around long enough to be the final notes. Before everything dropped off, the cherry cola, plum, and apricot made an encore presentation and slowly faded.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let’s get a few things out of the way. I’ve been on a mission to find an enjoyable Canadian whisky for a few years and have come up empty. Gray Label Seagrass was unlike any whiskey I’ve had, Canadian or otherwise, and frankly, it wasn’t even reminiscent of the original Seagrass, except for being just off-the-wall different.

 

It is uncommon for me to consider paying $250.00 for a whiskey – any whiskey. It happens, but the whiskey has to be incredible. Gray Label Seagrass is so unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced; and because of that, I could picture myself saving up for a Bottle. If that’s too much for your budget, you’ll want to find a good whiskey bar and buy yourself a pour or two. You’ll not regret it.



On a final note, I’m not counting this as a “win” for Canadian whisky because this is a one-off. I’m still on that quest. 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, January 12, 2022

Claddagh Imported Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 



One of the things I appreciate about any whiskey brand is its transparency. One thing that frustrates me is when a brand offers more marketing terminology than facts. There’s a difference between holding information close to one’s vest and obfuscation.  

 

For example, the term single oak cask would imply to a layperson that it is a single barrel whiskey. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. A single oak cask simply means that the final stage of the aging process was conducted in a single oak cask, and that last process could have been anywhere from a few moments to several years. The majority of aging could have been from multiple barrels of multiple types of whiskeys for an indeterminate time. It is like the term small batch; it carries no legal definition and, as such, is essentially meaningless.

 

Claddagh Imported Irish Whiskey falls under that single oak cask category. It comes from The Last 3 Feet Company, LLC. Much information is left to conjecture. Here’s what we know: It is non-chill filtered, a blended Irish whiskey that carries no age statement, and 46% ABV (92°). We can discern that while it has no age statement, it must, by Irish law, be at least three years old. The suggested retail price is $34.99. I did manage to pick up my 750ml for half the price at a Black Friday sale in Chicagoland.

 

“It is a traditional Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship. The hands in the ring design represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. The ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century. Claddagh Irish Whiskey celebrates these lovely sentiments.” – The Last Three Feet Company

 

What don’t we know? The distiller, the contents of the blend, or what type of cooperage was used (aside from “oak”). A casual Internet search doesn’t even tell much of its parent company aside from launching this whiskey in 2016.

 

We need to know if Claddagh Imported Irish Whiskey is any good, and the way we do that is to #DrinkCurious. I’ll get to that right now.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Claddagh had a beautiful deep, orange amber color to it. There’s no mention of e150a, so it is difficult to determine if this is naturally colored or not. It created a medium-thick rim that yielded heavy tears that ran back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

 

Nose:  Sweet and fruity, aromas of caramel, vanilla, raw honey, and orange blossom tantalized my olfactory sense. When I pulled the air into my mouth, pure vanilla ran across my tongue.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick, creamy, and full-bodied. I tasted vanilla and caramel-coated apple on the front. As it slipped to the middle, honey was joined by lemon zest and bold grapefruit. The back brought an encore of vanilla which was accompanied by oak and clove.

 

Finish:  For what seemed to be many minutes, the finish was spicy with oak and white pepper and sweet with vanilla and apple. I also experienced a chalky quality.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’m generally a fan of Irish whiskey, and Claddagh holds my opinion intact. This was certainly different from many Irish whiskeys I’ve had with its spiciness, but in other ways, it fits very well with the sweet and fruity aspects. It would be nice to know who did the actual distilling. While there is only a handful of working distilleries in Ireland, I can’t nail it down. I also wish there was less marketing lingo and more transparency, but that doesn’t affect my rating at the end of the day. This was proofed right and appropriately aged, and even at total retail price, I’d repurchase this one in a heartbeat. A Bottle rating for sure. 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, January 10, 2022

Cedar Ridge Bottled-in-Bond Rye Review & Tasting Notes


I’m no stranger to Bottle-in-Bond whiskeys. After all, it is my favorite genre of American whiskey. Bonded whiskey is fantastic because it carries certain guarantees that others don’t. The whole Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 came about because unsavory people did unpleasant things with whiskey before selling it to the public. Sometimes turpentine was added. Sometimes tobacco spit. Sometimes, who knows what. People were getting sick and dying because of the impurities in the whiskey. The result was a consumer protection law enacted by Congress.

 

The law requires several things. First and foremost, it must be 100% a product of the United States. A single distiller must distill it at a single distillery during one distillation season (January to June or July to December). It must age a minimum of four years in a federally-bonded warehouse, must be bottled at precisely 100°, and must state on the label who distilled it. Any deviations preclude the whiskey from being bonded.

 

I’m also no stranger to Cedar Ridge Distillery out of Swisher, Iowa. I’ve reviewed a handful of its whiskeys, sometimes carrying its own label, sometimes that of an independent bottler. The distillery has earned an overall good reputation with me, and as such, when they send me something new to try, I’m eager to get to it.
 

Distilled from a mash of 85% rye, 12% corn, and 3% malted barley, Cedar Ridge Bottled-in-Bond Rye carries no age statement and is bottled at an unsurprising 100°. The distillery states it is a seasonal release and intends to be ready every November.   Distribution is limited to Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. You can expect to spend about $50.00 for a  750ml package.

 

Before I get to my tasting notes, I’d like to take a moment and thank Cedar Ridge for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and see how it fares.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this bonded Rye presented as reddish-amber. It formed a medium rim and slow, thick legs.

 

Nose: The first aroma to hit my nose was soft cedar. It was joined by cherry cola, bubble gum, vanilla, and floral rye. When I took the air into my mouth, that cherry cola intensified.

 

Palate:  I discovered a soft, airy mouthfeel. Flavors of toasted oak, salted caramel, and vanilla began the journey. In tow were bubble gum and cherry cola. The back featured cinnamon, caramel, and tobacco leaf.

 

Finish:  Things were on the dry side with cinnamon powder, pink peppercorn, tobacco leaf, toasted oak, and sassafras. It had a medium-length duration.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Your average craft whiskey runs about $50.00. I found this one tasted above average. The finish was atypical, especially that sassafras note, and the whole thing left a smile on my face. That’s worth a Bottle rating to me. 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.