Friday, May 27, 2022

JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


I'm Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf.  Oh, you may know me as Whiskeyfellow, but before that, I was a fan of that sneered at, overlooked area of the liquor store. Not because I was cheap; instead, there are some real gems there. Generally, I like to keep this stuff a secret because, quite frankly, I'm concerned the distilleries will pick up on it and start ratcheting up the price. An example? Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond. That was an $18.00 whiskey. For the last couple of years, that's been a $100+ whiskey. Or Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond.  It was a $12.00 Bourbon. They ended production, tacked on an extra year, revived it, and now you can pay $50.00 (and it isn't any better).


Here we are, and I'm reviewing another Heaven Hill Distillery product:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond. This one is a $15.00 Bourbon; it isn't the easiest to find - not because folks scoop it up like it is allocated, but because it has a more limited distribution. Similar in nature to the original Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond, Heaven Hill doesn't even list JW Dant on its website, likely due to that limited distribution.


It begins with the typical Heaven Hill bourbon mash of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. JW Dant carries no age statement. But, since it is Bottled-in-Bond, we know that it must legally be at least four years old. My suspicion is it is right about that age. And, because it is Bonded, we also know it is 100°, we know it is from one distiller (Heaven Hill) during one distilling season (January to June or July to December) from a single distillery.


Is JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond worth the #RespectTheBottomShelf designation? You know what happens next... it is time to #DrinkCurious and find out.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, JW Dant was the color of caramel. It made a fat rim on the wall; it eventually yielded slow, heavy legs that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  The nose was pretty straightforward with corn, vanilla, and oak, but it was accompanied by banana nut bread. When I drew the vapor into my open mouth, it was a vanilla bomb.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be light-to-medium, but there was an oily quality to it. The front of my palate tasted corn, brown sugar, and caramel. As it worked its way across my tongue, vanilla, nuts, and cinnamon took over the middle. The back started with big oak, clove, and pear hidden beneath those.


Finish:  Medium-long in length, the finish featured black pepper, oak, nuts, marshmallow, and apple.  It was a bit strange for it to go from big spice to sweet. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond is a reasonably simple Bourbon. For the money, there's good value. You get notes you can actually identify because they're not muted, you get a sufficiently complex finish, and while it isn't the best of Heaven Hill's Bottled-in-Bond bottom shelf program, that shouldn't turn you off. Much of what's in that program is lovely. This one earns a Bottle rating from 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.




Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Whiskey Del Bac "Classic" American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes


When you think Arizona, you may think tequila. What doesn’t come to mind, at least to me, is whiskey. So when a friend approached me with a bottle from Whiskey Del Bac and asked me to review it, I couldn’t think of a single whiskey I’d even tried from the state.

 

Whiskey Del Bac is distilled at Hamilton Distillery in Tucscon. Stephen Paul founded the distillery in 2006.

 

“[W]hile drinking Scotch and barbecuing with mesquite scraps from our custom furniture company, Arroyo Design, we had a thought. Why couldn’t we malt barley over mesquite instead of peat, as they do in Scotland, for a single-malt whiskey with a flavor distinctive to the American Southwest?” – Whiskey Del Bac

 

He started with a 5-gallon copper pot still. In 2011, he and his daughter Amanda acquired a 40-gallon copper pot still, and in 2014, a 500-gallon copper pot still was installed.

 

It is not uncommon for Tucson to experience 40-degree temperature variances from morning to evening. That allows for significant interactions between liquid and wood, quickening the aging process. Add to that 15-gallon barrels (versus 53-gallon), and it sends aging into hyperdrive.  

 

The distillery distills three core whiskeys:  Classic, Dorado (mesquite-smoked), and Old Pueblo (unaged). Today I’m sipping on Classic.

 

Classic begins simply enough: 100% malted barley is distilled on-site and aged 12-14 months in medium charred, medium toasted oak. It carries no age statement, and here’s where things get confusing. Legally, for a whiskey to be sold in the United States, it is a minimum of four years old if it bears no age statement. But both the front and back mention nothing.





The label suggests 45% ABV (90°). However, when I visit Whiskey Del Bac’s website, its Classic is bottled at 92°. I performed a web search and found some old references at 84° and then recently the 92°.




I assume they’ve slowly increased the alcohol content over the years. I did reach out to Whiskey Del Bac but hadn’t heard back from them when the review was published (and, if they respond, I will provide an addendum).

 

The Classic is non-chill filtered, and everything from mashing to distilling to aging and bottling is performed in-house. There are three sizes available:  100ml for $12.00, 200ml for $21.00, and 750ml for $56.00. 

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt presented as a definitive amber. A wide, heavy rim released long, wavy legs that crawled back to the pool.

 

Nose: The first aroma was herbal, which made me immediately wonder how this would fare. It was tamed by orange peel, fresh-cut apple, cinnamon, and charred oak. When I inhaled through my mouth, that apple carried through.

 

Palate:  A soft, oily texture greeted my tongue. The front tasted cocoa and vanilla cream, and the middle featured caramel and apple pie filling. The back consisted of oak and mesquite, albeit faint.

 

Finish:  On the finish, the mesquite became more pronounced. Once it subsided, cocoa, oak, and dark chocolate took over. In all, the duration was medium-to-long.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Whiskey Del Bac Classic is a prime example of why I #DrinkCurious. It is utterly atypical of whiskey aged in a smaller cooperage. My bias crept in from the nose onward. I expected sawdust on the nose and sharp oak on the palate. Neither happened. Instead, I sipped a lovely, youthful whiskey that can compete with several other American Single Malts. There have been talks of moving to 53-gallon barrels, and I can’t wait to taste what comes out of those should it happen. I’m good with a Bottle rating in its current form. 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, May 23, 2022

Westland Distillery American Single Malt Collection Reviews & Tastings Notes


Nestled somewhere in the realm of Seattle lies the Westland Distillery. One of the cool things about Westland is how transparent the distillery is about its whiskeys and, well, everything. Go to the website, and you can geek out over the distillery, cooperage, grains, water source, and anything else you can think of.

 

Westland is in the process of applying to be a Certified B-Corp company. There aren’t a lot of businesses, let alone distilleries, that are Certified B-Corp. If you think that means it is green-friendly, you’d be partially correct. B-Corp goes far beyond that. The other half is its social policies. Everything must be transparent and set up to do good globally, from accounting to labor, from recycling to low emissions, charitable giving, etc.

 

Westland does everything in-house. About 90% of its barley is harvested in Washington. It mashes, ferments distills, ages, and bottles American Single Malt whiskeys.

 

“American Single Malt Whiskey is, by its very nature and existence, innovative. That said, we don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. We remain committed to expressing our provenance, but recognize the opportunity to contribute new ideas to the landscape of single malt whiskey.” – Westland Distillery

 

Today I’m exploring four Single Malts:  its flagship American Single Malt Whiskey, American Oak, Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange, and Garryana 6 from its Outpost Range. I appreciate Westland for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and get to it.

 

American Single Malt Whiskey



 

The first player at the plate is Westland’s flagship American Single Malt. It is distilled from six different malted barley strains (Washington Select Pale Ale, Munich, Extra Special, Pale Chocolate, Brown, and Baird’s Heavily Peated) and then aged for at least 40 months in the following woods:


  • Cooper's Reserve New American Oak
  • Cooper's Reserve Used American Oak
  • First Fill Ex-Bourbon
  • First Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts
  • Second Fill Ex-Oloroso Hogsheads and Butts


Westland then bottles it at 46% ABV (92°), with a 750ml retailing at $60.00.

 

Appearance: The brassy-gold liquid offered a medium rim with thick, sticky tears in my Glencairn glass.

 

Nose: Aromas of peach, strawberry, orange peel, biscuits, and a kiss of peat filled my nostrils. I found strawberries when I took the air in through my lips.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. Vanilla, nougat, and apple were on the front of my palate, with malted barley on the middle. The back gave up light peat and oak.

 

Finish:  With a medium-long duration, clove and a drop of smoke embraced the light peat and oak.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  In a word, this whiskey is superb. While reasonably uncomplicated, it also didn’t need to be. The cost edges on the high side, but that’s direct from the distillery, and you may be able to acquire it for less. Regardless, it earns my Bottle rating.

 

◊◊◊◊◊

 

American Oak Single Malt


 

The second player on deck is called American Oak. Until recently, it was the flagship single malt for Westland. It is discontinued, so what you find on the shelf is the end of the run. It, too, was priced at $60.00 for a 750ml package.

 

What’s the difference between the two?  American Oak is distilled from the same mash, sans Baird’s Heavily Peated Malt, and only first-fill ex-Bourbon and new, charred American oak barrels were used. It is also slightly younger, aging for three years.

 

Appearance:  The same brassy-gold color filled my Glencairn glass while forming a medium rim, which released slow, husky legs.

 

Nose: A bouquet of apricot, peach, apple, lemon, and toasted oak filled the air. As I inhaled through my mouth, a wave of vanilla rolled through.  

 

Palate:  An oily texture with a medium body led to caramel, vanilla, and orange zest on the front of my palate. Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and almond were next, with charred oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.

 

Finish:  Flavors of charred oak, black pepper, clove, and coffee remained for a very long finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  American Oak is good but nowhere near its replacement. On its own, it would be on the higher end of average for an American Single Malt. However, compared to the newer flagship, there isn’t a contest. Considering both are similarly priced, I’d give American Oak a Bar rating.

 

◊◊◊◊◊

 

Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange




The third one at the plate is a Washington-state-only release called Redhook Brewlab Cask Exchange. The distillate is the same as American Oak. It aged 39 months in new American oak barrels, then transferred for 48 months to former Bourbon barrels that subsequently held Redhook Brewlab’s Stratosphere Barley Wine with Strata hops. The total aging time is 87 months. The yield from the four casks was 900 50% ABV (100°) 750ml bottles, which sell for $99.99.  

 

Appearance: Redhook Brewlab showed off a raw honey color in my Glencairn glass. A medium rim released medium-wide legs.

 

Nose:  A blast of banana bread, vanilla custard, cherry, strawberry, and green apple slammed my olfactory sense. The air in my mouth grabbed vanilla.

 

Palate: A light-bodied and creamy sensation generated apple, pear, vanilla, and honey on the front of my palate. Date and apricot were next, followed by gingerbread and biscuits.

 

Finish:  Tangerine, vanilla, white pepper, and smoked oak rounded things out with a medium-length finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am not a beer drinker. I’ve never cared for it. For me, there was significant beerness to this whiskey. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t my thing. I can appreciate the work and age that went into this American Single Malt, and it should come at a premium price. My rating is a Bar.  

 

◊◊◊◊◊

 

Outpost Range: Garryana 6 



 

Batting cleanup is Outpost Range: Garryana 6. The Outpost Range is Westland’s experimental line, intending to go where whiskey has not gone before. In the case of Garryana, it utilizes 25% of its cooperage made from Garry oak, which is native to the Pacific Northwest region. The mash is the same as the American Oak; the woods used are:


  • Second Fill Ex-Pedro Ximénez Butt (65%)
  • Virgin Quercus garryana (25%)
  • First Fill Ex-Calvados (5%)
  • First Fill Ex-American Grape Brandy (2%)
  • First Fill Ex-Washington Apple Brandy (3%)

This is the sixth edition of Garryana offered. Packaged at 50% ABV (100°), it will set you back $175.00, and there were only 5922 700ml bottles produced. The whiskey ranges from 41 to 75 months, depending on the cask.

 

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Garryana presented as amber, with a thicker rim and slow, sticky droplets.

 

Nose: I smelled sherry, raisin, dark chocolate, cherry juice, and pineapple. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found raisin.

 

Palate:  An oily texture introduced the front of my palate to apple, apricot, and pear, while the middle suggested Mexican mole sauce (I have never used that descriptor before, but that’s what it tasted like). On the back were brown sugar, molasses, and ancho chiles.

 

Finish: Long and warming, the finish consisted of raisin, cherry, nuts, oak, and ancho chiles. It had a meaty quality to it, similar to burnt ends.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If I thought the flagship Single Malt was superb, then Garryana would be spectacular. That mole sauce took this whiskey over, above, and beyond the others. There was absolutely nothing to dislike, and while I swallow hard when we get into $175.00 whiskeys, in my opinion, Garryana 6 is worth every penny. 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.

 


 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Old Grand-Dad 114 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 



I will go out on a limb and state that anyone who knows even a smidge about American whiskey has heard of Jim Beam. What takes a bit more knowledge is it makes so much more than Jim Beam Bourbon. One of those brands is called Basil Hayden’s.

 

Who was Basil Hayden? He was a prominent distiller who used an atypically high rye content in his Bourbon. He had a son, Basil Hayden, Jr., who had a son, Raymond Hayden.  Raymond opened a distillery in 1840 called Old Grand-Dad, named for his grandfather, Basil Sr. The distillery was one of a handful allowed to produce medicinal whiskey during Prohibition.

 

Now, Old Grand-Dad wasn’t originally part of the Beam brand. That didn’t happen until 1987, when National Distillers, one of several owners, sold the brand to Fortune Brands, which later became Beam, Inc. (and later, Beam-Suntory).

 

Shortly after that, Beam started the Basil Hayden’s brand, named for the same Basil Hayden, Sr.

 

Old Grand-Dad 114 is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon distilled from a mash of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. It carries no age statement, meaning it is at least four years old, yet rumored to be between five and six years old. The “114” comes from this Bourbon’s proof (114°), and prices vary from the low $20s to just under $30.00 for a 750ml package. While the rumor mill suggests nearly every year that this year is the last for Old Grand-Dad 114, it is also easy to find at retail, which is how I acquired my bottle. And, between you and me, I find the talk to be just that.

 

Just a little bit of trivia: When I’m in a naughty mood, I like to ask folks to look at the back of their bottle and see the Lot Number. I then congratulate them on their find. Old Grand-Dad 114 is always Lot No. 1. You’ll also hear (or read) people refer to this whiskey as OGD114.

 

Let’s #DrinkCurious

 

Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Old Grand-Dad 114 presented as orange amber. It formed a medium rim that released wide, slow tears.

 

Nose: Aromas of corn, toasted oak, caramel, berry, and cinnamon tickled my olfactory sense. When I drew that vapor into my mouth, I discovered vanilla that doused my hard palate.

 

Palate: A warm, full-bodied mouthfeel introduced my palate to corn, honey, vanilla, and plum. The middle featured nutmeg, that typical Jim Beam peanut, and rye spice. I found toasted oak, cinnamon, and fresh leather on the back.

 

Finish:  That leather stuck around, accompanied by tobacco leaf, charred oak, vanilla, cinnamon, and white pepper, giving this Bourbon a medium-length finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Old Grand-Dad 114 was one of the first high-proof Bourbons I was introduced to many moons ago. It unmistakably drinks at its stated proof. When you consider the price, this is a heck of a bargain. It won’t blow your doors off, but it is tasty sipped neat. For the record (and nearly the same price), I prefer Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond, but either is something you should have in your whiskey library. 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.

 

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Glenmorangie Very Rare 18-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Whisky names and terms can be confusing. In an attempt to make them attractive and differentiate one from another, marketers can leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what the name or term means.

 

Take Small Batch as an example. It is a term meant to convey that only a select set of barrels were used in the blend. In reality, small batch has no definition whatsoever. It can be a batch of one barrel or a batch of thousands. Full Proof is another. Some may walk away with the notion that it is the undiluted contents in the bottle. Nope, it doesn’t have to be, and, in some instances, it is diluted to the original barrel entry proof before bottling. Then there are terms like Special Reserve or Limited Edition. They sound incredibly… well… special and limited, but they are just words with no legalese behind them.

 

Yet another market-speak word is Rare. To most people, rare means it is in limited supply or difficult to find. Some brands have the word in it, splashed in big, beautiful script. While the brand in question can be challenging to find at times, its name precludes the current market conditions.

 

What about Extremely Rare?

 

There are a handful of Scotch distilleries in the whisky universe that I fully expect what’s in the bottle to be very good. Why? Because they have a long, proven track record with me. That shouldn’t imply that something mediocre doesn’t come out here and there because nearly every distillery does. I still #DrinkCurious, and nobody gets a pass, but it sets in a particular bias. The Glenmorangie is one such distillery.  I’ve been a fan of the Highland distillery almost as long as I’ve been drinking Scotch. There are very, very few duds.

 

One of Glenmorangie’s regular releases is an 18-year-old whisky called Extremely Rare. Good or bad, the name implies this one is almost a unicorn. Except, it isn’t. It is simply the name of its 18-year Scotch.  Extremely Rare is a single malt Scotch, run through Glenmorangie’s taled very tall giraffe stills, then aged in former Bourbon barrels for 15 years. Then, about 30% of that 15-year whisky is transferred to former Oloroso Sherry butts for another three years, while the remainder of the 15 continues to age. At the end of 18 or so years, both parts are blended into a final product, then packaged at 43% ABV (86°).

 

Extremely Rare may make you think you’ll have to fork over a fortune, but it can be had for $110.00 at some larger liquor outlets.  



Is Extremely Rare any good? Let’s find out.

 

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was the color of golden straw. A medium-heavy rim formed a wavy curtain of tears that raced down the wall.

 

Nose: Sweet nectarines blasted me in the face. Honey, apples, golden raisins, and vanilla followed. Not to be left out, almond, toasted oak, and citrus followed. When the vapor entered my mouth, apricot rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  A medium-bodied, oily texture coated every crevice of my mouth. The front of my palate discovered golden raisin, apricot, and honey, while the middle offered flavors of almond, vanilla, and orange peel. I tasted mildly-charred oak, walnut, toffee, and a touch of lemon on the back.

 

Finish:  Charred oak, lemon peel, toffee, and apricot remained for a medium-to-long finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Glenmorangie 18 Extremely Rare is a hell of a nice pour. No one flavor dominated; instead, they melded together as if designed that way. I'd want the finish to be drawn out longer if I had to come up with something – anything – to nitpick at.  For $110.00 or so, it is reasonably priced and well worth the investment. Buy yourself a Bottle; you won’t regret it, rare or not. 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, May 16, 2022

Redbreast 12 Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


If you’re a fan of Irish whiskey, chances are you’ve heard of Redbreast. If that’s not a familiar name, no worries, I’ll tell you all about it.

 

Redbreast is made at the Midleton Distillery, Ireland’s most extensive. It is home to other famous brands, including Jameson, Powers, Spot, and Midleton. The Redbreast brand was created in 1912 by Gibley’s Wines & Spirits Import Company, marketing JJ Liqueur Whiskey (Jameson). Gibley’s chairman was an avid bird watcher and chose a red-breasted robin as the mascot. Thus, Redbreast was born.

 

“For more than a century, Redbreast has stayed true to the Irish Pot Still whiskey-making tradition. Today it is considered to be the definitive expression of this quintessential style of Irish whiskey making - a living legacy. Single Pot Still Whiskey has been safeguarded and nurtured under the watchful eye of the Midleton Distillery for almost two hundred years. And Redbreast is proudly considered the definitive expression of this Single Pot Still art.” - Redbreast

 

So, what does Single Pot Still mean? I’ll break that down for you in easy terms.  First, let’s look at Irish whiskey. It must be a product of Ireland and aged at least three years. There are additional rules, but we’ll skip those. Next is Pot Still, a mix of malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still (versus a Coffey still). Then comes the Single part. That means it comes from a single distillery in most countries, and Ireland is no exception. Add them all together, and you get Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey.

 

Today I’m exploring Redbreast 12.  It starts with a 50%-50% mash of malted and unmalted barley. It is triple-distilled in copper pot stills and then aged at least a dozen years in former Oloroso sherry butts. Redbreast 12 is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $60 or so for a 750ml package. For the record, Redbreast also offers a cask-strength version of it, but that’s not on today’s agenda.

 

And, that’s all the background you need, so let’s #DrinkCurious and get to the important stuff.

 

Appearance:  Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, Redbreast 12 was brassy and formed a thicker rim. It created husky legs that crawled down the wall and into the pool.

 

Nose:  Sweet aromas of malt, vanilla, apricot, peach, and freshly-cut grass joined with spicy notes of cinnamon and toasted oak. When I breathed in through my mouth, the grass and cinnamon remained.

 

Palate:  A luxurious, silky texture greeted my tongue. On the front, I tasted vanilla, almond, and honey. The middle featured apricot, raisin, and green grape. A spicy back consisted of cinnamon and dry oak and tapered with cocoa powder.

 

Finish: Cocoa powder, toasted almond, green grape, oak, and cinnamon remained for a medium-length finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Redbreast 12 is what Irish whiskey should strive to be. I’ve been a fan for several years. Redbreast is (pardon the word) smooth, flavorful, and just satisfies your desires for a great whiskey. I don’t know what else to say. It is one of the easiest Bottle ratings I’ve given. Just buy it. You won’t be disappointed. 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, May 13, 2022

Eagle Rare 10 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


Considering the years I've been penning reviews, I'm often surprised what I've not reviewed.  Not the off-the-radar stuff, not the limited-editions, but the basic, legacy whiskeys that should be the basics of any reviewer's library. Yet, I believe, in my quest to try the overlooked or relatively unknown and #DrinkCurious, I forget the staples out there. One of those is Eagle Rare Bourbon


Back in 1975, Charles L. Beam was the master distiller at Seagram's. He created a new brand called (you guessed it) Eagle Rare, and it was a vatted 101° whiskey distilled at the Four Roses Distillery. Then, in 1992, Sazerac purchased the brand and started distilling it at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. 


Sazerac continued to produce Eagle Rare at 101° until 2005 when the whole thing was pretty much revamped. It was no longer a small batch Bourbon and, instead, became a single barrel. The single barrel designation has since been dropped. The proof also changed and was reduced to 90°. That's continued into 2021. It still carries the 10-year age statement, but that no longer appears on the necker. Instead, it was moved to the back label.


"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - the cornerstones of the birth of a nation, epitomized by the American bald eagle. That notion has come to represent freedom, spirit, and independence of the individual, giving the world products and innovations that are uniquely its own. One such innovation was Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey." - Sazerac 


Eagle Rare is made from Buffalo Trace's mashbill #1, rumored to be 75% corn, 10% rye, and 15% malted barley. It should retail for about $35.00. Finding it on the shelf for that price can be challenging but not impossible. More likely, if you do find it, you can expect to pay $50.00 or more.


Is Eagle Rare allocated?  That's a sketchy question. No, not really. But, like Buffalo Trace, folks seem to clear the shelves when they find it. And, some store owners hold it back for either their "best" patrons or for raffles and auctions.


How's it taste? Let's get to that right now.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Eagle Rare was absolutely caramel in color. It formed a medium rim which led to slow, long legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose:  Very fragrant even in the glass, fruit just bursts into the air. Berries and cherry are unmistakable. Sweet caramel, brown sugar, fresh leather, and toasted oak are all tucked beneath the fruit. When I pulled the air into my mouth, plum danced across my tongue.


PalateSmooth is a descriptor many whiskey nerds hate. But there's really no other word to do the mouthfeel justice. On the front of the palate, I discovered honey, citrus, brown sugar, and vanilla. The middle featured plum, cherry, and berry fruit. Then, on the back, flavors of mint, dry oak, pepper, and clove were quite pronounced. 


Finish:  Initially, the finish was concise. But, a second sip proved that wrong, and I experienced a medium-to-long one. It started with plum, then moved to dry, smoked oak. From there, pepper, vanilla, and candied orange peel rounded things out.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: It is tough to not find Eagle Rare enjoyable. At least, in my opinion, it is a step up from the regular Buffalo Trace and a step below E.H. Taylor. This is a no-brainer slam-dunk Bottle recommendation if you see this for about $30-$45. Once you hit about $50 and above, I'd start second-guessing things. Of course, others would happily pay more; I'm just not in that camp. The takeaway is that there's really nothing not to like with Eagle Rare. 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, May 12, 2022

Canvas Rebel Magazine interviews Whiskeyfellow!

 



I was recently interviewed by Canvas Rebel, an online magazine for small business owners, artists, and other creatives about how I got started in this business and reflect upon one of my craziest experiences.

The interview was fun; I forgot I did it, though. You can read the article here

Cheers!



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Westward Whiskey American Single Malt Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Portland, Oregon, is the home of Westward Whiskey.  Founded two decades ago as House Spirits Distillery by Master Distiller Christian Krogstad, Westward Whiskey calls Portland, Oregon home. Christian’s background was as a brewer before turning to distilling.

 

Westward is known for its American Single Malt whiskeys and is a category pioneer. Its philosophy is to brew like a pale ale, distill like an American Single Malt, and age whiskey as a Bourbon. That whiskey is born of locally-grown Metcalf and Copeland two-row barley strains and ale yeasts that spent six days fermenting. Once that’s done, it is distilled twice through 3100-gallon, low-flux copper pot stills.  

 

Its entry proof is 125°, and Krogstad fills new, #2 char 53-gallon American oak barrels sourced from Kelvin Cooperage. The whiskeys carry no age statement but spend over four years in the barrel.  Blended in small batches, its whiskeys are non-chill filtered and naturally colored.

 

Last month, I had an opportunity to try four of Westward Whiskey’s expressions:  the flagship American Single Malt, its Cask Strength sister, the Pinot Noir Cask Finish, and the Stout Cask Finish.

 

Before I get to my tasting notes and ratings, I wish to thank Westward Whiskey for providing samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s #DrinkCurious and discover what these whiskeys are all about, shall we?


American Single Malt



This is the flagship expression from Westward. It is 45% ABV (90°), and a 750ml bottle is $65.99.

 

Appearance:  The caramel amber shined through my Glencairn glass. A thick rim released sticky droplets that were in no rush to fall back into the pool.

 

Nose: A fruity bouquet of cherry, apple, pear, and banana accompanied by sweet vanilla and caramel. When I drew the air into my mouth, the pear dominated.

 

Palate:  The medium-weighted, silky body offered pine, banana, and vanilla sugar cookies on the front, morphing to orange citrus, pear, and apple on the middle. The back had flavors of toasted oak, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

 

Finish:  Sweet vanilla, cherry pie filling, cinnamon sugar, and oak rounded things up in a medium-long finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found the fruity, sweet combination of Westward’s basic single malt enjoyable, and the price isn’t prohibitive, especially when you consider the time spent in the barrel and its stated proof. I have no qualms issuing my Bottle rating for it.

 

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American Single Malt Cask Strength




The cask strength version of the flagship Single Malt isn’t truly cask strength. It is more full proof, as Westward sells all of its cask strength whiskeys at 62.5% ABV (125°), so it gets a touch of added water. A 750ml package will set you back $88.99.  

 

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Single Malt appeared as burnt umber. A thin rim created a wavy curtain that fell quickly.

 

Nose: The banana aroma was more robust than the standard release, married with vanilla, apple, lemon, and nutmeg. I found lemon curd as I drew the air into my mouth.

 

Palate: Whereas the standard release was silky, the texture of the cask strength was oily and full-bodied. The front of my palate tasted lemon curd, date, and vanilla biscuits. Pear, cinnamon, and nutmeg took control of the middle, while black pepper, barrel char, and herbal notes hit the back.

 

Finish:  Black pepper, cinnamon spice, cocoa, and smoky char remained on the back for an extremely long, warm finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Westward’s Cask Strength is, in a word, dangerous. While spicy, it drank way under its stated proof. I found the transition between sweet and spicy enticing, and I could see myself losing control with how easy it went down. Cask Strength earns every bit of my Bottle rating.

 

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American Single Malt Pinot Noir Cask Finish




Westward took the standard Single Malt, aged it for 4-1/4 years, and then aged it an additional two years in French oak that previously held Suzor Wines Oregon Pinot Noir. It is packaged at 45% ABV (90°) and costs $82.95.

 

Appearance: This Single Malt was the color of caramel. A massive rim hugged the wall of my Glencairn glass, only to collapse under its weight and let loose its big, long legs.

 

Nose: The wine influence came out with plum, cherry, strawberry, and toasted oak. Strawberry jam rolled across my tongue as I pulled the vapor past my lips.

 

Palate:  An oily, full-bodied mouthfeel released currant, plum, and cherry on the front of my palate. Date, almond, and nutmeg were next, with grape, clove, and toasted oak on the back.

 

Finish: A medium-to-long finish slowly built from plum and cherry to almond, then dry oak and black pepper.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The fruitiness was crazy with the Pinot Noir Cask Finish. I’ve had other Pinot Noir finished American whiskeys, and none have come close to Westward. The spice at the end sewed everything up nicely. Here’s the big problem:  I couldn’t even pick out the alcohol until it was too late and I was already lit.  If I thought the first two were lovely, this incarnation blew those away. A Bottle rating is well-deserved.

 

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American Single Malt Stout Cask Finish




Last but not least is the Stout Cask Finished Single Malt. Westward took its flagship whiskey and stuck it in a barrel for another full year that previously held its whiskey before housing aged stout. This one weighs 46% ABV (92°), and a 750ml package runs $82.99.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Stout Finish looked copper. A medium rim yielded fat, heavy legs that fell back to the bowl.

 

Nose: Aromas of oatmeal, peanut, milk chocolate, vanilla, and melon tickled my nostrils while milk chocolate coated my hard palate.

 

Palate: The mouthfeel began soft and airy before becoming creamy on the second sip. Citrus, milk chocolate and coconut teased the front of my palate, while vanilla, nutmeg, and almond covered the middle. The back featured cinnamon, coffee, and oak.

 

Finish:  A dry, medium-length finish had citrus flavors, toasted oak, cinnamon, coffee, and chocolate.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I appreciate what Krogstad did with the Stout Cask Finish. However, I’m not a beer drinker, and this was very much beer-like. If you’re like me, you’ll want to try this one at a Bar first.

 

Final Thoughts:  My favorite was easily the Pinot Noir Cask Finish, followed by the Cask Strength, then the flagship Single Malt. That left the Stout Cask Finish to bring up the rear. Really, the Pinot was amazeballs. That’s not to discount the quality of Cask Strength; the two were just in different universes.

 

I’m impressed with what Westward has done and look forward to future tasting opportunities. 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.