Showing posts with label Brown-Forman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brown-Forman. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Canadian Mist Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Let’s get something out of the way here. I’ve not tried Canadian Mist in probably the last dozen years. Why? Because the last time it passed my lips, I was in Orlando, and it was the only whisky poured at the event I was attending. It was hideous. Canadian Mist is the whisky that turned me off of Canadian whiskies.


I wasn’t reviewing whiskey a dozen years ago. My palate has refined significantly since then. With the whole #DrinkCurious mantra, I’m supposed to return to things I didn’t previously enjoy and give them second (and sometimes third) chances.


What is Canadian Mist? It is a blended Canadian whisky founded in 1967 by Brown-Forman. It is made from a mash of rye from Ontario and Alberta, corn grown from within 100 miles of the distillery in Collingwood, Ontario, and malted barley. Triple-distilled in a column still, Canadian Mist uses water sourced from Georgian Bay. It rested “at least” 36 months in used, charred oak barrels that formerly held “heavier whiskeys” in climate-controlled warehouses. Sazerac purchased the brand in 2020. You can expect to spend $9.99 for a 750ml, 40% ABV (80°) package.

I picked up a 50ml taster for $0.99 at some random liquor store. Let’s see if this is any better than I remember.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Canadian Mist was the color of yellow straw. A medium rim led to fat, sticky tears.


Nose: I smelled acetone, caramel, butterscotch, and something like synthetic citrus. When I brought the air into my mouth, it was kinda-sorta butterscotch.


Palate:  The texture was thin. The first thing I tasted was something chemical. It took a lot to get past it, but I eked out maple and a fake-tasting caramel. Please don’t ask me to break it up into the front, middle, and back because I can’t.


Finish:  Too long and bitter, Canadian Mist’s finish featured caramel and more acetone.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My gosh, it all came back at me as I was smelling this. The only thing I can say that is attractive about Canadian Mist is it is dirt cheap. It is a palate wrecker. I can’t see attempting to salvage this in a cocktail, and I refuse even to try. Rating Canadian Mist as a Bust does a disservice to the Bust rating. Drink anything else.


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, November 8, 2021

The BenRiach Malting Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One month each year, the folks at The BenRiach spread barley on its malting floor, watch it carefully while turning it by hand, and pick the “perfect” time to move it to the kiln to dry and stop the germination process.


The BenRiach is a Speyside distillery and is known for doing things in its own way. Dr. Rachel Barrie is one of the most respected master blenders in the business.  And, in 2021, she’s taken a single malt Scotch in an entirely new direction with Malting Season.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with BenRiach being one of only seven distilleries in Scotland to continue the practice of floor malting.

Distilling spirit from barley malted here on site is a true labour of love and something we are passionate about keeping alive here at BenRiach as an ode to our creative whisky-making heritage.”Stewart Buchanan, The BenRiach global brand ambassador


It begins with the aforementioned once-a-year malting. A concerto strain of barley, the most common, was used, and in this case, 100% of it came from the malting floor. The distillation took place on November 2, 2012. That single malt new make then aged in two types of casks:  virgin American oak and former Bourbon barrels and rested for nine years. The yield was 6672 bottles, and you can expect to pay about $149.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to the review, I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Malting Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and get to it.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Malting Season presented as the color of bright gold. It left a medium-thick rim that led to husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Honey was obvious. Peach, vanilla, Fuji apple, malt, and raw almond aromas lay beneath. As I pulled the air through my lips, the Fuji apple gained strength.


Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium-weight body and was silky. Fuji apple, Bartlett pear, and honey started things off. As the whisky moved to the middle, toasted almond and vanilla took over. Then, on the back was a blend of oak, white peppercorn, and milk chocolate.


Finish:  The oak became dry, the white pepper remained, and then became sweet with honey and apple, then featured a redux of the dry oak. This was one of those big finishes that lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Malting Season is a stunningly good Scotch. The balanced palate and finish offered a substantial presence with bold flavors. There’s no astringent. There’s no peat. The proof is just right without being unnecessarily diluted. Would I spend $149.99 on this? I believe so, but I’d also like to see it come down about $20.00 or so in price. Regardless, this earned every bit of my Bottle rating. Grab one. This is the first edition of what’s sure to become an amazing annual release. 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.



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Benriach Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The Speyside region is known for many things, but peated whiskies are the exception to the rule. Those that have this quality tend to be mildly so.


For the last fifty years, The BenRiach has been offering a line of peated Scotches. I’ve reviewed a few of them and found them to be quite tasty. Even the Peated Cask Strength was not overly peated. During the summer, Benriach would send peated malt through the still. For the remainder, it would distill unpeated malt. It calls the period when peated malt is used Smoke Season.


“Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet, and smoky character of Benriach single malt, crafted in Speyside, a whisky-making region rarely associated with peated malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak barley, and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.”Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Smoke Season is an intensely-peated single-malt Scotch that carries no age statement. It aged in a small portion of first-fill Bourbon barrels, with the majority in both charred and toasted virgin American oak casks. Bottled at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), this is the first year it has been available in the US market. You can expect to pay about $71.99 for a 750ml package.


I’d like to thank The BenRiach for providing me a sample of Smoke Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. The way we make that part happen is to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season presented as a bronze amber. It made an ultra-thin rim on the glass that gave no time whatsoever for the watery legs to crash back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: There is no mistake that this is a peated whisky!  Burnt oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee, and citrus provided a well-balanced aroma that would drive any Islay fan bonkers. When I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla and toasted oak caressed my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and oily, coating every nook and cranny of my mouth. The front featured a Crème Brulee that was subjected a bit too long to the flame and cinnamon. At mid-palate, I tasted pear, caramel apple, and orange peel. The back suggested charred oak, black pepper, and dark chocolate.


Finish:  The smoky finish offered no astringent quality. It consisted of charred oak and barbeque smoke. Poking through those heavy notes was a vanilla blast. The whole thing lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and while this one was out of the Speyside region, I’d put this one up against many of them. If you blindfolded one such enthusiast, it would not shock me if they guessed this was something out of Port Charlotte. Sure, it doesn’t have an age statement, but who cares? I loved this. You will, too. Buy one, because this 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 you do so responsibly.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Old Forester Straight Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

When I took a tour of the Old Forester Distillery in Louisville, I found the tour itself was basic, although I have to admit they have stuff that you don't run into at other distilleries. Between the micro-cooperage and the all-black, steel, industrial rickhouse, it was fun. If you have a chance to go, do it.

But, this isn't a review of their distillery tour. Rather, it is a review of their Straight Rye Whiskey (sorry, Whisky, because Brown-Forman, the parent company, likes to spell it without the e). But I mention the distillery tour because this is the first time I was able to taste their Rye.  Made from a mash of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn, this is the first time in 40+ years that the Old Kentucky Distillery's Normandy Rye Whiskey recipe has seen the light of day. Brown-Forman acquired Old Kentucky in 1940 and the recipe eventually went away. Or, that's the backstory. You know how I feel about some of these backstories - everyone's great-grandpappy had some long-lost recipe that was discovered in an abandoned cupboard and resurrected to make the whiskey you're drinking today. True or not, this is a big step for Brown-Forman to create a unique American Rye and steer away from their standard mash. And, before you ask, yes, this is a completely different mash than sister company Jack Daniel's Rye.

There is no age statement, but we know it is at least two years old due to the Straight designation. And, while this is 100°, like their Old Forester Signature, this is not Bottled-in-Bond. The packaging is simple with a screw-top, metal closure. Retail is just over $20.00 depending on where you shop.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as a definite deep amber. It created a medium-thick rim which generated a thick curtain that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A complex blend of oak, vanilla, and floral notes greeted me initially. As I continued to explore, I discovered toasted oak and cocoa. Below that was thick plum.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of rich vanilla and plum.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating.  The front of the palate was light, much lighter than I expected for 100°. I discerned brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg. Mid-palate was more pronounced with toasted nuts, plum, and slight citrus. The back was even stronger with very heavy cocoa and dark chocolate.

Finish:  There was a deep finish if you are patient. Rye spice and cocoa begin the process. As it drops off, toasted oak and very long-lasting chocolate hang on. Then it falls off about a minute or so later.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one of those #RespectTheBottomShelf moments that makes me smile. First of all, this is very affordable for everyone. Secondly, there's more complexity than you'd guess from a budget whiskey. I found it fascinating that while the front of the palate started off so soft, it finished with a crescendo. It also drank more closely to barely-legal ryes such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond than something with a much higher rye content. I'm chalking that up to the malted barley, which is what produced all of the chocolate and cocoa notes. Not only did I enjoy this, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought a bottle at the distillery (something I rarely do). This one's a definite Bottle.  Cheers!

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes

Jack Daniel's has been around for what seems to be forever. In fact, they've not changed their mashbill since 1866, back when 14-year old Jasper "Jack" Daniel started his own distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, producing a charcoal-mellowed whiskey after learning his art from Reverend Dan Call and slave Nathan "Nearest" Green. Back then, the mash was 80% corn, 12% malted barley, and 8% rye. That's remained unchanged through today.

Except in 2012, Jack Daniel's started tinkering around and released its Unaged Rye, using a mash of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley. That then led to Rested Rye in 2014. Neither were greeted with big accolades. But, then, in 2016, the Single Barrel Rye release started to turn heads. 

The Rye goes through the same Lincoln County Process (LCP) that its world-famous Tennessee Whisky does. That involves filtering newmake through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal prior to barreling in new, charred oak. This LCP is supposed to mellow the whiskey. 

As a single barrel whiskey, every release is going to be at least slightly different. It carries no age statement, although it is rumored to be between four and five years old. It is packaged at 94° (although barrel proof is newly released). A 750ml bottle runs around $55.00.

If you're thinking that $55.00 seems a lot for a four or so-year American whiskey, keep in mind that American Rye tends to mature faster than its Bourbon counterpart, and four years is plenty adequate in most cases.

Today I'm reviewing Barrel 18-5485 from rick L-23.  It was dumped on August 14, 2018. Is it any good? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious, so let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye was a bright, clear amber color. It left a very thin rim but generated fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Stewed fruits and a hint of mint started things off on the nose. Aromas of brown sugar and toasted oak was next. And then, strangely enough, I smelled corn. When I inhaled through my open lips, minty vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was soft and silky. I picked up no ethanol burn. The first flavor to hit my palate was sweet, creamy vanilla. The mint was absent. Mid-palate was rye spice and corn (again). On the back, it was muted oak. 

Finish:  As light as this whiskey was, it had a surprisingly long finish. Pepper and smoky oak started the show, and it ended with, and I can't believe I'm saying this, corn. Corn? Corn is only 18% of the mash. It blows my mind that corn would be a heavy player in something other than a barely-legal Rye.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This whiskey had a very interesting, appetizing nose. It had a nice mouthfeel. The palate was not complicated and lacked any real panache. The corn was baffling, making for a very different American Rye. As most people who follow me know, different is something that's typically appealing. However, different also has to be exciting. The heavy corn presence was distracting and, frankly, I found this Rye boring and not worth $55.00.  As such, it takes a Bust. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Woodford Reserve Very Fine Rare Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Woodford Reserve shouldn't need an introduction, despite being relatively new to the scene. Established in 1996 and owned by Brown-Forman, Woodford distills on what was the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, founded in 1812, and whose distillers include Jim Crow and E.H. Taylor, Jr. In 1878, the distillery was then renamed the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The distillery was then shuttered in 1918 due to Prohibition, where it remained vacant until 1935 when it was rebuilt. In 1941, Brown-Forman acquired the premises and ran the distillery until the 1960s before it was mothballed and sold to a local farmer. No distilling took place for many years, and in 1993 Brown-Forman repurchased the property and rebuilt the distillery once again.

The Master's Collection came about as a means for Woodford Reserve to pay homage to the discoveries and innovations that have taken place by master distillers over the distillery's storied past. This is the 15th year of The Master's Collection, all of them slated to never be repeated, and will hit shelves on December 1st. It will be known as Very Fine Rare Bourbon and marks a new milestone where this and all future releases will focus on modern innovations by Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.

“The name Very Fine Rare Bourbon is a nod to the descriptors used by our ancestors to auction highly-aged Bourbon barrel lots. While Woodford Reserve will always honor the past, this Master’s Collection is about the present and future.” - Chris Morris

Very Fine Rare Bourbon carries no age statement, however, part of the blend contains the oldest Bourbon ever released by Woodford - 17 years - which is a nod to Chris being named Master Distiller back in 2003. I asked him what the youngest barrel was, and he replied 11 years. Additionally, he let me know there is at least one representative barrel for every year in-between except for 12. This Bourbon also will be the first time Elizabeth's name is on the hangtag. 

Very Fine Rare Bourbon is made from the same mash, the same 110° entry proof, the barrels rested in the same heat-cycled rickhouses, and when dumped proofed down to the same 90.4° as the standard Woodford Reserve. 

There were just shy of 300 barrels used in the batch, many of which were very short due to Woodford's average 18% per year angel's share. It will be available only in select US and global markets. Suggested retail for a 750ml bottle is $129.99, but your shopping experience may vary. When you go looking for it, don't bother seeking out the pot-still-shaped Master's Collection bottles of prior releases, that's been changed (you can see a photo below).

I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for providing me a sample of Very Fine Rare Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is now time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this Bourbon is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Woodford Bourbon is presented as the color of a yellow sunset. Yeah, I know, that's a weird description, but that's what it looked like to me. It created a thick rim and fast, sticky legs that took forever to make it back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon was very aromatic and fruity, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, sitting across the room, told me it smelled delicious and inquired what I poured. Plum, cherry, berries, and citrus mingled together. Hidden beneath the orchard of fruit were chocolate and clove. What was shockingly lacking was I smelled no wood whatsoever. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, I found spearmint and vanilla.

Palate:  As the whiskey crossed my lips, the mouthfeel was oily and viscous. There was nothing in terms of alcohol burn. On the front, I tasted butterscotch and orange peel. Come mid-palate, flavors of plum, berry, and white chocolate continued the sweet trend. On the back, wood finally made an appearance. It was toasted oak, and it mingled with almond, leather, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder.

Finish:  The finish began with oven-roasted walnuts, and the toasted oak, leather, and cocoa from the back palate carried over. Flavors of sweet vanilla and clove rounded out for what was a long, drawn-out finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Very Find Rare Bourbon provided me a complex nose, palate, and finish that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some folks may complain that a $130.00 whiskey with no age statement is not worth the price. I'm not in that camp - for me, age is just a number. What matters is the whiskey inside the bottle and if I taste value for the investment. I would drink this all day long and wouldn't feel cheated. The Bourbon earns my coveted Bottle rating, and I believe you'll agree. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Woodford Reserve Straight Wheat Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you've never been to Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, you're missing out. It may be one of the most beautiful campuses I've had the pleasure of visiting. Nestled in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by horse country, views abound and it seems like a very intimate, almost romantic setting.  Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman, one of the larger beverage conglomerates in the world.

Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall are certainly innovative. They both embrace uniqueness, which is something I appreciate:

"The idea is to create new and different things with an artisan's touch. Things nobody's ever done before while maintaining the essence of Woodford Reserve that everyone loves." - Chris Morris
"Woodford Reserve is a brand that was built out of pure passion. Every person who touched it was united in building something great. It's all the pieces that make Woodford so unique and special, from the liquid to the bottle, our home place, Woodford County, and all the people that touch it." - Elizabeth McCall

Today I'm reviewing Woodford Reserve Straight Wheat Whiskey. Does that mean this is a wheated Bourbon?  No, not at all!  Wheat whiskey is a legally-defined category, with the requirement of a mashbill of 51% or more wheat as the primary ingredient. From there, it shares many of the requirements of Bourbon or American Rye:  It must be aged in new, charred oak containers, must have an entry proof of no more than 125°, and cannot be distilled higher than 160°.  To be considered straight, it must be aged at least two years and have no additives other than water. 

Wheat whiskeys are not rare, but they are unusual for American distillers. In Kentucky, the only other major distiller offering wheat whiskey is Bernheim from Heaven Hill.  Both are what you'd consider "barely legal" with mashbills hovering around that 51% mark. There are other distillers using much heavier wheat content, such as W Wheat Whiskey from 45th Parallel in Wisconsin and Dry Fly out of Washington state, both of which I've reviewed.

Woodford's version is distilled from a mash of 52% wheat, 20% malted barley, 20% corn, and 8% rye. It carries no age statement, but since that's the case we know it is at least four years. Woodford typically uses a #4-level char on its barrels and its rickhouses are temperature controlled. The final product is 90.4° with a suggested retail of $34.99.

I know I've thrown a lot of information at you, now it is time to get to the tasting notes and review. Before I do that, though, I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn Glass, this wheat whiskey appeared as a bright bronze color. It left an incredibly thin rim that generated fat, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Flowery aromas kicked things off, followed by nutmeg and cinnamon.  As I continued to explore, I smelled baked apple and pear, oak, cherry, and vanilla.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was pear and astringent quality.  Astringent is not something that you'd typically find in wheat whiskeys, at least not in my experience. 

Palate:  Woodford offered a thin and dry mouthfeel, sort of like what you'd expect from a Sauvignon Blanc wine.  At the front, the dominant flavor was oak. That was followed by white pepper in the middle. Try as I might, I couldn't find anything on the back.

Finish:  It wasn't an overwhelmingly warming whiskey, and it left a short-to-medium length finish of dry fruit and oak. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Generally speaking, I have a deep respect for Woodford and what they try to do. They have some expressions I really enjoy and few that I'm not a fan of.  In the case of its Straight Wheat Whiskey, this falls in the latter half. The best thing about this whiskey is the nose. It has an attractive price tag of $34.99, it wasn't bad whiskey, but I also didn't consider it something that grabbed my attention. You may find it more interesting than I did, and as such, this one takes a Bar rating.

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

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Woodford Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you're new or relatively new to American Rye, you might be trying to get past the spiciness this category of whiskey has to offer. Similarly to getting used to peat in Scotch, rye's spiciness is something most people have to acclimate to fully appreciate.  Thankfully, many distilleries offer barely legal Ryes, meaning, they have the minimum or close to the minimum 51% requirement of rye content in the mash.

Many of the legacy distillers hover in this area because the idea is to have a product enjoy mass appeal. Woodford Reserve is no different. They're not targeting drinkers who want 95% or 100% rye content because most casual whiskey drinkers wouldn't become repeat consumers.

"Woodford Reserve Rye uses a pre-prohibition style ratio of 53% rye in its mash bill to pay homage to history’s original rye whiskeys, making spice and tobacco the dominant note among a sea of fruit, floral, and sweet aromatics, which yields a nice sweetness and overall balance. Our rye whiskey can deliver complex flavors – neat, on ice, or in a cocktail. A balanced rye makes a more balanced cocktail." - Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve's Straight Rye has a mash of 53% rye as stated above, however, the remainder is also important.  33% of that is corn, meant to sweeten the pot, and the last 14% is malted barley, meant to round things out and, of course, to aid in the fermentation process. It carries no age statement, but because of that, we know that it is at least four years old. Woodford Reserve uses new, #4-charred oak barrels for a majority of its products. Woodford does utilize climate-controlled warehouses where it tries to make the most out of cold winters and hot, humid summers. And, because it is straight, we know there is nothing added but water to proof it down to 90.4°.  Retail is about $34.99.

How does its Straight Rye taste?  It is time to #DrinkCurious, but first, I want to thank Brown-Forman, the owner of Woodford Reserve, for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presents as a deep chestnut color. It left a medium-thick rim and generated watery legs that quickly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Despite being only 53% rye, rye spice was the first thing that hit my nostrils. It was joined by toasted oak, which was unexpected considering the heavy char level. As I continued to explore, I unearthed apple, honey, candied red fruits, and pecan.  When I inhaled through my lips, the pecan continued and was married to tobacco leaf.

Palate:  Things started off with a thin and airy mouthfeel. Generally speaking, American Rye starts off spicy. Well, this one didn't - it started off with sweet honey. The honey was then mingled with black peppercorn and rye spice. Come mid-palate, brown sugar and heavy mint dominated. Then, on the back, vanilla bean and pear completed the trip.  It was strange to have the flavors go sweet to spicy, sweet to spicy.

Finish:  While there wasn't a whole lot going on, that was offset by how long it lasted. Sweet vanilla, almond, and dry oak continued the uniqueness of the sweet to spicy cycle. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Woodford Reserve Straight Rye is a simple but interesting pour. There is nothing overly complicated about it, but weirdly unpretentious as it was, there was also nothing lacking. This is an easy sipper, it is very affordable, and not even challenging to obtain.  All of that is the recipe for a Bottle rating, and I believe this is one you'll enjoy.  Cheers! 

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

Peated whiskeys are almost synonymous with Scotch. If you asked the average person what they thought of Scotch, I wouldn't be shocked to find a majority would tell you they're smoky and ashy. That's peat.

But, that's also not what a good portion of Scotches are all about.  In fact, in Scotland's Speyside region, the region that is home to the highest concentration of distilleries, peated whisky is an anomaly. 

The folks at The BenRiach like to do things differently.  Owned by America's Brown-Forman, they're different just by being American-owned. If you want to know the background of this distillery, you can read my review of their Peated Cask Strength Scotch from July 6th.

Today I'm reviewing its Curiositas 10 Single Malt.  If you're looking at the name and thinking that sounds more Latin than Gaelic, you'd be right. That's also something that The BenRiach does differently than its counterparts. This is, unsurprisingly, a 10-year old single malt that is blended from whiskies aged in Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. Using about 55ppm of peat, the malted barley is dried by Highland-sourced peat (versus Islay-sourced peat).  As such, it lacks much of the salinity that many peated Scotches offer.  It is bottled at 46% ABV (that's 92° for Americans) and retails for about $54.99.

Before I get started, I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for providing me a sample of Curiositas 10 in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.  And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Scotch appears as the color of straw.  With Scotch, distilleries are allowed to add inert caramel coloring, and I have no information suggesting whether or not this is naturally- or artificially-colored. I'll hazard a guess that, based upon the very light color, it is likely natural.  It left a medium rim and created slow, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I could smell the peat before I even got started. This was more earthy than iodine and astringent.  Once I got past the smokiness, aromas of banana cream pie (yeah, the whole freaking pie), nutmeg, and allspice made me smile. When I inhaled through my lips, a blast of vanilla ran across my palate. There was no associated peat.

Palate:  Even before I got to figure out the mouthfeel, the peat was there - light but also definitive. Once I got past the palate shock, I discovered a thick, oily mouthfeel that coated everywhere.  Vanilla and apple grabbed my attention. As it moved mid-palate, flavors of old leather and tobacco leaf, something you'd more expect from an American whiskey than Scotch, took over. On the back, it was a blend of banana and very dry oak.

Finish:  A very long finish of dry oak and clove spiced things up and was almost natural considering everything else going on. This was very well-balanced.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand that peat isn't for everyone. It wasn't my thing when I first got started in Scotch (which, incidentally, is where I got my start in whisky appreciation). But it grew on me.  Curiositas 10 would be an excellent introduction for those who are peat-curious.  It is there, but not overwhelming. You can easily pick out other flavors. There are no iodine or seaweed notes that you'd find in many Islay or other Island Scotches. It is also unusual for a Speyside. 

I enjoyed the heck out of this, and when you factor in the affordable (for Scotch) price tag, and then you further consider this isn't your average 80° Scotch, this one becomes a very easy Bottle recommendation. Cheers! 

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

Monday, July 6, 2020

BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Batch 2 Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Cask-strength whiskey is nothing new, but when you find it in a Scotch, well, that has the potential to be something special. Today I'm reviewing BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch - Batch 2.  Whew! That's a mouthful, isn't it?  Well, wait for the review.

Founded in 1898 by John Duff, the initial run for BenRiach was very short-lived - only two years. Then, it was shuttered due to the Pattison Crash. If you've not heard of it, the short story is it took out many distilleries. The longer story is it was caused by independent bottlers gaming the system, so much so that when the biggest firm, Pattison, Edler & Company went under, they took out nearly a dozen others in the process. That cascaded and led to the bankruptcies of the distilleries. It was not a good time to be in the whiskey business.

It was then reopened in 1965 by The Glenlivet. During that 65-year hiatus, the building was never torn down because the distillery next door, Longmorn, used BenRiach's malting floor and some other equipment while it was mothballed. Then, Seagrams purchased The Glenlivet in 1978, which was acquired by Pernod-Ricard in 2001. 

And, then, the distillery was shuttered again from 2002 to 2004.  It was purchased by Brown-Forman, which owns BenRiach to this day. The Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, runs things "unconventionally Speyside."

"As progressive Speyside whisky distillers, BenRiach crafts unpeated, peated and triple distilled malt whisky and holds some of the most experimental casks in Speyside. Small wonder the distillery team have nicknamed the distillery ‘The Lab’."

Now that the backstory is done, let's get back to this particular whisky.  Being a single-malt Scotch, the mash is 100% malted barley. Once distilled, it is triple cask matured using ex-Bourbon barrels, ex-Oloroso sherry casks, and virgin oak hogshead.   In the case of Batch 2, Barrie chose casks from 2006, 2007, and 2008. As this was bottled in 2018, the math tells us she used 9-, 10-, and 11-year old whiskies. Non-chill filtered and naturally-colored, this 60% ABV Scotch retails for $99.99. 

I'd like to thank BenRiach for sending me a sample of this Scotch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Batch 2 appeared as golden straw.  It created a very fat rim that formed fat, sticky droplets. Those eventually led to slow, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Let's get something out of the way. Peated whiskies smell of peat. The trick is to get past that. Just as there is a thing called palate shock, there is an olfactory shock as well. You need to let your senses get used to the peat.  The peat itself was married with brine, and underneath those were rich vanilla, dark fruit, oak, fresh coconut, honey, and apples. When I inhaled through my parted lips, I found orange zest.

Palate:  The first sip was obviously peated. But I'll be a monkey's uncle if this is 120°.  I'm not doubting it, rather, there was nothing in terms of heat in my mouth or throat. It had a very creamy mouthfeel. It was just lovely. 

Once the palate shock ended, the front was a heavy punch of thick vanilla. That was combined with toasted oak and a Heath bar. Mid-palate, it changed to roasted almonds and brown sugar, plus a blend of lime and tangerine. Yeah, I know, that's  a very different flavor profile. The complexity continued on the back with caramel, a Mounds bar, and Red Hots.

Finish:  Medium-to-long, the finish consisted of dried oak, cinnamon sticks, and ginger beer.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There were a lot of very fun and interesting flavors involved. I don't think I've ever used three candy descriptors before, but there was no other way to describe things. I loved the variation and creativity with this whisky. A C-note for barrel-proof Scotch is honestly a bargain, and this is delicious to boot. 

If peat is your thing, you're going to love this.  It isn't heavily-peated like Octomore or Ardbeg, this one is more along the lines of Talisker Storm. For you (and me), I give this a no-brainer Bottle rating. If you're new to peat, you may want to try this one first. Peat isn't for everyone. Despite its price tag, this would be a very nice introduction to peated whisky.  Cheers!

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

Monday, June 8, 2020

The GronDronach Revival 15-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Back in 1823, the British Parliament passed the Excise Act, which was enacted to collect taxes on distillers. It involved not only providing a license to distill, but also to tax any distillery on a per-gallon basis. The purpose was to address smuggling in the Scottish Highlands. This smuggling was somewhat covert, but acceptable because wealthy landowners knew that distilling was the only way their tenants could pay rent and, well, they wanted their rent money. The Excise Act did what it was supposed to, and the Scotch distilling industry began to thrive.

In 1826, The GlenDronach Distillery was founded, and it was only the second such distillery granted a license.  Like many Scotch distilleries, it has changed hands several times and been shuttered, only to be reopened later. In the case of The GlenDronach, this Highlands distillery's hiatus was from 1996 to 2001 and reopened by Allied Distillers.  It has been owned by William Grant, Teacher's, Chivas Brothers, BenRiach, and now is owned by Brown-Forman

Today I'm reviewing The GlenDronach Revival 15-Year Single Malt. The term Revival is due to the fact the 15-year was discontinued for a few years before being resurrected.  Being a single malt, the mash is 100% malted barley from a single distillery. After distillation, it was placed in ex-Sherry casks, notably Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso from Andalucia. It is non-chill filtered and, shockingly, has no added caramel color. It is bottled at 46% ABV (92°) and suggested retail is about $84.00.

I'd like to thank Brown-Forman for providing me a sample of this Scotch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And, with that, let's #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The GlenDronanch appears as a very dark bronze. As I said above, I was shocked this was its natural color. It left a medium rim but generated fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  This was very fragrant from the start. If you've heard the term sherry bomb before, you know what I'm about to describe. It started with dark cherries and candied fruit. That moved to nuts, chocolate, malt, and vanilla. When I inhaled through my lips, I was blown away by the raspberry that raced through my mouth.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was strangely thin. Perhaps it was just the color that prepared me for something thick and heavy. Plum, apricot, cherry, and honey started things off at the front. As it moved across my palate, midway I found cocoa and molasses.  Then, on the back, I tasted malt, almond, and an herbal quality. 

Finish:  Once it started, it never wanted to give up the ghost. It started with heavy, dark chocolate. That was joined by oak and black pepper. Before it finally ended, there was a faint suggestion of mint.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The GlenDronach 15 is an unpeated malt. That means if smoke and ash aren't in your wheelhouse, you don't have to worry. At the same time, if you don't appreciate an astringent (medicinal or band-aid) quality, that's not here, either. The nose and palate were wonderfully complex and I had a lot of fun trying to sort things out. The finish kept my interest sip to sip.

Not only is this a Scotch that can appeal to a wide swath of whiskey drinkers, but $84.00 this is what I would describe as at the higher end of mid-priced Scotch. Finally, I'm going to let you know that this may be the best Scotch I've had so far this year (and I've had a lot). My rating should be obvious - buy a Bottle.  Cheers! 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System:

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Woodford Reserve Malt Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

I've really been enjoying malt whiskeys lately.  Sure, I've always had a thing for Scotch, it was my introduction to whiskey many moons ago. When I first tasted American malts, I was not a fan. I may have set myself up for disappointment though because I expected American malt to smell and taste like its Scottish and Irish counterparts. It took me a few years of continuing to #DrinkCurious to accept and understand that American malts were not going to be, nor were they designed to be, competitors to Scotch and Irish whiskeys.

There is also something to be said for quality. When American malts started to become a "thing" the quality was lacking. They were either harsh or under-proofed. It seemed like distillers were exploring what they could or should have been doing and, of course, using us as guinea pigs. 

Eventually, distillers seemed to have a better understanding of how to create malt whiskeys, both in the distillation and aging process. There are many high-quality American malts on the market. This is exciting because this is a fast-growing category.

When invited by Woodford Reserve to review their Kentucky Straight Malt, I jumped at the opportunity. The background on Woodford's whiskey is as follows: 

Coming out of Prohibition, the Federal Government approved four straight whiskey standards: Bourbon, Rye, Wheat, and Malt. These reflected the types of whiskeys produced in the United States prior to Prohibition.  While most people associate malt whiskey with Scotland, Kentucky has a pre-Prohibition history of malt whiskey production. Woodford Reserve Malt draws upon this heritage for inspiration.

It is triple distilled and made from a mash of 51% malted barley, 47% corn, and 2% rye. It was aged in new, charred oak barrels, just like Bourbon or Rye would be. Going with a barely-legal (meaning 51%) malt content in addition to the high corn, it is obvious Woodford is targeting Bourbon drinkers, and that's perfectly fine. This whiskey carries no age statement, but as a straight whiskey we know that's at least two years, and with no age statement, that means at least four. Bottled at 90.4°, Woodford plans to keep this as part of its core offering. The suggested retail is $34.99 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank Woodford Reserve for providing me this sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review. And now, let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color appeared as a definitive orange amber. It was clear and inviting. It generated a medium-thick rim that stuck to the wall like glue. Eventually, gravity took over, and fat droplets worked its way back to the pool.

Nose:  From the moment I opened the bottle, this whiskey was very aromatic. As I gave it an opportunity to breathe, it continued to fill the room with sweet apricot and Honeycrisp apples. Once I brought my glass to my face, the fruitiness only got stronger, this time adding in raisin and dried cherry. Candied nuts came next, followed by toasted oak, then, finally, chocolate. When I inhaled through my lips, vanilla and honey rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin yet creamy. It was almost like clarified butter. At the front, it began with black pepper and oak. At mid-palate, things became fruity, with coconut and pear. On the back, it was a marriage of dark chocolate covered nuts. 

Finish:  The finish started off softly and then built to a quick crescendo of cocoa and oak. Pepper from the front of the palate returned to give it a nice, spicy thump. Overall, it was medium in length. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I absolutely loved the very complex nose. It was almost like someone blindfolded me, took an Irish whiskey and Bourbon, placed them side-by-side, and asked what kind of whiskey I had in front of me. The palate was less complicated, but that's fine.  Personally, I would have preferred the finish to last longer, but that's not a knock, rather, I was enjoying the flavors and didn't want them to end.

It is difficult to say Woodford Reserve Malt is atypical of American malt because the category is all over the place. However, it was very different from any other American malt I've had. Perhaps that was the influence of the corn. Regardless, I think Woodford has a winner here, with or without it being easy on the wallet. Awarding this my Bottle rating is a no-brainer. Cheers!

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