Showing posts with label Bunnahabhain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bunnahabhain. Show all posts

Saturday, December 14, 2019

And, the 2019 Whiskey of the Year is...

It seems like everyone and their brother hands out whiskey awards. While I'm no exception to this rule, the Whiskeyfellow Awards are different from any other list. Before you roll your eyes and say, "Whatever," let me explain. My list is geared toward the average whiskey drinker.

I don't put out my list in October. Why?  Because this is a list of the Best Whiskeys of 2019, and there exists something called November and December. Except for the need to be first with a list, I really don't understand the need to rush the release.  

To even contend for an award, it has to be something that's actually crossed my palate. I don't have a team of interns who vet everything for me and then present me with their best of what they've tasted. If you're following me because you agree with my palate, then it is my palate on the line, not some intern's palate.

Because my demographic is the average whiskey drinker, here's what you won't find on my list: 

  • Anything allocated.  That means nothing Van Winkle, no Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, no Birthday Bourbon, etc.  The average whiskey drinker isn't getting his or her hands on an opportunity to a bottle unless they're very lucky.
  • Anything unaffordable.  This one is more subjective, but it means no Johnnie Walker Odyssey and no Macallan M.  The average whiskey drinker isn't spending thousands on a bottle. Heck, because even a few hundred is out of reach of many, everything on this list is well below $200.00.
  • Anything you can't reasonably expect to get your hands on.  The average whiskey drinker in Florida isn't getting a store pick from Wisconsin that's already gone by the time they get there, and I'm not a big fan of the secondary market. 

In my opinion, for one of these Best Of lists to be worth anything is when it contains things you can actually buy for yourself and enjoy.  Otherwise, what's the point other than to post a Ha Ha! Look What I Have! Sucks To Be You! article?

Unfortunately, due to our silly, fractured distribution system, I cannot guarantee that everything on my list is available in your market. But, everything on this list is on the market and reasonably available, even if it means having to travel to another state (meaning, when you get there, it isn't magically gone).

Finally, I'm not hitting every possible whiskey category. If you don't see something in the category you're looking for, it means I either didn't drink anything in that category that comes to mind or if I did, it wasn't worthy of a Best Of award.  So, without further ado, here we go.

Best Bourbon of 2019 - Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon - $149.99

Lux Row's Double Barrel Bourbon may be the most difficult one to obtain, as you'll have to travel to Kentucky to get it.  It is also the most expensive. But, this one is going to be around for at least the near future, so if you head there in the next several months, you should be able to pick up a bottle. Lux Row told me it is at the distillery and at least one other retail outlet. 

While this is the most expensive whiskey on my Best Of list, it is worth every penny you'll pay. The distillate is likely Heaven Hill's, but it is unlike anything they've put out before, which is how it made my best Bourbon of the year. I reviewed Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon in October.

Best Rye of 2019 - Blaum Bros. Straight Rye - $49.99

Mike and Matt Blaum are known for their Knotter whiskeys. Knotter is a play on words (sound it out). They picked some great barrels from MGP.  But, that was while they were waiting on their own distillate to mature. In July, they released their four-year Straight Rye Whiskey.

I had their four-year Straight Bourbon released in May, and after enjoying it, I was admittedly looking forward to the Rye. As you can read in my review, this one had a finish that was very eye-opening, and that's what solidified its spot as my best Rye. It is also the most affordable whiskey on this year's Best Of list.

Best Scotch of 2019 - Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt - $69.99

This category was very difficult. I've had some lovely Scotches this year and, until November, I thought I had my winner figured out. But, then a friend gave me an opportunity to try Bunnahabhain Toiteach, and this one made the other contenders take a back seat.

This one is a peated Scotch, and if you're not a fan of peat, this one may be the one to change your mind, as the peat is not front and center. And, moreover, in the land of very good Scotch, this one is easy on the wallet. You can read my review to read more about it.

Best Irish Whiskey of 2019 - Powers John's Lane Single Pot Still -  $72.99

I didn't get to try a ton of Irish whiskeys this year, but the ones I did have been excellent - I don't believe I had anything under a Bottle recommendation all year.  The shining star was easily Powers John's Lane, which I first tasted in November and, because of my lack of preparedness, had to sample again in order to pen a review. 

This one grabs your attention from the start with a wonderfully complicated nose and somehow getting an entire orchard of fruits in your mouth. You can learn more from my December review to read more about why this was so good.

Best World Whiskey of 2019 - Fukano Whisky Vault Reserve #1 - $74.99

This year I tried some very interesting whiskeys from around the world:  Europe, Australia, Africa, India, South America, and Japan.  I considered splitting "World Whiskey" into separate categories but some of it was very difficult to obtain, very expensive, or you'd have to buy from an overseas retailer.

Fukano Whisky Vault Reserve #1 was so interesting that it became a stand-out from the others. And, again, when the price comes into the picture, it became even more attractive.  This one's distilled from white rice, and you can read my review from November to learn more about it.

Best Whiskey of 2019

Now that you've seen my best in each category, it is time to crown this year's best of the best. Choosing my favorite was not easy. I danced between three of the category winners several times before making my final decision. The winning whiskey comes from distillers who pawn themselves off as just two guys making whiskey with no prior experience, they've managed to take a very serious attitude toward distilling something that isn't a me-too product and is very special.

Congratulations to the Blaum Bros. Distillery Co. for the most unique American Rye I've ever tried. That smoked malt put this one over the top and earned the Whiskeyfellow 2019 Whiskey of the Year Award. Cheers!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

When you think Islay you think about peated whisky. After all, that's what this Scottish island is known for.  Caol Ila, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Kilchoman, are all known for their peated, smoky (sometimes ash) flavors. And then, there's Bunnahabhain, who tends to kick Islay tradition and is recognized for distilling unpeated whiskies. This isn't to say Bunnahabhain doesn't make peated whisky, just they're not known for it.  Bunnahabhain was founded in 1881 in the village of Bunnahabhain, and this village caters almost exclusively to the distillery. It is in the most remote part of Islay.

Time for a segue.  If you're new to (especially) Scotch, you may be unfamiliar with the term peat. Peat is peat moss, which grows in bogs around the world. Each bog is unique in its characteristics and offers a variety of flavors. Distilleries have to malt their grains, and that's done primarily on what's called a malting floor. The grains are soaked in water so they begin to germinate, and once that happens, the process has to be stopped, and the way to stop it quickly is to apply heat. Heating can be done quickly and efficiently by burning peat. The peat, in turn, naturally adds a smoky flavor to the barley itself. 

Getting back on track, I've enjoyed Bunnahabhain for several years. Admittedly, I've never tried one of their peated whiskies. But that changed last night with Toiteach (pronounced Toch Chah and translated to English means smoky). This is a non-chill-filtered single malt Scotch, carries no age statement and is bottled at 46% ABV. Retail on this is about $69.99, which is quite affordable in the wide world of Scotch.

How does Toiteach taste, and is it worth tracking down?  Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.

In my Glencairn glass, it presented as a pond of light gold, leaving a thin rim on the wall that created medium legs that ran back to the liquid sunshine.

As I let the whisky breathe, I couldn't help but notice how the aroma of peat filled the room. My glass was nowhere near my face but it was absolutely attention-getting. Once I brought the glass up for the nosing experience and got beyond the peat, it was a fragrance of both orchard and dried fruits, making an unusual combination.  When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted vanilla and toffee. 

When I let this Scotch hit my tongue, it was light and airy. At the front, Toiteach was sweet, which is typical of Bunnahabhain. Mid-palate was when much of the flavor was exposed.  It started off smoky, thanks to the peat, then iodine crept in, followed by peach and plum, again giving that very different combination.  On the back, it was a lovely mix of chocolate and black pepper. 

The finish was long-lasting and very complex with smoke, seaweed, charred oak, black pepper and a hint of cocoa. I never really wanted it to end, and when it did, I was quick to take another sip. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I enjoy both peated and unpeated Scotches, so this Bunnahabhain was a big curiosity for me.  As it turned out, I've fallen totally in love with Toiteach. It is very creative, full of flavor without being overly peated and surprisingly well-balanced considering everything that was going on, especially on the finish. And then there's that affordability factor. If you do the math, that combination makes this a no-brainer Bottle.  Cheers!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

World Whiskey Blind Tasting Event at Vom Fass


Last night's Blind Whiskey Event was a blast! I had 18 people show up at VOM FASS University Ave. / DelecTable had no clue in the world what they were getting except for the fact it was going to be whiskey. I poured eight flights:

  • Radermacher 5-year Belgian Single Grain
  • Two Casks (a blend of single malts from Speyburn and Caol Ila)
  • Benrinnes 13-year Speyside Single Malt
  • Bunnahabhain 29-year Islay Single Malt
  • Teeling's Brothers-in-Arms 14-year Irish Single Malt
  • Yahara Bay American Rye
  • Great Glen 8-year (a blend of single malts from the Highland region)
  • Amrita 6-year Indian Single Malt 

The big reveal came after all eight flights were discussed and compared. A big surprise was that the Bunnahabhain was the one the fewest people chose as their favorite (only one chose it), and, as no real shocker, how well the blends were received. Folks who had never tried an Indian whisky before really enjoyed it, and the one that received the most raves was, amazingly enough, the Radermacher Belgian Single Grain.

This was the first time I've done a blind tasting with this many people, and everyone loved the format. This is something I'll be offering on a regular basis.