Showing posts with label Canadian Rye. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian Rye. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The 2022 Whiskeyfellow Awards are out!

Each trip around the sun seems to go faster than the last. Here we are, at the end of 2022, and it is again time to hand out the annual Whiskeyfellow Awards (queue the loud cheering).


If you think this is yet another list of whiskeys that you’ll never be able to get your hands on, that’s not how the Whiskeyfellow Awards work. All my reviews are written for the average whiskey drinker, and my “Best Of” whiskeys are no different. For any whiskey to qualify for an award, it must meet the following requirements:


It must have been something I’ve both tasted and reviewed this year. Some reviewers have a team of people who sip whiskeys all year long and provide their favorites to the “face.” That person then takes that list and comes up with their favorites. Whiskeyfellow doesn’t work like that; I’m a one-person shop tasting whiskeys and keeping tabs on the ones I enjoy the most.


Any winning whiskey must be reasonably affordable. I tend to put a ceiling of $150.00 for my awarded whiskeys. That’s about the most I’d pay for a whiskey, and I’d assume the average whiskey drinker is in that range, too.


It must be pretty reasonable to get your hands on. I’m not suggesting that you can walk into any liquor store to find it – the three-tier distribution system makes that promise impossible beyond Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Evan Williams Black Label, and Jim Beam White Label. But, it also won’t be something you’d have to sell your soul to see in person, let alone acquire, and when you do, hopefully, you don’t have some jackwagon charging many times retail for it.


It cannot be a store pick. While these are a fantastic way to taste truly unique whiskeys, the average whiskey drinker outside the store’s or club’s locale typically can’t get their hands on a bottle.

In my opinion, the bottom line is that
for a “Best Of” list to have any value, it must contain whiskeys you can actually drink. Otherwise, what’s the point?


I’ve never understood how reviewers can name the Best Whiskey before the year is close to over (some publish theirs in September!). That’s why I wait until December to hand out awards. I can safely say that I’ve found my top whiskeys while still giving you some time to buy presents if you’re so inclined.


I also occasionally tweak the categories. Two years ago, I added a Please Santa? category. It allowed me to point out something genuinely outstanding that was either extraordinarily difficult to find or way above the average whiskey drinker’s bankroll. That category carries over into 2022. But, new to the Whiskeyfellow Awards is The Sleeper category which reflects a whiskey that came out of nowhere and blew my mind. And, in what may be a complete shock to anyone who has followed me for more than a year, there’s a Canadian Whisky category! Don’t order yet, because if you keep reading, I’ll also include at no extra charge the Flavored Whiskey category.


I’ve also eliminated a category. Strange as it may sound, I’m no longer naming a Whiskey of the Year. The classes I’ve listed are broad and wide. Simply put, with this breadth, a Best of the Best is pure guesswork and becomes irrelevant.


I used to include links to my reviews of what wins in a category. Every year I’ve published my list, a particular social media platform that shall remain anonymous (cough cough Meta cough cough) has flagged my post and shut it down, calling it “clickbait.” Last year I stopped doing it, and magically, no flag was thrown. You can search out any of the reviews of these whiskeys on my Blog.


This year, I reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 165 whiskeys. While that may seem like a lot, I’ve not tasted whiskeys from every available niche. If you don’t see something in the category you’re seeking, it means one of two things happened; I didn’t drink anything in that category, or nothing from it was worthy of a “Best Of” award.


Finally, all I care about is the liquid inside the bottle. It matters not if it is sourced or a brand’s own distillate.


And now, let’s get to it! Here’s the best of my #DrinkCurious journey for 2022:


American Single Malt


Winner:  Copperworks Distilling Co. Release No. 042

Date reviewed: October 19, 2022

Price:  $76.49

Release No. 042 is one of those whiskeys where I don’t really care what it costs because it is a sipping experience that must be savored. There was nothing to dislike. The peat was so light that even folks who claim they don’t enjoy peat will discard that notion. I recommend this American Single Malt to Bourbon drinkers who aren’t sold on malts – Release No. 042 will change your mind. It earns every little bit of my Bottle rating.


Runner up:  Hatch Distilling Doc Wahl Straight Single Malt Whiskey

Date reviewed: September 23, 2022

Price:  $40.00

I am not a coffee drinker, but despite that, I kept coming back to additional pours of Doc Wahl. I will say this much; if you enjoy espresso, you’re going to go ga-ga for this American Single Malt. If you’re less into coffee (like me), you’ll still find this one exciting and attention-grabbing. The pepper at the end adds a complementary layer that simply works. And, yet, the nose gave no hints as to what the mouth would expect.


The $40.00 price is at the sweet spot for authentic craft whiskey, bolstered more so by its stated proof. I loved Doc Wahl American Single Malt. I believe you will, too, and that means it has earned every bit of my coveted Bottle rating.


American Rye


Winner:  Mammoth Distilling Northern Rye No. 01

Date reviewed: November 10, 2022

Price:  $74.99

Before I began this tasting journey, I stated that Northern Rye No. 01 looked unique on paper. It followed through on that promise, offering me one of the most unusual palate experiences I’ve encountered. If you’re a fan of Rye, you’re going to go crazy here. If you’re not big into Rye, this may be the one that grabs your interest. I enjoyed every bit of this whiskey; I would describe it as entertaining. Northern Rye No. 01 earns every bit of its Bottle rating.


Runner up:  JW Kelly & Co Melrose Rye

Date reviewed: December 12, 2022

Price:  $60.00

JW Kelly & Co.’s Melrose Rye is a nice change from the “me too” American Ryes on the market. There was nothing to complain about. If you like flavorful Ryes, Melrose does that. If you want a luxurious mouthfeel, Melrose has it. If you desire a slow-sipping whiskey, Melrose knocks that out of the ballpark. All of this for $60.00? Are you kidding me? Melrose is what Bottle ratings are all about.




Winner:  Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Date reviewed: June 13, 2022

Price:  $59.99

I may say something that will make you angry, and for that, I apologize. As we pass the halfway point of 2022, it is time to start considering the cream of the crop. Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is one of the best – if not the best – Bourbon I’ve tasted year-to-date. There’s nothing not to love here. Even the price is attractive. So, why is that upsetting? Well, it means you’ll have to travel to or have a friend in Kansas or Missouri to snag a Bottle. Travel. Make new friends. Trust me.

Runner up: Barrell Craft Spirits Vantage Straight Bourbon

Date reviewed: September 2, 2022

Price:  $89.99

I’ve never had a Mizunara-finished whiskey before today. I can’t swear that most of this experience is directly related to that wood, as there are two others to contend with, but let’s say that I’m curious about tasting others. The coconut flavors came through hard, and while that’s something that isn’t overly unusual with whiskeys, to have it as prominent as Vantage offers is.


Vantage is also surprisingly easy to sip despite its proof. There is undoubtedly a spicy component to this Bourbon, but no alcohol burn, which many folks will appreciate. However, it also sneaks up on you because there is no warning of it coming before it hits. I’ve been delighted with many of Barrell Craft Spirits' offerings as of late, and Vantage is no exception. I’d happily fork over the $90 to have this Bottle in my library.


World Whiskey

Winner: Starward Octave Barrels Australian Single Malt

Date reviewed: June 3, 2022

Price:  $79.99

The smaller cooperage was not an issue with this whisky. Perhaps it was due to it being vintage rather than new. The seasoned oak was different, I loved the fruity flavors (especially the blueberry), and those Bullseye candies have always been my favorite. Starward Octave Barrels hit all the nails on the head, and I can safely say this is one of the top whiskies I’ve tried in 2022. It steals my Bottle rating. Find it. Buy it. Enjoy it.


Runner up:  Indri-Trīni Indian Single Malt

Date reviewed: March 21, 2022

Price:  $60.00

Indri-Trīni lacks any resemblance to Indian Single Malts I’ve tried from Amrut, Paul John, Kamet, or Rampur. I’ve loved Indian Single Malts for the last couple of years, and while decidedly different, this is an attention-grabbing whisky that is also easy on the wallet. If big, fruity notes are your jam, you will swoon over Indri-Trīni, and it snags my Bottle rating.


Canadian Whisky


Winner: Proof and Wood Good Day 21-Year

Date reviewed: July 18, 2022

Price:  $99.99

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to congratulate Proof and Wood. You have finally ended my quest for an affordable, drinkable Canadian whisky. Yeah, in this case, $99.99 is “affordable” when you consider it is 21 years old. I’ve paid far more than that when it comes to similarly-aged Scotch, and that becomes almost a Walmart price when you bring Bourbon into the picture. Today was a good day to drink Good Day, and it snags my Bottle rating.

Runner up:  BEARFACE Triple Oak

Date reviewed:  August 31, 2022

Price:  $34.99

I don’t know if it is the base single grain whisky, the French oak finish, the Hungarian oak finish, or those repurposed shipping containers that did it, but BEARFACE Triple Oak Whisky is easy to sip and generous on flavor, and it is just damned good. It earns every bit of my Bottle rating, and I’m thrilled to have this easy-on-the-wallet Canadian whisky in my library. 


Irish Whiskey


Winner:  Limavady Irish Single Malt, Single Barrel

Date reviewed: September 21, 2022

Price:  $49.99

Limavady has a complex nose, an unusually thick mouthfeel, and a spicy, fruity palate. Its long-lasting finish gently warmed my throat, and I caught myself smiling as I analyzed the experience. To offer a 46% ABV single malt at $50.00 ranks this one heck of a bargain, and I can’t think of a single reason why it hasn’t earned my Bottle rating. On a side note, Limavady is one of the better Irish whiskeys I’ve sampled this year.

Runner up
:  The Irishman Single Malt

Date reviewed: August 10, 2022

Price:  $45.00

There are a lot of 40% ABV Irish whiskeys out there for less than the cost of The Irishman Single Malt. If you’re shopping based on price, you’ll cheat yourself out of something special. Even Mrs. Whiskeyfellow took a sip and smiled, then begged for a second. I’m thrilled to crown this with my Bottle rating and have this in my whiskey library.


Scotch Whisky

Winner: BenRiach Smoke Season Single Malt

Date reviewed: October 12, 2022

Price:  $79.99

I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and Smoke Season can compete effortlessly with several (and win). There’s no way on the planet I would guess this was a Speyside. After jotting down my tasting notes, I read my review to see how close this year’s matched up. While the proof was the same each year, I believe this year’s release trumps the inaugural. This one steals my Bottle rating.


Runner up: Glengoyne 10-Year Single Malt

Date reviewed:  May 9, 2022

Price:  $37.99

There are summer days when I want to sit on my back deck and drink something light and refreshing. Glengoyne 10 is perfect for that occasion. Sans the peat-craver, there’s something here for any Scotch-lover: lots of fruity goodness, significant sherry influence, a touch of spice, a lovely texture, and even those who are price-conscious in this economy yet demand a quality pour. If you’ve not yet figured it out, Glengoyne 10 grabs my coveted Bottle rating and runs away with it. 


Budget Whiskey

Winner:  Harleston Green Blended Scotch

Date reviewed: August 15, 2022

Price:  $24.99

The first thing I’ll say is I’ve shared this Scotch with a few friends, one of whom is a well-known distiller. The consensus was it was pretty damned good, especially for a young whisky. I was well-blended, and while there is a smoky quality to it, it would not turn off those who dislike peat (or who are newbies).  Harleston Green is a great Scotch to explore if you’re new and curious. Harleston Green is a tasty gem for those who are more experienced. I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy this one, as such it earns its Bottle rating. 


Runner up: J.W. Dant Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Date reviewed: May 27, 2022

Price:  $14.99

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. 


Flavored Whiskey


Winner:  Kurvball “The Original Barbeque Whiskey”

Date reviewed: September 28, 2022

Price:  $24.99

Kurvball is absolutely unlike any Islay whisky that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. It isn’t anything like a flavored whiskey. It stunned me how natural it tasted and how much it toyed with my brain and palate. There was no alcohol quality to it, which puts this in the dangerous category, meaning you won’t feel the impact of the alcohol until you’re stuck in a chair, wondering how you got there and how you’re going to get out of it. I smiled the entire journey. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow tasted it and was impressed. It doesn’t matter that this doesn’t come across as a whiskey; it still gets my Bottle rating.


Runner up: Lonerider Spirits Nutcracker Pecan Flavored Whiskey

Date reviewed: January 21, 2022

Price:  $17.95

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


Please Santa? 

The GlenDronach Grandeur Batch 11 Single Malt Scotch

Date reviewed: October 14, 2022

Price:  $800.00

I loved this Scotch. It was yet another example of Dr. Barrie’s immense talent. The nose, the palate, the finish; each told me this was a luxurious whisky. All things being equal, this would capture my Bottle rating. The elephant in the room is the price:  $800 is beyond my and many others' means. But that shouldn’t discount your chance at a dram of Grandeur Batch 11 if you can find it at a good whisky Bar.


The Sleeper

J.T. Meleck American Rice Whiskey

Date reviewed: November 11, 2022

Price:  $47.00

This rice whiskey drank at its stated proof and featured more flavor than I would have ever imagined. As I suspected, it was nothing like the Japanese versions I’d tried. J.T. Meleck American Rice Whiskey is kinda-sorta like a blend of Bourbon and Rye. The more I sipped it, the more flavorful it became.


I’m curious if American rice whiskey will catch on. If J.T. Meleck is an example of what the category becomes, it’ll be a winner. I commend Mike Frugé for doing something decidedly different, and I’m thrilled to have this in my whiskey library. If you’ve not figured it out, it takes my Bottle rating. 


And there you have it; these are the best whiskeys I’ve tasted in 2022. Lift a glass to the winners and runners-up, and let’s see what 2023 brings. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my reviews and follow me. I truly appreciate it. Cheers!


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



Saturday, October 8, 2022

Checking Off a Bucket List Item: Judging the Whiskey and Barrel Nite Consumer Choice Awards (WABCCA)


About a month ago, I was able to cross something off my bucket list. Honestly, I never in a million years thought I’d be able to do it because I’ve been less than silent about my opinion of spirits competitions. However, I was invited to be a judge for the Whiskey and Barrel Nite Consumer Choice Awards (WABCCA) at the Bottom Lounge in Fulton Market in Chicago. I jumped at the opportunity.

The Competition Itself


The WABCCA is the brainchild of Dave Sweet and Mario Campa. Dave hosts and owns many tasting events around the country and has been a senior vice president with Whisky Magazine. Mario is one of the founders of the Scotch Addict blog, hosted distillery tours in Islay and around Scotland, and a founder of Barrel and Bottle.


One thing that makes WABCCA different from other competitions is that the judges are consumers ranging in experience from casual drinkers to serious enthusiasts and on- and off-premises retailers who service consumers.


Like most spirits competitions, there are medals handed out: bronze, silver, and gold. Moreover, the Consumer Choice Award is the best of the gold winners from each category. Only one Consumer Choice Award is offered per category.


WABCCA uses a 100-point scoring system, which is obviously more complicated than my Bottle, Bar, or Bust rating system, and works as follows:

  • Bronze: 70-79 points
  • Silver: 80-89 points
  • Gold: 90-100 points


The nose had a maximum of 20 points, the palate 30, the finish 20, and “overall” 30.


While it is possible to have multiple gold winners in a single category, it is entirely possible to not medal at all if a whiskey does not score enough points to achieve 70 points.


Whiskeys were first divided into general categories (North American, Scotch, Irish, International Single Malts, International Blends). They were further divided into their respective whiskey types (e.g., Bourbon, Tennessee Whisky, Canadian, Rye, etc.). Categories also included Flavored Whiskeys, Finished Whiskeys, Independent Bottlings, and Single Barrel/Special Release Whiskeys.


A second thing that differentiates WABCCA from others is age is absolutely irrelevant. Instead, whiskeys are split into three price slots (e.g., for Scotch, the slots were $80 and Under, $81 to $150, and $150 and Over). WABCCA ignores age because its research shows that most whiskey drinkers consider price over age. Frankly, I agree with that, as I’ve said for many years that a whiskey’s age is merely a number. A whiskey is ready when it is ready.


My Experience

First of all, I thought it was a blast. We tasted about 45 whiskeys. I was sure not to swallow any and cleansed my palate between each one. Shockingly, I walked out of there wholly clear-headed, which I was concerned about. Spitting is your friend when it comes to judging.


We had no idea what we tasted except that we knew what type of whiskey we were drinking. We were provided glasses with stickers denoting the sample we had to log on our sheets.


Secondly, the most challenging aspect for me was the 100-point system, then indicating whether I’d buy it for myself or a friend. Part of that was problematic as I tasted whiskeys that I didn’t rate so high, but I enjoyed them, and yes, I’d buy them. Usually, the lower rating was because something like the nose was unappealing, but the whiskey itself was delicious. On the flip side of the coin, I found some that were very nice, I rated them highly, but I wouldn’t have purchased them for myself or a friend. They were good, but they weren’t things I’d go out and buy.


I was not too fond of some of what I tasted, and there was a suggestion to use 70 points as a basement. Well, those I didn’t like didn’t get 70 points; I wasn’t giving anything away for the sake of hitting a specific number. I had a few in the low 60s. I stand by those ratings.


Thirdly, and this is something I would have never considered writing about, the food provided was fantastic. The fact that the staff considered there might be gluten-free judges was refreshing. We had our special crackers, and there were gluten-free pizza options. Here’s where the big shout-out comes:  Robert’s Pizza & Dough Company is absolutely to die for! Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I enjoyed it so much that night we agreed to hit them up for dinner, too. I put up a Yelp review that you can check out here.


My Fellow Judges


There were a few media folks like me: distributors, distillers, brand ambassadors, and just regular consumers who enjoy whiskey. 

The big rule of the day was no discussing what you were currently sipping to avoid influencing another judge’s ratings. That was easy. What was less so was keeping things somewhat quiet. I sat at a table with some hilarious folks who kept me laughing. Every so often, I’d have a whiskey I just put in my mouth and had to spit it out because of the one-liners. Thankfully, there was enough of a pour to try sipping again.


Judging and Awards


I could individually list the winners and what medals they earned, or you can visit the website. Check them out and see if you're surprised - both by who took a Consumer Choice Award and who took Bronze. There were some that I simply nodded and agreed with, and others that caused me to raise an eyebrow.


Final Thoughts 

I had a great time. I've always been a fan of blind tastings, and this was the ultimate in that format. My thoughts on whiskey competitions remain unchanged. I understand the idea that you don't want to score something below 70 points so that everyone who enters earns at least a Bronze. At the same time, if something is unpleasant, why reward it? That's the whole participation trophy aspect that I've never embraced. To me, it stresses the importance and validity of the Bottle, Bar, or Bust rating system.

Would I do this again? I'm looking forward to the next opportunity. If you're ever offered a chance to judge, do it. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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