Showing posts with label Irish whiskey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish whiskey. Show all posts

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.

 


 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 



My history with Teeling Whiskey goes back almost seven years. I was the Whiskey Consultant for Vom Fass’s flagship store in Madison, Wisconsin, and there were several independent bottlings of Teeling whiskeys available. One of them, called Against the Grain, was my secret weapon whenever someone came into the store and suggested they didn’t care for whiskey at all. I’d pour them a sample, and it was a game-changer more often than not.

 

Since moving on from Vom Fass, I’ve not had much opportunity to try Teeling’s whiskeys. I’ve seen them on the shelves, but I’d always explore something else. I came across a triple pack of 50ml Teeling’s Single Malt, Single Grain, and Small Batch whiskeys one day, and it would be my opportunity to try all three.

 

If you’re not familiar with the Teeling family, you should be. Go back a few generations to Walter Teeling, who started the journey back in 1792 in Dublin. There is a suggestion that the Teelings have been involved ever since. In 1987, John Teeling purchased a formerly-state run industrial alcohol facility, installed a couple of stills, and then became the Cooley Distillery.  Cooley wasn’t any distillery; it was winning accolades for what it produced. It became so much so that in 2011, Beam Suntory bought it.

 

And that may have been the end of Teeling, except it wasn’t. John’s sons, Stephen and Jack, teamed with their first employee, Alex Chasko (its Master Distiller and Blender), and opened the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in 2015, the first new distillery in Dublin in 125 years. Because of that, combined with laws governing Irish whiskey, anything with the Teeling label before 2018 is sourced (from Cooley, Old Bushmills, etc.).

 

Today’s review is of its Single Grain release. While we’re in 2022, the Trinity Pack I purchased was from 2019. I believe this whiskey is still a Cooley product and the labels state it is crafted and bottled by Teeling (rather than distilled).

 

The Single Grain starts with a mash of 95% corn and 5% malted barley. If that has you scratching your head, recall that single refers to the distillery, not the actual grain content. Single malt or single grain whiskey comes from a single distillery, whereas a blend is from several. It carries no age statement, but it is aged between five and six years. It spent time in former Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon French Oak casks. Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), you can expect to spend $45.00 or so on a 750ml bottle.

 

How does the Single Grain fare? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, this single grain whiskey presented as deep orange. It formed a medium-weighted rim that released wide, slow legs that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose: Before I even picked up the glass, a waft of butterscotch was easy to find. Once I brought it close to my face, I found plum jam, vanilla, French oak, and sawdust. The last note was curious because, in my experience, it suggests smaller cooperage, which isn’t the case here. As I drew that air past my lips, oak and toasted pineapple rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  The first sip seemed thin, but that texture thickened quickly, making it full-bodied and creamy. Coconut and Werther’s candy came out in a big way on the front. Next, I tasted date, pear, and cranberry. The back featured oak, caramel, and toffee.

 

Finish:  The French oak woke up on the finish and kept building. At its crescendo, cinnamon spice and toffee toned it. The finish was long and very dry, almost giving me the pucker power that one should expect from Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I went into this review wanting to like the Teeling Single Grain. The independent bottlings of its Single Grain from the Cooley Distillery were lovely. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my experience with their branded one. I’m not suggesting this is bad because it isn’t. It just lacks anything remarkable to give a wow factor. I do appreciate its 46% ABV versus the 40% that so many Irish whiskeys have, but that in and upon itself doesn’t push it over the edge. For the price, I would recommend trying this one at a Bar before committing to the entire bottle. 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, March 17, 2022

The Quiet Man 8-Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Beannachta√≠ na F√©ile Padraig Ort! The traditional Irish blessing translates as “Blessings of Patrick’s Festival Upon You.”  Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and I can find no better way to commemorate it than to review a new-to-me Irish whiskey.

 

Before I get there, though, what exactly is Irish whiskey? First and foremost, it must be a complete product of Ireland, distilled from a mash of malted cereals with or without unmalted grains. It must be fermented with yeast and distilled at less than 94.8% ABV. Here’s a tricky part: when distilled, it must have an aroma and taste of the representative grains, with no additives other than water and caramel coloring. It must age at least three years in 700 or fewer liter oak containers.

 

Beyond those requirements, Irish whiskey falls under four categories: single pot still, single malt, single grain, and blended.

 

The Quiet Man is a venture of US-based Luxco and Niche Drinks of County Derby in Northern Ireland. The whiskey enjoyed distribution throughout Europe before making its US debut in 2016. There were talks of building a distillery in County Derry, but those fell by the wayside in 2018. Regardless, the brand is going strong today, but the actual distiller remains undisclosed.

 

“Now that I am making my own whiskey, I am naming it after my father. As a bartender, he saw a lot of things and heard a lot of stories, but like all good bartenders, he was true to his code and told no tales. My father, John Mulgrew, ‘The Quiet Man’, or as they say in Ireland ‘An Fear Ciuin.’”Ciaran Mulgrew, founder of The Quiet Man

 

The Quiet Man is available in two versions: a blended Irish whiskey and an 8-year Irish single malt. I’m sipping on the latter. Like most Irish whiskey, it is triple-distilled in copper pot stills from a 100% malted barley mash. It is then aged in first-fill former Bourbon barrels for at least eight years and bottled at 40% ABV (80°) with a retail price between $42.99 and $49.99.

 

Before I go further, I’d like to thank Luxco for sending me a sample of The Quiet Man in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and learn what this whiskey is all about.

 

Appearance: Sipped neat in a Glencairn glass, The Quiet Man was brilliant gold. It formed a bold rim with husky, fast legs that crashed back to the pool of whiskey.

 

Nose: A floral fragrance accompanied by caramel, honey, citrus, and lightly-toasted oak. When I drew the aroma into my mouth, citrus and vanilla tangoed across my tongue.

 

Palate:  A full-bodied, somewhat creamy mouthfeel greeted my palate. The front featured banana, apricot, apple, and vanilla, while the middle offered nutmeg and orange zest. Clove, cinnamon, coffee, and oak comprised the back.

 

Finish:  Flavors of oak spice, coffee, and clove were joined by apricot and orange zest. The finish was long and lingering, and I was admittedly taken aback that something at 40% ABV could make my hard palate tingle.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  An eight-year Irish single malt whiskey for $42.99 sounds like a heck of a deal if it is enjoyable. The Quiet Man may tell no secrets, but the whiskey named for him is full of flavor and character. I savored it, and I believe you will, too. The Quiet Man 8-Year Single Malt has earned every bit of my Bottle rating. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Glendalough Double Barrel Single Grain Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 


 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Glendalough Pot Still Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 


 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Claddagh Imported Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 



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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 

 

Friday, January 7, 2022

2 Gingers Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Irish whiskey is a special category of whiskey. It used to be the most popular in the world until Prohibition in the United States nearly destroyed it. It is smooth (a word that some people hate), soft, and fruity. And, for the most part, they’re affordable, especially compared to their Scottish counterparts.

 

One of the things that make Irish whiskey so smooth is that they are typically triple-distilled. It doesn’t have to be; it is just the standard. As such, when Irish whiskey is twice-distilled, that’s unusual and is owed attention.  Such is the case with 2 Gingers.

 

2 Gingers began as the dream child of Kieran Folliard. Folliard owned a few Irish pubs and created some famous cocktails using Jameson Irish Whiskey. At some point in 2011, he started sourcing barrels from the Kilbeggan-Cooley distillery. He named his brand after his red-headed mother and aunt. Folliard did so well that he garnered the attention of Beam-Suntory, who, just one year later, purchased the brand from Folliard.

 

2 Gingers is an Irish Blended Whiskey, which means it marries two or more types of Irish whiskey. With 2 Gingers, single malt and single grain distillates are involved. It is aged four years in former Bourbon casks, although there’s no indication if that’s first-fill or refill or a variety. It is then packaged at 40% ABV (80°), and you can find a 750ml bottle for just over $20.00, and it is a cinch to find.  For the record, I found and purchased a 50ml taster at a liquor store in Minneapolis.

 

That price point is also attractive.  A $20.00 Irish whiskey still becomes a candidate for my #RespectTheBottomShelf award. Will 2 Gingers earn one? The only way to tell is to #DrinkCurious.

 

Before I do that, I would be remiss not to mention that 2 Gingers is designed to be a mixer. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I won’t buy whiskey as a cocktail base; I expect any whiskey to stand on its own, or at the very most, with a few drops of water. I’ve had several “mixer” whiskeys that were delightful sipped neat.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, 2 Gingers showed as the color of golden straw. It formed a thick rim that created sticky, slow legs.

 

Nose:  I found the aroma to include malt, lemon zest, green apple, apricot, and toasted oak. When I took the air into my mouth, a strong banana presence appeared.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium body. Things began with honey, apple, and malted barley on the front, ginger root, vanilla and lemon peel on the middle, pepper, dry oak, and milk chocolate on the back.

 

Finish:  The finish was weird and not in the good/unusual way that I crave. Instead, it started as banana cream, then got spicy with pepper and dry oak, culminating in something slightly bitter. I was cool until that bitter part.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  2 Gingers is nothing special and certainly not a means to #RespectTheBottomShelf. I realize that this whiskey is designed to be a mixer, but I’ve had others marketed for mixing that taste just fine neat. This was not one of them. I’m not sure where to even provide suggestions.  Is it proofed too low? Perhaps. Is it lacking time in wood?  Probably not, considering how dry the wood notes are. Does it need to be triple rather than twice-distilled? Probably. 2 Gingers may be dirt cheap, but it is also taking a Bust 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.

 


 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Bourbon & Banter: Don't let FOMO get you scammed!

 


You clicked on an ad. There were several, many including old and rare whiskeys, and yeah, that price was perfect! FOMO hit... were you scammed?

In my latest Bourbon & Banter article, I'll guide you through the steps to check out websites offering you amazing deals with super-fast shipping.


Cheers!


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The 2021 Whiskeyfellow Awards Show

It didn’t seem like too long ago when I published my 2020 Best Whiskey Awards. And yet, here we are in December. This year went by so fast! It is already time to review my 2021 awards.

 

I know, I know, if you’re only recently enjoying my reviews, you’re likely rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, Oh… joy. Another list of whiskeys that I’ll never be able to taste. As the greatest clown/philosophizer said many times, Homey don’t play that!

 

What differentiates my “Best Of” list from most others is that mine is for the average whiskey drinker. What’s that mean? To begin with, for any whiskey to qualify for one of these awards, it must meet the following four requirements:

 

1.  It must have been something I’ve both tasted and reviewed this year. I don’t have a team of tasters who whittle something down for me to review. It is my palate that you put your trust in. And, as wonderful as something is, if I wrote about last year and am still drinking this year, that wouldn’t qualify for this year’s list.

 

2.  It must be fairly 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 impossible. But, it also won’t be something you’d have to sell your soul to see in person, let alone acquire.

 

3.  It must be reasonably affordable. I tend to put a ceiling of $150.00 for my awarded whiskeys.

 

4.  It cannot be a store pick. While these are a fantastic way to taste truly unique whiskeys, the average whiskey drinker outside of 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?

 

Something else I’ve never understood is how reviewers can name a Best Whisky/Whiskey of the Year way before the year is close to over (some publish theirs in September! That's why I wait until mid-December to hand out awards. I can safely say 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. Last year, 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. I added a Runner Up to each category (except Please Santa?) to highlight another excellent option this year. I'll not include links in an attempt to circumvent social media claiming my annual list is (yet again) clickbait. However, you are welcome to use the search function of my Blog to locate reviews that interest you.


This year, I reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 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 interested in, it means I either didn’t drink anything in that category, or if I did, I didn't find anything 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 2021:

 


Winner:  Barrell Craft Spirits Seagrass

  • Date reviewed: March 24, 2021
  • Price:  $89.99



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

If you’re adventurous and want to really #DrinkCurious, I’m here to tell you this will stimulate the heck out of you. Of course, I’m in that camp, which means Seagrass grabs my coveted Bottle rating.

  

Runner up:  Cat’s Eye Distillery Nassif Family Reserve

  • Date reviewed: January 29, 2021
  • Price:  $39.99


Nassif Family Reserve is touted as something approachable for beginners yet nuanced enough for more experienced sippers. Overall, I’d have to agree, although I’m left wondering if the 107° is a tad too aggressive for newbies. Regardless, I appreciated the nice balance between sweet and spice. The price offers no real barrier to entry. Do the math, and this one winds up snagging a Bottle rating.


◆◆◆◆◆ 

 


Winner:  Boulder Spirits American Single Malt - Peated

  • Date reviewed: August 25, 2021
  • Price:  $55.00


This is a peated American Single Malt. There are so few of these out there that they’re special just by existing. But, this one is also delightful. It is lightly smoked. It is sweet. It has flavors that naturally transition from one to another. Even if you don’t like peat, this one is something you can work with. While the cost of a bottle is about average, there’s nothing average about this whiskey. If you see it, buy it. American Single Malt - Peated is a slam-dunk Bottle rating.

 

Runner up:  Cedar Ridge The Quintessential American Single Malt

  • Date reviewed: June 25, 2021
  • Price:  $59.99

 

The QuintEssential is a stand-out. I wish more American distilleries tinkered with peat. This American Single Malt is an excellent introduction because the peat is understated compared to the rest of this whiskey. I loved the fruitiness, I enjoyed the complexity, and I wish I could find something to complain about, but I can’t. Even the price is attractive. This is what American Single Malt should be and a super-easy Bottle rating.

 

◆◆◆◆



Winner:  Stellum Rye

  • Date reviewed: April 14, 2021
  • Price:  $54.99

I’m not a fan of anise - at all. And, yet, Stellum managed to make anise work for whatever reason. This rye is a spice bomb. If you’ve never had American Rye before but have a preconceived notion of what it would taste like, Stellum Rye fits that bill almost perfectly. 

All the various spices mingled as if they were meant to be together (even the anise). The $54.99 price is more than fair, especially when you consider this is barrel-proof. I’m happy to convey my coveted Bottle rating for it.


Runner up:  Coalition Whiskey Margaux Barriques

  • Date reviewed: January 27, 2021
  • Price:  $89.99

Coalition Margaux Barriques was, simply put, elegant. I’ve had several wine-finished whiskeys, and this one is a stand-out. The whiskey is a quality base, and the wine barrels were top-notch before the two even interacted. There was absolutely nothing not to like from nose to finish. Even the mouthfeel was luxurious. The fancy decanter was unnecessary - this could be packaged in a mason jar, and I would still not have any problem dropping $90.00 on it. Obviously, this grabs my coveted Bottle rating.


 ◆◆◆◆

  


Winner:  Remus Repeal Reserve V

  • Date reviewed: July 19, 2021
  • Price:  $89.99

 

Everything about this Bourbon was delicious. But strange as this may sound, the luxurious mouthfeel eclipsed all that. This was easily the best batch of Remus Repeal Reserve I’ve had, the price is right, and I love the fact it is pretty easy to get your hands on. This is a slam-dunk Bottle rating. If I had, say, a Case rating, this would take that.

 

Runner up: Blood Oath Pact 7

  • Date reviewed: April 26, 2021
  • Price:  $99.99


All the Blood Oath Pacts are unique from one another, and of the (now) four I’ve reviewed, I’ve yet to find a cadaver. While Rempe won’t ever pony up his recipes, he knows what he’s doing. The more I sip this one, the more I enjoy it. I give props to Lux Row for keeping the price the same over the years and am happy to have this one in my library. Pick up a Bottle; you won’t be disappointed.

 

◆◆◆◆



Winner: Paul John Christmas Edition 2021

  • Date reviewed: November 5, 2021
  • Price:  $84.99 


This is everything Christmas should be. It is sweet, smoky, and savory, and the flavors blend stupendously with one another. The fact that I only had a 50ml is heartbreaking because this whisky is stunning. The good news is that in my area Paul John Christmas Editions aren’t too difficult to come by, and I’ll track a Bottle down to earn a coveted place in my whiskey library.



Runner up:  M&H Elements Peated

  • Date reviewed: January 22, 2021
  • Price:  $65.00

The Elements Peated did an admirable job of reminding me of an Islay Scotch while still offering something a bit different. While not as heavily peated, if you told me that Ardbeg was the distiller, I’d accept it as gospel and wouldn’t balk at the price at all. The fact that it isn’t Ardbeg makes it even more intriguing, and as far as a rating goes, I’m sold!  M&H Elements Peated takes a no-brainer Bottle rating. 


◆◆◆◆


 Winner:  Blue Spot

  • Date reviewed: October 8, 2021
  • Price:  $100.00


This is one dangerous whiskey. At no point did I recognize the proof. But, it sure recognized me. It came at me like a wave; I could feel the flush in my head. Despite that, I enjoyed every iota of Blue Spot. Is it worth $100.00? Yeah, it is. It also earned my Bottle rating, and if there were something higher, it would take that, too.


Runner up:  Jameson Black Barrel

  • Date reviewed: December 1, 2021
  • Price:  $34.99


This is very likely the best $7.00 I’ve spent on a bottle of whiskey. I have no idea why this was on the store’s clearance rack, but I’m thankful for the opportunity. I loved everything about Jameson Black Barrel except for one thing. I really adored the finish and wanted it to last longer. Now, as far as a $34.99 bottle goes, I’d still rank it a Bottle all day long.

 

◆◆◆◆




Winner: Ardbeg Wee Beastie

  • Date reviewed: April 28, 2021
  • Price:  $39.99


It is difficult to see a bottle of Ardbeg at this price and ignore it, youthful or not. Some distillers have that sort of magical power, and I’m not talking hype. Wee Beastie doesn’t disappoint with its smoky punch, character, and distinct mouthfeel. Not only do I think this was a good purchase, but I believe it is a steal. Wee Beastie is an absolute Bottle rating.


Runner up:  Kilchoman Sanaig

  • Date reviewed:  December 6, 2021
  • Price:  $70.00


Sanaig was one of those mind-blowing whiskies. The nose and palate were amazingly complicated but also managed to complement one another. I loved the nosing to finish and everything in between. In my opinion, Sanaig blows Machir Bay out of the water, and I enjoyed Machir Bay tremendously. There was a total lack of anything remotely astringent, which is another plus. Tie all that up with the very affordable investment, and that’s a perfect recipe for a Bottle rating.

 

◆◆◆◆




Winner:  Paul John Mithuna

  • Date reviewed: April 2, 2021
  • Price:  $300.00


I gave this away already, but I’m confident in my Bottle rating. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow gave this a sip and was blown away. Frankly, so was I. I cannot understand how aging something in virgin oak and ex-Bourbon casks equals a nuclear sherry explosion in every aspect of the whisky. If you want a complex nose, Mithuna has it. If you desire a crazy-good palate, Mithuna will deliver. If you seek an Energizer Bunny finish, Mithuna will satisfy that desire. If you’ve got $300.00 to invest in a beautiful pour, this should be what you spend it on.


◆◆◆◆ 

 

And that, my friends, leaves one final order of business to conduct. Which of those named best in their respective classes is my Whiskey of the Year? Everything that I've listed was unique. However, only one can be king, and the crown goes to the King of Bootleggers, Remus Repeal Reserve V.

 

Congratulations to the distillers who made this year's cream of the crop. Cheers! 

 

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