Showing posts with label RespectTheBottomShelf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RespectTheBottomShelf. Show all posts

Monday, August 15, 2022

Harleston Green Blended Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


The opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf is one I take seriously. When I first became a fan of whisky, I was anything but wealthy (I’m still not). I had no idea what I was doing, just that I didn’t want to spend gobs of money on something that was going to be questionable. I invested in whiskies that were generally under $30.00. As my palate matured, I never left my quest to find gems that many would overlook due to price.

 

Something else I always appreciate is transparency. That’s becoming more common for American whiskeys, but things are less so outside the country. Imagine my shock when a bottle of Harleston Green blended Scotch whisky showed up, and while inspecting the bottle, I saw “Distilled and Bottled by Loch Lomond Distillery” on the back label.

 

Harleston Green isn’t a green whisky (thank goodness!). The origin of Harleston Green is it was the first golf course established in America.

 

“In 1786, a group of Scottish merchants absconded with two of European high society’s most treasured pleasures, golf and Scotch, and brought them together at Harleston Green in Charleston, South Carolina for all people to enjoy. We’d nominate those merchants for sainthood if it didn’t risk getting in the way of their drinking and carousing.” – Harleston Green

 

Composed of three, four, and five-year-old whiskies from the Highland, Lowland, Speyside, and Campbelltown regions, Harleston Green is bottled at 40% ABV (90°) and is quite affordable at $24.99 for a 750ml package.

 

Some of you may find it hard to swallow the notion that a three-year Scotch at this pricepoint will be even remotely good. The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious, so let’s get at it. But, before I do, I must thank Harleston Green for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, when poured neat, this Scotch was the color of honey. It formed a thicker rim, something not surprising for a low-proofed whisky, and wild, long legs that crashed back to the pool.

 

Nose: A puff of smoke was the first thing I smelled. Beneath that were dried apricot, peach, honey, nut, and English toffee. Vanilla was hidden underneath. When I drew that air into my mouth, honey rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  A creamy, medium-bodied texture introduced itself, offering honey, vanilla, and citrus on the front of my palate. Midway through, I tasted nutmeg, green peppercorn, and apple, while the back featured smoke, cinnamon, and roasted almond.

 

Finish:  The smoke carried all the way through. I need to make it clear that it was far from overpowering. It didn’t taste like peat. It didn’t dry my mouth. It was merely a flavor. Apple strudel and almond hung around, making for a surprisingly long finish.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  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. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 


Friday, May 27, 2022

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

 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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




Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Glen Moray The Classic Single Malt Collection Review & Tasting Notes


Glen Moray is one of those brands often found on the bottom shelf of a liquor store. That in itself can be off-putting to some and instead gravitate to prettier labels and more impressive price tags. Glen Moray screams out to me as something that needs to be tested to see if it can be crowned with my coveted #RespectTheBottomShelf label.

 

This Speyside distillery has a storied history. It began as the Elgin West Brewery, until 1897 when its first spirits still was installed. On September 13, 1897, the distillery filled its first barrel with a 100% locally-grown barley distillate.  World War I became reality, and the distillery was mothballed until 1923. It was purchased by Macdonald & Muir, the company that eventually became Glenmorangie.

 

In the 1950s, it purchased the Gallowcrook Farm, which was the farm that grew the barley that went into that first batch of Glen Moray. It also invested heavily in expanding the distillery and warehouses to increase production. Then, in 1999, it became one of the earliest Scottish distilleries to finish whiskies in wine barrels – specifically Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc casks.

 

In 2008, Glenmorangie sold Glen Moray to La Martiniquaise, which remains its current owner. In 2014, it launched the Classic Collection and shortly thereafter was the first in Scotland to finish whisky in Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

 

I’ve had an opportunity to try four of the whiskies from the Classic Collection:  The Classic Single Malt, Classic Sherry Cask Finish, Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish, and Classic Port Cask Finish.

 

Before I #DrinkCurious, I’d like to thank Glen Moray for providing me samples of each in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Classic Single Malt

 

First up is The Classic Single Malt. This one is 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement, and was aged completely in former Bourbon barrels. There is no indication if there is any e150a coloring added or if it is chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was the color of pale gold. I can’t see this one having any caramel coloring to it, or if it does, it doesn’t show. It formed a thinner rim that offered medium-weighted, long legs that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose:  The aromas were sweet and fruity, which is almost expected for a Speyside whisky. Melon, grapefruit, green apple, vanilla, and malt competed for attention. As I drew the air into my mouth, that melon defined itself as honeydew.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was buttery with a medium body. The front was fruity with apple, grapefruit, and lime zest. The middle featured English toffee and honeysuckle, while the back had flavors of almond, vanilla, and toasted oak.

 

Finish:  Short and unassuming, the finish was made of caramel, vanilla cream, toffee, grapefruit, and lime. There was no astringent quality, everything was crisp and flavorful.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Classic was nice and simple. There wasn’t a ton of depth to it, and in this case, that’s fine. This is such an easy-to-drink whisky that could be something to savor on a hot, summer’s day. I would highly recommend this for someone who has heard all of the distasteful things that a Scotch can be because this has none of that. When I take the price into account, this becomes very attractive, and as such, takes my Bottle rating.

 

Classic Sherry Cask Finish

 

The Classic Sherry Cask Finish is The Classic that has been finished for a handful of months in Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. It still weighs in at 40% ABV (80°) and states nothing about e150a, chill filtration, or age. This is understandably priced higher at about $36.99.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this sherry expression was brassier in color. It formed a very thick rim that led to watery, fast legs.

 

Nose:  Raisin, apricot, citrus, and melon gave this Scotch a fruity nose, which is expected with a sherry finish. Nutmeg and oak were also present. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the raisin became more identifiable as a golden varietal.

 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thinner than the Elgin Classic, but still retained the buttery quality. The front of the palate featured dark chocolate, apricot, raisin, and green apple. It was different to have the chocolate dominate the fruit with a sherry finish. The middle offered honeysuckle and grass. On the back, I tasted oak, nutmeg, and molasses. 

 

Finish: The finish was a mile longer than the original. I discovered vanilla, apricot, nutmeg, oak, and, rounding things out, dark chocolate.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m a fan of sherry bombs, and while I liked this pour, I wish it spent more time in the sherry casks (that or bottled at 43%). I found the potential was slightly diminished. Like The Classic, this went down easily, there was nothing to offend an inexperienced Scotch drinker. It should be noted that $35.00 would take it out of the bottom-shelf category of Scotches. I liked this Scotch and I’m giving this one a Bottle rating.

 

Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish

 

The Classic Cabernet Sauvignon Cask Finish is, again, the same as The Classic, but this time finished for an undisclosed number of months in former Cabernet Sauvignon casks. As discussed in the introduction, Glen Moray was the first Scotch distillery to utilize these casks for finishing. It, too, is bottled at 40% ABV (80°) and carries no age statement. A 750ml package will cost about $27.99.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as brassy-gold, a few shades darker than the Sherry Cask Finish. A medium-to-heavy rim was followed by slow, sticky legs.

 

Nose:  An aroma of raw honey softened to blueberry, plum, and green apple. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, that honey was easy to identify.

 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily. The palate started as vanilla and honey, which was followed by blueberry pie filling. The middle held only honey, while the back offered flavors of charred oak, very dark chocolate, and clove.

 

Finish: The clove continued through the entire finish. Dark chocolate, blueberry, and oak appeared midway. As far as duration is concerned, it was short-to-medium, and I found it a bit dry.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had some cabernet sauvignon finished whiskies before, they’ve all been American, and I enjoyed them. With a Scotch, I’m questioning that. Mind you, I’m a huge fan of chocolate, blueberry, and clove. But, for whatever reason, this whisky did not wow me. I don’t think it is bad, it just seems disjointed. I’m conferring my Bar rating on it.

 

Classic Port Cask Finish

 

Port-finished Scotches seem to be all the rage now. Port is a fortified wine that must come from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. That’s not to say that there aren’t port-like wines from outside of Portugal, rather, they just can’t legally be called “Port.” The Classic is finished a few months in casks from Porto Cruz, which is one of the most sought-after Port wines. It carries no age statement, and like the others, is bottled at 40% ABV. You can expect to pay about $27.99 for a 750ml bottle.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky was the color of a new copper penny. A thin rim resulted in medium-weighted legs that dropped slowly to the pool.

 

Nose:  The Port influence was obvious, with an aroma of fig, date, plum, raisin, and oak. When I inhaled it through my lips, fig and raisin kept coming.

 

Palate:  An oily, thin mouthfeel led to a fruity, dry palate. It began with date, raisin, and lemon zest. Next up were caramel, chocolate, and leather. The back featured tobacco, oak, vanilla, and powdered cinnamon.

 

Finish:  Leather and dark chocolate continued into the finish, which was joined with date, plum, and raisin. Leather continued past everything else until a brief kiss of cranberry came from nowhere and vanished. The entire finish had a medium duration that I wished lasted longer.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $28.00 Scotch? For real? The only thing I could complain about is the length of the finish. I loved the Port Finish. This one takes a Bottle rating all day long! 

 

 

Final Thoughts:  Overall, I enjoyed these budget Scotch whiskies. What was interesting was the order I’d rank them in, with the Cabernet Sauvignon Finish, which Glen Moray pioneered, as my least favorite. The one I enjoyed the best was the Port Cask Finish, followed by The Classic, and the third, the Sherry Cask Finish.



Glen Moray deserves respect. It has sure earned mine and grabbed my #RespectTheBottomShelf honor. 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, November 15, 2021

Johnnie Walker High Rye Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 



There are a few whiskies that, as soon as they are introduced, generate plenty of stern opinions before anyone has had a chance to taste one. When the press release came out a week or so ago announcing Johnnie Walker High Rye, it took a few minutes for people to start laughing, saying it was disgusting, strange, just a mixer, etc. I even read in a group I belong someone dismissed this as more Johnnie Walker garbage.

 

Let’s talk about a few things. First, Johnnie Walker, like anyone else, makes good stuff and not-so-good stuff. Most of its releases carry no age statement, and all are blends. Second, there are three types of Scotch drinkers: those who refuse to drink non-age-stated whisky, those who only drink single malts, and those who #DrinkCurious.  As you’re well aware, I’m in that last category.

 

Let’s break that down a bit. Blending whisky is an art form. Just like any other kind of art, you have skilled artists and those who are less so. The goal of a master blender is to start with the result and then figure out how to get there. The goal of a lesser-blender is to take mediocre whisky and figure out how to salvage it.

 

Then, there’s the other half of the equation – the age statement. Age is simply a number that represents the youngest whisky in any marriage of barrels – in theory. As an example, you can have a 12-year Scotch that contains no 12-year Scotch in it, because everything in that batch was older. Or, it could have a small amount of 12-year and a huge amount of something older. And, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking single malt or blends. Moreover, a 12-year whisky can taste much better than a 15-year and vice-versa.

 

In my opinion, those who refuse to drink blends or anything without an age statement are cheating themselves out of amazing experiences. But, hey, that just means there is more for those of us who do!

 

Getting back to Johnnie Walker High Rye, it begins with whiskies sourced from Cardhu (Speyside), Cameronbridge (Lowland, and the oldest grain distillery in Scotland), Teaninich (Highland), Caol Ila (Islay), Clynelish (Highland), and Glenkinchie (Lowland) distilleries. Sixty percent of the mashbill is rye, which I am assuming is from Cameronbridge, as is likely the wheat component. The remaining ingredient is malted barley. As you can discern from my rant above, it carries no age statement. It is bottled at 45% ABV (90°) and I paid $25.00 for a 750ml bottle, making this an excellent opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf.

 

“A mastery of blending to create a bold, new offering. It tempts palates with a revolutionary taste profile that can only be born from the powerful blend of key Johnnie Walker Black Label tasting notes and rye whisky flavors.” - Diageo

 

Did I do well with my purchase? Let’s find out!

 

Appearance:  There is orange and then there is amber. Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this appeared orange in color. It formed a medium-thick rim that produced long, heavy, wavy legs that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose:  I could have been in a Jewish bakery that just took fresh rye bread out of the oven. Then, there was warm butter. Next, aromas of thick caramel, nutmeg, cantaloupe, and toasted oak made me excited to take the first sip. When I pulled air into my mouth, it was straight apple pie filling.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. That apple pie thing continued with green apple, vanilla cream, and brown sugar on the front. As it hit the middle, the brown sugar morphed to caramel, which then morphed again to English toffee. I also tasted saltwater taffy. The back featured nutmeg, oak, clove, and a puff of smoke.

 

Finish:  Things began short, but the more I sipped, the longer it lasted. Cinnamon spice, allspice, and clove were married to tobacco and a kiss of sweet peat.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Johnnie Walker High Rye may be one of the best bottom-shelf Scotches I’ve tried. The whole rye/barley/wheat thing worked beautifully. Nothing overpowered, it was surprisingly complex, and I’d gladly pay twice the price without blinking. Yes, this one snags 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.

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

X By Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


Scotch made for mixing. Scotch made for mixing? Oh no, is this going to be one of those awful things that need something else to make it tolerable?


I've had Scotch made for mixing before, and frankly, I enjoyed it neat.  A little over two years ago, I reviewed Auchentoshan "The Bartender's Malt" and it earned a Bottle rating. In fact, I said, "I'd buy this bottle all day long."  It was $49.99 and I didn't even bother using it as a mixer.


Today I'm pouring X by Glenmorangie, which is a Highland Single Malt made for mixing. Glenmorangie wants this description to be unmissed. It is on the bottle. It is on the hangtag. There is even a QR code on the reverse label so you can get mixing recipes. Full disclosure time:  I'm a big fan of Glenmorangie and I can't recall anything that was just meh out of this distillery. Dr. Bill Lumsden knows his stuff and he doesn't release whisky for the sake of releasing whisky. There is a ton of thought and consideration put into each bottling and if it doesn't meet his standards, it doesn't make it to market. 


As I stated, this is a single malt, which means that the whisky came from a single distillery and hasn't been blended with other whiskies. It aged in the normal ex-Bourbon barrels as the original Glenmorangie. However, another portion was aged in virgin, charred oak casks. It is bottled at a basic 40% ABV (80°) and a 750ml bottle will set you back about $25.00 or so. It carries no age statement. Wait! Don't roll your eyes. Read on, I beg you.


"Crafted with top bartenders, this is our single malt made for mixing. Pair its sweeter and richer taste with your favourite mixer to create delicious drinks." - Glenmorangie

 

Interestingly enough, that's pretty much the same story from Auchentoshan


I'd like to thank Glenmorangie for providing me a sample of X in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. But, before I do that, I want to talk about the presentation. Most distilleries send a bottle between 50ml and 750ml and maybe some printed material. A select few pour a lot of effort into what's sent out. Glenmorangie went above and beyond.





The box was huge. My Glencairn glass is there for perspective. When I pulled off the outer box, inside were five bottles:  X by Glenmorangie, Topo Chico Twist of Grapefruit, Fever-Tree Club Soda, Fever-Tree Ginger Beer, and Sanpellegrino Aranciata Rossa. It also contained suggested cocktail recipes. One of which I'm going to make (after I taste the X neat) is called X Ginger:

  • 1.5oz X by Glenmorangie
  • Ginger Ale

Fill a glass with cubed ice. Add X by Glenmorangie then top with ginger ale. Gently stir and garnish with an orange wedge.


Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass (because X is made for mixing and I judge all whiskeys, at the very least, neat), this Scotch presented as deep gold in color. I observed a fat rim that formed a thick, wavy curtain that slowly crashed back to the pool.


Nose:  The aromas of orange citrus and honeysuckle were unmistakable. It bordered on almost overwhelming. But, beneath those were pear, butterscotch, and something floral. When I pulled the vapor into my mouth, I could swear I was eating a macaroon. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and viscous. In fact, the more I sipped, the huskier it became.  The front featured raw honey, malt, and almond. Flavors of orange peel and crème brulée were next, and on the back, it was simply char and toasted oak. 


Finish:  My hard palate tingled despite the minimal proof. Virgin oak was evident and was joined by char, almond, and maple syrup. Like the mouthfeel, the finish was initially short, and subsequent sips elongated it to what I would describe as medium in length.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Is Glenmorangie X made for mixing? Well, sure, because Glenmorangie says so. Is it made for drinking neat? You betcha. This was a sweet but simple Scotch that provided a pleasant experience. When you compare Glenmorangie X to many other $25.00 Scotches, this not only deserves a Bottle rating but also provides an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf


Afterword:  For whatever it is worth, I made the X Ginger cocktail sans the orange simply because I didn't have one on hand. It did tame the ginger beer and give it a sweetness that complimented the expected spiciness.


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, July 9, 2021

Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes




I'm often amazed, with all the whiskeys that I've had checked into my library, what has never been in the catalog. When you get into what I'd classify as The Basics, that should be a part of pretty much any whiskey bar.  Evan Williams. Buffalo Trace. Jim Beam. Four Roses. Maker's Mark... you know, the basics. 


Except, I left one out. One iconic American Bourbon distillery - Wild Turkey.


It isn't as though I've not had Wild Turkey products grace my shelf. I have Russell's Reserve. Four different barrels that I've picked, as a matter-of-fact.  And, if you've read any of those reviews, you'll know that until two years ago, I pretty much avoided Wild Turkey.  It has nothing to do with Eddie or Jimmy, they're great guys. But, I didn't care for it.


And then I got into an Austin Nichols Wild Turkey. It was at some American Legion Post and it was hiding behind a bunch of other stuff. It obviously hadn't been poured in a long time. I tried it, and it was simply amazing. I remember asking the bartender if they had any bottles left, and he confirmed that the bottle was just sitting there and they had no more.


Well, flash forward two years and I'm invited to do my first Russell's Reserve pick. Then a second. Then the third. And, I'm loving it. Then I start telling myself that I need to explore other Wild Turkey expressions. I went to a bar and tried Kentucky Spirit. I enjoyed it. I told myself I'll have to grab a bottle of 101. Months passed. COVID hit. And, then my little town, which had been lacking a liquor store for a few years, had a brand new liquor store open up.


I went there on opening day to introduce myself and support them. Because of COVID, they had not received much as far as stock goes. I checked out their whiskey selection, and there it was:  Wild Turkey 101


If you're unfamiliar with 101, it is named after its proof, 101°. The Russells start with a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is distilled to an entry proof of 114 °, then is then poured into #4 charred white oak barrels where it is allowed to rest between six and eight years. Retail is about $23.99.


So, how does Wild Turkey 101 taste? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Wild Turkey 101 presents as caramel in color. It offered a thin rim that created fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.


Nose:  This one starts as thick caramel and joined by mint. As I continued to explore, I found toasted oak and cinnamon. And, finally, sweet butterscotch. When I inhaled through my lips, stewed peaches glazed my tongue.


Palate:  Wild Turkey 101 has a medium-thick mouthfeel. Drinking this is like eating cinnamon-dusted vanilla custard. As you continue to dip your spoon in the custard, there are raisins down there. Then, you hit some crust - gingerbread crust. At the very bottom was a puddle of maple syrup.


Finish:  Once I got past the sweet, things became spicy. It began with black pepper and dry oak. Then some of the sweetness returned with berry, raisin, and creamy caramel. Overall, it was a medium-to-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  One of the really awesome things about the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is that it forces you to keep coming back to things you haven't enjoyed in the past.  Wild Turkey 101 is flavorful, affordable, and for the money, this is one hell of a Bourbon. It is absolutely a Bottle rating and proves yet again why you offer second chances for redemption. 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 that 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.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Deadwood Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



I don't know about you, but I love searching for gems on the bottom shelf of your local liquor store. These are things that have the potential to be high-turnover sales, but since they're not pricy, the retailer wants you to check out the more expensive offerings and puts those more at eye level. This is why, many years ago, I created the hashtag #RespectTheBottomShelf.  I want to always encourage whiskey drinkers to look down and see what's buried there.


Today I'm reviewing Deadwood Straight Bourbon. This is another release from the folks at Proof & Wood Ventures, which doesn't distill, rather they source whiskeys typically from MGP and Dickel. For the most part, Proof & Wood knows what they're doing.  I've reviewed several of their whiskeys and am impressed with their ability to select barrels, sell them at a very fair price, and their transparency.


Deadwood Bourbon is sourced from MGP.  If you're not familiar with MGP, they're probably the largest distiller in the country and provide whiskey for dozens upon dozens of brands. Like most any distillery, they create excellent barrels and mediocre barrels. I've had plenty of MGP's whiskeys featuring both extremes and everywhere in between. The trick is to be patient and find those good barrels and nix the remainder. 


The mashbill for Deadwood is MGPs typical 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It was then aged "at least" two years in new, 53-gallon charred oak barrels. It weighs in slightly over the bare minimum to be called a whiskey - 81° - and a 750ml bottle will set you back only $20.00.


I'd like to thank Proof & Wood for sending me a bottle of Deadwood Straight Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  With that, it is time to #DrinkCurious to learn what Deadwood has to offer.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Deadwood presented as a most definitive orange amber. A medium rim led to fat, watery legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose: Aromas of fresh corn and sawdust were evident. Beneath those, however, was mint and vanilla. There was no blast of ethanol, despite the age and mashbill. When I breathed the vapors through my open lips, caramel and raisin danced across my tongue.


Palate:  I was greeted by an oily mouthfeel that came with a light Kentucky hug. Flavors of caramel and orange peel complemented each other on the front of my palate. They changed to a blend of almond and honey-roasted peanuts in the middle. Then, on the back, a combination of oak, vanilla, and rye spice seemed to round out the front to back.


Finish:  A longer than expected finish came from a combination of black pepper, char, caramel, toasted oak, and corn to sew things up.  Despite the lower proof, Deadwood did leave my hard palate tingling just a bit.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Deadwood isn't going to knock your socks off.  At the same time, it isn't going to disappoint you. Surprisingly, there are more things going on with this low-proof Bourbon than you'd otherwise imagine. When you take into account the $20.00 investment, well, it is almost foolish to not give it both a Bottle rating and add this to the #RespectTheBottomShelf section of my whiskey library. 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 that you do so responsibly.
 


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Winston Lee North American Blended Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



One of the really cool things about the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is that, when you're traveling and you stumble upon something you've never even heard of, you stop and try it. Even if the description is a little weird or off-putting, you try everything before passing judgment. Sometimes, you wind up with a nifty surprise. Other times, you just shake your head and mumble to yourself. But, either way, you keep an open mind.


Today I'm reviewing Winston Lee North American Blended Whiskey.  Yeah I know, you've never heard of it. Neither has most of the whiskey world.  It comes from Lee Spirits Co. in Monument, Colorado, a town almost halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs on I-25. It is run by cousins Ian and Nick Lee. Their philosophy is "Our Prohibition forefathers had an outlaw spirit, and so do we."


Blended whiskey has an undeserved bad reputation. Many people will automatically think neutral grain spirits (NGS) blended with Bourbon, Rye, or another type of whiskey.  However, in many cases, it can simply be different kinds of whiskeys blended together. Even in the sophisticated world of Scotch, blends can be fantastic. In the case of Winston Lee, it made from a blend of four-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon, corn whiskey, and unaged rye whiskey. That's proofed down to 94° using Rocky Mountain spring water. Retail is $14.99 and it is currently available only in Arizona and Colorado.


Is this an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf, or did I throw out $15.00?  The only way to know for sure is to crack it open and taste...


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this blend had the color of yellow straw. It left an ultra-thin rim on the wall and fast, watery legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  I am unsure what the blend ratio is, but it is obvious the corn whiskey is a large component. That was evidenced by the aroma of sweet corn. The corn was joined by oak and sawdust. Sawdust generally suggests a younger distillate. Beneath those were vanilla, grass, and lemon zest.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all vanilla.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was both buttery and oily. There was a distinct lack of ethanol which, considering the corn and unaged rye, threw me for a loop. I prepared myself for a punch that never came. Instead, I was greeted with vanilla cream and sweet corn on the front. Mid-palate, I found mild oak. On the back, the rye spice was a tad sharp.


Finish:  This whiskey is like the Energizer Bunny. It kept going and going and going. The unaged rye blasted through with spice, black pepper, and clove. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Despite having a very uncomplicated palate, I found Winston Lee to be full of flavor. This certainly isn't going to blow your socks off, but it had the potential to be rot-gut and it failed miserably at that. I found it enjoyable, and for $15.00, I believe you will, too.  As such, this one certainly earns both the #RespectTheBottomShelf label and a Bottle rating.  Cheers!


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

Friday, December 18, 2020

Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Several years ago, when I first visited The American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky, I saw Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond in the gift shop. It was a bit on the pricy side, at least in my opinion... $20.00 for a 375ml.  It was hard to justify because, for the same amount of money, I could get Jim Beam Bottled-in-Bond in a 750ml for the same price. Being the price-conscious shopper I can be at times (that's cheap for folks that prefer to call a spade a spade), I passed.


And, every time I thought about it, I kicked myself.  The last time I went to Kentucky, there was no time to go to Clermont, although it was something I wanted to do.


Well, lo and behold, this summer, Jim Beam released Old Tub outside of Kentucky, and they did it for the same price, but this time in a 750ml bottle.


I've been impressed with Beam's limited-edition Bourbons. Distiller's Cut was tasty, affordable, and I grabbed a few bottles.  Repeal Batch was lighter but interesting in its own right. As such, when I saw Old Tub on the shelf, I grabbed the one bottle they had.


Old Tub was the original name of Jim Beam Bourbon, and Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond is allegedly the original recipe back from 1880 for what is now Jim Beam White Label:  75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley.  For the record, James B. Beam changed the name from Old Tub to Jim Beam back in 1943.


Being Bottled-in-Bond, while the Bourbon carries no age statement, it is at least four years old, is bottled at 100°, and came from a single distilling season. Old Tub spent its time in #4 charred oak barrels.  It is not only non-chill filtered, but it is unfiltered, basically, the only thing that's happened is Jim Beam sent the aged whiskey through a screen to catch chunks of wood and char.


The question becomes, did I kick myself all these years for no reason, or did I do good by grabbing the lone bottle I saw?  The answer will be found on my palate, and the way to do that is to #DrinkCurious


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Old Tub was a hazy orange amber. It created a thick rim on the wall, that rim generated medium-thick, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  The first thing I smelled was sweet corn. It took a bit to get past that, and when I did, aromas of vanilla, caramel, orange peel, brown sugar, and banana appeared. I was, frankly, shocked the nose was going to be that complicated, as I've never found that on Beam White Label or the other inexpensive, limited-release Bourbons.  When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, I tasted musty hay and corn.


Palate: The mouthfeel was unexpectedly heavy and very, very oily. Despite being 100°, I didn't feel any heat or ethanol blast. Flavors of corn, vanilla, and honey-roasted peanuts were at the front of the palate. Considering this is Jim Beam distillate, I would have been disappointed if peanuts were absent. At mid-palate, things got complicated with tobacco leaf, berries, and orange peel. Those morphed on the back to oak, clove, and cinnamon. 


Finish:  Initially, the finish was short. But, additional sips proved it was medium-long in length. The oak from the back became smoky, the cinnamon from the back took on a cinnamon apple quality, and then toffee came out of nowhere.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $21.00 Bourbon that can compete with more expensive options.  It is full of flavor, much more than you'd ever assumed, and it goes down oh-so-easy. I'm really hoping this limited edition isn't too limited, because I loved it, and not only is this a Bottle rating but an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf. If you see this, get it. No excuses, no hemming-and-hawing. Trust me, just grab it. Cheers!


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