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

Monday, April 26, 2021

Blood Oath Pact 7 Review & Tasting Notes


I don't know if kids do this anymore, but back in the day (wow does that make me sound old!), if you made a solemn promise, you committed a blood oath. You even called yourselves blood brothers. A blood oath is a pact committed by each person involved by cutting themselves, then shaking hands, and "blending" the blood between the two (or more).

Truth be told, I'm pretty squeamish and never participated in a blood oath. I'm fairly confident there's not enough whiskey that would convince me a blood oath was a good idea. Well, not a traditional blood oath.

What is a good idea, or at least has been in the past (I've reviewed Pacts 3, 4, 5, and 6), is Lux Row's annual Blood Oath release. For 2021, this would be Pact 7. Blood Oath is an experimental line from the brain of Master Distiller John Rempe. He takes Bourbons and does interesting things with them to create something special. In this case (as with the six previous incarnations), Rempe is the Master Blender, because the Bourbon used in Pact 7 is sourced, most likely from Heaven Hill, but that's unconfirmed. 

"Creating an extraordinary and unique blend of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys is at the heart of the Blood Oath series. Pact 7 continues this tradition, and the result is a secret I can't wait to share with bourbon lovers." - John Rempe

Pact 7 is blended from three different Bourbons:  A 14-year high-rye Bourbon, an 8-year high-rye Bourbon, and another 8-year high-rye Bourbon, but the latter was finished in Sauternes (pronounced saw-turns) casks. If you're unfamiliar with the term, that's a sweet white wine from France's Bordeaux region. Once blended, it is proofed down to 98.6° which is very purposeful. Why? Well, because that's the average temperature of human blood! 

You can expect to pay $99.99 for one of the 51,000 bottles available. One interesting aspect is that Lux Row has not raised the price of Blood Oath in its seven-year history. 

Is Pact 7 any good? Is it worth a c-note? The only way to tell for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Before I do, I'd like to thank Lux Row for providing a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Pact 7 presented as chestnut in color, and, strangely enough, an oily, iridescent sheen. I can't say that I've ever come across that before in a whiskey. It created a medium-thick rim and husky legs that slowly fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A sweet, fruity aroma consisted of apricot, brown sugar, toasted coconut, oak, and nutmeg. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, blueberry rolled across my palate.

Palate:  Thick and oily in texture, the front tasted of vanilla, toasted coconut, apricot, and nuts. On the middle, flavors of stewed peaches and maple syrup took over, and the back offered oak, cinnamon, rye, cereal, and cocoa powder.

Finish:  Cinnamon and cocoa powder continued, and the oak suddenly became bone-dry and gave a pucker power sensation. After a few sips, that went away, and was replaced by creamy vanilla and nuts. My hard palate numbed quickly and the finish was long-lasting.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  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. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System:

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Barrell Seagrass Review & Tasting Notes


Barrell Seagrass may be the most unique whiskey I've ever tried. There, I said it!  When it becomes challenging for me to figure out just what I'm tasting, that piques my interest. Each time I took a sip, I was tasting something else.

Seagrass begins with a blend of Ryes from MGP of Indiana and an undisclosed Canadian distillery. They've been finished separately in some rather unusual barrels:  Martinique rum, Malmsey Madiera, and of all things, apricot brandy barrels. If you're trying to imagine what this would taste like, don't bother. I spent a week wondering about it. I was wrong.


"Seagrass stands alone as a whiskey, while also inviting the drinker to explore the multitude of influences created by a global approach to sourcing, finishing, and blending. It highlights the grassy oceanside notes we love in rye and the opulence and spice of finishing barrels." -- Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits.

If you're unfamiliar with Barrell Craft Spirits, they're blenders. There are good blenders and less-than-good ones. Barrell is in the former grouping. That's not to suggest everything they do is awesome, I've had some blends that have fallen short. But, I've enjoyed most of what I've tried.

Seagrass doesn't carry an age statement, and like everything out of Barrell, it is packaged at barrel proof. In this case, that's 118.4°. You can expect to pay about $89.99, which is about average for a Barrell expression. 

Before I get to the tasting notes and recommendation, I'd like to thank Barrell for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that, it is time to investigate this whiskey.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Seagrass was bright bronze in color. It made a thin rim and perhaps the thickest legs I've seen. They were heavy and crashed back into the pool.

Nose:  Here's where things got really different - dried apricot and plum were sweet notes, then brine offered a barrier of sorts, separating out the grass and mustiness on the other end of the spectrum. When I inhaled through my lips, coconut and apricot rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and weighty. The front of my palate found candied apricot, peach, pear, and pineapple. Rich, strong pineapple. The middle consisted of chocolate, almond, and caramel. On the back, there was a mixture of cinnamon, molasses, candied ginger, and the bitterness of walnut.

Finish:  Long and warming, the finish had plenty of wood tannin, salted chocolate, molasses, ginger, rye spice, apricot, and pineapple. Again, these are things that are difficult to imagine intermingling with one another. I did find my hard palate zinged quickly, but the sweetness mellowed out any burn the proof may have otherwise presented.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the beginning, 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 is going to stimulate the heck out of you. Of course, I'm in that camp, which means Seagrass grabs my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Ha'Penny Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Sometimes, when you wander the aisles of your local liquor store, you find something new. And then, when you're traveling, you wander the aisles of a far-off liquor store and you're more apt to discover the undiscovered.

Now that COVID is starting to (finally) start to show cracks, I'm able to explore liquor stores in further-flung areas. While shopping in East Dubuque, I stumbled upon a bottle of Ha'Penny Irish Whiskey. Maybe you've heard of it, maybe not. Toss me in the latter group. But, for $27.00, I wasn't going to pass it up, especially after reading the label.

This is a blended Irish whiskey using four different types of cooperage:  ruby port pipes, Oloroso sherry butts, first-fill Bourbon barrels, and twice-charred oak. The label wasn't done shelling out the transparency.  The port pipes held malt, as did the Bourbon barrels. The sherry butts and twice-charred oak held grain. It is non-chill filtered and bottled at 43% ABV (86°). It is produced by the Pearse Lyons Distillery with the key term being produced - meaning they likely didn't distill some or all of it.

Further research told me the final blend was 38% malt and 62% grain.  The whiskeys aged between four and ten years.  The Bourbon barrels came from Town Branch Distillery

"For Dublin is a city of character and of characters and is warm, witty, and welcoming in equal measure. And that spirit has connected people through the years, just as the Ha'Penny Bridge joined the people of Dublin." - Pearse Lyons Distillery

If you're like me and wondering what the term Ha'Penny means, that's "a halfpenny" which was the toll required to cross the bridge.

Let's #DrinkCurious and find out what this affordable whiskey is all about.

Appearance:  In my trusty Glencairn glass, Ha'Penny presented as golden with an orange tinge. It created a sticky, thicker rim, which led to heavy, slow legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found the aromas to be sweet and fruity.  I found a punch of honey married to apricot, raisin, and stewed peach. Those were joined by nutmeg and a smattering of woods - I was able to identify oak and cedar, but there was an exotic that I couldn't pin down.  When I brought the vapor into my mouth, chocolate and golden apple danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was both oily and buttery. At my first sip, I could swear I was drinking a French Chardonnay. On the front was vanilla, brown sugar, and coriander. As it flowed mid-palate, I tasted apricot, date, and golden raisin. Then, on the back, it became earthy, with oak and apple.

Finish:  The length of the finish was difficult to categorize. Some sips gave me a short finish. Others, it became long. It kept cycling between the two. It was never somewhere in-between. A big blast of oak was followed by lemon and orange zest and ended with coriander.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There was nothing mind-blowing about Ha'Penny but it was absolutely an enjoyable experience. I loved the mouthfeel and how fruity things are. I appreciate that Pearse Lyons didn't dilute this all the way to 80°, which it could easily have done. But, I find the extra proof points give it the character it deserves. The price is a no-brainer. This is better than many Irish whiskeys at a similar price-point. As such, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Monday, March 8, 2021

Four Gate Batch 11 "Ruby Rye Springs" Review & Tasting Notes


Blenders take someone else's spirits, sometimes along with their own distillate, and create something special. Blending whiskey is an art form.  Some Master Blenders in Scotland do amazing things. Here in the United States, there are some good, respected blenders out there. Names like Smooth Ambler, High West, J. Mattingly, Barrell Craft Spirits, and Four Gate Whiskey Company.

I've reviewed Four Gate before. I've been impressed with what they've done with both The Kelvin Collection II and River Kelvin Rye.  When I was presented with an opportunity to review Batch 11, called Ruby Rye Springs, I was very interested. Ruby Rye Springs starts with a seven-year MGP straight Rye whiskey, then finishes it in casks with an unusual heritage.

Initially, the casks held ruby port wine. Once the barrels were dumped, they were filled a second time with a blend of rums and left to age.  Once the rum matured, the barrels were filled with the Indiana Rye, where they rested for 45 days.  The end result, a whiskey weighing in at 113.4°, yielded 1444 750ml bottles. Retail is $185.00.

I'd like to thank Four Gate for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and learn what this one is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Ruby Rye Springs presented almost as you'd expect - the color of red mahogany amber.  How it interacted with the glass was novel. It left a thick rim that created a heavy curtain which raced to the pool. Yet, that husky rim never evaporated. It just stuck there.

Nose:  Aromas of cherry, plum, and citrus offered a fruity smell. Mint, rye, and oak provided spice. Molasses seemed to glue them together. When I sucked the vapor into my mouth, mint, plum, and brown sugar ran across my palate.

Palate:  A syrupy mouthfeel featured flavors of brown sugar, plum, black cherry, and raspberry on the front. As it traveled down my tongue, cinnamon and blueberry hit the middle, and on the back, I tasted black pepper, tobacco leaf, and molasses.

Finish: Rye spice, oak, citrus, and plum were embraced by molasses in a medium-long finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Ruby Rye Springs was certainly different. I've had port-finished whiskeys and I've had rum-finished whiskeys, but I've not, until now, had a port/rum-finished whiskey. It was a unique experience, it was quite enjoyable, but no matter how divergent it may be, this is a serious investment. This earns a Bar rating, you'd want to try it before buying it. Cheers!

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

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Bushmills Red Bush Irish Whiskey Review

Did you know that Bushmills is the oldest licensed distillery in the world? That was news to me! But, Old Bushmills Distillery has been distilling since 1608. It hasn't been a continuous run - it was shuttered and reopened a few times, and back in 1885 the distillery was pretty much destroyed by fire. But, they rebuilt and resumed operations and even survived Prohibition, a feat most other Irish distilleries failed to overcome.

Bushmills has also changed hands several times. Founded by an Irish adventurer named Thomas Phillips, it didn't officially become Bushmills until 1784 when it was purchased by Hugh Anderson. It changed hands a few times, and then, in 1972, it was taken over by Irish Distillers, the holding company that controlled all Irish whiskey production. Then, in 1988, Pernod-Ricard took possession, who sold it to Diageo in 2005, who traded it off to Jose Cuervo, its current owner, in 2014.

Today I'm reviewing Bushmills Red Bush. Red Bush is a blended whiskey, meaning it is a blend of single malt and single grain whiskeys. Single malt refers to malt taken from a single distillery. Single grain means the same, except the grain is something other than malted barley. Typical of Irish whiskey, Bushmills triple-distills in a pot still. In the case of Red Bush, it is aged for at least three years in ex-Bourbon barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV (80°), retail is about $24.00 and it is very easy to find at liquor stores everywhere.

How does this very commercial Irish whiskey fare?  The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious, so here we go:

In my Glencairn glass, Red Bush appears as the color of golden straw.  It left a thin rim that created both very wavy legs and fat, slow droplets that worked back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

The sweet nose consisted of apricot and honey. It continued with pear before the sweetness tamed and became a mix of spice and oak. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was all apple.

My initial sip was a creamy mouthfeel with medium weight.  Additional attempts didn't change things. At the front, honey and apricot dominated, just like on the nose. In the middle, something interesting happened. It was originally just vanilla cream.  But, after a few subsequent sips, a dark chocolate bomb took over and even overwhelmed the vanilla. On the back, I found cocoa and black pepper.

It ended with a light, peppery finish mixed with dry oak. Medium to long in length, it provided no real warmth but was enjoyable.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Red Bush is a bottom shelf Irish whiskey. It is very easy on the wallet and not something that would otherwise garner attention. And, that's a shame (or perhaps not) because I found it enjoyable and it even brought a smile to my face. Two things happen here: Not only does it get my coveted Bottle rating, but it also snags my #RespectTheBottomShelf label.  Cheers! 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Punjabi Club Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Microdistilleries are interesting because you never quite know what to expect. Some micro distillers are very talented and know what they're doing. Others have, well, unique spirits that their family and friends "enjoy" because they know the distiller and don't want to be rude.

In 2019 Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I took one of our random road trips and we found ourselves in Monroe, Wisconsin. If you're not familiar with Monroe, it is known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the United States.  One of the businesses in Monroe is the Minhas Craft Brewery, which is home to the brewery, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a microdistillery.  The brewery is actually the second oldest in the nation. and has a sister operation in Calgary, Canada where the owners, Ravinder and Manjit Minhas reside. The distillery was established in 2006 and utilizes a 1000-gallon, 45-foot column still to make various spirits. For what it is worth, the tasting room is a fun experience, presenting an opportunity to try a wide variety of liqueurs and spirits.

Today I'm reviewing Punjabi Club, which is a Canadian Rye whisky. What you can make from that is it was not distilled in Monroe. The rules for Canadian Rye are fast and loose things but one of the few requirements is that at least 91% of the whisky must be a product of Canada. 

The age and mash bill are undisclosed. While Canadian whisky must be aged at least three years, one thing to keep in mind that just because the word rye appears on the label of Canadian whisky, there is no requirement for even a single grain of rye to be in the mash. In the case of Punjabi Club, from my sipping experience, there is likely a significant amount of rye content.

Punjabi Club is bottled at 86° and can be purchased both at the distillery and online from a few outlets. Retail for a 750ml is about $24.99. How does this one taste? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.

In my Glencairn glass, Punjabi Club appeared as the color of straw and was clear and bright. It left a medium-thick rim that created a thick, heavy curtain. Once the curtain dissipated, fat, slow legs were left behind.

The initial nosing was aromas of heavy oak and floral rye spice. Beneath those, I found orange citrus and mint. There was also a certain musty quality of wet wood. When I inhaled through my lips, flavors of ginger and oak started off and then became sweet red pepper.

A light but oily mouthfeel greeted my palate. Rye spice and oak dominated the front. At mid-palate, it smoothed out to a nice mix of pineapple, citrus, and spearmint. On the back, rye spice returned, this time with white pepper and tobacco.

The finish was initially short, but that turned out to only be a hiccup. Just as it fell off, it suddenly built and lasted for almost a minute. A blend of very dry oak and white pepper started both initially and returned for the comeback. Then, it got very sour. I can't say I've ever experienced a sour note with whiskey before. It was both unexpected, unpleasant and overshadowed the entire drinking experience.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The $24.99 price tag is very enticing. I tell people all the time that price doesn't dictate quality. After all, I am Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf. Unfortunately, Punjabi Club is not a bottom-shelf gem. Aside from the very sour finish, I was turned off by the musty nose. This is one that I would just avoid, and as such, I have no qualms rating it a Bust.  Cheers!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

KinnicKinnic Whiskey Tasting Notes

Happy 2020!  I'm starting the new year with a Wisconsin-based selection: KinnicKinnic Whiskey. If you know anything about Wisconsin, you know we love to name things that honor Native American culture and, just for kicks, happen to be difficult to pronounce. KinnicKinnic, pronounced Kin-I-Kuh-Nic, is an Ojibwe word that means what is mixed.

The translation is important because KinnicKinnic is an American blended whiskey by Great Lakes Distillery. Some of you may have just seen the words American blended whiskey and immediately dismiss it without reading further, and that would be a mistake. You'll dismiss it because American blended whiskeys typically have grain neutral spirits (think vodka). However, in the case of KinnicKinnic, it is 100% blend of Bourbon, Rye and Malt whiskeys with no grain neutral spirits whatsoever.

Great Lakes uses its own distillate for the Rye and Malt contents of KinnicKinnic. The Malt portion is aged in used cooperage. The Bourbon is sourced from an undisclosed distillery. These whiskeys are blended in small batches and non-chill filtered. KinnicKinnic carries no age statement, is bottled at 86°, retails for around $35.00, and is distributed in several states as well as online retailers.  I'm reviewing Batch 88.

I'd like to thank Great Lakes Distillery for providing me a sample of KinnicKinnic in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, let's get to it.

In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey appears as light amber and the clarity is a bit fuzzy, probably due to the proof and lack of chill filtering. It left a thick rim that generated fat, heavy, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of oak and malted barley were obvious, and then things became challenging to separate. Underneath those, I picked up an earthiness, cocoa, honey, char and finally, dark fruits such as plum and cherry. When I inhaled through my lips, a heft of chocolate raced over my palate.

Sipping KinnicKinnic provided a thin mouthfeel that completely coated my mouth. Milk chocolate, cocoa, cinnamon, and brown sugar started at the front. Then, at mid-palate, rye spice, tobacco leaf, sweet dark fruits, and toffee took over. On the back, it was far less complicated with oak and black pepper.

A very long, hearty finish started off with char and smoke morphed into sweet with black pepper. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Overall, KinnicKinnic was a very complex and interesting whiskey. It took me several attempts to figure it out and nail down aromas and flavors. I found it a fun challenge. Blended whiskeys lacking neutral grain content are not unheard of, but of the ones I've tried, none were as captivating as KinnicKinnic. When I factor in the price, this one is an easy Bottle that I'm happy to have in my library.

On a final note, I would be really curious to try this at a higher proof. Cheers!