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

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.

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


 

I love new-to-market brands. There’s the thrill of the discovery, where no one has put together an opinion yet, and it is all untouched territory. One such brand is Big Nose Kate.   

 

“The old woman was in a familiar town. She and her lover had lived in Prescott, Arizona Territory, back in 1879-’80 […] Her lover—she called him her husband—got into some difficulties with a group of cowboys in Tombstone in 1880. On a cold October day in 1881, a cowboy named Ike came into their room at a boardinghouse, looking for her man—Doc. A little while later, Doc and three of his friends (named Earp) had a shootout with the cowboys in the empty lot next to the boardinghouse. And she watched. And she consoled a weeping Doc after the fight.” – Mark Boardman, True West Magazine

 

So, yeah, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and the Battle at the OK Corral! The interesting thing about Mary Kate Elder Cummings, a/k/a Big Nose Kate, is that no one could really verify her story. But, they were afraid to cross her. There are even disputes about her nickname, but some accept “Big Nose” referred not to a physical feature, rather, it was that she stuck her “big nose” in everything.

 

Big Nose Kate bills itself as a Western Whiskey, “A Brave and Adventurous Blend” which is produced by Big Nose Brands. It takes rye and malt whiskeys sourced from Indiana, Texas, and Virginia and puts it all together in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It isn’t that difficult to figure out which distilleries provided the whiskeys, but Big Nose Brands requested they remain undisclosed, and I’m happy to honor that.

 

The complete mashbill is 52.4% rye and 47.6% malted barley. The rye grains are a combination of Elbon, Winter, Chocolate, Merced, and Crystal. The barley is Pale, Odyssey, and 2-row distiller’s malt.

 

The cooperage used was a blend as well. Some aged in 53-gallon, new charred oak for 40 months, another aged 38 months in vintage Bourbon barrels, and the last in STR sherry casks for 57 months. Big Nose Kate carries no age statement, which in this case would be completely unnecessary anyway. A 750ml bottle retails for $38.99 and you can hit up the website to get one.

 

Before I get to the review, I’d like to share some brief (I promise) information on the Big Nose Kate team. Melissa Heim is a co-founder and head distiller, Kevin Burke is a co-founder and heads up business operations, Paul Earle is a co-founder and developed the brand, with Caley Shoemaker and Niki Green, a/k/a the Bourbon Maven, as partners.

 

I’d like to thank the Big Nose Kate team for providing me a sample of this Western Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and learn what this is all about.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Big Nose Kate presented as the color of a pale ale. It formed a massive rim that couldn’t begin to hold the legs that collapsed under their own weight.

 

Nose:  The aroma of unpicked mint stood out among the others, which included caramel, new leather, and heavy malt. When I drew the air into my mouth, dry sherry came in, parked, and refused to leave.

 

Palate:  A thick, syrupy mouthfeel led to notes of caramel, orange zest, and grenadine on the front of my palate. The middle featured chocolate and nutmeg, while the back offered old leather, dried tobacco, and oak.

 

Finish:  This was one of those hard-to-nail-down finishes. The first sip resulted in a very short finish. Each time I took another sip, the length grew exponentially. After the fourth, it just wouldn’t quit. It began with orange peel and cocoa, then smoked oak, then dry sherry and leather, and finally cinnamon spice.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Big Nose Kate is a fun whiskey, and I don’t think I’ve given that descriptor before to anything. From the nosing that wouldn’t end to the layered palate, to that crazy finish, I couldn’t help but smile the whole way through. While it won’t blow your mind, it will keep your attention, and I believe at the end of the glass, you’ll come to the same conclusion I have: Big Nose Kate is worth picking up, and as such, 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.

 


Monday, August 16, 2021

Barrell Whiskey Private Release Blend CH21 Review & Tasting Notes

 


Some months ago, I wrote about the Barrell Private Release program and had a chance to sample several options. They were very different from one another, but this was a much different experience compared to picking a barrel of whiskey.


I've just returned from a trip to Colorado. One of the stops I made was to Daveco, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest liquor store in the world! I walked in there and it was just mind-blowingly vast. 



I visit Denver at least once a year. Shortly after the last time I was there, Daveco's manager, Luke, invited me to swing by his store. I remember telling him I was just there, but that I'd be back. That was about a year ago, and when I scheduled my return trip, I was sure to touch base with Luke. For the record, he's an amazingly nice guy and easy to talk to. We chatted a bit while he stocked one of the whiskey aisles.


Luke told me he had a whiskey he picked from Barrell Craft Spirits that he would like me to try (and review). This was Blend CH21.  


"CH21 is a blend of Kentucky Whiskeys, the largest component being 18-year-old Kentucky whiskey, finished in an Indiana Rye cask." - Barrell Craft Spirits


What can we take away from that? Well, we know that Barrell sources its Indiana whiskeys from MGP, so that would take care of the finishing cask. We don't know much else, we don't even know what kind of whiskeys were used other than the fact they're all from Kentucky. It could be a blend of Bourbon, Rye, Light Whiskey, Single Malt, new cooperage, old, whatever. It might involve two whiskeys, it could be twenty. And, you know what? It matters not. What matters is what the end product tastes like. It is packaged at 112.8°. For the unofficial record, I've been told by more than one person this is from Jim Beam. 


CH21 is available exclusively from Daveco (you can get the direct link here) for $99.99.  Before you order one for yourself, allow me to #DrinkCurious and tell you all about it. And, before I do that, I want to thank Luke for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, CH21 presents as bright gold. It created a medium rim that released very slow droplets that eventually found their way back to the pool.


Nose:  Caramel was the first scent to hit my nose. That was followed by cinnamon powder, plum, cherry, and orange blossom. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, a duo of raw honey and cherry rolled across my tongue. 


Palate:  Oily and medium-bodied, CH21 starts with vanilla and cinnamon on the front. That cinnamon builds and carries through the entire experience, including the finish. The middle featured orange peel and butterscotch, while the back brought in rye spice and charred oak. One thing I did notice was the longer I allowed CH21 to oxidize, the stronger and longer the butterscotch notes came through.


Finish:   The charred oak and rye spice didn't let up. It was joined by butterscotch, clove, and black pepper. It was long in length and then it just slammed on the brakes. There was a Wait... What? moment for me the first and second sips. But, then I got used to it. My hard palate did experience a slight tingle, but nothing that I'd describe as numbing.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Luke warned me that CH21 was polarizing, and I guess I can understand why. Not knowing what kind of whiskeys are used in the blend can be a frowning point for some. For me, that's just a blind tasting in a real-world setting. I didn't taste anything in terms of malted barley, so it is safe to assume a Single Malt is not a component (or if it is a minute one). I also didn't sense anything remotely close to a Wheat whiskey used - nothing about this was soft. Beyond that, the composition is anyone's guess. As previously stated, the only thing that really matters, in the end, is how it tasted and I must say that I enjoyed the hell out of CH21. This snags a Bottle rating for me, and if you tend to agree with my palate, you're going to find it fascinating, too. 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, June 14, 2021

Introducing Hezekiah Crain Coachgun & Deep Oak Whiskeys - With Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


If you hang out with folks in the distillery industry long enough, you get a chance to get your hands (and palate) on something new and different. One of the folks I know is Sean Wipfli, who started the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club which has picked some impressive barrels. In full disclosure, I've done some barrel picks with them in the past. It has been a couple of years, though.


Sean has spread his wings into things beyond barrel picking and has even started his own label called Hezekiah Crain, which is now in its first releases and hitting store shelves as you read this.


Who was Hezekiah Crain?  He was one of the very first American patriots. He was a private in the Connecticut Light Horse Regiment during the Revolutionary War, survived it, but died at a fairly young age of 48 in 1796. 


The first two Hezekiah Crain releases are Coachgun American Whiskey and Deep Oak 14-Year American Whiskey. Both are sourced from MGP, the mega-Indiana distillery. Sean has been around long enough to understand that transparency is a big deal and he doesn't hold many cards close to his vest. 


Before I get to the reviews, I'd like to thank Sean for providing me with a sample of both in exchange for no strings attached, honest reviews. And, before anyone rolls their eyes, I've not been in love with everything that Sean has had me review. He knows he is taking a real risk with me.




Coachgun American Whiskey Batch #001


American whiskey can be pretty much anything that qualifies a whiskey and is distilled in (you guessed it) the United States. That can be Bourbon, Rye, Light Whiskey, Blended or Single Malt, Wheat Whiskey, or a blend of any of those. As such, the term is vague.


In the case of Coachgun, we're looking at a blend of Bourbon and Rye, often called Bourye. These are single barrel whiskeys, both sourced from MGP, and consist of its 36% rye content Bourbon aged four years and its 95% Rye aged five. There was no dilution, and as such, touts a Batch Strength descriptor that weighs in at 105.8°. There's been no added flavor or color and is particle-filtered, but not chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $59.99 for a 750ml bottle. It is important to note that this is, by design, not sold by any retailers outside of Wisconsin.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Coachgun was gold in color. It produced a broad rim and fat, slow tears that fell back to the pool of whiskey.


Nose:  Sweet corn, caramel, toasted oak, and cinnamon hit my nose first, but hidden beneath was apple. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, vanilla caressed my tongue.


Palate:  I discovered an oily mouthfeel with a medium body. The first flavors were cherry and maple syrup. It was certainly unusual. As the whiskey worked its way across my palate, I tasted vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg. The back offered oak, cherry (again), and mint.


Finish:  Long and warming, the finish gave up toasted oak, cherry, rye spice, and mint.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There wasn't anything overly complicated with Coachgun, but it was tasty. I've had Bouryes before at lesser proofs and for the most part, enjoy them. They often wind up spicier than Bourbons and softer than Ryes. As far as a value statement goes, $59.99 for something barrel-proof is under the "average" price. Good job, Sean, I'm tendering my Bottle rating for it. 





Deep Oak 14-Year American Whiskey Project #001


And now, for something a little different. Light whiskey at 14-years isn't overly uncommon. I've reviewed a few of these MGP Light whiskeys and some have been impressive, but I recently had one that was awful. 


What makes Deep Oak different is that once the single barrel was dumped, it was then placed in a hand-selected, freshly-dumped former whiskey barrel for extra-aging. Bottled at cask strength of 115°, Deep Oak is non-chill filtered and retails for about $74.99.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Deep Oak presented as the color of bright gold. A medium rim was formed which yielded medium, slow legs that eventually dropped back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Aromas of vanilla, oak, and mint were evident on my olfactory senses. As I breathed in through my mouth, I picked out a bold vanilla. 


Palate:  If you've ever wondered what the mouthfeel of an oil slick is, Deep Oak will answer that question. This may be the oiliest whiskey I've tried to date. It coated every crevice of my mouth. The front brought a single flavor: berry jam. The middle changed things up with rye spice and cocoa powder. The back was dry oak, tobacco leaf, and cinnamon Red Hots.


Finish:  Deep Oak was one of those whiskeys with a freight-train finish. It didn't build, it just rolled on and on for several minutes. You couldn't miss the oak, which was joined by black pepper, cinnamon, and clove. My hard palate was left tingling. You could feel the oily mouth well into the finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Light whiskey isn't everyone's thing and has its detractors. However, Deep Oak is unlike any light whiskey I've had before, and if you blindfolded me and didn't tell me what it was, I would not pin it down as light whiskey.  I found the mouthfeel and finish fascinating. I thought it interesting that the palate started off slow before adding complexity. I like the idea that it was twice-barreled, both times in vintage cooperage. If you want to drink something off the beaten path then this one's for you. It is for me, too. This snags my Bottle rating. Cheers!


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


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



Friday, June 11, 2021

Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt, Cedar Ridge Bourbon, and Balcones Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Independent bottling is not something overly common with American whiskey. Oh, it is obtusely, but you don't really hear about it in the same terms as you do with, say, Scotch. In theory, folks who source whiskey from others and put their own label on it might be considered independent bottlers. But, few actually try to claim their niche as an independent bottler.


Then, there's Lost Lantern. You've never heard of them? Well, until very recently, neither had I. In its own words:


"The best whiskey reflects its origins, its craftsmanship, its ingredients, and its distillers. Inspired by the long tradition of independent bottlers in Scotland, Lost Lantern is a new, independent bottler of American whiskey. The company seeks out the most unique and exciting whiskeys being made all across the country and releases them as single casks and blends, always with a deep commitment to transparency." - Lost Lantern


Founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper of Astor Wine & Spirits and Adam Polonski of Whisky Advocate, the duo is committed to releasing whiskeys from distilleries they've personally visited. Nora handles production and operations, and Adam takes care of marketing, sales, and sourcing. Currently, Lost Lantern's whiskeys can be purchased from LostLanternWhiskey.com or Seelbachs.com


One thing that I'm passionate about is transparency. I respect that some things have to be held close to the vest. However, when distilleries lay most or all of their cards on the table, that gets exciting. The fact that Lost Lantern is also big on transparency is much appreciated.


Today I have an opportunity to explore three of Lost Lantern's whiskeys:  American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1, Single Cask #2 Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon, and Single Cask #8 Balcones Straight Bourbon. This opportunity is due to Lost Lantern's kindness in providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. 


This will be a three-part review process. Up first is the American Vatted Malt.


Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1




I've come to appreciate the American Single Malt category. Back in its infancy, I can say I was pretty pessimistic about its future. They seemed hard, rough, and lacking as compared to single malts from around the world. However, the category has matured, and distillers have figured out the magic behind distilling malted barley.


"[It] is one of the first blends of single malts ever made in the United States ... We brought together the founders and distillers behind some of the country's most distinctive single malts, all of whom hand-selected the barrels for this unique blend. Over the course of a single marathon day, we worked, tasted, and blended together. The result was this unique and special blend." - Lost Lantern


In the end, Lost Lantern wound up blending twelve barrels from Balcones (Texas), Copperworks (Washington), Santa Fe Spirits (New Mexico), Triple Eight (Massachusetts), Westward (Oregon), and Virginia Distillery Co. (Virginia).  When I saw the list of participants, my curiosity was piqued. I've tried whiskeys from several of those distilleries, they're unique in their own rights, and couldn't imagine what I was about to try. 


Aged for two years and packaged at 105°, naturally colored, and non-chill-filtered, American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 has a suggested retail price of $120.00.  There were 3000 bottles produced. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this malt presented as the color of a deep copper. It produced a thick rim with heavy, fat legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Fruity aromas of plum, raisin and orange peel married caramel. I could imagine sherry casks being used. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I picked out citrus and milk chocolate.


Palate:  A medium-bodied, quite oily mouthfeel greeted the tasting experience. On the front, I found milk chocolate, malt, and brown sugar. The middle consisted of salted caramel and apple pie filling. Orange, charred oak, molasses, and nutmeg created the back.


Finish:  Long-lasting and continually building, flavors of barbeque smoke and barrel char yielded to nutmeg and salted caramel. Black pepper refused to give up for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one unique whiskey and also a bit of a curiosity. At one end, there is a two-year age statement, and at the other, the $120 price. This isn't unheard of: one of the more famous brands, Compass Box, works this formula of young blends with impressive price tags regularly and has been successful. I found American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 flavorful, drinks way under its stated proof, unusual in a good way, and while I still think this is pricy, I believe this one is worth picking up and crown it with my Bottle rating. 


Single Cask 2:  Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon




Next up is Single Cask #2: Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon. This is the first Bourbon cask for Lost Lantern. I've reviewed the 86° standard release and found it enjoyable. This one is different - it is a single barrel Bourbon and bottled at its cask strength of 120.5°. Similar to the standard version, it started with a mash of 74% corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley, then rested three years through the harsh summers and winters of Iowa, where it experienced, on average, 18% angel's share loss. Lost Lantern's release produced 213 bottles and carries an $87.00 price. It is non-chill-filtered and naturally colored.


Appearance:  Tasted neat in my Glencairn glass, this Cedar Ridge cask was the color of dark amber. A thin rim gave way to slow, husky legs that fell back to the pool. 


Nose:  Corn-forward, it was joined by candy corn, toasted oak, and cinnamon. When I breathed in through my mouth, bubble gum shot across my tongue.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily, and the front was strictly corn. That bubble gum quality showed up at mid-palate and was joined by caramel for a very different affair. The back quickly warmed with toasted oak, rye spice, and black pepper.


Finish:  The Cedar Ridge cask had a freight-train finish, meaning it just wouldn't quit. It rode on (again) bubble gum and black pepper, and introduced cinnamon Red Hots. I'd estimate I got almost ten minutes out of the finish before either it fell off or my palate just said, "I give up."


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This one drank at least at its stated proof, it not hotter. Bubble gum is not something I come across regularly, so when I do, it is an attention-getter. When caramel was tossed into the equation, it strangely made sense, although I'd never think of mixing the two. I've seen other Cedar Ridge single barrels run at about $60.00 or so, and the Cedar Ridge Single Barrel  Collection cask-strength bottles retail at $69.00. This is where my hang-up happens because while this was definitely worth drinking, I don't see an additional $20.00 in value, and as such earns a Bar rating. 



Single Cask 8:  Balcones Straight Bourbon




Finally, I'm sampling Single Cask #8: Balcones Straight Bourbon.  Texas whiskey can be polarizing. There are folks who love and swear by it, and there are others who won't take a second sip of anything out of The Lone Star State. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for Texas whiskeys I'd recommend. But that #DrinkCurious lifestyle encourages me to try them all, just like anything else.


Founded in 2009, Balcones Distilling hails from Waco. It is a grain-to-glass distillery that creates atypical whiskeys. In this case, the Bourbon comes from a mash of 100% Texas-grown roasted blue corn, then aged in 60-gallon new American oak barrels for two years in the formidable Texas heat. Non-chill-filtered and naturally colored, it was bottled at 126.8° with a suggested retail price of $90.00. Only 199 bottles came from the barrel. 


Appearance:  Experienced neat in my Glencairn glass, this Balcones cask was the color of dark caramel. A medium ring led to big, heavy legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose:  I could smell this whiskey from across the room. It wasn't bad, rather, it was luxurious. Thick, rich caramel made me smile. That was joined by plum. It delivered a Wow! factor that you don't come across too often in whiskeys. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, it was like biting into a Heath bar. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was Texas sweet crude. It may be the oiliest feel I've experienced. There was also something meaty about the palate. The front featured cumin, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. Coffee and dark cacao were on the middle, while the back consisted of paprika, oak, and tobacco leaf. 


Finish: A medium finish offered coffee, cinnamon, barrel char, and black pepper. It grew spicier and smokier as I waited and then it just vanished. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Balcones single barrel was unusual. It started off drinking under its stated proof. But, as the finish came along, that turned around and I had no doubt it was at least 126°. The latter is what I usually experience with Texas whiskey. The nose, despite the few notes, was stupendous. The palate was warming and a good blend of sweet and spicy notes. The liquid smoke threw me for a bit of a loop. The finish was hot but not overwhelming. Lost Lantern's selection was a good one, and I'm giving this Texas whiskey 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 that you do so responsibly.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Mythology "Hell Bear" American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Colorado is known for many things. Gorgeous mountains, snow skiing, whiskey, beer, wine, and professional sports teams. Oh yeah, there's also that other Rocky Mountain "high" people can experience. I mention that because when I read what a Hell Bear was, it requires some pharmaceutical assistance to imagine. 


"…. A Colorado prospector ventured into darkness. In the mine, he heard a loud snap– then he was falling! In a daze, in pitch black, he awoke, face-to-face with a unique creature– part bear, part badger. Resolved that today wouldn’t be his last, he rose and followed the glow of the creature’s eyes. The Hell Bear guided the explorer to the surface, then vanished back into the mine."  Mythology Distillery


So there you have it - a Hell Bear!  Mythology felt the story was inspirational enough to name one of its whiskeys for it, an American whiskey that is a blend of three whiskeys:  A 2-to-3-year Rye with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, a 4-year Bourbon with a mash of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, and a 5-year wheated Bourbon, made from 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. The actual percentages are undisclosed.


Because of the blend, it carries a two-year age statement.  If you're interested in learning more about Mythology Distillery, I'll invite you to read my review of its Best Friend Bourbon. At 90°, you can expect to pay around $49.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Before I get to my tasting notes, I'd like to thank Mythology Distillery for providing a sample of Hell Bear in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Shall we #DrinkCurious?


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Hell Bear presented as a bright, orange-amber. It made for a thin rim and thinner, slow legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Rye and cinnamon were easy to pick out. More challenging were apple, corn, and sweet dough. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, floral rye danced across my tongue. 


Palate:  A bit unexpected, the mouthfeel was thick, oily, and heavy. It filled my mouth.  On the front, I found caramel, cinnamon, and baking spice. The middle offered vanilla, roasted almond, and corn. Flavors of white pepper, rye, dry oak, and tobacco leaf were on the back.


Finish:  Dry oak, vanilla, white pepper, and tobacco leaf provided a long-lasting finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Hell Bear drinks rye-heavy, which makes me suspect it is the largest portion of the blend. Yet, the Bourbon portion was easy to discern. The mouthfeel was inviting. I enjoyed how unusual yet uncomplicated this whiskey was and am happy to crown Hell Bear with a Bottle rating. Grab one, you won't regret it. Cheers!


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



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

 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Compass Box Asyla Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes



Scotch is a wonderful category of whiskey. You have distinctive regions that, while there are exceptions, give you a few qualities to expect depending on where they're distilled. The Lowlands offers whiskeys generally light and floral. With Islay, you can usually rely on peat. Speyside, the largest per capita region is very diverse, but you can count on sweet and rich whiskeys. Campbeltown suggests briny, smokey choices. The Highlands is probably the most challenging to pin down, as the region is incredibly vast, consisting of islands, grasslands, and mountains. You can find peated, fruity, floral, and everything across the spectrum.


There are Scotch drinkers who will only drink single malts and simply do not consider blends. My whiskey philosophy has always been to #DrinkCurious and I believe anyone who limits what they drink does themselves no favors. Single malts are easy, and not all single malts are great or even good - just like any other whiskey category. And, while there are some poor blends, there are some purely amazing representations, with everything in between. A blend is when a distiller wants to arrive at a finish point and has to map the way there. I describe it as an art form.


Today I'm reviewing Compass Box's Asyla, which is (as you can guess) a blended Scotch. By a blended Scotch (different than blended malt or blended grain), it means it is distilled of both malted barley and grains.  One of the things I always give props to Compass Box for is its transparency. Compass Box has no issues telling you where they source from and what the makeup of each whiskey is. 


Asyla is blended from four different distilleries:  Cameronbridge (Lowland), Glen Elgin (Speyside), Teaninich (Highland), and Linkwood (Speyside). Cameronbridge is 50% of the blend and the only grain content. It was aged in first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels.  Glen Elgin, on the other hand, is the smallest component, with only 5%, and used refilled hogsheads. Teaninich was 23% using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, and Linkwood the remaining 22%, also using first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels. It is non-chill filtered, naturally-colored, and bottled at 40% ABV.  Retail for a 750ml is approximately $49.99.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Asyla presents as very light, almost like straw or hay. It left a very thin rim on the wall that generated fast, thick legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose: Very fruity aromas consisting of peach, honey, and apple permeated my nostrils. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a combination of big, strong apple and vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was airy and delicate. As it flowed across my palate, the front was a marriage of apple and citrus flavors.  Then, at mid-palate, it became grassy and earthy. But, try as I might, I could not find anything on the back. It was so muted there was just nothing to discern.


Finish:  All of this led to the finish which, despite the lack of anything on the back, was longer than I anticipated. It was all pepper and oak, most likely from the Bourbon barrels.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Compass Box whiskeys are a mixed bag. Some are priced well into triple digits, others are very affordable. Some are excellent, others not so much. I have high regard for it, though, and a willingness to stick its neck out there and experiment. So, where does Asyla fall on this range?  Somewhere in the middle. It is a decent bargain Scotch and very uncomplicated, but due to the muting on the palate, this may not be for everyone. I was happy to taste it but wouldn't buy it myself. As such, Asyla earns a Bar rating. 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.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


The term blended Bourbon used to have a negative connotation. That's because the legal definition of it is unspecific and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Basically, blended Bourbon means that at least 51% must be made from Straight Bourbon. That's up-front. It is that 49% remainder that gets squirrely. You can add artificial coloring, artificial flavors, neutral grain spirits (NGS), younger whiskeys, etc.


Despite that definition, there are some good blended Bourbons that are simply straight and younger Bourbons blended together. This shouldn't suggest there's not pure garbage out there, because that would be untrue. 


One such attempt into the former is called Crooked Fox. It is a blend of 51% straight Bourbon aged at least four years and 49% small-barrel Bourbons aged at least six months. The Bourbons come from both Texas and Kentucky. Crooked Fox is part of the Southern Champion family of spirits out of Carrolton, Texas.


"After carefully maturing (our bourbon) in wooden casks, we go barrel by barrel, selecting the best tasting bourbons to create a whiskey with rich flavors of smoked maple, vanilla, nutmeg, oak, and malted barley with hints of rye. The result is a high-quality whiskey that even the most sophisticated bourbon drinkers will appreciate." - Southern Champion

Packaged at 80°, the label pictures the heads of two foxes, one with a black line over its eyes, the other not. The caption says, "Never trust the eyes you can see. Trust your instinct."  There's not much more information on the label aside from stating it is distilled from grain. You can expect to pay $24.99 for a 750ml bottle. I acquired this from a liquor store, I simply don't remember what state that store was located in.


Time to #DrinkCurious and see what this is all about...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Crooked Fox presented as the color of golden honey. It formed a medium rim on the wall that led to husky, slow legs.


Nose:  This whiskey was not overly fragrant. Aromas of honey, brown sugar, and oak were easier to pick out, and as I kept sniffing, I pulled out orange peel. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I tasted vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and light-bodied. On the front, there was a blend of vanilla with baking spice. The middle consisted of malted milk balls and subtle mint. On the back, flavors of smoked oak and fennel rounded things out.


Finish: Initially, the finish was very short. Additional sips, however, brought a longer experience. Oak, vanilla, and fennel hung around, and then a wave of white pepper rose and fell fairly quickly. It was the only warming component of this whiskey.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is, simply put, very forgettable. I could see using it for cocktails. As something I'd drink neat (or on the rocks), I wouldn't. Again, not because it was terrible, but pretty much every other choice would be more interesting. I'll be frank - I don't buy whiskeys with the intention of using them as mixers. I'd rather use a good whiskey as a mixer, it would make the rest of the cocktail taste better. Unfortunately, this one takes a Bust.  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, 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