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

Friday, March 31, 2023

Buchanan's DeLuxe 12-Year Blended Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


There are a lot of whiskies on the market that are just there. They receive little fanfare, even less advertising, yet, for whatever reason, you know the name. You just never grab a bottle.


Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12-year is a blended Scotch whisky. That in and upon itself puts a bad taste in the mouth of some. Like anything else, there are good and bad blends, and, unfortunately, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the prince.


In the case of Buchanan’s, it came about in 1884 when James Buchanan (not the US president), a London merchant and entrepreneur, created his blend for the British whisky drinker. Today, 40 different whiskies are used, of which most are single malts, and of those single malts, the most significant portion comes from the Highland distillery Dalwhinnie.  Diageo owns the brand itself, and it has plenty of distilleries from which to source.  Both column and pot stills were used, as were former Bourbon and sherry casks in the aging process. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°).

"Buchanan’s is named after the late James Buchanan, a driven whisky entrepreneur who crafted a Scotch that redefined greatness. Instead of creating a Scotch to be revered, he created a uniquely smooth blend that could be shared and enjoyed by all. In fact, the original Buchanan’s bottle design was inspired by the selfless act of sharing water canteens between British soldiers during times of conflict." – Buchanan’s

I picked up a 200ml bottle at a random liquor store for $9.99. You can also procure a 375 for $21.99 or a 750ml for $29.99. The price is certainly attractive, but how’s the whisky? You know how this goes; we have to #DrinkCurious to find out!


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, this Scotch whisky presented as dull gold. A medium-weighted rim formed, which released quick legs.


Nose: I was shocked at how complicated the aroma was. It started with fruity pear, apricot, and citrus notes, then vanilla, and ended with oak and marine peat. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, vanilla traipsed across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was a tad airy, and subsequent sips provided a medium body. Peat was the first thing I tasted, with vanilla and nutmeg on the front. The middle featured orange peel, toffee, and cocoa powder, while cinnamon, ginger root, and oak sewed things up on the back.


Finish:  Short-to-medium in duration, the finish consisted of peat, pear, apple, ginger, clove, and vanilla cream.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12-Year surprised the heck out of me. I have nothing against blends and love the challenge of finding a hidden gem, and I’d throw this Scotch into that category. It may have been the peated notes that pushed me over the fence, but regardless, it takes 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.


Friday, February 10, 2023

Two Stacks Dram In A Can Irish Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you think is, Hey, that’s whiskey in a can. The second thing to come to mind should be, Never judge a book by its cover. Mind you, I’ve not yet tasted what’s inside this can; it is just the whole #DrinkCurious mindset at work. I’ll get to tasting this in a few moments.


Dram In A Can is what Two Stacks calls this package. When I was in Denver a few weeks ago, this was amongst the 50ml spirits bottles (although the can happens to be 100ml). If you’ve never heard of Two Stacks before, don’t worry; neither have I.


Two Stacks is a whiskey brand founded in 2020 by Shane McCarthy, Liam Brogan, and Donal McLynn as one of only a handful of independent bonding and blending facilities in Ireland.


Our unique approach to working with some of Ireland's leading distilleries; selecting the finest spirit distilled across the Island allows us to create incredible expressions of whiskey never crafted nor tasted before. We continue to build our reputation on top of three key fundamentals and to help shape the future in Irish whiskey: Transparency, Creativity, and Innovation.” – Two Stacks


There are two versions of Dram In A Can: a single malt and a blend. Today I’m sampling the latter. Two Stacks suggests this is made from grain, malt, and pot still whiskeys. The combination is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. The makeup of it is as follows:


  • 40% dark grain aged in virgin oak
  • 40% light grain aged in Bourbon barrels
  • 8% pot still aged in Oloroso sherry casks
  • 10% double malt aged in Bourbon barrels
  • 2% peated malt aged in Bourbon barrels


The transparency is fantastic. What really excites me is the 2% peated malt because while that’s commonplace in Scotch, it is damned unusual for Irish whiskey.


Dram In A Can is bottled… er… canned in Minneapolis at 43% ABV (86°). I paid $4.99 for it. Retail packages are in four-packs. For the record, Two Stacks also sells its whiskey in standard 750ml bottles. Now that you’ve got the background of everything let’s crack this baby open and explore what’s inside.


Appearance: I poured the contents of the can into my Glencairn glass. The liquid inside was a brilliant gold. Remember, this has no added E150a coloring. A thin rim released a wide curtain that fell back into the pool.


Nose: Apples, pears, vanilla, honey, and apricots formed a sweet, fruity nose. A whiff of nuts was also found. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, vanilla, and apricot rolled past my tongue. There was no evidence whatsoever of smoke or peat.


Palate: I discovered a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel, and the front of my palate encountered raw honey, coconut, and dried apricot. The middle offered vanilla cream and cinnamon apples, while almond, oak, and white pepper flavors were on the back.


Finish: Oh… this is where the peat came into play. But, it wasn’t overwhelming, and, in fact, you’d probably miss it if you weren’t prepared for a peat note somewhere. It added a soft, smoky quality, which naturally married the tastes of apple, apricot, honey, oak, and white pepper. The whole experience lasted a medium-to-long duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Don’t judge a book by its cover. I said that at the beginning of this review. I admit I giggled with curiosity when I first saw this in the store. I hadn’t planned on being impressed, but dang, I am. I smiled. I told Mrs. Whiskeyfellow how much I was enjoying this pour. That, my friends, means it takes my Bottle (Can?) 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.



Saturday, October 8, 2022

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


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

The Competition Itself


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


My Experience

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


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


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


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


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


My Fellow Judges


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

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


Judging and Awards


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


Final Thoughts 

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

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



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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


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, August 5, 2022

Cluny Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

When Dad passed away in June, I was charged with going through some boxes in his office. There were boxes and boxes of old photos, books, client files, financial statements, etc. But, there were also three boxes tucked away in the back. I opened them, and lo and behold; they contained booze. Much of what was there was wine, but there were a few bottles of gin and a few of whisky.


Dad was not a whisky drinker. He was into gin, wine, and beer. I tried for several years to talk to him about whisky, which he found interesting, but had no desire to drink it. I think it is safe to assume the whisky I found was for friends who may have wanted a pour. It is funny, though, that he never offered me one. Of course, his dementia may not have allowed him to remember he had any on hand in the last several years.


One of the bottles I came across was Cluny. It was interesting because it was a fairly nondescript label, and I’d never heard of it. I knew it couldn’t have been too old; it had a UPC label on the necker and a laser code on the bottom that suggested it may have been bottled in January 2007.


I spent some time researching this whisky and became even more curious. I saw this statement repeatedly, obviously written by marketers:


“Cluny Scotch Whisky is one of America's top-selling domestically bottled blended Scotches, made up of a marriage of over 30 malt whiskies from all regions of Scotland and the finest aged grain whiskies. Cluny's high malt whisky content gives it a richer flavor and superior taste to like-priced competitors, making it one of the best overall values in the Scotch category today.”


Cluny has been around since 1857, or roughly 165 years. And according to the quote above, it is one of America’s top-selling blended Scotches. So, why am I finding little-to-no information online about it?


I can verify that Cluny is still in production, as a variety of websites offer it for sale for around $11.99 for a 1000mL bottle. I confirmed with a friend who owns one of Wisconsin’s largest liquor stores that while he’s never heard of Cluny (I’m asking this a second time:  Isn’t this supposed to be one of the top-selling blended Scotches in the country?), he can order it.


The brand is owned exclusively by John E. McPherson & Sons; however, in their most recent filing with UK authorities, it had assets of 1 GBP. The label stated it was imported and bottled by Premium Imports out of Bardstown. That’s a subsidiary of Heaven Hill, but Cluny is not listed as one of its brands. Liquor brands are bought, sold, and traded all the time, so someone else may have it.


The one thing that left me dumbfounded, however, was the lack of reviews. That forces me to inquire a third time: Isn’t this supposed to be one of the top-selling blended Scotches in the country? Indeed, if it is that high-profile, there would be many reviews, right?


“Legend has it that the wild cat was the totem of tribes who settled the north of Scotland from Europe. These ‘cat people’ later became the Clan Macpherson, whose crest shows a seated wild cat, its claws extended. The motto ‘Touch Not The Cat Bot A Glove’ means do not touch an ungloved cat, an apt slogan for a fearless clan.


A Scotch worthy of its heritage, Cluny epitomizes the proud Scottish tradition of high quality and distinctive taste. Artfully distilled, aged for thirty-six months, and blended skillfully of the highest-caliber malts and grains.” – Cluny Scotch (from the back label)


I do love a good mystery, and this one has me stymied. The only things left to tell you are it is packaged at 40% ABV (80°), and, per the label, in 1895 and 1899, it won gold medals in some competitions that my old eyes can’t make out. I’m not sure those medals are something I’d brag about, but let’s get this #DrinkCurious thing done and hammer out a review.


Appearance: As a neat pour, this Scotch presented as brassy. I’m assuming there is e150A involved in enhancing its color. A bold rim formed on the wall, releasing fat, wavy tears that fell back into the pool.


Nose:  A sweet aroma escaped the neck of the glass, smelling of honey, apple, and nutmeg. Taking the air into my mouth, I experienced vanilla.


Palate:  A watery texture greeted my tongue. There was a blend of dried apricot and golden raisin on the front, with vanilla controlling the middle. The back tasted of honey and nutmeg.


Finish:  Cinnamon and toasted oak remained in my mouth, with something medicinal (not astringent) as the other two flavors faded.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cluny is an unremarkable whisky, which probably helps explain its longevity. It isn’t bad, but there’s also nothing memorable about it. I can’t say I’ve had a better $12.00 Scotch, but I also can’t say that, until now, I’ve ever had a $12.00 Scotch. I could see this being an attractive rail pour at a Bar, which is what I’ve rated it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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



Monday, July 18, 2022

Proof and Wood "Good Day" 21-Year Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


What does Canada require for its whisky to be considered Canadian? Many people get this one wrong – and I used to be one of them. I used to believe the rules were fast and loose. I was schooled by none other than Davin de Kergommeaux, a respected whisky author who, in 2009, founded the Canadian Whisky Awards and is one of the most respected gurus regarding Canadian whiskies.


Canadian whisky must begin with the mashing and distillation of cereal grains (corn, rye, wheat, etc.). It must age at least three years in small cooperage – less than 700 liters), all of which must occur in Canada. It can have added flavors – up to 9.09% and can have added caramel coloring (e150A). The added flavors must be from a spirit at least two years old or wine. Contrary to popular belief, not a single grain of rye must be used for a Canadian whisky to be called Rye.


Them are the rules.


Something else you need to know is my bias when it comes to Canadian whisky. Simply put: I don’t like it. I want to like it. I’ve been on a mission to find an enjoyable one for several years. The closest I have come to is the Gray and Gold Labels of Barrell Seagrass. Yet, those are so unusual (and expensive) I don’t even count them as a win.


So, here I am, once again, staring at a bottle of Canadian whisky and wondering if this will be the one that changes my mind. It is a unique bottle containing a 21-year-old blend called Good Day. Good Day comes to us from Proof and Wood Ventures out of Bardstown, Kentucky. I’ve reviewed several whiskies from Proof and Wood. It was founded by Dave Schmier, the gentleman who started Redemption Rye. Dave has a habit of finding stunning barrels, mainly from MGP (now Ross & Squibb). If there was something in the United States called a Master Blender, you’d have to hand that title to him.


Good Day began with corn, rye, and barley whiskies, each distilled in 2000 or later and sourced from the Lethbridge distillery in Alberta. If you know your Canadian distilleries, that would be Black Velvet.


You may notice that I used the word “whiskies” because that’s how things are done in Canada. One grain is distilled and aged before being blended with others. Eight barrels were used, making the final formula 97% corn, 2.7% rye, and 0.3% malted barley. Dave then took that concoction, brought it to Bardstown, and finished it for an additional three weeks in vintage American Rye barrels.


Good Day comes in a 700ml, 52% ABV (104°) package with a suggested retail price is $99.99.


Before I begin this adventure, I must thank Proof and Wood for providing me a sample of Good Day in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to psych me up and #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Good Day looked like pale straw. That may seem strange for a 21-year whisky until you remember the rules of Canadian whisky and the penchant for using vintage wood. A nearly invisible rim was formed, yet the thick, wavy legs were easy to see.


Nose:  The very first thing I smelled was green apple. Not Jolly Rancher green apple, but the kind you cut up and put into a pie. Corn and vanilla were present, along with floral rye. As I drew the air into my mouth, I found honey and more green apple.


Palate: A thick, syrupy texture filled every crevice in my mouth. Raw honey, vanilla, and brown sugar were introduced on the front. Caramel-covered apples formed the middle, while the back featured cinnamon, clove, and oak.


Finish:  A freight train finish left cinnamon spice and clove all over my tongue and throat. Except for those extensive spice notes, there is nothing in terms of burn to contend with.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to congratulate Proof and Wood. You have finally ended my quest for an affordable, drinkable Canadian whisky. Yeah, in this case, $99.99 is “affordable” when you consider it is 21 years old. I’ve paid far more than that when it comes to similarly-aged Scotch, and that becomes almost a Walmart price when you bring Bourbon into the picture. Today was a good day to drink Good Day, and it snags my Bottle rating. 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, July 8, 2022

Keeper's Heart Irish + American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Blended whiskeys can be a ton of fun. I hold a deep respect for good blenders. They take several things and create something remarkable from them. The trick is mapping out the journey to get to the desired result. That assumes that the blender isn’t simply taking mediocre whiskeys and attempting to salvage them.


It isn’t uncommon to create Scotches, Irish whiskeys, or American whiskeys from blends. What is less so is taking whiskeys from various countries and blending them. Such is the case with Keeper’s Heart Whiskey by O’Shaughnessy Distilling of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Its Master Distiller, Brian Nation, is formerly of the famed Midleton Distillery of Ireland.


“Several years ago cousins Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy, along with Michael’s father Gerry, were sharing a bottle of whiskey. It was the end of a long and joyous day at an O’Shaughnessy family reunion, where hundreds of relatives traveled from around the world to spend time together. They were reflecting on the importance of family; on how to make sure future generations stayed connected; and on the legacy they wanted to leave.

As conversation went deeper into the night and more whiskey was poured, they had a realization: the answer was in the glass. It was at that point they set out to create a whiskey that celebrated their Irish-American heritage, that built a way for friends and family to connect today and left a legacy for future generations.” – Keeper’s Heart Whiskey


Keeper’s Heart has three offerings:  Irish + American, Irish + Bourbon, and a 10-Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey. If you’re curious about the difference between the first two, the “American” refers to American Rye.


Nation took three whiskeys:  an Irish grain whiskey, an Irish Single Pot Still whiskey, and an American Rye to create the Irish + American version.


I will approach my review of Keeper’s Heart Irish + American a bit differently because I have the tools to do something special. I will start with tasting notes for each of the three components and then the notes and rating for the packaged whiskey. Doing that is something I’ve not had an opportunity to do before, and as such, I’m excited.


But, before I start this adventure and #DrinkCurious, I must thank O’Shaughnessy Distilling for the component samples and the final product in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let’s get to it.


Component One:  Irish Grain Whiskey

The first component is an Irish grain whiskey which comes from a blend of maize (corn) and malted barley. It aged for four years in refilled American oak (Bourbon) barrels and diluted to 43% ABV (86°).


Appearance: This is the lightest color of the three components, presenting as pale straw. A medium rim formed on the wall of my Glencairn glass, creating heavy, fast legs that fell back to the pool while retaining sticky droplets.


Nose:  Buttery popcorn, pear, and malt notes were easy to pick out. We don’t know how often the cooperage was refilled (three is usually the maximum), but there was no evidence of it on the nose. Vanilla and sweet corn were in the air that I brought into my mouth.


Palate: An airy mouthfeel offered up vanilla and sweet corn on the front, with citrus peel and caramel in the middle. The back was a combination of oak and cinnamon Red Hots.


Finish: As light as this whiskey was, the finish wasn’t giving anything up. It remained spicy with the cinnamon Red Hots, tempered slightly with rich vanilla. It lasted far longer than I would have imagined.


Component Two:  Single Irish Pot Still Whiskey

The second component is a Single Irish Pot Still whiskey, made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley. It also aged four years in refill American oak (Bourbon) barrels and was proofed to 43% ABV (86°).


What, exactly, is Irish Pot Still whiskey? The requirement is it contains at least 30% unmalted barley and at least 30% malted barley, and the balance may be other unmalted cereal grains, but no more than 5% of those other grains may be included. The distilling process must be performed via a pot still. The “single” portion refers to the mash coming from a single distillery rather than blends from multiple distilleries.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the Single Pot Still component was slightly darker than the grain component. The rim was delicate, collapsing instantly with thick, slow legs.


Nose:  The smell of barley jumped from the glass to my nostrils. A malted portion was evident, but the unmalted barley stole the show—Vanilla and orange peel combined with nutmeg and peach. I could pick out what I swear was oatmeal. The air I pulled into my mouth was all citrus.


Palate:  Thin with an oily texture, the first things tasted were vanilla, apple, and pear. As it moved to the middle, I found peach, orange peel, and pineapple, while the back had flavors of nutmeg, toasted oak, and malt.


Finish:  Peach lingered into the finish, as did the toasted oak and nutmeg. The oak turned dry, and the whole thing lasted for a medium-long duration.


Component Three:  American Rye Whiskey


The final component is an American Rye made from 95% rye and 5% malt. I assume the source is MGP (now Ross & Squibb), and the distillate rested in new charred oak barrels for four years. Like the others, it was proofed to 43% ABV (86°).


Appearance:  As you’d completely expect, the American Rye was far darker in my Glencairn glass, appearing as an orange amber. A thin-to-medium rim released a curtain of thick legs.


Nose: It smelled minty, with black cardamom and fennel. A deeper exploration found plum, nutmeg, and oak. When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered fennel and oak.  At this juncture, I should point out that I am not a fennel fan. But we’ll see where this goes.


Palate:  A very oily texture led to black cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg on the front with floral rye and plum. Dark chocolate, charred oak, and fennel sewed up the back.


Finish: Fennel remained on the finish, overwhelming other flavors that could have stood out. A deep search found cinnamon, plum, cherry, and charred oak. It was medium-to-long in duration.


I will interject that if I were involved in a barrel pick, I would have rejected this sample. I was not a fan of this rye. However, this is one blend component; let’s see what happens.


The Resulting Blend


Those three components are then blended to produce Keeper’s Heart Whiskey. As you’d guess, it is bottled at 43% ABV (86°), and a 750ml package will set you back about $33.00. It should be interesting to taste how this fits together. The Irish whiskeys and the American component couldn’t be further apart in the flavor universe.


Now that I’ve followed O’Shaughnessy’s map, I’m excited to dig up the chest and taste the pirate’s booty.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Keeper’s Heart had the look of polished gold. The thin rim could not sustain the weight of its legs, which flowed down like a curtain back to the pool.


Nose: A flowery bouquet wafted from the glass and hit my olfactory sense. Apple, strawberry, nutmeg, and mint followed. I allowed the air to enter my mouth, and in doing so, I encountered vanilla and apple.


Palate:  Despite any of the components, the mouthfeel had a creamy quality. Apple, lemon peel, and nutmeg formed the front. The middle had flavors of peaches and cream joined with Nilla wafers.  I tasted candied ginger, cardamom, and charred oak on the back.


Finish:  Cinnamon Red Hots from the grain whiskey came from nowhere, as did a hint of fennel from the Rye. Charred oak also had a drying effect in my mouth, creating what I describe as pucker power. The dryness subdued the Red Hots, leaving behind nutmeg and a kiss of lemon peel.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: While there was evidence of fennel, it was nowhere near as dominating as the Rye had. I was fascinated how these three components were recognizable in the final product yet transformed into something unique that those individual components lacked. It demonstrated what blending is all about. Keeper’s Heart Irish + American should appeal to American Rye drinkers, but it is off-profile for Irish whiskey fans. It was stuck between the two, and as such, it earns a Bar rating from me. You’ll want to try this one for yourself before committing to the relationship. 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.