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

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 15, 2022

Stellum Spirits Black Label Specialty Blends Reviews & Tasting Notes

Stellum Spirits is a kinda-sorta new-to-market brand. In 2021, it introduced its line of whiskeys to the world. However, there was a certain familiarity to it, and that’s because Stellum is part of the Barrell Craft Spirits portfolio.


Barrell Craft Spirits is known for sourcing whiskeys, blending them, and bottling them at cask strength. There’s no such thing as low-proof whiskeys out of the company. It is located in Louisville, Kentucky, and typically finds whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, although there have been some from Wyoming and Canada. Aside from usually producing excellent whiskeys, I appreciate the transparency it provides. That transparency allows me to do detective work to determine who the source distillers are.


Stellum Spirits is the more affordable brand for the average whiskey drinker. Quality isn’t lost, and Stellum has received its fair share of accolades, including from me. While Barrell Craft Spirits has its Gray and Gold Labels to denote rare offerings, Stellum has its Black Label line.


Today I’m tasting two of the newest Black Label whiskeys: one is a Bourbon called Equinox Blend #1, and the other is an American Rye called Fibonacci Blend #1. These are the inaugural whiskeys in its brand-new Specialty Blends line.


“Stellum Black specialty blends evoke the familiarity of two classic styles of American whiskey, taken one step further through our innovative blending and tasting process. Each limited-release blend has an alternate blending profile that incorporates reserve barrels from our stocks with the original Stellum blend.”Joe Beatrice, Founder


I must thank Stellum Spirits for providing me a sample of each whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious and taste how they each fare.


Equinox Blend #1 (Bourbon)

This Bourbon began with Stellum Black Label Bourbon, then the folks at Stellum layered other Bourbons from “rare” (read: older) casks, one at a time, until the Vernal Equinox (hence its name). The idea was to celebrate the change of seasons.  


The core Bourbon blend comes from MGP, George Dickel, and Jim Beam. Of those, there are three MGP components: two are high rye with 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, and the other 99% corn and 1% malted barley. The Beam and Dickel components are undisclosed but older than the MGP. The additional, older stocks are from Beam and Dickel.


The result is a 117.26° Bourbon, about eight points higher than the original Stellum Black Label. It is non-chill filtered and carries no age statement. You’ll pay approximately $99.00, which is available in 48  of the 50 states.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, the Equinox Blend looked like burnt umber. It created a medium-thin rim that generated heavy tears, which crashed into the pool.


Nose:  A fruity blast of cherry and plum greeted my nostrils. Nutmeg and toasted oak combined with vanilla and cinnamon. Maple syrup and orange zest filled my mouth as I inhaled the vapor.


Palate:  I encountered a warm, slightly oily texture that demanded my attention. The first thing I found was cinnamon, apricot, and nutmeg. The spice started building with clove and was joined by candied orange peel and vanilla at the middle.  Oak tannins, caramel, and old leather tied things up on the back.  


Finish:  Medium in duration, the leather, caramel, and clove notes stuck around. Then, the oak reanimated with a kiss before vanishing almost as quickly.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I know the idea was to fold layers of flavors into this whiskey, and Stellum certainly accomplished that task. The front, middle, and back went from spicy to sweet to something transitionary. I won’t say that I’ve never come across that before, but it is an unusual journey.


As I stated in the Palate notes, that first sip grabs you by the shoulders and stares directly in your eyes. I wasn’t convinced the Bourbon would get my stamp of approval. But, once the shock to my palate ended, those additional ones became more and more enjoyable, and eventually, I couldn’t wait to refill my glass. The price notwithstanding, Equinox takes my Bottle rating.


Fibonacci Blend #1 (American Rye)

Next up is the Rye, which is called Fibonacci Blend. I’m not a mathlete, far from it, but the name refers to the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers that come from the sum of the previous two numbers. To me, that’s just weird because something has to start first – there is a reason I write versus engaging in number stuff (although I have been known to count to ten without using my fingers).


Fibonacci, unlike Equinox, is a marriage of six different American Rye blends based upon the Fibonacci sequence. Even stating it, I still have a rough time wrapping my head around it. Whatever. You’re here to read about this whiskey, not to have a reject mathematician drone on and on. The source materials are undisclosed, but you can bet MGP, Dickel, and Beam were involved.


Bottled at 115.2°, it, too, is non-chill filtered and takes $99.00 to bring one home. Like the Bourbon, it is available in 48 states around the country.


Appearance: The liquid appeared as a bright orange-amber in my Glencairn glass. A microthin rim released heavy, wavy legs.


Nose:  Toasted oak, almond, and tobacco notes were easy to pluck from the air. Less obvious were nutmeg and orange citrus. As I drew the air through my lips, vanilla took over. Strangely, I found no evidence of floral or spicy rye in the nosing experience.


Palate:  An oil slick hit my tongue, and this is where the rye content introduced itself with mint. That was joined by honey and vanilla to complete the front. The middle consisted of cinnamon and orange zest, while the back featured clove, cocoa, and old, dry oak.


Finish:  Once the liquid was gone, the dry oak was pronounced. I had to wait a couple of minutes before I found flavors of ginger, clove, rye spice, and cinnamon. The finish kept going like the Energizer Bunny, sucking the moisture from my mouth.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The inaugural blend of Fibonacci is mysterious. While the Equinox grew on me, I was more involved in trying to dissect the Rye and spent less time simply drinking it. You absolutely must enjoy spicy whiskeys as I do to consider it. Fibonacci is what I might describe as a thinking person’s whiskey. I believe that in and upon itself earns the admission for a Bottle rating.


Epilogue:  If I was standing at a liquor store looking at both bottles and wondering which to buy, both are very good, but Equinox would get my money. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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



Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

How many distilleries are you aware of that can trace their history back to Lewis and Clark? They didn’t found the distillery, but the duo is credited with discovering the limestone spring in what would be Weston, Missouri in 1804. Two brothers, Ben Holladay and Major David Holladay, decided that the spring would become the site for a distillery.


Holladay… Holladay… why does that name ring a bell? Perhaps you’ve heard of Wells Fargo. Ben was the founder of Wells Fargo Express, he was known as the Stagecoach King, transporting folks from Missouri to the West Coast and points in between. Ben had his hands in several companies, and by 1864, he was the largest individual employer in the nation! 


It was in 1856 that the Holladays founded their distillery. It was known as Blue Springs Distillery, but as often happens in American distilling, it changed hands several times - first to George Shawhan, whose family named it the Shawhan Distillery in 1900. It changed in 1936 and was called the Old Weston Distillery before becoming McCormick Distilling Company in 1942. In 1993, the business was purchased by Ed Pechar and Mike Griesser.


McCormick Distilling is the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi River that still operates at its original location. The distillery is also one of the few that were allowed to remain open to bottle medicinal whiskey during Prohibition. Now, the Holladay Distillery operates as part of McCormick Distilling.


Today I’m exploring Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. A few exciting things are going on. First, Bonded whiskeys are some of my favorites. They differ from any other kind of whiskey in a handful of ways. Perhaps the most significant impact that many gloss over is the whiskey must be distilled during a single distilling season. That means, while you can blend barrels, all the barrels in the batch must be from the same season (January to June or July to December). That precludes a distillery from mixing barrels of various ages. In the case of Ben Holladay, it was distilled during Spring 2016 and bottled during Spring 2022.


A Bonded whiskey also must be at least four years old. If you’re a math guru, you can tell this Bourbon is aged six years. The mashbill is undisclosed, but the other thing about Bonded whiskey is it must always be bottled at 50% ABV (100°). The market for Ben Holladay is currently limited to Missouri and Kansas with a retail price of $59.99.


One last interesting factoid before I get to the tasting notes is the barrels originated from Warehouse C, with 21% coming from the first floor and 79% from the fifth of a seven-story warehouse, and the Bourbon is non-chill filtered. I do appreciate the transparency from Holladay – to me; it is always fascinating to have that.


I must thank Holladay Distillery for providing me a sample of Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and taste what it is all about.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon was a dark, deep orange amber. A thick rim clung to the wall, which eventually collapsed under its weight with fat, slow legs.


Nose: I found this whiskey very corn forward on the nose. Hidden beneath was a dash of mint, suggesting to me this is a rye (versus wheat) Bourbon. Cherry, plum, orange peel, and toasted oak rounded out the aroma. I tasted chocolate and orange peel when I pulled the air through my lips.


Palate:  A lighter-than-anticipated weight possessed an oily feel to it. The front of my palate found coffee and caramel. The middle featured dark chocolate, vanilla, and corn, while the back had flavors of bold oak, smoke (from the char), and white pepper.


Finish: Ben Holladay offered a big Missouri hug. Coffee, dark chocolate, oak, and white pepper remained in my mouth. The duration was somewhere between medium and long.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I may say something that will make you angry, and for that, I apologize. As we pass the halfway point of 2022, it is time to start considering the cream of the crop. Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is one of the best – if not the best – Bourbon I’ve tasted year-to-date. There’s nothing not to love here. Even the price is attractive. So, why is that upsetting? Well, it means you’ll have to travel to or have a friend in Kansas or Missouri to snag a Bottle. Travel. Make new friends. Trust me. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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



Monday, July 11, 2022

Lochlea Distillery Sowing Edition "First Crop" Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Last week, I spoke of (and reviewed) Lochlea Distillery’s inaugural whisky, First Release. I was impressed with how good it was, especially considering the risk Lochlea took with releasing its own distillate and not sourcing as many others do. First Release was a single malt using both first-fill Bourbon and PX-sherry casks.


The next project is called Sowing Edition. Sowing Edition is a springtime release, soon to be followed by Harvest Season (Summer), Fallow Edition (Fall), and Ploughing Edition (Winter). The goal is to feature the effects of different farming seasons to whisky drinkers.


“Sowing Edition is a perfect springtime whisky with green apple skins, pear drops and custard creams on the nose; vanilla sweetness, orchard fruits and hazelnuts on the palette with a final fruity sweetness lasting to the finish. Made from barley grown within sight of the distillery, Lochlea Whisky is an Ayrshire dram through and through.”John Campbell, Master Blender and Distillery Manager, Lochlea Distillery


Sowing Edition is a single malt aged for an undisclosed period in first-fill Maker’s Mark Bourbon barrels. While there is no age statement, Scottish regulations indicate a whisky must be aged at least three years to qualify as Scotch, and the distillery made its first distillate in 2018. As such, we know it is between three and four years.


Bottled at 48% ABV (96°), Sowing Edition “First Crop” is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. The suggested retail price is $69.99 for a 700ml package.


I must take a moment and thank Impex Beverages, the exclusive USA importer for Lochlea, for a sample of Sowing Season in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and learn more.


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Sowing Edition was the color of straw. A medium rim formed sticky droplets that clung to the wall.


Nose: The green apple that John Campbell mentioned is unmistakable. It raced to my nostrils. A dash of cinnamon paired nicely, followed by vanilla and toasted oak. Only the apple came through when I drew the air through my lips.


Palate:  A thin, oily mouthfeel offered even more green apple with pear and nutmeg on the front. The middle consisted of oatmeal, hazelnut, and mocha, and I tasted vanilla, toasted oak, and cinnamon spice on the back.


Finish: Long-lasting and slightly tannic, the finish offered cinnamon, clove, toasted oak, a touch of oatmeal, and a blast of vanilla.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Lowland Scotches aren’t known for bold flavors. And, yet, Lochlea defies that. Both Sowing Edtion and First Release featured those. Not only do I respect Lochlea for releasing its own distillate, but I was also pleased by what I was sipping. Lochlea has something special going on, and I’m happy to tip my hat and crown Sowing Edition with 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.


Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Lochlea Distillery "First Release" Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

One of the newest distilleries in Scotland is located in Ayrshire. It was a former piggery, cattle barn, and a middery. I bet you’re wondering what a middery is. I had to look up the word. In nice terms, it is an agricultural refuse heap.


Mr. Robert Burns lived on this land for a decade, giving this distillery the unique ability to make that claim. Burns was tilling barley just as has been done for generations before and since. The land was purchased, repurposed, and a distillery was operational in 2018. They called it Lochlea Distillery.


“Initially led by the experience and expertise of distillery manager Malcolm Rennie, and now under the management of ex-Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell. Having built up one of the top ten Scotch brands in the world over the past 27 years, John brings a wealth of knowledge and a burning ambition to help Lochlea fulfil its potential.”Lochlea Distilling Co.


This Lowland distillery grows its own barley; now, those first bottles of Scotch whisky have hit the market. The inaugural bottling is called, aptly enough, First Release. It is a single malt Scotch that’s non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and aged in first-fill Maker's Mark Bourbon barrels and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks for an undisclosed period (but math and Scottish law tell us it is between three and four years), and bottled at 46% ABV (92°). The suggested retail price is $69.99 for a 700ml package.


As this is the first liquid from this distillery, I have no idea what to expect. But, I typically love PX-cask Scotches. Let’s see (or taste) what they’ve done and #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I want to thank Impex Beverages, the exclusive USA importer for Lochlea, for a sample of First Release in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, First Release presented as liquid gold. A bold rim glued itself to the wall, finally releasing long, wavy legs back to the pool.


Nose: Aromas of malt, brown sugar, apple, pear, citrus, nutmeg, and vanilla teased my nostrils. As I drew the air past my lips, my mouth experienced an explosion of thick, rich chocolate.


Palate: The texture was buttery, yet this whisky was not shy about announcing its proof. The tip of my tongue tingled. On a second sip, I tasted baked apple, cinnamon, and raisin on the front. Hazelnut, brown sugar, and orange peel formed the middle, while the back offered cocoa, oak, and clove flavors.


Finish: As things began to sew up, there was a dry cereal quality, almost like an oatmeal cookie. Wait, make that oatmeal raisin cookies. Then, dust cinnamon sugar across that oatmeal raisin cookie. Behind that baked goodness were clove, oak, and hazelnut, which stuck around for a medium-to-long finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Putting out an initial release of something non-sourced is risky. I’ve had several that did not turn out well. They tend to taste young. They’re typically overly-diluted to hide that young taste (and stretch profits). First Release is nothing like those whiskies. There was plenty of character, with both the Bourbon and sherry wood influences easily discernable. I loved the fruity spiciness (or was it spicy fruitiness?), and it is a well-crafted Scotch worth acquiring. Lochlea snags its first Bottle rating with First Release. 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 4, 2022

Two Stars Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Two Stars is the same thing as Buffalo Trace.”


If you’ve ever set foot in a Total Wine & More store and interacted with one of their salespeople, you’ve likely heard those exact words. I know I have – often – and at various locations around the country.


Let’s get something out of the way. Two Stars is distilled, aged, and bottled by The Clear Springs Distilling Company out of Louisville, which Sazerac owns. Sazerac, if you’re unaware, owns Buffalo Trace. That is where “the same thing” ends. Two Stars is not the same thing as Buffalo Trace any more than George T. Stagg is the same as Buffalo Trace. I can say that with 100% confidence despite never trying it because this isn’t an opinion; it is a fact.


What is Two Stars?  It is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottled at 86°, whereas Buffalo Trace is packaged at 90°. And that, my friends, is all the information you need to understand that these two are not the same Bourbon.


Two Stars carries no age statement; it sells for about $17.99 for a 750ml bottle and is “exclusive” to Total Wine & More except in states where exclusivity is not allowed. Even without an age statement, because it is straight Bourbon and lacks an age statement, we know it spent at least four years in oak. 


Despite my discontent with Total Wine & More, I don’t allow that to affect my opinions on its Spirits Direct (Total Wine’s house brand) whiskeys. I take them as they come. Some are good; others are not. What I do know is that a lot of people make fun of Two Stars. Before today, I’d never tasted it. But, when there is a 50ml bottle available for $1.49, you #DrinkCurious.


I will get to my tasting notes in a moment, but first I’ll point out that throughout my years of whiskey reviewing, I’ve discovered some of what people joke about is unfounded. Remember, everyone’s palate is different, and there’s my #RespectTheBottomShelf hashtag for a reason.  Now, let’s get to it!


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Two Stars Bourbon presented as pale straw. It created a medium ring around the neck and released quick tears that fell back to the pool.


Nose: Corn and caramel were the first scents I picked out. Then, I smelled circus peanuts. There was a hint of toasted oak. When I drew the air into my mouth, I found more circus peanuts.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was lightweight combined with some significant ethanol burn. Corn and vanilla greeted the front of my palate. Ethanol formed the middle. The back was oak and clove.


Finish:  A too-long ethanol-heavy finish was mixed with oak tannins.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I let this whiskey sit about 20 minutes before I began my journey to ensure it had enough time to breathe. I’ve done many barrel picks of Buffalo Trace Bourbon in my life. I’ve never tasted anything this young, harsh, and unpleasant from that line. Two Stars is not the same as Buffalo Trace, even on Buffalo Trace’s worst day. Don’t let Total Wine’s staff tell you it is; if they do, you let them know Whiskeyfellow said this Bourbon is 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 you do so responsibly.