husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

average Joes on a whisky journey...all views are our own







Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Canadian Whisky Twitter Tasting Primer


Sometimes I think of my whisky knowledge in terms of the show Jeopardy.

I picture the wall of categories, and start to think of my strengths and weaknesses.

“I’ll take Islay Distilleries for $1000 Alex” (feeling confident)

“I’ll take Mothballed Distilleries for $700 Alex” (feeling pretty good)

“I’ll take Bourbon Companies Supplied By LDI/MGP for $1500 Alex” (Giddy)

But then things take a turn.

In a classic condescending tone, Alex Trebek says, “For the Final Jeopardy question…the topic is…Canadian Whisky.”

For the first time in the show, beads of sweat dot my brow.  Nervousness sets in.  On the brink of panic, I lay down my buzzer, and listen to my stomach churn during the commercial break.

NOT ANY MORE. 

I am now fully armed and prepared for my fictional encounter.

For those of you that got to read my previous WhiskyFest post, you know that I had the distinct pleasure of running into the one and only Whisky Lassie Johanne McInnis.

Shortly thereafter, we had a nice chat (& some laughs) with Davin de Kergommeaux.

Johanne was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to be a part of the second Twitter Tasting featuring Davin’s book Canadian Whisky:  The Portable Expert. 

Fast forward to late November, and we are on the cusp of a very exciting whisky book review/twitter tasting!  #DavinTT2

I have an insatiable appetite for all information pertaining to whisky.  I can’t get enough.  Whether it is reading other peoples blogs, periodicals, or books, I am all in.  Being a part of this experience is a perfect marriage.

Please join myself (and some other lucky folks) in an International Twitter Tasting! Sundays in December are not just about the NFL anymore.   I am honored to join my fellow Whisky Fabric friends across the Globe from Sweden to Alberta as we go on a true whisky journey.

We will be blind tasting four Canadian Whiskies (one each Sunday), we will discuss Davin’s outstanding book, and there will even be a question based Scavenger Hunt with the winner earning a Canadian Goody Basket!


Do you want to learn more? 

Do you have a weak spot in your Whisky Jeopardy arsenal?

Join us and follow #DavinTT2 on Twitter, Sundays in December.  (more details to follow)

Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert is available at many fine bookstores, or on-line at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey & Salted Caramel Whiskey


Eastern Tennessee is home to many great things.

Two of the coolest are the Great Smoky Mountains and Davy Crockett.

In Gatlingburg, TN there is a small distillery, and they are cranking out some cool stuff.  Chuck Edwards is at the helm, and in addition to the range of Ole Smokey Moonshine products his family is creating some other whiskies worth taking a look at.

There is actually a pretty cool interview with him right here. 

It is a shame that you can only get this product in TN as of this writing, but something tells me it will be made more readily available soon.

A special thank you to the great folks in Gatlinburg that sent me a sample of both their Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey and Salted Caramel Whiskeys.


two guys named Davy walk into a bar...

Normally I do not review (and usually dislike) flavored whiskeys, but we will make an exception here as they have been so kind as to send some.

First thing right off the bat is how unique these labels are.  These labels are so cool.  They emulate the style of the late, lamented YeeHaw Industries, formerly of Knoxville. They were famous for their letterpress artwork. I have heard that several YeeHaw reprints are actually being sold in the gift shop section of the Barrelhouse.

Friendly recap for those that may not know is that ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ usually means that the whiskey went through a charcoal maple filtration process.  (Lincoln County Process)  This extra step is a defining thing for Tennessee Whiskeys (like Jack Daniel’s) and it claims to ‘mellow’ out the whiskey a bit.

Let’s give these a try!

DAVY CROCKETT TENNESSEE WHISKEY

Appearance:  Fairly dark amber

Nose:  Char smoke, a little maple syrup, beef jerky

Palate: more smoky beef jerky, bacon, char, nice sweet notes and spices, slight bite

Finish:  More spiciness and a smoky-sweet

Score:  86

DAVY CROCKETT SALTED CARAMEL WHISKEY

Appearance:  Golden Amber

Nose:  Super sweet

Palate:  Sticky sweet, certainly Salted Caramel-esque

Finish:  Short to medium

Overall:

The Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey is made from Rye, Barley and Corn.  That sugar maple really mellows it out, and it is pretty smokey good, just a bit too hot at first.  She needs to breathe a bit, or be put on ice.  I am super stunned by the incredible smoked meat kind of flavor.  I have only experienced it this strongly once before, and that was with Balcones Brimstone.  Brimstone was a different animal, but they both certainly unique and off the beaten path.

The Salted Caramel is certainly more of a liquor to me, thus I will not give it a formal score.  I know, I know, I am a bitter old traditionalist at times.  That being said, I am open minded, and if were to ever throw a whiskey over some ice cream...that Salted Caramel may be the one!  They also have a vodka, other flavored whiskeys, and more...keep up the good work guys.

That cured meat flavor was amazing...fun with char...give the Davy Crockett Tennessee Whiskey a chance if you can find it.

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wemyss Malts (Three for One Special)


 
Wemyss Malts is a boutique whisky company with ties to the Industry dating back to the turn of the 19th century.  The founder of Haig’s (John Haig) built a distillery on Wemyss land, knowing that the barley produced on the Wemyss Estates is highly coveted among many leading distillers.


Wemyss (pronounced ‘weems’) is Scottish for caves.  They offer a range of malts and blends that have been making some noise in the industry lately and certainly interesting to say the least.  From their cool names, to the quality inside the bottle, it is no wonder that Wemyss has been winning awards lately, and making a name for themselves.

Mr. MacLean has an eye (&nose) for good whisky

Another key to their success has been the fact that they are armed with a virtual legend in the industry, Charlie MacLean.  Known for his passion for Single Cask selection, he is the perfect gentleman to help them with their single cask line that is broad in range and cleverly named.  Their single casks are usually limited to about 300-600 bottles and of very high quality.  Something I enjoy especially is that they are rarely less than 43% ABV…usually up around 46%-full on cask strength.  I like that.

At a recent New Jersey Whiskey Society meeting, we decided to try some of the Wemyss blend range to start our journey.

We sampled the 8 Year Old ‘Smooth Gentleman’, the 8 Year Old ‘Peat Chimney’, and the 12 Year Old ‘Spice King’.  While favorites and scores varied, all of us agreed that this is a fine line of blends, and worth picking up a bottle or two for the collection.  We must pursue some of their Single Casks now!

Tasting Notes on Three:
 
Hello aptly named whiskies
 

8 YEAR OLD SMOOTH GENTLEMAN

Appearance:  Amber -1

Nose:  Fresh and clean, cinnamon toast crunch cereal

Palate:  A little bit of everything & definitely smooth, malt, spice, fruity

Finish:  Smooth and easy drinker

Overall:  Smooth but no chump…this is not a lightweight.  Score 83

8 YEAR OLD PEAT CHIMNEY

Appearance:  Golden Honey

Nose:  Smoke, malt, citrus

Palate:  Peat & smoke, sea salt, oily, orange peels

Finish:  Gentle & subtle

Overall:  I kind of like this one, I like my peaty drams young…Score 84

12 YEAR OLD SPICE KING

Appearance:  Amber +1

Nose:  Cinnamon sticks, spice rack, sherry, faint smoke

Palate:  Warming, nutmeg, peppery, baked apples with cinnamon sugar crust

Finish:  Still warming and rich, drying, medium to long

Overall:  This one is pretty spicy indeed!  Score 85

Conclusion:

All in all, I have to say that I love what Wemyss is doing.  I have had the luxury of trying a couple of their Single Casks, and they have been quite impressive.  Overall, I continue to preach the value of quality blends like Compass Box and Wemyss...for those that turn their noses up to all blends are missing out on some outstanding whisky.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Whisky Fest NYC 2013 - Part Three - The Favorites


After touching upon the fantastic people involved in this event, and some of the cool surprises they brought with them, I am now going to take on listing out a few favorite drams/booths of the night.

This is not an easy task. 

Picking your favorite whiskeys from WhiskyFest NYC 2013 is like picking your favorite child.

That being said, I will step up to the challenge and select a few that really stuck out to me.

Please note, there are a few fantastic ‘standard’ offerings that I will not list here.  Everyone that knows me is aware that I think Lagavulin 16 is the bee’s knees, and that I feel the Balvenie 21 PortWood is divine.  In this post, I’m going to focus on items that stood out and that are kind of off the beaten path.

EVERYTHING AT THE NIKKA TABLE

I was really hoping to get to sample a bit more of the ‘World Whiskeys’ this year, and I feel that they were slightly underrepresented overall.  Perhaps I missed a table that was there, but I didn’t see too many things like Mackmyra or anything from Tasmania.



Nikka's Fantastic Expressions


However, I did get to frequent both the Kavalan and Nikka tables.  (Kavalan had some really nice items too, but Nikka just hit the spot for me on many levels)
Tadashi Sakuma, Chief Blender, was at the Nikka booth, and I have to say that every single dram I had there was stunning.  I mean literally every single one of them.  Brilliant.

The two here that really stood out above the others? 

The Taketsuru 21YR was absolutely stunning.  Very well rounded.  It gave my nose and mouth everything from fruits (plums) and cinnamon to Hershey's Chocolate.

The Yoichi 15YR was also a scene stealer.  This one has the potential to grow into a 'daily dram', it is that fulfilling.  Nutty and creamy, this one was rich and gorgeous.

WILLIAM GRANT & SONS (BALVENIE & GLENFIDDICH)

For Balvenie I am going to have to go with the TUN 1401 Batch #9.  This was just so silky and exquisite that it has to make this list.  Phenomenally complex, and when you have a living legend like David Stewart presenting it to you, alongside the charismatic David Laird, it is tough not to be blown away.

For Glenfiddich I am going to applaud the first effort by new Malt Master Brian Kinsman.  Their Malt Master Edition was wonderful and smooth, and much more rich than I had envisioned it to be.  If this is his first effort at a special bottling, something tells me we have a lot to look forward to from Glenfiddich's sixth Malt Master in the future.

BUFFALO TRACE ANTIQUE COLLECTION


An Epic Lineup
 
Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite US Distilleries.  Again, this is a list full of winners.  There is simply not a bad whisky in this lineup.  It is a virtual ‘who’s who’ of bottles that collectors and imbibers alike chase after.  For me, it was a neck and neck race to #1 between Stagg and Weller.

Let’s call it a draw.  A mouthwatering & breath taking draw.

WEMYSS MALTS ‘HEATHERY SMOKE 30YR OLD’

Another successful bottling from Wemyss.  It is my understanding that this is essentially 30YR old Caol Ila, and man it is a stunner.  Smoky and deep in all the right places.  As the name implies, there was a delicate floral cloud lingering the whole time.  Really nice dram.

COMPASS BOX PEAT MONSTER 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

John Glaser is gifted.  Period.  While there are some folks that turn their noses up at blends, I really applaud them as a craft unto itself.  It is an art form that can be squandered and cut with other things leaving me disappointed (most Johnnie Walker expressions), or can be blended together seamlessly creating a sum greater than its parts.

Cue Compass Box and their excellent lineup of bottles.  Towards the end of the evening, having already swam in the seas of the light and delicate whiskeys, I was ready for peat.  The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary edition did not disappoint.  I’d love to try this side by side with the original Peat Monster, but needless to say, if you are a peat-head you should seek this out in either form.

DANFIELD’S LIMITED EDITION 10YR & 21YR

A quick nod to our neighbors to the North.  While I love me a nice Canadian Rye whenever I can (see also WhistlePig) there is a wide array of great whiskeys up there.  I was really impressed by how Oaky this one from Black Velvet was, while still being quite balanced.  The Oak just kept departing and returning, I love the depth.

I could keep going on and on forever about some of the great things I got to sample that night, but please accept the above as some of the finest I was fortunate enough to enjoy that evening.  It is worth noting that there were a couple mentioned in earlier posts that could have been here.  Both the HighWest Bug Juice and SamaroliTomintoul 1967 deserve a place here too. 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, these types of events are a great way to broaden your palate, and to experience some truly unique and rare items.  When it comes to trying out some new whiskeys I also highly recommend visiting a nice bar close to home and trying some things you’ve never had before…you just may be surprised how much you like them.

Perhaps I will get to see some of you at WhiskyFest next year, I can’t wait!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Whisky Fest NYC 2013 - Part Two - The Surprises


Some people love surprises, others loathe them.

For me, it depends on the situation…Surprise traffic on the Highway? (BAD surprise) Surprise Gift? (GOOD surprise)

It’s like the love/hate relationship I had as a kid with my school bus driver.  I hated her on the way to school, and loved her on the way home.

In Phase Two of my 2013 Whisky Fest NYC summary I’m going to take a quick look at a few of the good surprises that popped up.

One was the quality of the people there, from the famous to the not-so-famous, everyone was pleasant and kind, which is a moderate surprise. (well, at least out here on the East Coast where we are all rushed & ragged and generally impatient)

The remainder came from the booths.  Anyone that has ever been to a tasting of this size knows that occasionally there may be something special tucked away.  Something that is not poured for everyone, and certainly something that did not make it to the formal ‘pour list’.

There were some cool and exciting ones, like the Laphroaig 25 YR getting pulled out of a boot.  Or, the way the Four Roses booth volunteered to ‘get that scotch flavor’ out of your glass by rinsing glasses with carafes full of bourbon!  So much fun!

There were also some disappointments…some items that were on the pour list that never made it to the show.  (I'm looking at you BenRiach 1976 Port Pipe...heart broken here...)

But let’s take a look at the whisky related surprises and expressions that were not on the pour list that you could find if you looked hard enough around the Grand Ballroom:

A yummy little bugga...
High West:  Bug Juice

High West had a pretty cool table, with a wide array of options to choose from.  The staff was helpful and fun, and one of the nifty surprises was a simply labeled bottle called ‘Bug Juice’.  Technically, this beauty is their Rendezvous Rye aged for an additional 5 months in Port Barrels…boy it turned out nicely.  One of my unexpected favorites of the evening.

Breckenridge Distillery:  Single Malt     

Already being a fan of Breckenridge Distillery Bourbon, I was eager to try this one out.  It was actually a bit creamier and tastier than I thought it would be.  Frankly, I think it may need a tiny bit more time in the cask, but overall it is hard not to be impressed by its potential.  I can’t wait to try the official release in the future.

Blue Hanger:  7th Release

While I had not tried previous releases, when I noticed this puppy sitting so discreetly at the end of a table I felt compelled to try it out.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.  The gentleman there was not only helpful, he actually had the recipe written out on scrap paper to remember it!  His secret is safe with me, but whatever he is putting in here is good!

 Samaroli:  Tomintoul Distilled 1967

This had to be the most perfumed whisky I had the whole evening, despite being roughly 44 years old.  That nose just towered over many others.  It could literally be a scent worn by women across the globe.  The palate didn’t disappoint either, rich spices balanced out the light and delicate freshness of fruit, complex and bursting with flavors.  The fruit notes were pear-like, but think older pear (stewed), similar to some older Glenfiddich expressions.  May have been top 5 of the night!  Outstanding. 

Widow Jane:  High Rye, Wapsie Valley Corn, Bloody Butcher Bourbon

This one is a three-fer.  I met with Distiller Matt of Widow Jane to discuss a few things they have been working on at the distillery.  Three tiny bottles were the surprise for this booth!  The High Rye was spicy and tasty, while the Wapsie whiskey reminded me quite a bit of Hudson.  But, the Bloody Butcher may have been the best of the three as it just had that special something to edge the other two out.
 
Single CaskNation:  Whisky Jewbilee 15 YR Bourbon (Heaven Hill)

Seth and Josh were rocking their booth with their fine array of core expressions.  The key surprise here was a bourbon made especially for their absolutely fantastic WhiskyJewbilee event held earlier in the week.  This special festival bottling is of a single barrel from Heaven Hill distilleries and is a 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon from a high-rye mash bill, bottled at 122.6 proof (61.3% ABV). The barrel rendered fewer than 100 bottles, so I am humbled to have been able to enjoy it.  This one was a great selection as there was a layer of delicate char that appeared mid-palate that really took this one to the next level for me.  A lovely surprise indeed.

Next, I'm excited to tackle my favorite drams of the night post...coming soon...
All in all, these selections were pleasant surprises in what was already an incredible evening.  Any chance you get to seek out something unique or special like this, it is worth a try…especially at Whisky Fest!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whisky Fest NYC 2013 - Part One - The People


Just as every whisky has its own personality, there are people behind them with just as much character.

This three-part write up on the epic adventure that is the New York City Whisky Fest will begin with the people.  I have received a bunch of requests about some of the cool whiskeys & my thoughts on them, and we will get to that, but for now let us focus on one of my favorite parts of whisky…sharing it with people.
 
 
 
I was fortunate enough to attend the Saturday Grand Tasting this year, and enjoyed it to its fullest.  The attendance was excellent, and I got to meet many fantastic people throughout the night.  I was honored to rub Noses with Richard Paterson, meet the legendary David Stewart of Balvenie, chat Canadian whiskey with Davin de Kergommeaux and a great many others.

Upon arrival at the lovely Marriot Marquis on Broadway, it looks like any other hotel.  But, a quick trip up an escalator or two and you begin to realize that you are in a first class establishment.  Tier upon tier of large scale event halls and gorgeously decorated details helped you let go of the hustle and bustle screaming outside in the heart of NYC.

After check-in, many of us were anxious and waiting for the moment to be allowed into the event.  There we were, lined up like extremely classy and thirsty race horses.  Once the very muscular guard gave us the blessing, the flow of everyone into the event was calm & controlled but giddy & excited all at the same time. 

There was a buzz.

Heading straight up the middle, my eyes immediately caught a familiar face in a suit:
 
Enjoying some Dalmore with The Nose


Turning to the right, anxious to try the latest Batch #9 of The Balvenie Tun 1401, I couldn’t believe who was there!

David Stewart of Balvenie created things that made me fall in love with Scotch!
 

Later on, I had a near embarrassing situation when a lovely lady became part of a conversation a bit late and overheard some questionable words.  Well, what could’ve been an awkward moment in a food line revealed itself to be a blessing in disguise!  It turned out to be the whisky fabric weaver Johanne McInnis herself! (known on Twitter as  @whiskylassie)  Let me just say that she not only handled the ensuing conversation with humor, she handled it with a rare quality these days…grace.

We wound up chatting with Davin de Kergommeaux and had a few laughs:

Honored to enjoy the Whisky Fabric love in person
 

In my recent craft whiskey journey, one of my favorite surprises has been FEW Spirits.  I really enjoyed their Bourbon, Rye & Single Malt and will be featuring them in an upcoming post, but it was great to meet the engaging Winston Evans, he is just as bold as the whiskey in his hand! (in a good way):
Winston has a contagious personality

Again, these photos are just the tip of the iceberg for this event.  Plenty of great folks that I met and chatted whisky with that are not pictured.  I got to pick Dave Pickerell’s brain at the Hillrock booth, I got to meet the Distiller at the Nikka table while falling in love with Taketsura & Yoichi which was super cool.  Chatted with Matt of Widow Jane and got to try some unique things he’s working on.  Plus I got to drink some ‘Bug Juice’ with David Perkins of High West.

All in all, Whisky Advocate does a phenomenal job and if you can make it next year, I highly recommend it.  The people at this event are outstanding and truly passionate about the water of life.  It was joy to spend time with everyone.

Jeez Joe, that’s great and all that you met some people, but this is Whisky Fest…how about the juice?

Ah yes…the next post will focus on just that…before I hand out my ‘Whisky Fest Favorite Drams’ of the event type of post, I’ll start it off with my ‘Whisky Fest Pleasant Surprises’ write up.

After all, almost every booth has some type of surprise...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Widow Jane 7YR Straight Bourbon


I touched upon the notion of romanticism & whiskey in a previous post.
From the Widow Jane website:

The water used to create this product comes from the Widow Jane mine in Rosendale, New York. Rosendale Limestone possesses an even higher ratio of beneficial minerals than that found in Kentucky and its sparkling waters are as pure as its namesake, the Widow Jane. The greatest structures in New York are from the gargantuan caissons that allowed the Brooklyn Bridge to soar, to the Statue of Liberty’s 27,000 ton pedestal, to the Empire State Building itself are all held fast and strong by that Rosendale stone.

 
A combination of unfiltered 91 proof Bourbon and highly mineralized water can lead to a very slight cloudiness (calcium) in the bottle which appears when agitated. It is yet another attractive part of this package. Widow Jane Whiskey is a true New York City whiskey, evocative of both the rock that created the foundation for this city of skyscrapers and the forward looking, DIY spirit that has made Brooklyn the center of a new artisanal food and beverage movement.
Pretty cool stuff.  Now, it is worth noting that the juice itself comes from Kentucky (please correct me if I am wrong).  But, the water used to bring the whiskey down to proof is an important step in the process.   That is where this wonderful Rosedale, NY water comes into play.  While from a technical standpoint I could see the limestone water holding more value in the beginning of the creation of this whiskey as limestone water definitely effects fermentations providing nutrients for yeast and changing some congener chemistry.  But, I could also see dissolved calcium reacting and forming soaps with various congeners and fusel oils changing the filtration process when used in cutting proof.  In fact, the Widow Jane water is so heavily mineralized that I have seen some Widow Jane bottles left to sit that actually formed calcium snow at the bottom. 
I unfortunately missed out on the 5 year old version of Widow Jane’s previous release, but I am super giddy to have received a sample of their 7 year version for review here.  (thanks so much to the fine folks at Cacao Prieto for the sample)
Tasting Notes:

Appearance:  Dark Copper

Nose:  Loads of vanilla & well balanced Charred Oak

Palate:  Baking spices and caramel, cinnamon, slight fruity note which could either be cherries or oranges
Finish:  Coca-Cola, Long, warming and delicious!

Overall:

Cacao Prieto is the company behind this outstanding product and I have to give them credit.  They are mostly known as a fantastic chocolate manufacturer and producers of cacao liqueur and rum.  Their reputation of utilizing the upmost care and consideration of fine details has not been lost in their whiskey endeavor…it reflects a high-end approach.  I’d give it a little time to open up, and maybe even a drop of water if you wish.  But, believe me it will be worth the wait.  This is an excellent Bourbon that I could enjoy anytime, regardless of where it came from or what it was cut with...fantastic.

Score: 90

Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Roses NJWS Tasting


 
I keep banging it home often in these posts…I love the romanticism that surrounds whiskey.


The story behind Four Roses fits that bill perfectly.

As legend has it, Paul Jones Jr. (who started the company in 1884) had a sweetheart.  He had proposed to her, and she playfully came up with a unique way to accept or deny his request.

If the Southern belle were to wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming Grand Ball, it meant that she accepted his proposal.  Sure enough, she accepted, and that moment proved inspirational when it came to naming his new bourbon business. 

That beautiful story is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Four Roses, as they have had past riddled with stories.  Throughout the years there have been a few company buyouts, turmoil, and a point at which they nearly left the US Market for good.

But, not to worry, Four Roses has not gone the way of the Dodo Bird.  Quite the contrary.  They do something I love…they list out their mashbills and yeast strains and how they use them on their website.   Man, I love that technical stuff.  Essentially, they have five proprietary yeast strains, and two separate mashbills.  That leads them to produce 10 different bourbons.  Another key spec is that they use single-story rick houses instead of the more traditional multi-story houses.

Quick Reference List for Four Roses Bourbons:

  • All ten recipes are used in the brand's signature Yellow label.
  • Four recipes are used to create a Small Batch.
  • One recipe is used to create a Single Barrel.
  • Limited Edition releases of any of the above are handpicked by the Master Distiller.

Special thanks to the outstanding folks at the Baddish Group for the samples.  I was able to host a special NJ Whiskey Society meeting this past week, where I presented the entire Four Roses story, complete with obnoxious details about mashbills and three outstanding whiskeys.  Including data sheets and the Four Roses website up for viewing the entire tasting, all members had a fantastic time, and ALL three options were well received.

The only challenge was selecting a favorite!
 
Roses?  You shouldn't have...
 
Here is a quick rundown of what we sampled (with my tasting notes):
 

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Appearance:  Amber +1

Nose:  Floral, slight citrus (oranges)

Palate:  Vanilla, Oak, Corn, has the crispness of biting into a fresh Granny Smith apple

Finish:  A little dry, but smooth & spicy

Overall:  The flagship & brand standard.  It is Johnny Walker Red to JW, it is White Label to Jim Beam, it is Yellow Label to Four Roses.  It can be found almost anywhere in the USA for under $25 and is so surprisingly tasty that, tasted blind, I bet some folks would put it in the category of $30 booze.  Certainly some of the best Bourbon you can find that is also available in a plastic jug.  This one does not deserve to be lumped into a category with the other ‘bottom shelfers’.  Score:  82


Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Appearance:  Copper

Nose:  That signature floral note, peppery spices, caramel

Palate:  A bit of apple, nutmeg, a little wood

Finish:  A tiny bit of spice on the back end, caramel & cinnamon

Overall:  For the Small Batch, they combine four of their recipes in an effort to create something that is unique, smooth and still complex.  Mission accomplished.  This is a very easy-drinker, and a front runner as an introductory Bourbon for newbies.  The fact that it is a bit one-note keeps me from scoring it higher, but it is tough not to like this stuff.  Score:  85

Four Roses Single Barrel

Official NJWS Tasting Notes Sheet & 4RSB

(Warehouse WE, Barrel 8-14)

Appearance:  Dark Amber

Nose:   Big Time Vanilla, Oak, Floral (break out the Zyrtec, it’s lovely!)

Palate:  Lots going on here…Syrupy molasses, Vanilla, assorted fruits (berries)

Finish:  Long and Smooth and Warming

Overall:  This is the most expensive of the three we sampled here today, and as the name implies, it is a Single Barrel.  Meaning that this whiskey came from one barrel, and was not blended or married or vatted or however you would like to phrase it.  The beauty of a Single Barrel is that there will be some variation barrel to barrel, but when you get a great one it shines well above the price paid.  (a-la the Balvenie 15YR in Scotch).  The bottle itself is a pretty cool decanter-style presentation with a leather strap, and the 50% ABV makes me a happy man!  Keeping the proof this high really lets the whiskey shine as all of the complex flavors burst on the palate and leave you gasping for more.  One of my favorites.  Score:  90

OVERALL:

Jim Rutledge has been at the helm since 1995 and has been kicking butt ever since.  Know as 'Mr. Four Roses', he is just awesome.  I love virtually everything that he has had his name behind, and all three of these expression follow suit.  I'd love to try their Black label and Super Premium expressions, but they are only released in Japan.  Four Roses is surely one of my favorite 'major' distilleries going right now as I simply have not had a bad one in years.  (I had a slightly off 4RSB about 4 years ago, but that is the beauty of Single Barrels, no-harm no-foul.  Even off it was better than most!)  I have had quite a few of these Single Barrels over the years, so even despite that one bottle, I can say with confidence that for the price it is still one of the most consistently outstanding bourbons you can find easily.  Overall, Four Roses makes a fine product and I usually have one of them on my shelf as a go-to grabber in a pinch as they tend to embody classic execution.  Like I stated earlier, their website is loaded with precious wonderful details, including their recipe strategy here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hudson Whiskey: Distilled With Determination


Having a good laugh with Ralph Erenzo

The Fall issue of Talk Of The Town Magazine is now out, and I am proud to say that Whisky Joe is a part of it!

Last issue I touched upon some playful ice ideas with Bourbon, and this time a Distillery Tour is on tap.

Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown Distillery took some time to let me interview him, and then we went on a tour of the distillery. 

CHECK OUT A SNEAK PEEK AT THEIR NEW LIMITED EDITION MAPLE CASK RYE WHISKEY!!!

Please check it out as you relax with a cup of coffee one morning this weekend.

(Page 82)

 
(Page 84)



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Glenmorangie Tasting


Many moons ago, I attended one of the Whisky Guild events in Morristown, NJ.  It is put on yearly, and is a lovely event if you can attend.

One of the neat features is usually a special class that goes on before/during the event for a few lucky folks that elect to join in.  A couple of years ago, I attended the Glenmorangie sampling class, and it was fantastic.

First, it was hosted by the always fantastic David Blackmore.  He was awarded Brand Ambassador of the Year in 2012 and 2013 by Whisky Magazine.  (the only person to have won the award two years running)  Rightfully so as well.  David was energetic and spirited, and truthful/charming in a way that only he can be.

Next, we got to sample a whopping 7 expressions from the Glenmorangie range.  Please note, I had to hop in my DeLorean to put these notes together, as this event was back when Artein was just being released.




We sampled:

Glenmorangie Original (reviewed here)

Glenmorangie Quina Ruban

Glenmorangie Lasanta

Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or

Glenmorangie Artein

Glenmorangie 18

Glenmorangie Signet

In an effort to capture this whole tasting in one post, I am going to do some quick reviews of each expression below.  Since the Original has already been reviewed, I will start with the Quinta Ruban:

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban  46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  One of the darkest of the lot.  Likely due to the Port Finish.  Gold.

Nose:  Fruity and Rich, specifically citrus & raisins, and a bit nutty.

Palate:  More citrus (oranges), and chocolate now, but refreshing chocolate like Junior Mints!

Finish:  Fairly long with more chocolate

Score = 87, After 10 years in white oak, the Port Pipes really add dimension to this one.  I’m a sucker for Ports…and the price for this Port finish is great compared to many of its contemporaries.

 

Glenmorangie Lasanta 46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  Light Straw

Nose:  Spices & Sweetness (sticky kind of sweet, think honey)

Palate:  Sherry, very sweet cherry & citrus combine with warming spices (cinnamon)

Finish:  Medium to long with more sherry & a touch of nuttiness

Score = 85.5, the Oloroso Sherry casks due make it soft and deep, but just a little unbalanced.

 

Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or  46% ABV  Around 12 Years Old

Appearance:  Literally looks like honey

Nose:  Lots of honey and citrus…fresh squeezed oranges & lime sherbet

Palate:  Slight spices (nutmeg) and thick syrupy Grade A Honey.

Finish:  Long & sweet.  Lemon sherbet now with vanilla notes.

Score = 86.5, another solid one for the sweet tooth, good use of Sauternes barriques.

Glenmorangie Artein  46% ABV  NAS

Appearance:  Dark, deep reddish-gold

Nose:  Fruit!  Lots of berry notes and honey

Palate:  Fuzzy fruits (peaches, plums) and chocolate covered cherries

Finish:  Long but bright and feisty, slightly creamy

Score = 87, another strong expression that is complex and intriguing.





Glenmorangie 18 Years Old

Appearance:  Dark Honey

Nose:  Like a bouquet of flowers, hard to pin down one

Palate:  Malt & honey, rich fruits like figs, Oak

Finish:  Long & Dry, definitely the malty/nutty flavors of the sherry

Score = 87.5, that nose was so floral and lovely…large percentage of this high grade is from that outstanding nose.


Glenmorangie SIGNET  46% ABV NAS

Appearance:  Amber in the shade

Nose:  Chocolate!  Lots of rich scents…fresh brewed dark coffee

Palate:  Sweet and bitter at once, in a good way.  Beautifully complex like a chocolate covered coffee bean with spices sprinkled on top.

Finish:  Long and starts to brighten up a little (oranges), but so lovely and rich.

Score = 92, the best of the bunch in a landslide.  Simply stunning and complex.  By far the most ‘chocolate-like’ Scotch I have ever had…left me wanting more!

Overall:

I must say that this event was fantastic.  David deftly used a PowerPoint presentation more to highlight certain aspects of the Glenmorangie Distillery and practices, rather than to bore you.  The whiskeys were quite solid all the way around, and the SIGNET just blew me away!  The core Glenmorangie spirit lends itself to cask experimentation, and it really shows through these expressions.  I highly recommend exploring this range either via samplers or a tasting like this.