Just what the category was missing -- a stellar, young, barrel-proof rye whiskey. Hugely spicy, with piercing mint, fiery cinnamon, vanilla, coconut, and fennel. Underlying notes of caramel, honey, and Seville orange provide some civility. It has more zing and richness than other young rye whiskeys, and it lacks the tired woodiness of the majority of the older rye expressions on the market. A clean, powerful, vibrant whisky that is a must for any rye enthusiast.
Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Four Grain, Batch #2, 46.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $85.00
Batch #1, while a very good bourbon, didn’t quite seem to reach its potential. The flavors were there, but were not integrated and as cohesive as I would have hoped for in a four-grain, pot-distilled bourbon. Batch #2 has realized this whiskey’s full potential. The flavors I expect are all there, and they are more tightly integrated and polished. It really does taste different than any other bourbon on the market. I particularly enjoy its silky, creamy, nutty sweetness, which is balanced nicely with dry spice notes that peak on the finish. It’s very soothing and enjoyable. A whisky for bourbon and scotch drinkers alike.
Creamy, silky texture on the palate. Richer than the flagship Crown Royal, but still quite clean on the palate. Along with creamy vanilla, delicate fruit and floral notes, you’ll also find caramel and butterscotch, a peppering of spice (particularly cinnamon), and light nougat. Silky smooth finish. A benchmark whisky in the traditional Canadian style.
Thick, dark, sweet notes of rummy molasses, chewy toffee, fig cake, and some teasing notes of chocolate fudge. Between these layers of sweetness emerge notes of dark berried fruit and glazed citrus. A very seductive, compelling whiskey. Liquid dessert.
Surprisingly clean and youthful for a 30 year old, both on the nose and palate. Complex, too, with a sea breeze freshness, vanilla malt, polished oak spice, smoked seaweed, lightly tarred boat docks, toasted nuts, and lingering telicherry pepper. Mature, yet still quite powerful. Rivals the original Talisker 25 year old and the Talisker 18 year old as one of the finest Talisker whiskies ever released.
Some of the best intensely smoky, peaty Islay whiskies are balanced with a foundation of malty sweetness. This whisky is an excellent example. A sinewy malt with the classic bold notes of kiln smoke, peat, tarry rope, and coal ash. Sweeter notes of honeyed malt, ripe vanilla, chocolate fudge, and toasted marshmallow temper and sooth the palate, along with background berry confit. The smoke lingers long on the palate. Ardbeg devotees will not be disappointed.
Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish 18 year old 1987 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $450
Waves of fruit (apple pie, orange marmalade, sultana, ripe pineapple), accented with notes of dark chocolate, roasted nuts, and spice (cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, evergreen), particularly on the finish. (In the past, I’ve thought that a couple of these limited edition Glemorangie wood finishes were a little overdone with the finishing, but not this one).
A bright and lively bourbon. Nicely balanced, too, with notes of caramel custard, red licorice, orange marmalade, golden raisin, and coconut cream, underpinned by crisp rye and tantalizing cinnamon. A gently sweetish whiskey -- not cloying in any way. In fact, it’s very drinkable. And it’s a whiskey that demonstrates great harmony between youth and maturity.
Glenfiddich 21 year old Gran Reserva Caribbean Rum Finish, 40%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
Soothing and seamless on the nose and palate with chewy toffee, molasses, nougat, almond butter, vanilla fudge, cinnamon spice, and nutmeg, along with gentle tobacco notes emerging later on the palate. A pleasing dry finish offsets the sweeter notes. A delicious whisky from beginning to end.
Sweeter notes of pecan pie, dates, sweet corn, candied fruit, and English toffee combine with dried spices -- cinnamon heat, vanilla, and mint -- which crescendoes on its long, dry finish. A nicely matured bourbon with decent weight to it. Some of the expressions in the earlier part of the decade were a little heavy on the oak, but the last couple of years have shown greater balance.
An elder Lagavulin. Thirty years of oak aging has mellowed this whisky. Fragrant and floral, with suggestions of perfumed soap. Spicy too, with cinnamon and anise. Classic leafy, smoky notes, along with some tarry rope, emerge on the palate and maintain a steady keel as they work their way through an ocean of vanilla malt. Lingering finish of burning embers. Certainly an enjoyable Lagavulin, but I still like the standard 16 year old better. It’s hard to improve on a classic.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 13 year old, 1993 Vintage, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35.00
The same vintage as last year’s Birthday Bourbon but aged one year longer. Last year’s version was quite intense with a lot of wood influence. What does one more year in wood do to the whisky? Surprisingly, the oak spice seems less dominant, and the flavors are more balanced. Still, this is still a serious bourbon drinker’s bourbon. Piquant, dried spice notes of vanilla, cocoa, mint, and cinnamon are tamed by layers of maple syrup, caramel, and toffee. Every once in a while some fruits try to get recognized. A powerful, after dinner bourbon.
Light and easy drinking. Very clean on the palate, with notes of creamy vanilla, subtle fruit, and delicate floral notes. Light, clean finish. When I think of Canadian whisky, this is the whisky that comes to mind.
Signatory (distilled at Glenlivet) 25 year old 1980 vintage (Cask #13735), 53.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
Very fragrant. Spicy too, with notes of honeyed vanilla, peaches in cream, butterscotch, cinnamon, licorice (red and black), light nuttiness, and toasted oak on the finish. Nice mouthfeel, well-balanced, and quite rich for such an elegant whisky.
Pleasingly sweet and fruity, with notes of caramel apples, berries in honey, vanilla, and ripe pear. Fresh brine and subtle mint emerge occasionally and linger on the finish. Nicely balanced, more complex with a wider range of flavors than the Old Pulteney 21 year old.
Signatory (distilled at Rosebank), 14 year old, 1991 vintage, cask #4755, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $60.00
Delicately floral (lavender, rose) and perfumed, with notes of chamomile, hay, soft vanilla and gentle malt. Creamy and soothing, with a gently dry finish. Lots of depth for a lighter weight whisky. A lovely aperitif. I feel Rosebank is freshest and best when it is young. With the distillery closing in 1993, now’s the time to act, and this is one of the better bottlings I’ve tasted.
Signatory 16 year old 1988 vintage (Cask #42508, distilled at Bowmore), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
Medium-bodied and nicely textured. Good balance of flavors -- and well-integrated, too -- with lovely sweet notes (cereal grain, cookie dough, caramel, and vanilla cream), young heathery peat, tar, fishnets, and brine that is complementary, but not aggressive, with a suggestion of lavender and tangerine. Balanced finish. (332 bottles produced.)
Signatory 14 year old 1990 vintage (distilled at Macallan, Cask #16294), 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $70
Aged in a refill butt, and very pale in color. Very fragrant -- fruity and spicy -- with notes of vanilla, lemongrass, ginger, sultana, citrus zest, key lime, and green grapes. There’s a floral component, too (rose petals?). A very delicate Macallan, and quite suitable as an aperitif. (749 bottles produced.)