This is a good as rye whiskey gets. It’s powerfully spicy, yet there is a calming sweetness along with soft berry and citrus fruit behind the spice. I find its oily texture very soothing, and this also marries beautifully with the spice from the rye and the resinous oak. The flavors are crisp and incredibly clean, and the 18 years in oak has added formidable depth.
The 11th annual vintage release of Evan Williams and, judging by the taste of this bourbon, there’s no shortage of excellent bourbon to bottle. This is a rich, seductive bourbon. Sticky toffee, maple syrup, and vanilla cream notes up front are followed by candied fruit, refreshing mint, and spicy cinnamon. Dry, resinous oak finish. Kentucky’s answer to a beautifully sherried Speyside single malt scotch. Outstanding!
Another of the Fine Oak series (aged in both bourbon and sherry casks), which will debut in the U.S. in March. Of the five Fine Oak expressions that will be in the U.S. (10, 15, 17, 21, and 30 year old), this is my favorite, slightly besting the 15 year old. Lovely sweet notes (creamy vanilla, light toffee, marshmallow, shortbread, and a kiss of honey) are accompanied by bright fruit (multi-layered citrus) and potpourri of dried spices, along with a hint of nut and wisp of smoke. A very refined and sophisticated whisky.
I really enjoy these older Eagle Rare whiskeys. They’re big, hearty whiskies that are very traditional in style, but have extra depth on the palate due to the extensive aging. Sweet notes (candy corn and toffee) meld nicely with underlying nuttiness (pecans, almonds), delicate spice (vanilla, cinnamon, mint), and a hint of leather. One of the best Eagle Rares I have ever tasted.
Black Bottle is unique in that it combines seven different Islay whiskies with grain whisky. This produces a whisky with a beautifully rounded Islay character that will satisfy the discriminating “peat-head,” the drinkability of a blended scotch, and plenty of complexity. For a blend, there’s heft to the whisky. I enjoy the interplay between the peat smoke, brine, seaweed, its firm, malty foundation and pleasingly dry finish.
No frills here, just pure, unadulterated Bowmore. This Islay whisky speaks of its location in a very pure and natural way. I find invigorating brine, seaweed, green olive, and fishnets, along with the classic Bowmore peat smoke. All these flavors are softened by gentle vanilla and honeyed malt, while background tropical fruit add complexity.
These Stagg releases are becoming legendary. This one, while not the best of the bottlings, maintains the Stagg reputation. When compared with the earlier release in 2005, this Stagg expresses a shade less oak. It’s also more subtle and creamier on the palate. It’s clean, superbly balanced, and very drinkable-even at higher strengths. Light toffee, maple syrup, and caramel corn provide a bed of sweetness. Layered on top are notes of candied fruit, crisp mint, vanilla, and polished oak. Soft finish. Just don’t add too much water to it because the flavors seem to lose their cohesiveness at lower strengths. Drink this whiskey at a strength higher than you normally would to fully appreciate it.
Woodford Reserve Distillery Master's Collection Four Grain, 46.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $80.00
The first four-grain, 100% copper pot-distilled bourbon in many decades. The flavors are distinctive, silky-textured, and seamless. Bright fruit notes of berries and citrus are balanced nicely by maple syrup, caramel and toffee. The whiskey is quite nutty too and delicately spiced with vanilla, mint, and cinnamon. It finishes pleasingly smooth and polished.
A new expression due out in March, positioned between the 12 and 18 year old versions. A fresh and enormously drinkable whisky; very silky, with honeyed malt, delicate citrus and berry fruit, floral notes (heather and lavender), and a hint of cocoa and sea spray.
A lovely example of a mature, sherried Bowmore. Its rich flavors evolve on the palate and are nicely balanced. Lush fruit, juicy oak, damp peat, and kiln smoke are peppered with cinnamon, raisins, dates, and cocoa. Warming, soothing finish. Not quite Black Bowmore, but a delicious whisky nonetheless.
A limited edition of 2000 bottles. Thick and syrupy on the palate, accentuated with vanilla and shortbread. You’ll also find pleasing peaches & cream, zingy citrus fruit, along with a hint of nuts, spice, and a pinch of salt on the palate. A nice addition to the 14 year old distillery bottling. Kudos for bottling it at cask strength.
The oldest whisky ever bottled by Glenfarclas. Fortunately, Glenfarclas ages very nicely. This whisky proves my point. It is very complex, with notes of burnished leather, roasted nuts, fruit cake, toffee apples, sultana, damp peat, and sappy oak. A very soothing whisky, with the depth and maturity one hopes for in a whisky this old. Only 110 bottles produced and only 18 destined for the U.S.
Keeping in the Weller tradition, this one is a wheated bourbon. Some wheated bourbons, although easy to drink, can taste a bit too sweet without the spicy rye notes in there. The better ones are often aged a little longer and/or bottled at higher strengths, where the wood and alcohol accompany the sweetness. You’ll find soothingly rich toffee, caramel fudge, dates, and nougat brightened up by berried fruit, and a hint of dusty corn. Gently sweet finish.
New packaging and new whisky too-sort of. According to Glenlivet’s whisky maker Jim Cryle, Archive is now being bottled in smaller batches, allowing them to be more selective in the casks used to improve its quality and flavor. I believe that it has worked. It tastes more refined. Along with Archive’s signature creamy toffee notes, I’m picking up beautiful floral, vanilla, and fruity notes (peaches, pineapple, coconut) on the nose and palate, with subtler nutty, anise threads throughout. An elegant expression of Glenlivet.
The follow-up and older sibling to "Curiositas." I’ve been pushing for Speyside distilleries to bump up the peating levels of their malt they use for a long time because a majority of the spirits are big enough to handle the peat smoke, and this whisky proves my point. The tarry, peat smoke and bacon-like notes are a delight, and they are balanced nicely by a honey and apple pie sweetness. Spanish olives in brine, dark chocolate, golden raisin, and subtle spice round out the palate nicely. Not a heavy whisky, but pretty powerful stuff for BenRiach. So nice of the previous owners of this distillery to experiment with higher peating levels decades ago.
This whisky combines the finer qualities of both the 18 year old and the 25 year old. It expresses the balance and purity of the 18 year old, while showing maturity found in the 25 year old. The lack of chill-filtering enhances the whisky’s vibrancy and, like all the Benromachs, it’s mouth-coatingly thick and malty.
The whisky is quite fruity (green grape, orange, tangerine, and dark cherry), with balancing notes of vanilla, roasted nuts, and a hint of peat. Dry, lightly spicy finish that lingers. It is complex and nicely balanced for a whisky of this age. Still, I feel the 15 year old Fine Oak edition is better and, at $65, one-tenth the cost.
The most richly textured and complex of the unpeated expressions. Base notes of honeyed malt and creamy vanilla are complemented by citrus fruit (lemon, tangerine), coconut, bitter chocolate, exotic wood shavings, and a hint of assorted nuts. Polished oak finish.
This one stands out from the other three because of its port wood finishing. Dark amber/ruby color. You’ll discover lush fruit and a rich nuttiness on top of the typical flavors expressed in the 18 year old. Additional layers of intense spice and oak notes balance the whisky’s sweetness and fruit. The heartiest of the bunch.
A tamed Talisker. The classic Talisker personality shows-seaweed, brine, peat smoke, and freshly ground pepper on the finish. There are even other interesting flavors I enjoy, notably vanilla, licorice root, charcoal, and bitter chocolate. But this whisky needs to be a little livelier to be a truly great whisky. While there’s no age statement, there’s older whisky in here for sure, and maybe that’s part of its “reserved” nature. It certainly is a nice whisky, but I would prefer the more vibrant Talisker 18 year old -at two-thirds the cost.
The oldest of the group, and it shows. When compared to younger expressions, there’s less peaches and more citrus (lemon, tangerine). It is thicker on the palate-with notes of fat barley and crème brulee-before dry, resinous oak notes intensify. Dry, spicy finish. Not as even-keeled as younger expressions, but quite dynamic.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 12 year old, 1993 Vintage, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40.00
One of the biggest Birthday Bourbons to date. This whiskey was aged on the top corner of a warehouse where the temperature extremes are at their greatest. The greater the temperature extreme, the greater the impact of the barrel. The wood is immediately noticeable on the nose and palate-there are plenty of concentrated dried spice notes throughout. Dried vanilla, mint, fiery cinnamon, cedar, and assorted fruits are sweetened and calmed by notes of maple syrup and toffee. Until about mid-palate, that is. Then, another wave of dried spices kicks in, remaining through the finish. For serious bourbon drinkers.
Whisky from two different sherry casks. The sherry, extra aging, and higher strength produce an intensely rich Auchentoshan. Fudgy caramel, toffee and cocoa notes are offset by golden raisin, apricot, and Clementine. Underlying notes of roasted nuts, old leather, and spice (vanilla, mint) peek through occasionally. An enjoyable whisky, but much of the Auchentoshan is lost somewhere in all that oak and sherry.
Nicely balanced, and easy to drink. Pit fruits (peaches, apricots) and lemon are the dominant notes, with underlying vanilla cream, butterscotch, and a hint of honey. Gently dry, delicately spicy finish. The most rounded of the four.
Enjoyable creamy texture and medium-bodied. Gently sweet notes of light toffee and vanilla custard, especially towards the front of the palate. Nutty too, with some sultana in the background. Gentle oak notes towards the finish. A very clean, well-balanced whisky that’s very easy to drink but also takes few risks.
Auchentoshan 17 year old Bordeaux Wine Finish, 51%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
A peculiar Auchentoshan. The Bordeaux wine dominates, with its distinctive winery aroma and flavor. Red raspberry, red currant, and a hint of strawberry comprise the core of this whisky, with underlying notes of vanilla cream, cocoa, and a hint of demerara rum. The whisky spent nine of its years in Bordeaux wine casks. I would have preferred less time in the wine casks for such a delicate whisky.