Very well-balanced and mellow on the nose and palate. Sweet notes of mature dark rum, toffee, nougat, and candy corn dovetail with dried apricot, golden raisin, hot cinnamon, soft mint tea, and vanilla. Polished leather and tobacco leaves on a long, contemplative finish. This is what ultra-mature bourbon should taste like: all the depth and complexity that comes with this much aging, without all the excessive oak. The wood is there, but it never crosses the line. The next closest Heaven Hill bourbon in age is the Evan Williams 23 year old for the export market. There's no comparison. The Evan Williams 23 year old is way past its prime. This Parker's Heritage Collection has it easily beat. In fact, this Parker's shows less oak and lethargy on the finish than the 129.6 proof expression of last year's inaugural 1996 vintage Parker's Heritage Collection, a whisky less than half its age. (There were three different expressions, and I thought the other two were outstanding).
Parker Beam chose these whiskeys from the third floor of Warehouse U. Given that the whiskeys were low in the warehouse, the average summer high temperatures were 6-10 degrees cooler than the top floor; helping to slow the aging process and the oak influence.
It’s great that Glenlivet releases whiskies under the 'Cellar Collection' label. It really shows the true potential of Glenlivet. This bottling is classic ultra-matured Glenlivet, and rivals the 1959 vintage Cellar Collection as the best one ever. An incredibly complex whisky, with notes of vanilla, ripe barley, coconut, and caramel. All this is accentuated by glazed orange, hazelnut, and a potpourri of dried spices. Not the least bit tired for such an aged whisky. (Only 800 bottles for the U.S.)
The Dalmore is one of a handful of whiskies that seem to be able to age in the cask for many decades and still improve. This one is incredibly viscous on the nose and palate (and very heavy on the tongue), with chewy toffee and old pot still rum. The classic Dalmore marmalade note shines throughout, along with vanilla cream, an array of dried spices (especially cinnamon and evergreen), juicy oak, forest bedding, rancio, old armagnac, polished leather, tobacco, maple syrup, dark chocolate, almond macaroon, and subtle espresso. Long, mouth-coating finish. The flavors evolve like waves lapping on the palate -- especially the interplay with the oak. I can’t drink this whisky slowly enough. A rare experience for the lucky few who can afford it. (Price is per 100ml.)
A crisp, robust, very dynamic bourbon. Amber-orange marmalade color. Spicy, with notes of cinnamon, spearmint, and Earl Grey tea. The spice is balanced nicely by thick toffee, rhum agricole, caramel apple, and bright citrus, with a polished leather finish. There have been some great Birthday Bourbons, but I think this is the best one to date. A whiskey deserving classic status.
The Macallan 29 year old 1976 Vintage (Cask #11354), 45.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,500
Classic sherry cask-aged Macallan. Antique amber with hints of ruby. Thickly textured, complex, and quite deep, with notes of toffee, ripe pit fruit, raisin, apple pie, dried spice (cinnamon, clove, ginger, and mint), and a wisp of smoke. An exceptional, multi-faceted Macallan!
Deep amber color. Bold and surprisingly youthful aromas, and quite vibrant for its age-huge spicy notes (mint, cinnamon, vanilla, anise, freshly ground pepper), with rich toffee, caramel and background fruit. Rich, enveloping body. Enormous in flavor, with youthful dynamic spices (mint, cinnamon, vanilla, pepper), wrapped in rich toffee and molasses, tamed by mature oak and leather notes. The flavors intensify on the palate, ultimately reaching a crescendo. The boldness of the spices and maturity of age dovetail perfectly. Its finish is very satisfying and seemingly eternal.
My review of this whiskey a few years back indicated that it was too woody and past its prime to be a great whiskey. This one is better. (Yes, bottlings do change.) There’s more balance, and the oak is in check. It’s still big and brooding, with notes of toffee, roasted nuts, dried spice (cinnamon, rosemary, evergreen needles), candied fruit, cocoa, and polished oak. Tobacco and toffee on the finish, with lingering dried spices, and there’s a nice foundation of sweetness to balance all the oak and spice.
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.
A wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller distillery. A gentle, richly-textured whiskey, loaded with fruit and spice. Black raspberry jam, caramel apple, and papaya, along with warming cinnamon and subtle teaberry, on nutty toffee, nougat, and creamy vanilla. Spicy, polished oak finish. Superbly balanced, sophisticated, and very drinkable. An outstanding whiskey!
Deep gold color. Surprisingly lively on the nose for its age. A complex array of fruit (tangerine, sultana, pink grapefruit, papaya, and the general overall citrus DNA that you’ll find in old Bowmores), with balancing notes of honey and vanilla. A hint of damp smoke and coconut. Just like with Black Bowmore, this is a texturally soothing whisky on the palate, which continues to evolve in waves -- first the sweet honey, coating vanilla, and lively fruit, then turning quite visceral, with juicy oak, damp earth, deep peat smoke, and charcoal, followed by another wave of fruit (this time, dried fruit), finishing off with subtle charred oak and roasted nuts. This whisky is better than White Bowmore, and it falls just short of Black Bowmore (which I rated 97), because it’s just a bit softer and less vibrant on the palate.
Surprisingly lively. Very much like the 21 year old release in this regard, but not as spicy on the nose or palate. Instead, the spice is replaced by a layered, satisfying sweetness -- not by wood, like the somewhat lethargic, oak-dominated 23 year old release. Older doesn’t mean that it tastes older. Deep, nutty toffee foundation, with nougat, candied tropical fruit, and shoo-fly pie. The spices (cinnamon, spearmint, vanilla, cocoa powder) emerge mid-palate and linger, warming the finish. Not as vibrant as the 21 year old expression, but more sophisticated. I can’t speak for the other barrels in this lot, but I think this one is a great example of what a 20-plus year old rye whiskey should taste like.
Jameson Pure Pot Still Limited Reserve, 15 year old, 43%
Irish | $100.00
Antique gold. It’s the only 'pure pot still' whiskey produced at the Midleton distillery that’s available in the U.S., and its impact on the whiskey is enormous. Its flavors continue to evolve and are perfectly balanced with notes of lush fruit, toffee, fudge, almonds, and vanilla. It finishes long, with mature oak notes that linger. More seductive and not as bold as Jameson Gold. This is the definitive Irish whiskey-it's as simple as that! It will satisfy both Scotch and Irish whiskey drinkers. Don't come whining to me several months from now because you didn't get a bottle! Buy it now while you still can.
A benchmark rye whiskey, which has been stored in stainless steel tanks the past several years to prevent excessive aging while new batches mature. This is the last of the “tanked” stock. Soft and teasing for a rye whiskey, but perfectly balanced. Gentle toffee and molasses provide a foundation for interwoven clove, mint, and cinnamon. Delicately dry, lingering finish. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2015 Release.
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch (2015 Release), 54.3%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $120
Seamless in flavor and very elegant. A fully matured bourbon (consisting of whiskeys from 11 to 16 years in age), yet quite fresh on the palate. Lively fruit (apricot, red raspberry, tangerine) on a bed of lush sweet notes (caramel, honey-coconut crème brûlée and cotton candy), peppered with cinnamon, clove, and crisp mint. Soft finish, with lingering creamy vanilla. Not as great as the legendary 2013 release, but close.
A benchmark aged rye whiskey, and it’s similar in profile to recent releases . Vibrant for its age. Complex too, brimming with allspice, clove, mint, and cinnamon. The spice notes are balanced by soft vanilla, soothing caramel, and candied summer fruits. Impeccably balanced, and a pure joy to drink!
Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel (2014 Release), 60%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $100
Aged 11 years, this year’s single barrel release is a lively mix of caramel and bright, zingy orange on palate entry. Cinnamon, vanilla, and mint emerge mid-palate, leading to polished oak, baked apple, and a hint of leather on the finish. A lively bourbon, with crisp, clean flavors and nicely balanced. Another winner from Four Roses.
Still lively for 18 years old, with no hint of interfering oak. The age has softened the rye spice, making it an easy entry into the premium rye category. The balance here is beautiful, with rounded spice (mint, cinnamon, licorice root) on a bed of soft vanilla and caramel. Gently, dry finish. Very sophisticated for a rye. It remains my benchmark for extra-matured rye whiskeys, which are becoming exceedingly scarce. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2013 Release.
The traditionally gentle demeanor of this wheated bourbon is jazzed up with some lovely complex spice (mostly coming from the oak). Sweet notes of maple syrup, silky caramel, blackberry jam, and blueberry are peppered with notes of allspice spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. Soft leather on the finish. Great balance. A lovely whiskey! Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2013 Release.