Friday, March 27, 2015

Orphan Barrel Barterhouse 20 Year Kentucky Bourbon

The Orphan Barrel releases form Diageo have been coming under some fire, primarily for their marketing techniques. These bourbons have been promoted as lost or forgotten about stocks of whiskey, only recently discovered, and being released in limited quantities. The amount of bottles made available in waves, however, seems to defy the statement that these releases are limited. Additionally, the labeling has been a bit gimmicky, simply adding more fodder.

All that aside (and I'm not looking to get on any soapboxes anyway), the one positive is that Diageo is releasing well-aged bourbons, and there is always a market for extra aged whiskey.

So, I gave Barterhouse a try. Before I get to the whiskey itself, I will note that this particular bottle was #70,817, and while I have not checked the numbering on each bottle, I continue to see this stuff on shelves.

The bourbon itself is 90.2 proof. I do tend to favor the higher proof bourbons, but I was hoping that the age of the bourbon would add some complexity and character.

On my first sip, the flavor up front was just okay. It's a dry whiskey, and I immediately noticed cloves and wood.  What's interesting was the vanilla bomb that followed. It wasn't a sweet vanilla, like ice cream, but rather the flavor of unsweetened vanilla.  It came on the back end of each swallow, but it came strong and lingered for a while. It was rich, yet not sweet.

After the bottle was open a while, the wood flavors that I expected really came to the foreground. The clove spice seemed to transform to a hot pepper type spice, leaving an unsweetened-vanilla/oak/hot pepper combination which, unfortunately, did not blend well. They weren't exactly complementary flavors, and it just stuck out as an odd combination of flavors.

Interestingly, though, I really loved the nose on this one. I could have sat on the couch all night just holding the glass under my nose and enjoying it. That will only get you so far, though.

All in all, it's a drinkable whiskey, but one I'm not likely to go back for.

Grade: B-

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Four Roses Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon OBSV - Binny's Private Selection

This is my first try of any of the Four Roses Private Selection recipes.  I always see them on the shelves at my local Binny's, but just never got around to picking one up.  I realized with my first sip what a mistake I was making!

This particular bottling was aged 12 years and 1 month, and has a ABV of 58.9%.  I've previously reviewed the regular Four Roses Single Barrel, so I at least had some point of reference when tasting this.  Ultimately, though, it didn't matter, as this was one of the better bourbons I've had in a while, one where I was truly sad when I got to the bottom of the bottle.

Because it's barrel strength, I expected a high burn (as I got from the regular Single Barrel).  I'm not sure what would have caused the difference, but there was surprisingly little burn to this one.  It's still high proof, no question about it. It just didn't have the burn that I expected.

The flavor up front, though was light and sweet, reminding me of a mix of pear and vanilla.  It was incredibly flavorful and tasty from the start.

At the back end it added a distinct flavor of chocolate-orange - just like the chocolate oranges that you can buy from the store.  That had me wanting to take my next sip right away!  As the bottle sat open for a bit, the pear/apple flavors remained, but it took on an added salted caramel flavor that only made it better.

Because it's high proof, I found this bourbon to be very warming, which was complemented by the high rye content (a personal preference of mine).  The light fruitiness mixed with the heavy rye provided great balance.

I know each barrel is going to have different characteristics, but I loved this particular recipe, and, if it weren't for the fact that there are 9 more that I want to try, I'd go back for this one in a heartbeat.

Grade: A-

Monday, March 16, 2015

Glenmorangie Tusail Private Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Once again my wonderful wife surprised me with a nice bottle of Scotch when I got home today--a bit of a minor celebration.  Her motivation in selecting whiskeys for me is ever-changing, but this particular one came on recommendation from someone working at the liquor store as a new item that they just got in and which they were limiting to one per customer.  Little did she know I had read the backstory on this particular Scotch earlier that morning, and was certainly intrigued.

Each year Glenmorangie releases a Private Edition bottling, usually something particularly special or different.  In this case, it was more of the latter.  The Tusail was distilled using a different barley from the norm.  In reading up on it, I learned that it used what is called Maris Otter barley, a unique winter barley that used to be used quite frequently in fermentation and brewing, particularly among British brewers.  Apparently, though, it is a slower fermentation process as compared to other barley, and it fell out of favor, replaced in large part by barley that provided greater yield. 

Glenmorangie decided to give this unique strain of barley a try for its sixth Private Edition release, and Tusail is the result. It is 46% ABV, and does not carry an age statement (as seems to be the case with so many new releases).  

On the nose it was one of the best scents I've ever enjoyed, reminding me of dried apricot and brown sugar -- sweet but not overly sweet.  I seriously want to bottle this scent as a cologne.  I could tell it was going to be something very tasty.

On the palate it is equally as sweet, again reminding me of dried apricot, but with a walnut flavored undertone.  It was actually less fruity than I expected.  It actually had a certain flavor that makes this Scotch unique, kind of in the same way that wheat gives bourbons a certain quality that distinguishes wheaters from other bourbons.

This Scotch was "meatier" than most, if that makes sense.  It was a bit oily, full bodied, and very flavorful, but not strong in any way. On the back end it had a light smokiness that carried through to a sweet aftertaste.

Interestingly, after a few pours, it felt like the fruit flavors increased, coming across more as a sherry-finished Scotch.  This actually made me like it even more.

All in all, this was a winner of an experiment for Glenmorangie, and I was sad to see that last pour go (but very happy to enjoy it).

Grade: B+

Saturday, March 7, 2015

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Very Special Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon

I love trying the limited or private bottlings, rare whiskeys and barrel strength offerings, not to mention craft whiskeys.  However, as young as this blog is (and with as many whiskeys out there that I have never tried) I feel the need to still make my way through the standards.  Larceny, to me, is one such "standard," being readily available in nearly any grocery or liquor store, and incredibly affordable at around $21.00. 

Larceny, a product of Heaven Hill Distilleries, is a wheated bourbon, described as "very special small batch" (somehow distinguishing it from every other bourbon that calls itself "small batch") and weighs in at 46% ABV.

The nose of this bourbon is not strong.  It has the standard vanilla and toffee notes to it, but nothing about it really stood out. The first pour, quite frankly, pretty much followed suit.  It's a thin, watery bourbon, lacking any substance. 

The flavor is likewise not strong.  What is there is good.  It had the standard vanilla, toffee and brown sugar flavors with a soft smokiness that I really liked.  It was a little spicy on the back end as well, though I could have gone for a bit more spice.

After a couple weeks of being open, the flavor profile didn't really change much (and I didn't really expect much change with this one), but it did take on a more bread-like profile up front, which I found surprising and enjoyable and was perhaps the reason I ultimately kept going back to the well.

Ultimately this is a soft, easy to drink bourbon, with good flavor.  That flavor is muted, though.  If Larceny provided a more robust version of this bourbon, I'd imagine that would be something I would really enjoy.  It would certainly serve a s a good mixer, though, where you might not want the bourbon flavors to overpower your drink.

Grade: B-