Saturday, February 20, 2016

Redbreast Single Pot Still 12 Year Irish Whiskey Cask Strength Edition

One thing that I have always loved about Irish Whiskeys over other whiskeys is the nose. To me, Irish whiskeys have a distinct, sweet tobacco and cereal scent that I can never get enough of. The cask strength Redbreast 12 Year is no different. In fact, I enjoyed it so much it took me a while to actually get around to the first sip. Even at the high proof, there was absolutely no burn or alcohol smell in the nose.

That carried over to the taste as well. 116.4 proof is nothing to laugh at, and yet it's hardly even noticeable in this whiskey. It was soft, smooth, velvety and incredibly easy to drink from front to back. It's a heavier whiskey, and it coated my mouth and throat, allowing me to really savor every single sip.

Although my experience with Irish whiskeys is not extensive by any stretch, this one is certainly bolder in flavor than any other one I've had. It immediately hit me with vanilla, but not a sweet vanilla like you get in bourbon. Rather, the vanilla flavor was blended with a cereal flavor that, quite frankly, reminded me of Frosted Cheerios, one of my favorite breakfast cereals.

After a second or two, however, a slight bitterness hit my tongue, like burnt orange peel. I can't tell you now as I sit here and write this whether I enjoyed this contrast in flavor, but at the very least I found it . . . interesting.

The vanilla flavor also took a back seat to prominent sherry notes and a lingering plum flavor on the back end. The sherry was not quite as in-your-face as some sherry finished whiskeys I've had, but rather was balanced very well with the other flavors. Considering Redbreast highlights their use of sherry casks in their advertising, I was worried that the sherry might be overdone, but such was no the case.

This is one of the more dynamic whiskeys I've tasted in terms of not just the different flavors, but the contrast in the change from one flavor to the next from sip to swallow. There's a lot going on in each sip, and it makes for a really enjoyable pour!

Grade: B+

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Balcones Brimstone Texas Scrub Oak Smoked Whisky 106 Proof

When I grabbed this off the shelf, I honestly had no clue what I was getting. I knew only what the label told me--that it was a corn whisky and that it was a smoked whisky. In the mood for something peaty and campfire-y, I took a gamble, despite a somewhat hefty price of $60. Balcones makes good product, and I figured I had little to lose.

Upon popping the top off this one, I was pummeled with the heavy smell of liquid smoke. This stuff smelled like a mesquite grill, and it was strong! Even before pouring it out of the bottle, I could smell this whisky from across the kitchen. Admittedly, though, my mouth watered, much like it does when I walk into a barbecue joint or when I'm hovering around my neighbor's grill in the Summer as he slow cooks a giant piece of meat.

I don't usually comment on color, but with this whisky, the color was very noticeably red, lending even further to my premonition that I was about to drink smoked brisket in a glass.

As I fully expected by this point, though, upon my first drink, the smoke was all I tasted, from beginning to end. There was whisky in there somewhere, I just couldn't find it through all the smoke. And keep in mind, this is not the peat-bomb type smoke you'd find in certain single malts like Laphroaig. It was a whole new smoke flavor that I wasn't used to.

After a bit, the mesquite smoke flavor died down, only just a touch, but at least enough to notice certain flavors that were still subtle and hidden away. It was a sweet smokiness, underscored by brown sugar and even hints of crisp apple barely noticeable underneath. Some peppery spice was able to come out behind the iron curtain of mesquite smoke as well, and for fleeting moments I thought I was really enjoying this whisky.

In the end, though, the mesquite flavor overwhelmed throughout, almost completely masking the flavor of the whisky, rather than complementing or enhancing it. I did find it easier to enjoy on later pours, perhaps due in part to my getting used to it. However, the flavor was so strong that it comes across not as a peated or smoked whisky, but rather a flavored whisky. While I liked the flavor, I would like it much more if it were toned down to allow the flavor of the whisky to actually come through.

Grade: C+

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Angel's Envy Caribbean Rum Cask Finished Rye Whiskey

- $70
- 100 Proof
- Kentucky

I've been trying to track down a bottle of this stuff for a couple years now. When I was first finding my way into bourbon, I really enjoyed Angel's Envy, and I was told that I had to try their rye. But now matter how often I looked, it simply wasn't anywhere. For years I've known I've wanted to try this one and, as far as I knew, it didn't even exist.

But, on my way back home from out of town one day, having some time to spare before I had to be anywhere, I made a few extra stops at whatever liquor stores I found on my way, and in the first one I visited, there they were, about ten bottles of the stuff, just sitting on the shelf like any other bottle. I had to look twice to make sure I was seeing what I saw. Perhaps it's just the area I live in or the stores I go to, but according to the clerk, it wasn't any special release, they just happened to get a batch in a few days prior. So, though the price is a bit steep at around $70, I didn't hesitate to grab a bottle.

When I opened the bottle, I was punched in the face by the cooked/caramelized sugar smell that filled the room. This is one of the most pungent whiskeys I've ever had in that respect. The nose had a little bit of spice behind it, a cinnamon sort of scent, but the burnt sugar smell was overwhelming. I knew instantly I had something on my hands that was completely different than anything I've had before.

I've had other whiskeys finished in rum casks before, like the Balvenie Caribbean Cask, but with this one, the rum casks had a far greater influence on the whiskey. While the typical vanilla and cinnamon spice came through, as would be expected from your typical rye, it was incredibly sweet, almost mouth-puckering-ly so. The caramelized sugar smell that seemed to explode out of the bottle upon opening had a flavor to match, which seemed to overwhelm every other flavor.

Behind that sugar, though, were still noticeable butterscotch notes, along with cereal or bread flavors that offered a little bit to soften the sugar rush on the back end. As I made my way through the bottle, the flavor evened out a bit, and it really took on a Butterfinger-type flavor, combining the sweet flavors of chocolate, butterscotch and brown sugar.

I was surprised at how much influence the rum casks had on this rye, as rye typically is a bold-flavored whiskey to begin with. At first I wasn't sold that I enjoyed it. However, that may have been more the shock at the sugary nature of this whiskey. I eventually found that behind that up-front sugar are some really enjoyable flavors that provide a nice complement, and this is a pretty complex finished rye with a lot to offer.

Grade: B-