Friday, June 30, 2017

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch

VITALS:
- $60
- 100 Proof
- NAS
- Region: Islay, Scotland

It's been a while since I've posted. It's not due to a lack of drinking whisky, however. I recently moved, so for a while there my whiskey and my laptop were packed away. During that time, however, I've enjoyed a few bottles, down to the last couple pours, with the intention of finishing them once I got into my new house, and getting the reviews up here. This is the first I finished off once we settled in, and this picture was actually taken in my new basement bar!

This was a sort of going away gift from my whiskey buddy who recently moved away. I'm not sure if it was intended as a gift or if it was just a matter of he couldn't pack it so he gave it to me. Either way, the outcome is the same and I got to enjoy a nice, peaty bottle of Islay Scotch!

The bottle itself advertises this as a "Heavily Peated" Scotch, and with a simple pop of the cork it's obvious that that is not mere puffery! One whiff of this stuff and my first thought was, "Holy smoke bomb!" It's like I stuck my nose into the smoldering remains of a campfire. It was really tough to get past the smoke to find other notes, but with a little patience and persistence, I was also able to pick up some graham cracker and light honey. The sweetness is there, it's just hidden.

The smoke, however, actually seemed stronger on the nose than it did on the palate.  Don't get me wrong, this is still a very smoky whisky, but the other flavors are able to permeate through as well, and it is a decent blend of smoky and sweet.

Beyond the peat there is a smooth butterscotch flavor that mixes well with cereal notes (perhaps that graham cracker I noticed on the nose) as well as hints of dark fruits. It reminded me of raisin bran, oddly enough. It's tasty and complex, though it does come off as a bit rough around the edges.

The peat smoke is still difficult to get past, and that smokiness lingers in your mouth forever, kind of like that taste you have the morning after enjoying a nice cigar the night before. It left an odd, almost metallic taste at the back of my throat as well that I had a hard time getting past. Also, frequently after a bottle has been open for a bit, the whisky inside tends to smooth out a bit. Not so with this one, as the rough edges seemed to only get more prominent, focusing more on the peat and the alcohol than the other, tasty but hidden flavors.

Even after a few pours, I couldn't be certain whether I liked this or not. I liked it at first, enjoying the butterscotch and graham cracker flavors mixed with the smoke, like a nice Summer campfire. Then a couple pours later I would wonder what I ever saw in this stuff. Yet, on my last pour, there I was, enjoying it all over again. Perhaps it was simply my mood, or perhaps just whatever I had just eaten was changing my palate, but I could never really put my thumb on whether or not I liked it.

Grade: B-

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bulleit Bourbon Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $50
- 119.2 Proof
- NAS

I've been wanting to try Bulleit Barrel Strength since it came out, but just had never seen it in my area. So, when I made a recent trip to Louisville I made it a point to grab a bottle to bring back with me (and actually to share with my fledgling whiskey club which I'm not allowed to talk about). Of course, now that I brought a bottle back, I'm seeing it on the shelves all over the Chicagoland area. But, that fear of missing out (or "FOMO") made certain that I got a bottle sooner than later, at least.

The nose is spicy, much like the regular Bulleit Bourbon. It's not the traditional rye spice, but rather a sweetened spice, an interesting combination of caramel and black pepper. It also had a light woodiness to it, telling me this is older than standard Bulleit Bourbon, though a quick Google search of other reviews indicates it's a blend of 5-8 year bourbons.

On the palate it's a lot of cinnamon spice, telling me that it's a rye-heavy mashbill. That spice is balanced very well with the traditional bourbon notes of toffee and vanilla, however, along with some light chocolate notes. It made me think of a cinnamon Heath Bar, if only such a thing existed! Up front this bourbon really is delicious.

On the finish it left a bit to be desired, however. With so many barrel strength bourbons, they tend to have a more viscous texture, leaving an almost oily residue that causes the flavor to linger for a much longer time. Not the case wit this one. It's on the watery end in texture, and it had a very short, surprisingly short, finish to it. As soon as I swallowed that was it, no lingering flavors whatsoever.

At 119.2 proof, the alcohol is present. However, it does fade fast and, as indicated, the flavor comes through very well up front. In addition to the cinnamon and toffee notes that predominate, a light woodiness as well as a light smoke flavor thrown in somewhere in the middle. While it is bold in flavor, at least on the front end, I wouldn't call it complex.

It's a very tasty bourbon, and a good buy for the price. It hits all the right notes to make it one of my favorites, at least in flavor. It's a nice mix of cinnamon spice with the vanilla and toffee. The watery texture and notably short finish, however, were difficult for me to get past. I seemed to linger on that flaw, much like I wished this bourbon would linger on my tongue a bit more. I wanted to love this bourbon at first sip, but that immediate potential was never going to be realized.

Grade: B

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Riff Distilling O.K.I. Reserve 10 Year Straight Bourbon

VITALS:
- $50
- 97.75 Proof
- 10 Years
- Batch No. 20

I heard an interview with one of the owners of New Riff out of Newport, Kentucky, and, although I can't remember exactly who it was that was interviewed, I recalled appreciating the fact that they were very open about their distillery, their operations, and their business plan. In particular, she discussed their release of O.K.I., a bourbon they were sourcing and bottling as a means of keeping hte business afloat while their own distillate comes to maturation.

O.K.I. is a 10  year bourbon sourced from MGP in Indiana. New Riff never looked to hide that fact, even incorporating that fact as part of the brand (O.K.I. stands for Oklahoma, Kentucky and Indiana). Based upon that fact, and the fact that I've generally enjoyed the longer-aged products coming from MGP, I wanted to give this a try. Unfortunately, I can't get it in Illinois, so I had to wait a few months until my next trip to Louisville, but even though I was on a budget, this was the bottle I knew I was coming home with on that trip.

The nose is soft and full of vanilla and sweet pipe tobacco, that kind of sweet smell you get when you pass one of those specialty tobacco stores and the scent just wafts out the front door. It also had a kind of floral note to it, like lilac bushes, though it wasn't as strong as those flowers can be.

In flavor it struck me as very traditional, heavy on the vanilla and toffee. Towards the end it had a slight cinnamon spice as well as a light smoke on the finish. It was very bold and rich, full of flavor from beginning to end. The finish was long and the toffee flavor just seemed to linger forever, as though I let a Heath bar just sit and melt in my mouth.

Over time it seemed to sweet up and develop even more complexity. In addition to the sweet vanilla and toffee flavors, a more savory cocoa note came through, that played very well with the heavy vanilla. Perhaps it was those two flavors together or something completely new, but it also seemed to add in a peanut flavor. The cinnamon spice remained but was joined towards the end by a welcome orange-citrus note, just enough to make it interesting.

Although I wanted to savor this bottle, I found myself going back to it over and over again because I enjoyed it so much. I delayed a bit in opening it after I bought it, but once it was open, I couldn't help but make my way through this bottle relatively quickly. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed this bourbon, and I'm surprised it hasn't received more attention!

Grade: A

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Single Malt Scotch

VITALS:
- $160
- 86 Proof
- 17 Years

This is one of those bottles that, though inviting it may be, is not one that I had ever really envisioned buying myself. Luckily for me, however, I was gifted one, so I got to give the Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year a go.

It's apparently called "Doublewood" due to its having spent time in two different casks.  It first spent "many years" in traditional whisky casks and is then matured in oak sherry casks. I'm not really sure the amount of time it spent in either type of barrel, though.

The nose is heavy on the sherry influence. It's very fruity in aroma, almost like a sangria, where you get the mix of red wine with fresh orange and apple. However, that aroma is complemented by sweet tobacco leave and vanilla, making for a very complex and very intriguing nose.

As would be expected, on the palate the whisky is smooth as silk--almost TOO easy to drink, as each glass seemed to go down very easily. The traditional maltiness is there, blended nicely with vanilla and walnut, but it quickly gives way to the prominent fruit notes. Though it didn't taste like the sangria I got from the nose, it was almost a mix of raisin and strawberry (perhaps that's hard to imagine, but that's what struck me as I drank this).

There's a mile spice that lingers, along with the vanilla and dark fruit flavors, for a bit on the finish, but unfortunately that's as long as it stayed--only for a bit.  The finish, while sweet and lightly spice and very enjoyable, was also very short. Perhaps this is due to the more watery texture of this whisky, something I didn't necessarily expect given its age.

Interestingly, about halfway through the bottle, the flavors seemed to blend a bit into more of a dark chocolate flavor, which went very well with that strawberry and raisin combo I mentioned. I really enjoyed this slight metamorphosis, and what's more, that chocolate note seemed to linger longer than the other flavors, seeming to last even after the other flavors had dissipated.

All in all, there was a lot going on in this whisky, and, as far as flavor goes, it was all incredible. It had fruity notes balanced well with chocolate and vanilla notes, balanced well with a slight spiciness. My only knock is the low proof and watery texture, but that's a mild complaint considering the wonderful blend of flavor in this bottle.

Grade: A-