Monday, May 31, 2021

Switchgrass Spirits Rye Whiskey

- $20 (375 ml)
- 100 Proof
- 1 year
- Missouri

One thing I've always loved doing when I travel is going to the local liquor store in whatever area I'm in and finding a bottle or two of something that I can't find by me. Often that ends up being something from a small, local distillery that has limited distribution. Admittedly, this hasn't resulted in any spectacular finds or anything. Rather, most of what I end up with is young whiskey that leaves me wanting more.

I have learned, however, that I fair better by grabbing a craft distillery's rye over a bourbon, as rye tends to hold up much better at a young age. So, when I was in St. Louis for my daughter's hockey tournament a few weeks back, I grabbed a couple of St. Louis area ryes, including this one from Switchgrass Spirits. Honestly, what drew me to this one was the fact that it was available in a 375 ml bottle. I really wish that more products were available in the smaller, cheaper bottles. It makes it a lot easier to try stuff I might not otherwise grab.

The nose on this one was a bit surprising to me. As a young rye, I expected to get a lit of cinnamon and pine forward notes. The pine was there, but it was more muted and had more of a woody quality to it. Like pine bark rather than pine needles. What I found surprising, though, was how malty it was. I got heavy notes of honey and wheat bread, and I found myself sticking my nose into my Glencairn a lot while I was drinking this.

The flavor showed its youth, however. It had a lot of sharp edges, but it seemed farily grain forward. It had the wheat bread note, but considering how strong it was on the nose, I expected a lot more of that out of the flavor.  It had that overripe apple note, though, that I always associate with young whiskey. It's always a turn off for me.

I also got something green, almost spinach-like, and that was weird to me as well. There was a bright, fruity note as well, kind of like fresh cantaloupe, maybe even pear. This could have been somewhat redeeming, except that the pine notes really took over. And, unfortunately they weren't good pine notes. Rather it was more cleaning solvent-like and just not that enjoyable.

The nose on this one gave me a lot of hope, but in the end this whiskey was just too young and unrefined. It had a lot going on as far as flavor goes, but the flavors weren't all good, and they certainly didn't work with each other But, it was fun tasting this one, and it certainly didn't break the bank.

Grade: C-

Friday, May 28, 2021

Buffalo Trace Warehouse Liquors Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $31
- 90 Proof
- Barrel No. 088
- Kentucky

I seriously just can't help myself when I find Buffalo Trace store picks. They're priced right and always delicious. And it's an even easier decision to grab one to bring home with me when I find it at Warehouse Liquors. I know I've said it multiple times in the past, but I have loved nearly every single barrel that their owner, Gene, has picked out. He's got a great palate, one that apparently closely aligns with mine.

I've also found that I'm having nights where I plan on having multiple pours, but yet I don't want to get banged up from drinking high proof, cask strength stuff, and Buffalo Trace certainly fills that need. Low proof nights are certainly not a bad thing, and it's nice to have something so flavorful to go to for such a night.

The nose gave off that traditional caramel note that I get from nearly every bottle of Buffalo Trace. It also had that light cinnamon note that I also tend to associate with Buffalo Trace products. However, this one also had an interesting earthy note, sort of leather-like, that made it a bit unique. It also had this sort of orange bitters aroma to it, kind of like sniffing an old fashioned, but without the cherry.

That orange note really carried through to the palate. I was actually taken back a bit by the prominent candied orange note that I got up front. I wasn't put off by it so much as I was surprised by it. It provided a bright, citrusy sweetness that was delicious. There was also an underlying richer sweetness, kind of like brown sugar, that seemed to temper the citrus notes a bit.

The bitter note was there as well, but it seemed to balance it out. This bourbon was sweet and bitter all at once, and each kept the other from taking it too far to one end of the spectrum. It also had the cinnamon spice that I got off the nose. It wasn't a biting spice or anything, but rather a rich cinnamon note that stuck at the back of the mouth.

On the finish that rich cinnamon note really stuck around, and it was accompanied by an equally rich dark chocolate note. It also left behind a more earthy note, but not leather like I got on the nose Rather it was more like a pecan note. 

As I'm typing this post out, I'm realizing that the flavors seemed to be all over the flavor wheel, from citrusy to sweet to bitter to rich to earthy. But, it was all very good together, and certainly made for an interesting and unique pour.  This was certainly one of the more flavorful bottles of Buffalo Trace I've had.

Grade: B+

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Nelson's "Green Brier" Tennessee Whiskey


- $30
- 91 Proof
- Tennessee

I do love seeing new bottles on the shelf. I'm at my go-to liquor store on a fairly regular basis, some weeks I swear it's daily. And every time, without fail, I make that walk down the whiskey aisle to see what new labels are looking back at me, even if I just did so the day before. Because every now and then something shows up unexpectedly, and I feel I need to give it a go. This was one such occasion.

While this was a new product on the shelf, it certainly wasn't a new distiller. I've enjoyed just about every Belle Meade product I've tried to date, so at least this new brand was familiar to me. Plus, coming in at only $30, it nearly begged me to at least give it a try. And who knows, perhaps I'd find myself with another bottle that I can claim as a go-to when drink options aren't plentiful.

Interestingly, the nose was far from traditional bourbon. In fact, I seemed to get notes more akin to an Irish whiskey than a bourbon or Tennessee whisky. I think that primarily came from the prominent notes of leather and sweet pipe tobacco. It still had some bourbon characteristics though, as I got notes of corn bread and honey as well.  The corn notes seemed to really stand out, indicative of a young bourbon.

The first thing I noticed on my first sip was that this was certainly on the sweeter end of the spectrum. It had a cane-sugary sweetness to it that was, quite frankly, a bit off-putting.  It did have a decent burn on the back end, not necessarily an ethanol burn, but more like a corn whiskey. In fact, even on the front end it had that grain-forward flavor, kind of like raw corn. There was a grassiness to it as well that seemed to underscore everything.

It seemingly lacked any wood or barrel influence, at least as far as imparting wood or char notes goes. I think that would have helped, as it came across as somewhat straight forward with sweet and heat and not a whole lot else.

The sweet character did seem to take on some complexity at least, as on different pours that sweetness seemed to take on different forms. At times it came across as sort of a cherry licorice, imparting that artificial cherry. I even got light notes of chocolate at time. On the last few pours, that sweetness seemed to come across as more of a cola note, maybe even root beer.

I wish I could say I found a new go-to for cheap bottles, but I can't. This was fine, but I think I'm reaching for other options at that price range. This was just too sweet for me, and I wish there was more going on beyond just sugary notes and grain-forward flavors.

Grade: C

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Jefferson's Straight Rye Whiskey Finished in Cognac Casks

- $60
- 94 Proof
- Unknown Source

It has been a long time since Jefferson's released a rye. Their 10-year rye was discontinued quite some time ago, and I was lucky enough to find one on the secondary market just a few years back. It's been 5-6 years, though, at least, since a Jefferson's rye was release. So, when I saw the press release for this Cognac finished rye, I was certainly excited. I have a thing for Cognac and Armagnac finishes anyway, so this one seemed right up my alley.

My guy at my local shop, knowing I was looking forward to this one, was kind enough to set one aside for me. I will say, the price is certainly right on this.   So often lately these special or limited releases are asking $100+, and it's somewhat refreshing to see this one come in at a reasonable $60. I was a bit disappointed at the low proof, the lack of an age statement, and no identifying information on the bottle as to the source, but of course I can forgive all that if what's inside is good!

The nose on this one was very caramel forward. I went in expecting to get the sweet and fruity brandy notes, but the caramel notes of the rye really dominated.  I also got a light chocolate note to complement the caramel. It had some of the traditional rye notes, with a bit of woodiness and some pine. It also had a bit of orange to the aroma, as well as an almond note. The smell wasn't robust or anything, but what was there was very enticing.

On my first pour, my immediate impression was that this whiskey was light and watered down. It was watery in both texture and flavor, and my high hopes were immediately dashed. I expected the Cognac finish to impart a lot of flavor, and it seemed as though the flavor was all a bit muted.

I did get a warm pastry note right off the bat, along with a touch of cherry. The rye came through pretty well too, as I got a healthy dose of cinnamon. The Cognac was noticeable as well, and it came through as pear and even plum at times. That said, all these great notes came across as a bit muted.

There was also an initial bitter note that I got to, kind of like when you eat a bitter walnut. It had the sweet woodiness, but that bitter note just seemed to get in the way.  

I will say, however, that this whiskey got better with each pour. The more I tried it, the more I liked it, to the extent that I really loved my last few pours and wished it weren't gone. I don't know if it was just my frame of mind when I was first digging in or if giving it a bit of time actually helped.

By the final few pours it had developed this rich and almost creamy nougat flavor. With the chocolate notes that I was getting throughout, it reminded me a bit of a 3 Musketeers bar.  The cherry and cinnamon notes, although not prominent by any stretch, really complemented this flavor such that it made for a great combination of flavors toward the end.

Unfortunately, this one just did not live up to my hopes and expectations. Perhaps that's unfair of me to expect more flavor out of a lower proof whiskey, but given the finish, I really wanted that explosion of flavor that you get from so many other finished whiskeys. This one was just too subdued for me. While the price was great, the whiskey itself just didn't live up to what I was hoping it would be.

Grade: B-

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Bardstown Bourbon Company Phifer Pavitt Reserve Straight Bourbon

- $125
- 100 Proof
- 10 Years
- Tennessee

I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of Dickel products. While some people love the stuff, I just have yet to find one that has really suited my palate. That chalky, fake vitamin note is real, and it just doesn't work for me.  

However, when I was offered the chance to buy this bottle, I still couldn't help myself. This is yet another collaboration from Bardstown, this time collaborating with Phifer Pavitt to finish this 10-year old Tennessee whiskey in Phifer Pavitt Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. This is the second such release, and the first one got some pretty good reviews. So, despite knowing that this was sourced from Dickel, my FOMO got the best of me, and I plunked down the cash to take this one home.  It's interesting to note that while this is 100 proof, it's also labeled as "cask strength."  That's quite the coincidence there that it landed right at 100 proof without any dilution.

The nose certainly lets you know right away that this a wine finished bourbon. The fruit-forward aromas of dark cherry and blackberry really came through. I even got a bit of blueberry off the nose that I really enjoyed. It also had that caramel base to it, as well as a light cinnamon spice to sort of round everything out.  The nose on this bourbon was delicious, and I found myself sniffing my Glencairn constantly while drinking this.

On my first sip, I was looking for those Dickel notes, the Flintstone Vitamins note that so many people get. But, I didn't notice it here . . . at first.  Rather, I got sweet notes of smooth butterscotch, like ice cream topping. That blended well with the flavors from the wine finish. I didn't get so much the cherry that I got on the nose, but the blackberry was certain prevalent. I even got the blueberry notes that I got from the nose, probably a first for me as far as tasting notes go.

Unfortunately, though, as I made my way through this bottle, those vitamin notes started coming through. It wasn't the fake grape flavor that I got in the Dickel Bottled in Bond that put me off, but rather more of a strawberry note. In that respect it wasn't offensive or anything, just there and noticeable.

The finish seemed to kind of wash away that vitamin note, however, bringing in the cinnamon spice that I got off the nose. This is also where the cherry note came through, leaving a real dark cherry note (as opposed to artificial cherry) that lingered for a considerably long time after the finish. It turned out that the finish was what I enjoyed the most about this bourbon, and it's the reason I went back for more pours.

I still hesitate to grab Dickel distillate, and this certainly didn't change my mind. However, I did feel that what they did with the finishing on the distillate was very good. I loved the notes the Phifer Pavitt barrels introduced to the whiskey, I only wish it were a different whiskey . . . and a different price.

Grade: B

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Starlight Distillery Huber's Old Rickhouse Single Barrel Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey

- $60
- 113.8 Proof
- 4 1/2 years
- Indiana

I recently took my family on an impromptu trip down to Louisville over Spring Break. We didn't have anything else planned, so we figured that would make for an easy road trip. While Louisville didn't exactly captivate young minds, on the way out of town we took a detour to Huber's Farm. This was a success with the kids!! They had live music, people everywhere enjoying the sunshine and live music (a stark contrast to our experience in Louisville), an ice cream shop and a pond full of ducks and koi to feed.  My kids absolutely enjoyed it!

I, of course, went in with a plan, at least as far as whiskey is concerned. I wanted to get a cask strength, single barrel rye. I just haven't seen any by me, and I knew this would be the place I could nab one. But, after only a few minutes of perusal I realized my disappointment in the fact that they didn't have any available. So, I grabbed a four-grain distiller's select single barrel as a consolation price and checked out. As my kids were getting ice cream, though, I had to use the restroom, and on the way back out, I passed a barrel in the gift shop with three bottles on top and a sign that read, "In need of a good home." And sitting right on top was this solitary, lonely bottle, just begging me to take it home (not to mention that it was on sale!). And so I obliged. I couldn't have felt more lucky.

It's been a while since I've had any Starlight rye. In fact, the last time was a bottle with their old label. But I know they've been getting a lot of love, so I couldn't wait to crack this one open. The nose was full of some of the more traditional rye notes, with loads of pine and cinnamon, and a light woodiness.  It had underlying notes of vanilla and sweet spearmint. I even got a great blackberry note as well. I could have sat nosing this one all day it was so good!

As to the palate, it certainly did not drink to its proof. This was very easy to drink, with no sharp or harsh edges, and minimal burn--just flavor. It was dangerous in this respect.  I got a decent amount of anise or black licorice, but not enough to turn me off. It also was more on the sweet end than on the bitter end as that flavor can sometimes go.

Behind that, though, were all sorts of other wonderful notes. I got some of the pine and vanilla notes that I was getting off the nose. I also got that sweet spearmint note, which I absolutely loved. In that respect it leaned toward what I love in Willett and MGP ryes.  

I also got a bright fruity note, like fresh black raspberry. This note worked so well with the black licorice note, and the combo was unexpected yet delicious.  As that bright note faded, the finish was left with creamy notes of nougat to match the spearmint and vanilla. It was on the finish that I also got a light smoky note that was also unexpected but very welcome.

This whiskey absolutely lived up to my hopes and expectations. I'm so glad that I was able to grab this last bottle while I was there.  Word on the streets is that there are some store picks coming to my area in the very near future, and I'm going to be all over those when they come in. This stuff is great!

Grade: A

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Hazelburn 10 Year Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch

- $80
- 92 Proof
- 10 Years
- Campbeltown

I've been dipping my toes back into Scotch quite a bit lately. In fact, it really started when a friend of mine who happens to have a very impressive Scotch selection let me do a tasting of Campbeltown. I had five different Campbeltown single malts that night, and found myself loving every one of them. So, I then found myself perusing the Scotch aisle as well as the bourbon aisle on my trips to the liquor store, just to see what was there that I needed to try.

This 10-year Hazelburn was one such Scotch that I felt I needed to try. I figured I should start with the sort of mainstays, to learn what I like and don't like about the different Campbeltown distilleries, few though they may be. This particular bottle is a triple distilled, unpeated single malt. Though the bottle doesn't indicate as such, my brief research tells me that it's aged in ex-bourbon casks. 

The nose, interestingly, gave of a bit of saltiness. It also had a lot of cracker notes but a bit sweeter. Perhaps more like a shortbread cookie. It had a light grassiness to it, even with a bit of a musty hay smell. On top of all this, though, was a maple frosting note that I really enjoyed. It reminded me of the maple frosted donuts that you can sometimes find.

I found this whisky to be somewhat light in flavor. Perhaps that's why many reference this as a good, entry-level Scotch. There was nothing bold or punchy about it. It did have a good, earthy nuttiness to it, though that I appreciated, along with an almost buttery note to give it some delicate richness, despite it coming across as a bit watery or thin.

I got some sweet and rich notes of brown sugar and caramel as well. When I did my tasting, that was one thing that I appreciated about the Campbeltown Scotches was that they all had a sort of undercurrent of bourbon-like notes, which certainly appealed to my bourbon-loving palate. There were also light, unsweetened vanilla notes and a touch of black pepper on the front end as well. 

The finish, surprisingly, provided for a decent burn that I really enjoyed. It had the spice from the black pepper but almost a bit of a cinnamon heat as well. There was a light salinity to the finish, something I expected more of given that it was one of the first things I noticed when I smelled it. I also got a lingering cookie note, like a butter cookie.  Despite that the finish was fairly short-lived, this butter cookie note did seem to stick behind for a bit, which was alright with me because it was quite enjoyable.

As an entry-level Scotch, particularly as I continue to introduce myself to this region I previously knew very little about, I found this to be quite suiting. The price certainly does not scream entry-level, however, and that's a bit of a barrier to entry. That said, it certainly will be steering me towards more Campbeltown offerings in the very near future.

Grade: B

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Buffalo Trace Binny's Small Batch Select #28 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $25
- 90 Proof
- Batch #28
- Kentucky

I was in Binny's just the other day, and they had gotten in a shipment of just standard Buffalo Trace. On the tag, though, was written "Limit 1 per customer." I guess that's just the way things are now, though. Regular Buffalo Trace is allocated, perhaps even "collectable." I don't know if I'll ever get my head around that, as it's just an affordable, 90 proof every day bottle, in my eyes.

If the standard Buffalo Trace is going the way of allocated bottles, I wonder what we can expect for store picks going forward? Are these something people are going to be waiting in line for?  Don't get me wrong, they're great values and I never hesitate to grab one when I see them. But it's certainly never been something to chase for me, but rather a nice, extra bottle to throw into my cart if I see one. I hope these don't go the way of allocated bottles, but if the regular stuff is limited now, perhaps that ship has sailed.

In any event, I do still like trying these store picks, even if just to see how it stacks up against regular Buffalo Trace.  On the nose I got a light woodiness that I don't typically get from Buffalo Trace. It certainly didn't come across as oaky, but I did get a bit of a wood shaving note. It also had almost a peanut butter note, particularly in the first few pours. There was also a rich and tangy cherry note, almost like a cherry cordial with vanilla cream.

As to the flavor, that cherry cordial note seemed to come through, with not only the cherry and the vanilla notes, but also a dark chocolate note and even a liqueur note to it to round out that cherry cordial flavor. It also had a spicy heat up front, like spicy cinnamon that seemed to fit right in. The vanilla note seemed to really develop and come forward over time.

On the finish the spice seemed to really linger, but it was more of a peppery spice. The vanilla note seemed to hang around for a bit, and I found myself wondering if pepper-vanilla is a thing. It seemed to work here. A bit of that liqueur note that kept reminding me of a cherry cordial stuck around as well, though the cherry and chocolate seemed to be nowhere to be found.

What I found best about this whiskey is how well it held up in an old fashioned. The cinnamon spice up front and that peppery spice on the finish both seemed to be highlighted in the cocktail, as did the vanilla undercurrent. I don't typically comment on how well a bourbon works as a mixer, but I found myself particularly liking this one.

Again, I hope these don't become so scarce or so sought after that they're not around. I love picking them up as something cheap, fun and a little bit different. This one was certainly no different.

Grade: B

Saturday, May 8, 2021

George Dickel 15 Year Tennessee Single Barrel Whiskey


- $70
- 84.4 Proof
- 15 years
- Tennessee

I really haven't found a Dickel product that I've loved.  I've had some here and there that I've enjoyed, but far from anything that has blown me away or knocked my socks off or whatever other such colloquial phrases. But, I keep trying them, whether it's craft whisky sourced from Dickel, Dickel whisky finished in wine barrels, or single barrel offerings.

Such was the case with this bottle. I wasn't aware that it was going to be released, but when I spotted it on the shelf, a great internal conflict began in my mind. I'm generally not a big fan of Dickel, yet here was a 15 year single barrel product at a relatively accessible price. Certainly the proof could be a lot higher, but in older whiskies, lower proof can certainly be alright as far as I'm concerned. The wood bitterness tends to be a bit less pronounced. And so I brought home another bottle of Dickel whisky.

The nose smelled like it had a bit of age to it. I got something woody, but it was a lighter woody note, like the smell of your garage after using a table saw (so, sawdust, I guess--so much for brevity).  I also got something sweet and earthy all at once, like tobacco leaf, or even tea leaves. There was something crackery, which, with the sweetness, reminded me of animal crackers. And behind all this was kind of a dried or powdered strawberry note. It had a funky aroma overall, but not a bad one.

On my first pour, I was admittedly looking for that grape flavored vitamin note. I perhaps have some PTSD from the Dickel Bottled in Bond.  And on the first few pours, I was pleasantly surprised to only notice the vitamin note just a little bit. Luckily, there were a lot of other flavors bouncing around on my tongue.

It had a familiar sweet pastry-like quality. It took me a while to try to pin down exactly what type of pastry I was tasting, but ultimately I decided it was like a funnel cake with a dusting of powdered sugar. I also got the dried strawberry note that I got on the nose, and these flavors, as you might expect, all worked really well together. 

Other notes came through as well, all on the dessert end of the spectrum. I got additional notes of blackberry and even banana. I also got brown sugar as well as a bit of a cake note, kind of like pancakes.  Interestingly, I even got somewhat of a rum note, which really complemented the banana and brown sugar flavors.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the bottle I noticed that the grape vitamin note seemed to becoming more and more prominent. Perhaps it was the whisky opening up. Perhaps it was just me being more in tune to it. But, as with the Bottled in Bond, I had a really hard time getting past it. It wasn't nearly as prominent as it was in the Bottled in Bond, and it even leaned towards a cherry vitamin note (which isn't really better), but it was there enough that I just had a hard time enjoying this as much as I wanted to.

I doubt that I'll swear off Dickel products altogether, but they really just aren't for me for the most part, and I don't see myself dropping any substantial amounts of money on future products. It's unfortunate, because they do release well-aged products at decent prices, and so many people love their whisky. I just can't count myself among them. 

Grade: C+

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ezra Brooks Distiller's Collection Liquor 'n' Wine Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $30
- 107 Proof
- 4 1/2 years
- Barrel No. 7415603
- Kentucky

Much like Buffalo Trace and Knob Creek, these Ezra Brooks store picks are quickly becoming must-buys when I find them. The price is great, and certainly free of any concerns over potential buyer's remorse. For $30, what's the worst that can happen?? Plus the proof adds to that value at 107 proof. Add to that the age statement (even it it is a bit young), and the result is a value whiskey.

Plus, what I've had of these has been really good!  Young age aside, Lux Row has been putting out some solid products with their Ezra Brooks line, as well as their Rebel line. And the fact that these are part of their barrel pick program just makes them that much better!! I've had a number of whiskeys picked by the folks at Liquor 'n' Wine, and while I won't necessarily go so far as to say their palate lines up with mine completely, I will go so far as to say I've never been let down by one of their picks. Again . . . value!!

The nose on this one was great! I immediately got notes of graham cracker and chocolate, very dessert like in this respect. I also got a peanut note, with a little bit of salt to go with. On top of that, though, there was something bright to the aroma, like a fresh peach or melon. While melon, peanuts, chocolate and graham cracker don't sound on paper like a great combo, here I couldn't get enough of it. 

The flavor mostly followed suit, as again the first thing I noticed was that graham cracker note. However, the chocolate note was nowhere to be found. Instead I got the salty peanut note as well as a black pepper note that hit the tip of my tongue immediately with each sip.

From there, it seemed to develop into a bit of a Luxardo cherry note, rich and deep, teetering on sweet but not quite getting there. Unfortunately, I enjoyed this note much more on the earlier pours. As I made my way through this bottle, that great Luxardo cherry note seemed to develop into a fake, cough syrup-like cherry note, and that flavor is consistently a turn off for me. It reminded me of Woodford Reserve in that respect, and unfortunately, once I hone in on that note, I just can't seem to get past it.

The finish was interesting, as it reminded me of a cinnamon liqueur, hearkening back to my high school days of shooting Goldschlager and wondering if it'd make me pee gold.  Those are somewhat bittersweet memories for me. I also got a sort of pencil shaving note. I know it seems like a weird tasting note, but I feel that anybody that had classrooms with those hand-crank sharpeners mounted to the wall knows exactly what I'm talking about. 

If only this bourbon drank the way it smelled, I would have absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and the fake cherry note just really didn't work for me. Plus the finish was simply weird. Not horrible, just weird. That said, I'm not walking away from this thinking I overpaid, and the next time I see an Ezra Brooks store pick on the shelf, I'll most certainly be bringing it home.

Grade: C+

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Scotch Malt Whiskey Society Cask No. 46.93 Petrichor Quasar 8 Year Single Malt Scotch

- $100
- 115.4 Proof
- 8 Years
- 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels
- Speyside

I was gifted a membership this past Christmas to the Scotch Malt Whiskey Society. In case you've never heard of it or don't know exactly what it's about, the SMWS is a group that selects and bottles mostly Scotch whiskey, but other whiskeys and even other spirits as well. They are always single barrel and always bottled at cask strength.  Rather than include the name on the label, though, they use a numbering system to identify the distillery as well as the sequentially numbered release from that distillery.  For instance, this bottling is Cask No. 46.93, meaning it is from Glenlossie and it is the 93rd release from that distillery. While SMWS doesn't publish the codes, they're pretty readily available with a simple Google search.

As I mentioned, I was gifted a membership, which gives members exclusive access to bi-monthly releases from the SMWS.  In buying a membership, you're paying for the access to these bottles. The SMWS has a great reputation for some stellar picks, though, so when I got this gift, I was thrilled. And I was even more excited to learn that I got a bottle with my membership. I didn't have a hand in selecting which bottle, but given the cost to me, I was thrilled nonetheless.

On the nose I got a healthy dose of pipe tobacco, something I commonly find in Speyside single malts. I also got some earthy notes of leather and a black peppery spice. There was a bit of counterbalance from a bright, citrus-like note, kind of like lemon. There was an undercurrent of vanilla as well. However, there was also a bit of an off-putting note, something funky like rotten fruit or the remnants of spilled wine.  It was so good up to this point.

Luckily, however, that note did not carry over to the palate.  Rather, I was immediately hit with a nice combination of citrus and black pepper. In fact, the citrus note was a bit more complex than what I got on the nose. It was kind of a lemon and orange mix, but there were also some welcome melon notes, like cantaloupe and honeydew. In fact, the more I drank, the more that the honeydew note seemed to really come forward. The black pepper spice provided a nice balance to this sweet and citrusy note as well.

Something that also really came through and that I didn't get on the nose was a strong grassy note. Grassy could mean any number of things to any number of people. It could mean like hay in a barn, freshly mowed grass, more of a lemon grass, etc. In this case, though, when I say "grassy," what I mean is like the tall, dry grass you'd find in a field in the countryside. It sounds obtuse, I know, but that's where my mind went.

There was also this note that I got, particularly towards the end that was like a mix between white wine and crackers. It was lightly bready and certainly grapey, almost like a Chardonnay soaked saltine. It never went the way of the rotten fruit note that I got from the nose, luckily. However, while I acknowledge that there are those that would appreciate this flavor, it just wasn't for me. It just went a bit too funky and didn't seem to work with everything else that was going on.

Quite frankly, this reminded me a lost of White Label Dewar's.  Of course, Dewar's is significantly less expensive. But, I do enjoy Dewar's, and I did enjoy this. Because I got it for free, I didn't have to worry about sticker shock, but I might have had I paid for this one.

While this particular bottle may not have been my particular jam, it was still fun, and it absolutely made me want to try other bottlings, whiskies that might be a bit more in my wheelhouse. Or maybe I'll try something different if it catches my eye. Who knows? I've already picked up one more bottling, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

Grade: B-