Saturday, June 26, 2021

Longrow Peated Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

- $70
- 92 Proof
- Campbeltown

I've mentioned in the past my recent exploration of and admiration for all things coming out of Campbeltown. This is just a continuance of that exploration. Lately, though, I've been gravitating back towards peat as well. I've always loved peated Scotch, particularly when married with a sherry, port or other wine finishes. Yet, due to my hyper-focus on the bourbon and rye categories, that delicious, smoky liquid just hasn't been enough of a part of my life the last couple years.

And so, I picked this bottle up (along with a few others) with the intention of not only trying more from the Springbank distillery, but also to re-stock and re-familiarize myself with some nice, peaty expressions. At the very least it provides for a nice change of pace from my usual pours, and it's nice to have something different now and again.

The nose was, as expected, full of peat. However, it was kind of like a smoked salted caramel, which really worked. In fact, it makes me wonder how smoked caramel would actually be--probably great on vanilla ice cream!  I also got a sweet buttery note along with a light black pepper spice. At times I got a sort of herbal or grassy note as well, but the peat and caramel certainly dominated.

As to flavor, of course I've been drinking a lot more bourbon over the past years, so perhaps I have some recency bias. But, I thought this was a very bourbon-like Scotch layered over a pleasant peat note. I was getting a lot of those traditional bourbon notes, primarily vanilla and caramel. There was also a sort of graham cracker note that also evoked those bourbon-like qualities. 

Beyond that, though, were plenty of other sweet and bright notes. In addition to the caramel, there was this light and bright honey sweetness that stood out. This seemed to mingle with citrus notes like orange and apricot, and even a little bit of peach thrown in. This combination along with the nice, oily texture (particularly given the proof) provided for a finish that was jammy and sweet and absolutely delicious. In fact on the finish these other notes seemed to almost take over the peat.

As far as peated Scotch goes, this had everything I loved. It gave me that great smoky quality, but it didn't get in the way of all the other great notes that were coming through. I was pleasantly surprised at how bourbon-like many of these flavors were, and I loved the way all these different notes--the peat, the rich and sweet caramel, and the bright and sweet jammy notes--all worked together. Springbank continues to do it for me!

Grade: A-

Monday, June 21, 2021

Michter's Limited Release Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey - Barrel No. 21B437

- $100
- 110.6 Proof
- Barrel No. 21B437
- Kentucky

This is now the third time that I've had the privilege of reviewing the Michter's Barrel Strength Rye. I remember the first time that I picked up a bottle, they just sat on the shelves collecting dust. But on a recommendation I decided to go ahead and grab one, despite the steep price, and I was immediately hooked!

Fast forward just a couple years, and suddenly these Michter's Barrel Strength Rye's became scarce. My local store was kind enough to set one aside for me, and I once again had the pleasure of enjoying a bottle. And then there were none . . . at least for a couple years, when I was once again offered a bottle. This time it seemed as though they weren't simply allocated, but were gone entirely during that time period. I didn't even hear of them hitting shelves, but I was able to grab one when it did come around, and I couldn't have been happier. This has certainly found its spot as one of my favorites, and I can only yearn for the days when it was so readily available.

The nose gave off some of the more traditional rye aromas of pine and a little bit of cinnamon spice. This had more of that walk-through-a-forest quality, though, with more earthy nots of wood shavings and sweet tobacco leaf. I also got a bit of leather and even some dark chocolate. It certainly didn't come across as sweet, but the cinnamon and pine nonetheless had me salivating.

Surprisingly, the first thing I noticed when I took my first sip was the healthy amount of vanilla right up front. I didn't get any vanilla on the nose, but it made itself known on the palate. The cinnamon from the nose was prevalent as well, even more so in the flavor than on the nose.

It was also sweeter tasting than the aroma seemed to indicate. Rather than dark chocolate, I got some sweeter milk chocolate. Rather than wood shavings and leather, I got more of a hazelnut note. I even got a little bit of dark cherry that really balanced everything out. 

The finish was delicious as well. I was left with a long and lingering cinnamon chocolate flavor that I couldn't get enough of. But, keeping it from leaning sweet, I also got this sort of bitter coffee note that seemed to fit right in perfectly. That combination of chocolate, cinnamon and coffee on the finish was so good, and it had me reaching for this bottle time and again.

Even though the price has consistently gone up, along with demand, while the supply seems to have dwindled, I still hold this whiskey dear to my heart. It is not only consistent, but it's consistently great, and as with most such things, I can only wish there were more!

Grade: A

Friday, June 18, 2021

Starlight Distillery Huber's Binny's Private Selection Single Barrel Indiana Straight Rye Whiskey


- $60
- 114 Proof
- 5 years
- Barrel No. 16167
- Indiana

I have quickly grown into a sucker for just about everything that Starlight Distillery is doing. It started a while back when I first tried a Binny's single barrel pick from them a couple years ago. That was back when they had the older label design which, quite frankly, was unimpressive. But, the whiskey inside was good.

Since then, Starlight has updated their bottle and label design (a vast improvement), and coincidentally has also seen a lot of increased love for their products . . . and deservedly so!  I keep trying different products from them, whether it's a single barrel bourbon, a honey barrel finished rye, or a single barrel rye such as this, and it's clear that these people know what they're doing and they keep churning out great product after great product. So I knew before they even got them in that I'd be picking up one of these Binny's single barrels as soon as they hit the shelf.

The nose on this one was surprisingly off-putting at first. I was immediately hit with a strong pine note, but it same across a bit like floor cleaner.  Luckily, I only really noticed that on the first pour or two. From there, that cleaner note seemed to go away and lend to more enjoyable aromas of cherry and black pepper. There was also an earthy or nutty quality to it as well as a burnt sugar type of sweetness that reminded me of candied pecans. It ultimately turned out to have a very enjoyable nose, despite that initial off note.

As to flavor, the first flavors I noticed were dill and cinnamon. Dill is something I typically associate with MGP rye, but it was somewhat prominent here as well.  I also noticed the proof. This was certainly a heater, and while some high proof whiskeys can hid the alcohol, this one did not. 

However, underneath the burn and those initial flavors, I found a lot of complexity and very enjoyable notes and combinations of flavors. It had this black pepper and vanilla note to it that made me want some sort of dessert with this combination. There was a bit of the pine note, but it wasn't in any way cleaner-like like I initially got on the nose. 

There was something different about this whiskey to, a sort of flavor and spice that I couldn't immediately place. Eventually I attributed it to a semi-sweet chocolate note, but with an interesting twist to it. After a few more sips of focusing on that specific note, I finally decided that it was almost a ginger note. I don't know that I've ever had ginger and chocolate together before, but here it was really good, and certainly unique.

This whiskey was very viscous, leaving a nice, oily coating in the mouth. That provided for a nice long finish that was full of rich, buttery caramel. This finish was absolutely delicious and the best part about this whiskey. Following shortly behind that rich caramel note was a cinnamon red hots type of spice that seemed to cut the sweetness just enough, not to mention make my mouth water and cause me to dive right in for that next sip.

I'm really coming to love Starlight. They are putting out flavorful, complex and unique whiskeys, and I've really enjoyed everything I've had from them so far. While people seem to be catching on, hopefully I'll continue to have access to quality bottles such as this on at least a semi-regular basis.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Angel's Envy Binny's Private Selection Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished in Port Wine Barrels

- $90
- 109.8 Proof
- Barrel No. 2012
- Kentucky

When Angel's Envy announced their single barrel program, I was excited. I've always been a fan of Angel's Envy. Whether it's your jam or not, they have certainly got Port barrel finishing down.  I guess that would be expected given it's their flagship product. But, this promised to be better, if for no other reason than the higher proof.

I could have researched this, I guess, but that's never really been my style. My understanding, though, is that these single barrels are not quite cask strength, but rather are being bottled between 105 and 115 proof. My guess is that's for two reasons--to not have these compete with the annual cask strength releases, and to allow them to price them at some point in between their standard offering and their limited offering. At $90 a bottle, that appears to be right where this landed.

The nose on this was great and everything I was expecting. I got black raspberry and currants. There was a bit of bright cherry, even with a touch of bitterness to it. It also had rich notes of milk chocolate and coffee that seemed to pair perfectly with the dark fruit notes, and it even had a little bit of cinnamon spice to it.

On my first pour, my immediate impression was that this was exactly what it claimed to be -- like regular Angel's Envy, just a bit amped up. It certainly carried more heat with it, but not nearly what I recalled from the Angel's Envy Cask Strength I had a few years back.  It was full bodied, though, with a nice viscous mouthfeel to it, far more than the regular version.

Of course I got all the dark fruit notes that I expected, including the currants and cherry I got on the nose. It also had a bit of a fig note to it as well. Those fruit notes tended to lean towards a wine quality, with a light amount of tannins coming through. On later pours I noticed a jammy sort of blackberry note that I really liked. I say "jammy" but it never got to be too sweet.

The base bourbon provided a decent amount of caramel to sort of underscore everything, and there was a vanilla note throughout as well that played perfectly with all the dark fruit notes. It finished with a black pepper spice mixed with fresh black cherry, as though I picked them right off the tree. This peppery cherry note was really my favorite part of the whole experience. I never would have put those two notes together, but here they were and it was delicious.

I loved the finish, and that seemed to really stand out as something very different from and better than standard Angel's Envy. Otherwise this was very much a beefed up version of Angel's Envy. That said, I liked it for that reason, and while $90 is a little steep, I'd probably grab another one if I were to stumble upon one.

Grade: B+