Sunday, December 31, 2023

Blackened Total Wine Exclusive Batch Blended Whiskey Finished in Black Brandy Casks

- $45
- 90 Proof
- Ohio

There's something to love about vacation whiskey. Perhaps it's the warm weather, or the momentary lack of responsibility, or just the fact that it's whiskey while on vacation. Whatever it is, I find myself really enjoying my vacation whiskeys, whatever they may be.

In this instance, while in Florida I wanted something I couldn't find in Illinois. So, I naturally gravitated towards a store pick. But, I also decided to go with something that has certainly been out and on the shelves for a few years now, but I have yet to try -- Blackened.  This whiskey, blended by Dave Pickerell, certainly carries the credentials, and I was curious about the black brandy finishing. Plus, it seemed like a good easy drinker in the likely event I found myself enjoying a drink in the afternoon sun.

The aroma was full of caramel and vanilla notes, but the brandy influence was immediately noticeable.  That's where notes of grape and apple came through. After a bit of opening up, those notes seemed to transform a bit into a kind of baked pear note that certainly dominated. It also remained very sweet, with a brown sugar sweetness.

While the nose was full and delicious, the flavor seemed to fall a bit flat, especially in comparison.  I definitely got the brandy notes, as flavors of white grape and sweet apple came through. That baked pear note also made an appearance, but it was all quite muted.  I realize that the proof on this whiskey is relatively low, but I still expected more pronounced flavor.

Aside from the brandy influence, there was a layer of vanilla underscoring those other flavors. It also had the lightest peppery spice, to at least make it a bit interesting. That also helped counter the sweetness, as without it it may have been a bit over the top. The brown sugar note was fairly constant.

I love the idea of this whiskey, taking a great blend and giving it a unique finish. I just wish the flavor was a bit more focused.  It could have come across as bold and unique, but instead came across as flat and a bit boring. I may have to give this a try at higher strength, but I don't know that I'll be buying a bottle in order to conduct that experiment.

Grade: C

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Blanton's Binny's Single Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon - Barrel #154

- $70
- 93 Proof
- Barrel #154
- Kentucky

I don't know why I held onto this bottle for so long before opening it. It's possible that it was the last of any Blanton's store picks that I had, so I wanted to hold onto it. But, realistically, I think I just didn't realize how long it had been sitting on my shelf.  At some point I just reached for a new whiskey off my shelf to pour, and this is what materialized in my hand.

I didn't realize that this had a dump date of July 1, 2020, fresh off the government shut-downs. I sat on this for much longer than I realize or ever intended. But, it's been a minute since I've enjoyed a Blanton's Single Barrel, so I finally decided to pop this one open and give it a go. I had a couple before this that were somewhat disappointing, so perhaps that's also a reason for the wait. But that reason was without justification.

The nose gave of notes of graham cracker and caramel. The graham cracker also took on a pie crust note at times.  It had a sweet nutty note to it as well, like candied pecan, which really rounded out a delicious pecan pie aroma. I got a touch of light pepper to give it a bit of spice.

The flavor was front-loaded with soft, creamy caramel notes. It was like that soft caramel in the center of Dove or Ghirardelli chocolates.  Right away I knew this bourbon was in my personal wheelhouse. That was coupled with a coffee note, however, which gave it a flavor reminiscent of a sweet coffee drink, like a caramel macchiato. The coffee note wasn't strong and bitter, just sweet and flavorful. 

It had a layer of vanilla kind of underneath everything, and there was a bit of cinnamon spice to offset the sweetness just a bit. That cinnamon not was even more noticeable on the finish, where it was accompanied by a lingering spiced cherry note that was absolutely delicious and kept me wanting more.

This was one of the better Blanton's Single Barrel picks I can recall ever having! It really offered a bit of redemption in my book, as this really hit on all cylinders for me. 

Grade: A-

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Kilkerran Port Cask Matured 8 Year Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch

- $180
- 115.8 Proof
- 8 Years
- Campbeltown

I can't help myself when it comes to those peated and fruited Scotches. I love that combination of smokey deliciousness paired with the flavor that comes from maturation in wine barrels, especially fortified wines like port or sherry. In fact, I've come to learn that I tend to favor a port cask maturation over all others.

So when I first learned of these Kilkerran releases, including not only this port cask finish, but also a sherry cask finish, I knew I had to try to track one down somehow. I honestly figured it wouldn't happen, but then I wandered into Warehouse Liquors in Chicago and there it was on the shelf, just begging me to buy it and give it a good home. Of course, I couldn't help myself, despite the hefty price tag. 

The one constant with this single malt is that it is jammy!!  the nose was full of notes of stewed plum and bread pudding.  I got notes of spiced or mulled wine, as well as rich dark chocolate. There was a fairly heavy raisin note as well. But, all of that was layered on top of a jammy blackberry note that really took center stage.

The flavor followed suit, as right up front and through the finish my palate was inundated with sweet blackberry and fig notes. It was rich and sweet ad delicious!! Of course I got a light smokiness from the peat, but it was a bit minimized by the heavy dark fruit character.

There were other notes going on, though, beyond the fruit and smoke. There was a layer of dark chocolate that was also constant from the front and through the finish, adding a bit more richness and complexity, and helping pull back from the sweet fruit notes. I got a bit of black pepper spice, particularly on the finish, as well as a bit of salinity that, quite frankly, really worked here, mixing well with the blackberry and campfire notes. 

If there's a criticism here, it's that this is VERY jammy (yes, I'm using that word a lot, but here it fits). There's no question the port dominates here.  But, I nonetheless found myself not only loving every sip, but actually getting cravings for a pour. For what it is, it was absolutely delicious!

Grade: A-