Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bunnahabhain Signatory Vintage 8 Year Staoisha Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch

- $70
- 117.2 Proof
- 8 Years
- Cask No. 10605
- Dechar/Rechar Hogshead
- Islay

This was one of those bottles that I picked up solely on word-of-mouth recommendation. Binny's had gotten in a number of these Signatory Vintage bottlings, and while I wanted to just buy them all, that's not entirely practical. So, I sent a quick text to a buddy of mine who I knew would have the kind of insights I was looking for. And this, despite its age, was at the top of his list (though there are still a couple others from this run that I want to grab).

My experience with Bunnahabhain is admittedly somewhat limited, but what I've had from them I've found to be aggressive, very smokey and quite delightful. This one being Stoaisha means it's got even more peat that usual, and on top of that, it was matured in a de-charred and then re-charred hogshead.  With it then being bottled at cask strength, this was sure to pack a punch!

The nose hit sweet at first, kind of like honey and butter cookies, perhaps tempered a bit with a sweeter malt note. However, the smokey notes are not far behind, offering a bit of a complement to the sweet notes. There was also a distinct bready quality on the nose as well, and it definitely reminded me on the nose of baked goods.

On my first sip, the first thing I noticed was how sweet it was.  So many of the Islay Scotches I've had lately have been matured in fortified wine barrels, and I kind of forgot how sweet it can be in contrast to the heavy peat notes, even without those sweet wine influences.  This had a delicious and soft, buttery caramel note to it that I just couldn't get enough of.

There were also milk chocolate note as well as those butter cookies (think Trefoils from the Girl Scouts) I was getting on the nose. Of course, this was all paired with the ever-present campfire smokey note, which may have been a bit more pronounced with the fresh char from the barrel adding a touch more influence here. 

What I think I loved most about this bottle, though, was that while the notes of peat were strong, they didn't stick around too long on the finish. Rather, it was the caramel and butter cookie notes that really lingered, leaving me smacking my lips after every swallow.

I said this the last time I reviewed a Bunnahabhain bottle, but I really do need to have more of their whisky in my life. This was a stellar bottle, one that had no need for a sherry or port maturation or finish.

Grade: A

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Old Overholt Cask Strength 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey


- $100
- 121 Proof
- 10 Years
- Kentucky

This was one of those whiskeys that was nowhere on my radar when it came out. I'm usually on top of rye releases, especially those that are cask strength and age-stated. But, I had no clue that Beam was putting out a cask strength Old Overholt, not to mention one with an age statement in the double digits. 

So, I didn't even know I wanted one until I went over to a buddy's house and he had a bottle sitting on his kitchen table. It was one of those moments where I barely had taken off my jacket before I was popping the cork on that bottle to give it a try. Luckily for me, his wasn't the last one at the store, and I was able to get my hands on a bottle of my own. 

The nose was woody, but not overly oaky. It had a mix of oak, pine and sawdust. It also had a spicy but sweet cinnamon note to it. What stood out, however, was the rich and distinct notes of an old fashioned. I got a rich, dark cherry, like an Amarena cherry, along with a burnt orange note. Needless to say, it smelled delicious!

Luckily, it tasted just as good! Oddly, though, I wasn't overly impressed at first. The first couple pours I had of this rye I thought it was a good, solid rye, but it didn't necessarily wow me. But, pretty much every pour after that second one was fantastic!!

It definitely had some of those woody or oaky notes, and there was a bit of a pine resin note that you tend to get from aged ryes. Underscoring that, however, as a healthy amount of rich and sweet vanilla. It also had a peppery spice both right up front and on the finish that seemed to work well with the vanilla and pine notes. It really had the best of those traditional rye notes that I love.

On top of that, however, were rich, sweet and spicy cinnamon notes, giving a great mix of cinnamon roll and atomic fireball. It was sweet and spicy and rich, all at once.  And behind that was a distinct cooked peach note that I absolutely loved. At times this reminded me of a peach pie, with the cooked, spiced peaches, a bit of a pastry note, and cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top. I couldn't get enough of this note, and it is certainly what kept me constantly reaching for this bottle on my shelf.

The finish had that same sweet and spicy profile, with notes of cinnamon and black pepper mixed with vanilla, pine and that great cooked peach note. But here that cooked peach note really lingered, along with the vanilla note, leaving an incredible taste in my mouth long after each sip.

I feel like I've been sleeping on the Old Overholt line, and this release really gave me reason to never do that again. This was an outstanding rye, and I hope there are future releases.

Grade: A

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Very Olde St. Nick Ancient Cask 8 Year Canadian Rye Whiskey

- $150
- 86.8 Proof
- 8 years
- Lot #16
- Canada

This is one of my first forays into Preservation Distillery's offerings. I had seen them floating around social media for quite a while, new revivals of old brands. They come with higher age statements, great looking packaging that reminds one of other very sought after whiskeys, and, of course a great story/label that uses words like "ancient cask" and "legendary rye."

But, what's hidden on the back is something I should have looked at before I made this purchase -- "Product of Canada."  This is a low proof, 8 year Canadian whiskey.  That doesn't exactly command the premium price that I paid back in 2020.  I made the mistake of getting excited over seeing these bottles hit Illinois shelves for the first time and not bothering to do my research. But, despite the wind being taken out of my sails, I figured at that point I had already bought it, I might as well drink it!

The nose was a healthy dose of cinnamon and sawdust. It had that light, woody smell that you get when working with a table saw.  It also had sweet bready notes that reminded me of Hawaiian rolls and even at times glazed donuts.  The long and short of it is it was very sweet with a bit of cinnamon.

On the palate it was also very sweet, but it was more of a brown sugar sweetness that dominated, and it told me fairly quickly that this was indeed a Canadian whiskey.  There was also a layer of vanilla underneath the brown sugar sweetness that gave it a bit of a dessert quality. Unfortunately, for me, it just leaned too sweet and I had a hard time getting past it.

I did get some other, more interesting notes, including the cinnamon that I was getting of the nose. That mostly came through on the back-end, and it was unfortunately fairly fleeting. I also got a bit of a cayenne note that added just a touch of spice.  That too was fleeting.

On the finish I was left with those sweet, bready notes coupled with the ever-present brown sugar. The finish was short-lived, though, disappearing on me almost immediately.

This bottle just didn't offer much more for me than standard fare Canadian whiskey. And every time I drank it and thought about the price, I just got angry. There is a reason these bottles just sit on shelves now. This was one-dimensional, overly sweet and way overpriced.

Grade: D