I’ve more or less given up on Bourbon’s back stories since there’s more fiction than fact in these, generally. If you go by everyone’s origin story there’s about 25 guys who invented bourbon as we know it, so there’s no point in reading about it anymore.
The same is most likely true for ‘Uncle Nearest’. The first thing I see when I google the whiskey is ‘The best whiskey maker the world never knew’. So, I’m gone. Let’s just drink this whiskey.
Okay, so I decided to look after all. It didn’t help. There’s a story about a former slave who became a distiller and a reverend making awesome whiskey in Tennessee, just outside of Lynchburg. Could be true, but I guess there’s some freedom with facts in this.
Anyway, tasting time.
Sniff: Dry sweetness, with hot cinnamon. Corn, with lots of oak, charry barbecue notes with some grilled mango notes.
Sip: Again, dry and rather spicy. Crushed black pepper, hot cinnamon. Some barbecue and fruit flavors. Like sweet pork marinade.
Swallow: It gets more dry with hints of oaky bitterness. Spicy, with some fruit in the background.
Even though it’s at 50% / 100 proof, there’s quite some heat to it and that is something I quite enjoy. Interestingly it doesn’t say ‘bottled in bond’ even though it has the right ABV for it.
All in all, it is not an overly complex thing, but quite a lovable one, which has more to offer than a lot of stuff at the same price point. In Europe it clocks in at about € 65. Not exactly cheap, but leaps and bounds below things regular considered ‘premium whiskey’, like this one.
Norbert is a guy who’s been around for ages in the whisky world, and has started his own company to host tastings and have stands at festivals a few years ago. He is mostly known for his enthusiasm about American whisky (without an e, since we’re in Europe and that’s how you spell it here, according to him).
With COVID-19, all whisky festivals and tastings have been cancelled and most companies have taken refuge in the online world of Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams.
This tasting was no exception. Seven American whiskies were tasted on August 20th, of which I will review 6 here. The seventh will follow in a little while, which I will go over in more detail, since I bought (and shared) a bottle of it.
Hiram Walker Imperial, 4 years old, American Blended Whiskey, 43%, +/- 1971
Sniff: Initially sharp, but mellows down to a rather sweet whiskey. A fairly spicy scent follows that. Warming with dying embers, some honey.
Sip: Very old fashioned. Some pure bourbon sweetness with not much ‘design’ to it. Pretty dry and even a bit of card-board. A whiff of white and black pepper, with some honey.
Swallow: The finish is dry, corky, with hints of old apple. Virtually no modern sweetness, and therefore a lot more character. Quite short with some treacle.
We started off with an oldie, bottled almost 50 years ago. This whisky is from a weird time in American whisky, when people were looking for lighter styles and vodka was gaining ground on this ‘old fashioned’ drink. So, an American blended whisky is generally vodka with some whisky mixed into it.
So far, I’ve not dabbled in this style all that much, but I was positively surprised by it. It had more flavor than I expected of an American blend. I wonder what the mixing ratios are, and how much of that flavor would hold up if it was made today. Bourbon was different, 50+ years ago, like Scotch was different. All in all, a pretty solid start.
Hermitage Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 4 years old, 40%, bottled in 1976
Sniff: Quite an intense nose, with a lot of oak notes. Menthol, burnt oak, almonds. Maybe even some marzipan. A whiff of licorice.
Sip: The palate is a lot lighter with even some acidity. Slightly sour, a lot more corn than before. Sweet and sour, with sharpness from the oak.
Swallow: The finish is a bit contrasting, going full force against the sweetness. Some bitterness, some acidity, licorice. The sweetness does survive though.
Another oldie followed. Obviously there is more focus on the corn since there is significantly more in here, so a sweeter drink too. Although the sweetness supposedly is more from the oak than from the corn, as Norbert said.
The hints of Marzipan and licorice hold up this whisky, although the contrasting finish make it a bit weird. For a bourbon from this long ago, I would have expected a little bit more depth. Although, again, this is from the time where bourbon was anything but popular.
Town Branch Rye, 100 proof, 50%
Sniff: A lot warmer, more modern, more thick. Syrupy, with balls. Quite fierce, with lots of oak and baking spices. Cinnamon, charcoal, bitter wood notes. Candy canes.
Sip: The palate is quite sweet, very much bourbon like, with some rye spiciness. Not a lot though. Candy cane, cinnamon. A touch of acidity with heat form the alcohol.
Swallow: The finish is a lot lighter and more spicy. Quite long with menthol and a lot of oak.
This is a far more modern whisky, with more thickness, a bit more oomph too. The combination of spicy rye, oak notes and a candy sweetness make for a dangerously drinkable whisky. The surprising note of acidity on the palate was nice to contrast the sweetness.
Quite a lovely dram, this. I wouldn’t mind going through a bottle of this stuff. I think the 100 proof really helps this whisky.
Sagamore Spirit Rye, Port Finish batch 1C, 50.5%
Sniff: Initially it’s pretty intense, but it mellows down after while. There’s a lot of sweetness, Fairly straight forward with a lot of corn, and a lot of oaky sweetness.
Sip: There’s a LOT of sweetness on the palate, with quite some spices after that. The port dryness adds to the rye dryness, but the sweetness doesn’t really work for me. Stewed red fruits, jam, with spices that don’t belong.
Swallow: The finish is, again, insanely dry, with heat from the oak and alcohol, with white pepper.
Throughout this whisky there are some hints of menthol, pine and solvent. These do give it some complexity and try to balance the port casks.
To say we’re getting into strange waters is an understatement. I have a strenuous relation with port matured whiskies in the best of situations, but to add the port sweetness on top of the sweetness of an American whisky is asking too much from me.
Honestly, I really, really dislike this whisky. I’m not sure what they’re going for here, but it absolutely doesn’t work for me.
Side note: They’re talking about a finish in European and American Port Barrels. If that refers to the oak’s provenance, fine. If that refers to where the port came from, it’s weird, because ‘port’ made anywhere else than a small region in Portugal can’t be called that. Not sure how that holds up in International law though.
Sniff: Very dry, once more. Very classical with a lot of vanilla like sweetness, corn syrup. A lot of attention to the baking spices, resulting in a very old fashioned whiskey.
Sip: The palate is quite dry, but not very intense. Some bitterness because of the long time in wood. Some woody heat resulting in chili heat.
Swallow: The finish mellows very quickly, with oak and corn. Some caramel, stewed fruits. Milk chocolate too.
This is a considerably older whisky than what came before, with this being a mix of 10 and 12 year old bourbons.
As steady readers of MaltFascination know, I love the bitter notes that I found here and this one is a lot more mature and old fashioned because of these.
All in all, a very good whisky, which should not be too surprising with this clocking in at € 170 in Europe. Expensive stuff, but these bottlings are popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
With that we didn’t come to the end of the tasting. After the Blood Oath we had a Yellowstone Limited Release 2019. A 50.5% bourbon at 9 years old. I absolutely loved that one and bought a bottle before I even said I loved it in the tasting. Tastings notes to that will follow, based on more extensive trying.
This bottling from a few years ago is one that I had my mind set on since last week. That’s not long at all, but there’s a bit of a story there.
A little while ago, with an exponentially growing enthusiasm, I’ve become interested in bourbon again. Contrary to a few months ago when I thought I was quite done with the style.
This happened because I tried some different versions in various tastings I participated in or tasting sets I bought. As it turns out, to keep enthusiastic about something, you have to keep feeding it. I hadn’t been, apart from ‘the cheap options’.
Now in those tastings I tried some amazing whiskeys, bourbons, ryes, even American blended whiskeys, which I never expected to like. A footnote is that this one was bottled in the early seventies, with distillate from the sixties. Not your regular bottom shelf hooch.
Then, a short while ago, I discovered the Youtube channel ‘Bourbon Junkies‘ and I’ve been absorbing their style and content like a sponge. Unfortunately, virtually everything they review is either not available in Europe, or so ridiculously expensive that it could just as well have been unavailable.
What they named an affordable, available bourbon that scores exceptionally well for its price level was this Old Forester ‘1920 Prohibition Style’ bourbon. In the USA it’s available for $ 55. In Europe it’s available for $165.
Then, as luck and planning would have it, I went to De Whiskykoning to pick up some stuff I had set aside there, and we got to chatting about this very pricing phenomenon.
Rob, the owner of the place, then told me he used to have that bottle, and that he had samples available. Obviously I bought a sample. I don’t know why I didn’t buy ALL the samples, but that has since been corrected.
Now, let’s see what all the fuss (I created) is about.
Sniff: Right after pouring it the sweet and oaky notes start filling the room. Apart from sweetness and oak there are quite some wood spices. Some clove, some nutmeg. There’s some stone fruit too, like peaches. Slightly creamy, and not too punchy for the ABV.
Sip: The palate does show more of the punch from the alcohol, with quite an astringent kind of wood. Oak shavings, some furniture wax, but still with the peaches and cream. The dryness doesn’t give way anytime soon, although there is a little bit more sweetness than on the arrival. It shows some black pepper too.
Swallow: The finish is a little bit hot, but that’s not really a surprise. The pepper and the oaky dryness show a little bit more and linger quite a while.
Well, now I understand what the fuss is about and this is a rather cracking bourbon. I love that it’s dry enough to show some character and is not ‘just sweet’. The sweetness is there, but the oak and the alcohol keep that in check.
This is not a $ 165 bourbon, but I’d gladly pay money for this. It’s really, really good.
On of these 10,000*n bottles of Whiskybase. One I’ve had on my shelf for a while and never really got into, or got around to reviewing. In the end I sold some samples and it still took me three years to finish it.
Now that sounds overly negative, but let’s see whether or that is true!
Sniff: Leathery with thick skinned, dried fruit. More wood and barley notes, accompanied by some spices start emerging after a short while. Peaches and nectarines, old polished oak.
Sip: Fairly strong with lots of dry and sharp oaky notes. Wood spices, sawdust, peach skins, nectarines, mango skin. The leathery sensation.
Swallow: The finish is smooth and fruity, with more focus towards that than the woody notes.
Strangely, when reviewing it, there is nothing bad to say about this whisky. Actually, it’s a really, really good one. However, back when it came out there were several others from Glenrothes that came along as well and those made a bigger impression on me, like the one from The Single Cask.
So, in the end I’m glad I didn’t bunch this one with that one, since it wouldn’t have gotten the correct review. When reviewing things together, you start comparing in a different way than when you taste things separately. For reviewing, I sure prefer the latter.
Anyway, a rather good whisky that, if I remember correctly, cost about € 90 when it came out. That’s a good price for a bottle like this. There’s enough complexity and flavor to keep you busy for a dram or so. And after that it’s pretty solid to drink too. After all, it’s almost 60%.
I was quite excited when a new Lowlands distillery was announced. Between Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie there wasn’t too much there. At the time Bladnoch wasn’t doing much and Ailsa Bay and Daftmill weren’t releasing much, if anything.
And, with Rosebank also being a Lowlands whisky, I was hoping for another one to put the region more solidly on the map.
Then, when the initial two releases were done and you had to shell out £ 300 for a bottle of three year old whisky, my enthusiasm waned quite a bit. Not only because of the price of the whisky, but at the apparent intent to go for super premium instead of going for a ‘solid whisky’.
Super premium stuff without having earned that reputation never really works for actual whisky fanatics. It might work for Chinese businessmen, or collectors who are in it for the money, but not for people who actually love whisky.
Luckily, they’ve come to realize that too, and subsequent releases were far more acceptably priced. However, this stuff is also only three years old and still clocks in at € 100.
Let’s see what it’s about and if the price is realistic for the drink you’re getting.
Sniff: Rather youthful on the nose, with a lot of harsh cask notes. The wood is really pushed onto the whisky. There are notes of charcoal, tar and iron shavings. There is some fruit in there as well, plums and dates.
Sip: The initial arrival isn’t too strong, but that’s probably because your palate is recovering from the shock since the alcohol comes searing through quickly. The fruit is here too, with some bitter notes rather than sweeter ones. Again, the splintery oak notes, masquerading as maturity.
Swallow: The finish allows your tongue to start burning all over again. Insanely hot on the way down, uncomfortably so. There’s sweetness from the fruit now, with the bitter notes I found on the palate. Dried plums and dates. Hints of paint, charcoal and tar again.
I have no idea what to make of this. It feels like I still don’t get to taste what Annandale is like, since I think I only taste cask and alcohol. If that’s the case there is still hope left.
Unfortunately, I find this a hugely disappointing dram. It’s far too strong without something good to back it up. As said, the wood feels forced, and that comes across as mistaking woody flavors for maturity.
In short, let’s be frank, this is pretty shit. I’m very disappointed. I’m hoping future, slightly more timid releases will become available.
Annandale 2016, Spanish Oak Hogshead 544, 61.1%, ‘Man o’ Sword’ Founders’ Selection. Not surprisingly, it’s still available at € 100 / £ 88.
And in regards to the rating. 65 is really low. It’s not like in school where this is still above passing. Anything under 80 should be tried before it’s bought, in my book.
Normally I would have been happy with a sample arriving in the mail from the rather excellent rums bottled by The Duchess. Also normally, I wouldn’t really be in the know of upcoming bottlings unless Nils announced them to me.
This one, however, is different. When social gatherings were a thing, about 29 years ago in February, I was at the Hielander Whisky Festival and Nils gave me a wee sip of this and I was quite blown away by the punch that it packed. And I don’t mean this in regard to the ABV, which is pretty stellar too.
I instantly loved this rum, and it being from a closed distillery makes it all the more interesting. It took another half year before it became available but I bought a bottle the minute it came out.
Of course, that still means I get to sip it before I actually open my bottle. This opening will happen tomorrow when I start sampling a bit of it for a tasting I’m hosting. I’m very much looking forward to gauging everyone else’s reactions!
Sniff: While potent, it’s not too strong on the nose initially. Or maybe it’s so strong that everything goes numb before your brain registers it… It’s a very funky rum with lots of shoe polish and wax coats. There’s a strangely crisp sweetness of cane juice. After that I get overripe bananas. It stays pretty funky but in a very, very good way.
Sip: The palate is where the ABV instantaneously shows. It starts burning with some chili heat, and some heat from the oak too. The funky flavors are slightly suppressed by that, but they’re still there. It’s rather dry, with a sawdust like texture. There’s a bit of charcoal, with some grilled banana and mango.
Swallow: The finish leaves a slowly crumbling coating of molten sugar. Surely but slowly the shoe polish and other funkiness comes back. There’s that crisp note of sugar cane again as well.
Well, after the introduction you’re not going to be surprised that I think this is an amazing rum. With ‘only’ eleven years of aging, of which 7 were in the tropics, it’s quite surprising that the ABV is still so high. It is not to the detriment of this dram, though. I absolutely love it, for it’s unapologetic funkiness. Epic stuff.
A second bottling from Claxton’s that I got my hands on. This time it’s a 21 year old Tomatin, which was also discounted to a pretty reasonable price.
My view of Tomatin is that it can be a great whisky, but a lot of the stuff out there is a quite middle-of-the-road. I’ve had some great ones, the boxed set with the accompanying sherry that was in the cask before comes to mind. Tomatin Meets Sherry, it was called and there was an Oloroso and a PX version.
However, since visiting the distillery I’ve not had too many expressions. Not entirely sure why, but not being rich enough to buy everything probably has something to do with it.
Anyway, this Claxton’s whisky is from a refill bourbon hogshead. I’m hoping it’s a bit less cask driven than yesterday’s Glentauchers. This spirit is fairly gentle too, so casks can get the upper hand relatively quickly.
Sniff: Unsurprisingly, a lot of wood influence. It was in the cask for 21 years, after all. The spirit feels like it was a blank canvas for the cask. Lots of sweet notes of oak, some vanilla, and after a while some minerals and iron. So, some spirit after all because of the hint of iron.
Sip: Quite some vanilla and custard notes. It gets dry with some oak and barley. A touch of white pepper gives it a bit more heat than expected. Quite sweet, overall, with hints of vanilla custard.
Swallow: The finish mellows quickly, with the most cask-forward flavors lingering.
It is very much a cask driven whisky, but for a timid spirit in fresh bourbon, it could’ve been much worse.
The fact that this is a refill cask instead of a first fill doesn’t change much in regards to there being less cask influence than there was with the Glentauchers. I think this one has even less spirit character, apart from the apple-y, mineral note on the nose.
A bit of a bummer. And one that worries me a little bit. I’ve had four whiskies by Claxton’s over the last couple of months (one I have yet to write about, but the other one is reviewed here) and so far I am not convinced. They seem to be going for not very outspoken whiskies, lacking most distillery character. I’ll not be buying much more by them, at least not without sampling first.
18 year old Glentauchers should be pretty good right? Especially when bottled at 48%, which just happens to be my sort-of favorite spot for spirits to be bottled at.
It’s also from a bourbon cask, so we should be getting some decent spirit flavors and not just oak and oak driven stuff. And when this is sold at a pretty significant discount, we should be in for a treat.
Let’s find out if that’s true!
Sniff: A whiff of vanilla, with quite some dry straw and some oak. Fairly straight forward. Some orchard fruits.
Sip: A lot more dry than expected. Coconut husks, straw, wood and vanilla. Some white pepper, apple, pear.
Swallow: The finish is very consistent with the palate. Dry, straw, bourbon cask all the way.
A bit much on the wood with mostly cask driven flavors. Apparently this is a first fill bourbon barrel and the spirit wasn’t strong enough to stand up to it.
Apart from that there’s nothing surprising about this whisky. The quality is there, though. I think this dram is a very solid one for newcomers to the world of whisky, but otherwise lacks a bit in excitement. One benefit is that you don’t often get the chance to try still fairly decent 18 year old single casks at only € 65 at The Old Pipe.
This heavily peated Loch Lomond was bottled by Whiskybroker.co.uk in 2018, and if it was an official bottling this would have been called Croftengea, Inchmoan or Inchfad, since that’s how they brand their heavily peated whiskies normally.
Because this is a Whiskybroker bottling you can count on it having been affordable, and if memory serves it came in at only about £ 40 a pop. I’m not entirely sure why I bought this bottle back then, but I guess the slew of good Inchmurrins (yet another one of Loch Lomond’s brands) had something to do with it.
The bottle had been open for some time and I used it in a few tastings during the pandemic, but when my recent summer holidays came up, I decided to take the tail end with me and finish there.
Sniff: Quite vegetal with some earthy peat smoke. Pretty light and green, mossy, coastal with sea weed and smoke.
Sip: Quite syrupy, but rather intense. Vegetables, sea weed, soil, grass, wood, and quite a lot of wood.
Swallow: The finish continues on the same path, but becomes a tad simple.
That last word, simple, is the problem with this whisky. It does that green thing quite well, but there’s not much reason to come back for seconds, unless you’re going for some easy drinking.
So, this is one of those whiskies that’s pretty decent but it’s a tad boring. The greenness is nice. The coastal notes are nice. They’re just somewhat simple and that’s not too surprising. Loch Lomond isn’t one of the most interesting distilleries, although there’s the occasional heavy hitter that scores well. This just sits in their comfort zone.
There is only one distillery the oldest on Barbados, and that one is called Mount Gay. But, due to licensing issues The Duchess cannot put that on the label, so Barbados Oldest it is.
Apparently it is not only the oldest distillery on the island, but in the world. The oldest deed for the distillery is from 1703, which is very old indeed!
This bottling was released today, and that is something of a novelty. Not that I have a sample available so soon (thanks a lot, Best of Wines!), but that I’m actually reviewing within a decent window of its release…
The Hummingbirds series is a new series from The Duchess with awesome labels by Hans Dillesse.
What is also interesting is that this rum spent its first six years in the tropics, and was then transported to the European continent for 13 years of further aging.
Sniff: Somehow there’s a whiff of sambal at first. Also, there’s roses and other floral notes. Slightly green with sugarcane and tree bark.
Sip: The palate is dry, with sugarcane, oak, cork. Rather floral, with hints of roses and grass. Some apples, ripe banana, quite fruity.
Swallow: The finish is gentle, with not too much sweetness. Old flowers, hay, oak.
The rum is quite a bit lighter than the few I have tried semi-recently. The floral notes, and the lack of things like shoe polish make for a different experience than (to me) normal. This is only a boon and an indicator of the diversity of rum.
It’s a gorgeous rum, and not overly expensive too, clocking in at 100 euros. I expected a 19 year old single cask to be more expensive than that. Highly recommended!