Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: Suntory Whisky Toki

Summer is the perfect season for blended whisky.  Blended whiskey can be light and refreshing.  When it gets hot a lighter blended whiskey really hits the spot.  I don't drink a lot of it but I generally enjoy it when I do.  Johnnie Walker Black Label is a stand by for me when I'm at a bar with a limited selection.  As much as I enjoy Black Label though I don't think anyone does blended whiskey better than the Japanese which is why I was so excited to try the Suntory Whisky Toki.

Suntory Whisky Toki - 43%, $45

Taste:  Initially on first sip this is sweet with the soft vanilla of the grain whisky coming through and a little apple.  Then the smoke hits, not a lot but just enuough to let you know it's there.  The smoke never really fades but this transitions to a sweet, juicy white grape.  The finish is sweet and ashy with a little lingering white grape fighting with a bit of vanilla for attention.

Conclusion:  This is a really interesting blend.  It's light but still has some boldness.  This is a good, easy drinking summer whisky but has enough boldness to keep things interesting.  I really like this and will go back for more.  The price is reasonable for the quality, this is a blend that I would have no problem stocking in my bar on a regular basis.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

Bernheim Wheat Whiskey - 7 Years Old - 45%, $30

Taste:  Light and mellow.  This is fairly two dimensional, if I didn't know better I would think the proof was closer to 80, this has the smoothness and the muted profile of a whiskey of a lower proof.  There is a light caramel and some vanilla.  A touch of brown sugar.  More vanilla on the finish and the oak keeps things dry.

Conclusion: This is easy drinking and pleasant.  This is a good summer whiskey, not too bold but fun to sip.  There are a lot of bourbons and ryes I would rather have over this wheat whiskey but it's uniqueness as a wheat whiskey is worth something and for that reason I'm glad I have my bottle.  This is a whiskey that I enjoyed more for educational reasons than pure sipping.  This would fit nicely in a tasting as an educational element to highlight the effect of wheat in a bourbon or as a counterpoint to a rye.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: Maker's Mark Private Select

Maker's Mark Private Select - 55.65%, $70

The Private Select is Maker's Mark's new barrel proof offering,  It is similar to Maker's 46 but it is a single barrel program for stores who get to choose the staves that are used.  Traditional Maker's 46 staves can be used but there are also several other choices that impart different flavors into the bourbon.  Each barrel will use ten staves and stores can choose from five different options when choosing each stave.  In the photo to the side you can see the selections that were made for this barrel.

Tasting Notes:  Wow this is really drinkable for the proof.  This is soft and creamy with loads of vanilla, like vanilla taffy.  There is a bit of cinnamon spice but it's in the background mostly.  This has a nice viscous mouth feel.

Conclusion: I'm going to have to do a side by side with the standard Maker's Cask Strength one of these days.  I liked the original Cask Strength but remember it being bigger on the cinnamon with an almost red hots like taste.  I get much less of that here.  There is a little bit of cinnamon but it's in the background, vanilla is the featured player here.  This is quite different from the standard Maker's Cask Strength, the aging with different wood staves really does impart a difference.  I'm not sure that I like this better than the standard Maker's Cask Strength but it's certainly good.  For the price difference though I would stick with standard Maker's Cask Strength.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review: 1996 Giboin Fins Bois Cognac

1996 Giboin Fins Bois Cognac- 2015 bottling - 40%, $55

Nose: The nose is very light.  Slightly floral in a perfume sort of way.  I pick up some alcohol and a hint of oak with a little bit of butterscotch,

Taste:  The initial entry is light.  It is very easy to drink, It has a bit of acidity which with the lightness makes this kind of refreshing.  There is a little green apple in here and a bit of butterscotch on the finish which lingers nicely.

Conclusion: The price for this is very fair but it suffers from the proof.  I would love to try this at a higher proof as it seems a bit muted at 40%.  Still, this was light and crisp with a bit of acidity that makes this a great summer Cognac if there is such thing.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review: 1994 Chateau de Pellehaut 20 Year Old Armagnac

1994 Chateau de Pellehaut 20 Year Old Armagnac - 2014 bottling - 48.5%, $70

This is one of my all time favorite Armagnacs.  Pellehaut was my first ever taste of Armagnac and the first bottle I ever purchased.  I have a certain nostalgia due to that but I also love the style and value of Pellehaut.  Pellehaut is a bourbon drinkers Armagnac.  They bottle at higher proof than most Armaganac producers and their expressions tend to be big, bold and full of oak but well balanced all while being very reasonably priced,  Pellehaut is a mark of quality, I have never been disappointed by anything from them.

Nose: This is extremely fragrant with a beautiful nose.  First up is caramel, then it's the fruit, candied orange and peach.  Oak is there too along with a little bit of cinnamon.  This nose packs a punch and I could smell it all day.  This makes my mouth water.

Taste:  It's like there is a party in my mouth.  Big thick honey flavor, sweet toffee.  This is sweet up front with an undercurrent of oak that keeps it balanced and helps structure the big body.  This is full of flavor.  The sweetness gives way to oak and finishes dry but this is never astringent.  The oak is extremely well integrated.

Conclusion: This is big, bold and flavorful.  Drinking this is like going home again.  It reminds me of why I first fell in love with Pellehaut and Armagnac.  This was worth every penny and then some.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon (Green Label) - 6 Years, 90 Proof

Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon - 6 Years, 90 Proof - $10

Nose: Caramel, bread pudding, orange, a little black pepper.  The nose is a bit faint

Taste: This is a bit thin.It's surprisingly dry with a lot of oak given it's age.  I get a lot of oak tannin which gives way to some bitterness.  There isn't a lot of sweetness to balance it all out.  This is spice forward, I get some cinnamon, not a lot but it's there.  It finishes with oak and some toffee.

Conclusion: Often with cheap bourbon it tastes young and corn forward but this didn't.  There was a lot of oak in here and a good amount of spice, there was very little sweetness.  This won't knock your socks off but it was good, drinkable neat or suitable for mixing and is a nice juxtaposition from some of the other cheap bourbons.  This was well worth the $10 it cost.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: Very Old Barton 86 Proof

Very Old Barton 86 Proof - 43%, $12

Nose: Creme brulee, sweet lime juice 

Taste: Cream soda, nougat, a little lime zest, some cherry which gives way to a slight oak bitterness. 

Conclusion: This is nice and balanced. A good amount of sweetness, just a little bit of oak. It's not overly sweet, I think that has more to do with the proof than oak. This is good enough to drink by itself but also cheap enough to mix. There are higher proof versions of this.  This is good enough that I will be on the lookout for the 90 proof and bottled in bond.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Ancient Age 90 Proof

Ancient Age 90 Proof- 45%

Nose: A bit of corn, some alcohol and not much else.

Taste:  This tastes very young.  It's sweet on the entry, the corn is there and just a little vanilla.  The finish is astringent, this is where the alcohol really shows up.

Conclusion: This isn't terrible but also isn't something that I keep stocked regularly.  This is super cheap though and if I was looking for a mixer this would not be a bad option.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: Evan Williams Bottled in Bond

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond (White Label)- 50%, $15

Nose: Carmel corn.  Vanilla.

Taste:  Sweet corn and caramel which is balanced nicely by oak.  This is more corn forward but the oak keeps it from being too sweet.  The corn gives way to whispers of vanilla on the finish.

Conclusion: If someone asked me what a prototypical bourbon flavor profile was this would be pretty close to it.  This is very bourbony (if that's a thing).  That is by no means a knock on it, this is very good.  There are some cheap bourbons that are very good and terrific values, this is one.  Cheaper bourbons tend to be younger, and this is on the younger side but it's in the sweet spot of age where bourbon really shines.  I highly recommend this.

Good + Cheap = Value

Coming up will be my first break from brandy.  There are a lot of amazing whiskeys out there.  When it comes to bourbon there are bourbons that are very expensive and some that are very cheap.  I get just as much enjoyment from the cheap as I do the expensive.  While the special editions and limited editions get a lot of reviews one of my favorite segments tends to get overlooked: good and cheap.  Bourbon doesn't have to be old to be great, in fact the sweet spot is probably 4-10 years.  Even by 10 years bourbon is getting pretty oak forward.  I do love an older bourbon too, don't get me wrong.  I think Elijah Craig 12 (I haven't had the new NAS version yet) and Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond are both fantastic, and I have had some old and very oak forward bourbons that I quite enjoyed but as much as I enjoyed those I also have very much enjoyed some of the younger and cheaper bourbons.  Not all young bourbon is going to be great, or even very good, but a lot of it is and some of it is startlingly cheap and surprisingly available.

While I do plan to mix in whiskey (and whisky) on this blog and plan to drink all types of it (for man can not live on brandy alone) initially I plan to focus on the cheap and good for that is where value lies and these days value seems to be becoming the new true rarity in whiskey.  Coming up: value bourbon week.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review: 1983 Domaine de Maouhum 32 Year Old Armagnac

1983 Domaine de Maouhum 32 Year Old Armagnac - 2015 bottling - 42%, $100

Nose: Leather, tobacco, earthy, pepper.

Taste:  This has a rich and savory taste.  This really sings.  The initial sip is engaging and has a bit of magic to it.  There is rich oak spice which overpowers the fruit.  The fruit is very muted, I get a little bit of plum wine but not much else in the way of fruit.  The finish leaves some carmel but overall this is dry and oaky.

Conclusion: This is bold and oaky and really tasty.  It's dry, this is a celebration of oak but it's still balanced.  This was very, very good.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Jacques Esteve Coup de Coeur Cognac

Jacques Esteve Coup de Coeur Cognac - A blend of 1979 and 1981 Cognacs, 2015 bottling - 40%

Appearance: A golden orange, somewhere between gold and amber.

Nose: A very sweet nose, some peach, a little orange and passion fruit.

Taste: Big peach up front, then some pineapple and rock candy sweetness but it's not overwhelming.  The oak is subtle but is there and helps to balance and dry out some of the sweeter notes.

Conclusion: This is very good and very well balanced.  It's deceiving at 40%, I would have guessed higher.  Very often I find spirits lacking at 40% but this isn't, it's still full flavored and full bodied.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Domaine de Papolle 28 Year Old

Domaine de Papolle 28 Year Old 1987, 45% - 2015 Bottling

Appearance: Dark and brooding. Burnt caramel. A watered down Coca-Cola

Nose: Oak, spice and caramel. 

Taste: On the entry it's citrus, orange zest and candied lime with waves of vanilla and oak. The vanilla lingers on the finish leaving a strong cream soda taste. Really nice flavor.

Conclusion: This is well integrated with some lovely flavors. The oak is very present but never overpowering.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Review: Ladeveze Plant de Graisse Tenereze Armagnac 1998 - 16 Year Old Armagnac

Ladeveze Plant de Graisse Tenereze Armagnac 1998 - 16 Year Old Armagnac, 2015 bottling, 45%

Appearance:  Light gold, the color of sunshine. 
Nose:  Sweet fruit, a bit floral, alcohol is present but only slightly.  Has a nose more similar to a lot of Cognacs than Armagnacs.

Taste: This has a lot of similarities to a Cognac while still retaining some of the rustic nature of an Armangnac.  The palate confirms the sweetness that was on the nose but it’s balanced by the presence of oak which dries it out a bit on the finish compared to the initial entry but this is still on the sweeter side.  There is a whisper of vanilla and cherry in here.  The palate is more sweet than fruity, the kind of sweetness you get from white grape juice. 

Conclusion: This is a pleasant Armagnac.  It’s good, not great.  For the price of $120 a bottle I think it’s overpriced, at $70 - $80 it would be priced right.  This was recently marked down to $90 at K&L so it’s getting close.  There are some good things going on with this but I never felt that it was very well integrated.  I’m enjoying my bottle but I don’t reach for it often.  This is sweeter than what I usually look for in an Armagnac so it could just not be right for my palate.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Laird's Straight Apple Brandy - 100 proof

Laird's Straight Apple Brandy - 100 proof

Appearance: A little darker than straw, the color of apple juice coincidentally enough.

Nose: Bright, ripe, fresh apples.

Taste: Baked apple, Mott's apple juice, some oak spice and a lot of creamy vanilla on the finish. That vanilla finish lingers and is really, really nice.

Conclusion: Laird's is no longer bonded meaning that it is no longer all four year old brandy.  This is rumored to be a mostly four year brandy with some three and five year barrels in the mix.  Whatever it's a mix of it's full of really clean, juicy apple flavor and is very, very good.  I always keep a bottle of this around.  It's refreshing and a nice change of pace from grape brandies every now and then.