Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Big Plastic: Fleischmann's Rye

Fleischmann's Rye is sort of an odd bird. It's the only rye made by the Barton distillery, and it's mostly for sale in Wisconsin, where it's a budget offering. It used to be a straight rye, but a few years ago they dropped the "straight," so now it's just cheap rye in a big plastic bottle.

Fleischmann's Rye, 40% abv ($15 for 1.75 liters)

The nose is herbal, slightly minty and botanical with some perfume notes.  On the palate there's pine and some spice but it also gets a bit bitter. The bitterness increases into the finish has some spice as well.

This had some nice notes on the nose but the bitterness was overwhelming.

Thanks to Reid Bechtle for the sample and photo.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Beam Pre-Pro Rye

I've been doing a big rye tasting that includes a lot of current off-the-shelf budget ryes, so I thought I would run down some of the ones I've never reviewed before. The Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Rye first came out a few years ago. It's not really pre-prohibition of course. In fact, the Jim Beam company was founded after prohibition (though parent company Suntory existed well before American prohibition).

Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Rye, 45% abv ($20)

It starts with a nice spicy rye aroma. The palate comes on sweet, followed by spice and some acidic notes which lead to a finish that is drier than the palate with some nice spice.

I'm not generally a fan of Beam ryes, but this one is pretty decent with more rye character than Beam ryes typically have. It was a bit too sweet on the palate, but otherwise came together well.

Thanks to Reid Bechtle for the sample. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Whiskey Labels: Ardbeg, Bowman, MGP and More

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

Ardbeg cleared a label for Twenty Something, a 23 year old.

Diageo began clearing labels for this year's limited release series. So far, they have cleared labels for a 17 year old Teaninich, an 18 year old Glen Elgin and a 52 year old single grain from Port Dundas.

Edrington cleared  label for Highland Park Full Volume, distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2017.

A. Smith Bowman cleared labels for a series of bourbons commemorating late master distiller Truman Cox. They included Emerson Cox, an 8 year old bourbon named for Cox's daughter; Jayden Quin,  a 12 year old bourbon named for his niece and Truman Cox First Whiskey Barrel, a 6 year old barrel proof bourbon.

Last year, MGP purchased the George Remus label and last week they issued a label for Remus Repeal Reserve, a blend of three MGP bourbons.

Sazerac cleared a label for a 1971 blended Scotch under the super-pricey The Last Drop label.

Anchor cleared labels for three finished version of their rye malt whiskey finished in stout, port and wine barrels,

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Two years ago, Jim Murray made waves, as he is wont to do, by naming Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as his whiskey of the year. I'm only now just getting around to trying it.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, 45% abv ($28)

This has a nice nose with spicy rye notes and a touch of mint. On the palate it's minty with bubblegum but then quite bitter. The finish is spicy with some medicinal notes.

This one starts nicely but then turns bitter and flat.

Thanks to Reid Bechtle for the sample and photo. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Darroze 50

One of my go-to recommendations for people wanting to try an Armagnac is Darroze Les Grands Assemblages 20 year old.  Darroze is an independent bottler with a large selection of casks at their disposal. Most of what they bottle are single barrels but their Les Grands Assemblages series are blends of their different casks.  Today, I'm lucky enough to sample the 50 year old Armagnac from this series.

Darroze Les Grands Assemblages 50, 42% abv ($350)

The nose is spicy with overripe fruit. The nose is a bit flat but it really comes alive on the palate with big fruit notes at the front end, followed by spicy mint and earthy notes leading to a peppery, somewhat medicinal finish.

As with all of Darroze's blends, this one seems calculated for mass appeal.  It's very good, but there are probably other brandies I'd buy before spending $350 on it.

Thanks to My Annoying Opinions for the sample.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Last Year's Peat: Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 & Lagavulin 8

Today I review two peated whiskeys that were released last year, courtesy of samples from My Annoying Opinions.

Lagavulin 8 year old, 48% abv ($60)

This was a limited release to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Lagavulin Distillery. What better way to do so than with a really young whiskey?

The nose is sweet and peaty with floral notes; surprisingly, the peat doesn't blow you away. The peat comes on strong on the palate, with some light sweet notes, and it fades into a peaty finish.

This tastes exactly how you think it will taste, like a younger Lagavulin, and it's pretty good, because it's Lagavulin.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016, 51.6% abv ($85)

The 2016 Cairdeas, an annual release that varies year to year, was composed of Laphroaig finished in Madeira seasoned casks.

The nose has a lot of wine character; it mixes with the peat to produce some fuel like notes. On the palate there's that same dynamic - first wine along with some fruit notes, then peat, then fuel-like notes but with a bit of spice, likely from the Madeira. The finish is mostly peated with some spice on the palate.

What separates this from any other Laphroaig is the spicy wine notes. I'm not a huge fan of Madeira finishes, so this one wasn't for me - it just gets in the way of an otherwise good Laphroaig, but if you like that sort of thing, you'll probably really enjoy this Cairdeas.

See My Annoying Opinions' reviews of the Lagavulin 8 and Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016

Monday, April 10, 2017

Better Late Than Never: Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch

It's harder and harder to get these bottles, so thanks to My Annoying Opinions for sending me a sample of the 2016 edition of the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch was released last fall and sold out pretty much immediately.

The 2016 Small Batch Limited edition was a blend of 12 year old OESO, 12 year old OBSV and 16 year old OESK

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2016, 55.6% abv ($1 Bajillion)

The nose is nice with bourbon caramel notes. The palate comes on sweet, then picks up woody notes and develops a chewy mouthfeel. It feels hot for its strength. The finish is dry with peppery notes and then a very slight mint. Water makes it soapy so I'd stay away from the faucet.

This is a very nice bourbon, in the traditional "old bourbon" style with a lot of oak showing through. Taking it side by side with the 2015, they are pretty similar. The 2015 may have had more complex flavors but the 2016 is more balanced between the oak and sweeetness. Still, none of them stand up to the amazing bottlings of 2012 and 2013. Those are the bottlings that made the Small Batch Limited Edition a cult must-have bourbon, but the more years pass, the more they seem like an aberration.  The more recent releases have certainly been very good, but not amazing.

Also see MAO's annoying opinion on this bourbon.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Canadian Club 100% Rye

I'm still looking for good, affordable, available whiskey and it's hard to get more affordable than this. Canadian Club's 100% rye is distilled at Alberta Distillers (the distillery that makes most of the Canadian rye available in the US - Whistlepig, Masterson's, Jefferson's, Alberta Premium Dark Batch, etc.). This one comes from the actual owner of the distillery: Beam Suntory, and I picked it up for a whopping $13.

Canadian Club 100% Rye, 40% abv ($13)

The nose is botanical with lots of herbal notes and some honey sweetness. The palate is very light with some black tea, a very slight mint note and pepper leading into a peppery finish.  Overall it's quite bland.

This is a very light and soft compared to the bold mint and pickle notes in the American bottlings of Alberta rye. My guess would be that this is a blend. (You can have a 100% rye blend because Canadian blends combine base whiskies distilled to a very high proof with lower proof, more flavorful whiskeys). This could even be one of those base whiskeys. There's just not much to it. The saving grace is that I'm only out $13, as opposed to the $85 I frittered away on the WhistlePig Farmstock.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Vermont Whiskey at Last: WhistlePig Farmstock Rye

Seven years or so after coming onto the market, WhistlePig finally has made some of their own whiskey. Since its founding, most of WhistlePig's product has been Canadian rye made at Alberta Distillers, though they have also bottled some MGP rye from Indiana. Farmstock, their newest product, includes both of these but also some Vermont rye, presumably made at their own farm distillery.

WhistlePig's Farmstock whiskey is made up of 49% five year old Alberta rye, 31% 12 year old MGP rye and 20% one year old Vermont rye (and kudos to WhistlePig for disclosing all of this right on the label).

WhistlePig Farmstock Rye, Crop 001, 43% abv ($85)

The nose is typical WhistlePig and very nice, spicy with some pickle juice notes. The palate starts with some spice but very quickly turns bitter with raw wood notes which lead to a bitter finish.

This stuff is pretty bad. The nose has some nice qualities but the palate is flat and bitter like many craft whiskeys.  If you are going to drink it, give it lots of air, which takes off some of the rougher edges.

Dear WhistlePig, if this is what your Vermont distillate tastes like, please go back to sourcing your whiskey.