Thursday, April 11, 2024

Review: Bhakta Straight Rye Whiskey Calvados & Armagnac 1928

Color (5%): 
 Nice and dark. Deep rust color. Minimal thinning.  5/5

Nose (10%): A few lovely soft maples, honey, and apple notes. Some lovely jam notes and ripe purple fruits.  8/10

Palate (20%): Honey and apples straightaway. The calvados does a lot of heavy lifting in this spirit. I want a charcuterie board with this. There is some nice malted rye through this, a mild tannic spice. Faint pepper and cardamom. There's a nice bit of creaminess through this.  19/20

Finish (10%): It's got a pretty long finish, with the armagnac starting to shine more. Some funk starts to creep in here as well. There's a nice dynamic flow here. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This product is really nice. I love rye whiskey, apple brandy, and many other brandies. Bringing them all together in the right rations must have taken a lot of experimentation. Don't be some snooty whiskey snob. Appreciate the layers of flavor through this. If you can handle whiskey being finished in sherry casks or cut with grain-neutral spirit, you can appreciate a blend like this. Sweet honey and faint brown sugar shifts into ripe fruit and finishing in rich creamy funk.  28/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The funk pops out more over ice. There's more brandy notes, earthy notes, less honey and fruit. It's still good, but I'd prefer this neat. That's a rarity for me. A faint honey apple is still at the start, but it doesn't shine as long. 21/25

Total Ranking: 89% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $85
Actual Price: $70

Conclusion: I will be controversial and just call this a whiskey. Yes, it's blended with fruit liquors, but corn isn't technically a grain, and we call bourbon whiskey. This spirit fits in the whiskey scope, maybe not legally, but for our purposes, they are comparable. This is a damn fine product. Beautifully layered flavors change on the palate and as it dilutes over ice. Masters made this, and they broke the mold. I highly recommend this. Pick up a bottle, especially if you like apple notes like I do. 

Fact Sheet:
60% Straight Rye Whiskey, 30% Calvados, 10% Armagnac
Bottled in Vermont
ABV: 50%

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Review: Grand Old Parr 18

Color (5%): Medium intensity. Copper and dark honey hues. 4/5

Nose (10%): That gorgeous honey stays true, though slightly less than the 12 year. A faint nuttiness pops in. It's a darker honey with subtle vanilla and oak. Slight black tea notes as well. Nicely layered and soft. 8/10

Palate (20%): Honey roasted peanuts. Cooked apples. It's like the garnish for a cheese or charcuterie board. Sherry fruit flavors, not much spice of any kind. Some vanilla and milk chocolate. Very trace amount of tobacco and leather. The influence of the oak is there, but it is in no way an excessively oaky whiskey. 17/20

Finish (10%): It's a short finish, leaving you with some cocoa powder. Easy going. A slight note of burnt sugar. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This soft sipping scotch is very nice. It has enough nuance to elevate it above a "mixing" whiskey. I would happily sip this for hours. It's bright and sunny and would pair well with picnic foods and afternoon snacks. There is limited depth, punch, or pizzazz, but this is perfectly respectable. It doesn't taste young, and it's certainly not too oaky. This gives blended whiskeys a good name. When it comes to the occasion to drink this spirit, it reminds me of a bright white wine. 26/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The sweetness actually fades out. That's unusual. The apple tartness goes up a lot. It's still a bit chocolaty. Super clean. The finish becomes next to nothing. 19/25

Total Ranking: 80% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $60
Actual Price: $65

Conclusion: You must compare this to the 12-year-old, a staple on my home shelf. This does offer a slightly more robust body and depth. I give this a couple more points on the scoreboard by comparison, but this is nearly double the price. I won't repurchase this, but I will happily finish the bottle. This in no way will be collecting dust, but I can treat myself to more punchy flavors for the same money and get something that serves the same function for cheaper.  Buy a dram at the bar, but you probably don't need to commit to buying a full bottle. 

Fact Sheet:
ABV: 40%
A blend of several distilleries (predominantly Cragganmore), blended and bottled in Leven, Fife

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Review: Old Forester King Ranch

Color (5%): Nice and dark with amber hues. Quite thin. 4/5

Nose (10%): Red fruits come in. Cherries and cranberry notes. Slight nuttiness with toasted marshmallow. alcohol remains quite present despite the filtration 7/10

Palate (20%): Notes of toasted bread. Tobacco, leather, and dark chocolate in the back end. Pretty acrid and almost rusty metal. Not happy flavors. Very little sweetness for a straight bourbon, much more sharp. Raw black pepper, old leather, and lots of charred wood. The wood doesn't mellow out this whiskey, though. Very bitey. 12/20

Finish (10%): There is a slight bit of that marshmallow right after you swallow it, but that heat and char quickly take over. It's a very long finish. Very dry. Not the most alcohol burn, but plenty of wood burn. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is pretty intense. I wouldn't call this a regular daily sipper. I can see it pairing with campfires and cigars, but I like something more toned down. I hope a lot will come out when I try this with ice. The pungency of that wood makes any sweetness barely noticeable. The mesquite doesn't do Old Forester any favors. 14/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The sweetness does come out more now that there is some ice in the glass. The finish is still really dry. Again, it could be a more pleasant smooth sipper. Minor improvement, but still not tremendous/ 16/25

Total Ranking: 69% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $44
Actual Price: $70

Conclusion: This is a special edition whiskey that I do not see a need for. When a distillery makes a partnership, they obviously want to give their partner the ability to influence the final product. I'm told that Ford trucks are good products, but this whiskey doesn't deserve any awards. I see people buying this for brand loyalty or as a souvenir, as it is only available in Texas. I love Old Forester, but this could be a better showcase of their abilities in whiskey production. Try a pour if you see it; you don't need to commit to a bottle. 

Fact Sheet:
Filtered through mesquite charcoal
ABV: 52.5%

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Review: Traveller Whiskey Blend No. 40

Color (5%): A nice gradient of color. Deep thinning. Amber honey hues fading out. Looks young and thin. 3/5

Nose (10%): Pretty mild as far as whiskeys go. Certainly some bourbon sweetness, but it's been blended out. Faint sweet cinnamon, vanilla, light maple/pancake syrup vibes. It's like someone ordered French toast two tables away. Very mild and doesn't smell like 90-proof. 6/10

Palate (20%): Very average in every respect. There's no sharp sweetness or pungent spice. There's no smoke. There's a medium plus amount of oak. Blended scotch at least has a few interesting flavors you don't see everywhere. 9/20

Finish (10%): Very short finish. No new developments. There is a bit of alcohol heat that you'd expect from a 90-proof spirit, but it is not unpleasant, though. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): I don't know what this is for. Only people who don't like the taste of whiskey would drink this. This is so mild. There is a bit of oak, implying that it has a bit more age than a usual blend, but there is so little other flavor. 9/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Ice brings more oak. The sweetness seems to fade in comparison. It's easy. A bit grainy at the back end. This could work as a shot like Jameson in a country bar. 17/25

Total Ranking: 51% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $17
Actual Price: $33

Conclusion: It's strange to have a whiskey blend made by a reportedly sober musician and a distiller who gave his name to a vodka. In short, don't buy this. I got suggested it by a clerk at a liquor store. I saw that it was Buffalo Trace and thought I'd give it a shot. I will no longer be accepting recommendations from store clerks. They clearly have their own motivations. There is going to be a limited amount of demand for this product. You're not missing anything. Save your money and buy something that warms your soul because it is empty inside. It's inoffensive, but that's also saying it blends into the wallpaper. Pass. 

Fact Sheet:
An interesting collaboration between Musician Chris Stapleton and Master Distiller Harlen Wheatly
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
ABV: 45%

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Review: Weller Special Reserve Bourbon

Color (5%):  medium copper. Quite a bit of thinning at the edges. Faint green notes through the yellows and browns. 4/5

Nose (10%): Beautiful nutty caramel. Toffee honey, all the sugars. Light oak. Easily manageable alcohol burn. Nice and soft. 8/10

Palate (20%): The sweetness persists. Honey, caramel, vanilla. There's a light hint of dark fruit coming in over the oak. It's not overly complex, but this is easy drinking whiskey. The wheat keeps this fairly neutral and easygoing.  17/20

Finish (10%): Very mild on the finish. Spice is almost nonexistent. The sweetness stays throughout this experience, and the oak lingers when the other flavors fade. Easy drinking and pleasant, not overly nuanced, but so easy to drink. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This belongs on everyone's shelf. Any friend who comes over who has ever enjoyed a whiskey will be happy with this whiskey. It's an easy sipper; even when neat, there's no aggression or fire. This would be tasty and served neat, in spirit-forward cocktails, or drinks like sours. I like this in a julep. Nowhere near the complexity of some whiskeys I've had, but this has zero flaws. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Ice brings out the hidden spices and the oak. It makes it a bit more robust. The dilution may open up the oils. There are few changes, and no explosive innovations happen, but this stays good.  23/25

Total Ranking: 87% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $40
Actual Price: $25

Conclusion: Buy this whenever you can. In my market, it's relatively cheap. The first time I tried this whiskey, the bottle disappeared over a weekend between my wife and me. A few others in the wheated bourbon category compare to this whiskey, but they are a fair bit more expensive.  This is allocated, of course, but it's one of the few I happen to hunt. I try others, but I keep coming back to this gem. When this isn't around, a few others serve this role, with Maker's Mark as a prime example. For the money, in my market, especially with a 1.75L costing less than $40 this is a great deal. That's basically the same price as Wild Turkey, and this is such an easy sipper and a treat for guests. On the secondary market, I do see this for over $60; don't buy that or pay any obscene restaurant prices for a pour. If you can get it close to MSRP, buy it. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
ABV: 45%

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Review: Johnnie Blonde

Color (5%):  Very light, faint gold, no brown whatsoever. Faint greenish young hay hues. 3/5

Nose (10%): Lots of sweetness and fruitiness. Raspberries, crisp red apples, sweet corn/caramel corn. There is a bit of a young alcohol note, a bit sharp. 7/10

Palate (20%): Not as much red fruit on the palate as on the nose. There's more crispness of apple and pear. There's a faint, bready caramel pastry note coming through. Kind of crackery, bready overall, with some notes of red fruit. 16/20

Finish (10%): A soft finish. The wheated nature comes through here, making it fairly easy to session. Apple and pear carry through that malic acid is prevalent, which is rare in Scottish whiskey. Alcohol burn lingers longer than the flavor. Reminds me of a young bourbon, and I don't care for either. 5/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a little rough. There's a note of cardboard and cheap chewy crackers. There is some nice fruitiness, which might shine with some ice and soda water, but neat, this isn't exemplary. It's an experiment at best, and I don't mind a fruity scotch when talking about a port or sherry finish. But this is young and underdeveloped. I'm curious about mixing it, but this does not hold up in the neat scotch market.  18/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The alcohol burn is still here. The raw, crisp apple shifts into a bit more softened baked apple. A bit more citrus character comes in. improved certainly. This is not a sipping scotch, but it could be mixed up in a way that does it justice. On its own, with assistance and supplement, this is better.   20/25

Total Ranking: 87% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $40
Actual Price: $25

Conclusion: The name Johnnie Blonde makes some sense here. It matches the hue of the whiskey and how unaged this "scotch" is. Making a budget scotch is tricky, and this tries to reinvent the notion of what scotch can be with the incorporation of wheat and that extra fruit character. This is not a well scotch. It's fine. It's not great, even for the money. 

Fact Sheet:
ABV: 40%

Monday, October 9, 2023

Review: Ron del Barrilito 2 star

Color (5%): Light to medium body, with lots of thinning at the edges. Nice golden amber hue. There are darker aged rums, but this is on the younger side in used wood. 5/5

Nose (10%): Lovely heather honey and leather notes hit me first. Dried fruits like apricots come out. Dark orange and purple colors. Woody nuttiness comes through, almonds. A bit of funk carries through. Alcohol isn't that hot, but it is certainly there. A bit of acetone sharpness. I'm not looking forward to trying this neat, but I'll stay open-minded. 8/10

Palate (20%): I expected it to be worse. There's a nice tobacco note. Caramel sweetness makes you think that sugars are added after distillation, but the brand claims that is false. Caramelized walnuts, cedar wood, roasted coconut, and peppery spice. It's a bananas foster profile. Pair it with some French toast, maybe some salted caramel. 17/20

Finish (10%): It's a pretty hot burn. That banana funk does stick around. Lots of funky esters and alcohol burn. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a decent daiquiri rum. I wouldn't put this in the sippable aged rums. At a stretch, maybe with ice, but not neat. I see the cocktail application, but there are aged rums out there that fit the neat, sippable bill for me, and this is not one of them. It has a home in the mixing rums family on a tiki bar shelf, but I wouldn't use this for rum and cokes or straight sipping. Let this guy sit on the shelf unless you're an aspiring bartender who wants to learn about tiki. 21/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Those funky notes pop out much more. Some of that caramel sweetness comes out. The oak and nuttiness fall away. It does get easier to sip.   22/25

Total Ranking: 79% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $24
Actual Price: $30

Conclusion:  This rum is fine. It's that nice funky banana gold rum that works well in cocktails. This is not a sipping rum, but it's easy to see beverage applications. Tiki cocktails could use this, and dessert old-fashioned cocktails with this in a split base. It'll probably take me a while to kill this bottle unless I'm intentionally depleting it. I might use it in a punch, but when I get home from work, I rarely want to put in the effort to make a complex cocktail. It'll be perfectly good for your cocktail needs but it needs other flavors to bring out the harmonies. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Puerto Rico
Aged 3 to 5 years in white oak barrels that were previously used for aging Oloroso sherry
It's been made since 1804 by the oldest rum manufacturer in Puerto Rico
ABV: 43%