Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Review: Early Times Bottled in Bond

Color (5%):  Very dark brown. Little crimson. Thin edges. 5/5

Nose (10%): Big orange peel note right off the bat. decently big booze kick. Honey sugars. actually requires a pretty heavy draw to get much more subtlety. I like orange but nothing too complex or nuanced. 5/10

Palate (20%): a bit of pepperiness from the rye. still some sweet orange character. Nice round creamy texture. pretty nice. not too wild and complex again, but hard to dislike. Nothing unpleasant at all. 16/20

Finish (10%): nice and creamy at the back actually. medium light finish. not very long at all. the pepper is there at first but not for very long. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%):  22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The creaminess is still there which often fades out with dilution. Not bad at all, but it doesn't improve anything or eliminate any shortcomings. it is fine, again not legendary status but fine. 20/25 

Total Ranking: 65% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $26
Actual Price: $21 per Liter

Conclusion: This is probably wonderful in a whiskey sour, especially in a New York Sour or a Stone Sour. I can see this being an excellent well whiskey at a lot of bars. That said It's not something I'd hunt for if I were looking for a manhattan or an old fashioned. There are more fun options. This is fine for a whiskey coke. It's not going to be anyone's top ten but it is good enough to do its function. This is still good for the money. It certainly can find a home in many houses but it isn't going on my display of great and legendary bottles for friends to experience. This is a well rail bottle at a pretty nice bar. one that can slot into most roles and not disappoint. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Louisville KY
ABV: 50% 
Age Statement: at least 4 years
Ingredients: 79% Corn, 11% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Wild Turkey Rye 101

Color (5%):  Dark golden amber, thin edges, rich, well-aged. 5/5

Nose (10%): high alcohol evaporation for sure, I'm diving in deep to warm myself up lately, it seems. honestly pretty bland flavor notes at first impression. light roasted apple pie notes. honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, pie crust, light brown sugar, butterscotch but not so sweet, fairly middle of the road. Nothing intense other than the initial booze buzz, vin du table. 6/10

Palate (20%): That's actually pretty good for the heat. mild numbing heat, a big hit in the back of the throat, hard to do a session with but not bad as a slow sipper kissing the tongue. not for glugging. certainly suitable for mixing. potent spike but rather monotone. 14/20

Finish (10%): the heat is long. There's a great flavor at the start but the heat lingers a hair too long on the first sip. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Not something I'll be waiting for and savoring as a treat for myself. That said, it does serve a function. It's a mixer and certain notes can hold up in a highball or boulevardier / black manhattan. I don't imagine any awards coming through for it, but it has a home as a mid-tier spirit at the right price. 19/30

Retry on Ice (25%): This does ease the painful heat of the first impression. As ice always does. Oddly, the burning finish lingers longer. something about polyphenols I'm sure. still an excellent mixer, but it lacks any nuance that I look for in a sipping whiskey or even a highball with soda. 16/25

Total Ranking: 66% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $29
Actual Price: $21

Conclusion: Still above average for some higher proof stuff I've had. Definitely worth it for the money. but this is a mixing whiskey. It will not break out of that tier. Get the soda water and the mountain dew. It's also good in cocktails as previously mentioned. Not perfect but good enough for bulk batches. It's a budget choice but a good one.

Fact Sheet: Straight rye
Distillery Location: Kentucky
ABV: 50.5%
Age Statement: aged in new oak

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Review: Callisto Botanical Rum

  Color (5%): water clear, slightly higher viscosity.  4/5 

Nose (10%): Yeah, that smells like gin. Not like a pine tree but that citrusy botanical quality is huge. If I had to guess, bergamot, cardamom, and citrus peels. No licorice notes to speak of, no real pepperiness, slight white floral notes.  9/10

Palate (20%): Quite dry albeit the sucrose flavor is there. It's gin, but with a few undertones. It reminds me of some gins I've had using honey as a base or apples. It doesn't have the pepperiness of most gins but as a "botanical gin" this hits the mark. 17/20

Finish (10%): the spice character does linger quite a while. but it's pretty dang clean. Not nuanced, but lingering and clean 7/10

Overall impression (30%): Overall, this is a non-juniper forward, sugarcane-based gin. this is not a rum on the palate. Rum is sweet, it is dry, it is robust, it is nuanced. there are fruity notes in rum and floral. rum can taste like cognac or whiskey, but when it tastes like gin, that means it's so mild a distillate is belongs in the flavored spirit category. like gin. That's not a bad thing. I genuinely enjoyed this, but it's not a rum. I'll be docking points from an otherwise rather high score based on the marketing. 22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That gets a bit hotter with ice. The spice and the booze hits more for sure. certainly a step down. 16/25

Total Ranking: 75% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $42
Actual Price: $39

Conclusion: The story is nothing too impressive, a Bermuda gentleman moved to California with the desire to have rum be taken seriously. Not really the ambassador I'd expect, but the product is on point. For use in cocktails, this is a gin or akvavit substitute. I am curious to see how it fits in a lot of classic gin drinks. but you wouldn't put this in a daiquiri and call it a daiquiri. A few tiki cocktails could be given some interesting nuance from this spirit but they would be totally different from their standard. That all said, I do like this. It's tasty and well made. The marketing/labeling is just confused. It's a cool talking point bottle and creative types can easily find some inspiration for new cocktail inventions. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Petaluma, CA, USA
ABV: 40%, 80 proof
Ingredients: California sourced botanicals, blend of charcoal-filtered rums from Trinidad and Nicaragua

Review: Clyde May's Straight Rye Whiskey (Recipe No. 3)

  Color (5%):  Very light, hay hue, 3/5

Nose (10%): light, faint spice, floral notes. 7/10

Palate (20%): still has a bit of oiliness, like the bourbon. honey on the tip, light apple presents itself after a few sips. Nice rye bread spice. 14/20

Finish (10%): quite hot, lots of alcohol burn. some star anise. could've used more time in the wood. 5/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Overall this is a pretty good young rye. The alcohol burn is harsh, even for the proof. a bit more time in the wood would clean that up, but it would take away from some of the delicate spice balance. It'd be good with a little water or mixed but isn't great to sip on its own. I'm curious to try it over ice. 21/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The nose is still there and quite lovely. lighter, weaker alcohol burn. doesn't add anything but it does get rid of some roughness. 20/25

Total Ranking: 70% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $25
Actual Price: $35

Conclusion: This is a cocktail whiskey, not a sipping whiskey. Their website even recommends it in a perfect manhattan. I agree, the dry vermouth would play well with the spiced floral character. That said, it sets a market cap for its utility. I can think of a few things to do with this but above $30 a bottle is too high for something I don't want to sip straight. I'm curious to try their 8-year barrel select and their Special reserve. At the bar, you can skip the neat pour, but if a cocktail with it is featured on the menu, give it a shot. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Florida USA
ABV: 47% (94 Proof)
Age Statement: 4 years
Method: non-chill filtered
Awards: 92 Points 2019 Ultimate Spirits Challenge

Review: Clyde May's Original Alabama Style Whiskey (Batch No. 52, Recipe No. 1)

 Color (5%):  lovely light brown / bronze fading to a very thin clear edge, a long gradient. 3/5

Nose (10%): light honeyed apple note, 4/10 alcohol, mild spice, powdered sugar/sherbet, can't quite place it. sort of nondistinct. 6/10

Palate (20%): I taste vanilla, spice, apple. An interesting mash bill. I'm used to bourbon, rye, and single malt. I think there's a bit of wheat or something else in here. I'd certainly guess corn is in there, but I'm going to surprise myself on this tasting. It has a rather mild flavor, leaning me toward wheat. 16/20

Finish (10%): a rather long finish, lovely caramel apple lingers, sherbet. a bit sweet reaffirming my guess of corn. 9/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): A very mild whiskey overall by my standards. The alcohol impact is undoubtedly there and represents what it is. The nose isn't all that much but I do really enjoy sipping this. It reminds me of some Irish whiskeys I've had in terms of intensity, which is to say, lighter. Certainly sweet, not the most candy-like whiskey I've had, but certainly sweet, butterscotch sweet. 24/30

Retry on Ice (25%): nose pops a bit more actually. Sweet finish lessens. Baked apple and oak come through more. Not as good as neat. 16/25

Total Ranking: 74% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $37
Actual Price: $33

Conclusion: I would recommend this whiskey with light foods, appetizers, salads, etc. Watermelon salads come to mind.  Not particular of any style, but everything can find its place. Turns out it is finished with real apples. doesn't really hold up to any intense flavors so doesn't quite fit the whiskey niche for cocktails. More of a brandy/calvados. It's actually sold as an aged moonshine rather than a whiskey. The story that this brand sells is a good one, harkening back to prohibition and some historic styles. I don't know who to pitch this to. A whiskey novice won't get a good education from this. A whiskey connoisseur will have the styles that they like best. The flavoring component will put off purists. But this is good, and I do recommend it. I want this to start a meal, not finish it, which is rare for a whiskey. And that's cool. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Florida, USA
ABV: 42.5% (85 proof)
Age Statement: 4 years
Method: finished with a hint of apple
Awards: 93 pt 2017 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 93 pt 2012 Wine Enthusiast Magazine Top-50 Spirit

Review: Clyde May's Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Recipe No. 2)

 Color (5%): light, amber, thinning edges again. 4/5

Nose (10%): big corn note, brown sugar, alcohol a bit high, stewed apple, slight roast peach notes. great bourbon character. 7/10

Palate (20%): lovely apples and pear notes. slight strawberry pop early in the taste. A bit of oiliness. a good deal of oak spice. 14/20

Finish (10%): very long finish, much less sweet than the Alabama style. rather lingering alcohol burn. 6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a pretty rich oily bourbon. the age statement is in the range that I like. Not too young, you can see the impact of the wood, but it's not overdone. There are certain bourbons that I like better and certain bourbons that push the extremes of the category a little more but this is a very good solid bourbon. 19/30

Retry on Ice (25%): It gets a bit rough on the nose, dirty old apples. still holds its alcohol heat. loses the fun, keeps the rough. 12/25

Total Ranking: 62% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $27
Actual Price: $35

Conclusion: This is good rich bourbon, just nothing special. I'm sure that this is somebody's favorite but the market is so saturated and I just didn't see anything that impressive. It doesn't differentiate itself from other bourbons. It's fine. The aesthetic of the bottle with lots of classic prohibition imagery and script text is sexy, but I'll pass on this one. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Florida USA
ABV: 46% (92 Proof)
Age Statement: 4-5 years
Method: Non-chill filtered
Awards: 94 points 2018 Wine Enthusiast, Gold New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, 93
2016 Ultimate Spirits Challenge

Review: Red Brick Single Barrel Barrel Strength (Batch 15 Barrel 7)

 Color (5%):  Deep tarnished copper, light kiss of ruby red. 5/5

Nose (10%): Roasted coffee beans. brown sugar. nice bit of punch 8/10

Palate (20%):  light maple syrup at the start, rich roasted barley at the mid-palate ending with lovely roasty notes of coffee, chocolate, and light spice. 17/20

Finish (10%): rich lingering 50% cocoa chocolate. Barrel strength brings the heat, but not as bad as any other barrel strength I've had to date. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): That first sip will always have a kick, but you get used to it pretty quickly. by the third sip this was easy, and that can be dangerous. Eventually, that sweet start really hooks you and that long roasty finish is certainly something to savor. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Jesus, coffee, so much coffee. not brewed coffee but coffee beans or over-concentrated cold brew. chocolate-covered coffee beans. very low cream / vanilla. bitter. movie theatre raisinettes. get this with some sambuca, a barspoon would be a cocktail in its own right.  dessert/digestivo through and through. 22/25

Total Ranking: 86% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $70
Actual Price: $82.50


Fact Sheet: 
Distillery Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ABV: 57%, 114 Proof
Age Statement: 1-2 years in 10-gallon new American oak barrels. 
Ingredients: several different levels of malted barley
Method: double pot stilled
Awards: Bronze Medal - Malt Whiskey Category - American Distilling Institute - 2017, People's Choice Award & Best Whiskey Under 2 Years - American Whiskey Convention - 2017

Review: The Whistler Calvados Cask Finish Batch 2

Color (5%):  nicely golden, not quite as dark as expected, though used casks don't add a ton of color I suppose. 4/5

Nose (10%): Smell is a hair hot in terms of alcohol, though I am a little out of practice when it comes to the nosing. you do get some roasted apple notes, but not much sweetness. my nostalgia goggles put this up pretty high because I remember batch one and I loved it. I don't remember if that one was filtered or unfiltered, but this punches much more clearly as unfiltered. 8/10

Palate (20%): This must be a different apple variety than I remember. It's very pear forward actually. It may be a bit warm heat-wise but not as bad as the nose suggests. I can believe within a reasonable doubt that this is 43%. Sequential sips make it easier which is the desired effect. I do want to keep going back for more. It washes over you and is clean and crisp. There's a nice creamy body to it. 19/20

Finish (10%): The apple flavor is gorgeous after you swallow it. It lingers for a medium-low amount of time, the dryness does stick longer than the flavor for sure. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Tasting this neat, as the first whiskey I've had neat in a while, it is very good. The first impression was a mild shock but I got used to it very quickly so I chalk that up to my own inexperience or taste atrophy. After a few sips, this really is addictive. clean, to full, to clean, to full. 29/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That's still very good. Ice mutes the softer apple notes slightly but also allows me to not notice the heat of neat whiskey. the dryness stays. I like that. The finish is a hair shorter but the dryness stays. This is great session whiskey, great outdoor fall whiskey, 23/25

Total Ranking: 90% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $79
Actual Price: $40 

Conclusion: Not quite as stellar as my nostalgia remembered but also damn fine. I haven't tried neat whiskey in an evaluative sense in a bit, but this genuinely was pretty easy to take. I'll buy this every time I see it. This needs to be in my home. I'll buy a backup bottle of this for when it goes off the market again. Is it perfect, no not today, but my tastes ebb and flow, that said I'll kill a bottle of this in a weekend if left unsupervised, regardless of my mood. Buy it! But leave me one on the shelf. I asked for weeks when this (batch 1) would come back. Now it's back and I remain elated. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Boann distillery, co. Meath Ireland
ABV: 43%
Method: chateu du breul calvados cask collaboration, non chill filtered

Review: Sheep Dip Islay Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

 Color (5%): Golden, fall hay colored. lighter than expected. 3/5

Nose (10%): That is an oily scotch. Old band-aids through and through. Band-aids after a dip in the swimming pool. no real oaky, toasty notes, pretty standard peaty young islay. 7/10

Palate (20%): Surprisingly quite light to start, very watery. It swiftly builds to a high dose of polyphenols. There's a flavor I've had before that I can't place, an English sweet, sherbet? Powdered sugar flavor. It starts with nothing and builds into the rich oily fire. light tang, salty seaweed. Iodine medicine.  16/20

Finish (10%): Long lingering smoke with a bit of alcohol heat. really feel it in the bottom jaw. Very dry. I'm struggling to form saliva. Cigars aren't this binding. light figgy, golden date note starts to appear after several sips. slight medicinal rubber note.  6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a pretty young scotch overall by my estimation, that or the peat is just so high that any oak just falls away.  The peat is there no doubt, but this falls short in terms of balance in my opinion. It goes from nothing to a little something maybe, and then a hard kick in the jaw.  18/30

Retry on Ice (25%): some pulpy fruit starts to emerge, more tang, sour orange, my palate may be adjusting to the peat at this point. The oil still lingers but the opening flavor and mid-palate really brighten up. Certainly an improvement but still not anything of legendary status.  19/25

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

Estimated Fair Price (per 750ml):  $27
Actual Price: $35 (though I found a 200ml bottle for $5)

Conclusion: Honestly, this is very different from what I expected. I'm used to blended whiskies having a kiss of smoke folded in. The standard sheep dip is certainly that, and it does a good job of it. This is an islay scotch through and though. There's no debate. The finish stands strong and tall. There's less toasted oak than many other islay scotches I've had. If I wanted an islay to sip or for a cocktail I wouldn't pick this. Stick with the classic, that really excels in its category. If you want Islay, the big names certainly earned their reputation in the field of smoke. This isn't a great introduction to the extremes that are Islay Scotches, nor is it an example of the extremes the region can take. I suppose it does fit to be a middle of the road whiskey in a violent environment, but why? I'm sure a few people out there love it, but I want to see more age and more spice. Maybe I haven't compared it to enough other blended Islay scotches if they exist. But I know what I want in an Islay, and this isn't it. 

Fact Sheet: 
Distillery Location: Scotland
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Age Statement:  a blend of whiskeys aged between 8 to 12 years
Ingredients: Peated single malts from Islay
Awards: Winner of the NY, Ultimate Spirit Challenge Chairman’s Recommendation 2015, #13 - Whiskey advocate top 20 whiskies of 2017

Review: Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

 Color (5%):  Lovely golden amber, copper, very clear. 4/5

Nose (10%): Delightful clean unmalted barley note, lightly toasted oak, 7/10

Palate (20%): delightfully light and fragrant. a medium sweetness appears at the tip of the tongue of honey and golden syrup. A slight bit of orange zest and oil. 17/20

Finish (10%): Any alcohol sharpness quickly fades but leaves a warmth of spice and cinnamon which lingers for a goodly long while. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is truly a fine blended whiskey. you see every component balanced and harmonized. The honey sweetness with orange oil, a kiss of smoke and lingering spice. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Actually brings out a bit more woody body. weakens the finish and the opening sweetness is shortened to make way for that the richer smoke. The water dilution really does unbind the smokey oily compounds that were trapped in the bottle. Not that the released oils of this particular whisky are dominant at all, merely enhanced. This testifies to the even greater blending skills of this producer. 22/25

Total Ranking: 85% Legendary, AmazingGreat, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price (per 750ml): $44 
Actual Price: 38.49 (though I found a 200ml bottle for $5)

Conclusion: This is a fantastic blended whiskey which could also be a great introductory whiskey for new scotch drinkers. There is an underlying smokiness that is not overpowering. Veteran scotch drinkers may have found themselves looking for more extreme single malts that push the boundaries of smoke and sea, but most whiskey drinkers fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve in terms of their own personal tastes and preferences and that's where blended whiskies really shine. This falls toward the top of the list in terms of blended whiskies. I've had a few that had a bit more weight that I personally like a bit better but this does shine for what it is. I'd happily buy this again for the price I got it at or at it's recommended retail. I can also easily see myself ordering a dram of this at a bar. I recommend it without hesitation.

Coming up next, I try Sheep Dip's Islay blend. That should definitely deliver on the punch. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Scotland
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Age Statement: a blend of whiskeys aged between 8 to 20 years
Ingredients: 16 different single malts, 
Awards: “Great Taste” Gold - 2009, Listed in Ian Buxton’s ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before you Die’

Review: Paul John Brilliance

 Color (5%): faint hay yellow, very clear. 4/5 

Nose (10%): lots of untoasted fresh barley. faint honey. very light. not any discernable smoke compared to other single malts. 5/10

Palate (20%): bready again, light, slightly sour note. waxy orange peel.  13/20

Finish (10%): lingering medium + alcohol heat, fitting of 46%, methyl burn is low, but I wouldn't say crystal clean. 5/10

Overall impression (30%): for an Asian whiskey, it's not really close to any scotch, but it feels a bit underaged and boring. not even spicy. no real waves of flavor. I'd be curious to try their peated or heavier aged whiskeys. honey wheat bread, lightly toasted with a soft drizzle of apricot honey spread. 19/30

Retry on Ice (25%): light cocoa starts to pop out on the nose. actually improves overall. higher sweetness. orange peel and green apple. less crackery bread.  21/25

Total Ranking: 67% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $34
Actual Price: $53

Conclusion: Kind of interesting but not the best quality for the money. Try something else in the line that is a bit smoother and richer. Amusing to sample once, but I wouldn't care to have a bottle on my shelf at home. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: John Distillery in Goa, India.
ABV: 46%, 92 proof
Age Statement: 3-5 years in ex-bourbon barrels
Ingredients: Indian 6-row barley
Awards: Gold - Liquid Gold- Jim Murray's Whisky Bible - 2014 & 2017, Gold - Asian Whisky - Wizards of Whisky Awards - 2014

Review: Clayton Distillery New York Straight Bourbon Whisky (Batch 16.16 Barrel #3)

 Color (5%): lovely rich honey 4/5

Nose (10%): Very, very oaky. a bit overaged maybe, or barrels too small. There's a little of that corn/honey sweetness. faint maltiness. 5/10

Palate (20%): not bad, very low sweetness on the front of the palate. Holding it on the tongue gives a bit of that stinging corn sharpness. That might just be my personal preference but I find whiskeys have an innate sharpness. For a bourbon, it is very rounded and clean. Not the most complex, but good. 15/20

Finish (10%): a little chocolate milk ball finish. Whoppers, or whatever brand of malt you prefer. Not a very heavy alcohol burn for 46%, well distilled. Medium duration. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): It's a fine whiskey, I wouldn't call it that unique or top tier in any sense. Sort of generic with a little extra-aged character. Well made and balanced, but nothing inventive. Does the job. 24/30

Retry on Ice (25%): chocolate maltiness pops a bit more. a little bit of rye spice starts to come out. light notes of cassia bark (mild cinnamon), neat to see it open up. I'm actually going to try this equal parts with just water to see if there is some nuance that is lost when this is drunk at full proof. Nope, it's not the dilution it's the temperature. 18/25

Total Ranking: 74% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $37 per 750ml
Actual Price: ~$50 depending on market

Conclusion: You're paying for the story and the small-batch craft in this whiskey. The farm where this is made and the crops are grown is picturesque and was even featured on Martha Stewart Wedding in 2013, an odd accolade to feature on your website. If you are around the Thousand Islands please check out their facility, but I wouldn't buy a dram of this if I were out of the area. Of course, you should support local and small businesses, but you don't need to buy a case of this. Maybe another batch or another barrel. Or try some of their other spirits. The distillery offers a lovely selection of vodka, moonshine, liqueurs, and gin. This particular whiskey falls flat for the price.

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Thousand Islands New York
ABV: 46% ABV, 92 proof
Age Statement: Aged 3 years.
Ingredients: Estate-grown corn, malted barley, wheat and/or rye
Method: Double pot stilled. bottled one barrel at a time.