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. Bergamot, cardamom, and citrus peels. There are no licorice notes, no real pepperiness, and 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 lingers for quite a while. But it's pretty dang clean. Not nuanced, but lingering and clean 7/10

Overall impression (30%): 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, it's so mild that distillate belongs in the flavored spirit category. That's not a bad thing. I genuinely enjoyed this, but it's not a rum. Based on the marketing, I'll be docking points from an otherwise rather high score. 22/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That gets a bit hotter with ice. The spice and the booze hit 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 could be more impressive. A Bermuda gentleman moved to California to have rum be taken seriously. It's 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 many 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 exciting nuance from this spirit, but they would differ from their standard. That all said, I do like this. It's tasty and well-made. The marketing/labeling could be more straightforward. It's a fantastic talking point bottle, and creative types can easily find inspiration for new cocktail inventions. 

Fact Sheet:
Distillery Location: Petaluma, CA, USA
ABV: 40%, 80 proof
Ingredients: California-sourced botanicals, a 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%): This is a 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 some of the delicate spice balance. It'd be good with a little water or mixed, but it could be better to sip alone. I'm curious to try it over ice. 21/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The nose is still 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. 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 want to avoid sipping straight. I'm curious to try their 8-year barrel selection and their Special reserve. You can skip the neat pour at the bar, 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, and apple. It's an interesting mash bill. I'm used to bourbon, rye, and single malt. There's a bit of wheat or something else in here. Corn is in there, but I will surprise myself with 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. It's sweet, reaffirming my guess of corn. 9/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): A very mild whiskey 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 sweet, butterscotch sweet. 24/30

Retry on Ice (25%): nose pops a bit more. The 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 recommend this whiskey with light foods, appetizers, salads, etc. Watermelon salads come to mind. It doesn't fall into any particular style, but everything can find its place. Turns out it is finished with real apples. Doesn't hold up to intense flavors, so doesn't fit the whiskey niche for cocktails. It is 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. Who should I pitch this to? A whiskey novice won't get a good education from this. A whiskey connoisseur will have the types 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 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 balanced. I like certain bourbons better and certain bourbons that push the extremes of the category a little more, but this is a delicious 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 and 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 this is somebody's favorite, but the market is so saturated that I didn't see anything that impressive. It doesn't differentiate itself from other bourbons. It's fine. The bottle's aesthetic, 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. That's a nice bit of punch. 8/10

Palate (20%):  light maple syrup at the start, rich roasted barley at the mid-palate, ending with lovely toasty 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. 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 hooks you, and that long, toasty finish is 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/digestive through and through. 22/25

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

Estimated Fair Price: $70
Actual Price: $82.50

Conclusion: I'm biased toward these spirits as they used to be my employer. I learned much as a bartender, bar manager, and tour guide there. Brian was our owner and was a great boss. Despite being a young single malt whiskey, there is little to no raw cracker flavor. This whiskey is big and punchy. It is so nuanced to have so few ingredients. It is young, but the heavy oak char of new American oak in a small cask gives that wood flavor in a shorter time. It does not have the same effect as 12 years in used oak, but it makes a great effort and becomes a sort of hybrid bourbon style aging but with single malt as a base. Support your small local business. These guys have a great team and great ideas. 

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 much color. 4/5

Nose (10%): The smell is a hair hot in terms of alcohol, though I am a little out of practice regarding the nosing. You do get some roasted apple notes, but only a little sweetness. My nostalgia goggles put this up pretty high because I remember batch one and 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 warm heat-wise, but not as bad as the nose suggests. I 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. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): Tasting this neat, as the first whiskey I've had in a while, is excellent. The first impression was a mild shock, but I got used to it quickly, so I chalk it up to my 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 lingers. This is an excellent session whiskey, a 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, but this was 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 when it goes off the market again. Is it perfect? No, not today, but my tastes ebb and flow; 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 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 a rich, oily fire. Light tang, salty seaweed. Iodine medicine. 16/20

Finish (10%): Long lingering smoke with some 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. There is a slight medicinal rubber note.  6/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a pretty young scotch, and the peat is so high that any oak falls away. The peat is undoubtedly the, but this falls short in balan,cn. It goes from nothing to a little something, then a hard kick in the jaw. 18/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Some pulpy fruit starts to emerge, more tangy, sour orange. My palate may be adjusting to the peat at this point. The oil still lingers, but the opening flavor and mid-palate brighten up. Certainly an improvement,t 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 undoubtedly does that and does an excellent job of it. This is an islay scotch through and through. 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 classics that really excel in their category. If you want Islay, the big names certainly earned their reputation in the field of smoke. This could be a better introduction to the extremes that are Islay Scotches and an example of the extremes the region can take. It does fit to be a middle-of-the-road whiskey in a violent environment, but why? I'm sure a few people love it, but I want to see more age and spice. If they exist, I need to compare it to enough other blended Islay scotch. 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 long time. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is 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%): It brings out a bit more woody body. weakens the finish, and the opening sweetness is shortened to make way for the richer smoke. The water dilution does unbind the smokey, oily compounds 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. Still, most whiskey drinkers fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve in terms of their personal tastes and preferences, and that's where blended whiskies 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 like better, but this does shine for what it is. I'd happily repurchase this for the price I got at or its recommended retail. I can also easily see myself ordering a dram 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. There is 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 not 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 pops out on the nose. It 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: It's exciting 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 Whiskey (Batch 16.16 Barrel #3)

Color (5%): Lovely rich honey 4/5

Nose (10%): Very, very oaky. A bit overaged, 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 is my preference, but I find whiskeys have an innate sharpness. For bourbon, it is very rounded and clean. It's simple, but it's good. 15/20

Finish (10%): a little chocolate milk ball finish. Whoppers, or whatever brand of malt you prefer. It is not a 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. It's generic with a little extra-aged character. It was well made and balanced, but nothing inventive. Does the job. 24/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Chocolate maltiness pops more. A little bit of rye spice starts to come out. There are light notes of cassia bark (mild cinnamon), and it is neat to see it open up. I'm going to try this equal parts with just water to see if some nuance 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 this whiskey's story and small-batch craft. 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 would only buy a dram of this if I were in 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.