Friday, April 29, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Whistlepig, Templeton, Compass Box and More

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

Whistlepig cleared a label for Whistlepig Farm Stock, a blend of their ten year old stocks and whiskey they distilled in Vermont.

Templeton cleared a label for Templeton Special Reserve, a 10 year old MGP rye. 

Compass Box issued a label for 5th and Harrison, a special bottling for K&L (the name is the location of their new San Francisco store) made up of 76% sherried Glen Ord and 24% Caol Ila, bottled at cask strength.

Pernod Ricard cleared a label for Longmorn 23.

Luxco issued a number of new labels including Yellowstone 2016 Limited Edition, a 7 year old, 101 proof bourbon composed of 12 year old and 7 year old rye recipe bourbons, Daviess County Bourbon, a brand they have owned for some time but haven't marketed recently, and a Rebel Yell 2016 Limited Edition, though there is no indication on the label of what makes it any different than regular Rebel Yell.

Beam Suntory cleared a label for Jim Beam Double Oak, finished in a second, new, charred oak barrel.

And just in case you thought the days of ridiculous labels getting through the TTB process were over, here is Circa Straight Bourbon, described as "the finest blend of orchard fruits, ryes, corn and spices."

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 27, 2016

Benromach Sassicaia 2007

Since Benromach sent me another sample (these guys have been busy), I figured, hey, why not make it a full week of Benromach. Today we have the Benromach Sassicaia, distilled in 2007, aged in first fill bourbon barrels and finished for two years in Sassicaia wine casks. This is the latest in their Wood Finish series and the second time they've done a Sassicaia finish (the first was a 2006 vintage). It's not available in the US yet, but in the UK they are charging £40.25.

Benromach Sassicaia 2007, 45% abv

This has a nice malty nose with a hint of peat and some sweet notes. On the palate it's got peat with a slight honey sweetness and then some real savory notes in the back. It ends on a very dry note and picks up a slight soapiness in the finish.

This is a well balanced malt and one worth tasting.

Thanks to Benromach for the sample. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Benromach Organic and Peat Smoke

The folks at Benromach recently "updated the look" of their whiskeys and sent me some samples.  I don't spend much time looking at whiskey, but I'll give them a taste.

Benromach Organic, 5 years old, 2010, 43% ($65)

The nose on this is straightforward and malty. The palate also has a pure, malty character. It's a bit diluted tasting and the finish fades quickly. While it's good whiskey, there's nothing special about it, and it's hard to recommend at $65. 

Benromach Peat Smoke, 9 years old, 2006, 46% ($60)

This has a really nice nose with lots of fuel like peat and a sort of solvent note, though not in a bad way. The palate follows up nicely with plenty of peat followed by a light sweetness. The peat is pretty steady and leads into a really spectacular finish which seems to go on forever.  This one is quite good and something I would buy.

Thanks to Benromach for the samples.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Three Amruts in Three Casks

Mao from My Annoying Opinions sent me three four year old whiskies from Indian distillery Amrut aged in three different casks. These are apparently European releases that are not available in the U.S., but I thought it would be interesting to compare the impact of these different casks. These were all distilled in 2009, are four years old and go for around $90.

Amrut Single Cask, Bourbon Cask, Cask 3445, 60% abv

This has a nose of raw oatmeal. The palate is sweet, slightly soapy and a bit funky. It's definitely got some raw grain, young whiskey notes. The finish is malty with some fruit notes. Water brings out more malty notes on the palate. This is a decent malt but nothing exciting.

Amrut Single Cask, Port Pipe, Cask 2712, 59% abv

This one has peat on the nose with some light wine notes; they come together like burnt sugar or toffee. The palate is a heavy blast of peat with some cocoa and vanilla notes in the background. It grows sweet as it goes down, and the finish is sweet wine with peat. I'm not generally a fan of port finishes, but I liked this one. The wine notes from the port contrast well with the peat.

Amrut Single Cask, PX Sherry, Cask 2701, 62.8% abv

The nose has very light sherry notes and more of that oatmeal. The palate is sweet and fruity at first then develops some maltiness.  The finish is mostly malt.  The sherry influence on this is present but pretty light. A few drops of water does very well with this one, bringing out some stronger sherry notes on the palate along with some sweet vanilla notes.

All of these were good. I thought the port pipe cask was the most interesting, though I doubt I'd pay $90 for any of them.    

Also be sure to check out the My Annoying Opinion reviews of the Amrut Bourbon, Sherry and Port casks.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Corti Brothers Good Honest Whiskey

I was a big fan of the Corti Brothers Exquisite Whiskey, a Kentucky bourbon aged in dessert wine casks which Amador Distillery released for Corti Brothers gourmet market in Sacramento two years ago. Now, there is a new, younger version. Corti Brothers Good Honest Whiskey is a four year old Kentucky bourbon with a mashbill of 70% corn, 21% rye, 9% barley. It was distilled in 2012 and finished for almost a year in the same Mission del Sol barrels that were used to finish the Exquisite Whiskey (making them second fill barrels) before being bottled this spring.

Corti Brothers Good Honest Whiskey, 4 yo, 46% abv ($50)

The nose is a fairly traditional bourbon profile, a light one like Beam with a touch of sweet wine. The palate has three distinct parts. It starts with a bourbon note, similar to the nose. As it lingers, it starts to pick up the dessert wine notes. The final flavor is a sherry like intensive wine note which carries into the finish.

It's interesting to compare this to the Exquisite Whiskey, which is three years older and was finished in first fill casks. The Exquisite is the American equivalent of a sherry-bomb. You taste the cask much more than the whiskey. The Good Honest Whiskey is much more balanced. It is more distinctively bourbon with bourbon notes dominating the nose and the first part of the palate. It's not until the mid-palate that you start to pick up the wine influence which carries through to the finish.

Which one is better? That's tough because they are very different spirits. I loved the Exquisite Whiskey though less in the way that I love whiskey and more in the way that I love Spanish brandy or sherried Scotch (and, it should be noted, many of my whiskey pals had decidedly negative reactions to it). The Good Honest Whiskey is much more whiskey-like in profile so probably will be more popular among whiskey folks, though the wine influence is still quite prominent.

As for me, while I would happily drink both, if I had to pick just one, I would probably pick the Exquisite Whiskey for its uniqueness. That being said, both of these are very good and a lot of fun. Kudos to Corti Brothers and Amador Distillery for giving us these tasty, innovative whiskeys.

Friday, April 15, 2016

New Whiskey Labels: Dickel and MGP

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

Diageo cleared a label for a 17 year old George Dickel.

A label cleared for the 2016 edition of MGP's Metze's Select. This year's bourbon will be a blend of 50% 2005 low rye (31% rye) bourbon, 15% 2006 high rye (36% rye) bourbon and 35% 2006 low rye bourbon.

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 13, 2016

Dandelion Chocolate

After Dandelion Chocolate was my top rated chocolate in my recent blind chocolate tasting, I picked up a few more of their bars. Most of their bars are $8, and you can get a three bar set for $20 at their on-line store. I opted for the three bar set which included the Venezuelan I ranked first in the chocolate tasting as well as bars from Madagascar and the Dominican Republic which I'll review here.

Dandelion Chocolate Ambanja, Madagascar, 70%

The aroma is deep, dark chocolate. The flavor on this one is just incredible. The first note is just a pure chocolate note, very dark and very intense. As you chew, there's cherry and raspberry, and it ends with an intense raspberry note which carries into a chocolate/raspberry finish. This is fantastic! I think I like it better than the Venezuela bar.

Dandelion Chocolate Zorzal Dominican Republic, 70%

The aroma is fruity with grape juice notes. There's also a grape juice note on the palate. Nothing fancy, more like Welch's. The chocolate notes are much less intense than the Madagascar bar. The finish has more of that grape note.

Between these two, I definitely preferred the Madagascar, which was just wonderful. Given that I also loved the Venezuela, I would definitely recommend checking out Dandelion Chocolates.