Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof Tennessee Whiskey Review

Out here on the East Coast, we just got slammed with the first big snowstorm of the year, dropping about 30 inches or so on my residence.  Thanks a lot, Jonas.  So, a tipple or two, perhaps.  Today, I am revisiting a distillery that I often disrespected in my early days of whiskey-ing, but I have come to respect it more.  There is something to be said for a distillery that comes out with a consistent product time after time and that whiskey maintains its status as a worldwide best-seller year after year.  However, nothing swings a label over to my good side like some high proof juice, which is exactly what we’ve got here.Snow

Jack Daniel’s has always released the single barrel series, and some of them are good.  But, in 2015, Jack Daniel’s launched a nationwide release of a barrel strength single barrel product.  My beloved uncle and aunt bestowed a bottle for the Christmas holiday, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.  The bottle I am reviewing was bottled on November 5, 2015 from barrel 15-6410 from rickhouse L-25.  There is no age statement on the bottle.  It clocks in at a sexy 131 proof (65.5% abv).

The color is a rich, amber hue with some orange tints.  The nose is smells of off-piste bourbon, with vanilla, burnt caramel, brown sugar, mahogany, and oak.  At its full strength, it is a little bit of a boozy nose, too. The palate is rich and creamy, with oak, vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, and some alcohol heat.  The finish is warming, full, and medium in length, with a balance between brown sugar and vanilla, and some old leather notes.  Water brings out a little more Jack Daniel’s character, with some tannic woodiness present on the palate, rich caramel, bananas, maple syrup, but maintaining the warming oak throughout.  However, water also brings out some cinnamon and pipe tobacco notes that I was not getting before.

Some people had informed me that if I did not like Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, I would not like their barrel proof juice.  However, it was precisely the opposite.  I love what Jack is doing here.  I found this more complex and deeper than standard Jack Daniel’s.  I did not start to see true Daniel’s character until I added a little water, but the notes I usually find in Jack Daniel’s like bitter wood and bananas were tempered and rounded into the whole profile of the whiskey.  I have enjoyed this bottle immensely, almost as much as I enjoy the people who gifted me the bottle.  My grade:  B+.  Price:  $60-70/750ml.  This is right up there with barrel strength bourbons in its price range and gives Jack’s fans their favorite juice as God intended it.

The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured Single Malt Scotch Review

2016 Gary Anderson WDC

Congratulations to Scotsman Gary Anderson on defending his World Darts Championship Title to kick off 2016! Have a glass, Gary!

Happy New Year, everybody!  My first review of 2016 is a bit of a follow up to my final review of 2015.  In my last review, I mentioned that I have not yet found a better Aberlour than the A’Bunadh, but it is a bit out of my price range and hard to find here in Pennsylvania.  But, what if I found a cask strength, Oloroso-matured single malt that could operate as a substitute?  So, without further ado, here is my review of some Oloroso-matured whisky from The Glenlivet.

Traditionally, the Nàdurra lineup has been comprised of cask strength whiskies matured in (often first-fill, but occasionally refill) bourbon casks.  However, The Glenlivet has recently different takes on their Nàdurra lineup over the last few years, and I am reviewing one such batch today.  This review is of batch OL0614 (the final four digits are the bottling month/year), which is aged entirely in Oloroso casks and bottled without chill filtration.  There is no age statement on this whisky, and comes in at a lovely 121.4 proof (60.7% abv).

This is a rich, amber mahogany.  The nose smells of Oloroso sherry, with macerated grapes, blackberry jam, and a slight hint of ginger and allspice.  On the whole, it is a sweet, pleasing nose.  The palate is medium-bodied, perhaps a little lighter on the entry than I was expecting.  There are notes of sweet sherry, gingerbread, and drying oak present.  It is a pleasing palate, although not an especially complex one.  The finish is long and warming, with a wonderful puff of spiced pecans, along with sherry, mahogany, and gingerbread cookies.  Water brings out a more intense sherried nose, and a more jammy, sticky palate.  The finish doesn’t quite have the potency it does at cask strength, though.

Overall, this is a nice, simple sherried single malt. It doesn’t have the depth, complexity, or intensity of some other sherried whiskies, but it is a great inculcation of the style.  To be honest, there is just something missing here; I can’t put my finger on it, but this whisky just does not whisk me away to a magical land.  It is good, for sure, but it does not live up to the Aberlour A’Bunadh for me.  That said, if you’re looking for an introduction to a cask strength, sherried whisky, this is a very good start.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  For a whisky at this strength, this is a good value buy to keep around your cabinet this winter.

Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Comparison Review: The Standard Range

The holiday season is upon us, which usually means there is a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh somewhere on my shelf.  However, I live in Pennsylvania now, and that particular single malt is a rather hard and expensive find nowadays (it has been replaced by another cask strength sherried dram).  So, in memory of the days long ago when this majestic single malt graced my cabinet, I’m reviewing some other Aberlour whiskies instead.  Today’s review will encompass the standard range (save the A’bunadh).

Santa Claus

Photo Courtesy: whiskydisks.com

Aberlour 12 year-old – This is the base malt at Aberlour, double-matured in both “traditional oak” and sherry casks.  I am not sure exactly what “traditional oak” means, but I suspect it means American oak hogsheads.  Aberlour 12 yr. is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose has turpentine, burning wood, sherry, potpourri, vanilla, and orange peels.  The palate brings a soft wood smoke overnote, with good oak, wood shavings, leather, sherry, and vanilla.  The finish is short and sweet with a little Fino sherry and orange peel.

Overall, this is a fine single malt, with a pleasant, inviting sherry influence.  However, there are some notes in this whisky that I find unpleasant, almost as if there was some wood used that was left out in the sun too long.  This is not a bad single malt; its just not my favorite of the range.  My grade: C+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  At the price point, there are other whiskies I would prefer to this one.

Aberlour 12 year-old (Non-Chill Filtered) – This whisky is also aged in two types of casks, but the difference here is the higher bottling proof and the lack of chill-filtration, preserving the oils and fats of the whisky.  It is bottled at 96 proof (48% abv).

The nose is lightly sherried with some nice spice, ginger and lemon zest.  The palate is quite delicious.  The sherry really comes through here, with some bitter dark chocolate, orange peel, ginger, and drying oak.  I find the palate drying in a good way; it makes me want more whisky.  The finish is also quite dry and medium-short.  There are some nice oak notes that linger, as well as some fine strawberries wrapped in dark chocolate (possibly chocolate covered raisins).

This is a definite step up from the standard Aberlour 12, with a lot more body and depth in it.  It’s a hard whisky to find, especially compared with the standard Aberlour 12 year-old, but it’s worth a try if you can grab a bottle.  My grade: B.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  Of the two whiskies, go with the non-chill filtered expression of Aberlour 12.

Aberlour 16 year-old – This whisky is double-matured in first-fill bourbon casks as well as ex-Sherry casks, all to the ripe age of sweet sixteen.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose does not yield big sherried notes like I was expecting, but it is still very pleasant, with some heather, malt, brown sugar, red berries, vanilla, and some raisins.  The palate is both malty and woody, but also presents florals, heather, and freshly cut hay.  It is a well-balanced palate, but a bit soft.  The finish is short, with some orange cream and heather honey.

Even after sixteen long years of aging, it’s hard for me to get into this whisky.  It is just a bit too soft, too placid for my tastes.  There are some good flavors present, but they are fleeting.  To me, it tastes younger than sixteen years old.  I would love to see this expression given the non-chill filtration treatment.  My grade: B-.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  Despite the reasonable price on this malt given its age, I don’t think this whisky is living up to its full potential.

Aberlour 18 year-old – This is the senior member of the Aberlour lineup, the oldest whisky in the standard range.  This whisky has steeped in both Bourbon and Oloroso casks for 18 long years, and come out on the other side with glowing qualities.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose is not nearly as sherried as you might expect, like the 16 year-old, but it does smell wonderful, presenting sweet orange cream, vanilla cream, peaches, apricots, potpourri, and plums.  This is a wonderful, full, creamy nose.  The palate is medium bodied, with toffee, vanilla cream, and dark honey.  The finish is medium-long, longer than I expected, with full oak, vanilla, orange cream, and fresh apricots.

On the whole, this is my favorite whisky in the standard range.  The texture in the mouth is creamy and mouth-coating, and the flavors of the aged Aberlour malt are present in full force.  This whisky is complex, deep, but accessible and delicious.  The double-maturation has brought the casks together in nearly perfect harmony in this expression.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $100-125/750ml.  This is the most expensive whisky in the standard range, but it is a brilliant 18 year-old Speyside whisky that will suit quite nicely for any special occasion.

The truth is that the Aberlour A’bunadh is still the top dog for me when it comes to Aberlour.  Unlike the whiskies I reviewed today, the A-Bunadh is aged exclusively in Oloroso casks and bottled at its cask strength.  I have tasted no better Aberlour to this point, including independently bottled single casks.  However, the 18 year-old is one hell of a whisky in its own right, striding through one’s cabinet in a smoking jacket of delicious flavor and character, but it does not come cheap.  For the money, if you can find the 12 year-old in its non-chill filtered version, it’s well worth the purchase.  Most importantly, have a happy and safe holiday season from Bargain Bourbon!  Let it ride!

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Vermouth Finish Review

Yesterday, I reviewed Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye in honor of my own father’s birthday week.  Today, I am continuing with this trend with a review of Dad’s Hat Vermouth Finish.  The base of this whiskey is the standard Dad’s Hat rye.  The difference is that this whiskey has spent at least 3 months extra-aging in barrels that previously held Vermouth.  In addition, this whiskey has been bottled at the higher proof of 94 (47% abv).

The nose has some of the berry sweetness, wood shaving, and chocolate notes of the original, but the sweetness is more to the fore against the sharper rye flavors.  The palate has some cherry cola sweetness (without being overpowering or cloying), some rye, mint, and juniper. The finish is longer and spicier than the original in my estimation with a little more rye, cinnamon, and drying gingerbread.

Overall, the fingerprints of Dad’s Hat are right there in this whiskey, with some sweetness rolling through it nicely.  The vermouth finish on this whiskey is well-integrated, adding a lot to the finished product without taking away the quality of the rye.  If you like dry, dusty rye whiskeys, this one might be right up your alley despite its youth.  This one is definitely worth seeking out.  My grade: B.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  Like with the Dad’s Hat rye, the age might make the price seem high, but the whiskey in the bottle is worthy of the price point.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Review

Dad's Hat RyeMy father is not a big whiskey drinker, but his birthday is this week and I love him dearly, so there’s no time like the present to give my thoughts on Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye.  Dad’s Hat is distilled for Mountain Laurel Spirits at the Grundy Mill Distillery in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a commonwealth with a rich history in rye whiskey.  Dad’s Hat is a true craft whiskey, distilled and bottled at a small distillery with time and attention given to the craft of making whiskey.  The shelves at liquor stores have become inundated with new products of sourced whiskey from one of about ten different distilleries in the United States.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with sourced whiskey, but there are bottlers that do it right and well, and bottlers that hide their sources and overcharge for inferior whiskey.  Dad’s Hat has come along as a sign of vibrant quality in the craft whiskey world.

According to the bottle, Dad’s Hat is at least 6 months old, aged in new oak quarter casks.  I have to admit that I was skeptical when I read this statement, given the price I paid for the bottle.  Along my whiskey journey, I have tried way too many American craft whiskeys that are just too young to be let out of the barrel yet, much less sold at $40/bottle.  However, a few sips into my first glass of Dad’s Hat, my skepticism turned to the pleasure one gets from enjoying a fine, authentic Pennsylvania rye whiskey.  Dad’s Hat is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv).

The nose is a good one, different from what I was expecting.  There is a lot of cocoa, berry sweetness, sawdust, white chocolate, and juniper all wrapped up in a lively rye scent.  The palate is softer and smoother than I was expecting.  There are notes of cola, rye, wood, and cherry sweetness.  The finish is short and sweeter than I was expecting, with a little rye, cherry, and cereal sweetness.

Overall, this whiskey was not at all what I thought it would be.  I was expecting a young, fiery rye in desperate need of a good sleep in a barrel.  I had tried it some time ago at a sampling, and I was not impressed.  This is not that same, brash whiskey.  On the contrary, this is a soft, elegant, dry, spicy, immensely enjoyable rye.  It will be very exciting to see what happens in time when Mountain Laurel comes out with an older Dad’s Hat.  One of the common complaints about this whiskey is that it is not a good cocktail companion, and this is a soft, subtle whiskey that is best on its own, for sure.  The flavors of a traditional rye whiskey are present throughout the whiskey, but the whiskey is not harsh and aggressive like the 95% or 100% rye whiskeys coming out of MGP or Canada.  So, who would want to ruin a well-done whiskey such as this in a cocktail?  If you want a better-integrated cocktail, give it a whirl.  My grade: B/B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  Despite its age, this whiskey easily competes in its price range, and its worth a buy next time you’re looking for a rye to sip on.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

 

Old Hickory Great American Straight Bourbon Review

Old_Hickory_Whiskey_Straight_BourbonToday, I’m reviewing a relatively new product – Old Hickory Great American Bourbon.  To be clear, the bourbon I’m reviewing today is the Straight Bourbon Whiskey (white label), not the Blended Bourbon Whiskey (black label).  This bourbon, named after the 7th president of the United States (Andrew Jackson), comes from MGP in Indiana, a distillery with a sterling reputation among American whiskey connoisseurs.  Old Hickory is bottled in Ohio under the watchful eye of RS Lipman, a spirits company from Tennessee.  The stocks in this bourbon are between 4 and 7 years old, one of the most common bottling ages for MGP bourbons for good reason.  Old Hickory is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose has soft rye, rich vanilla, caraway, and whipped cream.  The palate is not as spicy as I was expecting.  It is soft and seductive, with vanilla cream, a little rye spice, and some light cinnamon sugar.  The finish is short and sweet with a little pipe tobacco, and it really makes me want another sip.

Overall, this is a good bourbon, with a good balance of flavors throughout the whiskey.  It is a dry bourbon in my opinion, which I rather like about it.  My only complaint here is that the proof is a little soft.  It makes the whiskey feel a little short and simple on the palate.  I know Old Hickory was gunning for 86 proof as “the perfect proof,” but I’d like to see this one with a little more heft behind it.  My grade:  B-.  Price:  $35-40/750ml.  Definitely a bourbon worthy of Old Hickory, a little pricey for its age, but don’t let it turn you away from this one – such things never stopped “Old Hickory.”

 

Much thanks to Todd from Double Diamond for the sample!

Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Review

Happy ThanksgivingWell, here in the United States, we have the very strange holiday of Thanksgiving upon us, which means all sorts of delightful interactions with delightful relatives and in-laws.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a nice, easy-sipping single malt Scotch for such an occasion?  Don’t worry, I have a pretty good idea.

A little while back, Auchentoshan replaced their “Classic” label with a new expression, “American Oak.”  Like the old “Classic,” there is no age statement on the bottle of Auchentoshan American Oak.  However, the we are told that the whisky has been aged entirely in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, and like all Auchentoshan whisky, this one is triple-distilled.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose is rich and silky with vanilla, potpourri, orange peel, peaches, and lilac.  The palate is creamy with some oak, coconut, and sautéed peaches.  The finish is warming and medium-length with oak and toasted coconut.

Overall, this is a very pleasant drinking experience from start to finish.  It is hardly the most complex whisky on the planet – it does not take a lot of work or patience to see the virtues of this malt.  Thus, it is a fantastic dram to have around for the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving.  As you are preparing a big meal or preparing to eat a big meal, pour yourself a glass of Auchentoshan American Oak, and let the sweet, oaky, fruity, and floral flavors prepare your palate for a feast.  My grade: B-.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  At the price point, this is an enjoyable single malt that provides great value all around.

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