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.

Hooker’s House Bourbon Review

General Joseph Hooker - a man who loved bourbon and ladies of the evening in somewhat equal proportions.

General Joseph Hooker – a man who loved bourbon and ladies of the evening in somewhat equal proportions.

Hooker’s House bourbon is exactly what you would expect – it’s a bourbon that has been distilled, aged, and bottled inside a brothel in Louisville, Kentucky.  Please disregard the opening sentence – it is not the truth.

The truth about Hooker’s House bourbon is that it is a bourbon bottled by Prohibition Spirits out of Sonoma, California, and the name is derived from Civil War General Joseph Hooker (but the double entendre works, too).  The bourbon in the bottle is a very high rye bourbon (rumored around 45% rye) that has been finished in Pinot Noir casks.  From what I have been able to find out, the bourbon is at least 6 years old, and the bourbon was sourced from a now-abandoned start-up distillery.  I’ve had some difficulty nailing down the details on this, so if you’ve got the skinny, let me know!  For now, Hooker’s House is an unfiltered bourbon coming in at 100 proof (50% abv).

The color of Hooker’s House in the glass is beautiful, more orange than amber.  On the nose, there is sweet mandarin orange, white chocolate, vanilla, and rich blackberry jam.  There is no way I would ever guess that this is high-rye bourbon.  The palate is wonderfully full with big sweet oranges, berries, and cherry vanilla.  The finish is long and finally gets around some spices from the rye.  There is some sawdust, oak, and cinnamon mixed in with the sweet blood orange.  Especially on the palate, there is a definite sense of red wine running through the wine.

Overall, this is a unique bourbon, and it really does not taste a lot like a bourbon to me, but that’s not a bad thing because its pretty damn tasty whatever it is.  However, in my opinion, if you like bourbon, you will very much enjoy Hooker’s House bourbon, even though it might not be what you are expecting.  There is a deep sweetness to the whiskey, but it resonates somewhere between a bourbon and heavily sherried Scotch, and that’s a flavor profile I can get behind.  My grade: B/B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This is definitely a unique bourbon, but its reasonably priced for its proof, age, and finish, which makes it a worthwhile bottle to put in the cabinet this winter.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon Review

A few years back, Maker’s Mark made big bourbon headlines when they announced that there was not enough 6 year-old stock to go around, and Maker’s Mark’s flagship bourbon was going to be bottled at 84 proof instead of its traditional 90 proof.  Needless to say, there were not a lot of people happy about this announcement – especially since there were a lot of folks that already wanted to see Maker’s at something higher than 90 proof.  Not long after, Maker’s Mark had a change of heart (or supply), and brought back the standard 90 proof.  What ensued was even more mysterious – Maker’s Mark Cask Strength.  The particular bottle I have on hand is from Batch 15-03, and it is 111.4 proof (55.7% abv).  The general consensus among the whiskey-drinking public is that Maker’s Mark Cask Strength bottles are probably about the same age (6 years) as Maker’s Mark, but that does vary from batch to batch.

The nose is wonderful and warm, with sticky cinnamon buns, sugar vanilla frosting, blueberries, blackberry jam, fresh corn, and sawdust.  It is a hot nose at bottle strength, but there is a lot going on (although water opens the nose a little bit, it takes away some of the intensity of the flavor, so I prefer this one neat).  Every time I pour a glass of this bourbon, I enjoy sniffing it for quite a long while.  The palate is medium to full in its body, with some eucalyptus, mint, sawdust, corn, caramel, and brown sugar. This is definitely a soft, wheated profile, but with a lot of body, and a good amount of spice along with it.  The finish leaves toffee, walnuts, caramel, and a warming (slightly bitter) oak note across the palate, lingering for a good long while.  Overall, this is a very good bourbon with a lot going on, and a different side of Maker’s Mark.  There is more spice and oak influence here, but it does come through a bit tannic through the end of the bourbon.

This is a picture of a Reuben sandwich because everyone already knows what a Maker's Mark bottle looks like.

This is a picture of a Reuben sandwich because everyone already knows what a Maker’s Mark bottle looks like.

Maker’s Mark has definitely answered some prayers with this bourbon.  It is big, bold, and is just what you would expect.  It has all the traditional flavors of Maker’s Mark, just ramped up a lot.  Truth be told, this bourbon might be one of the best-smelling bourbons I have ever lifted up to my nose.  In my humble opinion, the palate didn’t quite live up to the nose’s billing, but this is still a fantastic whisky at a fantastic price for a cask strength bourbon.  My grade: B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  There just aren’t a lot of bourbons at 111.4 proof that you can find on the market for under $70, which is what makes this bourbon an absolute winner.

Jim Beam Bonded Bourbon Review

James Beam

Jim Beam Bonded is a throwback to the days when Colonel James Beam brought the distillery through Prohibition.

I know it has been way too long since I published a review, but I’ll try to make up for it here in the coming months, as I’ve got a few reviews in the queue.  I’m kicking off my fall reviews with a great bargain bourbon – Jim Beam Bonded (Gold Label) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  I’ve talked about bottled-in-bond bourbons on the site before, and this one is no different.  It is 4 years old, 100 proof (50% abv), from a single distillery, and distilled in a single season.  This is a fairly new product from Beam, and (spoiler alert) I really hope it sticks around.

The color of this bourbon is mild amber, with orange-gold tints.  The nose is rich with big, full vanilla, sawdust, and sweet oak.  The palate is full and sweet with brown sugar, vanilla, creamy vanilla frosting, and rich buttercream.  The finish is long and sweet with vanilla and brown sugar.  Overall, this is a rich, creamy, sweet bourbon with a syrupy sweet, creamy mouthfeel. There is a little oak twinge that runs through it, almost like the wood of a freshly smoked pipe.

In conclusion, this is a very good bourbon, well-made by a distillery that knows exactly what it is doing when it comes to bourbon.  This is sweet, woody, and downright delicious all the way through.  Give this one a whirl, and I suspect it will quickly become a staple of your cabinet with the holidays approaching.  My grade: B.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  At the price, Jim Beam Bonded is certainly one of the best bourbons on the shelf at your local liquor store.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Review

Northern Harvest RyeThe new job has definitely made regularly posting (and tasting) a chore, but I should do better in the future.  Today, I am reviewing Crown Royal’s new Northern Harvest Rye, a 90% rye mash-bill from  north of the border (Gimli Distillery in Manitoba to be exact).  There is no age statement on this whisky, but it is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv), which is a move I really like.

On the nose, there is some notes of fresh mint leaves, cloves, spearmint, rye spice, and eucalyptus.  It’s a pretty straightforward rye nose, with not a lot of complexity, but it is very well-executed and very pleasant.  The palate is soft and dry, with good hints of mint and rye, and a bit of caramel sweetness.  The finish is dry and medium in length with pleasant rye, vanilla, and caramel lingering.

On the whole, I am a big fan of this whisky.  It isn’t anything that will blow your mind, but it is a well-built, straightforward rye.  If you like rye whiskey, this is a dry rye with a lot of classic rye flavors going on.  Crown Royal gets knocked down occasionally by connoisseurs in the whiskey blogosphere, but this is a very fine rye whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.   If you are looking for a good rye to keep around the house for both cocktails and a fine dram before dinner, this is a great rye to have on hand for such a purpose.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Scotch Review

I do sincerely apologize for my lack of posts of late; there have been a great deal of changes in my life of late.  But, to honor those changes, I thought I would do a review of a whisky from a distillery that is constantly changing – Bruichladdich.  I have tried a great many whiskies from this distillery, all of which are different and unique.  Bruichladdich has always been a distillery known for its shifting expressions, and its use of peat in varying degrees.

Today, I am reviewing Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, a whisky with no-age-statement, bottled at 100 proof (50% abv) without any chill-filtration.  The Port Charlotte lineup is a series of whiskies comprised of peated Bruichladdich stocks.  Port Charlotte is peated from the inland peat of Islay, a contrast to the low seaside peat of Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin.  This leads to a slightly different flavor profile, with the Port Charlotte being a drier peat and the coastal peat being a wetter peat.  The Port Charlotte expressions tend towards a dry, woodier smoke, as opposed to the damp, medicinal smoke of the southern Islay distilleries, such as Laphroaig and Lagavulin.

The nose on this Port Charlotte expression is an earthy, dry peat, with notes of malt, burning leaves, brine, sea salt, and perfume.  The palate is soft and elegant, belying the youth of the whisky.  There are notes of honey, heather, hay, vanilla, peat, and burning wood.  The finish is short for a peated Islay whisky, whispering burning wood, honey, and barbecue smoke on the back of the tongue.

Overall, this is a delicious, young peated malt.  I love the character of the peat, and the balance of the whisky as a whole.  It is complex, balanced, and full-flavored.  This is a great introduction to Bruichladdich peat and the Port Charlotte range.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a little pricey for its age, but this is surely a wonderful peated single malt.

St. George Single Malt Review

St. George as he slays the dragon (Note: he celebrated his victory with a glass of single malt whiskey).

St. George as he slays the dragon (Note: he celebrated his victory with a glass of single malt whiskey).

Today, I am reviewing one of the whiskeys I get asked about most often – St. George Single Malt. I have already reviewed the bourbon that comes out of St. George – Breaking and Entering – a bourbon I rather enjoyed. Unlike Breaking and Entering (which is a blend of sourced bourbons), St. George distills their single malt on the premises.

The single malt is the flagship spirit of the St. George’s distillery, as Lance Winters (St. George’s founder and Master Distiller) was a brewer by trade before getting into spirits. Lance is famous for tweaking the mash bill of the whiskey by using different types of barley, much like one would with beer. In terms of casking, St. George is also a creative product, using a myriad of different casks, such as French oak, ex-bourbon casks, and port pipes. St. George Single Malt is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv), and the particular batch I am reviewing is Lot 14.

The nose is soft and gentle, with pine, elegant smoke, potpourri, citrus peels, and perfume. The palate is medium-bodied, and it is nutty, with vanilla, whipped cream, and some nutmeg type spices rounding it out. The finish is short with some pine nuts, wood shavings, and fresh ginger.

Overall, this is a unique single malt, and one that I have enjoyed sipping. This is a very approachable malt, but the flavors are complex and presented well. My only problem with this single malt is the price point. This is definitely one of the best whiskeys on the American craft scene, but I don’t think it fully warrants the $80 price tag. A lot of people have asked me what I think of this one, and I really do like the whiskey in the bottle, especially for an American single malt. My grade: B-. Price: $70-80/750ml. This is good, unique whiskey, but if you are looking to spend $80 on a bottle of whiskey, there are at least a dozen whiskeys I would turn to before looking at this one.


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