Tullamore Dew 12 Year Irish Whiskey Review

I do not know what the weather has been like this spring in your neck of the woods, but here in the mid-Atlantic, its been somewhat Irish.  Windy, rainy, cold, with just enough sun thrown in to keep the grass on the golf courses green.  So, today I am reviewing a lovely Irish whiskey – Tullamore DEW 12 year-old “Special Reserve.”

The Tullamore 12-year is a blended Irish whiskey aged in both bourbon casks and Oloroso Sherry casks, a classic double-matured style Irish dram.  It is distilled at Midleton, the famed Cork distillery.  This expression was originally a travel retail exclusive, but has now been released as part of the standard Tullamore Dew range.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The color has a orange-ish tint to it, a beautiful color in the glass.  The nose presents apples, white zinfandel, caramel, dried pineapple, and salted walnuts.  The palate is silky smooth, with dry sherry, green apples, milk chocolate, dried plums, and some bitter white chocolate.  The finish is medium and drying with pineapple, sawdust, and dry white port notes.

On the whole, this is exactly what one would expect from a blended Irish whiskey with a substantial amount of Oloroso influence.  It presents a simple, approachable mouthfeel with balanced sweet flavors alternating from both bourbon oak and sherry oak.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  If you like Irish whiskey, this will be a whiskey worth trying for you, especially if you are interested in trying Irish whiskey with some different aging techniques from standard Irish blends.

The Irishman Single Malt Irish Whiskey Review

Happy Masters week, everybody!  So many folks are talking about this as the year that Rory McIlroy breaks through at the Masters, so let’s reviews some Irish juice!

The Irishman Single Malt is a limited release whiskey that I believe is made at Cooley (but I could be wrong).  It is aged in both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, culminating in a rich golden color.  This particular review comes from Batch #1402/2014.  There is no age statement on this whiskey, and it is bottled at 80 proof.

The nose is rich and vibrant with fresh pears, toffee, white wine, and hazelnuts.  The palate is smooth and bodied, with toffee, vanilla, and green apples.  The finish is medium, dry, and sweet with orchard fruits and a whisper of oak.

Overall, this is a solid, well-built, tasty Irish whiskey.  It is exactly what I would expect from a single malt Irish whiskey, but it is hardly anything beyond that.  Only being bottled at 80 proof, it lacks some depth and punch, but it has a lot of pleasant flavors nonetheless.  My grade: B-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  If you’ve got a friend that loves an Irish whiskey, drop them a bottle of this juice and make their day.  If you’ve got a friend that loves barrel strength bourbons, leave this one on the shelf.

Comparison Review: Teeling Single Malt vs. Teeling Single Grain

Saint PatrickLast St. Patrick’s Day, I reviewed a relatively new Irish whiskey, Teeling Small Batch.  This year, I am stepping it up with two new Teelings, the Single Grain and Single Malt expressions.  Before I go any further, it is important to mention the definition of a single grain whiskey, as it is rarely seen.  A single grain whiskey is a whiskey made at a single distillery from any cereal grain that may include, corn, rye, wheat, barley, or others.  A single malt must also come from a single distillery, but it must be comprised of solely malted barley.  But, that is not all that separates these whiskeys.  (I believe both of these expressions were distilled at Cooley in Louth, but I do not have confirmation on that hunch as of yet.)

The Teeling Single Malt is comprised of whiskeys finished in 5 different types of wood (Sherry, Port, Madeira, White Burgundy, and Cabernet Sauvignon).  There is no age statement on this whiskey, but according to Teeling, there is some whiskey as old as 23 years in it.  Like all Teeling whiskeys, their Single Malt is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof (46% abv).

The color is pale orange.  The nose is full of white grape juice, backed by Concord grape jelly, corn flakes, and sweet bread.  The palate is full-bodied with red berries (rasp and straw varietals), red licorice candy, watermelon, red apples, and pumpernickel bread.  The finish is dry and long, featuring a revival of the red berries and white grape juice notes.  There is the slightest hint of white pepper and spiced pecans, adding a bit of spiciness.

The Single Malt expression is dripping with class and elegance, tame and univocal in its direction.  I could see detractors arguing that it is too singular and one-tricked, and it is until the finish, but there is a spiced character that underlines the sweet fruit and wine characters that dominate the whiskey.  If you find this one, you won’t be disappointed if you give it a try.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  It flexes muscles well outside the category of Irish Single Malt whiskies.

On the other hand, the Teeling Single Grain expression is matured exclusively in Cabernet Sauvignon casks from Sonoma County, California.  The result is a darker color in the resulting whiskey.  There is no age statement on this whiskey, nor is there a description of what grains have gone into the mash-bill (I suspect it is primarily a mix of corn and barley).  But, a little mystery never hurt anybody, and this whiskey certainly stands on its own without a detailed backstory.  Like the Single Malt, it is bottled without chill filtration at 92 proof (46% abv).

The nose is slightly alcoholic and boozy, with cinnamon, hard cider, fresh bread, and cloves.  The palate is silky delicious with cloves, cinnamon, red apples, and red grapes.  The finish is long and dry with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves coming through a drying oak note.

Overall, the Single Grain expression brings a lot of potential and flavor, but it is a little more unpolished and rough around the edges.  Nevertheless, the flavor is complex, with all sorts of spice and sweetness to kick around in your mouth even if the alcoholic content comes through a little more.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  Like the Single Malt, this transcends the category of Irish whiskey into something wholly unique.

To conclude, both of these whiskeys are among my favorite Irish whiskeys.  Both are worth seeking out and worth trying if you see them while you’re on  the town in your favorite whiskey bar.  If I had to choose, I enjoy the mouthfeel of the Single Malt better, but I like the flavor and price point of the Single Grain a little better.  Too close to declare a winner, but it is safe to say the winner is the consumer if Teeling stays on this pace.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!  Be safe and let it ride!

Mountain Laurel Spirits Visit and Dad’s Hat Port Finish Review

I recently had the opportunity to visit Mountain Laurel Spirits in Bristol, PA, where Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye is distilled, aged, and bottled.  I loved my time there and will definitely be back.  In my experience with various alcohols, it’s a great feeling when seeing the alcohol being made lends a greater appreciation to the beverage itself.  So it is with Dad’s Hat Rye for me.

The distillery is brimming with history.  There are old, dusty bottles lining the bar and black and white pictures of Pittsburgh bartenders serving Pennsylvania’s finest (rye that is).  Dad’s Hat is made the Pennsylvania way, with just rye and malt, and every care is taken to create the finest, most authentic product possible.  Both the distillery and the whiskey emerging from it have perfectly blended the technology of modern distilling with the tradition of Pennsylvania rye.

Mountain Laurel Spirits is a throwback to the old industrial distilleries of historical Pennsylvania.  There is an ancient mystery to the distillery when you visit it, as if you’ve been transported back in time 100 years to a time when American whiskey drinkers loved rye.  The founders’ love of Pennsylvania rye seems to seep out of the walls, themselves.  In fact, the history of rye whiskey in the commonwealth hangs on the walls behind the wooden bar through old bottles, jars, pictures, and other memorabilia.  The distillery itself is in an old, industrial area of greater Philadelphia, surrounded my old homes and old buildings.  There is even history oozing from the Master Distiller, Herman Mihalich.

Herman is a Pennsylvania native whose parents ran a bar in greater Pittsburgh in the days when Pennsylvania rye ruled the American whiskey market.  Pennsylvania rye was in Herman’s blood from day one, and that comes through when you are lucky enough to converse with him on the subject.  There is a deep emotional connection to the spirit for him, lending a care and attention to detail necessary for a great whiskey (a lifetime’s experience as a chemical engineer doesn’t hurt either).

I have reviewed two Dad’s Hat whiskeys to this point (Pennsylvania Rye & Vermouth Finish), enjoying both of them.  The third whiskey in their current portfolio is their Port Finish, a whiskey that defies the category of rye entirely.  It is sweeter than you would expect from a rye whiskey, but there is some wood and spice enough to round it out.  Its best function is as a digestif with a rich, slightly tart slice of cheesecake.  Trust me on this one; no need to thank me.

Dad’s Hat whiskey is one of the few whiskeys matured entirely in quarter casks that manages to come out as an excellent whiskey.  This speaks to Herman’s meticulous nature as a distiller, using only the purest heart of his run, and, along with John Cooper, managing their stocks to perfection.  If you are wondering if Dad’s Hat is experimenting with full barrels, the answer is a resounding affirmative.  Dad’s Hat’s next release will most likely be a straight whiskey, aged entirely in their 53 gallon barrels.  I had a chance to sip a few sips from these barrels and my face nearly melted off.  The whiskey maintained all of the rye vigor of the standard Pennsylvania rye coupled with an overlay of vanilla and rich berry fruits.  I cannot wait until the first bottles of this stuff hits the Pennsylvania shelves.

It was a fantastic day down in Bristol, PA, and I am very thankful for Herman for hanging out after the tour to chat a few minutes.  Its worth a trip there if you can.  If you can’t make it down the distillery, give Dad’s Hat rye a try.  It’s what craft whiskey is meant to be.



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!