Posts from the ‘Other Reviews’ Category

Knob Creek Rye Whiskey Review

Knob Creek RyeThis is a review of Jim Beam’s newest rye whiskey release, under the Knob Creek label.  Like the original Knob Creek bourbon, this one is bottled at 100 proof.  There is no age statement, but I suspect it is not a very old product.  My guess is that it is a little older than Jim Beam Yellow Label, but not by much.  As followers of the blog have probably noted, the Knob Creek label has never been one of my favorites, although I am a fan of the Single Barrel Reserve.  Of course, I am always up for having my mind changed, which is why I got my hands on a few samples of Knob Creek Rye.  Here are my thoughts…

On the nose, this whiskey smells earthy to me.  There is some mint there, which reminds me I’m drinking a rye.  There are also some herbal notes to it, like basil leaves or musty oregano.  The palate has a nice medium body with a nice entry of cinnamon, ginger, and some vanilla.  It is definitely a hot, intense whiskey.  You know you are drinking it at 100 proof when it is drank straight.  Water lessens the heat, but it does not open the flavors or the bouquet up at all.  The finish is long, minty, and a little spicy.

Overall, I am not impressed with this whiskey.  It is a solid rye, with a lot of rye heat.  However, there really is not much depth or complexity to this one.  I would like to see what would happen if Jim Beam released an older rye, maybe something like ten years.  I think some of the sweetness of the barrel would add complexity to the whiskey to save it from the one dimension of rye in this whiskey.  My grade: C.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This would be a nice whiskey to have around for mixed drinks if it was half the price (in my humble opinion).

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Jim Beam Yellow Label Rye Review

Today, I am reviewing Jim Beam Yellow Label, the flagship rye whiskey from the James B. Beam Distillery.  I have reviewed a few rye whiskeys on the blog so far, but this is the cheapest one so far.  Jim Beam Yellow Label is bottled at 80 proof and aged 4 years, just like Jim Beam’s entry level bourbon.  However, I do believe that rye whiskeys work better at younger ages than bourbons, and I believe Jim Beam’s Rye is an example of that.

On the nose, Jim Beam Rye is a quintessential rye whiskey.  There are notes of rye spices, menthol, cinnamon, pine straw, black licorice, and dried mint leaves.  It is a very pleasant nose, although it is a little subdued.  It doesn’t quite jump out of the glass like some other rye whiskeys.  The palate has a nice balance of sweet and spicy notes, the combination between vanilla and cinnamon.  There are also notes of evergreen trees and sour candy.  The finish is moderate to medium long.  There is some rye spice lingering, combined with mint leaves and a little vanilla.

Overall, I am a fan of this whiskey.  It is flavorful up front, and it is a great introduction to rye whiskey.  It makes a flavorful mixer if rye-based drinks are your style.  The nose is very nice, and the palate is a simple, solid presentation of what a rye whiskey can be.  My grade: C.  Price: $15-20/750ml.  What is best about this whiskey is the price.  For $16, you can have a great introduction to rye whiskey and a great mixing whiskey for your liquor cabinet.

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 2 – 18 yr. Scotch Whisky

For part 2 of my comparison of 18 year-old whiskies, I am reviewing an 18 year-old Islay and an 18 year-old Speyside.  In my opinion, Islay whisky is bottled best at younger ages because the peat smoke stays lively and fresh.  On the contrary, Speyside whisky is bottled best at older ages because the light, floral, fruity new make benefits from the extra years in the oak to bring the complexity out in the whisky.  Of course, like my first comparison review, whenever you are buying an old and rare Scotch, do your research.  Not all whiskies are created the same, and not all whiskies age well.

Before getting to the reviews, I have to set forth a disclaimer.  I have not bought a bottle of either of these Scotches.  I have drank the Laphroaig 18 yr. on several occasions, but I have only tried The Glenlivet 18 yr. on one occasion.  Therefore, take my tasting notes with a bit more salt than usual.

Laphroaig 18 yr. is bottled at 96 proof, giving it a little more body.  On the nose, Laphroaig 18 yr. is classic Laphroaig.  There are notes of salted pork, peat, smoke, fresh barley, seaweed, and soft honey.  The palate has a solid backbone of toasted nuts, but the salt and peat of Laphroaig never leaves.  There are also notes of dark vanilla, honey, salted caramel, and some oak.  The palate lacks structure, but it is still big, full, and complex.  The finish is a wonderful, long Laphroaig finish, with some lingering sweet oak surrounded by the peat and smoke of a Laphroaig whisky.

Overall, this is fantastic whisky that intensifies a lot of the subtle flavors in other Laphroaig expressions.  However, it lacks structure, and it seems to wander as a whisky.  That is not a bad thing; it is just a difference between the 18 year and other expressions of Laphroaig.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a very good whisky, but there are better expressions from Laphroaig that are available at better prices.

 

 The Glenlivet 18 year-old is a much different whisky.  It is bottled at 86 proof, slightly higher than the 12 and the 15 year-old expressions.  On the nose, there is some oloroso sherry, but is not overpowering.  There are notes of hazelnuts, walnuts, cereal grains, and agave nectar.  The palate is sheer brilliance.  It opens with sherried nuts, but it moves to a complex sweetness of cinnamon apples and spiced dark honey.  The finish is long, with a lot of oloroso sherry.  It is warming, with some drying oak and sweet vanilla.

Overall, this is an awesome whisky.  The palate is one of the best I have tried.  It takes the fruitiness of The Glenlivet spirit, and transforms it into a complex, warming dram perfect for all seasons.  My grade: A.  Price: $80-90/750ml.  This is an incredible dram, worth the money for the most special of occasions.

Between the two whiskies, I clearly prefer The Glenlivet 18.  However, they are both whiskies to be savored, and they should both be on your holiday gift list if such things are your flavor.  I believe The Glenlivet 18 is the best of the range, whereas I believe there are at least two Laphroaig whiskies (Quarter Cask and 10 year-old Cask Strength) that are much better value than the 18.  Of course, what you like is all up to you.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and let it ride!

 

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 1 – 18 yr. American Whiskey

Well, it is getting to that time of year when us Americans over-celebrate holidays, which often involves drinking.  There are many folks who think that holiday drinking ought to entail drinking rare or expensive whiskey.  Of course, rare and expensive whiskeys are fun and often delicious, but holiday drinking is about enjoying your favorite dram.  So, enjoy a whiskey you might like this holiday, and avoid paying too much.

With that in mind, though, here are a few tips on buying hard to find and expensive whiskeys.  My primary piece of advice is probably the most important, do your research.  There are whiskey blogs all over the internet, and reviews of whiskeys are not hard to find.  When I am looking into buying an expensive bottle, it is usually because I have a specific flavor profile that I am looking for.  To that end, I read whiskey blogs and discuss my possible purchase with friends who have had previous bottlings or expressions of the whiskey.  If I am going to buy a whiskey for $80, then I want to have a good idea of what I am going to get.

My second piece of advice is that just because a whiskey is old, hard to find, and expensive, does not mean that it is a great whiskey.  I have said this over and over again because it is true.  Every whiskey has an ideal age that depends on the type of cask used, the temperature of the storage, the nature of the new make, your palate, etc.  The trick is to find the age you like a whiskey at the best, and balance that out with how much you are willing to spend on a bottle of whiskey.

Without any further gab, I’ll get to my comparison review.  Today, I am reviewing two 18 year-old American whiskeys, Sazerac 18 yr. and Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select.  Sazerac 18 yr. is a straight rye whiskey that is bottled by Buffalo Trace in limited quantities every fall as part of the Antique Collection.  Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery (famously the makers of the coveted Van Winkle line).  Both these whiskeys are expensive, hard to find, and aged at least 18 years.

I am reviewing the Fall 2012 bottling of the Sazerac 18 yr., as it is the first and only bottling that I have tried.  It is a straight rye whiskey that is also bottled and sold in a 6 yr. edition.  Rye whiskeys have enough flavor to be very good at a young age, but I had always heard that the Sazerac line was at its best in the 18 year old.  It is bottled at 90 proof.

On the nose, the whiskey has a backbone of cinnamon and honey, but it is rounded out beautifully by oak, brown sugar, toffee, ginger, roses, and vanilla.  This whiskey is alive in the glass.  The scents come flooding deep into the nostrils; it is a wonderful, warming aroma.  On the palate, the whiskey opens up with fresh fruits and spiced sweetness.  There are notes of plums, cinnamon, oak, peaches, apples, and rye.  The finish is medium long, with notes of vanilla, rye, cinnamon, and oak.  My only minor complaint is that the finish can be a little tannin-ish sometimes, but that is a minor complaint.

Overall, this is a brilliant rye whiskey.  It balances the rye spices and the oak sweetness perfectly.  It is a joy to drink, and it is a hard whiskey to beat.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price tag is a little steep, but it is worth a try if you can find it.  This whiskey is almost an A+.

Jefferson’s 18 year-old Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  As I have documented before, I am not a big fan of wheated bourbons, but they tend to be whiskeys that age very well.  Jefferson’s certainly proves that.  It is a small-batch bourbon bottled at 94 proof (I am reviewing Batch 14).

On the nose, Jefferson’s Presidential Select has many typical bourbon notes.  The oak is clearly present, but it is dense and flavorful, not too overpowering.  There are notes of toffee, corn sweetness, and melted caramel.  The palate is light-medium bodied, with notes of caramel, vanilla frosting, and silky oak.  It is an extremely drinkable bourbon (be careful).  The finish is of medium length, but it tastes delicious, with the rich oak melding with the toffee, caramel, and vanilla.

Overall, this whiskey drinks well under its proof point, and it is much better than other wheated bourbons I have reviewed on the site.  However, it still falls short of greatness in my opinion.  It is too light-bodied for my tastes, but that does not mean that it isn’t the rare bourbon for you.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a damn good bourbon, but it is hard to justify the money for me.  It is a little too mellow for my taste.

My point in all this is to say that not all 18 year old whiskeys are the same.  Read up on some old whiskeys you might like to try, and let it ride!  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I compare an 18 year-old Islay Scotch and an 18 year-old Speyside.

High West Campfire Whiskey Review (ft. William from “A Dram Good Time”)

Today, I am doing my first tandem review with my good friend, William, from http://dramgoodtime.com/.  We both have tried this whiskey on several occasions, and hopefully seeing how we go about reviewing the whiskey will demonstrate how whiskey tastings can differ from person to person.  As a disclaimer, William and I reviewed the same bottle separately, and we did not compare tasting notes prior to our posts.

The whiskey we have chosen for our first (of many, hopefully) tandem review is High West’s Campfire Whiskey.  High West is a distillery and saloon from Park City, Utah.  It is a relatively young distillery that has not started bottling its own whiskey yet.  For now, High West is sourcing whiskey from a variety of distilleries and blending them to make some fantastic products.  Most of the High West products are at least $40/750ml, so they are rarely bargain buys.  However, they do make some great whiskeys for under $50 if you are interested in drinking some fine whiskey this holiday season.

High West’s Campfire Whiskey is a blend of a straight bourbon, a straight rye, and a blended, peated Scotch.  All of the components are at least 5 years old.  The two American components are LDI whiskeys from the old Seagram’s plant in Indiana.  The source of the peated Scotch is kept secret by High West.  They are all blended together in unknown quantities, and bottled at 92 proof.  Needless to say, this is a unique whiskey.

On the nose, Campfire whiskey is unlike any whiskey I have sniffed before.  There are notes of caramel, some vanilla, evergreen trees, and a nice puff of smoke now and again.  With a few drops of water, the rye characteristics of evergreens, gin botanicals, and black licorice assert themselves a bit more.  The palate begins sweet, with caramel, vanilla, and honey.  It moves through some pine, holly, and juniper before it reaches the smokiness at the back of the palate.  The finish is where the peat shows up most.  The finish is medium-long, but very well balanced between sweet vanilla and wet peat.

Overall, this whiskey is unique and very enjoyable.  It can be a little confusing on your senses, but that gives it a lot of versatility.  My grade: B+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a great whiskey, and the price is reasonable.  It is definitely worth a try if you are looking for something a little different.

Here are William’s thoughts (if you would like to read his blog, check it out here).

Color:  Dark Amber/Copper

Nose:  Smoldering pine needles and pine cones, soft peat, cinnamon, toffee, and with a little time it opens up with notes of heather honey.

Palate:  The palate gets interesting with sharp black pepper, followed up with some dry oak, toffee, a bit of that smoke, vanilla, honey, and a light peat that goes right into the finish.

w/ Water:  A little calmer with a bit more honey and sweetness showing, but the spices, light peat, and vanilla aren’t going anywhere.

Finish:  Moderate to long, sweet and dry finish with pepper and hints of smoke and peat.

This is quite a unique dram with each whisk(e)y in this blend clearly present and pretty well balanced with the rest. The rye stands out slightly more but it works very well. I would personally enjoy just a bit more of a smoke and peat influence, but it’s not needed. Not a full campfire yet, but it’s definitely being lit; good stuff.

Rating:  87

That concludes our review of High West Campfire whiskey.  As you can see, we both reviewed this whiskey similarly.  That will not always be the case, but for Campfire Whiskey, it is indicative of a very good pour of blended whiskey.  Let it ride!

Jameson Irish Whiskey Review

Today, I am reviewing Jameson Irish Whiskey.  I have had several requests for a review of this whiskey, so I am finally getting around to it.  Jameson is one of the most famous whiskeys in the world, and definitely the most famous Irish Whiskey.  Simply put, Irish whiskey is just whiskey from Ireland, just like Scotch is whisky from Scotland.  Irish whiskeys are typically made from malted barley, and they are often triple distilled.  Triple distillation means that there are three processes of distillation required/used to separate the water content from the mash during the boil.  There are some Scotch whiskies that are triple distilled, but most of them are double distilled.  The primary result of triple distillation in the finished whiskey is a smoother taste, although it does not  mean the whiskey will taste better, just different.

The first thing you will probably notice after you pour a glass of Jameson is the color.  Jameson is a rich gold, much different from the amber color of bourbon.  On the nose, Jameson is beautiful.  There are notes of agave, candied yams, cereals, dense honey, and light florals.  The palate is where Jameson takes a disappointing turn for me.  The palate is light-bodied, and the honey and floral notes are dominant with some heather and cereal in the background providing some heft.  The finish is smooth, but very short.  Some of the cereal grains remain briefly, but that is it.

Overall, Jameson is a fine whiskey, and it is usually available for $25-30/750 ml.  I really like the nose on this one, but the palate and finish don’t do too much for me.  The whiskey is bottled at 80 proof, and it is very drinkable.  It sacrifices complexity for smoothness, which makes it a great choice for somebody looking to buy their first bottle of whiskey.  My grade: C.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a favorite of many, and I enjoy it, but it is usually a few dollars more than I am looking to spend on a whiskey of this quality.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch Review

Well, Sandy is blowing pretty hard outside, which means it is the perfect time to drink some big whisky.  In my idea of a perfect autumn liquor cabinet (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/10/03/the-ideal-value-liquor-cabinet-autumn-edition/), I said that when the money hit me, I would usually try to keep a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask around.  I am reviewing today because it is a great whisky for a rainy day and a great whisky period.  However, it is also a very good deal compared with other single malt Scotches.  It isn’t a great price point compared with most American whiskeys, but it is still a great buy around $60 a bottle.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes its name from the maturing process shown on the front of the bottle.  The whisky is aged in a traditional (500 liter) American oak barrel for most of its maturing process, but it is finished in small (125 liter) casks.  The smaller cask creates more interaction with the wood, helping the whisky to “mature” quicker.  So, the Quarter Cask is only about 8-10 years old, but it drinks like a 12-14 year-old whisky.

Originally, quarter casks were created for two reasons.  First, they were smaller, which made them a lot easier to transport, especially on horseback.  Second, a quarter casked whisky allows a distillery to age whiskies faster, helping a distillery produce better products more quickly.

In the case of Laphroaig, the quarter cask is used as a finishing technique, and it comes off brilliantly.  I have reviewed Laphroaig base offering, the 10 year (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/25/laphroaig-10-year-review/) .  It is a good whisky, but it is really a one-tricked pony.  It is smoke and peat, peat and smoke throughout.  Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes that formula, and rounds it out beautifully.  It is bottled at 96 proof and non-chill filtered.

On the nose, it is clear you are drinking Laphroaig whisky.  Peat and smoke explode out of the glass, but upon further nasal exploration, there are notes of nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla, almond butter, and the heartwarming smell of the sea.  The palate is full-bodied and brilliant.  It opens with a heavy sweetness of honey, vanilla, sherry, and fresh berries.  The back of the palate reveals the peat and smoke you would expect, but it is complimented with dense, sweet oak and roasted nuts.  The finish is long and delicious, with a wonderful balance of peat, smoke, sea spray, sherry, and oak.

Overall, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a fantastic whisky.  It is full-bodied, everything you would want from an Islay, but it is also complex and rich.  In my opinion, it is the best whisky in Laphroaig’s range, even better than the 18 yr. expression and the Cairdeas bottling.  The only Laphroaig whisky that comes close to the beauty of the Quarter Cask is the 10 yr. Cask Strength.  At the price point, Laphroaig Quarter Cask is my favorite Islay whisky, perfect for waiting out a hurricane.  My grade: A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a great special occasion whisky, but it is not cheap.