Posts tagged ‘Comparison’

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!

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!

 

 

 

 

George Dickel Comparison Review: No. 12 vs. Barrel Select

Today, I am finally getting around to a review I have wanted to do for a while now, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky.  I have reviewed a few Jack Daniels products on the blog, and I had a number of folks ask me about George Dickel.  I’ll save my thoughts about Dickel vs. Daniels until the end, but suffice to say I am excited to put my thoughts out on this one.

Like Jack Daniels, George Dickel charcoal filters their whisky (Dickel drops the “e”) before putting the spirit in the barrel.  Unlike Jack Daniels, George Dickel chills their spirit before letting it drip through the charcoal.  There really is no right way to charcoal filter a whisky, so long as a distillery does not try to call their charcoal dripped whisky “bourbon.”  That said, charcoal filtration does not necessarily mean the product is better or worse.  Purists might not want their product tainted by the process, and many bartenders prefer to make their drinks with the smoother, cleaner whiskies that are produced by charcoal filtration.  Like most things in whisky, it is a matter of personal preference.

George Dickel No 12The first whisky to be reviewed from George Dickel is their No. 12, “White Label.”  There is no age statement on this whisky, but I have heard it rumored around 6-8 years old, with some older stocks blended in.  It is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv), and is often available for under $25 in places where I don’t live (so I am told).  The nose on this whisky is unmistakably unique.  There are notes of praline, caramel, marzipan, raw oats, some maple syrup, all with a solid backbone of cereal grains and sweet corn.  The palate is medium-bodied and continues a lot of the cereal notes from the nose.  There are a lot of oats, and a bit of caramel-covered peanuts.  The finish is medium-short, with some lingering corn and some honeycomb.  Overall, this is a tasty, drinkable whisky that gives great indication of the quality of George Dickel.  My Grade: B-/C+.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a fine whisky, definitely worth keeping around the cabinet if you are like Tennessee Whisky.

 

The second whisky I am reviewing today is George Dickel Barrel Select, George Dickel’s premium whisky.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv), and it is aged between 10 and 12 years.  According to George Dickel’s website, each bottle of Barrel Select contains approximately 10 barrels, making it the smallest batched whisky that George Dickel makes.  The nose on this whisky is drop dead gorgeous, presenting complexity galore.  There are notes of cocoa, bananas, and white chocolate, all wound tightly around spicy oak notes.  The palate is especially sweet, but not too much so.  Those banana flavors are still there, along with vanilla, dried pineapples, apricots, butterscotch, and almonds.  The finish is medium in length, a bit longer than No. 12, with a nice complexity.  There is caramel and butterscotch present, but there is also the complexity of oak and spiced almonds.  Overall, this is a wonderful whisky.  My only complaint is the lack of body.  I think at a slightly higher proof, the flavors would hit harder and this whisky would warrant an A- or an A from my taste buds.  My grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  For my dollar, this is the finest whisky I’ve had from Tennessee to this point, and it is a great whisky for those sultry summer afternoons.George Dickel Barrel Select

Between these two George Dickel whiskies, I am definitely partial to the Barrel Select.  It is the more complex and the more delicious (in my opinion) of the two whiskies.  That said, No. 12 is still a great buy.  As far as that other Tennessee Distillery that over-advertises and underachieves, George Dickel beats the pants off of similarly priced Jack Daniels products.  Although the Barrel Select still does not measure all the way up to my favorite bourbons, it is a top notch whisky that works well for special occasions and weekday evenings alike.  So, don’t be afraid of Tennessee and give Dickel its due.  There is some fine whisky coming out of Cascade Hollow, Tennessee, and well worth letting it ride.

Comparison Review: Scotch Styles, McClelland’s Speyside vs. McClelland’s Lowland

I have been asked by several people to begin posting reviews of non-bourbon whiskeys that also fit the mission of bargainbourbon.com.  In that vein, I am doing a comparison review of two great value Scotches that I am fond of.  But first, a few brief words about Scotch Whisky.

Like bourbon to America, Scotch Whisky is made in Scotland.  Unlike bourbon, Scotch is made primarily from barley, although some other cereal grains are occasionally added.  In addition, Scotch varies significantly depending on the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Obviously, each distillery is a little different, but most regions have a distinct flavor profile embodied by the distilleries in that region.

McClelland’s is a Scotch distributor that sources and bottles whisky from different regions of Scotland.  As such, McClelland’s whisky is usually pretty cheap (between $20-$30), and it gives a good introduction to a region’s flavor profile before diving headlong into a Scotch that costs $50 a bottle.  McClelland’s makes single malt Scotches, which means that all of the whisky in the bottle is made from the same mash.  Blended Scotches like Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Dewar’s are made from blending different Scotches from different distilleries in order to get the desired product.  Generally speaking, single malts are crisper with a more distinct flavor profile, hence their appeal to whisky drinkers.  Now, on to the whisky…

The Speyside region of Scotland is the most well-known Scotch region, home to about half the distilleries in Scotland.  It is a relatively small region located in the Northeast of Scotland, where the Spey River enters the North Sea.  Distilleries such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes, The MaCallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie are all found in the Speyside region.  As a general flavor profile, most Speyside whiskies strike a balance between fruity and floral notes and richer flavors of vanilla and oak.

On the nose, McClelland’s Speyside reminds me of Andes Mint candy.  It is fresh and minty, with some whispers of dark chocolate and fresh cut pine evergreens.  On the palate, the whisky is sweet and nutty, with the most prominent notes being almonds and hazelnuts.  The finish is moderately long, starting with light, piney flavors, and moving towards smoky pine and smoked peat at the end.  Like most of McClelland’s products, the Speyside is not very complex, but it gives a crisp, clear introduction to Speyside whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a great daily whisky.  It is a great anchor for any cabinet.

The Lowland region of Scotland is located in the south, and it is only home to a few active distilleries nowadays.  As a flavor profile, the Lowland Scotches are known for being very delicate and subtle.  They tend to be fresh and floral, with an almost silky or buttery texture.  Their popularity has died out a little bit in the past few decades as the whisky market has tended towards the massive flavor profiles of Islay Scotches and the Highland and Speyside regions.  However, Lowland Scotches are unique and fantastic whiskies.

On the nose, McClelland’s Lowland is mostly floral and citrusy.  There are notes of lemons and tangerines, coupled with dense floral notes of roses and lilacs.  This whisky is a pure joy to smell.  The palate is earthy and sweet, almost as if chewing on an orange or lemon peel.  The whisky is oily on the palate, feeling like melted butter in the mouth.  The finish is short and fairly weak.  It leaves a perfume-ish taste in the back of the mouth, but it is not very complex or powerful.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is great daily whisky, not as complex as the Speyside, but it anchors a cabinet just as well.

Overall, I prefer McClelland’s Speyside to McClelland’s Lowland.  However, if you are looking for a gateway whisky, a Lowland Scotch is a great place to start because of how easy the whisky is to drink neat.  These are both great introductions to Scotch, so give them a try and let it ride!

Comparison Review: Wild Turkey 101 vs. Fighting Cock 6 Year

I decided on these two bourbons for my first comparison review because they are very similar.  They are both under $30, over 100 proof, have a high percentage of rye in the mash bill, and they are both named after crazy poultry.  The biggest difference between the two is that almost everybody has heard of Wild Turkey, and almost nobody has heard of Fighting Cock.  However, both of them are very good value bourbons.

Wild Turkey 101 comes from the famous Austin Nichols Distillery, producers of the famous Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve bourbons.  There is no age statement on the bourbon, but my guess is that most of the bourbons that make it into the bottle are between 3 and 6 years old.  It has fancy advertising campaigns, and most college students have taken a shot of Turkey 101 at some point in their career.  However, what few college students realize is that they are drinking a damn good bourbon.

On the nose, Wild Turkey 101 is rich and complex.  There are strong notes of brown sugar and rye spices that balance each other well.  Some more fragile notes of dried summer fruits (peaches?), caramel, and pine sap come through as well.  Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto (http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2010/11/11/wild-comparison-wild-turkey-russells-reserve-vs-wild-turkey-101/) describes Wild Turkey’s mouth feel as “a porcupine running at 60 MPH,” but I think the palate is a bit softer than that.  There are certainly a lot of sharp spices from the rye, which give the bourbon a lot of peppery notes, but there is also good balance to the palate.  The brown sugars and caramels from the nose stick around through the whole experience, calming down the big rye kick on the palate and the finish.  Wild Turkey finishes with a sharp, spicy finish, with just enough caramel and barrel sugar to keep it smooth.  I only wish the finish would stay longer, it always seems too quick to me.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $25-30.  This is a damn good sipper for a damn good price.

Fighting Cock 6 year is a 103 proof bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, etc.).  It is not easy to find, especially in places that aren’t big bourbon hotspots, but it is worth a try if you find it.  At only about $20 for 750ml, it is a pretty good deal.  It is also available in a limited edition 15 year, which is very difficult to find.  If anyone finds that one, let me know (or just send me a bottle).

On the nose, the rye spices are very clear, with only some soft caramel and oak to balance out the bourbon.  On the palate, Fighting Cock is very full-bodied, with a distinct rye profile.  The bourbon is spicy and peppery on the palate, with some corny sweetness, nutmeg, and light caramel lingering around the front of the tongue.  The finish is monstrous.  Fighting Cock rumbles over the back of your tongue, kicking and screaming all the way.  The finish is dominated by the peppery flavors of the rye spices and drying oak, but there are slight sweet flavors (corn, caramel) that come back after a minute or two.  The finish is definitely longer than Wild Turkey, but Fighting Cock’s finish isn’t as complex, which can make it feel pretty harsh if you aren’t used to drinking high proof bourbons.  My grade: C-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a fine pour, but it is not complex enough to be the daily sipper.

Overall, Wild Turkey is the winner, hands down.  It is the more complex bourbon; it is rich, balanced, and very drinkable.  Fighting Cock is still very good value, but it isn’t as balanced as Wild Turkey 101, which can make it feel like a rough, one-tracked ride.  If Wild Turkey were at the same price point as Fighting Cock, then Wild Turkey might be my favorite value whiskey on the market, but its fame has made it a bit pricy.  In some places, you can still snag a bottle of 101 for $22.  If that is the case in your area, there is no reason not to have a bottle of Turkey 101 in the liquor cabinet when I come visit.