Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2007 Vintage – Review

*I don’t think this qualifies as an “archival bourbon” review, but please note the whiskey in this review is a slightly older, limited bottling and likely not readily available today. While newer Evan Williams Single Barrel vintages are available, they will not be the same as the one reviewed here.

This was one of my go-to summer getaway bottles this year. A treat to look forward to after spending the day swimming and applying layer after layer after layer of sunscreen and bug repellent to squirming children. With the wee ones tucked exhaustedly in their beds and the maddening whine of a mosquito in my ear, I’d kick back with a small, neat pour of this and reflect on the majestic beauty of the planet, the serene dappled lap of water in the sun, the soft tread of feet on a canopied Coniferous floor. Or I’d stare at my phone and wonder how I was going to manage to not scratch my leg off and whether or not I could stand to eat another hot dog or sand-covered slice of apple. Here in early November, with the temp in the teens and a dusting of snow already on the ground, those summer days seem long ago, so I thought there’s no better time to write this one up.

This 2007 vintage Evan Williams Single Barrel was put into the barrel on February 13, 2007, and then was taken out of the barrel on March 31, 2016, making this one exactly 9 years and 46 days old approximately, give or a take day for leap year and whatnot. All Evan Williams is made with Heaven Hill’s (reportedly) standard low rye bourbon mashbill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% barley. This bottle came from…are you ready for this…barrel number 703.

The Nose:  Upfront and rather oak-filled. There’s orange blossom honey, tangerines, and vanilla extract with a faint hint of butterscotch and toasted marshmallow as well. Lesser notes of sweet corn ice cream and a bit of toasted coconut. There’s a fair amount of oak throughout, both raw sanded boards and old polished wood. the spicier end of things holds dried orange peel, a good dose of nutmeg, a little cinnamon, and just a touch of peppery rye.

The Palate:  Much of the nose carries over. There’s brown sugar and dark honey along with juicy orange and vanilla bean. Behind that, more peppery, toasty rye notes, along with salted nuts and unsweetened chocolate powder. Lots of persistent oak here, too, grippy and complex with black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. A bit of burnt popcorn and barrel char towards the end.

The Finish:  There are hints of the earlier sweetness, but mostly, the finish is long, oaky and spicy.

Thoughts:  This one did not disappoint in the least. I haven’t had one of these Single Barrels in a long time, the last one I reviewed was in 2011. This 2007 was a little woodier than I remember the profile being, and perhaps a bit more brash. The nose does a good job balancing the oak and the sweeter elements. The palate nearly gets off-kilter in that regard with the tannic wood coming on a little strong, but it manages to keep it all together. I think I got this for around $20, which makes it an excellent value. The current Single Barrel expressions go for around $23-$27…which is still a really good value. This has long been a delicious, dependable and affordable bottle, I’m already looking forward to the next vintage. Recommended.

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2007 Vintage, +/-2016

43.3% ABV

Score:  85


Sources:

  • “Bourbon and Whiskey Mash Bills.” ModernThirst, ModernThirst, modernthirst.com/home/bourbon-whiskey-mash-bills/.
  • My brain
  • The side of the bottle.

 

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Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin – Review

Whenever anything longer than two or three sentences is written about Bombay Sapphire there are always the requisite mentions about the brand single-handedly rescuing gin from the pits of decrepitude or something similar and mildly hyperbolic, yet also apparently fairly accurate. In the mid-80’s, as far as I can remember, gin had been relegated to a drink for secretive old English ladies, old American men with bulbous noses, nostalgic maritime types, and those who had to do a shot on a dare. It had been floundering in the wake of Vodka’s takeover since the early 70’s. By 1985, the Bombay brand had passed from founder Allan Subin’s hands to Grand Metropolitan, which would become Diageo 12 years later. Michael Roux, Bombay’s American importer, who was fresh off his success in growing the Absolut Vodka brand, had an idea that would hopefully reboot his gin brand. Working with Ian Hamilton, Bombay’s master distiller at that time, he helped to develop a new gin, which used the same production process and base botanicals as the Bombay Original, but added two new ingredients and steered slightly away from the traditional juniper-forward London Dry style. This new recipe produced a lighter, less intensely juniper-y gin in an effort to appeal to a broader crowd.

The gin was christened Bombay Sapphire and debuted in 1987 sporting the now familiar blue glass bottle. Supposedly, the name takes inspiration from the 182 carat sapphire that was ripped out of Sri Lanka and set into a ring for Douglas Fairbanks to give to Mary Pickford. Douglas Fairbanks’ and Mary Pickford’s real names were Douglas Ullman and Gladys Smith, though what that has to do with gin, I have no idea. Bombay Sapphire’s clear nod to the days of the British Raj isn’t the most flattering marketing approach in the world. After all, some serious colonial oppression, including British policy decisions that helped kill tens of millions during India’s famines of the 18th and 19th centuries, doesn’t seem like something you’d want to celebrate. Booze marketers have never been known to be overly concerned with or sensitive to history’s darker moments.

Bombay Sapphire was apparently a success pretty much right off the bat. The combination of the refreshed flavor profile, standout blue bottle, and strong marketing worked well. Along with Absolut, and Jim Beam’s Small Batch line which emerged a few years later, Sapphire helped to spread the idea of “super premium” spirits to a much wider audience. From there, it could be argued that all that helped lead to the craft spirits/whisk(e)y/cocktail resurgence we’ve been in the middle of for the last couple of decades.

The creation of Diageo forced the new megalithic company to shed a few pieces, and in 1998, the Bombay brand was sold to Bacardi. Up until a few years ago, Bombay Sapphire and Bombay Original (and quite a few other gins) were produced at the G&J Greenalls/G&J Distilllers distillery. Beginning in 2014, the brand found its own production home at a new state-of-the-art distillery in Laverstoke. As with the Original, Sapphire uses an infusion basket technique, meaning that the distilled vapor rises up through the botanicals, picking up oils and flavors along the way. The use of combination pot and column Carter head stills means the gin is created in one run with only water added later to bring it to proof. Bombay is a bit of a rare bird in that regard. Most mass-produced gins are “multi-shot” gins produced in several still runs that generate a concentrated spirit to which both neutral spirit and water is added later to ready it for bottling. As I mentioned earlier, Sapphire uses the same ingredients as Bombay Original; Angelica root, Almonds, Cassia Bark, Licorice root, Coriander, Lemon peel, Orris root, and Juniper berries, albeit in a different combination. The two additional botanicals used in Sapphire are cubeb berries and grains of paradise. Cubeb is another variety of vine pepper native to Indonesia. Grains of Paradise is a spice related to cardamom and is native to the west coast of Africa. Both cubeb berries and grains of paradise are characterized by an almost pine-y peppery-ness, and a hot, pungent heat.

The Nose:  A light, quite fresh nose that’s also quite spirit-y. Sapphire is dominated by citrus, mostly lemon. There’s all sorts of lemon – lemon drops, lemon juice, lemon pith, and lemon furniture polish. The other ingredients play second fiddle here. There’s juniper of course, but it’s soft, rounded, and fairly quiet. There’s quite a bit of black peppercorn, just a little cinnamon heat and a touch of almond extract. The other botanicals are well-integrated, mostly adding depth and breadth to the citrus and juniper

The Palate:  With a surprisingly oily mouthfeel, this begins with a relatively empty, honeyed sweetness. The lemon/assorted citrus quickly comes in, pithy and full of oils expressed from the peel. It’s more herbal here, with the coriander and the licorice more prominent. The juniper is sharper and more fresh as well. Quite peppery towards the end, with fine ground black pepper, cinnamon stick and hints of tannic wood.

The Finish:  The lemon-y citrus, woody juniper, pepper, and coriander provide a balanced fade.

Thoughts:  In its own way, Bombay Sapphire is a classic. It’s hard to fault it for being what it is – a well-made, lighter, more approachable London dry gin that, within its citrus-forward profile, integrates and balances its ingredients nicely. I found it more spirit-y than I was expecting, and as I’m a fan of more juniper-y, herbal gins, I also found it a little too light and monochromatic. Then again, I’m not really Sapphire’s target audience. This one was a revolution of sorts, and now it’s an elder statesman. It was a gin designed to appeal to a wider audience and played a big part in revitalizing an entire category of the spirits world. For that at least, it deserves some attention.

As gin is usually a cocktail spirit, here’s how I thought this one held up in a trio of classic drinks…

In a Gin & Tonic:  This makes a decent G&T – crisp, citrus-filled, bright and perhaps too easy drinking. It’s also a little perfunctory, and doesn’t offer much complexity or excitement. Is there such a thing as a session gin for Gin & Tonics? If so, this might be it.

In a Martini:   For me, this is perhaps the best application of Bombay Sapphire. It’s sparkling clean, bright and refreshing. Wet or bone dry, it allows the vermouth to come through nicely.

In a Negroni:  Definitely not my favorite Negroni gin. It’s too light and citrus forward. You really need to up the gin and cut back on the Campari and vermouth to find anything approaching balance, and even then, it doesn’t provide the complexity other gins do. In the traditional 1:1:1 setting, I find it’s too citrus-y, and the gin gets a little lost and comes across as too spirit-y.

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, +/-2018

47% ABV


Sources:

 

Tyrconnell 15 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish Irish Single Malt Whiskey – Review

*Sincere thanks to Tyrconnell and Savona Communications for the sample.

Along with being a well-known resort, a popular stop for transatlantic cruise ships, and the birthplace of the inimitable Ana da Silva of the Raincoats among other things, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is the only place that can legally (according to the EU) produce Madeira, it’s namesake fortified wine. Madeira – the wine – can trace its origin back to those heady days of exploration of the 1400’s. Located in the Atlantic over 320 miles west of Morocco, and over 620 miles south-west of Portugal, Madeira during this time had increasingly become an important re-supply point for Atlantic explorers. As exploring is thirsty work, these adventurers wanted, nay…needed booze. Wine was easy enough to come by, but during serious bouts of mid-Atlantic exploring, the storage holds of these ships tended to get a little hot and damp, which, as any vinophile and any thirsty Age of Exploration explorer will tell you, is not the greatest environment for wine. So to preserve the wine better on these long journeys, the sailors would fortify it. These intrepid explorers and the suppliers that supplied them discovered that a bit of brandy added to wine would stabilize and preserve it. And lo, with Port from Portugal, Sherry from Jerez, Marsala from Marsala, or Madeira from Madeira, the retail category of fortified wines was born.

What sets Madeira apart from other fortified wines is its adherence to the tradition of subjecting the wine to heat in order to oxidize it. Now, as we all know, oxidation is generally a very big no no in the wine world, but it’s a defining characteristic of Madeira, adding to its general flavor profile, and playing a big part in this wine’s ability to be cellared for over 100 years. The vast majority of Madeira is made from the red grape, Negra Mole, with four different white grape varieties, Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho and Sercial making up the vast majority of that remaining small minority. These grapes are usually harvested earlier than most wine-making grapes, resulting in fruit that’s much higher in acidity, a quality which helps the wines survive all that oxidation. Once the wine is produced and the fortifying spirit is added, there are two methods of aging Madeira – Canteiro and Estufa. Canteiro is typically the method used in creating higher quality wines, aging them in oak casks outdoors or in heated warehouses. Because the Canteiro method heats and oxidizes the wine more naturally and slowly, these are usually the oldest and most expensive Madeiras you can find. The Estufa method is just a little bit more artificial and rushed. Typically, Estufa produced Madeiras are “aged” in heated steel tanks for three to six months resulting in wines that fit the oxidized flavor profile but compared to Canteiro wines, lack the complexity and high price tag.

Speaking of complexity, breaking down the different styles Madeira could lead to an excessively long and somnambulant read that I’m not sure anyone needs at the moment. So, in the spirit of brevity (if there’s any left) and outright blog-reading excitement, let’s just briefly run through the major styles and move on to some whiskey, shall well? Basically, Madeira falls into two general categories, vintaged or non-vintaged. Vintage Madeiras are usually labelled as Colheita (5 years of older) or Frasqueira (20 years or older), and are often single grape variety wines. Non-vintaged Madeiras range from Rainwater and Finest (3 years old and inexpensive), to Reserve (5+ years old), Special Reserve (10+ years old), and Extra Reserve (15+ years old). Non-vintaged Madeiras are usually blends of different grape varietal wines.

So now that we are adequately well-versed in Madeira, we can take a look at the Tyrconnell 15 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish Irish Single Malt Whiskey. This is, as the name strongly implies, a single malt that’s been matured in American oak for 15 years, and then finished in ex-Madeira casks for three months. What kind of Madeira casks were used? Your guess is as good as mine. We know that only the better Madeiras, produced with the Canteiro method, are matured in oak, so can we assume that these finishing casks once held high quality Madeira? When whisk(e)y makers use sherry casks for maturation, they very often use casks that have simply been “seasoned” with sherry. This means they’re filled with a lesser quality wine for a short period, then emptied and turned over to distilleries to fill with spirit. Less often do distilleries buy casks that once held high-quality/long matured sherries. The sherry industry is large enough to create and supply these “seasoned” casks. I don’t know if the Madeira industry is that prolific. My guess would be that the finishing on this Tyrconnell was done in casks that once held some of the good stuff.

The Nose:  An intriguingly complex nose filled with fruit, sugars, and baked goods. Juicy honeycrisp apples, a hint of pineapple juice, and orange blossom honey are joined by Walker’s shortbread and tart cherry cobbler. There’s a nice bit of milky salted caramel as well, along with sticky dried fruit and vanilla bean. The oak is oiled and smooth with a bit of allspice and other integrated, mild baking spices.

The Palate:  Really nice creamy mouthfeel. There’s more citrus and tropical fruit here, pithy orange and underripe pineapple, along with a hint of peach lambic, apple peel, and touches of dried red fruits. Behind that, roasted, sugared nuts and bittersweet chocolate with malt syrup and toasted grains. The oak is more prominent, smooth still, but fairly tannic with cinnamon, vanilla, clove, a little cardamom and a subtle catch of mint towards the end.

The Finish:  Nicely lingering, with integrated notes of red fruits, brown sugar, grippy oak, baking spices and that appealing mentholated catch towards the very end.

Thoughts:  Man, this is really, really good whiskey. Complex, rich, easy-drinking, I enjoyed this one very much. The Madeira finishing certainly left its mark here with the red fruit and nutty, slightly saline quality, but the finishing was not so heavy as to wash away that older Tyrconnell malt and oak profile. That still manages to come through nicely and manages to play well with the finishing. Tyrconnell’s younger single malts that have been finished in different casks have usually been very solid whiskeys. It’s great to see their slightly older malts get the same kind of treatment and attention. Not inexpensive at around $100, but definitely recommended.

Tyrconnell 15 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish Irish Single Malt Whiskey, +/-2018

46% ABV

Score:  87


Sources:

Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey – Review

*Sincere thanks to MGP Ingredients and Gregory White PR for the sample.

It will shock most of you to learn that the Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey differs from the Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey in alcoholic strength. Yes, I know, please…try to control yourselves. The latter rye whiskey from MGP was bottled at 47% ABV. This one, as the barrel proof name strongly suggests, was bottled at 56.3% ABV. Whereas the lower proof rye was taken from a selection of 159 barrels, the Barrel Proof was plucked from about half as many, 83 barrels to be exact. The mashbill is presumably the same, a blend of MGP’s relatively ubiquitous 95% rye recipe, and it’s relatively new (started in 2013) 51% rye recipe. The age is also roughly the same, with the brand’s website declaring it to be between five and six years old. What we don’t know for sure is whether or not a distinction was made when choosing the barrels for the two expressions. Were the better, more “honey” barrels set aside for the Barrel Proof? Possibly. The Website PR hints at that in a vague PR-ish kind of way, and the price jump between the two would seem to indicate not just a bump up in proof, but in quality as well. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, though just to be clear, we’re talking about whiskey, not pudding.

The Nose:  Similar to its lower ABV sibling, yet a little less sweet, more oaky, and perhaps predictably, hotter. There’s orange oil, dark honey, brown sugars, and a little cherry cough syrup. The rye balances between toasty, bread-y grain and a slightly peppery, slightly minty herbal quality.  The oak comes across as sawn boards, lightly tannic with spice notes of clove, cinnamon, white pepper, candied ginger, and vanilla extract. A bit of water brings out more of those winey notes found in the Straight Rye.

The Palate:  The palate handles the higher ABV well. Initially, there’s Demerara syrup, pulpy orange, cinnamon honey, and just a few leftover cherry notes. Lots of vanilla, both sticky bean and syrup, and nutty chocolate fudge. The rye is present, though not overly strong, again showing off both toasty grain and peppery herbal notes. The oak is grippy and coarse, full of clove, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Adding a little water really makes the palate shine, spreading the sweetness out and integrating everything really nicely.

The Finish:  Longish, spicy, and rye-filled. Some burnt sugars fade early, leaving oak, peppery baking spice and peppery herbal rye.

Thoughts:  As with the Straight Rye…great stuff. It’s very interesting tasting these two side by side. The jump up in proof of course gives it a different feel, but their flavor profiles are fairly similar. Whereas I loved the winey-ness of the Straight Rye’s nose, here I loved the deep and vibrant palate – especially with a bit of water. The Straight Rye is the better one to use in cocktails, this one shines as a more rugged slow, neat sipper, or even over a large chunk of ice. The quandary comes with the price. This is a very, very good whiskey, perhaps a step up over the Straight Rye, but enough of a step up to justify the $30 jump in price (this one’s $70, the Straight Rye is $40)? That’s a tougher call. Still, definitely recommended.

Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey, +/-2018

56.3% ABV

Score:  87


Sources:

Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey – Review

*Sincere thanks to MGP and Gregory+Vine PR for the sample.

It’s a well-known fact that Midwest Grain Products of Indiana (MGP) formerly known as Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), formerly known as the Jos. E. Seagram Lawrenceburg Plant, is responsible for a great many whiskeys one sees out on the shelves. They have been providing some very high quality bourbon and rye to other brands for years but until recently, they’ve not bottled anything under their own label. That changed in 2015 when MGP put out a limited release called Metze’s select, which was named after MGP’s master distiller at that time, Greg Metze. That bourbon was a fitting ode to a man whose expertise had launched over a hundred other brands. In 2016, MGP went a step further and purchased the George Remus brand. Today, that line features the widely available George Remus Straight Bourbon and the more limited edition, the Repeal Reserve. Most recently, after years of being renowned for making great rye whiskey for other people, MGP finally released its own rye this past June under the Rossville Union name.

The Rossville Union ryes take their name from one of the original distilleries that was founded in or around Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Most sources state that the Rossville distillery began in 1847, but casual research doesn’t show who actually opened the business. In 1875, whoever owned it sold it to Cincinnati distillers James Walsh & Co., who expanded and successfully ran the plant until Prohibition. After being damaged by fire a year earlier, The Rossville distillery was sold to Seagram in 1933. Seagram in turn, expanded it even further. When Seagram finally imploded around 1999-2000, the distillery was sold off to Pernod Ricard, who ran it for a few years until 2007, selling it to CL Financial who renamed it LDI. CL Financial collapsed in 2009, but the distillery just kept working away. In 2011, it was sold yet again to Kansas-based, industrial distillers MGP Ingredients and I think that brings us up to date.

So exciting. Where was I? The Rossville Union brand is currently made up of two expressions, The Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey and this one, the Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey. Both are made up of a blend of two MGP rye mashbills: their 95% rye and their 51% rye. The label states this whiskey is “at least four years” old, but the brand’s PR claims it’s made up of five and six year old whiskeys. Let’s just play it safe and say this one’s between four and six years old. This Rossville Union Straight Rye was bottled from a selection of 159 barrels at a respectable 47%.

The Nose:  Sweet and spicy, a taut, complex nose. The sweetness is more upfront – Demerara sugar, honey, cherry cough syrup, orange pith, and a bit of apple cobbler. The rye is toasty, bready, and lightly peppery, with just a little of that herbal/dill 95% recipe. Behind all that, there are subtle, almost sherry-esque suggestions of wine, shellac on cherry wood, and bitter cocoa nibs. The oak is fresh and sanded smooth, with clove, white pepper, and earthy mint.

The Palate:  Nice, somewhat creamy mouthfeel full of more sweetness -brown sugar, dark honey, juicy orange, and more cherry syrup. After that, there’s a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder and candied almonds. The rye is bolder here, still toasted and grainy, but brighter and more herbal than the nose. The oak is pleasantly grippy and tannic with more clove, ground pepper, cinnamon stick, nutmeg and mint.

The Finish:  Perhaps on the short side, with the dark sugars and fruit fading fast, leaving herbal rye and spicy oak. That nice catch of mint tails off at the end.

Thoughts:  Great stuff. In creating this brand, MGP had the heady challenge of making a rye that didn’t taste the rye they make for everyone else, but at the same time, showing off the rye they make…which of course is usually made for everyone else. I think they’ve risen to the challenge. That familiar 95% rye recipe does come through but it’s subtle and nicely integrated. Their newer, more traditional 51% rye recipe seems to serve as the sturdy backbone here, tying together the mashbills and the oak, and providing an unexpected sweetness. Thanks to its relatively high ABV, it works great on its own, over ice, or in a cocktail. It’s great to see MGP finally bottling up their own rye, it’s no surprise that it’s very good, hell, that’s pretty much expected at this point, but nonetheless, it’s very good. Definitely recommended.

Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey, +/-2018

47% ABV

Score:  86


Sources:

Blackadder Statement Edition #27, 1989 Bunnahabhain 28 Year Old – Review

Label pic from http://www.whiskybase.com

Sincere thanks to Raj and Glass Revolution Imports for the sample.

Man…1989, that was a year. Thanks to near global upheaval, the events of that year drastically altered the sociopolitical landscape of practically the entire planet. In South Africa, F.W. DeClerc freed Nelson Mandela and negotiated the end of Apartheid. Fernando Collor de Mello was elected president of Brazil in the most democratic election held in that country since the 1964 installation of a military regime. Student-led protests in China’s Tiananmen Square led to hundreds if not thousands of casualties, and the now-iconic image of a lone man standing in the path of oncoming tanks. Exxon set the standard for huge companies shirking responsibility when their incompetence and greed resulted in a horrific environmental disaster. And the Oakland A’s won the World Series though they were slightly upstaged by the devastating Loma Prieta Earthquake. Oh, and there was that little provincial flare up in Germany involving a wall or something or other. I actually happened to be in Berlin for that one. While something as innocuous sounding as a wall coming down might not seem like cause for a celebration, let me tell you, the townsfolk in that area thought this was a pretty big deal and were partying like it was 1989, which of course it was.

I’m pretty sure plenty of other stuff happened, too. There was also plenty of incredible music released into the wild in 1989. Off the top of my head, as far as I remember, Nirvana’s Bleach, Fugazi’s Margin Walker, Bad Brain’s Quickness, De La Soul’s Three Feet High & Rising, Mudhoney’s debut LP, the Pixie’s Doolittle, John Adam’s Fearful Symmetries / The Wound-Dresser, Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love,  Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Voivod’s Nothingface, Bitch Magnet’s Umber, Bob Mould’s Workbook, Steve Reich’s Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, Skunk’s Last American Virgin, and Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth were all came out that year on something called a compact disc.

I have no idea what kind of lusty shenanigans were going on at Bunnahabhain in 1989. They were distilling malted barley spirit of course, or at least we can presume they were as the label of this one states it was distilled on October 23, 1989. The Statement series of independently bottled whiskies is part of Blackadder’s Raw Cask line, representing the extra-special cream of the crop of their selected barrels. The Blackadder Statement Edition #27, 1989 Bunnahabhain 28 Year Old was distilled 3 days after Ace Frehley’s  Trouble Walkin’ came out, and was matured in a most likely American oak hogshead. As with all Black Adder Raw Cask bottlings, this one has been bottled unfiltered at cask strength – pretty much straight from the barrel. There’s even some tiny wood chips floating around for good measure.

The Nose:  A very nice, very sweet nose once it opens up. There’s malt syrup, vanilla fudge (the fudge, not the band), dark floral honey, milky caramel sprinkled with sea salt, and lots of orange marmalade spread over sourdough bread. Behind that, notes of moist fruitcake – sticky dried fruits and gingerbread. Subtler hints of condensed milk, and Jordan almonds. The oak is prominent, smooth, and polished, with a grippy weight to it. A faint hint of oiled leather. Cinnamon, candied ginger, dried orange peel, and vanilla bean.

The Palate:  A thinly oily mouthfeel introduces a more dynamic, less sweet palate. Tannic, worn oak notes permeate throughout. Continued caramelized sugars are joined by heftier fruit notes – red currant jam, spiced juicy orange, dark red fruits. Fudgy, nutty chocolate leads to a swell of oak and spice. towards the end. An old room full of worn oak, still nicely tannic, but well-integrated. Cinnamon, clove, sticky vanilla bean, candied ginger, and a touch of cardamom.

The Finish:  Lengthy, mouth-watering oak, along with a caramelized sweetness, vanilla bean, dried orange peel, and fine ground, almost smoky black pepper at the last.

Thoughts:  Very good. Though while very good is very good, I have to admit I was hoping for stellar and mind-blowing. Still…this is very good. The nose is quite fine and complex, if a bit on the sweet side, but it leads nicely to the palate, where I think this one comes alive even more. There’s lots of the finishing sherry cask to be found throughout. I found this one integrated that finishing pretty well, but at times wished for that influence to be a little lighter to let the long years in the hogshead shine through more. Old Bunna, it’s usually a treat to have in one’s glass, this one is no exception. Recommended…though probably very hard to find at this point…and if you do find it, probably very expensive.

Blackadder Statement Edition #27, 1989 Bunnahabhain 28 Year Old, Islay, IB +/-2017

48.1% ABV

Score:  86


Sources:

 

 

Blood Oath Pact No. 4 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Review

Another year, another Blood Oath bourbon release from Luxco. And another year where I find myself desperately, frantically searching for some blood oath related factoid or anecdote to help ease us into the review. You just can’t dive right in, immediately bleating on about mashbills and cask types – that fails to set any kind of mood. You what doesn’t fail to set the mood? MANOWAR!

That’s right – Manowar! As you can tell by their conservative attire and happy-go-lucky demeanor, Manowar is a longstanding heavy metal institution that’s made a name for themselves by oiling up, wearing Medieval bathing suits and singing bombastic songs about Norse gods and probably casual swordplay. I mention Manowar not because they’re big bourbon fans, though I mean, they might be. Hell, you wouldn’t catch me slathering on the baby oil, hutching up some tighty-whities and sticking my hand in mangy pelt without having a couple first. No, I mention the band, because they are rumored to have signed one of their record contracts…in blood. There’s a picture of the event, but it seemed a little off-putting to add that here right before discussing some delicious whiskey. And yeah, a contact might not be quite the same thing as an oath, but I think we can all agree that when you sign a contract in blood, that contract pretty much becomes an oath right there on the spot.

So now that we’ve gotten my yearly mention of some kind of blood oath out of the way, we can get to the whiskey. Blood Oath Pact No. 4 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is, as the name implies, the fourth pact in this limited annual series released by Luxco. This time around, the expression has been made up of three bourbons: A 12 year old bourbon and a 10 year old bourbon, and then a 9 year old bourbon that’s been finished in barrels that were toasted rather than charred. Bottled at a sanguine and body temp-ish 98.6 proof, the fourth Blood Oath once again features some fairly brilliant packaging thanks to David Cole Creative. This limited edition was a relatively large edition, with 36,000 bottles landing on those harder-to-reach shelves.

The Nose:  Quite sweet on the nose with an almost candied edge to it. Lots of honey, orange juice and a bit of orange crush soda, dusty marshmallows right out of the bag, and banana creme pie. Behind that, peanut M&M’s, Good n’ Plenty candies and just a hint of sharp rye. On the wood and spice end of things, there’s shellacked oak (and I should know as I’ve shellacked a fair amount of oak) that’s a little solvent-y along with warm cinnamon, vanilla bean, star anise, and a little nutmeg.

The Palate:  Slightly oily mouthfeel with much of the continued sweetness from the nose. There’s also some cherry cough syrup with the honey and juicy orange now. After that, I found dark chocolate, toasted grains, candied nuts, and a hint of tobacco leaf. Strong, tannic oak notes lead to the finish with vanilla bean, clove, nutmeg, star anise, and black pepper.

The Finish:  Some briefly lingering residual dark sugars give way to moderately grippy oak, fine ground pepper, clove, and star anise.

Thoughts:  This is pretty darn good, but I don’t think it’s as good as the pretty darn excellent Pact 2 and Pact 3 Blood Oaths I’ve tried. I enjoyed the sweetness of this one but felt it was missing a bit of both the mashbill and the oak. The sweet, candied profile needed a bit more balance on the nose for me. The palate fared better, but, tasting them side by side, I think I prefer the Blood Oaths when there’s a more complex blend of grains involved. This remains a beautifully packaged whiskey that’s definitely enjoyable. It also remains a fairly pricey whiskey (~$100) when one considers how big the limited edition really is.

Blood Oath Pact No. 4 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, +/-2018

49.3% ABV

Score:  85


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