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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Maker's Mark Private Select

This was picked by Mike Raymond of Houston's Reserve 101 as their 10th anniversary bottling. As the regular readers (both of them) know by now I love Maker's Mark, I love Houston, I love Reserve101 and I have very strong feelings for Mike.  But for some reason this one did not quite work for me, but give it a try as it might for you.   The nose is oaky with some fruity wine notes as well.  Sopem heat from the 55.65% ABV along with calssic vanilla, corn and cola notes.  The taste is hot and a little sharp at first with some black cherry, dark chocolate, jalepeno, burnt caramel and oak char.  The finish is pepper and even a little sour.  With water it gets creamier with some brown sugar and more vanilla. It definately needs a little water (or ice or time) to open it up.

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  • Friday, 01 May 2015 19:33

    An Opinion, Lovingly Handcrafted in Houston, Texas

    Written by

    At the risk of never getting free samples from Beam and others ever again (oh wait… I never get free samples from Beam or others anyway) I thought I would express my thoughts on current US class action law suits launched against Beam, and many potentially many others, regarding the use of terms like “hand made” and “craft”. To keep this blog brief I will focus the debate around Makers Mark which is one of my favorite bourbons, that way it is clear this entry is not a hidden agenda or “spurned blogger with axe to grind” kind of thing. Also, as a fan of Makers, I have been to their distillery and seen it for myself so I can have an opinion on their production which is harder for me to do with other whiskies and spirits caught up in this.   I should also mention that I am a minor shareholder in a small “craft” distillery in London, The London Distillery Company, so I have some experience regarding production in that environment also. Mostly my experience to date involves writing checks to them.   (When asked about this investment my usual response is to recall Richard Branson’s line; the fastest way to become a millionaire is to start out as a billionaire and then start an airline.   However I am not a lawyer (or a billionaire). I do not understand class actions suits and I don’t understand burden of proof in such cases. This is not a legal discussion but my opinion on what these terms mean and how they are used by this industry.

    Those being sued, like Beam, are of course keeping their arguments for court as they have to, but what little comment they have made has been less than compelling to me. The idea that their manufacturing processes are in fact posted on their websites and so all you have to do is search the internet, locate their webpage, identify the videos you want to watch, stream those and then make you own mind up if it is indeed handmade as the bottle says. When am I supposed to do this? In the liquor store? Clearly Beam’s lawyers don’t have T Mobile data services.

    While I have seen some quite visceral reactions to the lawyers who are bringing the class action suit, I have not seen that many leap to the industry’s defence. With one exception… www.bourbonguy.com penned a very spirited defence on April 7th (free joke there – enjoy) that making bourbon is indeed a craft because so much of it happens away from the manufacturing plant (yup I said it) and the real magic happens in the barrel and in the blending. I agree this is a great argument. I think this is what makes bourbon (and other whiskies) so special. I believe I could, with a few hours training, operate a still but I could not make a batch of Knob Creek (although there are times I have thought whoever blends Basil Haydens could use a few more hours of schooling). Based on this logic however I think Tito of Tito’s vodka (also being sued as they claim to be handcrafted) might want to pour himself a stiff drink because they don’t have that argument. Going straight from “still to bottle” is not a good look for this case.

    I understand all of this because I have invested time and money to learn about whiskey but I am not so sure the judge will see it the same way.   Huge production sites with shiny stainless steel equipment everywhere and scale that simply does not scream “craft” to the layman. I also think massive sales volumes for products like Makers Mark won’t help either. I worked in enough oil and gas facilities to know there is nothing in a distillery that you could not walk into any of the Texas City petrochemical plants and find and I seriously doubt I could get away with selling hand crafted gasoline to hipster car owners. To use another metaphor, for me the problem is Beam have been found next to the body with a gun in their hand and a bad case of amnesia and despite whatever actually happened it really doesn’t look good. There has been some abuse of labelling without a doubt and I fear that some of the “good guys” will be on the wrong side of this decision at the end of the day. Perhaps it is time for Beam to accept a deal from the DA’s office? If it turns out the judge does dismiss the law suit then be on the lookout for Seaton’s Handcrafted in Texas Gasoline coming to a gas station near you soon.

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    Random Whisky

    Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 19)

    When I originally reviewed Aberlour a’bunadh I neglected to identify the batch number (it was 34).  It occurred to me to try another batch some time and see if I could identify any differences, and so when I saw a 3 ml sample on Master of Malt website of batch 19 I couldn't resist it.  The nose on batch 19 was dominated at first by alchohol, but I also got notes of sweet fruits like rasins, some malty biscuits and even sherry.   The taste is also alcohol led at first, lots of heat, but fades to reveal bitter orange notes.  A dry finish.  Like the Batch 34 needs water and then even more orange comes through, but sweeter.  With water some more oak and maybe licorice and tobacco notes.  Overall very similar to Btach 34 - looking at the notes maybe a slightly different nose between the batches or maybe the difference in just in my nose.

    To avoid confusion, although a'bunadh is in the 101 Whiskies to Try book as I already reviewed Batch 34 I did not inlcude Batch 19 in the 101 whisky countdown.