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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof

Wild Turkey Rare Breed was one of the best bourbons I discovered while trying all the 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die so iIwas very interested when I saw this 112 proof (or 56% ABV) expression in a Texas liquor store.  The nose was dominated by alcohol with sweet grainy notes of corn and rye and some butter.  The taste was oaky at first with caramel, vanilla and sweet brown sugar.  The finish was a little hot and spicy with grassy rye notes.  With a little water it became sweeter and mellow with some black pepper notes.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Sunday, 18 October 2015 03:50

    Cyrus Noble

    Yet another bourbon named after its creator in the great tradition of Elijah Craig, Jim Beam, Basil Hayden, George Stagg and Dr Pepper. Since moving to Singapore I have found bourbon harder to find than Scotch and so when I saw this recently and at a price that did not require me to sell a kidney or start negotiations with bank for a second mortgage I grabbed it. And I am glad I did. It is promoted as California’s finest bourbon – which I can well believe – but that is a bit like claiming to be Alaska’s finest wine. The nose is mild and quite bready with a little spike of alcohol as well (bottled at 45% ABV). The taste is smooth and sweet with lemon, caramel, milk chocolate and oak. Quite understated and subtle. The finish is oaky and sweet.

    Monday, 07 September 2015 06:28

    Girvan Patent Still No.4 Apps

    This single grain from William Grant has a couple of odd features to my mind.  First is the name.  If you have to repeat the name to me three times and I still don't get it... its a bad name.   "Patent Still Number 4 Apps" is a bad name.  The other thing that struck me was the decision to bottle at 42%.  I have seen plenty of whisky at 43% and of course most blends show up at the minimum 40%... but 42%?  It seems like someone at William Grant is trying just a bit too hard to be "quirky"?   Anyway the nose is very light and fresh, almost floral, with some caramel as well.  The taste has more floral notes - lavander maybe? - parma violets, mint, ripe banana and toffee. Very sweet on palate and finish has a little pine, oil and pepper.  Perfect summer dram (but the name sucks). 

    Thursday, 23 July 2015 16:08

    Alaska Outlaw Whiskey

    To say I like Alaska a lot is like saying Alaskans like guns and fishing a lot. That is if by “like a lot” you mean “absolutely bat shit crazy”. Alaskan whiskey isn’t really that crazy of an idea when you consider show similar it is in climate to parts of Scotland and Canada and this expression is closer in style to Canadian whiskey as it is a blend made from barley and corn. The nose is lighter than a June night in Anchorage, a little sweet with ripe banana. The taste is woody (the website says smoky… optimistic I think) with toasted coconut and brown sugar. The finish is a little spicy and shorter than (….you guessed it) a winter’s day in Fairbanks. Easy enough to drink and probably easy to dismiss, but it’s inoffensive and as much as I love Alaska I have to admit no one is going to go “absolutely bat shit crazy” over this one yet.

    Thursday, 23 July 2015 16:07

    Hakushu 12 year old

    Japan’s peaty distillery produced this rather good 12 year old. The nose is smoky with ripe bananas. Sweet and fresh. The taste is also quite fresh and spicy at first then with a little time some caramel and pine notes come through. Some more peat in the finish along with black pepper and toffee. Solid, if not spectacular.

    Thursday, 23 July 2015 16:03

    Michter's Barrel Strength Rye

    This is bottled at a little over 55% ABV but you wouldn’t know from the nose which is rich with fresh coffee, baked rye bread and citrus notes. The taste has sweet cola, dark chocolate, more rye bread, toffee and cloves. The finish is classic rye herbal note, dry, spicy with some tangy notes. Needs a little water for my taste - but that’s just me – this is a great rye.

    Thursday, 23 July 2015 03:42

    The Singleton of Glendullan 12 year old

    A perfectly acceptable and well made single malt (but not a single cask as the slightly cheeky name alludes to) but like many others this suffers from being just being pretty good. Even the name of the distillery…. glenDULLan… is a little too close to truth for comfort. The nose is sweet and fruity with vanilla and something a little fragrant and perfumed. The taste is creamy on the palate and quite rich with toffee, coffee, honey and some woodiness. The finish is dry with more wood and black tea tannins and strongly suggests some sherry in the maturation process somewhere.

    Thursday, 23 July 2015 03:35

    A Lesson in Technology from 1880

    As the Great Labelling Debate around words like “Small Batch”, “Artisan”, “Traditional” and “Handmade” continues apparently forever and mega distillers, micro distillers and even Pepsi (see last blog) cling to the word “craft” like a sailor clings to wreckage in a storm it seems to me that the value in these labels must be that people perceive it to be a better product.   It is rare on Scottish distillery tour if at least once the guide doesn’t point to a particular piece of equipment – usually the spirit safe – and explain how it was “the original one and built in eighteen blah de blah” as if somehow installing one less than 200 years old would run afoul of the SWA regulations and ruin the flavour. I can assure you that plenty of average to poor whisky has flowed through old equipment; Bruichladdich with their vintage and largely original Victorian distillery for example has had a few lows as well as lots of highs. However in general most whisky people seem to value “handmade” and by default see “technology” as somehow a bad thing. I have also observed the same people often seem to prefer it if their whisky was made by a character and have nice signature printed on the label to prove it. I have met plenty of whisky (and other industry) characters; often it is just a polite way of saying “important but occasionally grumpy bastard”. If someone put “Made mainly by Computers” on the label and the bottle was signed by a member of MegaDrinkCorp’s Graduate Trainee program people would run screaming but in many cases it is might be closer to the truth than many of the labels we see today.

    With this in mind I recently made a trip to Alaska and was killing time in Anchorage airport when I found a museum style diorama (see picture) depicting the traditional method the Athabascan tribes, native to the Cook Inlet, used to hunt beluga whales.   It involved a massively complex system to find a spruce tree, create a platform out of the root structure, drag it out into the inlet at low tide and erect it. Then one hunter would climb onto the platform wait until the tide came in and for the whales to come by, then harpoon it and the others would come out and help drag it in.   I read this story, utterly absorbed and fascinated and then at the end read how the last time someone hunted for beluga like this was 1880 – ironically about the time that all those Scottish distilleries were all installing their “vital to the taste” spirit safes – because then they got rifles and could shoot the belugas from safety of beach. Ta da! Technology arrived. I am pretty sure and will go out on a limb (out on a limb – come on that is a hilarious Athabascan hunting on Spruce tree platform related joke) and say no-one complains that their blubber doesn’t taste the same when it isn’t traditionally hunted. Google reveals no whale blogs with reviews along the lines of “I can taste notes of the spruce platform and harpoon tang in the meat”.

    I suspect there is not a major “craft Beluga blubber” craze sweeping Southeast Alaska. At the end of the day technology provided a better way to hunt. It is clear that sometimes technology can also provide us with a better way to make whisky and it makes no sense to me to reject something (or for that matter enthusiastically embrace something) because of the way it is made and then labelled. We simply should try it first. It’s a radical idea I know… but like the whale hunter who bought that first rifle and thought “Hey this just might work” I suggest we at least consider it.

    OK whisky people, regardless of what a Florida judge may say, can we all agree it is now time to take the word "craft" out back and shoot it in the head like a diseased dog as it has become totally meaningless as Pepsi announce launch of their "craft soda". Time to call a good class action attorney? Mmmm a "good class action attorney".... add that to the list of sentences I thought I would never write.

    http://m.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/pepsi-introduce-craft-soda-line-article-1.2247719

    Thursday, 11 June 2015 00:59

    Deoch an Doras Glenugie 30 year old

    This one will take a little explaining.  Deoch an Doras is a series of rare whiskies from Chivas Brothers that are no longer produced and Glenugie was a Highland distillery in Peterhead (a fishing port north of Aberdeen) that closed in 1983.  That is the distiilery closed, not the town (although that would explain my last visit there).  This bottle was distilled in 1980 and bottled at 52.13% ABV in 2011.  The nose has wood and campfire notes, with spice and heat from alcohol and dried fruits.  The taste is sharp at first with more wood, leather, dark chocolate and dried fruit.  A little dry and astrigent showing signs of both its age and sherry wood home for three decades.  Lacks a little sweetness for my palate.  The finish is all wood at first with some more chocolate and cinnamon at end.  Overall very nice and but like me starting showing some signs of age.

    Thursday, 11 June 2015 00:45

    Alberta Rye Dark Batch

    This one of those whiskies that I like and would choose even though I know there are "better" whiskies out there because of how I found it.  I was given a mini bottle while playing golf on a perfect day in Las Vegas and I really enoyed the day, the company and the whiskey.  The, nose is subtle with some vanilla and spices and a little cafe latte.  The taste is dry and fruity (sherry influence is clear) with cocoa and raisins and even a little creamy though some more grainy spirit notes push through.  The finish is spicy with pepper, milk chocolate and quite long.

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    Random Whisky

    Highland Park 30 year old

    I rarely drink whiskies of this age so was not quite sure what to expect.  The nose was actually quite elusive and soft at first and alcohol was detectable (it is bottled at 48.1% ABV), then some smoke, sweetness, saltiness and finally a hint of citrus, oranges maybe.  The taste was more powerful than the nose, nothing elusive here, it set my mouth tingling with the first sip from the smoke, oak, spices and some salt.  With water it softened and then I could detect sweet caramel and vanilla before a smokey finish longer than scottish winter night.  A massive whisky, an after dinner treat or perhaps the last dram of the night (you may still taste it in the morning).