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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

    Thursday, 11 June 2015 00:38

    Garrison Brothers Single Barrel

    This single barrel edition was bottled exclusively for Reserve 101 at 47% ABV after being aged for 3 years under the hot Texas sun in Hye.  The nose is rich with familiar fresh paint and spicy notes.  The taste is sharp and spicy with toffee, marshmallow, coffee, fruits and even cola. Overall sweet and spicy.  The finish is woody and and gets a little hot.  At the end of the day timing is everything and this is very good and complex but I am not sure it could stand much more maturation under that Texas sun.... 

    Thursday, 11 June 2015 00:34

    Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition

    This is a blend with more than a little oomph at 50% ABV.  The nose has a little smoke and a lot of citrus zest.  The taste has more lemon, pepper, toffee and the smoke comes through as tobacco.  The finish is perfumed, dry and with a little more smoke.

    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.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 07:27

    The Macallan No. 6

    I was fortunate to get to try this very rare expression (only 200 bottles were produced and packaged in Lalique crystal) at a Macallan masterclass in Las Vegas at the Nth Whisky Experience in March 2015.  The sample was a little small (no surprise there) so I am recording these notes more for historical record than anything else.  The nose is fruity and delicious with toffee and dark chocolate.  The taste is rich and creamy with more toffee, pepper and classic Oloroso sherry notes.  The finish is also very sherry led.  A fantastic tasting dram for sure and generous of Macallan to pour at a tasting event.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 07:21

    The Macallan Rare Cask

    I dont know too much about this expression, but I got to try it for first time at a recent Macallan masterclass with US brand ambassador Kieron Elliot.    The nose has toffee and dark fruits, a classic sherry led Macallan nose.  The taste is sweet with a light mouthfeel, caramal, coffee, malt and with water a little orange.  The finish is sweet and long with hints of barley sugar.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 07:13

    The Macallan 17 year old Fine Oak

    I admit to a soft spot for Macallan, in the same way that Canada has a soft spot for Tim Hortons.  However recent expressions like the "1824 Rainbow of Colours" series have been a bit of a let down so I was excited to try this 17 year old to see if Macallan had got their groove back.  In general this is better but still some work to be done to convince me this distillery is heading in the right direction.   The nose is not particulalry overwhelming, some spices, biscuits and baked goods. The spice from nose continues into the taste along with vanilla and toffee notes and some pepper.  The finish fades gently and overall impression is that whisky is very refined and integrated.  Great "first whisky of the day" perhaps?

    Friday, 01 May 2015 07:07

    Snake River Stampede

    A dramatic name for a rather undramatic Canadian whiskey.  The nose on this 40% ABV blend is light with fresh paint and vanilla.  The taste has some sharp lemon notes, floor polish and grainy spirit notes.  The finish has some pepper and spice and not much else.  Drinkable?  Sure.  Stampede?  Not so much.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 06:58

    Lismore Single Malt

    This is a no age statement, value priced, 40% ABV single malt that generally attracts moderately positive reviews.  Everything about Lismore suggests the bloggersphere should hate it: NAS - urgh!  Only 40% ABV - yuck!  Ubiquitous and easy to find - blah!  However it overcomes these "handicaps" by being good value (good value is often rarer than a Port Ellen single malt in Scotch world these days).  The nose has malt, lemon, barley sugar and some oak.  The taste is sweet with lemon peel, milk chocolate, wood and peppery notes.  The finish is sharp and spicy, perhaps not Lismore's best feature.

    This version of the Feis Ill annual release was bottled at 51.4% ABV.  The nose has light smoke, bacon and some sweet and sour spice notes.  The taste is subtle, the higher alcohol is evident as is some sherry and more spice but quite well balanced.  The finish is dry, clean and oaky.  Not your every day Laphroaig but that is the point (at least I think it is) of these releases.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 06:45

    Glenmorangie Taghta

    This expression's claim to fame is that it was crowd sourced and designed by consumers.  They did a nice job but I think Bill Lumsden is safe for a little while yet.  The nose is salty with a tangy citrus note.  Marmalade perhaps.  The taste is creamy with more citrus, oak, coffee and quite bold for Glenmorangie.  The finish has oak and spice notes and sherry lends some tannin.  With a little water it gets sweeter and smoother.

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    Random Whisky

    Hibiki 12 year old

    My first Japanese blend, but definately not my last.  The nose is very fresh and fruity, sultanas and bananas.  The taste is creamy vanilla, a bit like melted ice cream, then some sweet fruits before a oak spice finish.  Really good stuff.