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The Talisker 10 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

talisker 300x199 The Talisker 10 Year Single Malt Scotch WhiskyThe Only Single Malt Scotch from the Isle of Skye

By Eric Duncan & Matt Goldstein

The Talisker 10 Year is considered a “classic malt.”  Founded in 1830, Talisker is made Loch Harport near Cullin range on the Isle of Skye.  There is a strong scent of peat as soon the bottle is opened.  The whiskey glass nose is a solid peat; less than the Laphroaig 18 but much more than the Macallan 10 and Highland Park 12.  The color is a gold, maybe a light red-ish yellow.  The taste is a light medium peat, thin malt with a thin dry finish and slow, long burn.  The flavor is also delicately sweet, and after being opened up with a few drops of water gets very smooth.  Still dry, the finish is easy, complex and warming.  The Talisker has a slight peaty flavor but it’s not overdone.  It also has some nice undertones including pepper.  This is one of Eric’s top 3 single malts along with Lagavulin and Oban, but for the price $50 you can’t go wrong when it feels sooo right.  It’s got a lot of flavor but the smokiness is subtle; the scotch whisky makes the statement.  The Talisker 10 is an Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky produced on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.  Talisker has an above average Peat content and is used in part of Jonnie Walker’s blended Scotch whisky.  The Talisker 10 is an excellent single malt, definitely in our top 10 single malts, possibly top 5.      

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The Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

 

macallan12 111111 The Macallan 12 Year Single Malt Scotch WhiskyExclusively Matured in Selected Sherry Oak Casks  

By Matt Goldstein

Established in 1824, the Macallan distillery is Speyside in Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, in the Highlands of Scotland.  When you first open the bottle there’s a sweet whisky scent, then the scotch whisky scent settles in slightly.  The Macallan 12 years old Highland Scotch is much darker in color than its younger counterpart, the Macallan 10 year.  The 12 year sherry aged brings a medium brown color with a good red hue.  The darker color in the 12 year is probably due to the strict use of sherry casks and the extra 2 years of aging, as opposed to the Macallan 10 year which is triple cask aged in sherry and bourbon oak barrels.  There is not much peat in the Macallan 12 year; in fact it can be barely detected at all, contrasting with the 10 year which has more than a touch of smoke.  The Macallan 12 year is especially smooth but with a strong, full finish, understated burn and dry aftertaste.  A few drops of water, open the single malt up a bit, and the whisky seems to get thicker with a minute peat scent. 

Macallan 12 Year, 43% ABV, Scotland

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Basil Hayden’s 8 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

basilhayden 300x300 Basil Hayden’s 8 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

2007 Silver Medalist

By Matt Goldstein

The Basil Hayden’s 8 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a small batch light body bourbon, light amber in color with a slight sour scent made by Jim Beam.  Dry for bourbon, with a good bite and strong finish, The Basil Hayden 8 year is warm with a strong burn.  Very Smooth when sipped slow, but the burn stays with you, having a sweet aftertaste with pepper spice notes.     

The Basil Hayden’s bottle is an art in an of itself.  The light brown paper label is draped over and held in place by a wooden and medal belt.  Each bottle comes with a booklet describing the full Jim Beam small batch collection: Knob Creek, Booker’s, Baker’s and Basil Hayden’s.  The bottle is beautiful bottle but the tin foil at the top can be a problem as it flakes too easily and pieces of the tin foil can fall into the bourbon.  We recommend removing the entire piece or pieces of foil before opening the bottle.  Basil Hayden’s is an excellent bourbon and won a silver medal at the San Francisco international spirit awards in 2007. 

Small Batch Collection: 

The eponymous Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon dates back to 1796, when Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. created a recipe unlike any other. He used a traditional corn base, but mixed in small grains in his mash to capture the spicy flavor of rye and complement the sweet smoothness of corn. More than 200 years later, Basil Hayden’s is a singular bourbon that bridges the flavor of rye whiskies and small batch bourbons together.

Distinctions: 

Basil Hayden’s is unequalled in that it utilizes twice as much rye in it as the other bourbons in the Collection. Enriched by a hint of peppermint, it impresses with notes of pepper balanced by slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish. Aged eight years at a relatively mild 80 proof, Basil Hayden’s has a broad appeal and is equally enjoyable alone or in cocktails such as a Juicy Basil and Basil Bubbly.

Comments: 

“The group liked its clean, dry and most decidedly delicate palate. Elegant and soft.” — Patterson’s Beverage Journal, January 2005

 

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The Rye Whiskey Flight: Rittenhouse 100, R1 & Thomas Handy Uncut Sazerac

thomas h handy 279x300 The Rye Whiskey Flight: Rittenhouse 100, R1 & Thomas Handy Uncut Sazerac A Village Whiskey Special…

 By Matt Goldstein

Village Whiskey in downtown Philadelphia offers multiple whiskey flights (restaurant review coming soon).  The Flights are available in whiskey, bourbon, scotch etc…  For those not familiar with a flight; many establishments serve beer, wine and spirit flights for those patrons interested in tasting multiple offerings.  A flight of wine usually consists of 5 different wines from a given style such as cabernet, with 5 glasses about 1/3 full of each different wine.  The whiskey flights at Village Whiskey consist of three different whiskeys in a given style with about 2/3’s of a full serving.  As we rarely get the chance to taste quality rye, we decided to go with the Rye Whiskey Flight.          

The Rittenhouse 100:

A brilliant 100 proof rye whiskey.  Light in color and dry with a slow burn, the Rittenhouse 100 proof has a dry scent with a strong finish.  According to Heaven Hill distilleries, Rittenhouse 100 is produced in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania or Monongahela rye whiskies, the classic ryes that were once the preeminent American whiskey style.  The Rittenhouse 100 is a throwback whiskey and very smooth for a 100 proof. 

The R1 Rye Whiskey:

The R1 is very dry with a good bite but a smooth finish.  With a slightly sweet bourbon flavor, the light finish and subtle aftertaste is very good.  There is also a bit of spice which gives this rye a certain character, but the R1 is sweeter than most rye whiskies.  R1 is produced by the famous bourbon specialists, Jim Beam.  For those that associate Jim Beam with a cheap bottom shelf whiskey, think again.  Jim Beam also produces the critically acclaimed Knob Creek, and other premium bourbons such as Bookers, Basil Hayden’s and Bakers, all of which are excellent Kentucky Straight Bourbons.    

whiskey flight village whiskey 300x224 The Rye Whiskey Flight: Rittenhouse 100, R1 & Thomas Handy Uncut Sazerac The Thomas Handy Uncut Sazerac:

 The Uncut Sazerac126 proof Rye Whiskey has a beautiful light red color with a sweet but sour scent.  Although it’s a rye whiskey, you can almost taste the Tennessee style sour mash as you sniff the tulip glass.  The Thomas Handy Sazerac has a sweet flavor but the finish is very strong.  Did I say very strong!?!  WOW!  This drink is good, not for beginners…  Even after a little water is added; the finish of this 126 proof rye is just as strong.  However, as you continue to sip, the unforgiving finish settles down to a solid rye whiskey flavor. 

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Introducing the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maplewood Finish

woodford Maple Bottle 120x300 Introducing the Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Maplewood Finish Presenting Woodford Reserve Maple Wood Finish

 – a unique offering of Woodford Reserve finish-aged in a toasted maple wood barrel, resulting in a whiskey enhanced with hints of maple, honey, and cinnamon. The fifth in the series of limited edition Master’s Collection bottlings, Maple Wood Finish continues Woodford Reserve’s tradition of crafting rare whiskeys. With Every Sip, a Sweet Notes…

Warm cinnamon, maple syrup, and milk chocolate are only samples of what this bottling has to offer…

Color: Golden Brown

Aroma: Rich and sweet with hints of brown sugar glazed baked apricots, milk chocolate and toasted oak.

Taste: Warm with cinnamon spice, faint hints of maple syrup, berry fruit and a touch of nuttiness.

Finish: Crisp with delicate maple syrup notes lingering on with a touch of warm fruit.

A Maple Wood New Fashioned

2 oz of Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish

1 tsp of maple syrup – stir/dissolve thoroughly

Dash of bitters

Thinly sliced apples

2 dried cherries

Line the bottom of a glass with apple slices and top with dried cherries. Add ice over the fruit and pour the cocktail over ice.

This whiskey is one of the most unique Master’s Collection’s to date as it is the industry’s first bourbon to be finish aged in barrels made from sugar maple wood. Barrels play a key role in producing bourbon, with approximately 70 percent of the spirit’s flavor and aroma and all of its color provided by the barrel. Woodford Reserve’s new offering features bourbon finish-aged inuniquely crafted barrels made of maple wood, something never before done in the industry.

“Sugar maple trees have a complex natural chemistry, rich in calcium, potassium and other minerals, but they are best known for their flavorful sap which contains as much as 3% sugar,” said Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris. “Though it was thought that whiskey barrels could not be crafted from sugar maple wood, our Brown-Forman Cooperage has done just that. Of all the distillers in our industry, we are the only bourbon company that crafts its own

barrels, giving us unique knowledge and control of the process. The Master’s Collection Maple Wood Finish uniquely finish-ages Woodford Reserve in a toasted, not charred, maple wood barrel, resulting in a whiskey enhanced with hints of maple, honey and cinnamon.”

Ever year, one of the five sources of flavor is changed for the Master’s Collection expressions. These five sources – grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and wood-aging – are unique to  bourbon whiskey, and altering just one of them creates a totally new flavor profile.

“Bourbon must be matured in new, charred oak barrels, and in our quest to fully understand the contribution oak wood makes to bourbon, we have studied other Kentucky hardwoods as well,” said Wayne Rose, brand director for Woodford Reserve. “This has led to some exciting discoveries and innovative barrel finish concepts. One of these – Maple Wood Finish – is a first for the spirits industry and has resulted in an amazing, elegant whiskey. 

Maple Wood Finish is the fifth in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection series following the Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, Sweet Mash and Seasoned Oak offerings. Released periodically at the master distiller’s discretion, the Master’s Collection whiskeys are extremely limited in quantity and bottled only once, in a proprietary package inspired by the copper pot stills of The Woodford Reserve Distillery.

The inspiration for the Master’s Collection is rooted in the rich history and tradition of what is today known as The Woodford Reserve Distillery. In the mid-1800s distillery owner Oscar Pepper and Master Distiller James Crow studied and recommended use of key processes like sour mashing and charred barrel maturation at the historic Woodford County distillery. These practices are still maintained in the bourbon industry, and today the distillery receives more than 100,000 visitors annually and is the only one in America to use bourbon triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills.”

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Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey & Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon: A Review

Wasmunds front label14728 Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey & Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon: A ReviewBy Matt Goldstein & Pat Smith

The Wasmund’s Single Malt American Whiskey:

Wasmund’s is dry and smooth with a good burn.  Having good spice, the scent is thin with light notes of bourbon.  Amid a bourbon scent and Irish whiskey taste, the finish is a smooth and solid burn.  With apple wood and cherry wood smoked flavored hand malted barley, Wasmund’s single malt whiskey is a non chill filtered single batch copper pot stilled whiskey that only produces one barrel at a time. 

 The Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey:

The Four Roses is smooth and light with a lot of flavor.  Having a good, sweet bourbon spirit and a strong bourbon finish, the Four Roses Bourbon is outstanding.  This hand crafted bourbon has notes of oak, fruit, with slight spiciness.  All Four Roses Bourbons are aged in new white oak barrels in one-of-a-kind single story rack warehouses.  45% ABV

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Four Roses. One brand. Ten recipes. 

Four Roses is the only Bourbon Distillery that combines 5 proprietary yeast strains with two separate mashbills to produce 10 distinct Bourbon Recipes, each with their own unique character, spiciness, and rich fruity flavors. All 10 of these recipes are gently aged undisturbed in new white oak barrels in our one-of-a-kind single story rack warehouses. All 10 recipes are expertly married together to create Four Roses Yellow. Four are married for Four four roses small batch new 193x300 Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey & Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon: A ReviewRoses Small Batch Bourbon. Only one is hand selected for Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. To the thrill of Bourbon connoisseurs and Bourbon collectors, from time to time, our Master Distiller will select an exceptional single barrel, or marry a few exquisite recipes, to create one of our highly acclaimed limited release Four Roses Bourbons. No other distillery has 10 Bourbon recipes. So enjoy our Bourbon with the knowledge that you are sipping something truly unique – and uniquely Four Roses.

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The Single Malt Scotch Trials: Balvenie 15, Macallan 10, Laphroaig 18, Oban 14, Highland Park 12, Glenlivett 12 & Glenmorangie 12 Lasanta

 

balvenie 15 year old single malt scotch whisky 225x300 The Single Malt Scotch Trials: Balvenie 15, Macallan 10, Laphroaig 18, Oban 14, Highland Park 12, Glenlivett 12 & Glenmorangie 12 LasantaIn a Double Blind Taste Test: The Balvenie 15 Year Crushes Competition

By Matt Goldstein, Eric Duncan, Dan Shapiro, BJ Smith, and Jesus Burgos

The Single Malt Scotch Trials were a double blind taste test held at the Whiskey Goldmine headquarters.  We sampled 7 different single malts that were randomly selected and then served in scotch glasses with the serving sizes just slightly under a dram.  There were 7 tasters and 2 servers.  The Scotches were scored on the basis of flavor, texture, color, and finish.  Each taster was given the option to use a splash of water that many times opens up the single malt for further complexity, however, we did not allow ice.  Although we scored and ranked the winners, all of the Scotches actually performed really well.  Most of the Scotches that we tasted are distilled and aged on the coast and get much of their character from salt water and ocean air. 

The Balvenie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

The Balvenie 15 is aged in a single cask of no more than 350 bottles.  With a complete malty scent, the Balvenie 15 year is sweet, with hints of vanilla, cream and citrus fruits.  It’s a mellow, rich and full flavored whiskey.  Established in 1892, the Balvenie distillery is in Dufftown, Banffshire Scotland.  The Balvenie 15 year scored much higher than any other scotch in our single malt taste test.  The scores were not even close!  The Balvenie 15 year single malt scotch crushed the competition. 

laphroaig 18 years old scotch 155x300 The Single Malt Scotch Trials: Balvenie 15, Macallan 10, Laphroaig 18, Oban 14, Highland Park 12, Glenlivett 12 & Glenmorangie 12 LasantaThe Macallan 10 Year Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

The Macallan 10 is triple cask matured in European Oak Sherry casks, American Oak Sherry Casks and American Oak Bourbon Casks.  The Macallan 10 has a sweet scent, great taste, and is very smooth and light.  With a sweet flavor, there is also a subtle peat taste with a light smoke and a soft, malty oak essence.  It’s an excellent and complex single malt scotch.  Established in 1824, the Macallan distillery is Speyside in Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, Scotland.  The Macallan 10 Year finished 2nd in our double blind taste test. 

The Laphroaig 18 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

 The Laphroag 18 is a non chill filtered smokey style single malt.  Although the peat hits the nose, it’s not over powering.  The Laphroaig 18 year is smooth, very smokey and slightly sweet.  This is an excellent peat style single malt scotch and one of the best in class.  The Laphroaig distillery was established in 1815 and is made on the isle of Islay, Scotland.  The Laphroaig 18 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky finished 3rd in our overall scoring. 

The Oban 14 Year West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

The Oban 14 is made in small stills and is a full, rich, malty, medium body single malt with a touch of peat.  Light and smooth with a nice burn, the Oban 14 Year is a classic malt.  Sweet with a touch of sea salt, the finish is sweet and smooth.  Named after the caves used by the first settlers of Scotland in 5,000 B.C. called “An Ob,” Oban is a classic malt.  Oban is distilled in the Oban, the capital city of the West Highlands, Scotland and finished 4th in our overall scoring. 

The Highland Park 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

The Highland 12 uses malted barley hand made on a stone floor.  The peat and heather are also hand cut and the scotch whisky is aged in Sherry oak casks from Spain.  Almost at the end of maturity, the best casks are selected, then combined and aged together for just a little longer. The Highland Park 12 year is smoky, soft, smooth but with a good burn.  It’s a rich, full flavor with an exceptional finish.  The Highland Park distillery was established in 1798 and is made in Kirkwall, Scotland in the Highlands.  The Highland Park 12 Year Single Malt Scotch finished 5th in our overall scoring. 

 

oban14years The Single Malt Scotch Trials: Balvenie 15, Macallan 10, Laphroaig 18, Oban 14, Highland Park 12, Glenlivett 12 & Glenmorangie 12 LasantaThe Glenlivet 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

 The Glenlivet 12 is called “the single malt that started it all.”  This Speyside scotch is made from the mineral rich water in Josie’s Well.  The Glenlivet 12 Year is smooth and rich with a burn but light at the same time.  With slight notes of fruit, The Glenlivet by far was the lightest of all the single malts we tasted.  Established in 1824, Glenlivet is distilled in the Speyside town of Banfshire, Scotland and is perhaps the most famous single malt Scotch whisky in the world.  The Glenlivet finished 6th in our overall scoring. 

The Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

The Lasanta is made in the tallest stills in Scotland and aged in bourbon casks and then finished in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks.  The Lasanta is a smooth, light non chill filtered single malt with notes of rich notes of cream and maple.  A complex, medium body single malt, the Lasanta a is unique from the 10 year Glenmorangie.  In Gaelic Glenmorangie means valley of tranquility and Lasanta means warmth and passion.  The Glenmorangie distillery was established in 1843 in the North of Scotland and sits beside the ancient royal Burgh of Tain on the banks of the Dornoch Firth.    

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The Woodford Reserve Classic Manhattan

woodford reserve manhattan The Woodford Reserve Classic Manhattan Woodford Reserve is a handcrafted 90.4 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  With a great bourbon flavor, its subtlety is its genius.  It has great balance for a bourbon whiskey with a little complexity and rather smooth.  For the Woodford Reserve Classic Manhattan, fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add ingredients and shake well.  Strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a bourbon-infused cherry.

2 oz. Woodford Reserve

1 oz. Sweet vermouth

1 dash Angostura bitters

1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Splash of cherry juice

dave scheurich woodford reserve distillery manager The Woodford Reserve Classic Manhattan Q&A with Woodford Reserve Distillery Manager Dave Scheurich

Meet Dave Scheurich, the Woodford Reserve Distillery Manager. Dave lives in a country farmhouse with a picturesque front porch, which often gets him referred to locally as one of the most fortunate residents of Woodford County. Did we mention his house is at the Distillery?

What exactly is the job of a Distillery Manager?
I’m responsible for all production operations including distillery, warehousing, processing, bottling, shipping and plant maintenance. I am also involved in many promotional events Woodford Reserve hosts.

I began work at Woodford Reserve’s parent company, Brown-Forman, in 1989 as a Facility Maintenance, Construction and Security Manager. In 1994 I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and was selected to be a project manager for the renovation of what was then called the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you love most about your job?
Seldom is one presented with an opportunity to be involved with the renovation of a National Historic Landmark, the start-up of a new distillery and the creation and growth of a successful bourbon. My best experience at this job was being part of a project team that directed the distillery renovation and thereby seeing the birth and growth of Woodford Reserve.

The house you share with your family is on-site. What’s it like having no commute to the office?
Living at the distillery has been a good experience. My wife, Della, and I were allowed to design and build the Plant Manager’s house during the distillery renovation project. Our only direction was that it had to be a clapboard-sided farmhouse with a front porch. Woodford Reserve is the only bourbon distillery surrounded by horse farms and the horse farm directly behind the house specializes in raising foals to yearlings so we are able to sit at our kitchen table in late winter and watch the new moms and babies bond. Della and I often host writers, celebrities and other VIPs at the house in Southern hospitality fashion. The short commute to work always has its benefits. It’s like living in a park!

Last but not least, what’s your favorite way to enjoy your Woodford Reserve?
I am not one to adulterate my favorite bourbon. Depending on the occasion I drink Woodford Reserve on the rocks or straight up.

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Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Grand Dad and Gentleman Jack

bourbon tasting pic 300x177 Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Grand Dad and Gentleman JackBy Shepard Ritzen

I’ve always thought I liked bourbon, but never really knew what I preferred. To help with this crushing dilemma, I gathered some friends together and hosted a blind bourbon tasting. This way we could crown our favorites without any preconceived notions or brand typecasts. Eleven friends came over to share in the scientific experiment. The tasting resulted in some surprises, some grimaces, some indifference, and luckily, no sickness.
 

We proceeded as follows: Each person set out six different cups/glasses for the bourbons. I poured one ounce of each product, known only by number, into the cups. From here, people were instructed to examine each bourbon’s color, nose/smell, entry taste, and finish. With all six poured at the same time, the guests could go back and forth between the samples, comparing and contrasting the qualities. And everyone was encouraged to cleanse their palates between samples with crackers and water.

I’d like to take a moment to point out a few tricks about a whiskey tasting. Especially since people probably have more experience with wine tastings, there are a few things that differ.

1. Participants are encouraged to add a small bit of bottled water (anywhere from a few drops to a 1:1 ratio) to taste bourbon. Water mutes the alcoholic bite, while releasing the unique aspects.

2. People are encouraged to hold the glass in their hand. Heat from the hand warms the alcohol, further releasing the bourbon’s distinct traits.

Once we had a favorable amount of time to compare the samples, I revealed the brands one at a time. We discussed the bourbon’s interesting and historical points as well as expert descriptions of their characteristics.

The six bourbons poured were, in order:

blantons 290x300 Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Grand Dad and Gentleman Jack1. Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

2. Old Grand Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

3. Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

4. George T Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Uncut/Unfiltered 2009

5. Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Handmade Bourbon Whisky

6. Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey

Here is how they fared:

Woodford: Per the majority of everyone’s critiques, this was a middle of the road bourbon (but my particular favorite). I like Woodford for its distinct deepness in the sweet woody and smoky flavors. It is not bad bourbon, but to most, it did not stand out. Our panel of tasters noted that it had a nose of cinnamon, allspice, and carrot cake. They judged the initial taste to be pleasant and sweet; fruity and even orange. Later the taste became that of nutmeg, cereal, apple, caramel-like and toffee. Some reviewers noted it had a slight burn, but that it was pleasant over all.

Woodford is the official bourbon for the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup. It is crafted by methods started by Dr. Jim Crow back in the early 1800’s. The distillery is now owned by Brown-Forman, who also owns Jack Daniels. They use limestone water, corn, rye, and malted barley in the sour mash process. It is then triple distilled in imported Scottish copper pot stills, unique in the US. For the maturing process, it is stored in new, charred white oak barrels, specifically crafted for Woodford Reserve, which are then housed in a limestone warehouse.

Old Grand Dad: Many people were surprised at this bourbon’s identity. It ranked higher than some of the others for many people, and yet, it was the cheapie of the group. I could tell that it was not very “expensive” bourbon, as I had trouble getting it down straight (in a bad way). Still, it’s a great mixer. People commented that it had odors of kerosene, a weak alcohol sting, medicinal and yet, a bit of caramel. Beginning with tastes ranging from oat bran, pretzel, raisins to paint thinner and bland alcohol, it evolved into bland, fruity and lime flavors, with either a harsh, long alcohol finish or a smooth finish that revealed itself over time.

Old Grand Dad is an old bourbon, started by the grand-son of bourbon pioneer Basil Hayden Sr., (whose image graces the front of the bottle, and who has his own bourbon line named after him). At one point it was made at the Old Crow distilleries. But since 1987, it has been in the Jim Beam family. It was one of the only liquors allowed production during prohibition, as it was used as a “medicinal whiskey” for the sick, blind, and lame.
Blanton’s: This was the winner declared by most, which makes sense, since “more expensive” is stereotypically linked to better bourbon. This was the second most expensive. I myself was not taken away by this one, although I did like the finish. People discovered sweet smells of banana, vanilla, and butterscotch. The taste began with a hard, deep entry, as well as apricots and smoky flavors. Changing into more fruity elements, some guests were reminded of prunes and cake batter. It finished mellow and creamy with sweet fruit notes and a “proper burn.”

Blanton’s is known as the first single barrel bourbon to be marketed commercially in 1984. But the bourbon’s namesake stems back to 1897, where Col. Albert Blanton started his life working in and around bourbon. He worked his way up to run his own distillery, which he did though times that were tough for other companies. With a government permit, his was one of only four distilleries to make whiskey during prohibition. He was also able to kept production rolling through World War 2, when distilleries were required to focus on straight alcohol for the military. The bourbon is stored in an iron clad warehouse, and is the furthest warehouse away from the river on his grounds. This allows maximum summer heat to warm and age the bourbon before it gets hit with cooling moisture from the river. And in the winter they utilize steam heat to continually age the bourbon. It is now produced by Buffalo Trace, which also makes Ancient Age, Eagle Rare, George T Stagg, Van Winkle and many other brands.

George T Stagg: This was the special bourbon of the batch. In my research, I discovered that this is rather difficult bourbon to get. I was naïve when I got this treat, because I simply said to the local liquor store proprietor that I was hosting a bourbon tasting, and wanted something a little extra special, possibly expensive for the event. He went into the back and pulled this out from a “special” box. He assured me it was good, and we’d like it.

Woodford Reserve1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Blanton’s, George T. Stagg, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Grand Dad and Gentleman Jack When I got home, I saw on the label that this was uncut, unfiltered bourbon right from barrel to bottle, resulting in a 141.4 proof. I’ve had Bookers before, and at 128 proof, that made my esophagus melt. So I was excited to put this up against the other bourbons blindly. The initial reaction from the smell was head-jerking, eye-watering burn. It became an event, waiting for each individual to reach #4. When someone got there, they uttered a “Whoa” or an *expletive* from across the room and we all laughed. I thought it smelled like Super Elastic Bubble Plastic (remember that stuff?). Others said it smelled of fiery turpentine, oakey, fruity, and like vanilla ice cream. But once we added water to it, the face melting traits subsided, and the true nature of the bourbon took effect. It went from a varnish, nail polish remover taste, to a smoky sweet entry with wooden, fruit, caramel, and cherry tastes and then a cinnamon, woody finish. Most judged this bourbon to be harsh, like a sickening fire. Or, simply put, “the bourbon that wants to kill all my children.”

Stagg is very rare indeed. They produce less than 600 cases of it once a year, every year, since 2002 (they did 3 batches in 2005). This makes it like a wine, where each vintage is unique with different characteristics (and different proofs, ranging from 129 [2004] to 144.8 [2007]). Thanks to the high alcohol content, and flammability, this bourbon is considered a Hazmat, and cannot be taken on a plane. Because of its dangerous status, the earlier, high content bourbons were nicknamed Hazmats I-IV. The company Buffalo Trace makes this bourbon (see Blanton’s too), and they age it for 15-17 years in charred oak barrels. Then all the barrels of one vintage (around 89 barrels) are mixed together and bottled right away. The high alcohol content is also attributed to the way it is aged. Most scotches (for example) are stored and aged in humid environments, where, because of the moisture, less water evaporates. In the case of the Buffalo Trace Distilleries, the aging process occurs in drier conditions. Thus, more water evaporates, leaving the alcohol behind, raising the proof.

Maker’s Mark: Oddly enough, this is the bourbon that confused the most people. I say “oddly” because Maker’s Mark is, for my dollar, the definition of a middle of the road, average bourbon. It’s the one bourbon whose complexities are like a blank canvas, useful to judge other bourbons against. But one taster adamantly said he never liked Maker’s Mark, while sipping and enjoying this #5 the most out of the bunch. Personally, I did not write anything down because there was noting distinct I could say about Maker’s Mark (also this sample followed the 141 Stagg, which I now see, might have been poor arrangement). The smell was described as sweet, apple spice and medicinal by different guests. The entry and palate were described as lovely & light, sweet, caramelly, Jewish apple cake and over-all; adequate. And it finished with a sickening or syrupy taste depending, as always, who you asked.

Maker’s Mark is owned by Fortune Brands, who also own Jim Beam. The one most unique thing about Maker’s Mark is that it is not made with rye. The creator, Bill Samuels Sr., was a sixth generation distiller, and in 1953, he abandoned his family’s 170 yr old recipe. He did not want to waste years fermenting different experimental grain formulas, so instead he decided to bake different breads with different grain proportions. The best tasting bread recipe would be his new bourbon. The winning combination was that of barley and red winter wheat. So by 1958, we had our first bottle of Maker’s Mark.

Maker’s Mark has become a highly recognizable logo and image when one thinks of bourbon. That has everything to do with Mr. Samuels’s wife, Marjorie. She came up with the name, bottle design, trademark wax coated bottle neck with running tendrils, and even the font for the label. Now, more recently, Maker’s Mark has been extending its visibility, with its own brand of restaurants/nightclubs. The first Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge opened in 2004, in Louisville, KY (the menu was designed by Chef Al Paris, from Philly’s Zanzibar Blue). In 2008 and 2009, two more opened in Kansas City, MO and at the Indiana Live Casino (just outside of Indianapolis) respectively.

Gentleman Jack: This is the one whiskey (not a bourbon, but close enough for us) that benefited from being left to the blind taste test. There is definitely a preconceived notion of Jack (and Jim Beam) as being a cheap mass-produced, thus inferior, whiskey. Even though the brand we tried is deemed “Rare” the stigma is not easily broken. So it came as a great surprise to many that #6 was a Jack Daniels brand, especially since it finished as the #2 favorite (average agreement). When I tasted this, I noticed that it was lighter tasting, and the most “edible” of all the whiskies. People also noted that it has a weaker scent, but identified fruity characteristics like poached pear and a hint of citrus. The taste was sugary sweet, fruity and spicy with more of that citrus taste; perhaps, even a bit scotch-like. And the finish was clean.

In 1988, Jack Daniels introduced this refine recipe of higher end whiskey to cater to a slightly snobbier drinker. One friend said that this whiskey is basically what Jack used to be like when he was younger. He went on to argue that Jack Daniels changed their flagship brand into a lower quality version, and then repackaged the original recipe as this “higher shelf” brand. Jack Daniels Rare is filtered twice (once before and once after it’s aged) through ten feet of hard sugar maple charcoal, rather than the one time it does to the regular brand. It is this filtering that sets it apart as a whiskey, and not bourbon (bourbons are not filtered between distillation and barrel aging). The whiskey is aged in brand new, charred American white oak barrels that they specifically make themselves. The barrels are used once and only once.

With all the bourbons (and whiskey) revealed, we shared a final discussion about the prices per bottle and additional anecdotes. We came back to the bar, and topped off our glasses with our favorites, drinking them how ever we like them. As an added bonus, everyone enjoyed whiskey-pared hors d’oeuvres such as cheeses, apples, sausage, chocolates, veggies and “whiskey bark” (toasted marshmallows stuck to a bed of crushed almonds). Being a conservationist, I rounded up all the unfinished samples and recklessly poured them into an empty decanter, which became the now infamous “home-blend:” great for a whiskey sour, an old fashioned or a dare to drink straight.  And for some odd reason, that’s really all I can remember about the evening…

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Dalwhinnie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch: A Review

dalwhinnie 15 year old malt whisky 30 p 271x300 Dalwhinnie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch: A ReviewBy Matt Goldstein and Sommelier Tom Pittakas 

The Dalwhinnie 15 year single malt scotch is a subtle, yet distinct scotch from the Highland region and considered to be a “classic malt.”  Founded in 1897, Dalwhinnie also has a 20 year old, 29 year old and 36 year old single malt, but the 15 year is much more widely available for obvious reasons.  The Dalwhinnie 15 year has a light nose and tastes of floral, caramel, honey, with a touch of smoke.  There is a little biscuit, light bite, and the finish is very smooth.  First, we tasted the Dalwhinnie straight, then our bartender added two drops of water which opened the whisky up immensely.  Dalwhinnie had a beautiful yet subtle burn.  What a classic scotch!  Then, Tom insisted that we add two ice cubes.  I began to tell Tom that it was against Whiskey Goldmine rules to add ice to a single malt.  He asked why.  I replied that those were the ground rules laid down in our first scotch article by master distiller extraordinaire Eric Duncan.  Tom and I began arguing violently and almost came to blows.  “Just one cube” he insisted.  Finally, I agreed and we added a cube.  Excellent!  The cube did open the Dalwhinnie up even more.  The Dalwhinnie 15 year is a perfect scotch and can be sipped straight, with water or with 1-2 cubes.  We would not recommend using more that 2 cubes as this would destroy the complexity of the malt.  The Dalwhinnie 15 year might be our favorite single malt scotch.        

We highly recommend Dalwhinnie 15 year single malt scotch. 

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