...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Westland 2 year old 2012, cask 300 for K&L Wines

Washington state, the birthplace of Starbucks, Amazon, Kurt Cobain, Bing Crosby, David Lynch, Ryne Sandberg and Keyboard Cat, is rain-soaked on its west coast and arid on the east coast. Most of its humans live in the wet part, with 30% of the population living in King County.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

I visited Washington's Westland Distillery three years ago, and wrote an extensive post about the experience which is recommend if you're looking for more info. Westland makes my favorite American single malts, and their single casks can be very very good. Yesterday I reviewed a peated ex-oloroso cask Westland. Today it's an unpeated single malt, matured within a fino cask.

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Type: Single Malt
Age: 33 months
Bottled: June 2015
Cask #: 300
Mashbill: Washington Select Pale Malt
Maturation: first fill ex-Fino cask
Outturn: 261 bottles (maybe a hoggie?)
Alcohol by volume: 60.8%
(From a Columbus Scotch Club event)

The nose is subtler than cask 284's. Toasted barley, almonds, hazelnuts, glazed pastries. Peaches, pears, anise, sweet cream, cocoa and silly putty. The palate has the same delicacy and nuance. Almonds, dried apricots, green grapes. A salty/savoury note. Moments of lemons and wood smoke. It finishes nutty and warm. Lemon, honey and barley. A gentle sweetness. Lots of walnuts!

Very reluctant to add water, but...

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, <2tsp of water per 30ml whisky
The nose is a fresh almond croissant with a dusting of confectioner's sugar. Then hints of brine, black licorice, and cookie dough. In the palate, it's malt, nuts, salt, lime, a gentle sweetness and a hint of smoke. The finish remains nearly the same as it was when neat. Perhaps a little saltier.

I tried this along with yesterday's peated Oloroso cask 2yo. That one was very good. This one is better.

It made me shut off the music I was playing and then I forgot to take notes for a while. A delight and mystery, this Westland possesses the elegance of my favorite (mostly deceased) Japanese malts. How a whisky can be this delicate and this precise at this age and strength, I haven't a clue. I mean, like, what?

Dear Rémy Cointreau, don't fuck this up.

Availability - sold out
Pricing - $100
Rating - 91

Monday, October 22, 2018

Westland 2 year old 2012 Single Cask Nation, cask 284

Here's my "for more information on Westland Distillery" plug, with the only update being that the business was sold to Remy Cointreau exactly one year after my visit. I swear I had nothing to do with it!

Tomorrow I will review an unpeated 2.75 year old single fino cask from Westland. Today it's a 2 year old oloroso cask peated single malt from indie bottlers, Single Cask Nation.

Though their unpeated malt is all from the US, they do source their peated malt from Baird's in Speyside. Their standard peated release is good, while the two peated single casks I've tried rival Kilchoman's quality. This is the first time I've tried their sherry + peat combo.

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Type: Single Malt
Age: 24 months
Bottled: October 2014
Cask #: 284
Mashbill: peated malt from Baird's in Scotland
Maturation: first fill ex-Oloroso
Outturn: 204 bottles (so possibly a barrel?)
Alcohol by volume: 60%
(Thanks to Brett!)

The nose is fruity and meaty at first, with a little bit of floral action underneath. The peat takes time to kick in. It starts as spent charcoal and wood smoke, then it grows and grows with time. There are also notes of mint, eucalyptus, dried cherries and molasses. After a while a peanut butter note pops up, as do smoked almonds. The palate actually starts with the peanut butter and smoke almond notes all wrapped up in sherry. Chili oil, soot and salty smoked fish. The Oloroso takes the fore, after some time, reading more nutty than fruity. The finish is sweet and spicy. Savoury, salty and smoky. You know, the Ss. Sugar Daddy candy. Extensive length.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >1¾tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A straightforward stinky peat, like young Coal Ila, shows up in the nose, but there's some decent dried fruit to keep things in control. Chocolate-covered raisins, almond brittle and baking spices round things out. It has a salty, seaweedy palate. Dried berry sweetness and tangy citrus. Cracked pepper. The finish is mostly smoke, with caramel candy, black pepper and a hint of blueberry jam.

This is very good, coming across like a 8-10 year old Islay. The spirit and sherry play well, there's much less heat than the age & ABV would lead one to expect, and there's no capital 'O' Over Oakiness. Though it takes water well, I prefer it neat due to the stellar nose. I've said it before, I'll say it again: This can compete with many of Scotch's sexier brands. Of course, the price also competes with those brands too. In any case, other than McCarthy's, you won't find another American single malt putting up this sort of quality.

Availability - sold out
Pricing - $75, which is cheap for a Westland single cask
Rating - 86

Friday, October 19, 2018

Navazos Palazzi Spanish Malt Whisky, July 2014 release

As I write this intro, I'm drinking this single malt alongside its kin, the single grain I reviewed on Wednesday. DYC distillery hasn't been pushed on us as the New Kavalan (yet), which is great. That lack of hype is mostly because DYC exists to crank out blends for España, because that's where the money is.

The Navazos Palazzi dynamic duo spirited away (if you'll allow) with a few casks of DYC malt and grain whisky aged fully in Palo Cortado casks. This is the cask strength malt whisky batch bottled in July 2014.

Dat label tho

Destilerías Y Crianza
Region: Segovia, Spain
Type: Single Malt
Importer: Equipo Navazos and Nicholas Palazzi (PM Spirits)
Age: ~5 years
Maturation: Palo Cortado sherry cask
Batch: July 2014
Alcohol by volume: 52.5%
(Thanks, Sku!)

Lots of roasted nuts in the nose. Some tar, dark chocolate, brine and just a whiff of black raisins. With some time in the glass, the whisky releases notes of apple cider vinegar, leather shoes and caramel. The palate feels hotter than the grain whisky. Its tannicity(!) dries the tongue. Fresh ginger with raw cranberries and raw nuts (almonds and Brazils). Ah there are some golden raisin sweetness. This has a longer finish than the single grain. Tannic, tart and earthy. Peppery and bitter in the back of the throat. Caramel and Oloroso.

Lowering it to DYC's favorite ABV...

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or >1¾ teaspoons of water per 30mL whisky
Molasses, black raisins and honey mustard in the nose. It's still earthy, with an almost smoky edge. The palate is spicy and peppery. Slightly sweet. Over-steeped bitter black tea. The finish is sweeter than the neat version. Some sherry and the bitter tea.

Like the grain whisky, this malt whisky has been matured to the max, and then some, in the Spanish heat. As a result, the nose is a treat throughout. There's a fullness and complexity to it that was missing from the single grain, making it a delight to sniff. At the same time, the dryness makes it a bit of a challenge to drink. Once (or if) one's palate adapts one can enjoy the whisky as a study in tannins and super-duper dry fortified wine. It's unlike any other single malt I've tried. Too bad they didn't sell it in 200mL bottles, like the Säntis Malt, because it's more of an attention sapper than a casual thing.

Availability - USA; this batch has sold out but there are other batches
Pricing - 2016 batch is $110-$120
Rating - 79

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Navazos Palazzi Spanish Grain Whisky, July 2014 release

The only things I know about this whisky and its mate — which will be reviewed next — are courtesy of Sku's post from 2015. Thus not only do these whiskies come to the blog via Steve, so does any fact I write about them.

This grain whisky had a 100% corn mashbill, was distilled by DYC distillery in Spain and spent its 5 year old lifespan in a Palo Cortado cask. It came to America courtesy of the one-two punch known as Equipo Navazos and Nicholas Palazzi (Mr. @CaptnCognac).

I find very little pleasure drinking single grain whisky, but this thing is unique enough for me to withhold judgement until I actually drink it. Imagine that.

Only one man could be responsible
for a label like this.
Distillery: Destilerías Y Crianza
Region: Segovia, Spain
Type: Single Grain
Importer: Equipo Navazos and Nicholas Palazzi (PM Spirits)
Age: ~5 years
Mashbill: 100% corn
Maturation: Palo Cortado sherry cask
Batch: July 2014
Alcohol by volume: 53.5%
(Thanks, Sku!)

Applesauce and golden raisins in the nose. Then burlap and walnuts. JM Rhum (or grass, earth, bananas and a flower or two). The palate has loooooooads of nutty, almost earthy, sherry. Then black peppercorns, pumpkin pie spices and over-steeped bitter black tea. Very dry. More sweetness to the medium-length finish. Caramel sauce, honey and pepper. Oloroso-ish (helpful!).

Lowering it to DYC's favorite ABV...

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or 2 teaspoons of water per 30mL whisky
It's all dried fruit in the nose. Raisins, citrus peels and dried pineapple. The palate remains pretty similar, though less earthy. More tangy candy and plenty of bitter tea. Some fennel rolls in late. It finishes tingly, sweet and peppery.

The grain whisky seems to have performed a full extraction from the cask since this often reads as fortified fortified fortified fortified wine. Segovia's heat did thorough work, since this thing couldn't take another year in the cask.

It's not bad, which is probably the nicest thing I've ever said about a single grain whisky. There's a thinness to the mouthfeel, similar to Scottish single grains. And there's a near absence of spirit character, also similar to Scottish single grains. But the cask's previous contents were clearly very nice, and the grain whisky serves as a capable delivery mechanism.

Availability - USA; this batch has sold out but there are other batches
Pricing - 2016 batch is $110-$120
Rating - 78 (but I wouldn't mind some of that sherry)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Säntis Malt Edition Dreifaltigkeit Swiss Alpine Whisky

Yes, it's Swiss! Though the Locher family has been brewing beer on site since at least 1886, they started down the whisky path in 1999 when Switzerland ended its ban on the distillation of grain-based spirits. Because beer is what they've got, then beer barrels is what they use for maturation.

I enjoyed the beer barrel-aged Mackmyra Vinterrök and Glenfiddich IPA Experiment enough to buy a bottle of each, so I was looking forward to trying Dreifaltigkeit. (Extra credit goes to 'Creepo' who, in the Vinterrök comments, recommended Dreifaltigkeit!) Säntis Malt are nice and wise enough to have released 200mL bottles of their whiskies, so I bought one of those cute things.

Though it's more like Vinterrök in design (peat!), I paired it with the Glenfiddich. That was dumb. Silly Kravitz, Dreifaltigkeit isn't for kids.

Distillery: Brauerei Locher
Brand: Säntis Malt
Region: Switzerland
Type: Single Malt
Age: ???
Barley source: "barley grown at high ­altitude in Switzerland", from the official site
Peat source:  a Swiss "highland moor", says the bottle
Maturation: "Old Oak Beer Casks", says the bottle
Alcohol by volume: 52%

It's the color of maple syrup. The nose starts off with hot melting candles, antiseptic and smoldering plastic. Then damp moss, Ceylon cinnamon and a dose of Laphroaig 10. The palate is tremendously smoky. A leaf fire. Burning pine needles. Blackened brisket and charred pineapple. Smaller notes of cherry syrup and milk chocolate linger underneath. The forest fire continues into the finish, met with burnt brisket and bacon, and the nose's melting candles. White fruit sweetness and cayenne pepper in the background.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or 1¼ teaspoons of water per 30mL whisky
The nose has become a suburban night in mid-winter. Chimneys, coal smoke, melting candles. Cardamom. The palate becomes much sweeter. Simple, but BIG, smoke. Then salty meat, tangy fruit and tingly spices. A little bit of brown ale. SMOKE in the finish, but also tart fruit, sugar and brown ale.

Who would've expected this level of violence from the Swiss? But this ain't no Leviathan nor Brimstone. A startling level of nuance graces the nose. Even the palate has definable layers that work in tandem. It's still an almost punishing drink, best applied while shoveling a foot of snow off one's driveway. And you can bet your tushie that's when I'm going to drink it next.

Availability - many European specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - (ex-VAT) 40ml: $5-$8, 200mL: $20-$25, 500mL $40-$60, 700mL: $65-$75
Rating - 85 (some people are going to HATE this whisky, though)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Balcones Texas Single Malt, batch SM16-9

It's time to ease back into the planned World Whisky voyage with a jaunt in Texas. Texas is a large landmass entrenched in the lower belly of North America. It is bigger than Spain and Switzerland combined. It is home to a great many cattle and people and people who eat cattle.

Balcones is a brand and distillery started by Chip Tate. Chip Tate left Balcones, not entirely voluntarily. I had planned to not buy any post-Chip Balcones products to make a statement no one would hear, but then I realized I didn't like any Balcones whisky enough to buy it in the first place. In fact, I think their Rumble liquor is the best thing they make. My favorite Balcones whisky product has always been their Texas Single Malt. It is bigly flavored as any proud Texan consumable should be.

Deep in the giant brown palm of Texas!

Region: Waco, Tejas
Type: Single Malt
Batch: SM16-9
Age: ???
Bottled: Halloween 2016
Mashbill: malted Golden Promise barley
Maturation: "barrels of different sizes and oak profiles"
Alcohol by volume: 53%
(From a Columbus Scotch Club event)

There's a lot of maroon about the brown in this whisky's color. The nose is much prettier than the other, earlier, batches I've tried. Vanilla extract, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and cream puffs. Then honey mixed into vanilla yogurt. Confectioner's sugar. A lingering whiff of chili powder. The first sip shows off the palate the best, delivering shredded wheat, roasted hazelnuts and aromatic cigars. Subsequent sips reveal a floral vanilla, ginger and sweet peppery heat. A wallop of tannins and a hint of bonfire smoke. The finish has a decent length with mild heat. Toasted nuts and toasted oak, tobacco, ginger and a marshmallow sweetness.

Though not a subtle thing, this Texas single malt certainly is the least violent batch I've tried. (I've really only tried three Chip-era batches before this post-Chip batch, so take that as you'd like.) The nose is very good and the palate leads on like it's going to be complex, but then fades out after five minutes in the glass.

Like Westland's and McCarthy's single malts, this is not a bourbon alternative. It's really a separate genre. Still, it's the biggest tree hugger outside of Austin, so its full embrace of oak will appeal to most American whiskey fans.

There's no reason for it to cling to the "Craft" realm any longer, because this is professionally made stuff. If it were priced in the $40s, I'd consider getting a bottle. But it shares Westland's pricing problem, often selling for more than $70.

Availability - many US liquor retail specialists, though possibly not this batch
Pricing - $60-$90
Rating - 83

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Beatrice Booze Report: Ardmore 1991-2013 Malts of Scotland, Rum Barrel

One recent evening, I spent an extended period of time staring at the front label of this bottle of Ardmore. Because I was hepped down on NyQuil, it was more of a gazing-beyond-the-fabric-of-the-spacetime-continuum than seeing the label in this particular reality. My eyes eventually focused and I saw something weird.

234 bottles that came from this rum barrel. That's a lot of whisky from a barrel utilized for 22 years. The abv is 53.8%, which means the angels did take their share. (Note: the angels really like 1991 through 1993 Ardmore. This is the only 1991-1993 Ardmore I have that is north of 50%abv.)

I did some math on a legal pad, then double-checked my scribbles the next day. Taking into account that Ardmore goes into the barrel at 63.5%abv, the volume — not just the percentage but the actual quantity — of water INCREASED over 22 years. I may think Ardmore is pretty spiffy, but I'm certain it follows the principal of mass conservation.

So either it was:
1.) Barreled at an unusually low ABV
2.) Topped up over the years (illegal per SWA)
3.) Re-racked from more than one cask

The third option is the most likely. Re-racking is neither a crime nor a disaster, but it would have been swell if Malts of Scotland shared this information. Or perhaps the cask's previous owner was responsible for this maneuver. It does make one wonder, what is a "single cask"?, again. It also explains why Serge and Ruben found so little rum influence in a 22yo rum barrel whisky.

Distillery: Ardmore
Region: Highlands (Eastern)
Independent Bottler: Malts of Scotland
Age: ~22 years old (March 1991 - March 2013)
Maturation: Rum barrel (though I have my theories)
Casks: 13018
Alcohol by Volume: 53.8%
(Sample from the top of my bottle)

I wrote that whole conspiracy theory on Monday. And now it's Wednesday. My nose is working. I've had three glasses of this whisky...

The color is light gold. The nose begins with soil and peat smoke. Lemon juice spilled on grandma's plastic couch cover. Hints of fresh peach and molasses. With 30+ minutes in the glass: Green bananas (the closest thing to rum here), dirty hay and canned peaches. Tar, salt, soil, rocks and burlap in the palate. Some actual Jamaican-style rum funk in the background. The rum's earthiness matches the whisky's. After a while there's dense dark smoke, not Ardmore's usual moderate woody smoke. It finishes with dusty smoke, tangy Jamaican rum funk, smoked paprika and lime.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅔ tsp water per 30mL whisky
The nose is politer, more sugary. Pineapple, apple and flowers to go with the green bananas. Ocean water to go with the hay. The palate is similar to the neat one. A little sweeter and pepperier. Some tangy lime around the edges. The same mix of heavy smoke and funky rum. The finish is moderately long but simple. Black pepper, limes and smoke.

I am not crazy about this whisky. Maybe I should add ", yet."? If not for the rum note, one could say that the palate is austere to a fault, or maybe it's just modest. The dearth of oak is much appreciated. The smoke is very aggressive and, dare I say, a bit generic.

Great whisky doesn't have to be all Carmen Miranda — singing, dancing, fruit hats — but it needs to establish itself as something one can't find elsewhere in the sensory realm. This whisky doesn't do that. It also has yet to open up in the glass. I let one of my pours sit for 45 minutes. The whisky in that glencairn told oxygen to piss right off.

The whisky is good, so maybe I need to provide perspective here. Early '90s Ardmore is my favorite distillery era (within financial reason, people). This bottle ain't even close. In fact, its style is foreign to that group. It fits in better with 21st century steam coil Ardmore: more smoke, less fruit. That style works, sometimes quite well. This 1991 fits right there. Perhaps that has to do with its cask(s)?

Availability - sold out
Pricing - €99 in 2013
Rating - 84 (perhaps I'll review it again next year?)