...where distraction is the main attraction.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Birthday Booze Batch

The Whisk(e)y:

The Drinkers, the following afternoon:

On Friday, August 23, Kristen and I drove down to San Diego to spend a couple of days with Florin and his family.  Upon our arrival, the pizza was brought out and so was the whisky quickly thereafter.  The first picture is little Picasa-assembled collage of the bottles.  The second picture is of Florin and I, the following afternoon.  That birthday gelato we're eating, it was very good.  The faces you're seeing are those of whisky students who were up until 4:30am drinking studying.

Here were our texts:

Grant's Family Reserve Blended Whisky - MUCH better than I'd expected.  In fact, it's the next blend I'm buying: $14 for 1 liter at Trader Joe's.  I found none of those odd young grainy notes common to all of the blends in its price range (and many of those above its price range).  Instead, it tastes like young Glenfiddich and Balvenie, which is a good thing.

Bank Note 5 year old Blended Whisky (Solera Bottle) - I was enjoying the glass of Bank Note Florin had poured for me, thinking to myself "Man, he's got a really good bottle of Bank Note."  My most recent bottle has been a bit on the hot grainy side, but this one was maltylicious.  My host informed me (around 3am?) that it was his vatting/Solera bottle; he'd been adding single malts to the Bank Note here and there over the past few months.  I may lift that idea.

Teaninch 10 year old Prime Malt and...

Dailuane 10 year old Prime Malt - Two single malts that seemed almost oakless.  Naked malts.  They were crisp and fresh.  They weren't lightweights, but they made for excellent summer drinking.  Kudos to Prime Malt (an old Duncan Taylor brand) for having the confidence in their casks to release them in their all their malt splendor.  There will be further writings about these two as I now have samples.

Glentauchers 16 year old Gordon & MacPhail - I'd never had a Glentauchers malt.  This one doesn't have me running out to drink a second.  It was okay at first, seeming like a simple malt, maybe more like a 12yr starter.  Not sure if it's due to the malt or just some weird refill sherry casks, but the finish gets very odd -- that's all my fuzzy memory will allow.  Anyway, there may be a good reason why Pernod Ricard utilizes it entirely for blends (especially for filling out Ballantine's).

Tomatin 12 year old - More substantial than I'd remembered it to be.  When I'd had it last, about two years ago, it seemed like a plain inoffensive single malt, an easy step up from blends.  But this has more character now, unless Florin was using this as a Solera bottle too.  :)  Just kidding.  For $20-$25, a respectable option.

Kirkland Speyside Single Malt 18 year old Sherry Cask Finish - We matched this up with the Tomatin 12 because Florin was thinking that this unnamed malt was in fact from Tomatin too.  After sampling both, I concur.  Now, technically, Tomatin has been designated as a Highland malt since it sits a little west of the Speyside whisky region borders.  But the palate on this "Speyside" is very very similar to Tomatin.

Fettercairn 15 year old 1995 Signatory - A bracing single malt.  Florin is a big fan of it.  It has a swirl of farmy and floral notes going on in both the nose and palate.  There's also a touch of soap in the mouth as well, but not too much.  Old Fettercairn can be a little divisive, but this bottling was curious in a good way.  Unlike Glentauchers, I'm motivated to explore the distillery further.

(Not pictured) Tuica - A spirity Romanian plum spirit, truly homemade.  Much better than the Kosher Slivovitz I've previously suffered to, since Tuica has an actual nose and is very tasty.  Think ripe plum skins crossed with chili peppers.

(Not pictured) Compass Box Hedonism Vatted Single Grain - My drinking cohort was enjoying this one immensely.  I nosed it a bit, but didn't dive in any further.  I knew I was approaching that moment when I was going to have a difficult time sorting out any new drink.  I'll say this about Compass Box's Hedonism, as per last year's report, it's my favorite Scottish grain whisky and its nose is lovely.

Willett 7 year old Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon - My first Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon.  And now I'm hooked on Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbons.  Holy moley.  These Family Estate bourbons seem to have almost vanished from retail shelves, which is a bummer (but not surprising to me now).  They are heavy, dark, powerful, and deeeeee-liciouss.  And I have a sample to review further, at a later date...

Bowmore 21 year old 1982 Prime Malt - This one is special.  I'll be reporting on it in October, along with another Bowmore from the '80s.  It IS full of violets, but it IS NOT full of FWP.  It's quite an intense experience, though.  Proper respects go out to Prime Malt again for letting the whisky be whisky rather than lathering on the oak.  More on this in October.

Many thank yous to Florin for his generosity.  In addition to all the spirits, he and his wife, Maja, opened up their home to us and fed us well.  Enjoying a casual 24th, strolling around sunny Coronado, was exactly what I needed.  Thank you to my friends for all the wonderful gifts!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birthday Malt Report: Balblair 1978, Round 2!

As stated in last year's post about this bottle, I am only drinking it on my birthday.  And half birthday.  And other times.  Anyway, it was still more than 60% full this year and I wanted to see how/if it changes in the bottle.  Plus it's a clean, honeyed, fruity malt so it suits the late summer.  So it became (or has become) the house malt for my birthday (week).

Also, in last year's post, I moderately bemoaned the fact that my '78 Balblair was the 2008 version, not the 2010 version (the version with the rare Murray/Valentin accolades).  It turns out, had I examined the bottle code, I would have seen that the stuff was bottled in 2010.  I'm sharp.  And now a year older.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House Distillers Limited
Age: minimum 32 years (1978-2010)
Maturation: American oak ex-bourbon barrels
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

Two quick things:
1.) This was drunk neatly after a 30 minute wait.
2.) I did not read my notes from last year's tasting before composing these notes for this year:

Color - Light gold

Nose - Very aggressive fruits right from the start: tart mango, lemon peel, peach skin, and fresh apples.  But mostly pineapple, and LOTS of it.  A lot of caramel syrup too.  With time, there are more grain and yeast notes, even a teeny bit of barrel char.  Additionally, one may find some hints of whole grain bread, along with pineapple turnovers, and a fruit tart.

Palate - A lot of caramel and vanilla. It's more tart than I'd remembered, as in tart fruits (not fruit tarts).  Okay, also fruit tarts.  Big thick note of salted caramel gelato -- which I also enjoyed this past weekend.  With time, the whisky gets sweeter in the glass.  Orange peel meets watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

Finish - Much longer than the Glen Grant. Sweet without being cloying. Butterscotch, lemon candy, caramel sauce, and (singing the loudest) the watermelon Jolly Rancher candies.

Now I'm looking at last year's notes...

I'll be danged.  Aside from the citrus, there's very little in common.  The vanilla seems to have moved from the nose to the palate.  I didn't get the honey notes this time, instead I found caramel.  But it's clear that the massive fruit notes moved in this year.  I have to say I actually like it more.  I had some struggles last year sorting through the drink, so either it opened up in the bottle or I was on my game.

One final thought on my Balblair 1978.  This '78 set the ceiling for what I'm willing to spend on a single liquor bottle.  If I do let it stay in its original bottle until the next birthday, I may have to end the bottle/oxygen experiment at that point and decant the whisky into a smaller glass receptacle.  While I enjoy this experiment, I also want to make sure I can continue to enjoy the whisky for which I'd shelled out big bucks rather than allowing its nose and palate to perish slowly in an oxidized slumber on my watch.  But then again, will there be any left in a year?  Or even at the end of this week...?

Availability - A few European retailers
Pricing - $200-$220 (w/shipping, w/o VAT) via UK retailers, otherwise $300+
Rating - 93

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Birthday Malt Report: Glen Grant 35 year old 1974 The Octave (Duncan Taylor)

Last year, I was the 34 year old boy who had the 34 year old Glen Grant.

This year, I was the 35 year old boy who had the 35 year old Glen Grant.

Distillery: Glen Grant
Ownership: Campari
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Brand: The Octave
Age: 35 years (1974 - 12 January 2010)
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon for first 35 years, then 3 months in a sherry octave
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 48.8%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No
Limited Release: 70 bottles

Why Glen Grant again?

There are (or at least used to be) a number of fairly affordable old indie (Laing, Duncan Taylor, Gordon & MacPhail, etc.) Glen Grants on the market.  For instance, this bottle of 35 year old cask strength single malt was about $140 two years ago.  Today, whiskies half that age (and some of them not cask strength) go for that price.

But more importantly, Master of Malt had a sample of it.  I was on the lookout for a 35 year old dram and they were selling it.  Simple as that.  Anyway, I gave a similar speech last year so let's move along to the boozy part.

Last year's old Glen Grant was very good and noticeably peated.  This year's old Glen Grant was also good, but had no peat and just a little smoke in the finish.

Last year, I gave the big thumbs up to the fact that Speyside/Highland distilleries like Glen Grant used to have their own peated maltings, thus the presence of the light phenolic note on the 34yr.  This year, let me say: Yes, the old distilleries used to have their own malting floors, but Glen Grant closed theirs in 1962 and have been sourcing their malted barley ever since.  And their current source has been unpeated for quite some time.  So I wasn't necessarily wrong last year but......HEY WHAT'S THAT OVER THERE!

I gave this malt and its drinking companion (to be posted tomorrow) 35 minutes in the Glencairn before approach.  And as in all birthday malt situations, water was not added.

Color - Copper (or more specifically, a light gold with slight red highlights)

Nose - Sweet and spicy oak hit first, which is surprising for an oldie.  I'm assuming this comes from the tiny octave cask they used for the finish.  Perhaps they used generously charred American oak before swishing the sherry around?  But after that immediate burst, the nose gets dreamy.  Cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast, then toffee cake, cotton candy, and apricot jam.  And it keeps going...

When my wife whips up a batch of her stunning pie crust, there's always bit of dough left over.  So she puts butter, cinnamon, and sugar inside, then rolls it up and bakes it.  Out of the oven comes The Hobo Roll and it is devoured before it cools.  Who put Hobo Roll in my Glen Grant?

When I was a kid, my mom baked mandel bread (or mandelbrot).  Her version was a simple dough with chocolate chips inside.  After it's baked, cinnamon and sugar are sprinkled on top while it cools.  It is then munched on by happy children.  Who put Mom's mandel bread in my Glen Grant?

Setting aside the intense sense memories, I saw the cinnamon & sugar & dough theme running through.

Palate - Pipe tobacco and leather at the start.  Cinnamon candy and sea salt caramels.  It's very malty and there's still something like cookie dough in there.  After some time, a Glen Grant-esque herbal note peeks out in the background, but then it gets pushed aside by masculine cologne and Orange Crush.  Not bad, but it doesn't sustain the nose's beauty.

Finish - Sweeter here with citrus peel.  And now someone smoked that pipe tobacco.  Maybe some smoked almonds, but it's definitely nutty.  Orange Crush and cologne again.

This one started very strongly then gradually slowed down.  The nose may have placed itself in the All-Time Subjective Top Ten, but even though the palate was very good, it couldn't compete.  The finish was decent but not significant.  The descent may be due to the fact that I wasn't crazy about the cologne and Orange Crush combo as it felt slightly off, clashing with everything else in the whisky.  Those quibbles don't stick in my mind that much.  What I do remember most is the joy of the baked treats from my past and present.

Availability - It's all gone  :-(
Pricing - Here's a link to the old good price
Rating - 89

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

WADD problems

I'm having WADD problems, and chances are likely many of you are too.

Have you been a little more anxious than usual lately?  Financial struggles, conflicts on the job, family trouble, and new relationship challenges can trigger advanced stress levels which in turn will distract you from your evening passion and lead to considerable WADD problems.  And in some instances WADD issues can even be related to trying to get another Handy or even some Dickel.

Whisky Attention Deficit Disorder strikes the best of us.  Sometimes we get caught up in news stories, blogs, and marketing (or is that redundant?).  Sometimes we can't stop chasing the rapidly expanding new bottles or the quickly disappearing old stuff.  Sometimes we feel like we have to stock up before our favorites are gone or double in price.  Or sometimes, SOMETIMES, a certain person puts all of his whisky energy into trying new things to expand and expand and expand his malt experience......and he loses patience with a full 750mL bottle of whisky.  Or all open bottles of whisky that he'd chased after and stocked up on.

Let us pretend that this hypothetical person has a blog called Diving for Pearls and let us use first person pronouns when discussing his WADD.

I have to believe that I'm not alone in having Whiskey Attention Deficit Disorder.  All you whisky bloggers, geeks, reps, writers, experts, self-appointed-experts, and producers have to run into this issue on a regular basis if you're trying new stuff every week.  If you say you've never had it, I won't call you a fibber, but I'll be pretty impressed.

There are usually four or fewer single malt bottles open simultaneously in my home.  I don't actually drink from them enough to polish one off in less than two months.  My quota is a dram a night (okay maybe two) and many of those drams are now from sample bottles.  Some nights, especially in summer, I'm more in the mood for wine or beer or (gasp!) mineral water.  So, I haven't been going to my open whisky bottles often.  So far I've been staying away from opening new big bottles, but I've been noticing that when I have a choice, I tend to head towards the sample stash first.  That act is totally silly since I really enjoy my open Tier 1 and 2 bottles right now.  But I'm so distracted by THE NEW that I need to make a focused effort to relax and appreciate what I have.  Meanwhile, those open whiskies I have sit silently gradually oxidizing (or maybe playing poker when I'm not looking).

The nine whiskies I reviewed in the past two weeks were part of the problem.  Yes, most of them were sampled while I was away from home, but they only enflamed the WADD upon my return.  I'll be returning to two reports a week, at most, unless I'm doing a Taste Off of multiples drams.  A Taste Off takes only one night, so I guess what I'm proposing (to myself) is two new-stuff nights a week at most.

Wow, what a First World Problem.  Actually, the real underlying issue is being satisfied with what I have.  Finding bliss in a moment devoid of new shiny things is my desire.  It's Slow Whisky, but specifically it is Slow Whisky with what is at hand.

No, I do not need to drink more.  I need to appreciate the present and allow the moment to wash everything else away, then maybe my WADD worries will be over.

Friday, August 23, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey

In late September last year, Kristen and I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado for the wedding of Andrew (Kristen's brother) and Leslie.  Seriously, with the two of them you will never find a pair of more humble, healthy, good-looking, athletic, warm, and intelligent people.  Actually, add Kristen to that list as well.  Three beautiful people; it's apparently a good idea to have the Midwest in your genetic structure.

Also this:

While in beautiful Breckenridge, we had an opportunity to wander around the town.  The sun was out, the temperature was brisk, the leaves were changing.  It was so nice to have some real weather!

It was here in Breck that we sampled all of the wares from Breckenridge Distillery.  Though there wasn't a bad booze in the bunch, we agreed that the bourbon was the best.  Now I have bottles, one of which was a gift from Andrew and Leslie!  I'd gone through almost an entire bottle without taking official notes.  So, now it's time.

Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Region: Breckenridge, Colorado
Age: minimum 2 years
Mashbill: 56% corn, 38% rye, and 6% malted barley
Maturation: new American White Oak 53 gallon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Sku over at Recent Eats reviewed this bourbon back in June and noted that the current juice in the bottle is distilled in Kentucky.  While the Colorado distillery distills their own stuff, "they haven't marketed any of it yet".  The folks at the distillery shop were very forthcoming and told me the same big-rye mashbill that Sku lists on his site.  But they also told me the bourbon was made there in Breckenridge.

Now, this is an ongoing quirk with many American craft whiskies right now.  We're starting to see bourbons come from all over the country, but many of them are taking stock they've purchased from other distilleries (in Kentucky and Indiana), add their local water, then not being 100% up front (as in listing the information on the up front label) about it.  That's how we're getting bourbon from all over, especially from places that do not have a working distillery.

So one of two things are happening here with my Colorado-purchased Breck bottles:
1.)  They haven't marketed the Breckenridge-distilled bourbon outside of Colorado, but are selling it in Colorado.  Thus my bottles contain actual Colorado Bourbon, or
2.)  Sku's info pertains to the entirety of Breckenridge's current bourbon product.  Thus my bottle contains Kentucky-distilled bourbon with Colorado water added.

I'm leaning towards #2.  Here's why:

The bottle-printed label reads (italics added for emphasis), "A handcrafted bourbon whiskey made at 9600 feet with snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains;" and, "Produced and Bottled by Breckenridge Distillery."  Meanwhile the official website says, "...the perfect Breckenridge snowmelt water used for proofing. The natural minerality of our water source ensures the luscious mouth-feel, depth of flavor, and long finish."

Because there's no reference to the whiskey being distilled in Colorado and there are repeated references to their local water source, I believe they are indeed producing the whiskey in my bottle.  Producing.  As in, the bourbon is from elsewhere, but they use real Rockies water to proof it down.

But the whisky politics ends here because if you arrived at this page the real question you have is, "But is it good?"  The answer is, yes.

It has a deep copper color in the glass.  The nose starts with molasses, lemon pulp, bubblegum, and brine.  Curiously, the malt shows up even at its low percentage.  Also some pencil shavings, maybe something like pork fat mingling with mild rye spice.  But the real big buff rye bursts out on the palate with a zippy zing (technical term).  It's a little tart and a little bitter but nicely so.  There's some salt, cherry cough syrup, black pepper, brine, and a brief mango moment.  It's sweet but never too much so.  The texture is quite silky considering the low-ish ABV.  It finishes with the pepper and salt, black cherry syrup, and a bold tartness.  There's some dryness to match the sweetness.  And the whole experience lingers long considering (again) the 43% ABV.

I'd recommend this neat, BUT this stuff makes a great mint julep thanks to the zing from the rye.

The bottle says that the whiskey has been aged for a minimum of 2 years, thus it can't be called Straight Bourbon Whiskey (which needs 4 maturation years).   (Florin proved the preceding sentence wrong, in the comments section below.) The Breck won't blow your mind with its complexity since it's still a youngin' proofed down to 43%.  But all that rye helps make it a tasty Summer (or Autumn or Winter or Spring) treat.  In fact, could this be the highest-rye bourbon mashbill on the market?

If you're a high-rye bourbon fan you may want to give the Breck bourbon a try if you see it at a bar.  I agree with Sku that $40+ is a lot to charge for a new-to-market 2 year old bourbon, so I'd never shout "Must Buy!" about it.  But I do like the bourbon.

Availability - an increasing number of US retailers
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 84

Thursday, August 22, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Jefferson 10 year old Straight Rye Whiskey(Hi-Time Select)

Okay, so the rye in this one is not technically a US American ("Everywhere like such as.").  It's a Canadian(-American).  And yes, I did report on the official version of this rye six months ago, but I wanted to give the juice another chance.  Since there was some agreement in the comments section that Jefferson's varies batch by batch, I thought I'd go with a small batch that was chosen by hand by the good folks at Hi-Time.

Since this version might not be on their shelves anymore, and since I've already covered a different batch of the rye, and since it's not technically distilled in the U.S. of A. and thus doesn't really belong in this week's lineup, how about we keep this report moving, shall we?

Distillerypossibly Alberta Springs Distillery
OwnershipMcClain & Kyne (via Castle Brands)
Type: Canadian Straight Rye Whisky
Region: Alberta, Canada (possibly)
Age: minimum 10 years
Mashbill: 100% rye (along with a proprietary fungus that helps keep the mash from getting sticky)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 47%
Exclusive to: Hi-Time Wine Cellars

(Thanks again to JLR for the sample!)

A summary of my previous experiences with Jefferson's rye:
Zero minutes of wait time: Weird and new-makey, like piney nail polish remover.
Forty-five minute wait: Better, with more oak, chocolate, and fruits, but also thinly textured with something vegetal lurking in the background.

I gave this one 40+ minutes of air again to see what would open up:

Color - Penny copper
Nose - A little pine and farty oak hit immediately.  Parting those curtains, I found pleasant spices like mild pepper, ground cloves, and cinnamon; then fresh cherries, leather, corn chips, and Sauternes.  It has a small case of The Turps, but not alarmingly so.  Also there's an interesting combination of rosewater and body odor.
Palate - Mellow. Light rye-ish spices lead off.  Pine sap, bubble gum, and white nectarines.  There's also something almost peat-like, perhaps Canadian moss?
Finish - Lots of bubble gum and menthol with some lemon peel.  Mellowness.

This is a chillaxing (sorry, brah) rye.  It could have been all that breathing time or it was chosen purposely for its relaxed nature.  The nose held some contradictions but remaining fascinating from start to finish.  The palate is more consistent and more immediately pleasing.  The whole package turned out to be better than the official bottling.

If anyone has a bottle of this Hi-Time Select version open, let me know what you think of it.

Tomorrow, well go back to US Americans and one last bourbon before the scotch comes pouring in.

Availability - Official version can be found at many liquor specialists
Pricing - $30-$45
Rating - 80  (with air!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Then there were the two rounds with Old Forester

Ready for some more Brown-Forman?


Yeah, I know.  I feel the same way.  But if all we drank was the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection then, well, then we'd......that's a bad example.

Just because we may have had a bad experience with all of a certain company's brands it doesn't mean we should write them off entirely.  Or at least give them their proper due in a report if they do stink.

So, ready for some more Brown-Forman?

The corner liquor store near my last job had a slew of these (above) 200mL Old Forester glass bottles from the 1990s.  (The front label from the '80s was similar, but had a blue proof stamp in the center of it.)  The store also had some older bottles of Dewars White Label, but no thanks.  This OldF was only $4.99, so what the heck.


Owner: Brown-Forman Corporation
Brand: Old Forester
Distillery: Brown-Forman Distillery
Location: Shively, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley
Age: four years
ABV: 43% ABV

I tried an Old Forester mini with the mid-aughts label, reviewed here, last year.  It was drinkable -- better than JD#7  -- but had its issues.  Let's see how a previous edition fares:

Color - Reddish gold
Nose - Straight out of the bottle: Caramel, orange peel, turpentine, rotting apples, corn syrup, and burnt paper.  After 20 minutes: maple syrup and talcum powder.
Palate - Approachable. Short alcohol prickle, lots of vanilla, taffy, and lightly nutty like biscotti. It's sweet at first then dries out a little and has a non-distinct fruitiness.
Finish - Weird and off-putting after the decent palate.  Bitter, sugary cheese.

Per my notes, it looks like this older version is subtler than the current one.  What they have in common is an odd finish.  Everything is decent until the finale, which is the wrong place to go awry, as that's the last thing the customer/audience/drinker remembers.  This 1990s version is not half bad on the rocks, where the ending is silenced.  It also makes a respectable Old-Fashioned, of which I am sipping in between paragraphs of this post's rough draft right now.

Aside from the "what the heck" factor, I bought this little bottle because I needed a dance partner for the other Old Forester that I'd brought with me to Arizona:


Owner: Brown-Forman Corporation
Brand: Old Forester
Distillery: Brown-Forman Distillery
Location: Shively, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley (with 2% malt added in the fermentor)
Age: twelve years
Batch: #11, 2012
ABV: 48.5% ABV (it may have different ABVs for European releases)

Thank you to JLR for the sample!

This annual release with its cool decanter marks the September 2nd birthday of company founder George Garvin Brown.  The whiskey was distilled all on the day same day, at least 12 years before bottling.  According to the marketing materials I've seen online for the 2012 edition, Master Distiller Chris Morris had plopped an extra 2% of malt into the fermentor which influenced the final palate.

Color - Maple syrup meets Macallan 12yr
Nose - Big caramel candies swimming in vanilla simple syrup.  Honey, toasted whole wheat bread, a pinch of rye spices, maybe a hint of peanuts?
Palate - Dried leaves, apricot jam, orange marmalade.  Barrel char, a moment of chlorine, a little barley cereal.  It's rich and bold, I'm glad it wasn't reduced!
Finish - Lotsa oak here.  Goes sweet to dry.  Extensive and sticky.  Citrus, caramel, and ripe stone fruits.

Yum.  The finish is the weak point again, but the nose and palate are very solid.  No ice or water on this one, please!

The 2013 edition should be hitting the stores any day now and will have the same 48.5% ABV as its predecessors.  The Birthday Bourbon sells out pretty quickly each year, at least around the LA area.  It's a tasty one, but it'll also cost you up to $55 (per its MSRP).  Is it worth $55?  I don't know, though that does seem to be the going rate for Single Barrel or Special Editions from non-BT/non-Roses companies.  What I can tell you is the Birthday Bourbon is in a completely different league than its OldF brothers.

Availability - The current version is carried by most bourbon retailers.
Pricing - Current version: $13-$20
Rating - 74

Availability - Many liquor retailers worldwide
Pricing - $40-$55
Rating - 85

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Two rounds with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

I may lose some readers with this one, but here I go.

I do not, Do Not, DO NOT understand why anyone drinks Jack Daniel's Old No. 7.  I am unable to comprehend how it became the second most exported whisk(e)y in the world.  The best explanation I've heard so far is when Scotch and Ice Cream suggested that it's all marketing and culture.  So maybe it's like McDonalds and Bud Light: the name, the image, the familiarity influence consumers so they disregard the actual quality and experience of their purchase.  Is that it?  Because otherwise, I'm missing something.

Old No. 7 Black Label may have a "MANLY" marketing image, but how is it a "MANLY" whiskey?  It's not difficult or burly or challenging.  It just tastes bad.  In fact, since it's kind of weak and watered down in its current state, almost any American whiskey on the shelf could prove to be a more challenging ride.

And, at $15-$25, it's not nearly the cheapest thing on the shelf, so it can't be THE low-cost working man's whiskey.  As a mixer, it's barely better than vodka because it needs to be smothered with a ton of sugar in order to hide its flavor.  The same thing goes with Jack Daniel's sauces and marinades.  The reason why they taste so good is because they taste nothing like Old No. 7.  They taste like brown sugar.

Okay, so maybe, just maybe, people want to get plastered.  So they buy bottles of Jack for shots or to live up to the (sadly) romantic image of their favorite rocker drinking straight from the bottle.  Well that's a FAIL too.  Nothing tastes worse blasting back up than Old No. 7 vomit, aside from maybe Cuervo & Tabasco vomit.
(Note to self: You really have to stop it with the Vomit Taste Offs.)

I spent a bit of time with JD#7 in the late '90s -- until one day I realized it tasted awful -- so I'm coming to this with considerable sense memory.  I'm coming to this as someone who has had many motivations for buying booze.  But when it comes to Old No. 7, there are "manlier" drinks, there are cheaper drinks, there are more blue-collared drinks, there are better mixers, and there are better shots.

So, let's try some Old No. 7!

JACK DANIEL'S OLD No. 7 BLACK LABEL (bottled late 1990s)

Distillery: Jack Daniel's
Ownership: Brown-Forman Corporation
Region: Lynchburg, TN
Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Age: four years (I think)
Mashbill: 80% corn, 12% malted barley, 8% rye
Bottled: late 1990s
Alcohol by Volume: 43% (different than current ABV)

Color - Apple juice meets corn syrup
Nose - Leads with varnish and very sweet corn syrup. Follows with Italian salad dressing, dry cheese, and vinegar.
Palate - Goes the quick road from overly sweet to overly bitter.  Corn syrup and sweet cream does a bee line to ammonia.  Per the Lincoln County Process this was filtered through maple charcoal, but it tastes like it was passed through steel wool, Brillo pads, and burnt hair.
Finish - Granulated sugar sprinkled conservatively over a vat of acetate, varnish, deck stain, and ammonia.

Nose - Immediately there's tree bark, bleached paper, and horseradish. Then more of the varnish and corn syrup.
Palate - Creamier. Starts with brown sugar then goes bitter.
Finish - Blessedly short. Ammonia.

First thing to note:  My generous sample was taken from a bottle that was purchased in the late '90s.  And, yeah, the ABV was 43% rather than 40%.  I wish I had a proper bottle shot, but I don't know where the bottle went. (Long story, not very interesting.)

Secondly, I have to admit that this version of JD was particularly foul.  The current version is softer with more Nutrasweet corn, but it still has that steel-wool-brillo-pad-burnt-hair note.  There are folks who find a banana note in the current JD, but my nose reads it as banana-candy-meets-paint-fumes.

Thirdly, you may think I'm completely biased against all Jack Daniel's products and am thus a sh***y American.  At least the former isn't true.



Distillery: Jack Daniel's
Ownership: Brown-Forman Corporation
Region: Lynchburg, TN
Type: Tennessee Whiskey
Age: four years (I think)
Mashbill: 80% corn, 12% malted barley, 8% rye
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

This tasting was done from the above mini, a gift from my buddy Shannon.  While no barrel number was listed on the mini, the 750mL (and 700mL) bottles do have barrel numbers on them.  But note: the Single Barrel Selects released in Europe have a 45% ABV.

Per the official website, "Single Barrel is matured in the highest reaches of our barrelhouse, where the dramatic changes in temperature cause its color and taste to deepen further."  Let's see how this maturation plays out.

Color - Reddish gold
Nose - At first: hazelnuts and dirty socks and nail varnish.  That steel-wool-brillo-pad-burnt-hair note shows up here.  But give it 15-20 minutes of air and... White bread toast, Cracker Jacks, burnt peppercorns, hay, vanilla extract, and fudgy rum.
Palate - Peanut brittle, sugary grains, vanilla and caramel (almost dulce de leche).  It's sweet, hot, and oaky, but in balanced moderation compared to No. 7.
Finish - Lots of corn whiskey.  There's some boiled vegetables at the start, but with time that note vanishes.  Then there's cayenne pepper, tree bark, vanilla, and caramel.

Because of the aforementioned "bias", I opened the bottle anticipating disaster.  But it's not terrible.  In fact, the Single Barrel Select is very drinkable and balanced once it's had some oxygen.  I like the nutty note as well as the straightforward vanilla and caramel.  Keep in mind, though, different barrels will have different characteristics.  That can work out well ...... or not, thus the charm of single barrel releases.

Again, once it's aired out, the Single Barrel leaves #7 far far behind, which is a shame.  It would be great if one of America's famous exports displayed more skill and craft, something with more strength and stamina, something that displays the better part of the American character.

JACK DANIEL'S OLD No. 7 BLACK LABEL (bottled late 1990s)
Availability - Somewhere out there. Current version is EVERYWHERE.
Pricing - Current version: $15-$25
Rating - 60    (late '90s sample only)

Availability - Many liquor retailers worldwide
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 80    (needs to breathe, though!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dusty Hunting on Vacation and a Preview of Things to Come

Happy Monday!

I'm back home after two great vacation weeks.  I haven't had many opportunities to vacate during the summer over the past ten years; in fact there were only two: moving across the country and my honeymoon.  And like any proper whisky degenerate student, I scoured every liquor store along the way on a continuous dusty treasure hunt.

I go into these hunts with realistic expectations.  I'm not expecting to find a bottle of Stitzel-Weller Old Fitz or mis-priced Stagg.  And there really isn't much in the way of dusty Scotch in The States, except for some old blends.  So the best dusties I expect to find would be the stuff no longer in circulation or previous batches or old weirdness.  If those things are considered successes, then the success rate is still usually below 10%.  But I'm always open to the potential of small miracles.  Or great prices.

Here were my stops:

Manhattan - The big city still has some curios in its 100s (or 1000s?) of corner liquor stores.  I picked up a totally random single cask single malt that was bottled sixteen years ago for probably half of its price had it been retailing in LA.

Upstate New York - There ain't nothin' dusty around Keuka and Seneca Lake aside from some weird blends.  Dew of Ben Nevis 12, anyone?  Either that place was FoaFed a long time ago, or everyone has consumed everything interesting, or there was never the income level in those areas that would have inspired distributors to put their fancy stuff on those shelves.

Prescott, Arizona - If you're heading to Prescott (for whatever reason) there are a few interesting bottles to be found.  When I left, there were two Thomas Handy Ryes (2012), a few older-labelled single malts, some oddball blends, and (very randomly) a dozen total bottles of five older Scott's Selection single malts.  The Scott's Selection stuff was of interest, but out of my current price range.  I did take home a bottle desired booze that was really discounted, along with a pair of old minis.

I drank a lot of American whiskies during my break.  That's partially because I find bourbon suits a hot summer better than do most single malts.  But also, I had a bunch of American whiskey on my report schedule.  So this week I'm going to drop 6 Americans on you in 4 days.

As fun as that all is and as well as bourbon may "suit" this weather, I was SERIOUSLY craving some proper Scotch when I got home.  So we can say good-bye to any more non-Scotch posts until after the equinox.  Next week, I'll write about the birthday whisky.  The following week?  Here's a heavy-handed hint:

Screw the heat, we're going to end this summer with some big Scotch.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon (a revisit)

In memory of Elmer T. Lee.

A year and a half ago, I posted my first bourbon Report.  That whiskey was Blanton's Single Barrel, and it was the first bourbon I'd ever enjoyed drinking straight.  The tasting occurred in December 2011 when the bottle (kept at my in-laws' house) was first opened.

Zip forward to August 2013, the bottle is still 40% full.  I opened it, poured a glass, and found the bourbon even more delightful than before.  Either my palate had changed or with almost two years in the bottle the bourbon's edges had been smoothened and a new bright character was coming through.

Since that particular barrel was bottled exactly two years ago, here's an official revisit:

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Brand: Blanton's
Region: Kentucky, USA
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: unknown; online guesses range from 6 to 12 years
Mashbill: Buffalo Trace #2 (higher-rye; about 15%)
Bottled: 8/15/2011
Barrel: 18
Warehouse: 14
Rick: 2
Bottle: 137
Alcohol by volume: 46.5%

Neat only!
The color is a dark but rosy gold, almost "maple syrup" as I'd previously described it.  The nose starts with black cherry soda, cinnamon candy, and thick toffee.  Then there's corn syrup, buttered toast, charred oak, apple juice, and cream soda.  Underneath it all is a savory, meaty element that adds a strong new dimension to the nose.  Berries fill the palate: cherries, blackberries, and strawberries.  Soft spices sitting in a mix of black cherry syrup and caramel sauce.  Vanilla beans and brown sugar with mild black pepper.  Then it shifts into another gear in the finish.  Strawberries, orange candies, and creamsicles.  A spicy rye bouquet amid corn sweetness.  A bit of brine and a bit of fudge.

I've sampled about three dozen bourbons since the previous Blanton's report.  Only Stagg (Sr.) and Old Fitz BIB from Stitzel-Weller tops this Blanton's revisit.  For me, the extra spice and fruits put it over Buffalo Trace.  I will buy my own bottle before the year is out to find out if that extra oxidation was necessary in order for the bourbon to hit this sweet spot.  At the same time, if these really are single barrel releases, then no two barrels will taste exactly the same.  But I'm willing to risk it.  This is good stuff.

Availability - Many US liquor retailers
Pricing - $45-$55
Rating - 91

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey

Engaging in a full ground assault on Upstate New York wine & spirits makers, Kristen's family and I visited Finger Lakes Distilling last week.  With Brian McKenzie at the business helm and Tom McKenzie (not related!) running the distilling, the company began operations in 2007.  They have since created a serious product lineup:

Whiskey - Two whites in addition to a Single Malt Pure Pot Still, Bourbon, Rye, and Wheat.  The newest member of the group, the wheat whiskey appealed to me the most.  I'm not the biggest wheater fan, but this one softer and sweeter than its three brethren.  The single malt pure pot still (aged 2 1/2 to 3 years, I believe) tasted very very young.  Whisk(e)y production is a difficult business, requiring producers to hold onto their products for a long time during maturation.  New distilleries are often in a hurry to get these out onto the market in order to bring in some revenue and stay open.  The Upstate climate is closer to Scotland than Kentucky for all but a couple months of the year, so a malt may need 5 - 8 years before it has shed its new make trappings.  The rye was a stinger indeed, full of mint and rye seeds.  The bourbon (purchased by my in-laws) is reviewed below.
Gin - Seneca Drums and the Distiller's Reserve.  The Distiller's Reserve was really good, while the in-laws emptied a bottle of the Drums before I got to it.
Vodka - Two products: both grape-based, one flavored with local berries.
Brandy - Two products: eaux-de-vie-style Pear and a cognac-style Grape
Grappa - Two products: Gewurztraminer and Riesling based.  I've had the Riesling grappa twice, and, like the Distiller's Reserve gin, I actually prefer it over the whiskies.
Liqueur - Four products, Cassis, Raspberry, Cherry, and Maplejack.  Kristen's family liked the Maplejack a lot and picked up a bottle.

The distillery uses local fruits and grains to make all of these spirits.  They reuse their barrels as often as possible and do all of the bottling and labeling on the premises.  They are much more forthcoming about their production than most companies tend to be, so I highly recommend their website for a ton of detail on their processes.

Now, onto the bourbon.

Brand: McKenzie
Distillery: Finger Lakes Distilling
Location: Upstate New York
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Mash Bill: 70% corn, remainder split between malted barley and rye
Age: five years
Alcohol by volume: 45.5%
Batch: #11 (2013)

The first ten batches of their bourbon were aged in small 10-20 gallon barrels for (I think) 18-24 months.  The new batch, 11/2013, that I tried was the first in the more classic-sized 53 gallon barrels, aged for five years.

Color - Very dark gold
Nose - Right up front there's citrus, mint toothpaste, and a lot of spice reminiscent of The Rye Storm (cracked white pepper and cinnamon Red Hots). From the oak, caramel is much more present than vanilla.  Overall it's intensely vegetal -- kale and herbs (oregano?) -- with honey providing some relief.
Palate - Herbs here too, along with a number of different honeys and toasted cereal grains.  A bit sharp and hot, the oak and grain seem separate at this early age.  Corn Pops!
Finish - Pretty sticky and intensive, the finish is where the oak comes in, making this stage feel the most bourbony.  Beyond the oak: Corn Pops, sweet potato, and rye.

WITH CLUB SODA (ration of 2 club soda : 1 bourbon)
More oaky, sweeter, but the herbs still stand tall.  It's almost like a charred-cask-matured American herbal liqueur.

Kristen and I tried this at the same time, both finding the Corn Pops note simultaneously.  It was our favorite part.  Most of the rest was very green, grainy, and hot.   Adding club soda helps a bit.  It would probably make a fascinating Old Fashioned, with the bitters and citrus stirring things up a bit and the ice cooling it off.

So, if you're heading over to Finger Lakes Distilling, here (again) were my favorites: Distiller's Reserve Gin, Riesling Grappa, and the Wheat Whiskey.  But if you're looking to get socked in the mouth, their bourbon and rye will do the trick.

Availability - At the distillery and some New York retailers
Pricing - $45
Rating - 70

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Black Bottle Blended Whisky

I'm attempting to sneak in a few Reports while out visiting family over these next few weeks.  First off:


Brand: Black Bottle
Ownership: Burn Stewart
Distilleries: Seven Islays (probably Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain) along with some Highlanders and Speysiders
Type: Scotch Blended Whisky
Age: at least 3 years
Blend: single malts and grain whiskies
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill-filtered? Yes
Caramel Coloring? Yes

The Grahams (much like the Haigs, Ballantines, and Walkers) were a family of grocers that blended their own whiskies for their customers.  Such was the success of their homemade blends that in 1879, they went into selling their best-regarded invention, Black Bottle, to a wider customer base.  Industrial demands during the first World War required Black Bottle to switch from black glass to green glass.  The bottle retained its original potstill shape, and still uses that green glass (though the defunct 10 year old was bottled in black glass during its short run).  After a fire destroyed their offices (and recipes and records) in 1951 and subsequent uncertain management sunk their revenue, the Grahams had to sell the company off to Long John, another whisky maker, in 1964.  Not much information is available about the whisky from 1964 to 1990 other than the product was crap.  Allied Distillers revived the brand in 1990.  Burn Stewart then bought the brand along with Bunnahabhain in 2003.

The blenders say seven Islay malts are in the blend -- likely not including Kilchoman or Port Ellen -- along with a number of Highland and Speyside malts.  The Grahams used Highlands and Speysides in their original recipe, but keep in mind that back then most of those whiskies were also peated.  So a smoky-peated Islay-style blend seems to be the market the brand aims for.

I'd had a glass of Black Bottle last year at a bar and found it okay, if not exceptional: the general quality I'm learning to expect from sub-$20 blends.  I was looking forward to digging into a proper report on it, since I'd read that it was a high-malt (around 40%) blend.  Plus with most of the Islay gang onboard, I thought it would bring a bit of seaside and peat to my Glencairn glass.  I found a 750mL of Black Bottle selling for $16 in Upstate New York, where we were staying with Kristen's family.  Per the forecast, rain was approaching, so the elements had aligned for the right opportunity to pick this up.  Sure enough, the thunderclouds rolled in soon after I bought the Black Bottle

Color - Medium gold
Nose - Anise, beachside (rotting seaweed & all), with a lot of young grainy stuff bursting through a blanket of American oak vanillins. After that there's some freshly cut firewood, pencil lead, and lemon peel.
Palate - Thin, reminds me of a peated JW Red Label. Some sourness; really tart, in fact. There may be a few embers but most of the peat is vegetal.  After some time, vanilla and moss appear and maybe some pound cake.
Finish - Neutral grains (think plastic bottle vodka) first. More of the tartness and light bitterness. Some oak rumbles separately in the back, along with a hint of peat. There's a hint of barbecue, but the peat is more leady than smoky. The experience lasts a little longer than one would prefer in this case.

WITH CLUB SODA (ratio - 2 soda : 1 whisky)
Sugars, vanilla, and a malty note fight their way through the mountain of plain grain.  It's still young and difficult, but more palatable.  A little tangy too.  But there's still some odd lead lingering around.

The first glass out of the bottle was rough, like lightly smoky cheap vodka.  Subsequent pours were slightly better, and, like wine, this whisky benefits from breathing.  The finish is gloomy, especially since the peat reads as lead throughout.  If that lead note isn't the peat, then that's probably not good news.  The whole thing could use more phenols since the little malt (likely no longer 40%) that shows up isn't particularly expressive.  I have a distinct feeling this blend (Black Bottled in 2013) wouldn't match up its earlier incarnations.

I wonder if they've begun using a lot more unpeated malt (of the 3 year old variety) than they used to, especially since peated malt draws premium pricing.  The label does make that point about Highlands and Speysides being included in the mix, plus the ownership also produces millions of liters of unpeated Bunnahabhain each year.

Though I like Bank Note considerably more, Black Bottle is likely one of the better whiskies at $16...... though it's usually at $20-$25, a range shared by some much better starter single malts.  I'm not bummed I bought the bottle since I've found Black Bottle brightens up a little when blended with big sherried whiskies, as per this tweet:
So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Availability - Many liquor retailers
Pricing - $18-$25
Rating - 70 (Ed. note: Jan. 2014 - after further study, this stuff is getting even uglier. 66)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ramblings from the Road, August 2013

The Decompression Era has begun.

There won't be any official Single Malt Reports this week, though I intend to have a couple next week.  I've been drinking mostly beer and wine, those mates work better when staying on the water.

I've had some of thoughts on the whiskies I am and am not drinking.

A few months back, I posted a Taste Off between the European release of Jameson's Select Reserve (Small Batch) and the American version of the Select Reserve (Black Barrel).  The Small Batch was better on all levels: nose, palate, and general drinkability.  That drop of Black Barrel had actually been decanted into a sample bottle in December, and the original bottle hadn't been opened since.  I gave that whiskey eight months to think about itself and consider its whiskey behavior.  After being let out of the bottle this week, it became even more unpleasant and stubborn.
I mean, it's bad.  Even a 2:1 ratio of club soda to Black Barrel doesn't correct it.  Since I wouldn't even drink the stuff if someone offered to buy it for me, I'll be dropping it from 2-1/2 stars to 1-1/2 stars.  This is a quite a Diving For Pearls event since I adore Midleton Distillery and have given their whiskies ratings that many may consider bloated.

On a similar note, I had a particularly gruesome glass of Tullamore Dew at a bar last month.  I won't change its rating since there may have been an issue with the bar's bottle.  If it wasn't the bottle, then perhaps my palate is moving away from Irish blends.  I'll be picking up a bottle of Powers in a few months to figure that out.

Bourbon and I are doing pretty well, though.  My in-laws' bottle of Blanton's (the one from this post) has been open for almost two years.  I had a pour of it yesterday and the stuff is divine.  It's less hot than it was upon its opening yet much more expressive, especially on the finish.  I need to have another glass before I reconsider its rating, and then maybe another glass.  Either my palate is adapting or the whiskey settled in well over time.  It's a darn shame it costs two Buffalo Traces, but maybe it's worth it?

Finally, a random shower thought.  I can't remember the last time I bought an officially bottled single malt scotch.  Seriously.  After doing some searching, I think I've purchased THREE since February.  None of which were Diageo brands.  Looks like the upcoming Diageo boycott won't prove to be much of an adjustment on the single malt front.  Of course, I've been buying plenty of independent bottles and those will be less prevalent on the market in the future.

Time to go.  My thoughts are drifting out to the lake and my future projects.  For those of you who haven't taken a break from work in a long time -- and I mean, a real break -- please do so.  Leave your cell phone with the work emails inside and go outside, far from the pavement.  You don't have to hug a tree or smoke a cigar or fly fish or bungee jump or even drink a beer.  This is just a friendly encouragement to look beyond the flat screen.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Meeting at The Morgan, starring The Coopered Tot

Last Friday I had the honor of meeting one of my great whisky friends, Joshua Feldman of The Coopered Tot.  It wasn't just a "Hey, how are you doing?" meeting (though it was that as well), but a meeting inside a lovely museum.  With a lot of whisk(e)y.

Josh was a tremendous host, guiding Kristen and I through the museum as well as his beverage selection.  The Morgan Library is a great little museum on Madison and 36th in Manhattan.  Formerly the home of JP Morgan and his son JP (Jack) Morgan, the museum displays the Morgan's tremendous library, great architecture, elaborate frescos, as well as the art pieces Jack did not sell off.  I also found myself unexpectedly drawn to ancient seals.

Not these:

The intricate detail the artisans were able achieve three to five thousand years ago gave this contemporary viewer a moment of considerable reflection.  Some of these small cylindrical etchings revealed action sequences like the one above, while some were dramatically spare and subtly honed, like a later period seal of a single bull pausing on a flat plane.  The level of precision, texture, and space scratched into these tiny pieces made those people from halfway around the world and thousands of years previous feel very close and very present.  May we all leave something behind to remind our ancestors that we were once human as well.

And then there was the drinking.

Here's Mr. Feldman:

Here's one of his guests:

Actually my pose was a ruse.  I barely got any notes down because we had such a great time discussing all things malty; such a great time that I probably made him significantly late for his trip out to his kids' summer camp.  Sorry, Josh!

Here's the liquor lineup:

Balcones Texas Single Malt (Batch 12-4) - Really good! It's very young, very crafty, but delicious.  Chip Tate is doing something right out there.  The whiskey is intensely expressive like a barrel strength rye or high-rye bourbon...yet very malty.  Lots of citric fruits, massive waves of vanilla beans, gingerbread cookies, and deep boozy spices.  And heck, Kristen liked it too.
Hudson Manhattan Rye - Also better than I expected, but it's almost quaint next to the Balcones Malt.  Some good dusty spices sitting on a rye bread base.  Pity about the price, though.
Wemyss Malt "The Dunes" Inchgower 29yr - As Josh has discovered, this one can be divisive in the intensity of its character.  Think citric clay, big bursts of floral fruits, menthol, and flowery perfume (but NOT f.w.p.).  I like Inchgower and found this one zesty and bright.
Yoichi 15yr Japanese Single Malt - Fantastic!!! Think Laphroaig without the peat blast, which is a hell of a feat. Gorgeous iodine and seaweed float on a nutty soft malt. Its price is a bit steep for me, but I need to figure how to make it happen.
Brenne French Single Malt (cask 262) - White chocolate, orange peel, saltwater taffy, cardamom. Both K and I liked this one a lot.  It would be nice as an aperitif, but also maybe as a mellow digestif. When trying this, drop your preconceived notions of what single malt should taste like and let yourself float down Brenne's silky creamy stream.
Pine Barrens Single Malt - Josh had me try it out just to see my reaction.  It's so weird but not fun weird.  Somehow both coniferous and chemical.  Pine cones and bug repellant.
Blair Athol 12yr Provenance - Sturdy solid malt. Soft on the oak. Very easy drinking at 46% ABV. Or maybe it was just so pleasant after the Pine Barrens. The Tot says this is the best of the recent 200mL Provenance releases.
Glen Grant 37yr 1972 Duncan Taylor - I think I've found my sherry tolerance point: very old refill sherry malts. I jest, but I don't. Almost all of the old refill sherry matured whisky I've tried has displayed a perfect merging of the wine and malt to the point where it is difficult to find where one ends and the other begins. This is another excellent example and it is dangerously consumable at cask strength.  So, more 1970s whisky for me!
Port Ellen 1982 23yr Provenance (sherry cask) - Oh yeah. Four for four on Port Ellens. PE is the best petrol you will ever drink. Seriously, think Islay boat docks: gasoline fumes, seaweed, salt, smoke from the village chimneys. Plus this one drops a spent matchstick into the mix. Yeah, Murray would flip his lid over that sulfur note, but he can keep his lid flipped, I love this stuff.
Balcones Brimstone - If the Brimstone is on the tasting list, it must bring up the rear.  Big, intense barbecue, mesquite, bonfire notes.  Kristen found a brisket note in it as well.  It's a large, singular experience.  Very Texas.

Josh is a warm brilliant guy and a terrific generous host.  It's a pity we're on opposite coasts, because I could foresee us causing some whisky trouble around New York.

Thank you, Josh, for all your kind words, shared knowledge, and welcoming whiskies.  You have been one of the most important members of the whisky blogging world since the first day you entered it, not only being a great whisky guide, but also by bringing people together both online and off.  When the time is right, we all look forward to the return of The Coopered Tot!