...where distraction is the main attraction.

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!)

NEAT
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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
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%

NEAT
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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
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!

Distillery: 
Balcones
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...

NEAT
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.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
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?)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Blogger Blocked By Tipple Terminating Toddler


My lovely little Beatrice shared her cold with me last week, and now she and I are competing to see who can keep it the longest. We both seem to have improved considerably today, but I'm delaying any whisky reviews until my nose is trustworthy. That could be tomorrow or next week.

Not drinking has been fabulous, especially since I wake up with what feels like a hangover every morning. What does suck is that laryngitis kept me from singing "Happy Birthday" to the wee one on her first birthday. I'll get her back by singing twice as loud and obnoxiously next year.

Reviews to restart soon. Probably?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Two Jazz Tunes for Birthday Beatrice Joy

When she came out, she was silent. I can't do justice in writing to capture the liquefying dread I felt in that moment. All of our pregnancies had been full of tragedy or terror, and this one was no exception. But then I saw Beatrice's clear brilliant eyes open wide between their butterfly wing lashes. Her stare traversed the room for a moment, then she released a short coughing cry to clear her lungs.


Kristen had been (and still is) an excellent sport, letting me put together a Birthing Gametime playlist. She wanted the most peaceful ethereal soothing stuff I could assemble. Amongst all the Sigur Ros and Brian Eno compositions, it was "It Never Entered My Mind" by The Miles Davis Quintet that she liked the best. And it was to that song Beatrice Joy was born.


When I'd first heard the song, when we were pregnant with Mathilda, I was nearly in tears. I would have never guessed it was one of Miles's works, due its direct emotive piano part. A fantasy then began, in the back of my mind, of a future retrospective slideshow of our quiet, calm, Mathilda-to-be. Of course, Mathilda turned out to be, well...


From the start, Beatrice was like a cherub or the jolly Budai. A center of calm and, yes, joy. She laughed so early. She loved to be snuggled. Like a fool, I sorta kinda totally utilized her to lift me out of frequent frustrations and anxiety attacks. Then she became her own person.


She has her sister's emotion, strength and intelligence, but gives it her own spin. With those big eyes and awesome rocker girl hair, she flirts and charms, then issues her decrees. Constantly in motion, she is faster than any child I've seen.

One recent morning, Cannonball Adderley's "Money in the Pocket" filled our kitchen while Bea propelled herself across the floor one way, and then back the other direction in a giddy blur. It was obvious she'd added a new song to her soundtrack.


Despite months and months of colds, coughs, fevers and continuing health trials, all of which have been the greatest struggles of her life, Bea has remained a gleeful sprite. Meanwhile, her father still cusses out the world and existence when he catches two red traffic lights in a row. It's no joke, my daughters have things to teach me that no one else can.

Happy First Birthday, Beatrice Joy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish blended whisky

I'm in the mood to empty out my world whisky samples this month. So the only bourbon or scotch posts will be within the next several days. After that it's all India, Spain, Sweden (not Mackmyra!), and American malt. But I'mma start out with South Africa.


Kristen's previous job as [REDACTED] used to require international travel, which of course required me to request that she visit Duty Free shops. But by 2014, there wasn't much of interest being sold via Travel Retail. This resulted in easier, cheaper requests. In December of 2014 it was simple: something from Three Ships and Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition. And because she tolerates this shit, she is awesome.

I'd tried Three Ships 10 year old single malt in 2013, and had enjoyed it. By 2014 it had sold out. So the Three Ships options were very limited that year. There was a 5 year old blend and a Bourbon Cask Finish blend. I went with the latter, probably because it was cheaper. I opened the bottle promptly, then kept it at my in-laws' home, where I enjoyed it slowly over 3 years. Today's sample was taken from the bottom third of the bottle.

Though the distillery has mixed scotch whisky into its products, this is the "first 100% South African whisky" according to the official website.
Distillery: James Sedgwick Distillery
Brand: Three Ships
Ownership: Distell Group Limited
Region: Wellington, South Africa
Age: 3.5 years
Maturation: 3 years in (probably refill) American oak casks, then six months in first-fill ex-bourbon casks from Louisville, KY
Bottling date: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

I'm out of bubbly water, so in lieu of a highball I'm drinking the whisky neat in a tumbler. There's less heat and a lower turpentine quotient than Dewar's White, JW Red or Cutty. Plenty of grain whisky bumping around in the glass, but it's all softened by those bourbon casks. Lots of vanilla and sugar.

As expected, the whisky gains structure once in a glencairn. The nose has butterscotch, Nilla wafers and almond extract. Smaller notes of lime juice, flowers and salty broth float about. It's the crossroads between blended scotch and blended Canadian whisky. Lots of vanilla in the palate, as well as peach candy and Milk Duds, but it's not too sweet. It has actual mouthfeel, and an alcohol bite throughout. The lightly candied finish shows more caramel than vanilla. But it also has a sour/bitter blendy note that doesn't mix well with the heat.

Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (3SBCF, because I'm lazy) is a simple thing. It has more heft than a Canadian blend, while fully flexing that BCF. The nose is the highlight. The palate is fine, probably comparable to Chivas 12, but the finish is where it starts to unravel.

It's doubtful that 3SBCF was designed for the glencairn experience, but it does fare decently in a tumbler and/or on the rocks which is important for its product type. James Sedgwick Distillery can design a $20 blend as well as the scotch behemoths. That may sound like faint praise, but consider the size of the $20 blend marketplace, and know this is no small accomplishment.

Availability - South Africa and the Pacific (maybe?)
Pricing - ~20USD
Rating - 75

Monday, October 1, 2018

Randy Brandy drinks Eight Brandies. Thank you, Florin?

Krav has made some terrible decisions in his life, as any of his loved ones will attest to, but this, THIS, is his greatest idea, ever. I, one Randy Brandy, am going to drink eight brandy samples — right now — that were sent to Diving for Perks by some person named "Florin" who must pity Krav because he keeps sending him stuff.

I am so inspired that I will write too many words, in the spirit of this very blog. And I will take the pictures myself.

I will march these brandies in sets of two, like the animals on Noah's ark. Yes, that is a biblical reference. Going to church on Sundays is like brushing my teeth: automatic.


Germain-Robin XO and St. George Distillery Reserve, two apple brandies from the Socialist State of Northern California. So, they're half American, if I'm being generous.

Germain-Robin XO Apple Brandy, 40.2%abv
Nose - Bourbon. Vanilla and anise, some apple, clean laundry, a faint waft of eau-de-vie. But mostly bourbon.
Palate - Thin, but pleasant. Barrel char and McDonald's apple pie. Caramel, pepper, mint. Gets more bitter with time. Know anyone like that?
Finish - Caramel chews, barrel char, candy canes and bourbon. Bitter, tart and sweet.

St. George Distillery Reserve Apple Brandy, 43%abv
Nose - There's some vanilla and tree sap, but there's also lots of classic Calvados. Caramel apples and baked apples. It's grassy and cheesy and yeasty, so there's some fun in there.
Palate - Eau-de-vie right in the face. Think kirsch and sliv. Hints of malt, smoke and mint. Tingly, but never too sweet.
Finish - Tart apples, eau-de-vie. A little bit of pepper and smoke.

THE APPLE BRANDIES:
The Germain-Robin is apple brandy for bourbon drinkers. Do bourbon drinkers even come to this site? Well, if you do, and spending $70 is nothing for you, then you'll like this more than I like this. The St. George is more my style. It has some Weird in the nose and plenty of big eau in the palate.

RATINGS:
Germain-Robin XO - C+
St. George Reserve - B/B+


Burgas 63 Special Selection Bulgarian Rakia and Etter Zuger Swiss Kirsch are some actual European brandies. Kirsch is made from Kirsch fruit (or "cherries" to the freaks), while rakia is made from whatever is lying around in Eastern Europe, like apricots or communists.

Burgas 63 Rakia, 40%abv
Nose - Clean as a whistle. Flowers, yeast, citrons and limes.
Palate - Just like the nose, but with more flowers. Then quinine and lemon zest.
Finish - Tart and floral. Refreshing. I could drink a bottle.

Etter Zuger Kirsch, 40%abv
Nose - Earth, clay, cinnamon and nutmeg. Yeast, lemons and very tart cherries. A little bit of moonshine.
Palate - Mint and cinnamon. Juicy Fruit gum. Oilier and heavier than Clear Creek's kirsch.
Finish - More floral than the palate. Warm and spicy.

THE RAKIA AND KIRSCH:
You'll have to pardon my short notes on the rakia, but KRAV DRANK THE FIRST OUNCE before handing it over in a tiny bottle. Then he tells me to lighten up on the Jewish jokes. C'mon, you take my brandy and then you take my bread and butter?

Both of these brandies are good. But I'm going to buy four cases of the rakia and then bathe in it. It's like someone distilled Spring.

RATINGS:
Burgas 63 Rakia - B+
Etter Zuger Kirsch - B-

Distilleria Nannoni Grappa di Brunello Bianca and Marolo Grappa di Brunello di Montalcino are two grappas made from the brunello grape as you can clearly read from their names. I could tell you that Brunello is Sangiovese, but then some Tuscan would yell at me.

Distilleria Nannoni Grappa di Brunello, 40%abv
Nose - Crisp, simple grappa. No paint thinner, but maybe some glue fumes. Yeast, grass, balloon rubber, prunes, stems and seeds (of grapes, you damned hippies).
Palate - Prunes, grapefruit, grass, ocean water and that glue note.
Finish - More or less the same as the palate, but tangier and grassier. Long length.

Marolo Grappa di Brunello, 42%abv
Nose - Green apples, serrano peppers, horseradish, metal, arugula. This smells like good trouble.
Palate - Delicious poison. Unripe pears and apples with dried cilantro. Rhubarb, pine, smoke and a creamy sweetness.
Finish - Pine, rhubarb, dried herbs and a great sweetness. Long and mouth-filling. Who snickered?

THE GRAPPA DI BRUNELLO:
Due bestie belle. That's Italiano. Neither of these grappas is for the coy. The Nannoni will fight you a bit, and win with its finishing strike. The Marolo is the busiest grappa I've had. I am fond of it.

RATINGS:
Nannoni Grappa di Brunello - B-
Marolo Grappa di Brunello - B+

Back to America, sort of (again), with the Osocalis Distillery in near Santa Cruz, CA. Florin sent Osocalis Rare Alembic Brandy and batch 2 of Osocalis XO Alembic Brandy. Their Charentais still really is from France, and the grapes are from California. Birds of a feather, etc.

Osocalis Rare, 40%abv
Nose - Apples, cloves, caramel and orange peel. Something like dessert wine, sometimes.
Palate - Comfortable. Lightly sweet. Tangy apples and limes. Some peppery youth still at large.
Finish - Fruity, peppery, never too sweet, never too taxing.

Osocalis XO, bottling #2, 40%abv
Nose - Old Speyside malt with baked apples. Toffee, plums, lemons and a hint of leather.
Palate - Take the nose, then add pumpkin pie spice, tart fruit and good heat.
Finish - A combination of baking spice and mulling spice, which are probably the same thing sold to us twice. Apples, mint, long.

OSOCALIS BRANDIES:
While the Rare is fine, the XO is Fine. A brandy for single malt drinkers. A brandy for brandy drinkers. The fruit spice combination, which is just waking up in the Rare, strides through the XO and leaves you smelling like a rich drunk.

RATINGS:
Osocalis Rare - B-
Osocalis XO, bottling #2 - B+

THE WINNER:
Me. As always.