...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Pittyvaich 20 year old 1989 Special Release

Built by Bell's in 1975 right next to their Dufftown distillery, Pittyvaich ran for less than 18 years before it was shut down by United Distillers (proto-Diageo). It's in the running for the least sexy of the dead malt distilleries but that hasn't kept Diageo from putting out three Special Releases, which is sort of cool if one doesn't mind spending $300 on Pittyvaich. And for those who don't know, a $300 Special Release is a bottom shelf Special Release.

Before this whisky, I'd had a grand total of one Pittyvaich, one of those 1990s 40%abv Connoisseurs Choice Bleh Whisky experiences all geeks should experience at least 74 times before being able to label oneself an anorak. Let's see what happens to Pittyvaich's single malt when it's not diluted to a beige flavor.

Distillery: Pittyvaich
Ownership: United Distillers
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Maturation: American oak casks
Age: 20 years (1989 - 2009)
Outturn: 6000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%
Colored? No
Chillfiltered? No
(from a purchased sample)

Fruit, glorious fruit in the nose. Pineapples, mangoes and lemons. Tinned fruit cocktail juice, apricot hamantaschen and fried plantains with (fruity) cinnamon. The pink scented marker. And a gentle ripple of barley in the background. An impressive lack of oak in the palate. Lots of green herbs mixed with lime and lemon juices. Hints of toasted barley. Moderate amounts of heat, sweetness and tanginess. There's also something grungy and metallic in the background. It finishes with those limes and lemons. The herbs are dried now, and joined by a sprinkle of sugar and salt. A spicy zing lingers the longest.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose's fruit note shifts to yellow bananas, honeydew and lime zest. Now there's a mix of bubblegum, shortbread, cloves and mint leaves. While the heat on the palate somehow gets more intense, things also get very very sweet. Then there's plastic and an herbal bitterness. More bananas. It's actually kind of a mess. Some tartness joins the sweetness in the finish. More bananas, now covered in caramel sauce. More plastic.

I'm on a streak here. This is the fifth consecutive single malt I've reviewed that doesn't fare well under dilution. Each one has either gotten neutered or fallen apart. The nose on this Pittyvaich stands up just fine with dilution, though I prefer the fruit riot of the neat nose. The palate, though, goes very wrong once water is added. When neat, the flavors are fresh and crisp, seasoned by a subtle weirdness. But I was very disappointed when I was left with a half-sample weakened by water. Such a Pitty.

Availability - after 10 years it's still around at some European specialty retailers
Pricing - €250-€350 w/VAT
Rating - 86 (neat only, dilution knocks it down 10-15 points)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Port Dundas 12 year old

I completed this tasting a few days before typing the first word (I!) of this post. And though my expectations were set low, this "whisky" still unperformed. Make that capital-U Underperformed. I could not make it past one-third of the sample.

Leaving aside my dislike of Scottish grain whisky, this release doesn't make sense to me. Port Dundas is a dead distillery. Why not let this stuff age for 30+ years and then sell it for a small fortune to the saps who pay $1k for Special Release grain whisky? Or if it's such a large parcel, why not keep it for blends? Or do a combo of the two so there's more grain for old ultra-luxury blends?

There's nothing else constructive I can say about this "whisky", so I'm just going to get to the notes.

Distillery: Port Dundas
Owner: Diageo
Type: Single Grain
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thank you to Brett for letting me relieve his collection of 1 ounce of this stuff)

The nose is all watered-down bottom shelf Canadian whisky blended with vodka. Vodka, imitation vanilla, caramel, nail polish remover, butter and simple syrup. The palate impressively and unimpressively matches the nose. Vanilla vodka, woody bitterness and palate-killing levels of sweetness. It's all heat, vanilla vodka and sugar in the finish.

Can someone with spare liver cells do a Port Dundas 12yo versus Smirnoff Vanilla taste off? Or not?

Availability - The USA because we're suckers?
Pricing - $40-$60 (should be $9.99)
Rating - 49

Monday, July 15, 2019

Bunnahabhain Moine 9 year old 2008 Bordeaux Red Wine Casks

There's a theme to each week's reviews. This week's theme? Some Random Stuff.

Once upon a time, Bunnahabain's official range included the 12yo, 18yo and 25yo. Now, according to their official site, there are 23 current releases. Is this progress? I don't know. But their 12 year is still excellent. Today's whisky is a young heavily-peated Bunny that spent its entire life in red wine casks from the Bordeaux region. I predict intensity.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Ownership: Distell Group Ltd.
Region: Islay, but not the Dirty South

Age: 9 years (18 Dec 2008 - 26 Feb 2018)
Maturation: Bordeaux red wine casks
Outturn: 4536 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thank you to Matt for the sample!)

There's dark chocolate, peanut butter, ham and rubber smoke in the nose. Beneath that: mixed berry jam, cinnamon candy and dried cherries. With 20+ minutes in the glass, the rubbery smoke turns leafy. Salty burnt seaweed leads the palate, followed by grape jelly and bitter chocolate. Then cayenne pepper and bus exhaust. It picks up some fruit sweetness and lime juice, with some time in the glass. Madness in the finish. Bus exhaust, limes, berry candy, peanuts, burnt paper and mild bitterness.

That was a lot. Let's tone it down?

DILUTED TO ~46%, or > 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Yeah, the nose does calm down and the separate parts merge: chocolatey peat, lemons, cloves, cinnamon and peanuts. Water has washed most of the wine away in the palate. Peated peanut butter, cinnamon and wood smoke lead the way, followed by smaller notes of citrus, berries and sugar. Simple sweet smoke, nuts and fresh berries in the finish.

The good news is Bunnahabhain isn't tying itself to one simplistic distillery character. On the other hand, what is this stuff?

It's pretty wild, though it's not bad. In fact, I'd take this over most of the countless immature 5-8 year old single casks the indies are currently dumping onto the market. If you hate winey whiskies — whether your palate or a whisky blogger has told you so — just add water to this thing and then worry not. If you want violence, then don't dilute it.

I'm baffled by the whiskybase scores for this whisky. Or maybe everyone's just throwing around 90+ scores at this point in time. I will say this product commits fully to entertaining the drinker, but who the heck could get through a whole bottle of this stuff?

Availability - Maybe a dozen or two retailers around the world
Pricing - $100-$200, yeah I don't know either
Rating - 83

Friday, July 12, 2019

PUNI Nero 4 year old, 2017 Edition

In this Nu-Whisky era, experimental whiskies coming from the usual countries often interest me less than the bottles from unconventional locales. Yet, when I sat down with a sample of this Italian whisky and read that it was four years old and aged entirely in Pinot Noir casks I had......feelings.

It's tough to find a comparable sparring pour in my collection, so I chose the Ardnamurchan 2018 AD due to its sweetness and cask influence, watering it down to a comparable 46%abv. Yes, that was setting the bar low, but I had......feelings.

PUNI is fully committed visuals. Here's the distillery:

Do a Google image search for "Puni distillery". You won't regret it, whether you think it looks like a giant honeycomb built by square bees or The Future Because We'll All Be Living In Deserts.

And here's the bottle:

I normally don't care for bottle flair, but I enjoy this design more than the Octomore monolith.

So PUNI has its design in order, but what about its actual products? Nova, Sole and Alba are their core releases. The limited edition Nero has been released twice, so far.

The Nero's color was noticeably lighter than that of the Ardnamurchan, and 4 years of maturation in Northern Italy is different than 4 years of maturation in Port Askaig. Also, not all wine casks are the same. Yet those......feelings.

Distillery: PUNI
Region: South Tyrol, Italy
Age: 4 years
Maturation: Pinot Nero (think Pinot Noir) wine casks
Bottling Date: 2017
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? No
Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is very pretty. It starts with honey, flowers, lychee, applesauce and cinnamon sticks. That's followed by star anise, saline, kirschwasser and a hint of oats. The palate is like a salty almond-ginger cake (if that's a thing). There's also a note that took me forever to figure out: Foursquare rum. Eau de vie lingers in the background, as does a strong herbal note that leans toward pepper and smoke. The medium-length finish is drying and very herbal with eau de vie and pinches of ginger powder and white pepper.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose simplifies and focuses on McIntosh apples, honey and dried thyme. Lots of dried savory herbs in the palate, along with anise, eau de vie, mint leaves and a slight bitterness. The finish mirrors the palate, but with more bitterness and salt.

Well, as Randy Brandy always says, feelings are wrong and no one should have them. This PUNI Nero is a light pleasant whisky that probably works well as a spring or summer pour. Indeed it is young, but anything more than an additional year or two in those casks would result in an overbaked winey whisky. At 4 years old, it's better neat and never very sweet (rhymes!). It's subtler, better balanced and much more enjoyable than the Ardnamurchan. Italy just won the week.

Availability - Many European specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - €50-€65 (w/VAT)
Rating - 80 (neat only)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ardnamurchan 2018 AD

The first two whiskies this week were distilled by companies better known for their independent bottling of other producers' single malts. On Monday it was Wemyss, today it's Adelphi.

Ardnamurchan Distillery began distilling in 2014, but has yet to release something old enough to be called 'whisky'. Instead they squeezed out 1 year old spirit bottlings in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Their site says they aim to release their first single malt in 2021. That means they're either struggling to get things right at 3 years, or they're (gasp!) waiting to bottle something older. I hope it's the latter.

Considerable effort has been made to keep this side of the company more modern than most. Their handsome bottle design includes some blockchain-QR tech, which allows them to track every bottle and deliver more narratives to customers. Meanwhile, the distillery is powered by local renewables and their byproducts are reused locally.

This West Highlands distillery produces non-peated and peated (30ppm at malting) malt, using Concerto barley. Like Kingsbarns, they're keeping things small with a capacity under a half-million liters per year.

Now that all these facts are behind us, it's time for some hot takes!

Distillery: Ardnamurchan
Owner: Adelphi
Region: Way Out There (Highlands)
Age: the youngest stuff is said to be 1 year old
Maturation: 1st fill sherry casks
Bottling Date: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 55.3%
Chillfiltration? No
Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

An absolute whompin' of sherry cask influence on the nose: dried berries, cocoa and a hefty meatiness. There's also a mix of honey mustard, watermelon candy, mint, peat smoke and metal. The palate starts out with a brushfire character that's reminiscent of Balcones Brimstone. Lots of mesquite smoke and ham and soil. Beneath that is thyme, cinnamon, honey and salted nuts. The drying finish is mostly heat and smoke, with a large dose of salty peat.

What happens when we cool it down?

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets funkier with bigger peat and honey and black raisins. Burning plastic siding. It's beginning to shift from Brimstone to Leviathan II. The palate is much sweeter and bitterer now. Leafy peat, cinnamon and nuts float in a simple syrup. The finish's bitter and earthy notes are swallowed up by a sugar flood.

Without dilution it's Brimstone, with dilution it's Leviathan II. With those two products struggling to be unique whiskies rather than stunts, and often losing that battle, it's not the best company for a new scotch to be in. I think Ardnamurchan 2018 AD comes out ahead of those two, but just barely.

The issue isn't the raw aggressive peat character, rather it's the blanket of overactive casks and a blinding sweetness. These elements clash with the earth, leaves, bitterness and plastic smoke, leaving one wondering what the spirit would actually be like if left alone.

I'm assuming Adelphi released this spirit drink for revenue purposes and to fuel the brand ahead of time. Once it sells through — and it will because it's New — it'll gross around €250K. The company is also likely utilizing the outsized premium they charge for their independent bottlings of other distilleries' whiskies, like €155 for 5 year old blended malt, €200 for 7 year old whisky and nearly €300 for 14 year old single malt to keep the distillery's lights on. That's certainly one way to crowdsource.

Availability - Many European specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - €65-€90 (w/VAT)
Rating - 70 (neat only)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram

Many of the online reviews of this whisky lean heavily on the words "young" and "Lowlands", and that's not helpful. Firstly, of course it's young. It's barely 3 years old. So rather than using the Y-word, I'll attempt to use sensory descriptors. Secondly, geographic location no longer determines what a whisky tastes like, if it ever really did. There are unpeated Islays and heavily-peated Speysides. There are triple-distilled single malts from Speyside and Campbeltown, and there are double-distilled whiskies from the Lowlands. So I won't use latitude measurements to describe what a liquid tastes like.

Kingsbarns Distillery opened in 2014, then its spirit started going into barrels in early 2015. The facility currently fills 24 casks per week, though the distillery has a higher capacity. Kingsbarns is located in Fife and the barley is from......Fife. Novel!

Dream to Dram is the distillery's first widely-released legal whisky. It's mostly from bourbon casks, though there's a portion from STR casks. STR = shaved, toasted and re-charred wine casks. Yes, this is now a thing.

Distillery: Kingsbarns
Owner: Wemyss Distillery Ltd.
Region: Lowlands (Fife)
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: 90% 1st fill bourbon casks + 10% shaved, toasted and re-charred wine casks
Bottling Date: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? No
Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose starts out with lots of pears and yeast. Very worty. Ground mustard, grass, oatmeal and sugar. A barley note emerges then expands with time. Barley and a hint of vanilla lead the palate, followed by toasted nuts and cayenne pepper. It needs 10+ minutes of air, then there's almond biscotti, vanilla fudge and a hint of milk chocolate. Milk chocolate-covered almond biscotti, barley, pepper sauce and a little bit of sweetness finishes it out.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Sour beer, cheesy yeast, barley and a squeeze of lemon in the nose. More heat in the palate than when the whisky was neat. Flavor-wise, there's barley, vanilla, flowers, ginger powder and a little bit of herbal bitterness. It finishes hotter as well. It's also more acidic and tangy. Barley and nuts.

Forget adding water to this whisky, it plays best when neat and given some time in the glass. At times it's very close to wort, but at other times it seems like it's on its way to something very good. The mouthfeel is a little thin, but Dream to Dram makes for easy drinking and it's never too sweet. While I do look forward to this stuff after it has spent 10 full years in a cask, in the meantime I like it much better than the two Wolfburns I've tried. Good luck, Kingsbarns!

Availability - Many European specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - €40-€50 (w/VAT)
Rating - 79 (neat only)

Friday, July 5, 2019

Killing Whisky History, Episode 26: National Distillers-era Old Crow bourbon, bottled in ...

This month's whiskey comes from often-beloved-in-hindsight National Distillers. It is of a certain age and a certain bird. But is it old? And is it anything to crow about? Click to find out!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Old Forester Rye

There have been three failed attempts at starting this post in a witty fashion, so I'll just say it outright: I do not like Brown-Forman's standard American whiskies, from any of their distilleries.

The catch is I've never had any of their ryes, nor any of their new Old Foresters. And I'm trying to expand my mind and palate when it comes to spirits I don't like. For instance, I used to think all tequila was foul. But I've had good tequila now. I mean, it still makes me vomit, but it tasted better on the way down.

My point is, Old Forester Rye. It's new, it's under $30 and it's rye. The official site even has a mash bill. I'm going to fix myself a Manhattan first, then try the rye neat. I hope this works!

Brand: Old Forester
Company: Brown-Forman
Distillery: Old Forester Distillery
Region: Louisville, Kentucky
Type: Straight rye
Age: NAS
Mashbill:  65/15/20 Rye/Corn/Barley
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(many thank yous to Jack for the sample!)

MANHATTAN, 2:1 ratio
I'm easy when it comes to Manhattans made with Carpano Antica. They're either bad, good or great. And more than three-quarters of the Carpano Antica Manhattans I've had are of the good or great categories.

It is with some relief that I can say my Old Forester Rye Manhattan fits in the good category. It starts out woody for a brief second, then slides right into a fruity spicy zone from which it never returns. Cherries, oranges, wood spice and anise (which is Kristen's note).


The nose starts off with simple rye grain and oak notes. Then it picks up brine, black pepper, fennel seed and mint leaf. This is met with a mix floral and toasted grain notes as well as apricot jam and peaches. The palate is surprisingly fruity up front. Lots of black cherry syrup/soda and a little bit of orange candy. Not much outright oak. It starts with moderate levels of sweetness and pepper, then they slowly expand. It finishes sweet and berry-ish, with small notes of orange candy, pepper and salt.


I like it.

There, I wrote it. In tiny font.

I think I like it even better than the current Wild Turkey 101 rye. In any case, it's my favorite Brown-Forman standard American whiskey release. Its bright fruitiness and lack of aggressive tannins hits all the right spots for me. Works as a cocktail and works neat. If Ohio liquor stores actually sell this, then I'm going to get a bottle. Thanks to Bourbon Guy, whose review made me consider trying this B-F product someday. And thanks again to Jack for helping make this happen.

Availability - Slowly expanding across the US since 2/1/19
Pricing - $24-$32
Rating - 84

Monday, July 1, 2019

Henry McKenna 10 year old BIB Single Barrel 3270

Look what I found in the back of my cabinet!

No, not that.


Who here is sick of the Heaven Hill posts? Other than me?

Actually, Henry McKenna 10 year old BIB Single Barrel is both reliable and priced exceptionally well for being bottled in bond, a single barrel and 10(!) years old. I've already reviewed two other HMcK10BIBSBs and one dusty HMcK. Lemme do up a quick review of this barrel.

Oh wait, look what else I found in my cabinet!

Come on.

Thank you.

This is a sample of the HMcK10BIBSB I reviewed 19 months ago. Hopefully this will provide some depth and perspective to this tasting.

Brand: Henry McKenna
Distillery: New Bernheim, Louisville, KY
Owner: Heaven Hill
Type: straight bourbon whiskey
Age: at least 10 years
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley (maybe)
Distillation date: November 9, 2006
Bottling Year: 2016 or 2017
Barrel: 3270
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(Sample from my bottle, mid-bottle)

Barrel 3270 - Very intense, full of vanilla bean, almond extract and caramel sauce. Fruity Vietnamese cinnamon, jasmine and ginger ale. Hints of limes, envelope glue and sawdust.

Barrel 3563 - Muted and peppery. Some generic nuttiness, paper and barrel char. Fresh ginger bursts through after 20 minutes, joined by a little bit of orange peel.

Barrel 3270 - Limes, vanilla and nice aromatic oakiness. Gentle sweetness and moderate heat. Dried cherries and a touch of woody bitterness. It picks up more sweetness and citrus with time.

Barrel 3563 - Fruitier than the nose. Lots of dried fruits and tannins, like a wonky sherry cask. Cayenne pepper and ginger powder give it some zip. Bits of cherry lollipops and tangy citrus.

Barrel 3270 - Lots of small notes: Vanilla, oranges, salt, bitterness. Bigger notes of tart limes, pepper and barrel char.

Barrel 3563 - All drying tannins. No sweetness. Pepper and cherry cough medicine.

I forgot that I hadn't liked barrel 3563. Curiously, I thought its palate was flat last time and this time I found the nose to be the bigger problem. Well, the biggest problem are the violent tannins that obliterate the finish.

But I'm really supposed to be focusing on barrel 3270 today. Its oversized sniffer is a delight, even with a couple quirky notes. The palate's good oak notes survive the quieter not-good oak notes, while the fruitiness and extra sweetness turn it into a quality drink. Had the finish delivered on the nose's or palate's promise, this would be a very good bourbon.

Forgetting all those words words words, and the decent score I'm probably going to give it, there's still an issue here. I opened this bottle a year ago, and I'm still barely at its midpoint. Perhaps it's all the oak or the uninspiring finish or my desire to drink something that kicks more ass at the end of a crap day. Just because something is a good deal doesn't mean it's going to be one of the ten most interesting things in your cabinet (including Pinkie Pie!). Though I appreciate its price point, barrel 3563 is my last Henry McKenna.

Henry McKenna 10 year old, Barrel 3270
Rating - 81

Henry McKenna 10 year old, Barrel 3563
Rating - 76

Friday, June 28, 2019

Elijah Craig NAS Small Batch, current version

Alas, The Present. The end. For now?

A year after removing the 12 year old age statement, Heaven Hill gave Elijah Craig a whole new outfit, further distancing it from its previous forms. Gone was the dark old whisky in the bottom-heavy bottle, here was something taller, lighter, thinner and younger.

This was known as Sample B in the Taste Off, or whisky 3 in my home lineup. It finished dead last among the group, and next-to-last in my own notes. I lined it up next to the pre-fire EC12 for the tasters to see how far apart the whiskies were.

During my blind tasting, I somehow guessed the three 12 year old ECs correctly, but got the two NASes mixed up. I rated this higher than the previous NAS, while also thinking this one was that one. I wouldn't buy either again.

To recap again, I tasted this bourbon blindly, then did another tasting when I knew what was in my glass. I've listed both sets of notes below. The final rating is weighted heavily towards the blind tasting experience.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Elijah Craig
Region: Bardstown, Kentucky
Distillery: DSP-KY-1
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: no age statement
Bottled: likely 2018 or 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

When I didn't know what I was drinking

The flattest of the noses. Corn syrup, almonds and brown rice. Cherry candy and BBQ-flavored peanuts. “Black & White cigarettes on the casino floor.”

Halvah, black pepper and nuts start off the palate. Then it shifts to a weird gear: very earthy and very sweet, with a definite paint note.

The finish is tannic and drying on the first two sips, then gets tooth-rottingly sweet and tangy in subsequent sips.

When I DID know what I was drinking

The nose is plain and sugary. Berry jam and barrel char. Almond extract, flowers and vinegar.

The palate is bland, nutty, sweet and peppery.

The finish is nutty, sweet and acidic.

The palate was odd during the first tasting, then boring on the second tasting, but the nose was consistent. It's probably not the worst thing in the extensive Heaven Hill portfolio, but it's a damned shame that's the best thing I can say about it. Six of the tasters from the group ranked this EC first or second, so there are still folks who'd enjoy it. And its score was so close to that of the back-label-12yo that scores from one more taster might have flipped their overall rankings.

But for palates like mine, Elijah Craig Small Batch is just a cocktail bourbon now. I wish it were better. I went into this experiment hoping I'd like the whiskey. Instead, I'll hide remainder in a few old fashioneds. Not all in one night. Probably.

Availability -

Rating - 75

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Elijah Craig NAS Small Batch, bottled ca. 2016

And then Heaven Hill dropped Elijah Craig's age statement. And everyone was shocked, SHOCKED. Now 8-12 year old whiskies were in the mix per the marketing blurbs, but those numbers were worthless since they were not listed on the label, nor did this become Elijah Craig 8 year old Small Batch.

I found this bottle in Newcastle, IN, during a drive last year. The printed bottle code has a 16 on it, so it's very possible this was from the first batches of this new bourbon. Here's a look at that back label now:

This was Sample C for the 20 other participants in the Elijah Craig Taste Off, while it was the first glass in my own blind tasting. Overall, the group gave it a decent score and it tied in second, considerably ahead of the 12 year old it had replaced. Meanwhile, I ranked it dead last.

As per the previous reviews this week, I tasted this bourbon blindly, then did another tasting when I knew what was in my glass. I've listed both sets of notes below. The final rating is weighted heavily towards the blind tasting experience, unless otherwise noted.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Elijah Craig
Region: Bardstown, Kentucky
Distillery: DSP-KY-1
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: no age statement
Bottled: around 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

When I didn't know what I was drinking

“Aromatic woodiness” in the nose, which I think is connected to the vanilla bean and jasmine notes I’d also listed. Then cherry candy, peanut butter and brine. It all fades quickly.

The mild, warm palate leads with vanilla, tart berries and tart limes. Sawdust and dango. An all too brief moment of tropical fruit candy.

The warm finish is all sawdust and salty caramel.

When I DID know what I was drinking

The flat and cardboard-y nose has some berry fruitiness and peanuts.

The palate is very sweet, with honey, berries and citrus. Also some oats and peppery tannins.

The moderate length finish is tannic, tart and sweet, with a little bit of that oat note.

Not a fan of it either time. It isn't craft whiskey bad, but it's getting much too close, especially considering it's a bourbon brand that had produced much higher quality up to this point. I found it a considerable step down from the back label 12yo that was bottled only a year before. It had the weakest nose of the 5 ECs, but folks with sweeter palates than mine would probably like the taste of it more than I did.

Availability - It's still around, though one has to search for it.
Rating - 73

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch, 12 on back label

This final edition of Elijah Craig 12 year old was Sample D in the recent Taste Off. It just missed landing in last place by two points, though I ranked it 3rd during my own blind tasting.

I picked up this bottle just before leaving Long Beach. As you'll notice, the 12 year old age statement has vanished from the front label. Where did it go? The back label.

This was not Heaven Hill's finest hour. I've written about this before, but to recap: When the company moved the age statement off the front label, bourbon fans expressed worry that this portended the end of the age statement. Heaven Hill's brand ambassador denied it with an unwise dose of condescending sarcasm. Then the age statement was pulled seven months later.

As per the previous reviews this week, I tasted this bourbon blindly, then did another tasting when I knew what was in my glass. I've listed both sets of notes below.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Elijah Craig
Region: Bardstown, Kentucky
Distillery: DSP-KY-1
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: minimum 12 years
Bottled: around 2015
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

When I didn't know what I was drinking

The nose is nutty, salty and woody. There's also some coca cola syrup, mint and a whiff of smoke. More vanilla and wood spice with time. “Twigs in the rain.” I was clearly starting to feel the bourbon at this point.

The palate is sweet and fruity, with limes, oranges and black cherries. Caramel, smoked nuts and just a little bit of woody bitterness.

The sweet and tart finish is full of oranges and tannins.

When I DID know what I was drinking

The nose is all over the place. To wit: paste, honey, lemon, oak, sugar, ground mustard seed and burnt peanuts.

The palate is mostly made up of dried grass clippings. Then there’s tart citrus, earth, an odd sweetness and a hint of eggs.

Grass clippings and tannins in the finish. Tart and not that sweet.

Unlike the previous Elijah Craigs, something definitely happened to this whiskey in the two weeks between the tastings. It was much better when I tried it blind. The palate was very strange during the retry. Even so, it's curious that I gave this edition such a high score in my review three years ago. It's another good bourbon, and I'd be happy to buy a bottle of the stuff I tried blindly, but a number of the other Heaven Hill brands (such as HH BIB, Evan Williams, Henry McKenna) often match or top this edition's quality in their own more recent versions.

Availability - Secondary market, or in some random corner liquor stores
Rating - 82 (from my blind tasting experience only)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch, 12 on front label

Sample E for the Elijah Craig tasters, #2 for me, was this bottle of Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch. This is the version of Elijah Craig a lot of us remember best, I think. Not only is from the 12 year old days, but it was from when they listed that 12 right on the front label. This bottle, purchased during a dusty hunt in Buena Park, CA, is likely from 2014, the final full year of the front label red 12.

Though tied in 2nd place in the Taste Off overall rankings, it scored significantly lower than the first place EC, and without my own ranking it would have fallen to third place.

As with the other four ECs, I tasted this bourbon blindly, then did another tasting when I knew exactly what I'd poured. I've listed both sets of notes below. The final rating is weighted heavily towards the blind tasting experience, unless otherwise noted.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Elijah Craig
Region: Bardstown, Kentucky
Distillery: DSP-KY-1
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: minimum 12 years
Bottled: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

The nose is a bit flat and there’s less oak than some of the others, at first. It needs time to open. Then there’s plenty of decent oak, more vanilla and caramel than lumber or sawdust. There’s also Purple Stuff, roses, paper and a hint of smoke.

The oak is “woodier” in the palate. But there’s also some tangy fruit punch and unripe melon. Bits of earth and smoke.

Melon and green herbs highlight the otherwise sweet finish.

An intense barrel char note sits right up front in the nose. There’s also a lot of dark chocolate. Then some black pepper, envelope glue and simple syrup.

The palate is minty, bright and orange-y. A good balance of sweet and tart.

The finish is sweet and tangy like orange candy.

Though I ranked it second during the blind tasting, I liked it better when I knew what I was drinking. In fact, there's a bit of difference between the two sets of notes. There wasn't a lot of time for oxygen to affect the whiskey, so perhaps there were some unconscious things going on during the second tasting. In any case, this Elijah Craig proves to be simple stuff, but very easy drinking, a good everyday bourbon.

Availability - Secondary market, or random dumb luck dusty hunting
Rating - 83

Monday, June 24, 2019

Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch, bottled ca. 2001

Like many of the participants in my Elijah Craig blind tasting, I chose this whisky as my favorite of the five. To the other 20 tasters it was known as Sample A. For me, it was Number 5 in the switcheroo my wife set up for me. And like most of the tasters, I'd never actually had pre-fire Elijah Craig. I'd had pre-fire Heaven Hill stuff (Heaven and Evan, if you will), but not EC.

Let me take a quick detour to talk about what I mean by "pre-fire" for those who are haven't heard of it before or have just used the term without knowing 100% what it meant. On November 7, 1997, Heaven Hill's production facility (DSP-KY-31) went up in flames, SERIOUS flames, during a violent thunderstorm. (YouTube has a bit of footage from the fire.) The conflagration, which included a river of burning whiskey and 80-foot flames, destroyed the distillery and 90,000 barrels of aged whiskey. In 1999, Heaven Hill purchased DSP-KY-1 from United Distillers (proto-Diageo) and restarted production. Heaven Hill whiskey distilled at the old distillery before the fire is often referred to as "pre-fire" whiskey.

As you may be able to tell from the above picture, I did not buy this bottle in America. Instead I found it while shopping in Shibuya, Tokyo, where cost close to its original price. The bottle bottom has a large 01 on it, which likely means the bottle was made in 2001, thus the estimated date I've listed.

As with the other four ECs, I tasted this bourbon blindly, then did another tasting when I knew exactly what I'd poured. I've listed both sets of notes below. The final rating is weighted heavily towards the blind tasting experience, unless otherwise noted.

Distiller: Heaven Hill
Brand: Elijah Craig
Region: Bardstown, Kentucky
Distillery: the late DSP-KY-31
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: minimum 12 years
Bottled: around 2001
Alcohol by Volume: 47%

The nose is “old school”: Basements, old toys, National Distillers-esque butterscotch. Then cherry juice, root beer barrel candy and furniture.

The palate is “oceany” and musty, with anise, cinnamon candy and root beer barrel candy.

It finishes musty, spicy and zesty.

The nose has less dustiness. Instead it leads with black cherry syrup cut with citrus peels. Caramel, cinnamon and aromatic oak notes.

Baking spices and a medium sweetness in the palate. Pepper and brine. Honey mixed into apple cider vinegar. More corn sweetness than oak sweetness.

The lightly tannic, but long finish has hints of vanilla and pepper.

The nose was the best part both times, though the palate did improve when I knew what I was drinking. It drank well, though the finish didn't WOW at any point. It never reaches the heights of Ye Olde National Distillers bourbons, but it's a very good style, a style (as you'll see) that I prefer over the recent NAS Elijah Craigs.

Availability - Secondary market, or random dumb luck dusty hunting
Rating - 86

Friday, June 21, 2019

An Elijah Craig Taste Off

This tasting was supposed to be for gits and shiggles, but as all the tasters' notes came in, I started learning things. A narrative or two — and you know there always MUST be narratives — emerged from the bourbon haze. And something remarkable happened. With eyes closed, the tasters could see.


Here the bourbons be, in order of bottling date:

From left to right:
--12 year old, bottled ca. 2001, distilled at the old distillery, before the fire.
--12 year old Small Batch with the red 12 on the front label.
--12 year old Small Batch with the age statement moved to the back label.
--Small Batch, no age statement, previous bottle/label style
--Small Batch, no age statement, current bottle/label style

Again, these are the ECs in order of bottling date. This not the order of the blind samples. Maybe.


Taking a step back and really seeing these five different Elijah Craigs clustered together in the whisky cabinet, I realized a public tasting was in order. I liked Elijah Craig Small Batch enough to gather these bottlings from three states and two countries, but when was I going to have time drinking them all? The idea was to compare them someday, but that's a lot of tempered poison to consume. And if opinions are like livers, wouldn't it better to have 21 of them?

So I recruited 20 other livers tasters. Actually I recruited 16. Five wives joined in to assist their husbands with this terrifying task. Some tasters were bourbon geeks, many were not. I would guess less than a third had tried pre-fire Elijah Craig before. Most of us were innocents before, but now we know.

Everyone received five samples marked A through E. In my case, Kristen shuffled the glasses. Without knowing which was which, we each provided notes, rankings and the occasional guess.

(thank you, Gridley's Redemption)

I'll begin with how the bourbons were ranked, then I'll cover the tasting notes and show the guesses. After that comes the REVEAL(!). With the reveal in mind, we all can go back and look at the rankings and guesswork. Onwards!


21 tasters (20 of y'all, plus me) ranked the five samples in order of preference. Most favoritest to Least Favoritest (words used in a number of replies). As I tallied these up, I assigned points similar to the NCAA Coaches Polls, since no one ever disagrees with those. 5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, down to 1 point for 5th place. That way the winner had the most points. Because America.

First Place
SAMPLE A with 81 points
Its mean was 3.86. In other words it averaged nearly a second place finish.
12 first place votes.
3 last place votes.
Two-thirds of the tasters ranked it first or second.

Second Place (tie!)
SAMPLE E with 64 points
Its mean was 3.05, almost exactly a third place average.
2 first place votes
2 last place votes
It had the smallest standard deviation overall because 80% of the tasters ranked it 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

Second Place (tie!)
SAMPLE C with 64 points
Its mean was 3.05, almost exactly a third place average.
2 first place votes
4 last place votes
Yeah, I can't believe there was a tie, either.

Fourth Place
SAMPLE D with 54 points
Its mean was 2.57.
4 first place votes
5 first place votes
Feelings were all over the place with this one.

Fifth Place
SAMPLE B with 52 points
Its mean was 2.48.
1 first place vote
7 last place votes
More than half of the tasters voted this one fourth or fifth.

Hooray for Sample A! There was quite a gap between first and second place. Even so, some people really didn't like Sample A, while others enjoyed Sample B. I'll try to capture this variety of opinion in this next section...


One of the first things one sees when compiling the notes of 20 tasters is......chaos. I've hosted a number of group tastings, and when several people share their notes aloud their experiences converge to a greater measure than when several people write their notes down secretly. When TWENTY people write their notes down, there are approximately TWENTY different experiences.

I've attempted to group some of the notes together in this section because most of the bourbons had over 100 notes. I don't want to force any similarities that aren't there, but let's see if there are any consistencies.

thank you Mystery Photographer!

SAMPLE A - 81 points, 3.86 avg
Many tasters were confident about this one from the start.

The nose generated similar declarations from 5 different tasters: old bottle effect (twice), dusty profundity, classic dusty aroma and "that nameless smell of old bourbon". Other common descriptors included:
4 mentions each for Oak and Vanilla
3 mentions of Maple (syrup and candies)
2 mentions each of Armagnac and Corn products
There was also tobacco, leather, peach cobbler, hops, iron, fuel and anise cough drops among dozens of other notes.

Seven tasters referenced Oak when describing the palate. Other popular notes were:
4 mentions each for Pepper and Heat
3 mentions for Yeast
2 mentions each for Leather, Caramel and Cloves
They also said it tasted like dill, mole sauce, cotton candy, red wine, chocolate and a dank well.

Oak received 4 mentions in the finish notes.
Good length had 2
Vanilla had 3
Also cloves, rye, maple, mint, tobacco leaf and cellar funk were referenced.

Among the comments, this was the biggest, but also the thinnest of the group. It was delightful, yet unpleasant. A quarter of the reviewers raved about its nose. Others said the whole thing was complex, unique and well-aged.

SAMPLE B - 52 points, 2.48 avg
Though this sample had much lower overall scores than A, it had a wider variety of descriptors. Some drinkers seemed to think it was younger than A as well.

The nose seemed to be about the corn (4x), including "dry corn in an old wood grain bin". Other popular notes were:
3 mentions each for Maple and Peanuts
2 mentions each for Caramel, Bananas and Sweetness
Lots of other sugary stuff including candy apple coating, cake, vanilla frosting, confectioners' sugar and toffee. There were also greener notes such as yeast, mint, vegetables, sunflower seeds and fresh cut grass. A curious lack of "oak" in the descriptions here.

Oak was mentioned 5 times in the palate notes. Other notes include:
4 mentions each for Nuts/Nut products and Cinnamon
3 mentions each for Fruit, Caramel and Bitterness
2 mentions each for Almond products (milk and extract), Sweet, Spicy, Dry and Peanuts
Those notes sound pretty, but then there were notes like: thin, astringent, hot and savory.

The finish received some tough notes like young, raw, craft whiskey, watery and short. Others included:
2 mentions each for Oak, Dry, Medium length
There were also cloves, cinnamon, maple syrup and straw.

Per the comments the whiskey was full of "raw wood, typical of young whiskey", while also having a "lovely uniqueness". It was easy to drink, while also having consistency issues. There were a number of references to its weakness, while one taster compared it to Jim Beam White Label with more age.

SAMPLE C - 64 points, 3.05 avg
This bourbon had the fewest descriptors in all the categories. A lot of oak, though.

Oak tagged 6 notes in the nose. Other notes included:
3 mentions each of Vanilla, Corn products and Quietness
2 mentions each of Citrus, Coconut and Alcohol
Also nut brittle, caramel, candy corn and lemon Pine Sol.

Oak again led the palate with 9 mentions. Sweetness had 5 mentions. Solvent/feints/polish received three. Also:
2 mentions each for Thin, Dry, Simple, Young, Bitter and Caramel
It was thick, tingly, tannic, mineral, floral and grassy.

Three tasters thought the finish was short. Three mentioned oak, and two thought it was dry. It was also watery, bitter and tannic. There was also vanilla, clove and brown sugar.

Comments were limited as well. Tasters though it was "rounded", "not complex but drinkable" and it reminded one taster of Orphan Barrel Barterhouse. There was enough enthusiasm to garner it some good scores, but not a lot of vivid descriptions.

SAMPLE D - 54 points, 2.57 avg
As mentioned above, this one really split the group.

In the nose notes, oak led again with five references. Then:
3 mentions each for Mint and Nuts
2 mentions each for Vegetal, Toasted, Butterscotch and Barn
It was also "weird" and "earthy", with corn, rye, tobacco, lavender, hay, thai curry, indoor pool, Moroccan hair oil and old-books-unopened-for-decades notes.

Leading notes in the palate were:
5 mentions: Oak
4 mentions: Bitter
3 mentions each for Dry and Sweet
2 mentions each for Honey and Heat
The other notes were spread out, like: red wine, maple, grassy, stone fruit, Juicy Fruit gum, biscuits, black tea, yeast, cola, spearmint and a cigar ashtray cleaned with Windex.

Finish notes were concise:
4 mentions: Oak
3 mentions: Short
2 mentions each for Dry, Sweet and Char
Other notes included: fresh cigar wrapper, amaretto, licorice and spice cabinet.

Comments ranged everywhere from "very good" to "horrible". It was the "most complicated" but also "eww poopoo must be NAS" ← Nominee for tasting note of the decade.

SAMPLE E - 64 points, 3.05 avg
A few tasters said they were getting weary by this point, but there were still plenty of notes for this bourbon.

With references to lumber yards and wood chips, oak/wood led the way again with 5 mentions for the nose.
3 mentions for Vanilla
2 mentions each for Honey and Sweetness
Also coconut, tobacco, caramel corn, mint, old leather chair, toffee, corn oil & husks, old grass clippings and pine needles.

NINE different tasters commented on the palate's sweetness. Also:
3 mentions each for Vanilla, Oak and Sugars
2 mentions each for Baking spices, Nuts, Flowers and Heat
Also rye, mint, caramel, wax, smoky, graham crackers, Honey Nut Cheerios and berry pie.

For the finish the notes included:
3 mentions of Oak
2 mentions each for Drying, Short and Sweet
Others included beeswax candy, vanilla, cocoa, lemon juice and heat.

Per further comments, this sweetie needed time to open up, was well-rounded like a Japanese whisky, yet was typical of Heaven Hill bourbon. It was balanced and elegant, with a silky mouthfeel.


The drinkers had the option to guess which sample was which Elijah Craig. It was sort of a dare. But as 15 of the tasters made guesses of one or more of the ECs, this lark wound up resulting in something fascinating...

10 out of 15 guesses were correct.
All 15 guesses got the age statement correct.

7 out of 14 guesses were correct
All 14 guesses got the age statement correct.

4 out of 13 guesses were correct
7 out of 13 guesses got the age statement correct.

4 out of 14 guesses were correct.
11 out of 14 guesses got the age statement correct.

4 out of 13 guesses were correct
8 out of 13 guesses got the age statement correct.

Firstly, look at the results from Samples A & B again. Drink that in.

Secondly, 42% of all guesses were correct. 80% of the guesses at least nailed the age statement.

While there were a handful of big bourbon geeks in the group, the vast majority were not. In fact some of us don't even like bourbon that much. Yet, our senses can sort out the difference between a 12yo and an NAS, to the point of perfection in Samples A & B.


Let me not tarry further.


SAMPLE A was the Pre-Fire 12 year old, bottled ca. 2001

SAMPLE B was the current NAS Small Batch

SAMPLE C was the old NAS Small Batch

SAMPLE D was the 12 year old with the age statement on the back label

SAMPLE E was the 12 year old with the age statement on the front label


First Place
Pre-Fire 12 year old, bottled ca. 2001 with 81 points
10 out of 15 guesses were correct.
All 15 guesses got the age statement correct.

Second Place (tie!)
Front label 12 year old with 64 points
4 out of 13 guesses were correct
8 out of 13 guesses got the age statement correct.

Second Place (tie!)
Old NAS Small Batch with 64 points
4 out of 13 guesses were correct
7 out of 13 guesses got the age statement correct.

Fourth Place
Back label 12 year old with 54 points
4 out of 14 guesses were correct.
11 out of 14 guesses got the age statement correct.

Fifth Place
Current NAS Small Batch with 52 points
7 out of 14 guesses were correct
All 14 guesses got the age statement correct.

While we shouldn't be totally shocked that the oldest and newest Elijah Craigs landed first and last, while also generating very accurate guesses, it's still fascinating that this really played out, almost to an extreme level.

There was also a distinct preference of the old no-age-statement Small Batch over the new one. Meanwhile the old NAS thumped the very 12 year old (back label) it replaced, even though the tasters seemed to know the lower scoring whiskey was a 12yo.

I was surprised the front label 12yo — the bottling that brought many of us to Elijah Craig in the first place — didn't fare that well. It seemed to be a considerable step down from the pre-fire 12, per the group scores.

Speaking of the pre-fire 12, its color was the darkest of the group, with a deep red tint to it. Several tasters also noted its character was different than the other four, which set it apart, which may have led to some correct guesses.

These are all generalizations to some point, since every taster had his or her own relationship with each EC. For instance, there were a few people who didn't like the pre-fire 12 even though they knew/guessed what it was.

I keep coming back to the remarkable guesswork: 42% correct, 80% correct age statement. It even breaks down evenly between the types:
12 year olds - 42.9% correct. 81.0% correct age statement
NASes - 40.7% correct. 77.8% correct age statement

The drinkers knew what they're tasting, even when they're not experts. Our instincts were correct. Even though the 12 year old whiskey doesn't always win out, we seem to know when it's in our glass.


If you haven't gotten enough of this Elijah Craig onslaught, you will be utterly pleased to know that I will be posting my tasting notes from my blind tasting throughout next week.

More importantly, please use the comment section if you have thoughts or inquiries about this taste off. Thank you to all the participants and all the readers!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Glenlivet 18 year old Nàdurra Triumph

I've wanted to try this whisky ever since I first saw it at a whisky bar nine years ago. It sat on shelves around the country for another three or four years at a high, but not unreasonable by today's standards, price. And it wound up in my cart a number of times before I declined to buy it. Though the Nàdurra Triumph always seemed interesting, blind buying has never a pleasurable experience for me.

So I didn't buy it.

And now I regret that.

Regarding the whisky itself: Glenlivet 18 year old 1991 Nàdurra Triumph is a single malt made from one barley strain, or varietal, Triumph, that is no longer used by Scottish distillers, possibly due to inefficient alcohol output. It was a single release, sort of before its time, and Glenlivet hasn't joined the "_____ Barley" release shuttle that has since launched. Instead they sell a lot of NAS mystery meat (named Alpha, Cipher and Code) for 150+ dollars.

Distillery: Glenlivet
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Age: 18 years (1991-2010)
Maturation: American oak casks
Barley varietal: Triumph
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is radiantly fruity. Kristen said she could smell it from across the room. There are lots of in-season apples, pineapple, guava and limes. Yes, barley. Then anise and roasted nuts. Hints of brine and vanilla bean. The palate is creamy in texture and character, with graciously minor levels of vanilla and sugar. Key lime pie, roasted barley, pineapple and a touch of herbal bitterness. The lime note expands with time. It finishes with key lime pie and lemon bars, both with extra zest, as well as a hint of fresh peach.

What a treat this was, especially next to Glenfiddich's Fire & Cane. The 48%abv felt like the optimum strength, and I refused to add water. Refused! To reproduce this whisky would be an undertaking, and possibly not that lucrative, but it would be a hell of a lot better than the majority of the official range. And it would fit nicely with some of the fruity mega-batches of the regular 18yo.

If an opportunity to try this whisky comes along, I recommend you do not pass it up, as I regret having waited so long. (Note: I wrote "try" not "buy". Recommendations for purchases are not made on this site.) Though it's not the most complex thing, the whisky is fruity and creamy without being weighed down by sugar and vanilla, which is in itself a ...... wait for it ...... triumph!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Monday, June 17, 2019

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Can I assume this single malt's name references James Taylor's Fire and Rain, a song about depression and suicide? If so, at least Glenfiddich is being honest about the whisky.


Of Glenfiddich's Experimental Series, the IPA Cask and Project XX whiskies have been reviewed here, and I liked them both. I even bought a bottle of the IPA Cask and finished it. But no, I will not review Winter Storm. Not for that whisky's price. And not after Fire & Cane.

Let's get this over with.

Distillery: Glenfiddich
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Maturation: From the official site: "By marrying peated whisky and malts matured in bourbon barrels, and then finishing in Latin rum casks, we created an exquisite whisky with campfire smokiness and toffee sweetness." I have a number of issues with this sentence, but there are bigger problems in this world.
Age: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Colored? Yes
Chillfiltered? Yes
(from a purchased sample)

The nose seems fine, in fact, it's exactly what one would expect. Young peated malt meets sugar-doped rum. There's melon liqueur, vanilla, lemon and berry-scented lotion in the midground and a lingering seaside note in the background. Very candied. And then the palate. Soap. Sugar. Also soap. Hay and peanuts. Bitter oak. Oranges and mild smoke. Soap. The finish is soapy, sweet and bitter, with a hint of smoky ham.

I had trouble drinking more than three sips of this. Even though, at 43%abv, it was already watered-down, I hoped this would improve with a little more dilution.

DILUED TO ~40%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Straightforward peat and orange oil notes in the nose, then melon liqueur, milk chocolate and fading embers. Perhaps the palate is 10% less soapy? It's also grassier and bitterer. It's become very tangy, while the smoke a receded to a mere residue. It finishes with a citrus-scented soap, fresh ginger and a whiff of wood smoke.

I don't think I've seen the soap note prominently referenced in other reviews of this whisky. What keeps me from thinking my sample was corrupted is that the nose is perfectly reasonable. There's nothing screwy with it. But the palate is just awful. Even when digging through to the other side of the soap, one finds aggressive sweetness and brutal oaky bitterness. Dilution reduces the soap one tick, the sweetness one tick, while the bitterness goes up two ticks. Soap aside, this is what happens when ultra-sweetened oaky rum meets very young oaky whisky. Bleh.

Availability - Most whisky specialty retailers around the planet
Pricing - $40-$60 worldwide
Rating - 66 (with water, 5-10 point lower without)