...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye, 132 US Proof batch

(The Royal) We interrupt this Glen Garioch programming to bring you one hot BARD Friday.

Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL), is like the MGP of the North by Northwest, essentially one huge factory cranking out rye spirit that everyone wants to steal bottle. In 2019 they started releasing their own stash at frighteningly combustible strengths. And just in time to fight Covid-19, the rye reached the US border in 2020, in a batch flexing 66%abv. Yes, that's 2/3s poison.

I tried it in 2021, orally. I survived, but it did not keep the coronavirus from invading my borders twice. As far as flavors, it wasn't terrible. In fact it was worryingly drinkable. Now I'm sitting down in the safety of my home to consume two ounces.

Brand: Alberta Premium
Distillery: Alberta Distillers Limited
Location: Alberta, Canada
Type: Rye whisky
Mashbill: 100% Rye
Maturation: "charred oak"
Alcohol by Volume: 66%
(from a bottle split)


The rye's nose (and my nose) goes through three phases. Phase One: Roasted corn, hazelnuts, and wet sand. Phase Two: Candy corn and spiced rum. Phase Three: Lemon peels, wet dog fur, and flower blossoms. The palate is indeed hot, but not numbing. It's candy sweet, with a sprinkle of salt, a bit of barrel char, and plenty of lemons. Lots of sweet oranges roll into the finish, with hints of mint and pine in the back.

It shines most in a Manhattan (2:1 Rye:Carpano) Cocktail, bringing a pepper sauce spiciness and lots of tart citrus, unique in my experience.


With a kinda weird, kinda nifty nose, and an approachable palate, this big Canadian can be sipped neatly in a Glencairn glass. I can't say I'd want to drink it all the time, as it's neither particularly rich nor fulfilling, though it could serve to numb one's brain if desired. But its Manhattan was really fun, and I'd certainly buy a bottle of it for that purpose, but not at $80, LOL 🙁. If dropping four score for cocktail booze doesn't ruffle your feathers, go for it!

Availability - North America
Pricing - 70-90USD
Rating - 82 (but mostly for cocktails!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Glen Garioch 18 year old 2003 SMWS 19.59

A true sibling whisky of Monday's wonderful small batch, with all barrels carrying spirit distilled on February 17, 2003, today's Glen Garioch is a single cask release, one first-fill ex-bourbon bottled by the SMWS. At 59.8%abv, it's the drunkest of SMWS's 30+ sibling Garioch casks so far. Gimme gimme gimme.


Distillery: Glen Garioch
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 18 years (17 February 2003 - 2021)
Maturation: first-fill bourbon barrel
Cask #: 19.59, "Dates and Staves"
Outturn: 202 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.8%
(from a paid event)


On the nose, a layer of toasted barley and candied pecans rests upon earth and hay. Time teases out notes of jasmine and vanilla bean later on. The palate starts with salty roasted almonds, umami (dried mushroom), and tart citrus. Hints of dried peaches, dried leaves, and hay highlight the background. It finishes with an even mix of tart, salt, and savory. A little bit of earthy smoke here, a dried peach there.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

It's a completely different whisky now, with key lime pie, orange peels, and carob on the nose. The palate is earthy and salty, with lots of walnuts and very tart citrus. It's all citrus (tart and bitter) in the finish.


Another great one from the 17th of February 2003. This is shaping up to be a hell of a parcel. There's a tiny bit more oak, and maybe slightly less cohesion, than Monday's whisky, but that one had the benefit of being a small batch, this barrel had to stand on its own. The palate, neat or diluted, may have been my favorite part with its tart fruits, earth, salt, and savoriness. I'm ready for the next five!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Monday, April 24, 2023

Glen Garioch 18 year old 2003 SMWS for Highland Whisky Festival 2022

I ended March with a quartet of Benrinnes releases that were all distilled on the same day. How about I one-up (or rather three-up) that by closing out April with seven Glen Garioch whiskies all distilled on the same day, and released by the same company?

That was a rhetorical question because I'm going to do it anyway.

Dozens of Glen Garioch casks containing whisky distilled on the 17th of February 2003, were likely purchased by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in one large parcel, once upon a time. I was able to source seven of these whiskies thanks to a paid online tasting opportunity last month. The virtual event was co-hosted by SMWS Ambassador, Alan Wood, but I went sober for it because my daughters were staying with me.

The first of these whiskies is the rare SMWS whisky without a special cask coding (but with a fanciful name) because it was a multi-cask release for 2022's Highland Whisky Festival:

pic pilfered from Whiskybase

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 18 years (17 February 2003 - 2022?)
Maturation: 5 or 6 first-fill bourbon barrels
Cask #: "Hazelnut Bubble Gum"
Outturn: 1128 bottles
Exclusive to: Highland Whisky Festival 2022
Alcohol by Volume: 55.6%
(from a paid event)


A bright spring note, like a field of wildflowers, hits the nose first, followed by toasted cashews, fresh apples, dried apricots, and fresh cream. Barley and yeast linger in the back. The palate, "lovely" per my notes, is a swirl of barley, lemons, grapefruits, blossoms, and just a hint of sweetness. The grapefruits gain ground with time. It finishes with tart apples, orange gummies, and a whiff of smoke.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose focuses on lime zest, orange peels, and green apple peels. Tart limes and tart apples balance gorgeously with sweet oranges, malt, and the hint of soil in the palate. It concludes with orange blossoms, lime juice, and barley.


Though I've likely used the word "rustic" to describe Glen Garioch before, I'm going to do so again. Can such a rustic jewel come from a single cask, or does it require the sort of balance that comes from a tiny batch of barrels? The laziest batch of barrels, may I add gratefully. It's the sort of whisky one could spoil with attention all spring and summer...which would probably require multiple bottles.

Is this the prize-winner of the group, or is it a sign of things to come? I dearly hope it's the latter.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Friday, April 21, 2023

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Jews & Booze 6 year old MGP bourbon, barrel 420

SPOILER ALERT: This is one of the best privately selected bourbons I've ever owned, not because of things 420 related, nor because it was selected by fellow nerdy Jews, but because of its fruitiness. This is why all the NDPs need to put DISTILLED IN INDIANA in bold, italics, and underlined CAPS on their bottles' front labels. At least as of six years ago, Midwest Grain Products was still cranking out the good shit.

For some reason I took only one photo of the bottle (see further below), so I just now took a pic of the labels:

Yes, I officially tasted this on 4/20. No, there was nothing else in my system before or after consuming the bourbon. Other than some pulled pork and ice cream.

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products
Type: Straight bourbon
Location: Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Exclusive to: Jews and Booze (private group)
Mash Bill: 60% Corn, 36% Rye, 4% Malted Barley
Age: 6 years, 1 month
Bottle #: 45
ABV: 57.6% ABV
(from the bottom third of my bottle)

Fruit dominates the nose. First cherries and plums, then peaches and orange blossoms. Some Juicy Fruit gum too. Cinnamon and toffee decorate the background. Lemon candy, cherry juice, and salted pistachios highlight the palate, with a little bit of bubblegum and heat. It finishes with honey, lemons, orange blossoms, cinnamon, and burst of mint leaf.

It even works on the rocks (especially on an 80ºF day), with tart limes, tart raspberries, and sweet cherries leading the way.

Readers of this blog may know that bourbon is not my go-to drink. But this bourbon was, for much of the summer and fall of 2022, my go-to drink. In fact, I wish I'd purchased two or three bottles. It's just sweet enough without getting too sugary, and it's not too hot for my sensitive palate. And the fruit. The fruit! And now it's all gone. But I do anticipate more J and B barrel picks showing up on BARD Fridays this year.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ??
Rating - 88

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Bunch o' Bimbers, Part Two

After three Bimbers featured in Monday's post, another three Bimbers (plus a Bimber that's not a Bimber) will be consumed today. Again the pours are ~15mL, so I'll continue to use grade ranges.

I'm not sure how this sort of thing works, but my friend Secret Agent Man received four whisky samples from Bimber's US importer for a Zoom tasting. At the end of the tasting, Man gave me the remainders. Thank you, Man!!!

Though the official session's tasting order escapes me, here's the order I'm going with:

Apogee XII 12 year old blended malt
Bimber ex-bourbon casks, batch 3
Bimber Klub release 2, Vino de Naranja casks
Bimber USA release, Oloroso finish, cask #250/1

You may notice two things here. Firstly, the Bimbers still don't have age statements. Secondly, WTF is Apogee? Bimber distillery is less than eight years old.

Apogee XII 12 year old Blended Malt, 46.8%abv

Though, Apogee is bottled by Bimber, it does not contain Bimber single malt. Instead it's a vatting of 12 year old malts from two Speyside distilleries, finished in ex-Bimber casks.

It's a very simple whisky. The nose starts with lemons, citrons, and barley, as almond extract lingers around the edges. Brown ale and vanilla start the palate, followed by toasted barley and a leafy bitterness. It finishes with vanilla and malt.

I'm curious as to why Bimber bottled this, and I'm not sure what this was supposed to be an apogee of. Does Apogee serve as a 12yo target for their own single malt? Or was it to demonstrate how their 4 year old stuff is better than 12 year old scotch? It doesn't even seem "on brand". What it is is a decent $40 whisky selling for $120.

Grade range: C+/B- (around 79-80)

Bimber Ex-Bourbon Casks Edition, batch 3, 5000 bottles, 51.6%abv

The most complex Bimber nose I've yet sniffed. Orange peels and maraschino cherries meet ocean brininess and a bit of dirty hay. Cinnamon candy appears later on. The palate is yeasty, floral, and very sweet. Bitter citrus in the middle, the cinnamon candy in the back. It finishes warm and tooth-achingly sweet.

This whisky probably nudges ahead of Monday's single bourbon cask, which was the best of that trio. The sugar keeps this one from ascending, so my naïve thought is the whisky needed more time to calm down and gain complexity. Ay, there's the rub. I hate being that guy again, but......this stuff at 6-8 years......ya know?

Grade range: B- (around 81-83)

Bimber Klub release 2, Vino de Naranja Casks, 2100 bottles, 50.2%abv

The Klub is the official Bimber......club. Vino de naranja is orange peel-macerated Spanish white wine. And the abv looks mighty good. That's all I've got.

The nose doesn't start as expected. Pencil graphite and dead leaves show up first, then the cinnamon candy, then hints of Midori liqueur and kiwis. Buzzing along in a different direction, the palate offers white chocolate, limes, grapefruit bitters, and lots of bitterness, with a dash of ash in the back. It finishes with the graphite, sweet oranges, and a hint of tartness.

A bit crazier than this week's other Bimbers, this one works (possibly) because it didn't spend too many years in the vino de naranja casks. It's still a par-baked baby whisky, but it could have gone fugly in its adolescence. Like the best of us! Anyway, this is a cool curiosity bottled at a good strength.

Grade range: B- (around 81-83)

Bimber USA release, Oloroso finish, cask #250/1, 342 bottles, 58.2%abv

A pleasant mix of oak spice, dried apricots, and dandelions greets the nose, followed by cinnamon candy and milk chocolate. As with actual oloroso, not much sweetness appears in the whisky's palate. Instead, salt, toasted mixed nuts, and nutmeg hold the foreground, with grapefruit behind. It finishes with dates, pistachios, and a tart touch.

Bimber picked a good oloroso (hoggie?) cask here and didn't overdo things, leading to my favorite Bimber so far. It's as close to a complete whisky as I've had from them. I would even consider approaching a bottle for near $100, though it's selling for 50-100% more.

Grade range: B-/B (around 83-85)

I'll end this Bimber party on a high note. The one characteristic tying this trio together was cinnamon candy, a note I frequently find in some types of American white dog, which is telling. Bimber is very young whisky. It appears to be approaching some successful years, so I'll wait at least thirty moons before trying it again.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Bunch o' Bimbers, Part One

Okay, I'll try this again: I'm back! And I feel like I'm out of practice here, not with drinking whisky (because, yeah, there's whisky in Japan), but with typing up whisky reviews.

I'm going to review seven Bimber products this week. The pours were ~15mL, so I'm going to use grade ranges for each. To begin, here's one of the final paragraphs of my previous Bimber post:

I'm right where I was with early Kavalan and Wolfburn. These are ultra-young whiskies, no more, no less. Palates and preferences vary widely, but I'm again left wondering if some whiskies are graded on a steep curve because we want to see new distilleries succeed. We then lose our independence and turn into cheerleaders. But, ultimately, what good is that? The bar is lowered, clear-eyed standards vanish, and we (the drinkers) are left with countless single-digit aged whiskies selling for three-digits.

Having tasted a few Shizuokas while in Japan, I saw this issue arise again. Trying 3-4 year old whiskies satisfies an intellectual curiosity, but not much more. I hope Bimber, the much-hyped London distillery, can prove me wrong.

Today, I have samples of three Bimber casks exclusive to the United States. The good folks of Columbus Scotch Night were able to source these for an in-person event in late 2021 when we'd thought Covid-19 was behind us. Lol 🙁.

One virgin oak cask, one bourbon cask, one sherry cask:

Bimber NAS, virgin oak cask #95, bottled in 2020, 253 bottles. 58.6%abv

The nose starts with a mix of bananas, kiwis, and pineapples, then shifts to flowers, cinnamon, and cracked pepper after a 20 minutes. Diluted to 46%abv, it's all bananas and cinnamon.

Barrel char, bananas, and lemon candy form the neat palate. But once reduced to 46%abv, the whisky tastes like barrel char and ginger powder.

It finishes very sweetly, like bourbon infused with bananas and lemon peels. At 46%abv, we're back to bananas and cinnamon.

When neat, the nose and its fruits worked well, but the palate was oddly flat. Adding water only worsened matters, turning this thingamabob into a British attempt at craft bourbon.

Grade range: C (around 74-76)

Bimber NAS, ex-bourbon cask #154, bottled in 2020, 254 bottles, 59.1%abv

Again, the nose works: apricots, roses, eucalyptus, and lager. Once reduced to 46%abv, the whisky shifts a bit. Roses move ahead of the apricots, and confectioner's sugar appears in the background.

The floral and sweet palate, leans heavily on oak spice and coconut milk, growing very very sugary when diluted to 46%abv.

The finish has a good length to it, full of spices like cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg. At 46%abv, the bananas appear again, alongside the cayenne.

My favorite of the trio, this whisky's young nose shows off less cask influence than the other two, and the spices worked in the palate's favor. Again, the key is keeping it neat.

Grade range: B- (around 80-82)

Bimber NAS, ex-sherry cask #45, bottled in 2020, 293 bottles, 58.9%abv

I know this smell. A newly opened box of Sunmaid black raisins. Maybe a few dried cherries too. But then things take on a gluey, sweaty sock character. At 46%abv, it smells of raisins and roses.

A curious palate, with raisiny cream sherry, bubblegum, ginger ale, and some bitterness in the background. Diluted to 46%abv, the palate becomes pruny sweet with a slight leafy bitterness.

The neat finish offers raisins in cream soda, while the diluted finale has prunes and tannins.

At least some weirdness keeps this from being one of the most generic sherried styles I've had in a long time. More weirdness and fewer prunes, please!

Grade range: C+ (around 78-79)

Were these whiskies not $160-$200 per bottle, I'd say they could be interesting windows into par-baked products, but at that price the buyer deserves much more. Perhaps the bourbon cask was closest to a completed whisky. It was somewhere between 3 and 5 years old when bottled, so perhaps at 6-8 years it'd offer up a fresh take on single malt, but what's the price point going to be at that age?

This wasn't a great start, with that virgin oak cask being a unfortunate (though unsurprising) weak point. Gonna keep my hopes up, moderately, for Part Two.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Got the Jet Lag Blues

Reviews will resume soon-ish! Perhaps on Friday, or Monday.

I have returned from a Japan before. I have had jet lag before. But this is different. Maybe I'm older(!!!). Maybe I've never come back from an international trip with a very full time job and two kiddos. I fell asleep on Monday at 7:30pm. On Tuesday, I sat down to do a tasting at 8:42pm and fell asleep in my whisky chair. My cat loves this more than I do. To be continued...

Friday, April 7, 2023

Benrinnes 20 year old 1997 SMWS 36.141

The last of the Benrinnes quadruplets is also the hottest, kicking at 60.7%abv. It's confirmed to have been from a refill cask, and is named "Vermouth de Provence". Will this be a 20yo that registers like a 10yo? Will there be fruits or fire? Time to find out...

Distillery: Benrinnes
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 20 years (15 August 1997 - 2018)
Maturation: refill barrel
Cask#: 36.141, "Vermouth de Provence"
Outturn: 198 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 60.7%
(from a Columbus Scotch Night event)


Unsurprisingly, the nose begins with floral esters. Kind of a yeasty eau de vie. But then the orange peels, pie crust, and fresh thyme appear. The palate is fruitier than the nose, with raspberry candy, guava juice, and Juicy Fruit gum. The heat doesn't overwhelm, though it's present in the sweet berried finish.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Oh I like this nose. It's fresh and lemony, with citrus blossoms and honey. The palate remains similar, though its tropical fruit side expands, and a hint of salt appears. The finish matches the palate.


This turned out to be my favorite of the quartet, especially when diluted. Though it's not a complex whisky, its fruits nearly glow at times. The refill barrel just trims down the spirit's edges without intruding further, something always appreciated on this blog. I was happily surprised by this entire Taste Off (the quartet + 1), and now I'm thinking I should probably source some more Benrinnes samples someday soon.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Benrinnes 20 year old 1997 Cadenhead's Club

The Benrinnes quadruplets continue, with a single cask from Cadenhead's Club. The label doesn't state the cask type, and the bottle count falls between the previous barrel and hoggie casks, but whatever its vessel was it held tightly to its alcohol content.

Distillery: Benrinnes
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Cadenhead's Club
Age: 20 years (15 Aug 1997 - 2017)
Maturation: ???
Outturn: 204 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.8%
(from a Columbus Scotch Night event)


A bunch of stuff going on with this nose. Here's a list: shortbread, brown sugar, pickle brine (MGP style), lemon peel, and milk chocolate. It all kinda works though. The palate's more straightforward with its pastry crust, candied pecans, dates, and lemon bars. It finishes similarly with a hint of almond extract as well.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is simpler, slightly farmier. Citron peels and taffy enliven the background. Simple and pretty, the palate keeps that pastry element, adding more sugar, cinnamon, and flowers. The finish keeps a decent length, favoring lemons and cinnamon.


Thankfully not as hot as I'd expected, this whisky's palate is the most easygoing of the quadruplets, though its nose proves to be a bit wild. Though I prefer it neat, it swims decently. I'm increasingly surprised by how much I like these Benrinneses...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Monday, April 3, 2023

Benrinnes 20 year old 1997 Blackadder Raw Cask, cask 964

Two Benrinneses, two successes so far during this Taste Off!

Since I'm traveling right now and cannot add links, I gotta reset the scene. Five Benrinnes casks, four of which were distilled on the same day (15 Aug 1997), bottled after 20 years by indie companies. Today, a hoggie from Blackadder:

Distillery: Benrinnes
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Range: Raw Cask
Age: 20 years old (15 August 1997 - 1 October 2017)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 964
Outturn: 222 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.9%
(from a Columbus Scotch Night event)


Ah, the Raw Cask weirdness arrives first in the nose, setting this one apart from all the rest. Some barbecuing going on, with tri-tip, grilled pineapple, and charred red bell peppers. A little bit of vanilla sugar in the background. The palate is a curio as well. Big League Chew, but also steak? So I guess it's sweet and savory. There are some nice clementines and florals floating around too. It finishes sweet and floral, with pears and clementines.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose takes on cocoa, smoked almonds, and a dried leaf note. The palate has gained focus, offering sweet and tart citrus up front, and lively chiles in the back. Citrus remains in the finish, mixing with ginger and charred bits from the grill.


Sometimes I can't help but think the floaty flakes in Raw Cask bottlings affect the whisky itself. This Benrinnes is a perfect example. It's the group outlier with its strange smokiness and beef, characteristics that do not seem to be part of the spirit itself. I think it improves greatly with water as the whisky frees itself from the "raw" stuff.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (diluted only, in the 70s when neat)