...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Single Malt Report: Vegas 2012 edition (Part 2 of 4)

Time for Part Two in the Vegas 2012 edition of the Single Malt report.  Part One can be found here.

Here's The Whisky Attic drink list:

Part 1 - Dalmore Gran Reserva
Part 1 - Tyrconnell 10yr Irish Single Malt, Madeira Finish
Part 1 - Big Bottom Bourbon
Part 2 - Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask
Part 2 - Rowan's Creek Bourbon
Part 2 - Willett Straight Rye
Ledaig 15yr
Amrut Cask Strength Indian Single Malt
Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength
Ardbeg Corryvrecken
Ballylarkin Irish Whiskey Liqueur
Tomintoul 27yr

Adam was clearly aiming towards a massive nose/taste profile for this tasting.  That wasn't just blind guessing on his part.  Before beginning, he'd first asked me some questions on my whisky preferences and from there made these selections.  He said that I had a "very expansive palate".  Whether that was customer flattery or the truth, it worked for me!

I like massive Petite Sirahs, very dark chocolate, bitter beers, and bitter teas.  I guess the flipside of that is my impatient response to older subtler whiskies.  I'm working on that, but someone needs to supply me with some additional old whisky!  Otherwise, I guess I've been currently saving money sampling lunatic youngin' drams.

I did tell him that I'd tired a bit of the super winey finishes and enjoyed more basic finishes, the malt, the many varieties of peat, and all things Campbeltown.  He snuck a couple of finished whiskies in here, but he chose wisely since I really enjoyed them both.  And, as noted in Part 1 (yesterday) and 2 (today), he entered three American whiskies into this world tour.

To the reports!


DistilleryThe Balvenie
Age: minimum 14 years
Maturation: Traditional Oak
Finish: Guyanese and Venezuelan rum casks
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Balvenie has a history of rummed whisky releases.  There was the 17yr Rum Cask release from 2008, which was matured entirely in rum casks.  It was a smash and sold out promptly.  I was lucky enough to get a taste of it, courtesy of Bernardo (thank you, sir).  It was very rummy and full of molasses, a great dessert whisky.  Then there was the 14yr Golden Cask (47.5% ABV, non-chillfiltered) which was sold only via Duty Free shops in 2009.  Then there was also a Rum Cask (47.1% ABV) which they'd done briefly in 2005.  And a 14yr Cuban Selection (43% ABV) for the French market.

And now we have this 14yr Caribbean Cask bottling, exclusive to the US market.  Bottled at 43% ABV, it's finished for a number of months in rum casks from, yes, the Caribbean.

The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask
Nose: MILK CHOCOLATE! Tons of it wrapped around a bit of cinnamon. Yum.
Palate: Thick and malty. More milky chocolate. Cinnamon and all of the sweet spices in the cabinet. Not as rummy as 17yr.
Finish: Moderate. Lingering cinnamon and Nestle's chocolate.

It's a different creature than the 17yr, partially due to the difference in maturation and partially due to, well, me.  The tasting method helped hone my sensory experience.  And in this case, the first imprint was milk chocolate.  The rest of the blogosphere has found characteristics like vanilla, toffee, and nuts.

Like the 17yr though, this is not an aperitif.  It's a sweet dense whisky to cap off dinner.  Maybe a dram with some ice cream.

It's my favorite Balvenie at the moment.

Pricing - Bargain at $50, Good at $65
Rating - 87


Bottler: Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (aka KBD or Willett Distilling Company)
Brand: Rowan's Creek
Age: 5 to 15 years
Maturation: New Oak
Region: Bourbon County, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 50.5%

Ah, he slipped another American whiskey into the tour.  Adam's a big fan of bourbon, and of KBD as well.  This one is Rowan's Creek Kentucky Bourbon, a small batch whiskey, bottled at 101 proof.  KBD is an independent bottler, though a very productive one, as it bottles sixteen different brands.  Rowan's Creek is their best selling brand.

Rowan's Creek Kentucky Bourbon
Nose: Lovely, expansive. Vanilla, cinnamon and peppery spices, toffee. Maybe even floral.
Palate: Vanilla and honey. Very easygoing considering the ABV.
Finish: Huge finish, I think I was still sensing this the next day. Bountiful sweet bourbon vanilla with a little zing.

I'm giving this one a half measure up on the Big Bottom Bourbon.  The nose was delicious, I couldn't stop sniffing the glass.  And the finish is enormous, which was a surprise since the palate was so smooth.  Another bourbon that I would try again, happily.

Pricing - Good at $40
Rating - 79


BottlerKentucky Bourbon Distillers (aka KBD or Willett Distilling Company)
Brand: Willett
Age: 3 years
Maturation: New Oak
Region: Bourbon County, Kentucky
Alcohol by Volume: 57.6%

I'd been waiting for this opportunity for some time:  An introduction to rye whiskey.

Perhaps, I'd over-romanticized rye, but there always seemed to be an edge to its oldschool-ness.  For the longest time, most liquor stores never carried it.  No one ever talked about it.  Bourbon this, Scotch that, but no rye.

But within the last year or so, I started meeting people who'd just started drinking and enjoying rye.  Rye was starting to pop up in liquor stores.  A small resurgence perhaps?  I wanted in, but I was never that crazy about other American whiskies.  They were often too sweet, too much of a sadistic lumbering oaf, a total lack of grace -- very American, as it were.  There needed to be a proper introduction.

And here it was.  Three years old, a KBD bottling, 57.6% alcohol.  The bottle label contained barrel and distilling information but was otherwise simple and restrained.

Yet without any frame of reference, I had no idea what this was going to taste like.

Willet Cask Strength Single Barrel Rye Whiskey
Nose: WOW. Holiness. I'm transported to my childhood, evening Havdalah services at the synagogue, the fragrant spice box.  I may be having a moment here.
Palate: Very spicy. The zing and whoosh and prickle and hum, but no burn. Oh dear me.
Finisih: Epic. Toasty and peppery.

On February 23rd, 2012, I am sold on rye.

Pricing - Excellent at $35-$40
Rating - 91

Part Three to follow on Monday!