Strathclyde Old Particular 1988

Strathclyde 1988 28 Year Old “Old Particular” Single Grain Scotch Whisky
(K&L Wines Exclusive)

58.2% ABV
$80
Website
1286865x
What the Retailer Says:
If there’s one thing we can help take credit for here at K&L, it’s been helping to remove the undeserved stigma associated with grain whisky in the Scotch industry. Maligned and misunderstood for years, it wasn’t until we started launching a number of 25-50 year old releases at ridiculously reasonable prices that hearts and minds began to change. When Nikka brought their delicious Coffey Still editions to the market and people saw just how fruity and delicious these corn and unmalted barley whiskies could be, we think grain whisky finally got over the hump. Crazily enough, today our single casks of grain whisky are some of the most anticipated by our customers. The 28 year old Strathclyde absolutely soaks up the vanilla from the oak barrel and brings loads of soft caramel along with it. At 58.2% there’s some power behind all that supple richness, which allows you to add ice or a bit of water.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Medicinal alcohol, very subtle floral/herbal notes with a bit of pepper spice; water opens up a bit of sweetness, but it remains fairly subtle and muted.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel, sweet corn, molasses, a hint of vanilla and a vegetal note before sharpening; water brings the sweetness around to toffee without ruining the mouthfeel.
Finish: Sharpens, drying while lingering.
Comments: The nose is very understated; and a challenge to get past the alcohol – but improves with some water (which I’d advise at this proof). The palate is nice, and has that hallmark mouthfeel you get with older scotch – but it doesn’t have a lot of complexity. I was underwhelmed with my first taste, but have liked it a little more each time – and when the water is dialed in just right – it is a delightfully simple pour with a really nice mouthfeel. I hadn’t had a lot of single grain scotch, and couldn’t recall having any from this distillery before. If you’re looking for a 28 yr old single malt, this may disappoint – different whisky class for sure. But you’re not likely to find 28 yr old single malt at this price point either! Don’t regret this blind purchase for the experience, but not something I’d stock up on.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Buttercream and nail polish remover.
Palate: A fantastically rich, viscous, almost chewy whiskey with tons of vanilla cream and toffee candies.
Finish: Exceptionally muted. Without water you get a bit of heat and residual alcohol but with a splash it’s almost nonexistent.
Comments: This is a very odd whisky to experience. The taste is great but the nose is a bit off putting. The finish basically doesn’t exist so it’s hard to say that it helps or hurts the overall experience. For $80 though, it’s worth experiencing if you get the chance.
Rating: Stands Out

1792 Full Proof

1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
(Georgia Bourbon Society private selection)
62.5% ABV
$38
Website
1792-Full-Proof-Bottle
What the Distillery Says:
Bourbon insiders have long acknowledged that full proof bourbon has a distinctively rich flavor. This bourbon underwent a distinct filtering process, forgoing the typical chill filtration, and only passing through a plate and frame filter. This allowed the bourbon to maintain a robust proof for bottling, as well as a full rich and bold flavor. Bottled at its original 125 barrel entry proof, just as it was years ago when the barrels were first filled, 1792 Full Proof Bourbon is exceptionally distinct.

TASTING NOTES: Strong and full of flavor, this bold bourbon boasts an incredible deep and smoky taste, superbly balanced with sweet vanilla and notes of caramel.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Hot, musty sour oak with rich sweetness (burnt caramel, toffee, cinnamon). Water tamps down the heat, and opens it up nicely (bringing a subtle citrus note).
Palate: Warm and sweet, caramel creams, vanilla, oak; spice is a tad sour with cinnamon, cocoa, clove, and a hint of burnt popcorn. Water softens the rough edges, and improves the mouthfeel and emphasizes the caramel sweetness (but still keeps a spice kick).
Finish: Moderate in length and drying (although water extends it nicely).
Comments: This particular barrel was aged way up there (top rick of the rickhouse) for 8 yrs and 5 months (no age statement on the bottle, but we know when it was dumped and when it was filled – and when sober can do math). It is a bit oak heavy for the age, but a bit of water really brings it into balance. While I’m a big fan of barrel proof bourbon, this is a fine example where some water can really improve a pour (at least for my palate). The non-chill filtering really shines as it doesn’t lose that viscous mouthfeel when gently diluted. And while I’m biased, I continue to think those Georgia Bourbon Society guys (and gals) do a fine job selecting whiskey.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Caramel, toffee, poached apricots, and golden raisins.
Palate: There is heat there but not as much as you would expect for a 60+ ABV bourbon. more caramel and vanilla sweetness comes forward against a oak forward back.
Finish: It finishes with a side coating of red pepper flakes dusted with cocoa powder and lingering notes of Big Red chewing gum.
Comments: A full, robust bourbon that you can find under $50? Yeah, a unicorn right. Well this is some damn good bourbon and as much as I like 1792, the Full Proof really kicks it up in flavor even more than the proof.
Rating: Must Buy

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon
$40 to $70
Website
SAOS-SB375
What the Distillery Says:
Old Scout Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey is just what it says; a single barrel that has been bottled at cask strength, usually between 109 and 118 proof. We pick barrels that are different from our stock selection to create unique experiences with each purchase.
Mashbill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt – a ‘high rye’ bourbon

What Gary Says:
(Dekalb Bottle Shop, Barrel # 666, 8 yrs old – bottled at 53.9% ABV)
Nose: Salted caramel, charred oak with cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, and subtle hints of raisins.
Palate: Delicious, sweet caramel, chocolate covered pralines, toffee, vanilla waffle cone, subtle spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), wood not hiding (but not dominant either – not bitter); mouthfeel starts on the creamy side and then sharpens.
Finish: Moderately long and drying, with a bit of pepper spice at the end.
Comments: Any single barrel program like this is going to have a lot of variety – which I’m a big fan of – but it comes at a price. I’ve had some that were highly ordinary (I can’t recall a Smooth Ambler that I thought was sub-standard), and some that were really delicious. This is one of those – a lovely low proof bourbon – right in my sweet spot at 8 yrs old. Doesn’t need any water, but it stands up well to a bit of it (and I get more brown sugar on the nose with a few drops). If I were trying this blind, I’d have guessed this was Wild Turkey (don’t believe it is, but if that helps!) , although it lacks the characteristic “bite” you get from Turkey. Unfortunately I picked only one of these up at the time. Honestly, I bought it because a friend highly recommended it (thanks Bruce!), and also I thought the barrel # was cool (like you haven’t done that before). I had a lot of bottles open at the time, and my only regret is waiting a few months to open and try it – as I would have bought several more if I had the chance.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
(Dekalb Bottle House, Barrel # 3510, 10 yrs old – bottled at 59.6% ABV)
Nose: Big and aggressive with cinnamon, vanilla extract, and polished wood.
Palate: Viscous and mouth coating in an almost chewy way. The proof leaves this one a bit hot but a few drops of water tame it nicely. Heavy wood notes poured over with caramel and french vanilla coffee beans. Dutch cocoa powder is sprinkled all throughout the taste profile.
Finish: Black pepper, more cocoa powder, a well aged oak heavy finish.
Comments: So I know the guys that picked this and I know that they have pretty damn good taste. This is a stellar bourbon. As a single barrel this particular one is long gone but Smooth Ambler has put out some very nice barrels. If you see one of these locally and you have the chance to taste it first definitely go for it. If you don’t get to try before you buy then I think it would be a fairly safe buy in the sub $70 price range.
Rating: Must Buy

Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve

Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve 13 Year Old
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (slope shoulder bottling)

45% ABV
$25 originally/highly collectible now
OCPR
What Gary Says:
Nose: Rich, vanilla crème brulee, toffee, soft oak, subtle anise and a hint of sherry; very nice balance.
Palate: Creamy/silky mouthfeel, rich vanilla, raisins, oak, subtle sherry, slight rye spice that builds up with hint of cinnamon.
Finish: Moderately long, nice and lingering.
Comments: This is a dusty bourbon, part of the Bourbon Heritage Collection released in the mid-1990s. I found this bottle in 2014, and paid $30 for it (when initially released, it was a few bucks cheaper – probably part of the reason it sat on the shelf where I picked it up for so long). Likely not to find again (unless you want to spend around $250), but if I saw it on a shelf – it would be a no brainer pick up for me. This is a delicious bourbon. I’m not a fan of Old Charter’s other products necessarily, but this is probably in my Top 10 of favorite pours. More often than not with a 90 proof bourbon, I think “If only this was at a higher proof”, but I think this is perfect the way it is.
Rating: Must Buy (at retail . . . )

What Richard Says:
Nose: This one starts off with a bit of a musty nose that makes me think of bourbons much older than 13 years like some of the Orphan Barrel releases. As it opens up a bit it comes through more as apple danishes, Boston Cream filling, and candied ginger but there is still quite a lot of wood and tobacco driven “oldness” to it.
Palate: Rich and delicate don’t often go together but they really jam here. Creamy, syrupy vanilla that rolls out seriously dry.
Finish: This finishes very dry and heavy on the wood.
Comments: Two of my best drinking buddy’s really love this bourbon. I really value their opinions (yes Gary is one of them) but this isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. This comes across too old and dry. It’s also one dimensional too. Intense in that dimension but one dimensional all the same. I find this interesting as a study in bourbon history and at the price that Gary found this one I would recommend picking it up but I wouldn’t pay collector prices for it.
Rating: Stands Out

Colonel Taylor Barrel Proof

Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey
67.7% ABV
$75
Website
EHT-barrelproof_0
What the Distillery Says:
Crafted from hand-selected barrels, this bourbon is bottled directly from the barrel; uncut and unfiltered at more than 125 proof. It reflects the way whiskey was produced in the days before Prohibition, when Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was the owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Drawn from barrels aged in warehouses constructed over a century ago under Taylor’s watchful eye, the taste is smooth, yet powerful and uncompromising, just like its namesake.

TASTING NOTES: The aroma of cooked berries meets the nose, followed by a rich caramel and slightly floral smell. The taste is bold and full of spice that fills the mouth with a distinct flavor of toasty vanilla, dried oak and pepper. The finish is long and satisfying with a powerful rye character and lingering hints of fruit.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Hot but rich, dark chocolate over oak, vanilla, allspice, with subtle notes of anise and mincemeat pie (and a hint of BBQ sauce?).
Palate: Warm and intense, caramel apple with candied pecans, oak, honey, cinnamon and pepper spice.
Finish: Moderately long and drying.
Comments: I bought the first batch of this label, and wasn’t that impressed and hadn’t sought it out since. I wish I had some of that left for a side by side, as I really like this one. Not as sharp on the palate as I would have expected based on the heat from the nose. It takes water well, with the nose losing some of the heat without the chocolate, and the palate opens up further.
Rating: Stands Out / Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Hot caramel over vanilla pudding and apricot jam.
Palate: Vanilla cookies, cracked black pepper, mint, and more fruity back notes.
Finish: Slightly bitter, cigar tobacco, wood forward…number 2 pencils?
Comments: For those that keep up with such things, this is Batch #2 for the barrel proof Taylor. This is a very robust and tasty bottle. However, I don’t know that I like it anymore than Stagg Jr (another Buffalo Trace barrel proofer in a similar age range) for the extra $20+ that this one costs.
Rating: Stands Out