All posts by Richard

Founding Apostle

Spice Tree Extravaganza

Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
46% ABV
$140
Website
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What the Blender Says:
As the name suggests, the liquid draws its inspiration from our Signature Range classic, The Spice Tree, but reinterprets it through the use of older components and a significant portion of sherry-cask aged malt whisky. The Spice Tree’s trademark spice character is retained but set within a richer, more elegant frame with a new depth of flavour and complexity.

Decadent and playful on the nose, you will find notes of sherry wine, dark berries and the fragrant sweetness of traditional sweet shops.

On the palate there is juicy red fruit, a dark brown sugar richness, the trademark Spice Tree ginger and clove spice character and an endlessly long, spicy, substantial finish.

32.6% First Fill Sherry Butt aged malt from Glen Ord
17.2% First Fill Sherry Butt aged malt from Benrinnes
2.6% Refill American Standard Barrel aged malt from Allt-a-Bhainne
27.7% Light/Medium Toast Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich
4.3$ Refill Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich
15.6% Heavy Toast Hybrid Cask aged blended Malt scotch composed of 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine, and 20% Teaninich

Limited Edition release of 12,240 bottles worldwide.
Bottled August 2016.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Grassy, slightly bitter, stewed fruits and a bit of a sherry backing.
Palate: Cherry tarts with chocolate sauce, crisp apples, candied ginger, berries, and brown sugar cookies.
Finish: The finish is where the name shines. Loads of black pepper and baking spices.
Comments: Extravaganza for sure. This is an incredibly delicious whisky that oozes rich fruits layer with spices. It’s much more sherry flavor forward than regular Spice Tree but both fans of Spice Tree and neophytes will enjoy it. Grab the bottle if you see it.
Rating: Must Buy

Bowmore Darkest

Bowmore Darkest Sherry Cask Finished Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 15 Years
43% ABV
$70
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
Matured in an inspired combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, it’s the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives Bowmore 15 Year Old ‘Darkest’, one of the most beautifully balanced Bowmores, the rich, deep colour reflected in its name, and its warming finish.

On The Eye: treacle dark amber.
Breathe In: delicious dark chocolate, sun-dried fruits and a tell-tale wisp of Islay smoke.
Sip: wonderful cedar wood and rich treacle toffee.
Savour: the robust and complex finish with a hint of sherry tannin.

What Richard Says:
Nose: A rich meaty sherry nose with just a pinch of salt sea air behind it.
Palate: Sherry forward with deep notes of treacle, stewed stone fruits, raisins, and nuts.
Finish: Dry in a tannic wine sort of way. Cocoa powder, anise, and a hint of salt.
Comments: I’ve got a special place in my heart for this dram. Bowmore Darkest has been an everyday favorite of mine for a long time. Almost as long as I’ve been drinking scotch. I never turn down a glass when offered. I generally find that sherry and peat don’t mix for me. Ardbeg releases are rife with examples of why not in my opinion (check the review archive). Bowmore Darkest is my shining example of how to do it right. For me it is the quintessential sherry Islay single malt. Give it a try when you see.
Rating: Must Try

Strathclyde Old Particular 1988

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

58.2% ABV
$80
Website
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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
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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
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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