Category Archives: Taste of the…

Taste of… The Collector’s Cabinet

Matt and I have discussed, at length the merits of offering reviews on whiskeys that are no longer available.  The argument against it is that if we review a dram that is out of this world then it would offer nothing to our readers but frustration at not being able to procure such a fine spirit.  This was our stance from the outset of Whisk(e)y Apostle.

As time went by we started thinking about this idea in a different light.  We realized that there is something to offer our readers by reviewing the occasional rare whiskey.  From a collector’s standpoint there are other resources available offering assistance in how collectable or valuable certain whiskeys are but rarely anything on taste. (As a general rule, we here at Whisk(e)y Apostle do not advocate the collecting of whiskey.  It is made to drink after all!)

So if you find a rare bottle of whiskey, how are you to know if it’s worth purchasing for the purpose of consumption?  That’s where we hope to offer what little assistance we can.  Matt and I aren’t exactly rolling in dough so this will not be a regular part of our reviews but we’ll do it whenever we get the opportunity.

To kick us off we thought we talk a wonderful whisky from Compass Box called The Spice Tree.  There is an unfortunate story behind why this great whisky is no longer in production.  I’m not going to reproduce the sad tale here but if you are interested further information can be found here (in the “Past Whiskies” section).

The Spice Tree

Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Formerly produced by Compass Box Whisky Company
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky46% ABV/92 Proof
Discontinued

What the distillery says:

A natural, deep, gold-brown color and a rich nose with spices such as clove and nutmeg, and sweet stewed fruits. Palate is soft, sweet, deep and rich with a malt whisky fruitiness embellished by rich spice. Very long.

What Richard says:

Nose: Scotch rolled in a warm bourbon blanket?  If I didn’t know what this was it would really keep me guessing.  Water opens up the nose to honey and floral sweetness.  Quite lovely.
Palate: The wood is the first and last thing you taste but not in the way you might think.  It’s not the tired over wooded flavor of an over aged whiskey.  It’s more like carrying your dram on a walk through the forest.  It’s a fresher wood taste.  There is a minor honeyed sweetness that almost hides from you.  The spice there but much more understated than the name suggests.  There are a lot of nutty flavors and at the very end of the palate I swear I get a hint of spearmint.
Finish: Much smoother than I expected but that really is par for John Glasser’s work.  Spice, nut, and wood remain after the palate is emptied.  It’s almost like peppered walnut bark.
Comments: As unfortunate as it is, this is a discontinued product. If you happen across a bottle at a reasonable price I would highly recommend picking it up.  I can’t give it a “Must Buy” because of the scarcity but it really deserves top honors.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt says:
Nose: Fox glove honey, caramel, wildflowers, and cardamom.
Palate: Like drinking a nice cup of mulled cider by a fresh cut Christmas tree.  Wood, evergreen, mulling spices, cooked fruit (apples and apricots).  The ultimate ‘comfort’ whisky.  Complex without being uppity.
Finish: Oak, white pepper, and pecan husks linger with a touch of caramel sweetness.  This whisky is incredibly smooth with very little burn on the tongue or in the throat.
Comments: My official rating for this will be a “Must Try” for the reasons that Richard states above.  However, if you see a bottle of this, buy it.  If you see two, let me know.  I will buy the other one.  I love this whisky and lament it’s passing.  When the last drop falls from my bottle, I will shed a tear.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating:   Must Try

Closing Comments: A lot of discontinued whiskeys are phased out due unpleasant factors (Glenmorangie Burgundy Wood Finish) or diminished stocks (Ardbeg 17 Year) but the Spice Tree is the unfortunate victim of politics.  There is little lacking in this quality dram.  If you are fortunate enough to come across a bottle or dram, by all means drink up.

Slainte!

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

46% ABV/92 Proof
Year ’08, Batch 6, Bottle 410
Available in the New York and California – around $45 for 375ml

What the distillery says:
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey brings together the distinct characteristics of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley. Each batch starts with 800 pounds of grain which is ground at the distillery, cooked and fermented, then distilled twice. It is aged in our signature small barrels (the barrels they use are about the size of a rugby ball, or slightly bigger that a football for those who have never traveled abroad -matt). Our Four Grain Bourbon is a rich full flavored spirit. The grains are perfectly suited one to the others so that the end result balances the soft richness of corn, the sharp peppery notes of rye, all the smooth subtlety of wheat and the sweetness of malted barley. Each bottle is hand numbered.

What Richard says:
Nose: I get the light odor of candied fruit with this one. It’s much lighter and more floral than a typical bourbon. This could be from the relative youth and short time spent in the barrel. The nose itself isn’t young per se, just delicate.
Palate: The palate is surprising and tells more of the whiskey’s age than the nose. There is no sweetness at all. The flavor profile less complex than I would have hoped and all I really get is a hint of licorice. There is not spice at all and the only other flavor or sensation is an alcohol burn if you hold it hold the palate.
Finish: Even sips leave a mellow finish that disappears all but for a lingering warmth at the back of the mouth. Little flavor hangs around. A larger sampling leaves an almost medicinal ending.
Comments: I applaud the effort made here. We should all try to support the inovation seen in the burgeoning craft distilling movement. That said, this whiskey just doesn’t move me. The nose promises something nice and different but the palate doesn’t deliver.
Rating: Average

What Matt says:
Nose: It smells somewhat sweet with hints of caramel and butterscotch. I can also smell the char from the barrel, but only very slightly.
Palate: This whiskey tastes young. Not that it’s harsh, because it’s not. However, it tastes like it has not come into it’s own yet. A slow and careful tasting can almost dissect this whiskey into it’s separate grains. A few more years in the barrel would help the flavors marry and develop into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Finish: This whiskey does not stick around long. It leaves a slight sweetness on the tongue and a burn along the edges that makes my mouth water. Perhaps this would be good as an aperitif?
Comments: I have tried most of what Tuthilltown Distillery (the makers of this whiskey) have to offer and this is not the best whiskey they make. I too applaud the effort, but it falls just shy of some of their other whiskeys. If you find yourself standing in front of a few bottles of Hudson Whiskey, I say try the Single Malt or Baby Bourbon. However, I’m giving this one a ‘Must Try’ because I think everyone should try these boutique whiskeys. They are at the forefront of whisk(e)y innovation. Additionally, I suggest trying this one with a little water. The water opens up the flavors a little, making this dram much more interesting.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating: If you were a fan of the Woodford Reserve Four Grain and were hoping to find a replacement, this is not your answer. I suggest writing Chris Morris (the Master Distiller) directly and begging him to make it a permanent part of the Woodford line. This is more like a smoother version of Michter’s American Whiskey. Good, drinkable, not a stand-out favorite. Average

Forty Creek Barrel Select

40% ABV/80 Proof
Available in the United States and Canada – $25

What the distillery says:
Forty Creek Barrel Select is distilled in small batches in our copper pot still and patiently aged in white oak barrels hand-picked for their unique characteristics. A selection of light, medium and heavy char barrels create a richness and toasted earthiness in the spirit. Vintage sherry casks impart a subtle complexity. This unique barrel selection process results in a whisky where aromas of honey, vanilla and apricot fuse with toasty oak, black walnut and spice. The flavour is rich & bold.

What Richard says:
Nose: There is a slightly caramelized nose of buttered fruit reminiscent of brandy. The smell brings to mind a cross between rye whiskey and cognac. The nose is much fruitier than other Canadian whiskies.
Palate: Not as sweet as the nose would suggest. The buttered flavor continues through the palate. There is very little viscosity in the mouth feel but it isn’t dry. I was expecting a chardonnay and got a cross between a chenin blanc and a pinot griggio. There is a slight lack of complexity in the flavor but it is more than made up for in the smoothness and ease of drinkability.
Finish: No noticeable burn at all. The whisky goes down the throat as smooth as the butter hinted at on the nose and palate suggest. The whisky clears the mouth very quickly, leaving little behind. Just a hint of spice and well worn old leather.
I was surprised to see the distillery say that the flavor is “bold” in their marketing. I don’t get bold at all. If anything this is surprisingly mellow. That’s not a bad thing. It makes for an incredibly drinkable whisky that stands out against other Canadian whiskies. A near-perfect “anytime” whisky.
Rating: Stands Out. Great Value.

What Matt says:
Nose: I get honey and (oddly enough) refrigerator pickles (fresh cucumber and dill). I don’t know. Maybe I am having a stroke. It has a crisp quality though.
Palate: Buckwheat honey (sweet but pungent), oak, slight spice, but no smoke for all the talk of barrel selection. I expected an astringent quality because of the cucumber aroma, but it had the viscosity of a high mineral water. It reminded me a little of home brewed mead, but only a little.
Finish: Clean finish. No lingering after taste. A good every day dram.
Rating: Stands Out. Great Value.

Overall Rating: If you are a completist and must have some of each type of whisk(e)y on your shelf, this is the Canadian whisky for you. The price is unbeatable and, while we may take issue with the use of ‘bold’ in the marketing, this is the closest thing to ‘bold’ you will find in an affordable Canadian whisky. The low proof and low price make Forty Creek Barrel Select infinitely drinkable. One caveat though, the low proof and subtle flavor means that this whisky will not stand up to any watering. Drink it neat. I know you would anyway. Stands Out. Great Value

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

45% ABV/90 Proof
Available in the United States and Europe – $30

What the distillery says:
Marrying, or mingling, multiple Bourbon flavors is an art in itself. Four original and limited Bourbons have been expertly selected by our Master Distiller at the peak of maturation to create a perfectly balanced small batch Bourbon that rewards you with a mellow symphony of rich, spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. Finishes soft, smooth and pleasantly long. Best enjoyed straight up, on the rocks, or with a splash.

What Richard says:
Nose: I found this whiskey to have a light and delicate nose that only hinted at the sugar and spice within.
Palate: The first thing you taste is sweetness at the center of the tongue. A subtle pepper blanket surrounds the sweetness and the tongue from the outside in. However the pepper is never too much and really plays a supporting roll in the flavor profile. There is a candy note in there that I cannot place.
Finish: The finish is smooth but slightly astringent and medicinal. There isn’t an overwhelming burn on the finish.
Rating: Stands Out.

What Matt says:
Nose: Light, not overly alcoholic. Hints of brown sugar and white pepper.
Palate: I feel like writers often say a whiskey is spicy, when they mean that it has an alcoholic burn. This whiskey is are great example of actual spice, but is perfectly balanced. It makes me think of Christmas with notes of vanilla, cloves, caramel, and kettle corn(?).
Finish: The whiskey’s astringent qualities mean that the finish does not linger. This, and the minimal burn, mean that the experience is over all too soon. Overall, the Small Batch is not as complex or interesting as some of its brothers, but well worth a taste.
Rating: Stands Out.

Overall Rating: This is a good bourbon, suitable for everyday imbibing. It’s balanced character and unobtrusive alcohol make it a great entry into the world of whiskey. It also makes a fantastic Highball. Stands Out

How We Review

Whisk(e)y Apostle is getting ready to post our first whiskey review. Our format is pretty easy to follow, but may be different from what you are accustomed.

Whisk(e)y Name
Info (ABV/Price/Availability)
What the distillery says (tasting notes)
What Richard says (tasting notes/rating)
What Matt says (tasting notes/rating)
Overall Rating

Whiskeys will receive a rating of ‘Must Buy’ (highest rating), ‘Must Try’ (high rating but may be rare or expensive), ‘Stands Out’ (above average), ‘Average’, ‘Probably Pass’. If something is a particular bargain (a great Scotch/Irish for under $50 or a great bourbon for under $25), it will also receive a ‘Great Value’ rating.

As much as possible, we will both review each whiskey and attempt to sample in similar circumstances. We pay for our samples 99% of the time. Any samples we receive from distilleries or distributors will be clearly noted.

Our reviews will appear periodically in our blog. To access all of our reviews, click the ‘Taste of the…’ link. We hope to post reviews weekly and, as we gather more reviews, you will be able to view by distillery. Additionally, we will occasionally review non-whiskey spirits and beer. We hope you enjoy our reviews. Let us know if they are helpful.