Category Archives: Taste of the…

Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Famous Straight Rye Whisky
40% ABV/80 Proof
$15 to $20
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
Produced in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania or Monongahela rye whiskies, Rittenhouse is a much acclaimed rye now enjoying a renaissance in the major metro markets of the country. Rittenhouse is a tribute to the classic rye whiskies that were once the preeminent American whiskey style, kept alive through the many lean years by Heaven Hill and two other Kentucky distilleries.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Spicy and oily with hints of tobacco hide under the surface.
Palate: Sweeter than expected at first and then the sweetness continues to dance around the edges of the palate. The middle palate is oak with mild spice.
Finish: Smooth. Most likely from the low alcohol content rather than the character of the whiskey. The aftertaste is chewy with kind of a bitterness that isn’t unpleasant. It leaves you rubbing your tongue on the side of your mouth.
Comments: This particular whiskey comes in two expressions, the standard reviewed here and the bottled in bond version. It is almost universally accepted that the BIB version is superior. I don’t disagree but don’t dismiss the standard bottling out right. It’s a solid rye that can go down straight but makes excellent cocktails.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Cloves, orange zest and pipe tobacco (a rich, sweet blend).
Palate: That pipe tobacco is right there, along with some oak, anise and clove.
Finish: Smooth. The bitterness Richard alludes to reminds me of when pipe tobacco gets too moist and some of the juices back up into the stem (sharp and sweet).  However, what I get most is a minty taste and a menthol-like numbness that I associate with menthol or clove cigarettes.
Comments: Like Richard, I believe this one really shines at 100 proof.  The 80 proof version represented here is quite tasty and a good introduction into the world of rye whiskey, but the extra water really cuts out some of the complexity.  If you are looking for a gateway rye or a great mixer for old time cocktails, look no further.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Evan Williams

Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
43% ABV/86 Proof
$10 to $15
Widely Available

This is interesting because it’s the first time we’ve actually been asked by one of our registered user to review a whiskey. “cwilson” in Atlanta wanted our thoughts on Evan Williams. I know Matt doesn’t have a bottle of this handy so I’m taking a moment during my brief dictatorial reign while he’s on sabbatical to post about EW so here goes…

What the Distillery Says:
Evan Williams, the second largest selling brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in the U.S., is named for Kentucky’s first distiller of 1783. As the flagship brand of Heaven Hill’s Bourbon portfolio, Evan Williams’ extra aging gives it a richer, smoother Bourbon taste than the competition.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Charred oak, honey, citrus, and the slightest hints of tobacco.
Palate: Very creamy on the mouth. The palate doesn’t stand up to the promise of the nose. There is a light sweetness and mellow oak without many other pronounced flavors except a hint of licorice. It’s easy to drink but there’s not much there to make you want another.
Finish: The finish starts mildly peppery and then settles into a well worn oak. Not offensive but not stunning.
Comments: First let me give props to Heaven Hill for continuing to bottle EW at 86 proof when so many others like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam have gone to 80 proof. Kudos boys! I was surprised how easy EW was to drink. It’s not all that flavorful but it goes down well.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Matt has not had a chance to review this whiskey

Crown Royal Reserve

As Matt mentioned earlier, he’s taking a few weeks off to move and likely set up his lavish whiskey den. That means that you poor souls are stuck with just me for a while. I’ll be doing solo reviews (which Matt will pile onto when he get’s the chance) and posting my various whiskey related ramblings. First up on my solo sojourn is a review of Crown’s next tier of whisky (which I didn’t hate).

Crown Royal Reserve Blended Canadian Whisky
40% ABV/80 Proof
$40 – $45
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
This special gift from our Master Blender is flush with sharp, nutty top-notes of rye and is anchored in the cornerstone of all Crown Royal blends, which have a rich, smooth batch base. Andrew MacKay personally selects each whisky in the blend to create this masterpiece.
Color: Rich, golden amber
Nose: Rich and complex, with a slight apple flavor and floral tones
Body: Full and perfectly balance
Palate: Velvety smooth and mellow, with defined oak tones and rich, spicy flavors of cinnamon and vanilla

What Richard Says:
Nose: The nose is very similar to the standard expression of Crown Royal but with more fruit and less nuttiness. This is more brandied and caramelized than the typical fruit found on the nose of whiskeys.
Palate: This is a much more mellow palate than standard Crown Royal. It’s like Crown’s answer to Gentleman Jack. The palate has less flavor than the entry expression but that’s actually a good thing. It definitely smoothes out the rough edges.
Finish: Again much more mellow. The flavors all quickly fade to oak. It’s a very heavy oak. It’s kind of like licking cords of wood.
Comments: This kind of restored some of my faith in Crown Royal. I’m still probably not going to keep a bottle of this at home but I wouldn’t avoid it either. If you’re a fan of Canadian whisky then definitely give it a try.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Matt has not had a chance to review this whisky.

Gateway Series #13: Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Premium Scotch Whiskey
40% ABV/80 Proof
$20 -$25
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
Chivas Regal 12 year old is an expression of a unique tradition that has continued unbroken since the Chivas Brothers first introduced the world to the rich, smooth Scotch whisky of Chivas Regal.
Colour: Radiant, warm amber.
Nose: An aromatic infusion of wild herbs, heather, honey, and orchard fruits.
Taste: Round and creamy on the palate, Chivas 12 bursts with the rich taste or ripe, honeyed apples, and notes of vanilla, hazelnut, and butterscotch.
Finish: Enjoy the lingering finish.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Floral notes of fresh cut flowers and orange blossoms with a sweetness of honeysuckle. It’s very buttery with only very light traces of wood.
Palate: The palate isn’t quite as impressive as the nose. The citrusy sweetneess of the nose is nonexistent on the palate. Hints of vanilla and wood. Not necessarily oak but still woody.
Finish: Very smooth finish. It leaves the mouth very woody but with more oak now. The mouth is left almost peppery before the finish is done.
Comments: Chivas is another staple of blended scotch. It’s readily available and offers a nice alternative to Johnnie Walker Black Label.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Shortbread cookies, vanilla, citrus, floral, creme brulee and traces of dark chocolate and overripe berries.
Palate: Pretty straight forward; oak, caramel, and citrus
Finish: Burny and citrusy (not real words I know).
Comments: Nothing terribly offensive here, but nothing special.  I’m not sure this counts as a Gateway dram.  I would definitely choose this over Johnnie Walker Red or Black.  Probably my favorite of the Gateway blends (although a recent encounter with Dewar’s White Label may be converting me).
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average

Chivas v. Johnnie

The Apostles got an interesting Christmas present this year. Pernod Ricard asked us to review their Chivas Regal 18 year old blend up against Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Blue Label and they sent us samples of each. In this age of global economic crisis, the good folks at Pernod are trying to offer an alternative to the “super premium” options this holiday season. They believe that Chivas Regal 18 is on par with the much more expensive Johnnie Walker Blue Label (maybe not as super premium as Bowmore Gold, but still out of our usual price range) and should be considered when you head out to buy your holiday dram. In the interest of full disclosure we must point out that Matt has always believed Blue Label overpriced and a product of good marketing more than good blending. He’s more a fan of the Gold Label. Richard is a fan of both even before putting them head to head. Now, let’s see how this goes.
(We are foregoing the usual “Comments” sections for a comparative conclusion)

Chivas Regal Gold Signature Scotch Whisky, Aged 18 Years
40% ABV/80 Proof
$55 – $70
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
From Master Blender Colin Scott – A welcoming, rewarding whisky. Exceptional richness with multi-layered aromas of buttery toffee, dark chocolate and dried fruits. Hints of spices and smoke. The voluptuous, velvety palate develops into an extremely long, warm finish.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Slightly vegetal with malty notes. Buttery with hints of orange.
Palate: Develops slowly in the mouth, like a lovely lady slowly undressing. Just a hint of sweetness and a palate that’s smokier than the nose would let on. Spice laden oak.
Finish: The finish is very clean. It’s like the same lady who was seducing you on the palate has left in the middle of the night and leaves you wanting.
Rating: Must Buy

What Matt Says:
Nose: Enchanting. Tart green apple, brown sugar, streusel, hints of pipe tobacco, dark chocolate and berries.
Palate: Dark chocolate, toffee, pipe smoke and dark fruits. Basically, all the notes from the nose are present in the palate. This dram has round and velvety mouth feel.
Finish: Long and luscious. Tastes like an apple tart with blackberries and chocolate.
Rating: Must Buy

Johnnie Walker Blue Label
40% ABV/ 80 Proof
$150 – $200
Widely Available

What The Distillery Says:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch whisky has been created by our master blender in the style pioneered by John and Alexander Walker to evoke the authentic, powerful character and flavour of a traditional 19th Century blend. It is an exclusive, hand crafted masterpiece that uses only the rarest and finest of our huge reserves of aged whisky. Produced in strictly limited quantities, it represents our greatest achievement in blending excellence.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Peatier and smokier than most blends. You can really smell the Islay in here. Fresh cut wood and non-orange citrus. Limes maybe?
Palate: An initial sweetness quickly shoved aside for a rich smokiness that settles to brine notes of the sea. Rich, complicated, and ever changing on the palate.
Finish: A very slow and long finish. It leaves you with a mellow smokiness more subtle than the robust smoke on the palate.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt Says:
Nose: Peat, chocolate, honey suckle and other sweet florals. Quite lovely.
Palate: Very smooth, but a little one-dimensional. There are some very light hints of peat, but mostly sweet and fruity.
Finish: Peaty and dry.
Rating: Stands Out

The Results

Richard’s Conclusions:
I find it very interesting that Pernod is putting up their 18 year old blend against Diago’s most premium product. I would have expected their 25 year old but their confidence is respectable. I have no predisposed grudge against JW Blue but knowing Matt I know where he’s coming from. JW Blue is a big robust blend possibly best suited to those who like big whiskies. If you grab a Lagavulin more often than a Glenrothes then this may be a blend for you. Both whiskies were exceptional in their own ways. I found JW Blue to be more interesting and with a little more depth but it didn’t get as high of a rating because of the price. The Chivas is more approachable and easy drinking. I think both are great and worth experiencing. They each offer something different. I’m calling this one a draw and will leave it up to you to decide. That said, I see Pernod’s point. If you can have one of two spectacular blends and one is a third the price of the other then that’s a very attractive value proposition.
Winner: Tie

Matt’s Conclusions:
As stated above, I have some prejudice with this one. To combat that prejudice, I also pulled out my bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label for comparison. The results were the same though. I prefer the Chivas (followed by the Gold Label). Chivas Regal 18 manages to be well balanced, smooth and complex. JW Blue has more alcoholic bite on the finish and less complexity. Ultimately, it is about personal preference with ingredients. Johnnie Walker tends to have Caol Ila at its core and the Blue Label is composed of very old whiskies. The Caol Ila imparts a peaty character, while the venerable whiskies provide an incredibly smooth base. Strathisla (a Highland malt) lies at the heart of Chivas. For this reason, Chivas offers less smoke and more fruit. While I have recently gained an appreciation for peat smoke, I still tend toward the fruitier whiskies. I like a complex dram too. When I can get peat smoke AND fruit, that really gets me going. For my money, I’d go with Chivas 18 for this holiday season. If you have some sort of brand loyalty to Johnnie Walker or Diageo, save some money and go for the Gold Label.
Winner: Chivas