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Wild Turkey 81

Wild Turkey 81 Straight Bourbon WhiskeyWild Turkey 81
40.5% ABV, $20
Available: Throughout the US

What the distillery says (Matt’s interpretation of the press release):
Wild Turkey 81 is Eddie Russell’s first solo project for the distillery. After cutting his teeth working with his father on the Russell’s Reserve bottlings (and one could assume the rest of the Wild Turkey portfolio), Eddie comes out of the gate with a whiskey specifically designed for cocktails. With WT 81, Eddie hopes to hit the niche that finds Wild Turkey 101 a bit too harsh and other whiskeys too wimpy for mixed drinks. He uses the classic Wild Turkey high-rye mash with heavily charred barrels and blends whiskeys ranging from 6-8 years of age. The press release has this to say about the WT 81:

The result is a whiskey with a deep, rich amber color, and a nose full of fruit, butterscotch, toffee and toasted oak. On the tongue, you discover cigar-box sweetness, caramel, vanilla and pear, with a long finish of rich spice notes and hints of toast.

What Matt says:
Nose: Citrus, mint, caramel, oak, and shellac
Palate: A little sharp, acidic and warm, mint and caramel, rye spice and a little char
Finish: Clean and malty with a lingering sweetness
Comments: A little water mellows the sharpness on the palate, but (as expected) this whiskey really shines in a cocktail. With all the natural mint flavors, I decided to throw together a quick Mint Julep. To my palate, Eddie Russell reached his goal here. I’m not a big fan of Wild Turkey in general (with the exceptions of Kentucky Spirit and certain bottlings of Russell’s Reserve), but there is a good balance of rye spice, caramel sweetness, proof and char to the 81. Plus, it retails for $19.99. You can’t really beat that.

Richard has not had the opportunity to review this whiskey yet.

Special thanks to Brian Roundy at The Thomas Collective for the generous sample.

Ancient Age

Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
40% ABV/ 80 Proof
Widely Available

What the Distillery Says:
You’ve known us a long time, and you could always count on us for quality. But even more than that, you’ve known us to make great bourbon. Well, we just got better. We’ve begun using a chill filtration system for our bourbon, which improves our color, flavor, and all around taste experience.

We’ve always taken great pride in what we put in our bottles. Now even more so.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Orange blossoms, cloves, and hints of baked cherries.
Palate: Orange bitters developing to orange zest. There’s a lot more citrus than I expected. There’s just a hint of sweetness poking around the corners.
Finish: The finish is smooth yet bitter.
Comments: The first time I became aware of Ancient Age was years ago through Stephen King’s novella Apt Pupil. Kurt Dussander, the Nazi war criminal in hiding drank bottle after bottle of Ancient Age. He described it as “cheap and good.” It’s definitely cheap. The good is subjective. I find this to be an average bourbon but it is the “orangiest” bourbon I’ve ever tried. Maybe something for the mixologists to take note of.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Tart plums, dry dusty wood, burnt sugar and vanilla.  Water brings out some tart apple (almost like a Wine Sap)
Palate: Sharp and alcoholic on the sides of the tongue.  Walnut husks, cinnamon bubble gum (Big Red to be exact), an almost berry sweetness and rock candy.
Finish: The burn lingers and warms the throat.  The finish is dominated by dusty walnut husks with a sweet/sour combination that hovers just above the tongue
Comments: A smoker’s whiskey.  The finish slowly fades to a taste that is something very similar to cigarette ash.  It’s cheap.  I’ll give it that.  Perhaps one of the better whiskeys at this price point.  It certainly stands out against drams like Ten High and Rebel Yell.  If I ever become a hobo, riding the rails and hustling for my next meal, this will probably be my whiskey of choice.  Until then, I’ll stick to my Buffalo Trace and Four Roses Yellow Label for affordable bourbon.
Rating:  Probably Pass

Overall Rating:  Average

Black Bull 12yo Deluxe Blended Scotch Whisky

The good folks at Duncan Taylor were kind enough to send us this sample of Black Bull 12yo.  After trying the 30yo some time ago, Matt was especially eager to try this one.  Richard has not had the pleasure of either yet.  We’ll update the post with his notes soon.

Black Bull 12yo Deluxe Blended Scotch Whisky
50% ABV/100 Proof
£32.99, Available Now In The UK & Soon In The US (we’ll update the price to US dollars when we have it)

What The Distillery Says:
This special blend is a marriage of the finest 12 year old single malt and single grain whiskies distilled in Scotland.  The selection of whiskies falls true to the Duncan Taylor ethic of unbridled quality, each whisky from each cask is nose and tasted before going into the Black Bull vatting.

Black Bull contains 50% malt whisky and 50% grain whisky and is non-chill filtered.

What Matt Says:
Nose: Without water, the nose is very “grainy.”  It’s quite a bit like a pot stilled rye with a few light notes of dark fruit.  With water, the nose opens up to beautiful florals and notes of citrus, orange blossom honey, and cacao nibs.
Palate: Again, the grain is dominant without water.  The palate is dry and spicy with a citrus tang.  Water makes the palate much more Scotch-like.  Flavors of dark fruits, caramel apples (green ones), and oak come out to play.
Finish: Without water, the finish is almost like whisky bitters.  The lingering flavors are oak, bitters, and orange zest.  Water brings out pears, pomegranate, and dark chocolate.
Comments: This is an interesting sensory experience.  I’ve never tasted a whisky that changed quite this much with water.  It might as well be straight grain whisky without water.  With water, Black Bull 12yo turns into a suitable entry-level whisky.  Strangely, the finish is much more bold and interesting than the palate; an about face compared to our Gateway Series Scotches.  A while back, I had the opportunity to sample the 30yo: a fine dram indeed.  While this does not come close to the 30yo (not that anyone expects a challenge), the Black Bull 12yo is fine blend and worthy of a tipple. The finish alone is worth a try.
Rating:  Average

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fruit and old unpolished wood with hints of candied orange slices.  It turns floral and grainy with water.
Palate: Very spicy with hints of apple peel.  With water it quickly mellows the spice and turns to floral notes with a minute sweetness.
Finish: Very dry and oaky.  Water smoothes out the finish nicley and adds lingering apple peel again but I don’t get the same dramatic changes that Matt does.
Comments: This is a very dry whisky.  More so than any I’ve had in recent memory.  It’s interesting for sure and definitely one to have with some water.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating:  Average.  Strongly consider adding water to this one.

Gateway Series #12: Canadian Round-Up

After Crown Royal, we decided that providing two negative reviews for the remaining Canadian whiskies was a bit overkill.  So Richard took one for the team and reviewed two of the other three on our list.  I think I got off pretty easy (the Canadian Mist was my contribution).

Canadian Club Blended Canadian Whisky
40% ABV/80 Proof

Nose: Citrus, vanilla, and burnt tire.  This smells pretty awful.
Palate: I would say that the only good thing about the palate on this is that it got the taste of Seagram’s 7 and Black Velvet out of my mouth from the same tasting but that’s not an improvement.  This is like industrial drain cleaner.
Finish: The finish is actually the best part.  It is rather smooth but the after taste is too reminiscent of the palate.
Comments: Wow, this was not a pleasant experience at all.  I know we pledged to review the often over looked entry level stuff as part of the Gateway Series but I can only hope that if you’re reading our site then you’re drinking better than Canadian Club.  Please tell me you are.
Rating: Possibly the worst whisk(e)y I’ve ever drank.

Black Velvet Canadian Whisky
40% ABV/80 Proof

Nose: Juvenile oranges and rubbing alcohol with notes of sweet vanilla.  Agitation make the nose almost industrial.
Palate: On the palate this tastes like unaged grain alcohol.  Very little flavor and very rough.
Finish: It actually finishes rather smooth on the throat but it leaves a hornet’s nest in your mouth.
Comments: Every time I see this somewhere I think of that Alana Miles song about Elvis.  Unfortunately this doesn’t resemble the King in any way, shape, or form. Don’t bother.
Rating: I’ll Pass (so bad that I’m adding another rating to our system)

Canadian Mist Blended Canadian Whisky
40% ABV/80 Proof

Nose: Really nice right after the pour, like high-rye bourbon.  Sweet, toffee, and caramel.  When agitated, the nose becomes antiseptic (rubbing alcohol).
Palate: Not much to it.  It tastes more like a honeyed Lowland Scotch than anything from North America.  The flavor is very delicate.  What little flavor is present, is honeyed and cereal with an oily mouth feel.
Comments: This seems like it would be a good mixer.  It stands out among the other gateway Canadians in that it is not retched.  That being said, it is like whisky light.  This could be a true gateway whisky for folks unaccustomed to drinking alcohol with flavor.
Rating:  Average

So, there you have it.  The Canadian round-up.  You may think that we are being unfair to our Northern cousins, but we cannot help our tastes.

We still have a few more gateway reviews on the way, so stay tuned.

Matt & Richard

Glenmorangie Astar

Glenmorangie Astar
57.1% ABV, 114.2 Proof
Around $75, Widely Available

What The Distillery Says:
From the tall peaks of Missouri ‘Ozarks’ to the sweeping grandeur of the Highlands of Scotland, Astar (in Gaelic it means “journey”) is the story of our quest to ‘design’ the very best oak casks that will deliver perfection in the final spirit; the result is a deep, rich, silky and creamy malt that embodies Glenmorangie’s art of whisky creation.

What Richard Says:
Nose: The high bottling strength makes for a trying nose.  The alcohol tends to get in the way.  It’s very delicate and clean.  Crisp apples. With water there is a hint of peat and more of a nutty character.  Also more apple and under ripe fruit.
Palate: Very tart opening with a mild vegetal quality but soon the alcohol bulldozes everything out of the way.  Not a dram to be had without water.  The flavor is too delicate for bottle strength.  With water a honey sweetness develops and is followed by grassy notes.
Finish: Straight, the finish is all alcohol burn.  Once water is added you get a tart finish bookending the tart opening.
Comments: Astar is the “heart” of the new Glenmorangie Original and it shares many characteristics from nose through to the finish.  I would like to maybe see this bottled down around 46% ABV.  Heresy to some but that’s just my opinion.  This flavor profile is much too delicate for so much alcohol.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Without water the alcohol is dominant, but there is a strong scent of bread dough.  With water, the nose opens to a cornucopia of aromas.  Green apples (the meaty bit, not the skin), vanilla, honeysuckle, oak, and spice all dance together to a sensuous melody.
Palate: There is a lot of oak and spice here.  With water the fruit and sweetness is revealed.  Green apples, cinnamon, ginger, mint, vanilla, and a creamy sweetness like sweetened condensed milk.
Finish: Neat, there is enough burn for a bonfire.  With water, there is tartness (like green apple skins).
Comments: As with anything from Glenmorangie, I carry a slight sentimental bias.  I don’t think this is a dram for a novice, but I would recommend it for a seasoned whisky drinker.  I’m not sure the high proof is necessary.  The best bits of this whisky don’t come out until you add water.  However, that means that this bottle will last me about twice as long (which makes for better value).
Rating:  Stands Out

Overall Rating:  Average.  Not for the novice or the faint of heart.