Belle Meade Single Barrel 10 yr

Belle Meade has done a lot of great things recently with their finished line of bourbons. Sherry, Cognac and now Madeira cask finishes are all out of the park home runs for [Sniff] and I. This is a blend of 10yr and older whiskies from MGP (formerly known as LDI). Andy Nelson of Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery (co-owner of Belle Meade and head distiller) has always been very open about where they get their distillate from and how little or hands on they are with the processes of selecting the yeast strains, barrels and locations of aging. Will this Single Barrel make the cut? Or will we stick to the fancy finishes that they are so good at churning out? Read on to find out!

belle-meade-in-hand

C: A light reddish orange liquid with lighter edges when the light catches it.
N: The nose has an eerily similar honeyed characteristic like that of The Balvenie 12 yr doublewood. It’s very soft on the nose but a sweet, subtly spiced oak. A very light toffee/caramel notes comes through after sticking my nose deep in the glass. Possibly cooked quince or a tart fruit (not a fruit tart).
P: Vanilla, with spiced chocolate notes flood the mouth. Slightly charred oak and licorice create a sour bitter note, handled well by the welcoming sweetness.
F: The bourbon finishes with a slightly peppery, welcomed oaky spice. The longer the glass lingers with bourbon in it, the more the caramel and toffee characteristics swell and tempt you back for more. After a full day of sampling and reviewing bourbons, I can honestly say that coming back to this bourbon is a real treat. It feels like home base, that all other higher proof bourbons can be judged against.

belle-meade-on-shelf

Great company, great people and a pretty darn tasty bourbon. Like I said before though, their finished bourbons and whiskies are nothing to shake a stick at and you should definitely pick up a few cases when you get a chance. Unless we get to them first.
Scotch. Out.

Black Maple Hill Oregon Straight Rye Whiskey

This new Black Maple Hill is no longer produced from Kentucky. The current BMH is produced from a company called the Stein Distillery out of Joseph, Oregon. We’re still looking for a bottle of the Kentucky variety to compare, but until then, on with the review!!

bmh-rye

C: An old brown couch color, with an alarming amount of sediment in the bottle. Looks a lot like lint floating around a brown pool of water.
N: I like the nose. A mixture of amaretto, dried dates from a fruit cake, slight red licorice and sweet cocoa/nutmeg powder. The oak is gentle but looming in the background. There aren’t any rye bread flavors really coming to the forefront yet though.
P: The palate has a nice bit of baking spices coming through, followed by wafts of heat from the alcohol, which is actually enjoyable. The spice waves that you get from a really spicy chili. You love the spice now, but you’ll hate it later. Though the whiskey feels thin on the tongue, the spices are rich and full and add to the enjoyment of this dram. Sweet dates and almond skin flavors are dancing around my mouth, all seasoned with freshly grated cinnamon and dry cocoa. A slight oak spice carries all of these flavors right down into my belly. The palate is far more appealing than the nose. Upon second sip, a resinous, sappy flavor masks some of the more enjoyable characteristics of the first sip but fade into the background and it’s tasty again.
F: The finish is a bit oaky and lengthens with every exhale. The sides of my mouth feel like they have cinnamon caught in all the nooks and crannies. It’s a good finish and one that would work excellently in a cocktail.

bmh-green

You could drink this one neat and really enjoy it, but I feel like the finish of this rye and the punchy baking spice entrance could be used in an awesome cocktail as a supporting character. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, my go to rye, for now, would have to be Michters Barrel Strength Rye, it’s just awesome in comparison.
Scotch. Out.

Rock Creek Rye

Rock Creek Rye, named after one of the first federally managed parks, was created by DC’s very own One Eight Distillery. It is the very first grain to glass whisky, distilled, aged and bottled in the district since prohibition. Distilled in copper pot stills, aged in new oak and then bottled at 47% abv, this should prove to be a delicious, local staple.

rock-creek-in-hand

C: It’s a nice russet color, not sure if colorant is added but it looks nice.
N: Vanilla and salt water taffy are the first things that pop into my mind with the initial nosing. Sticking my nose further into the glass brings forth a raw rye characteristic. A very light half sour pickle pushes out from the glass. If you’ve ever made rye bread from scratch, you know that the dough is very sticky and elastic. That feeling carries through the nose, bringing sweet stickiness and an almost gummy nose. The licorice qualities of caraway seed and more raw rye bread dough wrap up this nosing.
P: Initial taste, the alcohol is well managed and not hot feeling or full of burn at all. The spice is initially very light, almost non-existent until the alcohol seems to awaken it on your tongue. It doesn’t taste as young as it is, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t taste like a conventional rye, which is not such a good thing. Second sip has a little more “burn” associated with it but similar spice characteristics. Light dusty cocoa, stale McCormick cinnamon (aka pencil shavings). My mouth has a sticky feeling and the need for loxs and cream cheese to accompany this rye bagel in my mouth.
F: The finish is very light, after the burn of the alcohol assuages. Actual rye bread flavors are left coating the inside of my mouth, but the spices have all but faded.

rock-creek-rye

If you’re looking for a traditional rye with warming spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and other baking spices, this is not your bottle. This is definitely a different whiskey. Almost as smooth as a vodka but artificially flavored as a rye, like rye flavored vodka. I’m not huge fan, but every whisk(e)y has it’s place. I feel like this rye is for the bartender mixing a drink for someone, trying to convince them they like rye. My go to rye out of all ryes, for now, is still Michters barrel strength rye. KAPOW!
Scotch. Out.

Black Maple Hill Bourbon

The current Black Maple Hill is produced from a company called the Stein Distillery out of Joseph, Oregon. It’s a craft whisky aged a minimum of 4 years with some older varieties mixed in. Does it live up to the standard of the Kentucky made variety of bourbon? We’re not sure, but we’re looking to source some bottles to compare. But until then, on with the review!

bmh-bourbon

C: A reddish chocolate brown color almost exactly the same as the Black Maple Hill Rye. Coincidence? Colorant?
N: There’s a very aggressive oak char on the nose, veiled in a tea house aroma, like pouring earl grey for hundreds. Dr. Pepper notes comes through as fresh ground pepper as well as generic cola syrup. There’s a medicinal note that calls to memory the often many trips to
the emergency room as a rambunctious kid. The nose isn’t pleasant, plain and simple. it’s not a bourbon that I want to continue to smell. Let’s see if the palate isn’t any better.
P: The palate is rich with oak and spice but nothing that easily calls itself out. There’s a lack of vanilla, caramel and honestly deliciousness in the palate. My mouth is full of dusty spices that aren’t soothed with a caramel sweetness that you often find in more delicious bourbons. This feels like Icy Hot, without the Icy. Peanut butter and Jelly, without the Jelly. Ice cream, without the sunday. Ok, I think you get the point.

bmh-purple-back
F: The Finish is full of spice, tongue tingling spice. Like opening your spice cabinet and pouring a few dry spices on your tongue, then rubbing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and wishing you hadn’t done so. You had a chance to back out, but you were already committed, you weren’t ready, he wasn’t readyyyyy. The oak and spice continue for a rather long time.

If you read my review about the Black Maple Hill Rye, this one also seems to be a good supporting actor. If your cocktail needs spice and oak, add this, you’ll get those notes. But make sure to add it to an equally fruity cocktail to match it’s equally oaky spice. I don’t think I have to say it, but there are a variety of other bourbons out there that need your attention.
Scotch. Out.

Lost Ark Distillery Visit

It takes a village to make some whiskey!

There’s a new local distillery in Maryland that’s now open to the public! Introducing Lost Ark Distillery in Montgomery county! Who’s not excited about a new source for local hooch??

Lost Ark was started by and is run by Brad and Andy. They’re two local guys who work in IT that got the crazy idea in their head to start a distillery. To get started they took a class offered by a small distillery in Idaho that walks you through the process of creating whiskey from grain to bottle. Thank goodness Brad’s mother-in-law works for a major airline and was able to get them tickets to fly out there for free! One business plan and loan later and voila, here we are.

I showed up at their release party for the Lady Anne white rum that they’ve created and had fun with their mini-tour and Q&A. They also had bottles for sale and samples of the rum on site but no cocktails as a different type of alcohol related license is required for that, they said. I asked them about their future offerings plan and they hope to have some spiced rum out before Christmas, a one year bourbon, and a two year straight bourbon.

Another interesting tidbit is their drive to source their ingredients locally. From the corn and wheat they’ve purchased from local farms to the sugar that they purchased from Domino sugar up the road, they’re trying their best to keep it craft. They’re running all of these ingredients through their single four plate column still making batches one thousand gallons at a time. Thanks to the small size of these batches, it should be interesting to see what they churn out.

All of that said, I still haven’t written up a formal review on the bottle of Lady Ann white rum that I purchased. I’m not sure if it was aged in plain oak casks or their stainless tanks but it had those “young” distillate notes along with a bit of that molasses they sourced from Domino sugar. I think it’d be fine for mixing but I imagine it’ll be better with age in a charred barrel. I guess we’ll soon see.

We’ll try to keep on top of the local distilleries and their offerings!

SVS : Highland Park Fire 15 versus Highland Park Ice 17

Fire versus Ice!

I purchased the HP Ice because my local spot called me and told me I needed to buy this “whisky in a really cool bottle”. The HP fire on the other hand, came in the mail via sample bottle from the Edrington group. Being the impartial reviewers that we are, I immediately called my local shop and asked them to order a bottle of fire for me. Sam (the owner) let me know it’d be two weeks before he got it in his hands. Awesome! Time to review these two beauties with no “bias guilt”!

UPDATE: I got my bottle of HP Fire 15 before publishing this review so no bias AND beautiful pictures for you!

COLOR
Right out of the bottles, it’s easy to see that the HP fire is a tone of dark gold versus the light (and almost clear) yellow appearance of the Ice. This makes perfect sense considering the Ice was aged primarily in exBourbon casks and the fire was aged “exclusively in refill port barrels” says the insert. The paper insert also says this is a first for HP, aging their distillate exclusively in port casks that is.

NOSE
Yessssss!!! My favorite noses are the ones that are so dissimilar that the differences jump at you like a wild cougar on a camping trip gone horribly wrong! The Ice is so heavy in the vanilla department when nosed next to the sweet nose of the port! If you’ve never had port (or Sherry for that matter, fortified wines unite!), go to your local store and pick up some delicious caramel oozing, toffee drenched, affordably priced port. Thank me later for introducing the two of you. πŸ™‚

PALATE
That’s what I’m talking about. The fire’s palate is no contradiction to its name. It starts a little soft sugary sweet and quickly evolves into cinnamon fire before it smooths into that familiar HP touch of peat and smokey note. It’s a challenge getting over the viscosity of the fire. I know it’s not motor oil but it’s coats the mouth like the best tasting motor oil I’ve ever ingested! With water though, the cinnamon spices break through that sweet port nose and snuff out the sugary goodness that makes the glass inviting. The palate though is the exact opposite. This is a nifty little glass! Water reverses the entire experience. From sweet nose and fire tongue to fire nose and sweet tongue. That’s very, very interesting.

The ice reads like our previous review versus the Glenfarclas minus the blast of spice that surfaces when I forget to cleanse the palate before switching glasses! Wowsers! I’ll be back after some water… There we goooooo. Much, much sweeter and enjoyable. Mixing these two glasses would be an overpowering manifestation of way too many spices trying to drown themselves in vanilla.

FINISH
They’re both HP finishes. Smokey and light on peat but balanced so the peat doesn’t make you contemplate long walks off of short piers. The fire is enjoyable, for sure, and doubly so with water. The Ice is a bit more peat heavy and thanks to my anti-peat palate, it’s just as enjoyable as it was the last time I reviewed it…

FINAL THOUGHTS
I must say, the fire’s party trick is worth the bottle price alone (as long as the price is in the $200 range). Yes, it’s definitely expensive but compared to the $300 of the Ice, I think the fire is definitely more worth it. If my local spot tells me it’s $300, I’ll still be glad because of its rarity but I’m never glad shelling out more than $100 for a bottle unless it’s spectacular. This fire is pretty good though…

What do you think? Have you tried them both? Let us know your thoughts!

Scotch VS Scotch : Highland Park 17 Ice Edition vs Glenfarclas 17

Back on the blog with another Scotch VS Scotch!

I picked these two contenders purely based on their age. Not that age means anything but it’s interesting to see how different two bottles of distillate, aged for the same amount of time in barrels, can taste. In one corner, we have the Glenfarclas 17. It hails from a family run distillery founded in 1865 (well purchased from Robert Hay who actually founded it in 1836 but it’s been owned by the Grants since). In the other corner, we have the Highland Park 17 Ice. From the Norse mythos that overrun Orkney, this Edrington owned distillery was the first to score a perfect 100 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge (Highland Park 25 in 2013). All of their histories aside, we’ll see which one flat out tastes better!

COLOR
The Highland Park (HP) 17 Ice is just a shade off of white grape juice. The super light color outside of the blue bottle is just another call to the “Ice” name. The Glenfarclas 17 is a slightly darker shade of gold, almost like looking at a gold ring underwater.

NOSE
The Glenfarclas weighs quite a bit more on the nose than the HP. The Glenfarclas really hits you with sherry spices but with a touch of water a surprising bit of oak rises to your nose. The HP side-by-side with such a sherried monster is actually very, very sweet. More sweet than it is smokey and peaty which is a nice departure from typical HP offerings. Once again, I’m loving each of these offerings twice as much thanks to the contrast created by enjoying them side by side.

PALATE
The Glenfarclas is like butter on the tongue with sherry, cinnamon, and Glenfarclas’ famous Christmassy spices. It’s got such a rich texture on the palate that it’s hard not to like. There’s a wonderful balance of oak and sherry. The HP on the other hand is slightly tannic, starts a bit soft and sweet, but explodes quickly into a peat bomb. Chewing it to find flavors, it’s a bottle of peat, wood, and spices. The spices are so edgy over the woodiness, it’s almost like… well… Ice. WHOA. With a bit of water tossed into that 53.9% ABV, the Ice explodes into a vanilla laden comet headed straight for your tongues orbit! Now THAT is a nice change of character!!

FINISH
The finish on the Glenfarclas is a bit of apples over spices all burned and served over smoking oak. The finish on the HP is oily and peaty which is not much of a surprise. Unfortuantely, even after the water drew out the awesome sweetness, the HP still finishes like a fireball of peat. Pity.

So there you have it. To my palate, personally, I’d pick the Glenfarclas every day. I don’t like peat. My pocket isn’t a fan of spending $300 on the HP either compared to the $100 I spent on the Glenfarclas. It’s not often that I’d claim I have a definite winner in my book but there are too many factors that push the scale in one solid direction… for me. But everyone’s palate is different. Which do you prefer? Have you tried both? Let us know!!