Glenallachie 18 Year – 2021

The GlenAllachie range was relaunched in 2018, after Billy Walker purchased the distillery in 2017. To many people, Billy Walker is the mastermind who made GlenDronach (and BenRiach) famous, with bottles from that distillery having reached unicorn status over the last years. To others, the sentiment is that Billy Walker “inherited” some amazing whisky stocks and has built his reputation on liquid for which he wasn’t around during its original distillation. Regardless of which camp you’re in, I think most whisky drinkers could agree that he has always had a talent for picking and blending the right barrels and bottling some amazing releases.


When the first batches of GlenAllachie were released, I had the chance to try most of their core range and for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a trend where new batches of GlenAllachie releases are much darker, and therefore should have a much more significant sherry influence compared to earlier releases. This is a trend that has kept me very interested, since I am huge fan of heavily sherried whiskies!


This is also what lead to me picking up the newest batch of GlenAllachie 18. It is significantly darker than its predecessor! GlenAllachie 18 Year Old is bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour. It was matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenes and oloroso sherry casks.


In the glass: Dark caramel in colour, medium viscosity. The liquid coats the glass nicely.


Nose: Delicate dried fruit notes right off the bat. Raisins coated with honey and sweet caramel. With time, the dram opens up and develops more sweet and fresh fruity notes like plum and cherry. There is also a faint citrus note.


Palate: Just as fresh as the nose indicates. The palate mirrors the nose very nicely, but it also introduces layers of sherry spice and sweetness. This is a great showcase of both PX and oloroso sherry flavour profiles. You get the sweet and candied dried fruit notes at first, and then the more savory, rich, nutty and leathery notes at the end.


Finish: Medium and drying finish highlighted by oak and even more spice. (Un)surprisingly easy drinking and it keeps inviting you for more!


This whisky is very pleasant and easily approachable. This would definitely be a crowd pleaser and not a funky sherry bomb that the uninitiated might be scared by. From what I’ve tried so far, I think GlenAllachie seems to have a signature style that is very fruit forward, compared to some older GlenDronach which was much more rich, nutty and sometimes funky. That being said, the increased proportion of sherry casks adds layers of flavour and complexity which I didn’t find in the initial releases.
While it didn’t blow my socks off, I think this is definitely a whisky worth trying and buying, especially if you want to discover how the flavour profile of GlenAllachie has evolved over the last few years. With a multitude of recent and upcoming new releases by the distillery (Virgin oak series, Wine cask series, the increasingly popular 10yr cask strength releases), there will be plenty of opportunities to make a verdict on whether or not they are trending in the right direction. For me, I will definitely be keeping them on my radar and will continue to explore their new and different releases.


Nic Bélanger
Insta: whisky_giant

Carn Mor 2011 Macduff – Rare Drams Cask

For those of you not yet riding the Carn Mor train I suggest you go find yourself a ticket as quickly as possible. I’d recommend starting with an offering from their Strictly Limited range since new batches from various regions are released fairly regularly. Many notable and pungent weirdos come from their line and they carry some soft and more elegant little lovelies too, all with a common trait, quality. Consistent prices and reliable picks are pretty much guaranteed and based on their consistent track record of delicious and rare drams, there’s a chance they’ll have an expression that may fit your taste and budget..Enter stage left: a lovely expression from MacDuff (affectionately known as Glen Devron or The Deveron in some circles).

This particular MacDuff was distilled in 2011 and matured in a bourbon barrel for 10 years before being bottled at a monstrous cask strength of 57.4%. According to legends, the importers, RareDrams will be picking individual expressions from other distilleries and releasing them as a mini series of sort, set to promote the core range of and individual characteristics of each distillery contained within. Lucky for us here in Alberta our portion of the cask (picked by Bob Kyle) has been released to the western market at cask strength while the rest of the cask will go elsewhere and to other markets, with no gaurentee they will be bottled at cask strength..I could go on for another six months talking about the history of MacDuff, the post war whisky boom and the additional stills that were added in the 1990’s but that’s a topic more suited for Bearded Dave, the history professor.

What we know for sure is that at 57.4% this lovely MacDuff isn’t too sharp at all, quite the opposite. On the nose are notes of dried tropical fruits and wet wood. The palate is juicy and sweet with tons of butter on the finish..A touch of water should help spare this one along for a little while longer. You may find the nose is tamed quite a bit as notes of sweet bourbon vanillas and burned butter sauce comes to the tip of the tongue with a touch of zesty tanginess in the background. The alcohol bite has been almost completely removed as hints of fresh almond comes through with a touch of musty wood on the finish.

This is a whisky you’ll probably want to drink..

Review and Photos by Josh Ward aka @knowyourwhisky

Taconic Double Barrel Maple Bourbon review

I will preface this review by saying that a) I am not a fan of almost all “flavoured” whiskeys and I was a little hesitant with this one at first. I poured this whiskey into a mini copitas tasting glass. It has a beautiful rich dark amber colour in the glass and after swirling a bit, the oily whiskey clings to the glass with slow, but thin legs.

Alright let’s get this going. I’ve let this sit in the glass for about 20 minutes. It’s something I do with most reviews I partake in. Sometimes even longer depending on age and proof.

Nose: First little whiff on the nose and it’s a touch sweet, but surprisingly I get some rye notes. The mash bill for Taconic Bourbons contain only 25% rye grain putting it in a medium rye’d bourbon. Those baking spices, nutmeg, allspice notes come through strongest up front. These notes are followed by barrel notes. The sweetness from the maple syrup soaked casks comes through with a hint of barrel char or slight smokiness. Then the bourbon notes come through with a nice citrus orangey note meshed with a nice vanilla and an almost tangy mouthfeel.

Pallet: On the palate it’s a very interesting whiskey indeed. It’s almost like the nosing notes work in reverse here. The bourbon notes hit first up front. The citrus and vanilla notes come through with a slight astringency and some tannic notes. All very pleasing on the tongue dance. As these notes start to mellow out a tinge, a nice maple note follows. With this a bit of caramel sweetness flirts about. A big surprise on the palate was the re-emergence of that rye baking spices note late in the delivery. It’s almost like the base bourbon/sweet corn and the much lower percentage rye grains are duking it out. This fight continues into the finish which was longer than expected and very pleasing. Begging you to have another sip before it fades completely. The other surprising part was that the sweetness in this whiskey wasn’t over the top in any way. I guess I expected a much more cloying sweetness but instead I got a well balanced maple influenced bourbon.

With water added…

The nose, with a touch of water, loses even more of the sweetness and brings those rye notes a bit more forward this time. The familiar (from trying the other Taconic Bourbons) bourbon notes come through strongest. On the palate with water, the sweetness shows up heavier, but still not at all cloying. More of a vanilla and maple sweetness. Like buttermilk pancakes with actual real maple syrup, not the artificial kind. With water this whiskey turns into a perfect breakfast whiskey.

Conclusion

I will fully admit again I was not going to like this at all. But the proof is in the pudding…the maple bourbon pudding. This is a fantastic and immensely drinkable bourbon. The maple barrels add just the right amount of influence on the already top notch bourbon and we are all the lucky benefactors of this unique and delicious marriage in a bottle.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Boulder Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey – Peated Malt – YEGWhiskynights Barrel Pick review

The production of any whisky is invariably the life’s work of multiple individuals. Being in the position to review these whiskies, particularly if you don’t enjoy them, can be an uncomfortable situation. So when PWS asked me to give my thoughts on the @YegWhiskyNights cask selection of the Boulder Peated Malt, it came with some apprehension. Sean is a friend, and an unsavoury bottle could make for some awkward interactions in the future. Thankfully, the @YegWhiskyNights cask is a fantastic example of how extra time in a cask and a higher abv can improve an already enjoyable whisky!

Boulder Spirits was founded by a Scottish-born former Air Force veteran named Alastair Broganwho’s biggest claim to fame was a stint on Survivor: Panama. He always wanted to make whiskey in his homeland, but instead relocated to Boulder, and the rest is part of Colorado whiskey history.

The regular peated malt mash, which is 100% malted barley, is blended with the Eldorado Springs water. It is then placed into 53-gallon, virgin #3 charred American oak barrels for three years. The @YegWhiskyNights release spent an extra 12 months in the cask, and was chosen from several samples for its unique character and flavour profile. 

Appearance: Orange-amber in colour. Moves easily in the glass, doesn’t really coat the sides in any noticeable way. 

Nose: First thing I notice is a rich, earthy mustiness. No smoke, but almost a hint of Japanese umami. There is a clear undertone of stone fruit like ripe peaches or apricots. There is also some heat on the nose, which can be expected based on the 58.8% abv. 

Palate: Surprisingly, there’s a slightly creamy mouth feel for a whisky with low viscosity. The first flavour that hits is reminiscent of flavoured cola, lots of caramel and sweet cherry. This is replaced by a oaky/nuttiness that reveals the character of this particular virgin oak barrel. Delicious. 

Finish: The finish of this whisky starts to show the char of the barrel. There is a wisp of smoke now, not overpowering but clearly evident. This is followed by a spicy pepper that lingers on the tongue for a long time. Slightly drying when the pepper fades. 

With water: A few drops of water in this cask strength whisky adds some subtlety. Light smoke and caramel replace the mustiness, and eases the spiciness of the pepper. I still prefer it without water. 

Conclusion

I wrote this review over 2 nights, including a side by side comparison with the regular peated malt release. Was I supposed to drink a third of the bottle in that time? Maybe. Maybe not. But what that tells me is this whisky is an amazingly easy drinker, especially at 58.8%. It is a significant improvement over the original release, offering a greater depth of flavour and a satisfying spicy finish. I will be adding another bottle of the @YegWhiskyNights selection to my shelf before they disappear forever. Definitely backup bottle worthy. Slainte!

Instagram: @woodley_dr

@yegwhiskynights – Sean McCalder

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year review

Ah, Johnnie Walker. The company many (though not all) experienced whisky drinkers love to hate. Sure, people covet the special releases (like the recent 200th anniversary bottlings), the Blue Label and Ghost & Rare, but the Black, Double Black and Green? Hard pass, right? Wrong!

In my mind, there is always a place for these bottles on your shelf, even if it is to share with friends, not all of whom share your enthusiasm for cask strength peated scotch. I will always stand by the Black Label (and I’m sure the Double Black when I eventually try it), but it is the Green Label which is the focus of today’s review. This is a great whisky for several reasons. First, if you are new to Scotch, this is a great introduction to the thoroughly (almost criminally) underappreciated category of blended malts as well as peated, smoky whiskies. Second, it lists the three or four distilleries that are the sources of the blend. Last, it is presented at an un-JW like 43% abv.

Which Diageo (owner of the JW brand) distilleries are represented in your bottle will depend on the release of Green Label you have. The one I am reviewing is a blend of Caol Ila (unpeated), Talisker, Clynelish and Craggenmore. The blend contains whiskies that are now younger than 15 years. It is chill-filtered and probably colored as well.

Nose: This is a light, but pleasant nose. Right off the bat, I get fresh cut apples, light sponge toffee and vanilla. There’s a little bit of smoke in here as well. This has Talisker and unpeated Caol Ila, so that’s not surprising. There is a little bit of citrus with some orange and a tiny bit of lemon. I’m not getting an awful lot of spicing on the nose apart from some cinnamon and maybe a little bit of ground coriander seed. As this sits for longer, it get’s ever so slightly herbal (cilantro) and floral.

Palate: The entry starts off light and sweet with a nice, oily mouthfeel. There’s nothing surprising here and should taste pretty familiar to anyone who has had other JW expressions in the past. It’s slightly floral with a little bit of honey and vanilla cream. There’s some flesh of an orange as well. A nice mix of sweet and sour. That sourness builds during the development with the introduction of a bit of lemon peel, very much the Caol Ila shining through there. The oak and baking spices kick in during the backend of the development. Cinnamon, ginger and a dusting of nutmeg. The experience gets a little drier as I head into the finish.

Finish: It’s short to medium in length, but has a nice amount of balance. A little bit of that honey sweetness from the entry is still detectable and helps to counteract the oak, spices and lingering sour peat from the development. Mid-way through the finish, I get a square or two of dark chocolate, but it’s presence is fleeting.

With water added…

The nose has gotten slightly tropical now. A heavy hint that the majority of this whisky comes from first or refill Bourbon barrels. There’s a touch of pineapple alongside the apple. I’m definitely getting cantaloupe as well. The ginger has come forward from the development without water added. I have never had this with water added, but I like what I’m smelling so far! The entry is just as fresh, light, sweet and slightly citrusy as before, but the peat is much more pronounced on the development. This won’t knock the socks off of experienced peated Scotch drinkers, but it’s still a nice change. The development has a bit of a surf n’ turf thing going on with the peat. There’s a bit of the maritime saltiness and sour lemon that you would expected from coastal peated Scotch mixed with earthier baking spices like nutmeg, which I get off of American peated single malts. The chocolate comes in at the very end of the finish. Making the end of the experience a little less drying that without water added.

Conclusion

Look, this isn’t a whisky that will take you to strange and bizzare new places. That is simply not what Johnnie Walker is all about. Instead, this bottle is a great introduction to peat and blended malts, the latter being a category everyone should explore more of these days. If you like what you taste here, I fully encourage you to explore Diageo’s regular distillery releases, but more importantly, the independent bottlings from those distilleries as well. You’ll find some hidden gems in there that will transform your scotch experience, believe you me!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Dunville’s 12 Year VR PX review

46% abv
10 years in ex-Bourbon and 2-3 year Finish in PX butts and Hogsheads.

Dunville’s Irish Whiskey…..what can i say about thee…

Let’s start this off with a bit of personal history fist and then bring the facts of this bottle. I have a deep personal connection with Dunville’s that stretches back over a century. My great-grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1906 and stories circulate that he enjoyed the odd tipple from time to time. The original Dunville’s brand of whiskey was a favourite of his before he left what is now present day Northern Ireland.

I found out this information a few years ago when I stumbled upon a beautifully labelled bottle of Irish Whiskey in a green bottle. This was the Dunville’s 10 year VR PX. I instantly fell in love with everything about this whiskey. From the gorgeous floral themed label with the word BELFAST displayed, to the absolutely gorgeous whiskey inside. A 10 year Irish Whiskey that had a short yet beautiful and impactful Pedro Jiminez finish that instantly grabbed my attention and never let it go. Sadly, not long after finding this whiskey I was told it had been discontinued. Tears ensued. Then the folks at Echlinville Distillery (who resurrected the Dunville’s name and brand) reached out to tell me they were releasing a 12 year version to replace the 10 year. It did take longer than anyone would have liked to reach the “shores” of Alberta but it has finally arrived and I for one am celebrating for not just this 12 year but there are a couple other Dunville’s releases that accompanied it to Canada’s whisk(e)y mecca that is Alberta. Oh and by the way, as you can see in these photos, the bottles and labels are still as gorgeous as ever.

In the glass: Greeted by a deep gold and maybe a touch of red or pink hue. A most inviting colour to be sure. With a slight twirl of the glass, I have to wait a decent amount of time for legs to even appear, and when they do, they sit idle for a significant amount of time. When they do fall, they are even and very slow. Surely a sign of things to come. 

Nose: OOOOOOOH there it is, so familiar yet not the same. It starts off almost tropical citrus fruit sweet. Papaya and mango and even some slight notes of peaches. This rather quickly slides to more of a strawberry or ripe cherry pie note. And then the beautiful PX influence comes in strong. Citrus peels and sweet raisins (like the ones in cereals) followed by a nutty coffee note like a fruity dark roast thats been freshly ground. The spices come next with a touch of cinnamon and baking spices. Like Christmas at Grandma’s a couple days before Santa’s visit and she is hard at work prepping all the baking and food that will very soon disappear. I love a solid PX influence on an Irish whiskey nose. A bit of the citrusy fruits and some toffee/caramel along with a touch of old leather in a shop at the very end of the nose. Its everything I loved about the nose on the former 10 year but amped up and stronger. If the palate follows suit I will be in Irish Whiskey heaven.

Palate and finish: The very first thing I notice when I just sip a tiny amount to get my palate ready is the mouthfeel. It sits heavy in the mouth in weight not in hotness. In fact the 46% thats this is bottled at might be the perfect abv (if you aren’t going to bottle it straight from the cask). The first note I find is caramel drizzled apple slices. And it’s inviting for more and more. The Irish malt comes through next and I can taste some grass and maybe a hint of tea. A switch is flipped and instantly a sherry oak note comes through, firing on all cylinders. It’s spicy PX all the way. Baking spices and sweet cinnamon with a touch of dryness from the oak. The orange citrus note makes a comeback followed by that PX raisin note and even a bit of light red fruits like strawberries again. The one consistent thing from start to finish is the creamy mouthfeel and this takes it straight through to the finish. This lasts on the palate long after I swallow. The spice/oak tannin tames down and I find a nice nuttiness hanging around.  It’s still drying but my upper cheeks are still tingling with sweet spice. The nuttiness, sweetness and creamy feel meld into a double double coffee note.

Conclusion

I won’t deny I went into this one already expecting to drink a very fine Irish whiskey. What I will say is even my high expectations were blown away. The PX finish on this one has so much more of a varied influence on the whiskey than the former 10 year. It isn’t nearly as sweet either, which I like, as it truly let the various notes come and go without fighting through a blanket of sweetness. This was just the neck pour as well, so i feel that as it opens and maybe evolves a bit it might, just might, get even better. This unfortunately seems to be a limited release here in Canada, or Alberta anyways, so if you were humming and hawing over this, go grab one right now. Dark Cloud seal of approval.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Colorado Bourbon Whiskey review

45% Abv
Aged 4 years in Deep Charred New American Oak

Woody Creek Distillers are a new and exciting brand that will be gracing our store shelves (and home bars) very soon. They are located just west of Aspen Colorado and are very connected to their local ingredients. They have a vodka that is made from potatoes that they grow themselves. The grains that go into this bourbon are sourced from trusted Colorado farms and are then distilled on their very own custom CARL stills. The launch of Woody Creek into Alberta and Canada is being made possible by PWS Imports and there are some very unique and interesting launch events planned for the near future.

Todays spirit is their 4 year aged Colorado Straight Bourbon. They place their bourbon spirit into deeply (#3 level) charred new American oak barrels and keep it there for a minimum of 4 years.  They use a mash bill of 70% Corn, 15% Rye and 15% Barley, all of which is grown in Colorado. This release has been brought down to the very drinkable abv of 45%. This is the first in a series of reviews of the Woody Creek products that will be available very soon.

In the glass: A nice darker gold colour with a touch of orange that seems to enhance light shining through it. A fairly viscous looking oiliness that coats the glass nicely. Some skinny but long struggling legs attest to the viscosity of this dram. It looks nice and inviting before even trying to find the notes.

Nose: The very first thing I notice while just bringing the glass up towards my nose is a great oak note. The classic bourbon notes start showing through next. The honeyed spices show, with a slight cinnamon and toasted baking spice like allspice and nutmeg. As the spice wafts off, I find a unique note I have never found in a bourbon before, that of the taste of maltesers candies. A malt note combined with a bit of darker chocolate. I’m hungry now. Deep down I am finding almost a sage like note, one that reminds me of climbing the mountains in the interior of BC. A dried sagebrush bush that your leg brushes against and releases the aroma into the hot desert breeze. This is definitely a bourbon on the nose yet has some unique characteristics and one that begs to delve into fully on the palate.

Palate: Upon the very first touch on the tongue a small, quick flash of sweetness hits which is rapidly taken over by a nice spice. An almost chilli spice, that then turns to the allspice and nutmeg note from the nose. If you leave the liquid in your mouth and let it roll around and coat your whole mouth you get that spice building to an almost black pepper note. As soon as you let the dram subside and prepare for a swallow, the sweetness comes back strong. Spice turns to cinnamon and then to a beautiful honeyed caramel/toffee note. I still am able to pick out that subtle malt and chocolate note on the palate but it’s definitely less prominent and gets hidden behind the spice and sweetness of the build up on the palate. The finish is a long, slow and broodin. One that teases a build up of the spice again but it lingers instead of builds. That very first beautiful oak note on the nose comes shining through on the finish of this one. 

Conclusion

This is a bourbon that I can already tell will be a fan favourite. Its classic enough in taste that most bourbon drinkers will get along nice with this bottle. There are enough unique notes to bring in and hold the attention of the most seasoned bourbon drinkers and I can see it being very versatile in its uses from neat, on the rocks as well as in cocktails. As the first entry into the Woody Creek cabinet, this whiskey makes me even more excited to dive into their other releases.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Cask Strength Colorado Bourbon Whiskey review

59.5% Abv
Aged 4 years in Deep Charred New American Oak

After a few of the Woody Creek lower ABV sippers, I am proud to introduce one of the “Big Boys” in the form of the cask strength version of their bourbon. This is one I was very excited to have the opportunity to review as I loved the 90 proof version expression. Again the mashbill used is 70% corn, 15% rye and 15% malted barley. I found that the malt really showed well in the lower abv version and am eager to see how the extra proof on this will play out with the maltiness.

In the glass: A deep orange oil colour. Medium oiliness in the legs. Some fall quicker than others but
none disappear at all. Just swirling the glass to check colour and legs and so I can catch a whiff
on the nose.

Nose: This nose was much heavier than any of the lower abv bottles that were previously reviewed. Although there are some similarities to the 90 proof expression, there are some subtle differences as well. The initial nosing is one of oranges and sweet toffee and vanilla. Getting further into it, more classic bourbon notes appear. Cinnamon and clove along with honeyed vanilla and a slight, dark cherry. What I pick up next I was not expecting at all…a bit of nuttiness but sweeter. There it is…peanut brittle. This for me has always been more of a Christmas treat than any other time of the year and I just recently saw freshly made peanut brittle on sale in a small shop. A touch of apple skin appears upon the deepest inhales. This nose is inviting while also showing there may be a slight bite behind it. Its not overwhelming in any way but it does hold your attention.

Palate: There it is! A bit of a bite from the unadulterated proof of this whiskey hits straight away. It brings with it a nice punch of flavour as well. I like that the heaviness of the first sip is countered with sweetness from the get go. A nice honeyed toffee sweetness. A little bit of fruit shows up next. Orange cloves and apple cinnamon all together. Fruity spices lend some weight in the mouth. That maltiness that I found and loved from the 90 proof version is still there but maybe not as prominent. The chocolate note doesn’t show up with it either. Just a nice weighty malt note that holds with it a bit of the spice. Upon the first swallow that cinnamon spice kicks up a notch but all it does is make my mouth water even more. Oak tannins from the new American oak come through on the finish with black pepper and more vanilla. This holds on for a decently long time and is quite nice. The hint of peanut from the nose only starts to show a bit after swallowing and letting the finish brood for a bit. It’s a nice added touch that again I didn’t find much of at all at the lower abv.

Conclusion

What’s exceptional about this bottle is that while the higher proof brings with it more spice and heat, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this will be a sippable bourbon that can please any fan of the genre. It will stand up to ice or water drops and will be amazing in a rocks glass. Its classic enough to hold onto bourbon fans and unique enough that it won’t be boring to anyone. I can’t wait for these to be unleashed on the public and start hearing the way people take to it.

Instagram: @seankinkaid

2021 Christmas Gift Guide – Part 2

Alcohol Edition!

When compiling a list to publish as a gift guide for whisky lovers, I decided to organize it into two lists. The first one, which is already published on the website, was for gifts that were whisky adjacent but not alcoholic in nature. These were gifts that any whisky lover would love to receive to enhance their collections or their experiences in the whisky community. This is the second part, which will be alcohol related gifts of various sorts, and will include some unique and interesting ideas for the whisky lover in your life.

Two Stacks Whiskey “Dram in a Can”

The first entry on my gift guide is one near and dear to my heart. As a huge Irish whiskey fan, having this product land on shelves locally just in time for the holidays, is like Christmas itself. The “Dram in a Can” from Two Stacks Irish Whiskey is pretty much as it says on the tin. It’s roughly 3oz or 100ml of their “First Cut” blended Irish Whiskey which is sold in full size bottles. The big difference is that Dram in a Can is highly portable and therefore has a lot more options of how and where to enjoy them. Immediately coming to mind are, golf bags, camping trips, house parties and outdoor pond hockey games with family and friends (ed note: also top office drawer at work). Of course, I must say, enjoy any and all libations responsibly, and never when needing to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. A delicious blend of 5 different types/styles of Irish whiskey make the contents in these cans easily drinkable and shareable and the best part? Small enough to not worry about leaving it behind or forgetting where you put it, like a full size bottle would be. There are not many new products coming to my local market that have me as excited as these little cans of Irish Whiskey. The absolute best part about these as a Christmas gift idea…..they fit perfectly in a stocking.

Whisky Advent Calendars

Next up we have an always popular idea for a gift that will make any whisky fan happy to receive. In a way, it might bring back childhood memories at the same time. When I was a kid (and now with kids of my own), one thing I looked forward to every single year during the holidays, was getting a chocolate advent calendar. Every day I was excited to see what each one would hold. Well, now spirits companies have brought the adult version to the market in various styles. These include small tastes of whatever their chosen spirit is. These come in almost any style you can imagine, Irish, Scotch, American, world and independent bottled whiskies as well as gins and even beers. They usually contain roughly an ounce per day and almost always have a few hidden gems in their selections. Putting one of these under the tree for the whisky/spirit lover in your life will ensure a gigantic smile and a gift that keeps giving even after Christmas has been packed away again into the storage areas they reside for 11 months of the year.

Bottle and Glassware Gift Packs

When I was at the beginning of my whisky journey, I always looked at the glassware that other people would use in their videos and posts on social media. The ones that always drew my attention were the ones branded from the distilleries and brands I was starting to love. The first Christmas of being a full fledged whisky lover, I received a gift of a bottle of Ardbeg 10 in a beautiful presentation box that looked like a beast was trying to break its way out. The best part for me were the two green mini-glasses with Ardbeg branding on them. I had already tried the whisky before, but receiving that gift pack made it even more special for me. I still, to this day, use those glasses anytime I pour myself Ardbeg at home. These gift packs are released more around the Christmas holidays than almost any other time throughout the year and they will make a great gift.

Mini-Bottle Packs

Another stocking stuffer idea, one that you can personalize, is those little mini-bottles that almost every liquor store has for sale. These are the actual branded mini bottles that usually hold 50 ml of whisky in them but can also come in sizes up to 300 ml. Sometimes, these come in pre-packaged packs from a single distillery or in theme packs (4 peated drams, Canada border collection etc.) Some brands even release gift packs of two or three mini (250 or 300 ml) bottles in ornate gift boxes and I have been very fortunate to have found some of my favourite whiskies ever due to these packs being gifted to me. If you want to add a personal touch for the whisky fan in your life, you can visit a few stores and pick out various single mini bottles and put them together in a homemade tasting pack or even drop them in his/her stocking as a nice added touch. Again, I have found some of my very favourite whiskies from having these mini taster bottles appearing with my name on them come Christmas morning.

Support Local

The final Christmas gift Idea I have for you is one that is one I personally value a lot: supporting local companies and distilleries and adding a little local flavour to Christmas. Year round, the distilleries in your area are always fighting for recognition against the gigantic and well-established brands from around the world. In my area alone, a number of fantastic distilleries have been producing fabulous spirits for the past few years and I have been very honoured to even become friends with some of the owners and people that work for them. I see the undying passion these individuals put into each and every release that comes out into the market. Buying a bottle or two from a company in your own area keeps the money in the community and spreads the word even further each time. A lot of these companies will even offer tours and tastings at their distilleries and giving a gift of a tour/tasting is a unique way to allow your whisky fan to enjoy the spirits of a local brand with a group of family or friends (just make sure they include you in the visit).

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon review

Let’s take a break from the core range today and take a look at a Woody Creek special release. Wheated bourbons, aside from the Weller releases (if you can find them in your state/province) and Makers Mark, were a rare sight up until a few years ago. That has now begun to change. Alongside four grain bourbons (some with oats instead of wheat), craft distilleries are leading the charge here and the expressions offer something different from the mainstream bottlings…like this one!

This Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon has a mashbill of 70% corn, 15% wheat and 15% and has been aged for six years in new American oak. It is bottled at a healthy 47% abv.

Nose: The first thing that hit me straight away was the lack of a dusty grain note that I get on most wheated bourbons. It’s not that it isn’t there, but it’s just lurking in the background. What I do get is the sweetness that I normally find in this type bourbon. Werthers original candies for sure, but also a little bit of the sponge toffee filling in a Cadbury’s Crunchie bar. In that way, it’s sort of like a bourbon matured single grain scotch. Again, this being a bourbon, I would expect to see a cherry fruitiness, but instead I’m getting strawberries and a hint of blackberries as well. In terms of the spicing, I get the traditional cinnamon and a little bit of allspice. I’m expecting nutmeg and/or cloves to show up on the palate. I’m really not getting an awful lot of oak here. As I nose this over time, I am getting more of that grain note, like sweet feed that horses love, but should not really get too much of.

Palate: With all of that sweetness on the nose, coupled with the lack of rye in the mash, I was expecting this to be overly sweet the whole way through the experience. That is initially the case, but this whiskey has some surprises in store for me. The entry is quite sweet for starters. The vanilla custard note alone really coats the front of my mouth right from the get go and that continues through the development as well. Between the entry and the development, I get that Crunchie bar toffee note again mixed with red berries and peaches, this time slightly cooked down. What really surprises me is how spicy this bourbon is on the palate. It’s not super spicy, but certainly more so than any other wheated bourbon I have had. It’s almost effervescent on the tongue. Underneath that spice is more of that grain forward note that I usually see in wheaters. The back end of the development sees some nutmeg start to creep in as well as a touch of clove. I am getting some oak, but again, not a lot. I love the balance all the way through.

Finish: The early part of the finish has quite a bit of character. The oak and dark baking spices carry over from the development and are joined by a heavy hint of dark chocolate. That Crunchie bar vibe sticks around as well. It’s slightly drying, but not overly so. As the finish progresses to a medium/long length, it becomes more oak forward, but there is enough chocolate and toffee to prevent it from acquiring that wet oak feeling that can be a bit of a put off for me.

With water added…

I’m getting much more of the dusty grain bin note as well as some faint vanilla, which I was missing entirely on the nose without water added. I’m getting some light sponge toffee, but this is lacking that Crunchie bar vibe that I was digging earlier. Definitely more oak here as well. That subtle fruitiness has also faded. The entry still has that vanilla custard, but it is tinged with orange now and slightly sour. The development is just as spicy, if not more so than without water, and more oak forward. It’s not quite as sweet either. When I smack my lips to let in some air, I get a bit of roasted peanut now. The baking spices stick around for a lot longer on the finish and the dark chocolate has morphed into a cocoa powder note that I really love. This note actually pairs better with the oak at the backend of the finish than the notes I get without water being added.

Conclusion

As Sean Kincaid has noted in the first three Woody Creek reviews, this is a surprising set of whiskies thus far. They take what you might be expecting from a traditional bourbon and American rye and throw you a couple of curveballs to keep you interested. To me, this is the definition of the craft distillery ethos. Take what you already know from drinking “mainstream” whiskey and give you something familiar, but also slightly new. Still to come is the cask strength rye. You definitely will want to tune in for that.

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