Taconic Barrel Strength Bourbon review

Let’s close off this series of Taconic reviews by talking not about their whiskey, but about a dog. More specifically, the dog that appears on the label of every bottle they produce. The American foxhound has quite a history in the US. A cousin of the classic English foxhound, it was the result of cross breeding hounds bred by the Brooks family (a family with nearly 300 years of foxhound breeding) and French foxhounds owned by George Washington.

Because of the foxhound’s keen sense of smell, it was used by bootleggers during the prohibition to warn when government agents would were near. It’s characteristic howl would alert the bootleggers who would then have a chance to hide or move their illegal spirits.

The foxhound has personal roots for the Coughlin family, who own the distillery. Their foxhound, Copper, is their family dog and distillery mascot.

Now let’s return to their whiskey! Today we’re reviewing their Barrel Strength Bourbon which was matured for at least four years in new American oak barrels and bottled at 57.5% abv.

Nose: For a barrel strength bourbon, the nose is very shy. I’m getting a little bit of a sour orange peel note. I think I’ve gotten orange in all of the Taconic expressions I’ve reviewed. There’s also some corn flakes in there as well. I’m definitely getting more oak on this than I got on their barrel strength rye. There’s a little bit of a dusty sweet feed (like we feed to our horses if they’re extra good) note lingering in the background. It took 45 minutes, but it’s slowly starting to open up now. I’m getting some light brown sugar and a bit of dark caramel. Also a cherry bubblegum note as well. In terms of spicing, there’s cinnamon, allspice and just a hint of clove.

Palate: The entry is sweet, but very brief. Very rich vanilla and caramel quickly transitions to to the flesh and peel of an orange. Then the development hits. It’s not hot, but it’s baking spice rich. Cinnamon and cloves. Lots and lots of cloves. Whole cloves, ground cloves, whole cloves stuck in an orange. You know…cloves! There’s also some nutmeg as well. Like the rye, I like the premise of baking spices without the heat. The difference here is that the baking spices are overwhelming the experience and is swamping out the sweetness I got on the entry. The sweetness is still there, mind you, but it’s faint. The oak that kicks in during the later part of the development doesn’t help matters. I’m hoping that water will level the playing field a little.

Finish: The finish is medium to long, but the imbalance between the sweetness and baking spices that cropped up during the development continue here. The finish isn’t necessarily drying, but there is almost no sweetness to be found except maybe a very dark chocolate note, which is more bitter than sweet. Other than that, it’s just slowly fading baking spices and oak.

With water added…

I’m getting a little more vanilla and caramel on the nose now. This is definitely sweeter than without water added. I’m getting more cloves and oak as well. The entry is even sweeter now and that translates to a huge improvement in terms of the development. Yes, it’s still a baking spice bomb, but the balance between that and the caramel, orange and vanilla that carries over from the entry is much improved. With that extra bit of sweetness the later part of the development into the early part of the finish has that ginger snap cookie taste that I love. This makes the whole part of the finish more pleasurable.

Conclusion

This is why we add water to whisky. It does wonders in terms of transforming an experience. Sometimes it works (as in this case), sometimes it offers you a very different, and equally pleasing, experience. It can, of course, send things careening downhill.

I much prefer their barrel strength rye to this one, simply because there was more balance in the sweetness compared to the spice. However, I do appreciate that water improved this one a lot.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Taconic Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey review

Changing careers is something that a lot of us do at some point or another. Sometimes you accept a promotion within your organization or you seek a similar (hopefully better paying) job at another firm. Sometimes you go back to school to learn up and get a better trade. Other times, you go off and pursue something completely different. With Taconic Distillery’s founding family, the latter is definitely true although the situation is not as unique as you might think.

In a previous life Paul and Carol Ann Coughlin were part of the Wall Street scene in finance and marketing. Having spent over two decades in their respective fields, they felt it was time for a much needed change. They already owned land in Dutchess County (thus the name of this expression), New York and wanted to make that the heart of their new venture. Paul was already an avid bourbon fan, so moving into the field of whiskey seemed like a logical choice. And so Taconic was born.

Taconic’s main focus is bourbon and rye along with a smattering of white spirits. We have already reviewed their wildly popular Double Barrel Maple Bourbon, Founder’s Rye and Barrel Strength Rye. We’ll cover the Dutchess Bourbon in this review and the Barrel Strength Bourbon next week. If you are lucky enough to visit their distillery, you will be able to snag some of their limited releases, which are finished in Cognac, Cabernet or Madeira casks. Not to mention their barrel aged maple syrup!

Sitting in the glass today, we have the Taconic Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey made from a mashbill of 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley. This was aged for at least four years in new, charred American oak and bottled at 45%.

Nose: This is a pretty light nose, but one thing I get straight away is a decent amount of orange. This might be off putting to some bourbon drinkers, but I love it. Baker’s, a favourite of mine, is another bourbon with plenty of citrus behind it. I’m not getting a strong cherry note in here. It’s just lurking in the background. As I let this sit in the glass, it’s becoming just a tiny bit floral and a little bit of peach is revealing itself. There’s also some cinnamon, toffee and a bit of nutmeg in there as well. I’m not getting that much oak or vanilla. That sour orange note is getting in the way, I think. It will be interesting to see what water does in that regard.

Palate: Like the nose, the entry is pretty light and a bit thin. There’s a little bit of toasted peanut to go along with some light caramel and the flesh of a navel orange. The transition into the development is very slow and gentle. For a high rye bourbon, I’m expecting a little bit of a spicy kick in the development, but it’s not there. I got the same experience with their ryes. However, there are plenty of baking spices present. I mostly get cinnamon and clove. The nuttiness, orange and oak gets turned up a little as I smack my lips. The caramel on the entry is more sponge toffee on the development.

Finish: The oak, baking spices and orange slowly fade away. The toasted peanut on the development is now becoming dark peanut brittle, but it’s pretty faint. The orange is preventing a drying end to the experience.

With water added…

Definitely more cinnamon on the nose as well as peanut brittle. The oak is a lot more present as well. Water has definitely increased the boldness here. The palate is much the same in terms of notes, but the volume is turned up significantly. Still not much in the way of heat, but that’s alright by me. One significant difference with water is the addition of cocoa powder. It’s slightly bitter, but helps to add some much needed richness. This is a much more mouth experience as well. By the time the finish kicks in, that cocoa note evolves into a rich hot chocolate. The oak is also a little more pronounced.

Conclusion

This is definitely much improved with water. The flavors are much bolder that way and help to give the whisky a deeper, richer mouthfeel. Part of me wishes that there was a little more heat in the development to remind me I’m drinking 90 proof whisky, but I do appreciate the strong baking spice notes I get on the development despite this.

I’m very interested how the Barrel Proof version compares to this. Will it be spicier? Will it be more of the same? Tune in next week!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Boulder Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey review

Rather than close out this series of reviews of Boulder Spirits expressions by talking more about that distillery specifically, I think it would be more appropriate to talk briefly about the state of Colorado distilling as a whole.

Colorado now has well in excess of 100 distilleries with many of them producing whisky. This is an astonishing number given its population of just under 6 million.

The meteorologist in me (my actual job) suggests that the weather and climate is perfect for the raw ingredients that make distilling possible. The glacier water, the arid climate, a wealth of geographical diversity, good soil for grains. All of these factors make this such a tempting destination for prospective and current distillers.

As you peruse the aisles in your local liquor store, you’ll come across names like Stranahan’s, Boulder Spirits, Tin Cup and Breckenridge. In Alberta specifically, Woody Creek and Distillery 291 will soon be hitting the shelves. All of these hail from Colorado.

This being the Wild West, there’s a ton of experimentation being done in these distilleries in ways that more traditional whisky producing regions like Kentucky might shy away from. It is to those states like Colorado the we should look to in the next chapter of American whisky production.

Although Alberta, the province I live in, is a lot further north than Colorado, we share a lot of the characteristics that make whisky production desirable. It’s tempting to take Colorado as an example as to what spirits production might look like in another 5-10 years in this province.

Finally, let’s return to the topic at hand shall we? Boulder Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a unique mashbill of 51% corn, 5% rye and 44% malted barley. It is matured for a minimum of three years in #3 char new American oak barrels and bottled at 42%.

Nose: There’s a bit of BBQ character to this in the form of sweet smoke and sauce slathered over pork ribs. It’s got to be the combination of the high barley mashbill and the virgin oak that is giving me these notes. The corn note comes in the form of regular corn flakes cereal. Over time, those BBQ notes fade and I get more bourbon characteristics. Rich caramel, fresh ripe cherries, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. I’m also getting a little bit of barley sugar candy and some young maltiness.

Pallet: The entry is a little thin, but quite flavourful. I’m honestly having a little trouble picking out some of the notes here due to how unique this mashbill is. It’s quite sweet, that’s for sure. Malted cereal, light brown sugar and cherry bubblegum. The development is quite light on the spice (cinnamon mostly) due to the low rye content, but, along with the oak, there’s enough to make the tongue tingle a bit. Especially when I smack my lips, I get some roasted peanuts and a tiny bit of orange zest. A bit of ginger and cracked white pepper comes in at the end.

Finish: It’s a little bit on the short side, but that’s not surprising given the low abv. The spicing fades away fairly quickly, but the ginger remains a little longer. That mixed with the sweet notes that carry over from the development give me a faint ginger snap cookie note, similar to what I get on their single malt. This helps to balance out the oak bitterness.

With water added…

On the nose, I get a lot more oak compared to without water being added. There is also a faint salted liquorice note in the background. I get a little more brown sugar as well. As with the other Boulder expressions, there is a lot more oak with water. The difference here is that there is enough sweetness to balance things out. Strong ginger snap cookie vibe on the development for sure. I love how I get this on some of their expressions. The finish is a tiny bit drier, but that ginger cookie note sticks around for quite a while, lengthening out the finish considerably.

Conclusion

This was pretty good without water, but I much preferred it with. Water brought out a little more of the oak to cut through the sweetness and it drank much higher than its 84 proof.

This is great to sip neat, but it would be very interesting to try in a cold weather cocktail such as a hot toddy. I feel those ginger snap notes would really shine in that one.

Down the road, I would really like to review their barrel aged gin, called the Ginsky, which is aged in virgin oak barrels. For now, the five whiskies I’ve reviewed should hopefully help to give you a broad overview of just how good young Colorado whisky can be.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Boulder Spirits Bourbon Whiskey – Sherry Cask Finish review

Nestled just east of the Rocky Mountains and a short drive northwest from Denver, Colorado lies the city of Boulder, where I was born. The backdrop is breathtaking and actually served as the opening scene for The Shining. It’s a hiking and nature lover’s paradise, home to Colorado University, is a burgeoning tech hub and has a thriving research community, particularly in the field of meteorology, my profession.

My parents came to Boulder by way of Libya, where they were working as ex-pats at the time. My dad as a teacher at Benghazi University and my mom as a secretary. They met on the tennis court and got married shortly after. In 1969, Gaddafi came to power and my parents fled to the USA, settling in Boulder shortly after.

Just as my parents came to Boulder seeking a new life, so did Boulder Spirit’s owner Alastair Brogan. After wearing a few career hats, he took the plunge and came to Boulder, along with his family and a copper pot still. Over the last few years, his distillery has been making waves both in the media and among bourbon and single malt enthusiasts alike.

In their bourbon expressions, they have been turning heads with their unique mashbill of 51% corn, 5% rye and a whopping 44% malted barley. This mashbill has led to their whisky’s unique flavour profile and sits between a traditional bourbon and a single malt. It’s really unlike anything out there and is a terrific gateway for single malt drinkers who want to dip their toes into the world of bourbon.

Sitting in the glass today is the Boulder Spirits Sherry Cask finished bourbon. This was aged for 2-3 years in #3 char virgin American oak barrels before being finished for at least six months in ex-Oloroso sherry European oak casks. This is bottled at a very healthy 47% or 94 proof.

Nose: This has such a unique nose. The high barley content gives me those malted cereal notes that I love in young Scotch and Irish whiskey. On the traditional bourbon/virgin oak side of things, I get lots of sponge toffee and a hint of cherry. The sherry cask finish has definitely pushed that to the background. The combination of European and American oak gives me a very Christmas cake vibe. Cinnamon and allspice predominately, but also a touch of nutmeg, ground clove and even ginger. After some time in the glass, a very rich vanilla bubbles to the surface. Plums and raisins from the sherry cask finish round this off. The nose is promising a lot of what the pallet will hopefully offer.

Pallet: The entry can only be described as a gooey cinnamon bun with raisins and a generous slathering of icing. Counterbalancing all this rich sweetness is the virgin oak, which makes it’s presence felt straight away. The oak influence usually doesn’t make itself known until the development, but that’s not the case here. This is mostly dark toffee and deeply toasted peanuts. For it’s age, this is very oily and mouth coating right from the start. The oak spice from both casks again helps to cut through the sweetness during the development. Smacking my lips to let in air gives me more toasted peanuts and a little bit of orange zest. As the development progresses , I get cooked down plums and even some dark chocolate.

Finish: This is surprisingly long for it’s age. Fading oak spice and dark chocolate predominantly, but that orange zest introduced during the development carries through the finish and counteracts the drying sensation of the oak.

With water added…

The nose becomes spicier with quite a bit of citrus mixed in. It’s drowning out quite a few notes that I got without water though. More than anything it’s transformed the nose into a slightly more traditional bourbon. The entry and development are much more oak forward. The increased oak influence from the ex-Oloroso casks makes for a spicier and drier development and reminds me far more of a sherry cask finished scotch than a bourbon. The finish is longer and a little more bitter with water.

Conclusion

If you are a fan of sherry matured or finished Scotch, you’ll be a big fan of this with water. If you love bourbon, I would probably recommend that you sip this neat. But, by all means, do try both. They deliver quite different experiences.

Let’s talk value. In Alberta, which is the only place in Canada this can be found at the moment, you’re looking at a price point of about $85 CAD. This may sound expensive, but you should consider two things. First, Boulder Spirits, like most craft distilleries, are not a high volume operation. Costs are higher. Also, good quality ex-sherry casks don’t come cheap these days.

Ultimately, if you decide to purchase this, you’re buying into an experience that really can’t be found anywhere else in bourbon today, which is a fascinating intersection between an ex-sherry cask finish and a unique high barley mashbill. Trust me, it’s worth the plunge!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Penelope Four Grain Bourbon

When I was asked to review a couple of samples from Penelope,I was excited.  I had been seeing these bottles all over social media and the first thing I was noticing was the eye-catchingdesign.  The bottle is a beautiful elongated design that is reflected in the simple and elegant foiled letter ‘P’ on the label. 

Just a quick foreword, I take a bit of a different approach when tasting a new whiskey and writing notes.  I do this as blind as possible.  I do not read up on the whiskey until I have captured my notes and had two different occasions to sit down and explore the whiskey in front of me.

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain 40%

This whiskey has a soft golden syrup color as I swirl the glass around. It is intriguing how golden the color is.

On the nose, there are those immediate soft hints of vanilla, straw, lemon, powdered sugar, and wax candy wrappers.  When I let this sit and come back an hour later, some faint oak notes had developed.

The palate is very surprising, having a hot and light spice to it with a dry snap. Not as sweet as you would expect with the nose. There are hints of warm strawberries in straw with a gentle citrus note. There is a lovely dry leather and dusty finish to the whiskey. Very unexpected and intriguing.

I tried this whiskey also in a rocks glass and found that there were additional cereal notes and tart green apples.  There was more of that corn sweetness when water was added to the whiskey.  The finish retains that dry snap on the finish.

Now the facts about this whiskey.  This is a blend of 3 bourbon mash bills comprised of 4 grains – corn (75%), wheat (15%), rye(7%), and malted barley (3%).  This whiskey has been aged 2-3yrs with #4 char on the staves, #2 char on the heads.

Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength 58.3%

The color on this whiskey has a burnt orange quality, which has me thinking I will be greeted by some strong bourbon flavours.

On the nose, there is that immediate push of caramel, butter, and an interesting underlying mustiness that makes me think oak barrels and leather – that worn leather of horse bridle.  At the edge of the nose, there is a faint hint of menthol.  With some time, I get additional sweet notes of caramel popcorn and honey glazed nuts.

The palate for this whiskey I do find to be hot and with a dry note to it.  There are some sweet notes of candied fruit peels, citrus notes and some of that bitter of the pith from an orange.  On the finish, the orange notes becomes more pronounced with a medium-dry finish.

When I tried this whiskey in a rocks glass, I found that the nose did indeed go sweeter, with tones of Roger’s syrup and warm toast.  With a bit of water, there are some beautiful chewy leather notes and dark chocolate (92%) notes – that dry and bitter bite from the cacao.

Now the facts about this whiskey.  This is a blend of 3 bourbon mash bills comprised of 4 grains – corn (76%), wheat (15%), rye (6%), and malted barley (3%).  This whiskey has been aged 3-4yrs with #4 char on the staves, #2 char on the heads.

To catch-up on the idea behind these whiskies.

The back-story to this whiskey is rather interesting.  Two friends who had a passion for drinking bourbon and taking that passionand translating their knowledge of the restaurant industry, supply chain management, tech, and e-commerce into a brand.  Rather than building a distillery, they took the approach of working with established businesses to produce their product.  This includes sourcing their distillate from MGP Inc. and working with Castle & Key on the bottling and blending of their end product.  If you don’t know about MGP – do yourself a favor and go read up on them!  

Seeing the craft distillery explosion happening in Canada currently, we are seeing this start with the building of distilleries,so having a company develop a brand and sourcing each stage of their product from other producers is intriguing. Without a doubt, it will be worth watching how this bourbon develops further.

Review written by Nichole Olenek @blackcatwhisky / https://blackcatwhisky.com

JJ Corry The Gael Batch #2

Irish blended whiskey
Bottled and matured by The Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company

Lets start with the Whisky’s make up..

Bottled at 46% ABV

40% 9 year old Grain – Bourbon Cask

30% 17 year old Malt – Bourbon Cask

26% 13 year old Malt – Bourbon Cask

4% 28 year old Malt – Sherry Cask

Officially a NAS bottling but by definition this would be a 9 year old.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review (see what I did there…Irish….potatoes), I will first add a bit of a disclaimer. I am a fervent lover and defender of the Irish Whiskey Realm. One of the earliest moments of my journey through the water of life was visiting the Bushmills distillery in Northern Ireland and inadvertently learning a lot of whiskey history on a trip around the Emerald Isle a few years ago with my wife. It ingrained a deep respect and growing love for whiskey produced from all corners of Èire.
Now knowing a tiny bit about where I am coming from, I will start off by saying, this is one of my all time top Irish whiskies I have ever had.

Without further ado here….we…..go…

JJ Corry is not a distillery. It’s not an independent bottler in the most commonly known way. What they actually are, is known as Whiskey Bonders. An almost lost art in the whiskey business and one that was prevalent in pre 1900 Ireland. Whiskey Bonders fill or buy filled casks and mature them in their own warehouses or in this case, an old barn like structure built on a family farm. This allows for the micro climate significant to the region of County Clare where they are located right on the famous Wild Atlantic Way to play a unique part in the maturation of the whisky.

Nose
This has a clean crisp nose. Starts off with a big whiff of grassy citrus notes – like freshly cut, dew kissed grass in an apple orchard. Oh, so fresh smelling! A bit of orange peel or peach tang shines through as well accompanied by a bit of coconut. A bit of sweetness in the way of honey shows, the longer you hold it under your nose. A touch of mature wood notes show up right at the tail end of the nose right before it eagerly forces you to tip your head back and get your first taste.

Palate
The first thing you notice as soon as this enters your mouth is that it feels oily and not at all “light” like people generally find Irish whiskey can be. On the front there is a grassy, creamy and fruity flavour leaning towards the white or tropical fruit territory, like pears or peaches similar to the nose. Maybe even a bit of mango with that coconut note coming through again. This is just the first half of the sip. Towards the back of the mouth, right as you begin to swallow you get hit with a hint of pepper and baking spice. Like lightly buttered rye bread dusted with pepper and cumin.  The way it evolves from beginning to end and never loses it power, while also maintaining somewhat traditional Irish whiskey flavours is probably why I love this whiskey the most.

Every single time I pour this for someone I let them sip it before saying a word. Then I tell them that to me “this is what Irish whiskey should be”. It’s old, triple distilled single malts blended with some younger grain in a ratio that allows all parts to shine and come together beautifully to create a strong yet nuanced, and balanced yet evolving glass of whiskey.  I have had my eye on this company for a couple years, so being able to locate find their expressions in our part of the world is very exciting for me. I can only hope future releases find their way to me as well.

Review by Sean Kincaid

Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique – Cask Strength, Single Cask

The KAVALAN DISTILLERY at the present time, is indeed a distillery you have heard of . It seems every few months this distillery is taking home major spirit competition top medals and accolades . or perhaps you simply know it because you are a whisky lover and enjoy the finer things and tastes , in life . Located in Yilan County, Taiwan , the terroir the Kavalan Distillery resides on , is sub tropical and humid, and accented by snow capped mountains. The days are stifling hot and the evenings are cool , cooled by mountain air which plays an integral part in the maturation of their whisky and the way it interacts with top hand selected casks. The mineral rich natural melt water is used in its Whisky production, is sourced from the Yilan snow mountain that co exists amidst lush, tropical land.
The area surrounding Yilan was formerly known as “Kavalan” which was named after the mystic indigenous peoples that were known to be warriors, the honorable name was granted to them by the Emperor of the Chin Dynasty in 1809. Kavalan Whisky made its first impactful statement amongst Whisky Enthusiasts in 2010 when it beat out Scotch and English Whisky on a Burns night in Scotland leaving the participants shocked !
In fact they were so shocked – they repeated the blind tasting one year later, and Kavalan came out on top and was chosen as number one again.

Kavalan Distillery History :
It took until 2002 for Taiwan to be a part of the WTO (world trade order) to be able to build a distillery creating spirits. The Kavalan distillery was established in 2005 and the first new make was poured and barreled in 2006 for maturation. Owned by Food and Beverage Conglomerate “KING CAR” in Taiwan, owner Mr. Tien- Tsai Lee Lee had been wanting to distill , create, and sell , fine spirits and alcoholic beverages since the KING CAR Group was established more than 40 years ago.
After 3 years of studying the art of Whisky making (2002 to 2005), The distillery was then built from the ground up in 9 months with copper pot stills that were brought in from Scotland . The distillery also adopted Scottish Whisky making and distillation processes. KAVALAN Distillery was a passion project for King Car owner Mr. Lee so once permission was granted to build the distillery he dreamed of for years prior, he comprised a group of experts together to travel parts of world (including Scotland and Japan). The group studied and adopted the BEST spirits making knowledge and equipment to bring Mr. Lee’s vision to fruition. There was no corner of the earth that the best practices for spirits production , went unnoticed or upturned.

The master group that studied whisky production along with Mr. Lee was former Master Distiller , Ian Chang , and the late Dr. Jim Swan who worked with the distillery until his passing . Cask selection and preparation :
The education , knowledge, and guidance taught to the master group by Dr. Jim Swan resulted in high, methodical production standards being practiced at the Kavalan Distillery. At the same time and synergistically , the highest technology available for distilling was also brought in by the King Car group creating one of the worlds most technologically advanced distilleries. This accolade stands to date and the Kavalan Distillery is one of the top 10 distilleries in the world today. Dr. Jim Swan also introduced the “STR” (SHAVE, TOAST, and RE CHAR”) process to the Taiwanese Whisky producers. The “STR” process is a beautiful to witness fire barrel craft . It is used exclusively for the production of the ever prestigious Solist Vinho Barrique, with the exception of a recent experimental fully peated
Kavalan Whisky, that was also matured in a cask treated with the “STR” process .

The VINHO BARRIQUE is the highest awarded Kavalan Single Malt Whisky at the distillery.

It is matured in hand selected American Oak Casks that formerly held both red and white wine , treated with the “STR” process , prior to maturation .
Each release is from a single cask yielding approximately 180-200 bottles of this exquisite Whisky , and depending on cask, can range from 54%-59.4% ABV. In other words , each release can be slightly unique from the next driving whisky enthusiasts to collect a variety of the same Whisky matured at differing times and lengths.
The Vinho Barrique is part of the Kavalan “SOLIST” series and possibly the most loved expression of this line up.


In 2020 alone it was awarded NUMBER ONE at the 2020 TWSC (Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition) that took place in June of this year in Japan.
128 single malts were blindly tasted and narrowed down to 14 TOP single malts. The “SOLIST VINHO BARRIQUE” was chosen as number one and awarded THE “BEST OF THE BEST SINGLE MALT (2020) AWARD . Kavalan also took home a total of 14 awards for its other loved Whisky expressions in addition , and won “BEST WORLD DISTILLERY of the YEAR award.
In September 2020 , The International Review of Spirits (IRS) Competitions took place in the US. and the “SOLIST VINHO BARRIQUE” took home a Platinum Superlative award and was noted as number one in the competition along side 3 other top Kavalan expressions. This award is superior to a gold award which were also awarded to several other Kavalan Whiskies. Being a lover and avid sipper of this expression, I can see how this single malt keeps coming out on top!


The Kavalan “SOLIST” VINHO BARRIQUE is a multi layered , sensational , single malt whisky , that boasts elegance and superiority you feel rush through your veins as you sip its majesty.

The Colour alone is entirely captivating ! Akin to a fine, richly mahogany deep color French Cognac – this pour is dark and mesmerizing. To note the whiskies from this distillery have no color added and are non chill filtered , resulting in killer legs in your sipping glass of choice and a rich mouthful of desirous esters and oils.

n the Nose are rich notes of tropical fruits , ripe mango, kiwi , chocolate , dates , fine tobacco , stewed fruit , brown sugar , berry compote and spice .


On the Palate are notes of black pepper spice , chocolate , melon , vanilla , cinnamon , dark dried fruits , toffee , and more lush tropical fruit . The mouthfeel is rich , thick , and velvety .

The Finish is long and luxurious, spicy and sweet, and simply sensational.
The Kavalan VINHO BARRIQUE is a beauty of a single malt, that all Whisky Enthusiasts should have the pleasure to savor. A whisky that will stop you in your tracks and seduce you to spend time with – exciting all your senses.

To note the bottling I am describing today is 56.3 % with cask no W130116019A . I know the the Kavalan fans obsessed with this whisky will appreciate that detail. ;-0 Personally, when it comes to me and the Vinho Barrique experience – I like to sip it neat, in a copita, in my fanciest dress and greatest smile , and in my highest heels .
Gan Bei ! “Kavalan – Pure Taiwan”

Yours truly , Lady Whisky Z

Kavalan Single Malt – Solist, ex – Bourbon Cask


I remember the weekend of September 28th and 29th, 2018 like it was yesterday.  I had the absolute pleasure of attending the very first Banff Whisky Experience in Banff, AB . The days were filled with amazing master classes and the evenings each hosted a grand tasting with 77 distilleries and a plethora or drams represented.  After an amazing Friday evening and night out in Banff with some of the grandest whisky personalities,  soon came a late Saturday morning rise for myself.  I am sure we can all relate to those nights when the morning had somehow slipped away, and well… waking at 11 AM, freaked out and realizing my first master class for the day was about to start at noon!!  I did what I do best and that’s pulling myself together, looking like I had all the beauty sleep in the world, haha.  Might have learned a trick or two about that over the years (yay for concealer !) .  
My first class that day was called “KAVALAN – The Single Malt from the other side of the world –  being presented by the late and great J. Wheelock.  God bless his soul!  As I settled into my seat and started gazing over a beautiful tasting mat of 8 whiskies, I quickly noticed the majority of them were Kavalan single malts from Taiwan.  The theme of the class was essentially de bunking non age statements whisky (N.A.S.) and to say the least, I was all ears!

 
Sitting before me along side the Kavalan spread was a large bar of dark chocolate bar and seeing that I kind of slept though breakfast, I was salivating at the idea of hammering it back. As noon swept across the clock though, and Jay’s introduction commenced the tasting, my eyes were quickly focused on the whisky in front of me. And then it happened… upon my first sip of this rich, deluxe, beautiful, viscous, and tropical whisky, I was sold!  It was love at first sip.

Kavalan is known to have one of the most comprehensive lines and offering of Sherry Whiskies , however there are a few that were matured in alternate ways. Kavalan “Solist” Ex Bourbon Oak is a cask strength whisky that was fully matured in fresh hand picked ex-bourbon oak Barrels by Kavalan’s master distiller, Ian Chang at the time.


Whisky romance 101: I am not sure about you, but when I am drinking a high end Whisky such as Kavalan – you better believe I am taking my time with it.  I am not afraid to say I love drinking whisky alone because it gives me some real one on one time to enjoy and unpack all it has to offer. A whisky date!, as I like to refer to it.

Tasting and Reviewing the Whisky

Upon pouring this whisky into a proper whisky drinking glass (in my case a copita), I see a bright shiny, viscous, and oily whisky that has legs for days, coating the glass and presenting a color that’s described by the distillery as “Cattle Egret” which is a Melanesian bird that dawns a beautiful golden colouring downs its neck and wings. The oily residue on the glass reminds moves around reflecting the light reminding me of a kaleidoscope… I am now extremely intrigued.

Nose

Lush tropical fruits, floral frangipani, blooming Jasmine mist and young coconut cream . One the second nosing I get kiwi, melon, green apple, with oak and vanilla.

Palate

The texture is rich, smooth and silky. I get lots of notes of vanilla and oak as well as the Kavalan signature tropical notes I mentioned above and also mango and pineapple. On my second sip the whisky tasted sweeter and I got a full essence of a vanilla ice cream cone with hints of ginger, nutmeg,  and woody notes.
With a couple of drops of water I got notes of white chocolate, raspberry and cream soda .  What a delight!

Finish

The finish is sweet and spicy like white pepper sprinkled on biscuits that lingers on the palate.

Conclusion 
For such a high cask strength whisky (58.6%) it is very luxurious , smooth and elegant, drinking well below it’s ABV.
This Taiwanese single malt cask strength whisky has won a ton of accolades – most recently including double gold at the international spirits challenge 2019 and gold at the San Francisco Spirits competition in 2019.

  • Review written by Zahara Amiri

The Black Bottle Showdown!

Black bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS new bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the Black Bottle you will typically find on shelf at your local liquor store(and one you should definitely have on your bar at all times) It is simply a fine bottom shelf whisky that holds its own, neat in a glencairn, or even cooked up in your whisky cocktail of choice as well. Its been a bartender favourite for decades in the industry.

Nose

This one starts off sweet. Like burnt caramel or brown sugar on freshly made porridge. There is a slight maltiness. Some citrus notes are found but they are almost hidden behind the brown sugar notes. It reminds me of a young sherried highland malt.

Palate

Again starts off with caramel/brown sugar sweetness. It then ups the spice a bit, with some fresh baking like spices. Vanilla spread over a slice of wheat bread. There is a familiar aspect to this.

Finish

The finish makes me think of Bunnahabhain with that hint of smoke mixed with a nutty, and lightly spiced fruit. Like I mentioned, this is something everyone should have. It’s head and shoulders above most blends and for the price it is really hard to beat.

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS Old bottling – green bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the fabled old bottle of black bottle. All but a ghost now. Said to be a blend of islay malts and mainland grains.

Nose

Anyone familiar with Islay blends will know this nose. The usual ashy smoke and brine hints are welcomed and prevalent. Followed by a beautiful sweet vanilla and honey note. A little further nosing finds light pear and green apple notes.

Palate

Starts with that ashy Islay smoke but lighter than most Islay malts. This quickly hands the torch off to orange peel and a lemon fruit note. A little bit of honeyed sweetness comes through just before the spice and heat from the peat comes back.

Finish

The finish is rather short but full of smoke and a nice lingering and pleasant peatiness. It was much lamented when the black bottle recipe changed from this blend to the current one which I can clearly understand why. This is a beautifully Islay influenced blend that is as balanced and good as most I have tried from the region but always at half the price. It sad to see these older bottlings work their way into extinction.

Black bottle 10 year Blended Scotch Whisky (2019/20 limited edition release) – 40% ABV

This was a surprise release when it came out, but for lovers of the cult classic, Black Bottle, it became a must have. Unfortunately for most, it was only released in the UK and a couple select countries.

Nose

The first element separating itself from the others is it’s age. There is oak in the nose that you didn’t get with the NAS releases, but not fresh oak, a rich soggy oakwood that been sitting next to a firepit all summer. Accompanying the oak, is a reduced brown sugar sweetness and floral honey.  A little bit of peat and smoke are evident as well.

Palate

This one has both the sweet and smoke, standing side by side. On the sweet side you have honey, vanilla, apple and sweet bready like notes. Like hot cross buns dripped with honey. On the other side you have some baking spices, fragrant peat smoke, and an almost gingerbread spice/sweet mix.

Finish

This one has that balance of sweet and smoke, peat and fruit. It’s a shame the stock was so limited and they couldn’t do a wider release. This shows just what a blend can do if left to age properly instead of being bottled as soon as it legally is allowed to be. A great dram if you can get your hands on it!

Conclusion
All three of these bottles are fairly different from one another. I wish it was possible for everyone to try all three but I know sadly, that is almost impossible. If you come across any of these bottles, do yourself a favour and pick it up. You will be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck whisky on the market.

  • Review written by Sean Kincaid

The Whiskey Silk

The ‘Whiskey Silk’ is my first personal creation, using a Sweet Lemon Ginger shrub that is the key ingredient to this cocktail. Shrubs are typically created with equal parts fruit/spices – vinegar – sugar but that is merely just as suggestion because the possibilities are endless. They can be used to flavour your cocktail, mocktail, smoothie, soda water or any beverage for that matter.

Sweet Lemon Ginger Shrub

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Chamomile tea bag
  • 1 cup raw sugar (or white sugar)
  • 2 lemons – cut in half inch cubes (approx 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup of fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Instructions

1. Heat up the water in a pot / sauce pan on medium heat and steep chamomile tea for 4-5 minutes.

2. After the tea is steeped, remove the tar bag and combine the remainder of the ingredients into the pot / sauce pan.

3. Bring the mixture up to a light boil for 1 minute, stir well and then turn the heat down to a low simmer.

4. Let the mixture stew and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Let cool for 15 min and then add the Apple Cider Vinegar.

6. Place the mixture into a container (mason jar) and then in the fridge for a minimum of 2 – 4 days, up to 7 days.

7. After that, use a fine strainer or cheese cloth and filter the contents so all you have left is the juice with no solids.

8. Ready to use for cocktails or mocktails!

Now, let’s make the cocktail!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 ounces Whisk(e)y
  • 1 ounce Sweet Lemon Ginger Shrub
  • Token Lavender Bitters and/or Aromatic Bitters
  • 1 egg (whites)

Instructions

  1. Crack the egg and separate the whites into the shaker.
  2. when a cocktail includes egg whites, always shake them on their own for about 10 – 15 seconds to get them nice and silky and frothy before adding the other ingredients.
  3. After that add the bourbon or any whiskey you desire, the shrub and the bitters.
  4. Shake all the ingredients together for 20-30 seconds, making sure the shaker is nice and cold on your hands by the end of it.
  5. Grab your Hawthorne strainer and pour into a low volume glass. I chose to use a coupe glass because they are a person favorite of mine.
  6. Enjoy like I know you will!
  • Cocktail created by Steven Shaw