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

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

Bardstown Bourbon Fusion Series 1

The Bardstown Bourbon Company is a compelling one to me. Mostly because of their willingness to be innovative and creative, and to explore and push the boundaries. In a vast world made up of numerous methodologies and inventive capabilities when it comes to distillation, blending and finishing, it is clear, Bardstown’s goal and passion is to light up the world and create a product that can effectively stand out in a saturated whiskey climate. I respect tradition but I am not a traditionalist when it comes to whisky. I am a huge advocate of being bold and daring when it comes to the creation of whiskey and love to see those who are willing to experiment and risk being criticized for their efforts. Its important for Craft distilleries maintain modern approaches and be the visionaries in order to keep the house hold names humble and in check. Needless to say, Bardstown is well on their way to effectively doing so and being recognized as a distillery people can rely on for a quality product.

A great example of the innovative minds behind the Bardstown brand is, they have become the first distillery to develop and offer a full Napa Valley style destination and experience providing an all-inclusive look into their genius on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. A place that sits firmly atop my list to visit when go!

Okay, on to the bourbon itself. The Fusion series as I am aware, would qualify as their entry level expression. It composition is made up of 60% of their own bourbon and 40% of a sourced bourbon from a fellow Kentucky distiller. Combined in the 60% are two bourbons; one of which is aged 2 years and 3 months, carries a mash bill of 68% corn / 20% wheat / 12% malted barley, and makes up 18% of the blend; the second is aged 2 years and 1 month, carries a mash bill of 60% corn / 36% rye / 4% malted barley, and makes up 42% of the blend. The remaining 40% which is a sourced bourbon is 11 years and 7 months old and carries a mash bill of 74% corn / 18% rye / 8% malted barley.

As I destruct everything Bardstown has blended here, it looks like they are combining some youthful bourbons to add some liveliness and edginess with an elder bourbon that can act as a back board, providing stability to the pour. The two different Bardstown mash bills are interesting as they have taken a decently high rye – bourbon which should bring a lot of spiciness to the table and a high wheat – bourbon to potentially tame it and provide some softness especially considering the 11 year bourbon is also a rye – bourbon. In my opinion, I might have gone a little higher with the Wheat – bourbon to increase the potential for softening the back of the palate where the pepper like spiciness usually lies the heaviest and adding a nice creamy sweetness to the fore palate. That being said… I am no expert so who am I to tell the experts what to do!

ABV – 49.45% / Age – 2 – 11 years / Mash – See above / Region – Kentucky Bourbon / Cask – New American Charred Oak

Time to taste the Bourbon!

Nose

A very soft nose with subtle notes of vanilla sweetness, wet leather and very light fruitiness. Honestly, very pleasant but not a ton there to unpack.

Palate

On entry, there isn’t a lot of present but quickly uncovers a little vanilla, brown sugar and tart cherry similar to that of a cherry simple syrup made with a demerara sugar. Now brace yourself because the palate drastically changes toward the back and into the finish with a punch of pure pepper which is what that 38% rye – bourbon is bringing to the table.

Finish

The finish is dry, oaky with pepper for days with a bit of bitter black tea. It is fairly lengthy but mainly because of the peppery spice.

Overall, its a perplexing pour. Youthful with a mix of distinguished behaviors coming from the elder bourbon. Not very complex but not a lot of Distiller’s entry bourbons are. I am curious to see how it performs in cocktails because I think that spiciness will provide some interesting character to classics like a Manhattan or Sour. The price is a little up there but what everyone needs to consider is that this is a craft distillery still in the infancy stages, and it is not cheap to build and run a world class facility so just like we support local boutiques, we pay a bit more to support the passion and potential Bardstown Bourbon Company represents.

This bourbon isn’t going to please everyone, but what does? I would recommend it because I believe in the brand. I have been closely watching Bardstown release all kinds of interesting expressions over the last while and to date, have only tried a couple different expressions myself, thanks to some samples from good friends. Its unfortunately not available in Canada which I really hopes changes in the future because I would really love to dive further into their products. Until then, samples will have to do!

  • Review by Steven Shaw