Budget Dram Reviews – Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey

Photo credit: Jack Daniels (@jackdaniels_ca)

Today, we’re looking at a brand that people may have fond, or not so fond memories of from their university (or God forbid their high school) years. For some, it’s a whisky they simply can’t drink anymore. Fortunately, those of us who really get into whisky, realize that there is so much more to Jack Daniels than Old No. 7. Their single barrel barrel proof Tennessee whiskey is one of the best value bottles out there and their barrel proof rye made many people’s top five last year.

In fact, there is a Jack Daniels for everybody no matter what your experience or tolerance to alcohol. Take Gentleman Jack, which is the whiskey under review today. Really, the only thing that differentiates Old No. 7 from the Gentleman Jack (which is my is in my glass for this review) is that the latter makes two trips through the Lincoln County process. Briefly, this process involves filtering their new make spirit through several feet of maple charcoal. It’s pretty astounding just how much of a difference that second trip makes.

Gentleman Jack is aged for roughly five years in virgin American oak barrels. It is put through the Lincoln County process once before maturation and once after. It’s bottled at 40% abv.

Nose: Since this had two trips through a column of maple charcoal, it should come as no surprise that this smells pretty sweet. Maple syrup, maple and light brown sugar and a little bit of vanilla. Fried bananas in caramel sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon and just a touch of allspice. There a slight peanut note in the background as well as cherry bubblegum. I’m getting a hint of oak after this sits in the glass for a while. I definitely don’t get any of the artificial flavouring notes like that I experience with the entry level Jack Daniels.

Palate: The entry isn’t as thin as I thought it was going to be, but it is very sweet. Vanilla and maple syrup mostly. The development is bananas. Literally bananas. Bananas fried in butter. There’s a little bit of citrus as I smack my lips. The peanut note starts to make its presence felt towards the second half of the development. Apart from a dash of cinnamon there’s not a whole lot of spice here and this whisky kind of needs it to cut through all this sweetness. There’s a tiny bit of oak on the end.

Finish: Not all that long and just a bit drying. The banana note slowly starts to fade. The spice vanishes almost instantly. What sticks around is a little bit of wet oak cask, maple sugar and some milk chocolate.

With water added…

This is nosing a lot more like the original Jack Daniels now. The banana note has faded away considerably. It’s mostly maple sugar and syrup, cinnamon and oak. With water added, I’m not getting that creamy mouthfeel when sipped neat. It’s a little too thin now. The development is a little bit of maple, cinnamon, peanut and oak, all in equal measure. I get a little of the fried banana note at the end of the development. The finish remains the same.

Conclusion

I tasted this one for the first time at a Brown Forman virtual event and I was expecting not to like it, based on my opinion of No. 7. I was one of several participants who was pleasantly surprised by this one. Personally, this one is too sweet for my taste, but I can see this appealing to those who have a bit of a sweet tooth and want to enjoy this on ice in the summer.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Signatory Vintage Cask Strength Collection Ledaig 2007 (12 year) review

The whisky community, like many communities, has their share of people who are not just enthusiasts, but are geeks and all-out nerds. And they are proud of it. They help to drum up enthusiasm, always have time for you and are respectful towards the entire community, regardless of your experience level.

Although he no longer works for Distel, Mike Brisebois (@thewhiskyexplorer), more than anyone else, helped to put their products on the map. Now Tobermory (Ledaig), Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Black Bottle are household names from coast to coast. As Canada’s unofficial official whisky ambassador, his enthusiasm has helped to introduce countless numbers of people to the water of life. Now striking it out on his own, his Whisky Explorer Society will continue to spread his passion for whisky within Canada.

Since we are talking about Ledaig, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky) of The Whisky Heathens. From his home in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, he has probably tried all the Ledaig available out there and is the most vocal supporter of both Tobermory and Ledaig on social media.

With these two acting as major cheerleaders for the whisky under review today, it’s no wonder Ledaig (and Tobermory for that matter) does a brisk trade in this country.

And so to the whisky in question. This Ledaig has been matured in a re-fill sherry butt for over 12 years and was bottled by Signatory Whisky as part of their Vintage Cask Strength Collection lineup at 60.1%.

Nose: Since I popped this bottle back in late April of this year, it has mellowed significantly. Make no mistake, this is still a bold dram, but it is far less “burnt rubber” forward than it used to be. Usually, Ledaig is far more maritime than it is medicinal and that is the case here. In that regard, there’s a hefty dose of sea spray, seashells and weathered driftwood. Moving inland a little, there are some lovely BBQ notes of sweet smoke and meat on the grill. This bottle, coming from a re-fill sherry butt, is more distillate than cask forward but there is a little bit of fresh plum and earthy spices such as clove and nutmeg. There’s only a hint of dark chocolate so I’m guessing this is Oloroso rather than PX. Finally, there is a whiff of mint toothpaste to round this all out. This does not nose like a cask strength whisky, but I have a feeling that this will not be the case on the palate!

Palate: My prediction was correct. This is mellow for about two seconds before the heat takes over in a big way. On the entry, brief though it is, it’s sweet, a little bit tart and much more oily than creamy. Lots of rich honey, sponge toffee and orange and lemon peel initially. Then the proof, spice and oak kick in along with a strong mint toothpaste and mouthwash vibe. The initial sweetness is not entirely drowned out however, and it’s joined by a rich dark chocolate note that builds through the development. Bobbing along the surface are those salty and mineral maritime notes. Towards the end of the development clove and nutmeg are joined by ginger.

Finish: The oak is present, but by no means is it dominant or drying. The baking spices slowly fade, but do not disappear. The saltiness remains and does a hint of dark chocolate. All of this combines to give me a sort of spice cake note that I get off of a lot of whiskies like this. The citrus helps to cut through the dryness of the oak. It goes without saying that the finish is insanely long.

With water added

I let try this sit with seven drops of water in my remaining ounce of whisky for at least 30 minutes while my taste buds recovered. It’s quite a bit more cask forward now with stewed stone fruits, but the mint toothpaste is still there. The spices are a bit less earthy now. Allspice rather than clove and nutmeg. It’s also not quite as maritime either. The role reversal between distillate and cask continues on the palate. More stewed fruits, baking spices and dark chocolate. It’s also more orange marmalade than citrus peel. The finish is more citrus forward this time round and has a little bit more oak.

Conclusion

I like the contrast here between sipping this neat and with water. Although there is a reversal between distillate and cask dominance, one isn’t hugely victorious over the other in either case. Signatory had a Ledaig in the out turn previous to this one that was the same age and strength, but in a first fill sherry butt as opposed to a refilled one. It would be interesting to try a Ledaig along those lines someday, just to see what the contrast is.

Although special releases of Ledaig and anything besides their official 10 year expression are fiendishly difficult to find in Canada, it seems to be very popular with independent bottlers these days. It’s thanks to them that there will always be a Ledaig available on a shelf nearby.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Berry Bros. & Rudd Speyside 2000 (17 year) Sierra Springs Liquor review

Photo credit Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky)

When it comes to whisky, peated expressions, to most people, seem to be the biggest barrier to overcome. Some never do. And that’s totally fine. Everyone’s palate and preferences are different. That’s what makes this community so special.

I would argue that sulfured, sherry bomb-type scotch is another genre where people have a very black and white preference, both for and against. The burnt match notes you get off the strongest whiskies in this category are similar to the medicinal characteristics of some peated scotches. It’s something you either like or hate.

As for the whisky we’ll be reviewing today, I was making love-y eyes at this bottle for months before I pulled the trigger and spent almost $180 to get it into my greedy little hands. I did no research. It was from Berry Bros. & Rudd, it was matured in a single ex-sherry butt and was a store exclusive to Sierra Springs in Red Deer, Alberta. Many boxes checked there.

Then I did the research after I clicked on the “Pay now” button and my jaw dropped. This bottle elicited so much rage that the three reviews on Whisky Base averaged below 50/100. The reviews talked of notes of rotten eggs and multiple dead bodies (people, if this is what you want to write about a whisky, please just remove your fingers from the keyboard. It makes you look really silly).

Later, I heard that there were such vocal complaints about this whisky that the Berry Bros. rep had to get involved. Instead of backing away from my purchase, I decided to go ahead and take my chances. I was not disappointed. Yes, there a bit of a burnt match smell to it, but the bold flavours instantly melted away my regret.

In short order, a member of the local whisky community offered me his bottle for free, which I passed on to a friend of mine who loved it. Then another friend got hold of it and bought at least two bottles. A revival was in the offing. The moral of the story here is that sometimes whisky just needs to make it into the right hands before it is truly appreciated.

The bottle in question was distilled in 2000 at an unnamed Speyside distillery and was matured for over 17 years in an ex-Sherry cask of unknown type (assumed to be Oloroso). It was bottled in 2018 at 58.9% abv and was sold exclusively at Sierra Springs Liquor in Airdrie, Alberta. Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky and one half of @thewhiskyheathens) and Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid) of Park Whiskey Society are collaborating with this review.

Photo credit: Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky)

Josh Ward’s review

I first caught wind of this gorgous secret Speyside from Sierra Springs when Paul and Sean directed me to some absolutely insane reviews, which posted notes of “ichorous discharge from the underbelly of an African wildebeast” and “bile, wildebeast, dead bodies (many of them), black eggs, snot, decay and rot”. Seems they were of the notion that this whisky was to be dumped and discarded because it was SO nasty that it couldn’t be consumed by any self-respecting individual. Much different for me, I’m looking for that nastiness and I fully embrace those oloroso style sulphur bombs. Much to my excitement a sample showed up on my doorstep and I was on the phone to order a bottle before I finished the glass.

Nose: The first note that hit my nostrils was of wood decay, beautiful and nasty with thick and pungent waves of sulphur and a distinct note of dry, abrasive sherry. Tucked away behind the powerful cask influence was a hint of sweetness, both sultry and alluring.

Palate: The taste exceeds anticipation with all the expected notes from the nose coming at you immediately. Sherry city was built in a sulphur spring and it’s a place I really love to visit. It’s brash and it’s heavy and it’s perfect for anyone who loves it raw and unapologetic.

Finish: The finish is slightly sour with meaty notes of BBQ and charred sherry wood that lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts.

With water added…

I finished the dram and poured a second but this time I added a healthy dose of water. Water certainly doesn’t hurt this one, especially at 58.9%. I’d say there were 15 drops in my 2 ounce pour. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I’d have to add another drop or two of whisky, quite frankly the devil in my moustache encourages such blasphemy.

Once the water settled the sulphur did too. It’s tame now but still present with sherry sweetness shining through. A touch of burnt caramels swirling around the nose and mouth are wonderfully pleasant with beautifully moist and righteously magnificent notes of sweet and sulphuric sherry, it’s everywhere, just toned down and mellowed appropriately.

Conclusion

Something this unique only comes around every once and a while, I’ll definitely be grabbing another bottle.

Sean Kincaid’s review

This bottle has had an adventure already around these parts. From some absolutely horrible reviews that were posted online to a few of us actually trying this and loving it. This is the perfect example of not judging a whisky by other people’s reviews. So I will now go ahead with a review of this whisky for you all to judge it by.

That super dank delicious deep Oloroso goodness. Woody and bomb levels of sherry. This is the greatness that an active fresh Oloroso cask can impart on a spirit.

Nose: Deep dark fruits, nuttiness, dunnage warehouse, a touch of rubbery sulphur. A true sherry bomb whisky that makes me want to dive right in. Almost a dusty note. Dusty and savoury combined. Like smoked spare ribs with a smokey, but fruity rub and then left for awhile. Then eaten.

Palate: Even more of that dank Oloroso, from all sides. Spices, dark fruits, figs, plums, maybe a touch of cherry and chocolate. Leather, dunnage floor. Hefty sherry and at cask strength doesn’t need much water at all. This is what a dank sherry bomb can and should be.

Finish: Decent length. That Oloroso sticks in your gums and I just want to pour another and another. That dank sherry sticks around and leaves your mouth feeling coated long after you swallow.

Conclusion

What a whisky this is. I hope those that hated this learned their lesson and leave the glorious dank sherry bombs for those of us that love it.

Paul Bovis’ review

Nose: When I first poured this into the glass it was like a match where the wood was a sliver of a sherry cask stave, lit on fire and then doused in Oloroso sherry. More than anything, this is probably the smell that the people who hate this bottle found so off-putting. Like this year’s Kilkerran 8 year, there is a whiff of gasoline as well. Like peated scotch, this has some notes that might knock you sideways, but as you spend time with bottles like this, you learn to both appreciate what this adds to an experience while at the same time nosing past it to get at the other notes. The European oak that I get off this is musty and wet. Ever since I opened this bottle I got a good amount of dried cranberries. It’s still there, but dark chocolate has overtaken it now. Stewed plumbs lurk behind the cranberries. It’s also a bit nutty. Almond perhaps. Nailing down the spices is a bit of a challenge. After nosing around my spice bottles, I’m settling on allspice and a touch of ground cloves.

Palate: The entry is tart and sweet and extremely short-lived. Dark caramel, medium dark chocolate, dried cranberry, half and half creamer and a bit of orange peel. Then the oak and spice kicks in. Big time. The front end of the development is a little bit overwhelming with the oak, chili flakes, cracked black pepper and earthy nutmeg. A touch of sweetness from the dark chocolate and that tart cranberry and citrus help to cut through the intensity of it all. By the time you get to the back end of the development, your tongue acclimatizes to the heat and the dark chocolate really starts to shine through.

Finish: This is insanely long and is presented in three acts. The first is the fading spice and oak. It’s a little bit drying. The retreat of spice reveals the second act: rich dark chocolate. The third act takes a while to kick in. As the chocolate fades, that tart cranberry note is revealed, making my mouth water uncontrollably. No, not to the point of drooling because, you know,…gross.

With water added…

That burnt match smell is starting to come back on the nose, but the dark chocolate is rising up to meet it in equal measure. The cranberry note has faded significantly and I’m getting a decent amount of caramel now. Water hasn’t done much to tamp down the speedy onset of the development, the heat or the oak, but there is just enough sweetness to keep this ship from keeling over. The dark chocolate is much stronger here than without water. The first half of the finish remains unchanged, but the third act of cranberry is not as strong. Instead, this is a dark chocolate lovers dream. It’s lovely and bittersweet.

Overall conclusion

This is probably one of the strongest sherry bombs out in the wild today. If you love this kind of stuff, this is the bottle for you.

I personally would like to doff my cap and thank Sierra Springs for going out on a limb to bring in bottles like this as well as defend their decision, regardless of the people who hated on this whisky so intensely. Here’s to hoping more people discover this bottle.

Instagram: Paul Bovis (@paul.bovis), Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky and @thewhiskyheathens) and Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid).

Budget Dram Reviews – Forty Creek Copper Pot

When the reviews section of the Park Whiskey Society was revived this summer, I was pretty excited to review some of the new craft whisky coming into this province. I also wanted to highlight and review some of the fancier bottles as well. It certainly helps to draw clicks to the website. However, I also wanted this to be a space for the average whisky drinker as well.

By average, I simply mean an individual who is not constantly on the prowl for the latest release multiple times a week. Someone who actually has a low to modest budget and sticks to it. Something the rest of us should be doing these days. You know who you are. In fact, I would argue that all whisky drinkers should have a few of these on their shelves!

To that end, I’m going to start reviewing some whiskies that don’t come with a high price tag, but are excellent value for money. Some of these may be obscure blended scotches that have been collecting dust on store’s lowest shelves. Others may be mid-shelf offerings from big distillers that pack a ton of flavour. I’m setting a price ceiling for bottles I cover in this “Budget Dram Reviews” series at less than $100 CAD in the province of Alberta, but many will be much less than that. You’d be surprised what you can still get for that amount of money!

The first one I’ll cover is a bottle that I am just about to finish off myself. Forty Creek Cooper Pot should be available pretty much anywhere, even in the United States. This is a traditional Canadian whisky made of corn, rye and barley. These are aged separately for at least three years and then blended together before bottling. Information on this whisky, like many Canadian blends, is thin on the ground. It is most likely coloured and chill-filtered and is bottled at 43%. This bottle is a step up from Forty Creek’s entry level Barrel Select offering. You should be able to find a bottle of Copper Pot for about $30-$40 CAD.

Nose: there are some pretty standard Canadian blended whisky notes here such as vanilla and caramel. The youthfulness shows up as a faint metallic smell. What sets this apart is the pretty hefty amount of orange I get off of this. It’s quite sweet though. Almost candied. As this sits for longer, a little bit of dark chocolate can be detected in the background. Apart from cinnamon, I don’t get any other baking spices. A tiny bit of oak rounds this off.

Palate: For a low proof Canadian whisky, this is pretty decently mouthcoating. The entry is very sweet with caramel, orange juice and vanilla cream with a hint of milk chocolate. It’s in the development when a slightly bitter, youthful grain note starts to come into play. The sweetness from the entry and the slightly sour note from the orange help to balance this out enough for it not to become too big of a problem. There is enough rye in the blend to tingle the tongue a little bit. Towards the end of the development I get some more baking spices in the form of cloves and just a tiny bit of nutmeg.

Finish: This is short, but well balanced. A little bit of oak. A little bit of sponge toffee. Some fading baking spices. Just a touch of cocoa powder in the end. Nothing fighting for dominance. The citrus note prevents this from being too dry.

With water added…

The sweetness is tamped down a little on the nose. I’m getting quite a bit more oak and cinnamon and less orange. The entry remains pretty much unchanged, but I feel the youthfulness is not as prominent as it was without water added. The amount of oak has increased in the later half of the development and that, in turn, has thrown off the balance on the finish. Not by much, but it is noticeable.

Conclusion

This one is probably best without water. It falls apart a bit on the development and finish. I think this would also make a pretty decent mixing and cocktail whisky, but I have always had this as is.

Budget Canadian whisky gets panned by many in the whisky world, but there are some hidden gems out there. I would put this in that category along with Eau Clair’s Rupert, Signal Hill, Last Straw Rye and of course Lot 40. We’ll be reviewing all of those on the website at one point or another.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

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

Rodger’s Whisky Vintage Selection 6 Year Heavily Peated Ben Nevis review

Today, we’re reviewing the first in a series of Single Cask Clan bottles that are available to members only. Up to bat in this review is the first of two bottles from Roger’s Whisky. The Single Cask Clan is based in Canada, is free to join and gives you access to exclusive bottles from all over the world. DM @singlecaskclan on Instagram for more information.

Rodger’s Whisky is a friendly reminder that not all players in the scotch independent bottling space are based in Scotland. Roger Tan was born and raised in the Netherlands and has been in the world of whisky as a fan, investor and photographer for over 25 years. In 2020, he added independent bottling to his resume. His first release included two 12 year Caol Ila casks. The first was finished in first fill PX sherry octaves and other in first fill Oloroso.

This second set of releases includes the bottle we have poured today. This single cask six year, heavily peated Ben Nevis was exclusively matured in ex-sherry casks and bottled at a healthy 58.4%. Both Sean Kincaid and I are reviewing this bottle. See our thoughts below.

Paul’s review

Nose: Sadly, my bottle is about 3/4 empty already, but as it was quickly drained, it has gone through a few phases. First, there was the bacon, then it got real sea-brine forward (Nicole, aka @blackcatwhisky suggested Oysters Rockefeller). Now it’s a glorious mashup of the two with a few extras thrown in. The brine note now, to me at least, is very much a low tide in an ocean marina kind of smell. The bacon starts to shine through as you let it sit in the glass. It’s a rich, smoked bacon that’s super crispy. There’s a little bit of a medicinal note that has started to crop up now. It’s not Laphroaig-like, but it is present. The European oak is rearing its head now as well. I’m expecting more of that with water when I get there. Getting back to the saltiness of this whisky, there’s some sea salt milk chocolate. The fruitiness is some cooked down plums. Finally there’s just a little bit of the Ledaig kind of burnt rubber, but not as much as I got when I cracked the bottle.

Palate: This is actually quite sweet and tart on the entry as well as very oily. This coats your whole mouth in a hurry. It’s honey, plum compote and orange zest. This lasts for about a second and a half and then it’s just a mountain of brine, peat, oak and sherry. The brine is like the juice from fresh cooked shellfish. Then the smoke and salt from the bacon overtakes that. Next in line is the peat. Citrusy with lemon and orange peel. Finally comes the European oak, coming in much hotter than when I first opened this bottle. Overlying all of that are the sweeter notes that I got from the entry as well as a healthy dose of earthy baking spices (cinnamon ad clove). Nothing wins out here. The balance is near perfect.

Finish: Long. The tongue tingles for a good, long while. Mostly a sourness from the peat, oak and dark chocolate at first. Particularly when I smack my lips and suck in some air during the development, the finish is dry at first, but the citrus zing that lingers helps to make my mouth water again. There’s just a touch of the sweetness that I got on the entry that helps to balance this all out. I should be getting a stopwatch out to time how long this finish is.

With water added…

The nose is now much more oak forward, as I was expecting. The medicinal note has faded and the bacon and sea brine are using a microphone to make themselves heard. The notes aren’t as varied with water, but the ones that remain are bolder. The arrival is much more measured and the transition to the development isn’t as sharp. The sweetness is more prominent during the first half of the development until the oak and baking spices kick in big time. As I swallow this, the spicing has some red chilli flakes and black pepper. It’s almost a little too hot for me. Still, this transition to spice is slow and builds gradually. The finish is just as long and the dark chocolate is very much at the forefront here.

It will depend what kind of preference for spice you have regarding adding water or not. If you want a dram with a lot of spice, add water. Otherwise, stay put. Either way, it’s delicious.

Sean’s review

Nose: The very initial breath immediately picks up the peat notes. It’s also not nosing like a cask strength whisky at all. This is savoury peat. Meaty peat. The peat immediately reveals that sweet, syrupy Sherry note that I swear is PX but is simply stated as Sherry on the bottle. As the label suggests this is campfire style smoke and there’s something else in there. A touch of sourness (in the most appealing way possible), almost like a handful of copper pennies, or freshly sewn copper tubing. All I know is this nose makes me immediately want to sip and I found it really hard to nose it without sipping long enough to get proper notes.

Palate: This is opposite of the nose where I get the PX sweetness up front and then it welcomes in the peat and smoke notes. This is savoury in the best way. Let me set the scene. Breakfast is served. All on one big plate where you have cinnamon french toast (cinnamon and malty notes) dabbed with a dark red fruit compote (PX sherry notes), which is then drizzled with heavy, thick maple syrup. Also on the plate is a helping of Maplewood smoked bacon, fresh out of the oven (big savoury notes) and the syrup is running on to them. Lastly there are a couple fried eggs glistening and waiting to be devoured (touch of sulphur and that copper note). Now eat (drink) up and enjoy as this is one of the best young whiskies I have had in a really long time. Does not show it’s youth at all. In fact there’s almost a dusty, leathery note I find as well which on a 6 year old whisky isn’t usual. Damn that’s good!!

Conclusion

Darn it. I should have bought two of these. For those that have not drained their bottle their bottle quite as quickly as I have, I assure you that the best is yet to come. There is an almost perfect balance between sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

It’s hard to believe that this whisky is only six years old. There’s a depth of flavour and balance that is usually reserved for bottles that are twice this age or more. Roger’s next couple of releases sound pretty tempting already and it’s hoped that Canada will be able to see some bottles of this as well.

Instagram: @paul.bovis and @seankincaid

Taconic Straight Rye Whiskey – Barrel Strength review

This was the one Taconic release I was most excited about when the initial announcement was made by PWS Imports that they were going to be bringing the Taconic core range to us in Alberta.

I’m always wanting to try different rye whiskeys released from different areas to see if there is a difference. I have found that there is definitely a difference between southern and northern rye .This bottle, which is being produced in upstate New York could fall somewhere in the middle. Only one way to know, so let’s dive in.

First thing I noticed is the beautiful colour of this whiskey. It falls more to the reddish side of the spectrum than the yellow which was a surprise. Maybe not being proofed down with water keeps it way darker. Either way, it’s impressive and stands out in the glass but more so in the bottle.

A quick swirl to check viscosity and I was almost about to type that it has no legs at all…oh they are there. It just took a while for them to even start to drop. A nice, thin, long steady drop down the glass shows promise. You can almost tell just with a swirl how oily this whiskey is.

Nose: Immediately the rye grain note is noticeable as it should be. A bit of rye spice warms up the nose hairs, but surprisingly for a barrel proof this doesn’t nose hot. The spice gives way to a beautiful floral sweetness. Fruit orchards in the spring in BC during an unseasonably hot day. Apples and pears just starting to fill out after fruiting from their blossoms. There’s another floral note I can’t quit pin down. Like fresh tulips or marigolds basking in the sun. I absolutely love this nose and my mouth is watering already.

Palate: Oh baby! This coated my entire mouth instantly. That rye spice comes out large on the entry. Baking spices with cinnamon, but almost as if it’s cinnamon and sugar mixed and sprinkled across a warm buttered rye bread slice. The sugar sweetness fades back into rich fresh fruit notes. Couple that with the nutmeg, a touch of black pepper and some vanilla and honey and this is beautiful. There’s a touch of a wood note, a slight touch of butter tannin just before the finish begins.

Finish: Medium in length, but heavy on flavour. An almost maltiness shows up in the finish with more vanilla and a sort of apple skin note. There is a little flare up of pepper/spice midway through the finish and it just seems to prolong the finish a bit longer.

With water added…

With 5 drops of water into an ounce pour.

Nose: Ooooh this is all rye reminiscent of some of the heavy hitters now. But still unique. The spice has disappeared but the full flavour rye notes are more powerful. Almost a dusty grain note, like a farm on a hot day with a warm wind swirling the air around the grain bins. I find an almost fake banana flavouring note now. And the sweetness is a lot more butterscotch or even a touch nutty like cracking open a fresh bag of peanut brittle and inhaling deep.

Palate: Pow. That beautiful rye character just again wakes you up. The sweetness immediately feels cranked up with water. Still coats the mouth well and the banana note is there again. Like overripe bananas used in baking before they go full off. And wow, the spice and cinnamon return much later with water and stick around longer in the finish too. There’s still a nice flavour spot on the very back of my tongue that won’t fade completely away. Almost like I have a tiny spot of chewy caramel candy stuck to my tongue that won’t go down no matter how hard I try.

Conclusion

Overall this whiskey surpassed even my expectations. It’s mature beyond its years and tastes better than a lot of ryes double or triple its age. The rye spices mixed with the fresh fruit and wood influence all compliment each other amazingly and never try to out do one another. This is a must have for any rye lovers out there. Oh and that spot on my tongue is still giving off flavour.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Taconic Founders Straight Rye Whiskey review

Today, we’re taking a virtual trip over to the east coast to the Hudson Valley region of New York to review the second bottle in Taconic Distillery’s core range: their Founder’s Rye

Rye whisky production is experiencing a bit of a revival these days. Although still bourbon’s little sibling in terms of production, the rye renaissance is being driven by a renewed interest amongst bartenders and consumer alike.

Most mass produced rye still leans towards a mashbill that hues close to the legal minimum of 51% rye. The large proportion of corn in these mashbills gives these ryes a sweeter flavour so as to appeal to the everyday bourbon drinker.

In terms of “high rye” rye, Midwest Grain Products of Indiana (aka MGP) and Alberta Distillers Limited are the largest producers. Their whisky, in turn, is bottled by them under various brand names or shipped to other distilleries for blending and bottling under their own labels.

Lately, craft distilleries have tried their own hand at rye distilling using high-rye mashbills. This leads us back to Taconic, whose Founders Straight Rye Whiskey has a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. It’s aged for at least three years in virgin American oak barrels and bottled at 45% abv.

Nose: this is quite floral and herbal right off the bat. I had to sniff around my spice and dried herb bottles a bit before I settled on ground coriander seed. It’s a little bit sour and floral at the same time. The floral note isn’t very strong and it’s not pungent like a rose. I’m trying to tie it to something in my garden. A faint whiff of Peony, maybe? I’m getting rye bread in here for sure. Not surprising, I guess! Some brown sugar and toffee bubbles up as it sits in the glass for a while. Definitely cinnamon and allspice as well. More than a hint of peach and orange comes up from the glass. Interesting sweet and sour combinations going on here.

Pallet: That interplay between sweet and sour continues during the entry. Orange, vanilla cream, toffee and a little bit of milk chocolate. It’s not super creamy, but it’s enough to coat the mouth. The transition into the development is gentle and not super spicy either, but it’s enough to make the tongue and gums tingle a little. Cinnamon is joined by a pretty decent amount of ground cloves. The oak starts to come into play towards the end of the development and is pretty tame. Especially when I smack my lips, that orange note from the entry is turned up. Sponge toffee is definitely there from the mid-development onwards along with a bit of cracked pepper.

Finish: The finish is medium, I would say. The oak ever so slightly wins out over the citrus to make this mildly drying. The sponge toffee gently fades away. A little bit of old leather and a tiny bit of dark chocolate linger at the end.

With water added…

The nose is a little more oaked and the cloves I got on the development are here now. A little bit of cocoa powder is in there for sure. This is more sweet and less sour on the entry and development now. I was worried that this might be over oaked, but thankfully that’s not the case. Lots of light brown sugar and the custard of a creme brûlée are in the entry. It’s a little more spicy in the development and that helps to cut through the added sweetness. It’s the same cinnamon and clove mixture as before. The finish isn’t that much longer than without water, but that added sweetness gives me a nice spice cake kind of feel that slowly fades away.

Conclusion

This was really nice both with and without water. Having reviewed a few craft whiskies over the summer, there was a tendency for them to fall apart a bit with a few drops of water. This whisky was having none of that. If you like things a little sweeter, try water. If you like a herbal, slightly citrusy and sour rye, take it without.

Taconic’s Double Barrel Maple Bourbon seems to be their top seller due to it’s unique flavour, but their ryes are legit. If you want to know what the barrel strength version of this tastes like, PWS’s own Sean Kincaid will provided you with the answer on Friday.

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 American Single Malt Whiskey – Port Cask review

Unless you’re deep into the American single malt world, here’s something you probably haven’t tried. It’s a 100% single malt whisky, matured in virgin oak barrels and finished in ex-ruby Port casks. Before this review, neither had I.

I bought this bottle as I was really intrigued how the interplay between virgin American oak and the musty spicy European oak would play out. With ex-bourbon and port casks, you would expect the port to hold court, for the most part. Would the virgin oak be in more of a fighting mood? Would this be a Connors/McEnroe affair? Would I scroll through YouTube to see what that looked like? Would I later question how the heat affected my ability to write this today? Let’s find out.

Like the regular single malt expression and the peated malt, this Boulder Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey – Port Cask was aged for at least three years in virgin American oak before being finished in ex-ruby Port casks and bottled at 46%.

Nose: Compared to their straight up single malt I reviewed earlier, the heavy virgin oak notes are very muted. Not surprising given the port finish. After letting this sit for about 45 minutes, there is a very strong red grape note mixed with a little bit of grape bubblegum. It’s not overly spicy. Mostly cinnamon with just a touch of ginger and allspice. The European and American oak are nicely balanced. There’s a little bit of a milk chocolate fruit and nut bar. After nosing this for a while, I get a slight mustiness bubbling up from the background. I’m finally getting sponge toffee and some vanilla.

Pallet: Quite sweet and slightly tart on the entry. Definitely concord grapes with the tartness from the skin. There’s also a good dose of stewed rhubarb fresh from the garden. It’s also a little bit confectionery. Like a grape danish dusted with icing sugar. A little bit of creamy milk chocolate is in there as well. The development isn’t in a hurry here. Those creamy, tart, grape and rhubarb notes start to bump up against the oak barrels mid-development and are joined by some orange zest, especially when I smack my lips (That always seems to happen, doesn’t it?). At this point, the balance between the oak and the rest of this whisky is thrown off just a touch and doesn’t really come back into line. Some people may like this oak bite, but personally, it’s not to my taste. The spicing is a little bit of cracked black pepper and ginger, both in equal measure

Finish: Speaking of balance, the major thing thing the finish has going for it is a balance between the dryness of the oaks and the tart, juiciness from the port. The later definitely wins out and makes my mouth water quite a bit. To this whisky’s credit, as I sip it more and more, I get that ginger snap cookie note that I loved so much in the regular single malt expression.

With water added…

Now the nose is coming alive. It was a tad muted without water. The grape notes have been taken over by the spicy European oak. The sponge toffee is a little darker. Just how I like it. I’m also getting a faint black tea note as well. Orange pekoe, maybe? Like the peated malt, the oak dominates from the entry to the finish. There is still enough tartness on the finish in the form of grape skins and orange zest so that it isn’t overly drying. The ginger snap cookie note is still there at the beginning of the finish, but it’s been left in the oven just a touch too long. There’s some medium dark chocolate in there as well.

Conclusion

Whether you will like this whisky with water added will really depend if you don’t mind a good dose of oak or not. Personally, it’s not for me. What I do like about all three single malts that are available to us from Boulder Spirits is that each of them is vastly different, but they are tied together by the virgin oak. Each one displays the affect of this maturation to varying degrees, but they are all interesting.

Out of the three, I’m surprised to say that the regular single malt is my favourite of the three followed by the peated malt and the port cask. Their regular single malt, actually called American Oak, tops the list as it stood up against a few drops of water so well.

Stay tuned for the final expression that’s available in Canada at the moment. Their (not so regular) bourbon.

Instagram: @paul.bovis