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

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

Old Forester Prohibition 1920

This Old Forster 1920 is easily in my top 5 bourbons and checks off a lot of the boxes I love most when it comes to this category of whiskey. Old Forester has created this bourbon to best resemble the product they sold during prohibition as they were one of only ten distilleries legally still capable of producing whiskey for “medicinal purposes”. I can promise you though, it doesn’t taste anything like cough syrup, but… I bet it will sooth your scratchy throat over the course of the evening.

Until recently, Old Forester products have never been sold in Canada and it wasn’t until September 2019 that, friends of the club, Wine and Beyond made some room on the shelves for a singe barrel they selected the spring prior. A month following that, they stocked this 1920 expression. Although, the space it occupied the morning it was released, was once again vacant by the time the store closed that same day. Needless to say, we are pretty starved for new and exciting bourbons so I was not surprised at all to see that happen. Luckily for me, I frequent the liquor store enough that the Cheers theme song plays when the doors open, so needless to say, I was able to snag a hand full of bottles before it disappeared.

Here is the info from Old Forester’s website.

The Volstead Act of 1920 which initiated Prohibition in the USA granted permits to six distillers in Kentucky to continue to bottle bourbon for medicinal purposes. Through one of these permits, Old Forester continued to be produced as medicinal whiskey on Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row. It is the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company that has been available for sale before, during and after Prohibition.

During this time, all whiskies had to be bottled at 100 Proof. With a barrel entry proof of 100, the “angel’s share” would have created a 115 proof whiskey after maturation. To pay homage to this era, Old Forester presents 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon at 115 proof to represent the rich flavor profile this bourbon had nearly 100 years ago.

Please check out the Old Forester Website for more info on this and the rest of their line up. Their product is truly quality through and through. Even their entry level bourbon, the 86 proof, is one of my favourite whiskeys to use for cocktails as it’s versatility shines with any flavour it meets.

ABV – 57.5% / Age – N/A / Mash – 72% Corn / 18% Rye / 10% Malted Barley Region – Kentucky Bourbon / Cask – New American Charred Oak

Nose

Not typically sweet like bourbon tends to be. Powerful aromas of charred oak and burnt sugar followed by some dark fruits, cocoa, and banana. It is a higher ABV so naturally the nose will present some ethanol as well.

Palate

Bold, rich, chewy and delicious! More of the char, caramel and burnt sugar along with some rich dark chocolate and heavily roasted coffee. Following that, some vanilla and nuttiness comes in to round it off and send it to the finish. I love how the char presents itself as a real smokiness and adds a nice edge to the rest of the flavours.

Finish

The transition from the palate to the finish is accompanied by some nice peppery spiciness. From there, it carries on and lingers for a while with burnt sugars and an aftertaste similar to a earthy dark roast coffee.

All and all, my kind of dram! I want a pour that humbles me and forces me to appreciate its brashness with edgy, smokey, and rich bourbon characteristics, and this 1920 delivers exactly that. If you live in a region it is readily available, I suggest you get it now. If you live in Canada, keep your ears to the ground and eyes open because it won’t sit waiting for long on the shelves after it arrives. Be prepared to snag yours up quick!

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Glenmorangie 14 Year Quinta Ruban

The 12 Year Quinta Ruban has always been a steady ‘go to’ for me. It’s one of those bottles that I put on the table for all occasions because it is as palatable a whisky there is. It is sweet, succulent and smooth from the nose to the finish and carries just enough depth to please the experienced whisky drinker but not complex enough that it becomes too much to unpack for the inexperienced consumer to enjoy.

The name Quinta Ruban is derived from the estates in Portugal the wine was produced; Quinta, and the type of Port; Ruby or Ruban as pronounced in Gaelic. The more interesting part of this to me is that, Ruby Port is typically the most extensively produced and most simplistic in character out of all the varieties of Port and it’s normally aged in concrete or steel tanks to prevent oxidation so the lively bright fruity colour and flavours remain. Its not often a Ruby Port is aged in oak casks so they aren’t widely used by whisky distillers which makes this expression somewhat unique.

This whisky is first aged in ex-Bourbon casks which gives it a nice uniform sweetness and a perfect foundation for the Ruby cask finishing. Both of which lend perfectly to one another, creating a balanced dram until you reach the height of the palate where you’ll find a beautiful facsimile of those bright Ruby characteristics we talked about earlier.

Colour

I don’t typically talk about he colour unless its a real stand out quality and with this one, it will solely draw you into buying it without knowing anything else. Its a vibrant amber with a beautiful ruby red glow. Colour can be very important and in this case, it is always a conversation piece and generates some excitement prior to the tasting.

Nose

Somewhat mellow so you really need to plant your nose in the glass it find its true character. Once you sinuses are firmly invested, you’ll find that rich port sweetness accompanied by some malty milk chocolate, citrus and oak spice.

Palate

I love the balance of fruit, chocolate and spice in this dram. It starts off fruity for me, full of peaches and sweet citrus followed by almond and mint chocolate before the baking spices and oak take over up to the finish.

Finish

The spice continues into the finish with a pleasant tannic wine dryness. In between are some lingering hints of the chocolate and citrus remainng from the palate.

All in all, a superb dram. I would prefer enjoying it as an digestif but it by no means should be type cast as such. As usual, it is a great value by as we know and love Glemorangie for always being, so get out there and put one of these on your shelves!

Comparison to Quinta Ruban 12

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This tasting would be complete without doing a quick side by side with it younger version. I honestly wasn’t expecting a huge difference between the two, yet then found myself quite surprised. Don’t get me wrong though, the profile is almost identical but the vibrancy an extra 2 years of maturation attributed to this whisky is outstanding. Adding some needed life to the nose, more creamy maltiness, chocolate and oaky characteristics building some complexity and sharpness to the palate, and then subtly lengthening the finish. All great additions to an already solid drinkable whisky.

Another interesting thing is that they increased the volume to a 750ml bottle instead of the previous 700ml. Considering the Age increased and you get a few each drams out of the bottle but the price pretty much remained solidifies my earlier sentiment. Now, go get this bottle! Cheers!

  • Review written by Steven Shaw