Color: KC14 is a clean golden wheat color. It's remarkably sharp and bright looking with medium legs when you give it a swirl.
Nose: At first the nose is a bit scarce with light honey, oak, and citrus notes just peaking through. Given a few minutes aromas of malt, wet grain, and buttered corn start to come out. After a few sips the nose continues to move from light and fruity to an earthier vibe, and after adding a splash of water it gets downright musty - like entering a wood-paneled room that has been closed off for a while. If you haven't experienced a whiskey that changes in the glass with time and water this is a good showcase for that.
I just came across this event and it sounds like a good chance to taste a bunch of whiskeys for just $40...2014 Whiskey Rebellion Philadelphia
There isn't much info about the format, and the TLA is not what I think of as the ideal venue for a good whiskey tasting, but the Boston event put on by the same people was extremely well-received, so maybe it's worth checking out if you're in Philly on April 13th.
Like most traditional Irish whiskeys, KC12 is triple-distilled which serves to give it a cleaner, lighter, more refined starting point than your average Scotch which is only distilled twice. It's aged for 12 years in used bourbon barrels which is also very traditional for Irish whiskey. Unlike most most mainstream Irish whiskeys KC12 is a single malt - meaning it's 100% whiskey made from malted barley as opposed to a blend of whiskeys made from malted barley, un-malted barley, and sometimes other grains like wheat or corn. Being a single malt, this is a bit pricier than many Irish whiskeys at about $46 per bottle, but compared to single malt Scotches of the same age that's a bargain, and for my money this is much more interesting than most Scotch at the same price point. Knappogue Castle also stands apart from most Irish whiskeys because there is no caramel coloring added. Because of this you may notice a slight variation in color from bottle-to-bottle, but I appreciate the distiller giving us an honest look at the whiskey's natural color.
St. Paddy's day is coming, and will hopefully bring spring weather with it. Although I'm not a big Irish Whiskey drinker I do like to try a few this time of year, especially since their lighter flavors tend to go well with the arrival of spring and make for a nice break after a winter of rich, heavy bourbons and Scotches.
Clontarf 1014 is a whiskey that's been around for a few years, but is still not super common in bars or liquor stores - at least in my area. This is the first time I've tried it, and I have been pleasantly surprised with a more complex dram than you'd expect from a $20 Irish blend. The name was a bit clunky to get used to since I couldn't figure out what the 1014 stood for, but after a little research I now know that it was the year that the Vikings were driven from Ireland - sounds to me like something worthy of a celebratory drink!
Color: Clontarf 1014 has a deep, honey-amber color with light legs. It's a bit dusty or opaque when you hold it up to the light, giving it a nice weighty look in the glass.
Nose: When you have this whiskey neat, the nose is mostly solvent and boozy smells. You can pick up some grain notes and faint honey and lemon rind. Water brings out a bit more oak and honey, but it really opens up with a cube or two of ice. Once it chills you lose the boozy solvent aromas in favor of some good malty heft that's much more interesting.
The latest entry in the Prohibition niche is Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition Blended Scotch. Traditionally, Cutty Sark is a solid, if oft-overlooked blend here in the U.S. and it has certainly fallen off the public's radar a bit since the time when it was LBJ's favorite tipple at the White House. With Prohibition Edition (or Cutty Pro as they're calling it for short), Cutty Sark is breathing some fresh life into the brand and bringing us a unique, full-flavored blended whisky at a very reasonable price point (about $30/bottle).
I recently made my second visit to Bainbridge Street Barrel House (BSBH) at 6th & Bainbridge in Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood. This spacious corner bar opened about a year ago and has since become a popular spot for folks in the immediate neighborhood, if not a destination for the city at-large. So far, reviews of the Barrel House have been lukewarm, mostly because the gastro-pub scene has become so competitive. Given the somewhat inflated prices and my ho-hum experience with BSBH's cheeseburger, I would also recommend other nearby spots ahead of this one for food and maybe even beer (although with 25 taps and a family connection to Bella Vista Beer Distributors, the Barrel House can put together a great beer list when they want to). However, if you're looking for a low key neighborhood joint to enjoy a few fine whiskeys at fair prices, this is your spot.
I won't bore you with a long list of the bourbons, ryes, and Scotches they have on offer since they do the very kind favor of posting their list here, including prices! I will however point out a few gems that would stand out on a whiskey list anywhere, but are especially surprising to see here in Pennsylvania where the PLCB makes life oh so difficult. First, they have not one but two different George T. Stagg releases (2010 & 2011). They also have Bowman Brother's bourbon, aged in Virginia, and a $6 dram of W.L. Weller. These are just not things you expect to find in a neighborhood gastro-pub in Philly, and while bourbon is the obvious focus, there's also a nice balance of rye, Scotch, and Irish with rare (Ledaig 10 Year Sherry Cask) and bargain (Paddy's for $5) options alike.
Philly has a ton of awesome bars and can go toe-to-toe with any city for bar food and beer selection. Most of these bars however don't show the hand of a true whiskey aficionado at work when you look at their back-bar - Bainbridge Street Barrel House does, and it manages to do the beer and food thing well enough too. All without putting on airs or being anything more than a neighborhood pub where you can bring your friends, have a snack, drink a beer, watch a football game...and get a slug or two of Pappy Van Winkle or A.H. Hirsch if you're feeling so inclined.
Glen Moray is a pretty straightforward, bourbon cask aged, Speyside single malt that doesn't hit you too hard with any particular flavor. It makes for a fair-priced crowd-pleaser or an easy stepping stone for someone looking to ease from blended Scotch into single malts.
Color: The color is right in the middle of the whiskey color range - not quite straw pale but not quite golden honey. The poet in me would say it looks like a wheat field at sunset in that it's light and grainy colored but with a splash of orange settling over it. Given that's it's only 12 years old I'm guessing this nice color is achieved by adding a bit of caramel coloring.
Nose: This Scotch has a pretty clean nose with just a hint of peat smoke as the first impression. The smokiness is like a clean backwoods creek in the morning - dew, damp earth, and just a hint of fish. There are also hints of honey, walnuts, caramel, and baked pie crusts tucked in here and they come out more when you add a bit of water.
Flavor: The Glen Moray 12 Year Old has a medium-rich body with flavors of honey, lemon candy, and something a bit grainy like raw sweet corn. After adding water it gets more buttery with butter cookie flavors similar to the pie crust aroma I picked up in the nose.
Finish: The finish of this 80 proof whisky is very smooth with no burn and a gentle fade from smoky to salty to earthy.
Overall, this is a straightforward, balanced, uncomplicated single malt that sips a lot like a good blended Scotch. It's not going to impress your peat-hound friends or anyone who likes a punch-in-the-mouth whisky, but if you want a nice single malt that will please a crowd it seems like a good way to go.
The entire Old Fitz lineup, which includes at least four variants, is made with a 'whisper of wheat' instead of using rye as the secondary grain. As with most wheated bourbons you should expect a somewhat lighter, smoother-drinking bourbon as compared to bourbons made with rye. Other wheated bourbons include Maker's Mark, the Weller lineup from Buffalo Trace Distillery, and the much-hyped Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.
It has been a good while since I wrote any new posts for this blog - mostly because I've been busy working on another spirits related project that is much more hands on - starting a distillery! Check that out here: http://CooperRiverDistillers.com.
Alas, I couldn't resist the urge to write about whiskey, so I'm back with a review of a very interesting bourbon that is from the heart of Kentucky bourbon country, but is not from one of the 'usual suspect' big distillers. This bourbon is Town Branch. Distilled in Lexington, KY it's the first bourbon from the Lyons Spirits division of Alltech, a large, multinational agribusiness company that also dabbles in brewing and distilling. If you've had Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Bluegrass Sundown Liquor, Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey, or any number of animal feeds then you have sampled Alltech's products. The distilling side of the business grew out of the passion of Alltech's founder - Irishman Pearse Lyons - and you can taste his passion for whiskey in every sip of Town Branch Bourbon.
Color: Town Branch has a golden-honey color that is classic bourbon. Light enough that you know it's not more than 5 or 6 years old, but enough color to let you know it has spent some decent time getting to know the inside of a charred oak barrel. The distiller is tight-lipped about exactly how old Town Branch is (along with other details on its production), but based on color and flavor I'd guess it's probably a 3 or 4 year old - just hitting its stride.
Just in time for Christmas, I bring you a tasting of one of the best Scotches I've ever had. A friend of mine brought a bottle of Aberlour A'Bunadh to a whisky tasting that I hosted a few weeks ago, and it turned out to be everyone's favorite. After having a few more glasses since then I can say it wasn't just a favorite because it came near the end of many whisky samples, it really is a distinctive, rich, and delicious Scotch perfectly suited to give as a gift, or to horde to yourself for enjoying by the fire on a cold winter's night. This Speyside single malt is aged exclusively in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and is bottled without chill filtering at cash strength.
*Note: The bottle I sampled was from Batch #10 and bottled at 59.8% alcohol. Since A'Bunadh is bottled at cask strength, uncut and unfiltered, there may be some variation from batch to batch.
Color: Aberlour A'Bunadh is very dark for a Scotch with a rich mahogany hue with hints of amber.
Nose: The nose on this whisky is wonderfully rich and sweet. It almost seems like a bourbon nose which is surprising since A'Bunadh is aged exclusively in ex-sherry barrels. I think the bourbon character is due to the higher proof and lack of filtering which allows the oak notes to come through at full strength. Along with oak aromas there are notes of vanilla, toasted marshmallows, and after adding some water, crisp fall leaves. A perfect fall camp-out Scotch?
Flavor: The flavor continues where aroma leaves off - it's full, hearty, and very smooth for almost 120 proof. There are sweet honey flavors, along with oak and dark chocolates. With a splash of water tastes of clay, warm earth, and roasted nuts are revealed.
Finish: The finish is super long and warm without being harsh at all. It has notes of a toasty wood fireplace, and more earthy, nutty notes as it opens up.
This is not the easiest whisky to find, but if you see it I encourage you to jump on it. At $50/bottle it's a great deal for a slam dunk of a single malt.