Whiskey Reviews

For my first whiskey review I thought I'd finish off the bottle of Elijah Craig 12 Year Old (EC12) bourbon that's been slowly disappearing from my bar over the past few months. Elijah Craig, the man, was a Baptist preacher from Virginia who migrated to Kentucky in the late 1700's and is credited by some as the 'inventor' of bourbon, or at least of the process of aging bourbon in charred oak barrels...click to keep reading

Like many whiskey drinkers who I know, I often skip right past the Canadian whisky shelves of my local liquor store. For some reason Canadian whiskies seem to lack the character and personality of their Scottish, Irish, or American counterparts. Maybe it's just poor marketing or the fact that they're mostly packaged in very uniform, boring bottles, with the exception of Crown Royal and its wide, squat bottle in its purple velvet pouch. Or maybe I'm just biased against Canada...click to keep reading

For my first scotch tasting on this blog I thought I'd pull out the bottle of Old Crofter Deluxe Old Blended Scotch Whisky that's been gathering dust in my liquor closet for close to a year. Old Crofter is blended by Smith & Henderson of Edinburgh, but a quick Google search makes me think that it's no longer in production...click to keep reading

As promised in last week's post about my visit to Finger Lakes Distilling, I'm finally getting around to a proper tasting of their McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey. Based on my tasting at the distillery and one glass that I've had since, I have to say that my initial impression of this bourbon is very good...click to keep reading

I've always been intrigued by Four Roses Bourbon. I think the mystique comes from the fact that it wasn't available in the U.S. for over 40 years while the brand was owned by Seagram's. During that time Four Roses became immensely popular around the world - it's Japan's #1 selling bourbon - and it has finally started to become widely available again in the U.S. over the last several years. As soon as I saw a bottle for sale in Pennsylvania I scooped it up and started enjoying this very nice everyday sipping bourbon...click to keep reading

For the first tasting from my 'purchased on my vacation' series I've decided to pop open the bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian whisky that I picked up at the duty free shop in Niagara Falls. I had read good things about Forty Creek distillery, and it was high on my "To Taste" list...click to keep reading 

This post is not about whiskey, but it is about one of the most delicious beverages I have ever tried. It's something I brought back from my recent trip to the Caribbean and just opened up for a taste this evening. The drink is called La Occidental Guayabita del Pinar Dulce and it's a sweet, cane liquor (like some rums) with flavorings from the guayabita (literally 'little guava') fruit of western Cuba...click to keep reading 

Irish whiskey is very popular among my circle of friends, and in Philadelphia in general. I would say the most common whiskey I hear people ordering around town is Jameson, with Bushmills also getting plenty of love...click to keep reading

Fact: Henry McKenna is not a top shelf bourbon. It sells for about $18 for a one liter bottle (750mL bottles are hard to find and come in around $15), and it doesn't even get its own website (or Wikipedia entry!), settling for a short blurb on Heaven Hill's corporate site. Judging just by the bottle though, Henry McKenna is intriguing, and given its price it seemed worth trying when I picked up a bottle a while back...click to keep reading 

I bought a bottle of Whisky Mag'5 earlier this summer while on vacation, mostly because I couldn't figure out exactly what it was. Also it was inexpensive enough to take a chance on, but I learned the lesson that sometimes taking chances on cheap whisky doesn't work out and you end up wishing you had bought more rum instead...click to keep reading 

I mentioned in my recent post about the Philadelphia Whiskey Festival that 1792 Ridgemont Reserve has recently made my list of favorite bourbons. I'm not ready to say exactly where on my list it falls, but I encourage you to try a glass and decide for yourself how it stacks up on your list of favorites...click to keep reading 

Rye whiskey is certainly having a moment right now with growing popularity among cocktail enthusiasts, and new brands hitting the market constantly. Today I'm tasting an old classic of the rye whiskey category that has been around, at least in name, for close to 200 years. Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is a four year old, 80 proof, straight rye whiskey that, in my opinion, sets the standard for other rye whiskeys to shoot for. Originally produced in Pennsylvania, the Old Overholt brand is now made in Kentucky by Jim Beam, but is still happily distinct from the many other bourbons and ryes made alongside it...click to keep reading

Ezra Brooks is one of those bourbons that tries to look like Jack Daniels - square black bottle, mention of charcoal filtering, etc. The other is Evan Williams and both are decent, value-priced bourbons produced by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KY. I think the standard-issue Ezra Brooks 90-proof is a solid bourbon for the price, if a bit rough around the edges...click to keep reading

A few months back I took a trip to the Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky. While there I picked up a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch in the gift shop - mostly because it came packaged with a really nice rocks glass and muddler. Well I finally got around to opening up the bottle a few days ago, and given how much respect I have for Four Roses Yellow Label, I was a bit disappointed at my first few drams of the Small Batch...click to keep reading 

Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, KY flies bit under the radar compared to some of the other bourbon distillers, but it always seems to be highly regarded by folks who know their bourbon. I rarely see it stocked at bars and restaurants around Philadelphia, and it's certainly not a household name like Maker's or Jim Beam but it is sold in some Pennsylvania state stores around here...click to keep reading

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I'm not Irish, and I don't like artificially colored beer, but I do enjoy the occasional glass of Irish Whiskey, so I thought I'd review Tullamore Dew's 12 Year Old Special Reserve bottling in honor of the holiday. Tullamore Dew's standard bottling is the world's second best selling Irish whiskey (behind Jamison), and the brand is owned by William Grant & Sons and produced at Pernod Ricard's Midleton Distillery alongside Jamison, Powers, and other brands...click to keep reading

Angel's Envy Bourbon has been generating buzz in the bourbon world for a while now, and it's finally starting to become readily available in many areas nationwide. I had a chance to taste it a while back at the Philadelphia Whiskey Festival. At the time it made a great impression, and now I've had the chance to taste a bit more and I still really like it...click to keep reading 

What makes a whisky Canadian? Well I guess if you ask the folks at Hood River Distillers, the Oregon-based bottlers of Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky, the only requirement is for the liquid in the bottle to have been distilled and aged in Canada. Given how much I like their product, I won't argue with them at all...click to keep reading

You may have heard the buzz surrounding the release of Early Times 354 Bourbon a few months back. It's the first time since 1983 that the storied Early Times name has appeared on a bourbon available in the U.S. Early Time's only domestic-market product for the past 28 years has been labeled "Kentucky Whiskey" - a bourbon-like whiskey aged in some used barrels instead of all new ones, a minor distinction that meant it couldn't be legally called bourbon...click to keep reading 

Wathen's Kentucky Bourbon is one of those whiskeys that is a bit hard to figure out, at least in terms of exactly where, how, and by whom it was made. The bottle says that it was distilled in Kentucky, but it also says "Bottled By Charles Medley Distillery, San Jose, CA". To add further confusion, Wathen's website claims that the Charles Medley Distillery is in Owensboro, KY...click to keep reading 

If you read this blog frequently you know that I drink a lot more American whiskey than I do Scotch whisky, but when the stars align there's nothing that compares to a big, peaty Islay single malt. On a cold night by a smoky campfire or in celebration of any major milestone serious Scotch like Caol Ila's 12 Year Old single malt is the natural way to go...click to keep reading 

I noticed recently that I had accumulated a few bottles of small-batch, craft-distilled malt whiskeys, so I thought I'd taste them all, three posts in a row, and offer you a comparison. First up is Hogshead Whiskey from Oregon's Edgefield Distillery. Edgefield Distillery is part of the McMenamins empire which operates hotels, pubs, breweries, wineries, and theaters throughout Oregon and Washington. Hogshead Whiskey is made in a small, dark, barn-like distillery at the Edgefield resort property that McMenamins operates in Troutdale, OR...click to keep reading 

This is the second of my three-part American craft-distilled malt whiskey tasting. My first was Edgefield Distillery's Hogshead Whiskey from Oregon, and today I'm tasting MB Roland's Malt Whiskey from Kentucky. The MB Roland distillery is just outside my hometown, and you can read about my visit there by clicking here. Their malt whiskey is a very small batch product, and is totally unique in that the mash bill is not 100% malted barley, but a blend of malt, rye, and corn with malt being the majority grain. It is also aged in new, charred oak barrels like a bourbon which is unusual for malt whiskeys...click to keep reading 

A few weeks ago I wrote about my recent visit to Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, VA, and today I'll taste their Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky as the third and final installment in my series of three American, craft, malt whisk(e)y's. The first two I reviewed were Edgefield Distillery's Hogshead Whiskey from Oregon and MB Roland's Malt Whiskey from Kentucky. Wasmund's is the outcast of this trio since it drops the 'e' from whiskey, but that's not the only thing that makes it different...click to keep reading 

Wild Turkey, long known for its signature 101 proof bourbon, recently launched a new bourbon known as Wild Turkey 81. They've also launched a big ad campaign featuring the catchphrase "Give 'em the bird," and if you haven't seen the TV ads yet you should because they're kinda clever - I've linked to them at the bottom of this post. Wild Turkey 81 was crafted by Eddie Russell (son of long time Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell) to be a highly mixable bourbon that will appeal to more bartenders and mixed-drink drinkers than to the 'straight and on-the-rocks' crowds...click to keep reading 

I've been working on this bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood for a while, but realized that I had never posted a tasting, and since it's a perfect drink as summer cools into fall I figure now is the time. The Balvenie is one of the larger small Scotch distilleries, or one of the smaller large Scotch distilleries. The distillery was built in 1892, by William Grant. The company he founded, William Grant & Sons, is now a major producer of Scotch and other spirits, but Balvenie remains one of their prize products. Balvenie single-malts tend to be excellent, well-balanced whiskies that are widely available, so what's not to like?...click to keep reading 

Old Forester is one of the oldest names in the world of bourbon, but until recently it wasn't widely available here in Pennsylvania. Recently though I started seeing it on shelves at the state stores, and at $18.99 it seemed like it might be a good deal so I picked up a bottle. It's a rye-heavy bourbon, probably 4 to 5 years old, and bottled at 86 proof. Unfortunately when I started drinking it I was a bit disappointed. I can certainly recommend bourbons that I like better in the same price range - Four Roses and Buffalo Trace for example...click to keep reading 

I've been sitting on this bottle of Clynelish 14 Year Old for a few months, but I'm glad I finally got around to popping it open as it quickly jumped to the top of my list of favorite single malts. It's not a common single malt - I picked up this bottle at a duty-free shop, but if you see it it's worth every penny of the $45-$50 price tag...click to keep reading 

I had a sample of Jura Superstition sent to me a while back, and I finally got around to having a taste of this no-age-statement Scotch from Isle of Jura Distillery. This 90 proof whisky is a good compromise for those times when you want something tough with a bit of smoky or peaty flavor, but you don't want to be overwhelmed with the funky flavors that can come from an Islay malt like Lagavulin or Caol Ila...click to keep reading 

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...click to keep reading 

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...click to keep reading

I have accumulated a few bottles recently that warrant review, so without further ado I'll jump right into the first one: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Bourbon. The Old Fitzgerald lineup of bourbons is made by Heaven Hill Distilleries, the maker of Evan Williams, Elijah CraigHenry McKenna, etc. Old Fitz is an old name that's a fairly common bargain brand in some areas (I picked up this bottle in Chicago for about $15) and almost unheard of in others - I don't think I've ever seen it in PA, NJ, or DE for example...click to keep reading

Glen Moray 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch

This is a bottle of Scotch that I came across up in Massachusetts and since I had never seen it before and it was priced right (around $39) I decided to pick it up. After a bit of research I discovered that it's apparently more popular in Australia than here in the U.S. I've always thought Aussies were pretty good at drinking, so maybe that's a good sign. Glen Moray is a pretty straightforward, bourbon cask aged, Speyside single malt that doesn't hit you too hard with any particular flavor...click to keep reading

Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition Blended Scotch

Over the past few years Prohibition themed bars, cocktails, TV shows and even clothing styles have taken America by storm. From the smash success of Boardwalk Empire to the popularity of 'moonshine' style white whiskeys, if it can be related to Prohibition it seems to be a big seller. Not to be left out, some of the most venerable names in whisky are drawing on their history to bring us whiskies inspired by Prohibition-era styles...click to keep reading 

Clontarf 1014 Irish Whiskey
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...click to keep reading

Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
For my second Irish whiskey review heading into St. Patrick's day (there are at least two more coming soon...) I'm reviewing Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey (KC12). That's a mouthful of a name, but it's worth remembering because each part of that long name tells you something about this unique whiskey. Also it is very much a mouthful of a whiskey - one of the most flavorful and interesting Irish whiskeys I've had in a while...click to keep reading

Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey
And the names just keep getting longer! The next Irish Whiskey up in my St. Patrick's Day run-up has a name almost as long as the 14 years it has spent in barrels. Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whiskey (KC14) is an older, sherry-finished whiskey from the same folks who brought us the Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey (KC12). It has some of the same delicate, fruity notes that I loved so much in the KC12, but is a bit woodier and has some heavier, darker fruit flavors owing to the use of oloroso sherry barrels in addition to ex-bourbon barrels. At 92 proof and non-chill-filtered, the KC14 is also a bit stronger and more 'untamed'...click to keep reading

Knappogue Castle 16 Year Old Twin Wood Single Malt Irish Whisky
Better late than never I say with my final Irish whiskey review of the St. Paddy's season! Knappogue Castle Twin Wood 16 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey (KC16) is more-or-less a 2 years older version of the KC14 that I wrote about last week. It's a triple-distilled all-malted-barley Irish whiskey that was aged first in ex-bourbon barrels and then finished in Oloroso Sherry wood. It's a limited production product, and just as hard to find as the KC14, but at scarcity-induced prices of $75 to $100 depending on where you get it can it possibly be worth the premium over the $46 Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old that was just devine? Also, not to be a grump, but when a bottle gets over about $50 I start to lose interest if it's bottled at a standard 80 proof. Not that there's anything wrong with 80 proof if that's where a given whiskey shows off its best flavors, but I usually think going with 80 proof is more a sign of laziness or of going with whatever is available rather than a conscious choice driven by the character of the liquid. When I'm paying big bucks I want to know that I'm paying for a fully thought-out whiskey...click to keep reading