This is an 8 year rye from Smooth Ambler that was selected by the SF Wine Trading Company and bottled at 59.7% ABV.
Nose: Has to be MGP distillate based on the nose – tons of fresh dill alongside freshly ground rye grain, slight mustard note along with some acetone.
Palate: Again, massive dill up front along with the rye. Very heavy mustard spice like profile again which is a letdown personally as I really don’t like mustard.
Finish: Turns hot briefly before becoming very dry and bitter/herbal.
Rating: 72/100 – This one is hampered for me by the big dill and mustard notes. It’s something I find in MGP ryes, but this one had them dialed up to 11 somehow. If you like those notes, this may be right up your alley.
Value for the money: Guessing this retailed for around $50-$60, and I would not buy one of these particular bottles at that price, but in general SAOS ryes (if you can find them anymore) make a good buy at that price.
This is a 14 year expression from Longrow that was matured in a ‘Fresh Madeira’ cask and bottled at 50% ABV.
Nose: Peat with a strong mineral spirits note. Dry/brittle oak with a tiny hint of raisins, and slightly skunky overall. A bizarre nose that doesn’t come together for me and doesn’t show much of the madeira maturation.
Palate: The Madeira arrives with a sweet, raisiny type edge to the heavy peat. Varnish notes go away thankfully. Little to no oak here – the peat is dominant.
Finish: Red grapes, peat ash, and dry oak.
Rating: 78/100 – I’ve had such spotty luck with Madeira maturation/finishes. Sometimes it seems it has so little effect on the malt compared to a typical sherry finish. The nose was a letdown for me on this one, but thankfully it got better as it went on.
Value for the money: These retailed for around $130 when they came out, but I’d pass at that price. You’ll pay more for Longrows/Springbanks in general compared to other malts their age, but sometimes it’s worth it. If you want wine influenced Longrow – go to the Red series instead at around $80.
This is the cask strength version of the Maker’s 46. For Maker’s 46, they finish their regular maker’s by inserting French oak staves into the barrel where it’s aging. This is currently a distillery only release, but will be released nationwide at some point I believe (much like they did with Maker’s Mark Cask Strength).
Nose: Very muted oddly – some french vanilla, freshly polished oak, and hints of cinnamon, but overall it was rather closed off.
Palate: Becoming much brighter here – an odd case of the palate being better/stronger than the nose for me in a bourbon. Rich oak, powerful wheat with the vanilla pulling through more. Mostly oak dominant all around though.
Finish: Buttery french oak with a burnt vanilla and sweet wheat. Finish is quite good and very long.
Rating: 87/100 – Maker’s 46 in general seems to be a very polarizing whiskey – splitting those that are more sensitive to oak in bourbon than others. I think it add some nice complexity to the regular Maker’s, but it does increase the oak profile quite a bit. Looking back, I enjoyed the Maker’s 46 non-cask strength just a tad bit better it seems as well as the regular Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. I think what really held the 46 CS back for me was the nose unfortunately.
Value for the money: I’m guessing these will retail for $50-$60 for a 750ml when they are distributed nation-wide, and I’ll pick up a bottle at that price.
This is a 13 year Port Charlotte aged in a sherry cask and bottled by Rest & Be Thankful at 64.6% ABV.
Nose: Powerful peat filled with candied apples, heavy pipe smoke, a nutty malt, and some overly ripe bananas.
Palate: Very strong peat again up front – reminiscent of an Octomore. More smoke and burnt, crispy bits of beef. The sherry influence is very negligible for me – strikes me as more of an ex-bourbon cask here.
Finish: Peat dominates every other note but lasts forever with a bit of dry oak.
Rating: 85/100 – I wish there was a bit more complexity here, but it’s just an in your face peat bomb for the most part.
Value for the money: I think this retailed around $180-$200, and I would gladly pass at that price. Much like Octomore, PCs can often be very overpriced in my book.
This is the 8th release in the annual Parker’s Heritage Collection series. PHC 8 is a 13 year wheat whiskey (meaning at the mashbill is at least 51% wheat) that was released in two different batches with differing proofs. This is the batch that was bottled at 63.4% ABV.
Nose: Buttery croissants and apple butter. Slight green note (fresh grass mainly) with heavy cinnamon and wheat overtures.
Palate: Green apples soaked in wine. Full of oak and rich wheat – slightly oak heavy here.
Finish: Very oak forward with powerful wheat notes lingering turning to a fresh grain. Finish goes on for a long time.
Rating: 86/100 – Nice, but not overly complex. Turns a little oak heavy for me which is odd given it’s only 13 years. It could be the wheat doesn’t compete as well with the oak compared to a typical bourbon mashbill with mostly corn.
Value for the money: These retailed around $89-$99, and I think it’s an okay price at retail, but this is not worth any more than that (I think secondary is currently $150-$200).
This is a 20 year Bunnahabhain matured in sherry casks and bottled by A.D. Rattray at 53% ABV.
Nose: Dark sherry and mulled spices, peat present but just barely – masked nicely by the sherry with some honey and cloves.
Palate: Rich sherry and tobacco with a very earthy oak profile. Subtle floral notes tucked in the gentle peat folds. Comes off quite hot for 53%.
Finish: Nutty malt peeking out behind the sherry cutrain with currants, almonds, and a dry oak.
Rating: 88/100 – I’m really beginning to enjoy these independent Bunnahabhains – especially the sherried ones. Will have to seek more out…
Value for the money: I think this retailed around $150 which is a pretty fair price overall. Would maybe like to see it closer to $120 or so, but it’s not too overpriced.
This is a 29 year Lochside bottled by Ryst-Dupeyron under the Captain Burn’s label for the French market. The Lochside distillery was closed in 1992 and demolished in 2005.
Nose: Very punchy playdough notes followed by prominent oak dusted with cumin along with slight vanilla and raisins.
Palate: Great mouthfeel – very full and oily. Mangoes and cantaloupe with salty malt and ancient oak. Still rather oak forward, but the tropical fruit notes add some nice contrast and help brighten it overall.
Finish: Bright mango and passion fruit right away that fades into oak and white pepper. Very long finish.
Rating: 91/100 – My first Lochside, and I’m rather impressed. I’m a sucker for tropical fruit notes in my malt, so this was right up my alley.
Value for the money: Lochside stock is fairly rare these days, so they are expensive and mostly found at auction. This bottle was a little over $300 I believe which is a pretty fair price given the rare nature of their distillate and the age/quality.
This is the 23 year expression from the Pappy Van Winkle 2013 release which is bottled at 47.8% ABV.
Nose: Super sweet wheat and rich vanilla with old oak mixed with a bit of sawdust. Brown sugar and cinnamon round out a very sweet nose.
Palate: Very oak forward, rapidly turning bitter and slightly soapy. The wheat is still present, but the other sweeter notes get buried beneath the oak unfortunately.
Finish: Oak dials down just a bit but still dominant here. Subtle banana bread accompanies the oak lasting quite some time.
Rating: 85/100 – The nose is great as with most of the other PVW expressions, but this one is too overoaked once you get past that.
Value for the money: As anyone who is a bourbon fan knows, PVW is extremely hyped and priced through the roof on the secondary since these bottles are so rare/hard to acquire. The retail for these has been around $250-$300 the last few years, but on the secondary these have crept up to close to $2000 in the past year. As with any of the PVW on the secondary, it is simply not worth anything close to secondary values.
This is a 7 year Kentucky sourced bourbon that was finished for 8 months in ex-Harbor Winery Mission de Sol dessert wine casks. It’s bottled at 42.25% ABV.
Nose: Sweet grapes – reminds me of a brandy up front. Dark chocolate, bitter greens, tart cherries, dates, and leather.
Palate: Very brandy like again for me – uber sweet grapes right up front and dominate throughout. Pumpkin seeds and salted oak chips develop after a bit.
Finish: Sickly sweet with raisins and slightly bitter fresh greens – lasts quite a long time.
Rating: 87/100 – If you don’t like sweeter whiskies, you will not enjoy this one I don’t think. It’s a weird kind of sweet, and it doesn’t really taste anything like a bourbon, but it’s great as a dessert pour.
Value for the money: I believe these retailed for around $50 which I might buy just to have something sweet for guests/non-bourbon drinkers or just as an evening curiosity for myself.
This is the latest Private Edition expression from Glenmorangie. It is an NAS expression that was aged first in ex-bourbon casks before being switched over to flame-toasted casks that were previously used for Portugese wine. It’s bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Classic Glenmorangie profile – sweet oak, fresh berries, vanilla, honey, overtures of rich red wine. Almost strikes me as a Balvenie expression based on the nose.
Palate: Buttery oak, honey, very subtle fruits, and quite spicy overall. Fairly bland though compared to the nose – where did all those red wine/fruit notes go?
Finish: Disappointing….spicy and burnt popcorn, but fades very rapidly.
Rating: 76/100 – I’m bummed as I typically really enjoy the private editions. Last year’s Tusail was the first true disappointment in the series for me, but sadly the Milsean continues the downward trajectory.
Value for the money: I’m glad I tried a sample of this first, but this retails for around $89-$99. I will definitely not be buying a bottle at that price.