Friday, November 27, 2015

New Whiskey Labels: Laphroaig, Rebel Yell & Booker's

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

A label cleared for Laphroaig Lore which the label describes as "our richest expression ever." It appears to be NAS.

Luxco cleared  label for a ten year old Rebel Yell.

Jim Beam cleared labels for the first six 2016 batches of Booker's

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dusty Thursday: Wild Turkey Cheesy Gold Foil 1988

More Thanksgiving Turkey! Today our dusty is a 1988 Wild Turkey 12 year old. Bottles of the 101 proofer from this era are affectionately known as CGF or Cheesy Gold Foil for obvious reasons.

Wild Turkey 12 year old, 1988, 50.5% abv

The nose is caramel with lemon rind and cinnamon. The palate is a Christmas spice pack with ginger, brown sugar, orange rind and clove; the late palate has some nice oak. It gets minty and medicinal on the finish.

This is certainly a nice bourbon but not one that I think is exceptional. The palate is nice, but the finish is a bit heavy on the mint and medicinal notes. From what I understand, it's very popular among Wild Turkey fans, but I've never been as big a fan of old Turkeys as some folks.

Thanks to Brendan Prouty for the sample.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey: Russell's Reserve 1998

I'm a sucker for a Wild Turkey post on Thanksgiving, so I figured this would be as good a time as ever to review the new Russell's Reserve 1998. This was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2015, but according to Josh at The Whiskey Jug, it was moved to steel containers in 2014.

Russell's Reserve 1998, 51.1% abv ($250)

This has a beautiful nose with caramel, honey and plenty of oak. The palate carries those same notes along with tannic and earthy notes which lead into an earthy, peppery finish.

As someone who has been pretty disappointed with the recent output from Wild Turkey, I'm pleased to report that this is really good stuff.  It's probably the best release since the American Spirit (which I reviewed for Thanksgiving six years ago).

It's definitely on the expensive side, and I'm sure it will be hard to find, but it's one of the best of the bourbon special releases I've had this season (and I'll be running down a bunch of the others next week).

Thanks to Dan Walbrun for sharing his bottle.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kentucky Brandy: Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy

Last week I tasted a single malt from Cognac. Today, it's a brandy from Kentucky. It's become a topsy-turvy spirits world.

Copper & Kings is a brandy distillery/blender in Louisville, Kentucky. Their brandy has recently appeared at K&L in California, so I thought I'd try one of their offerings (there's lots of background about the distillery on K&L's blog). While they do have a distillery, Copper & Kings is currently bottling sourced brandies aged in a solera style. They have three aged brandy offerings: Small Batch Brandy ($35), Butchertown Brandy ($60) and an apple brandy ($40). Today I'm tasting their Butchertown Brandy which is cask strength and non-chill filtered.

Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy, 62% abv ($60)

The nose is spicy with light fruit like a good Cognac. The palate opens with sweet grapes and cocoa. Midway through, it takes on spice which gets stronger through the finish which is spicy on the palate but fruity on the nose. It's got great flavor, though you can definitely feel the high abv. Where it really shines though is with a splash of water. Water brings out a fuller fruit on the nose and a more rounded palate which synthesizes the fruit and the wood. It was tasty without the water, but with the splash, it tastes like one of those great single cask Cognacs that K&L has brought in over the last few years.

The K&L blog called Copper & Kings the next big thing. I'm a big fan of the K&L blog, but I can understand some people's skepticism since sometimes it seems like everything they write about is described in glowing terms. In this case though, I'd have to agree. This is fantastic stuff and at $60, it's a great price for the quality you're getting. Brandy fans, and fans of good spirits generally, should definitely give this one a try.

Friday, November 20, 2015

New Whiskey Labels: Interesting Scotch Blends

This week's most interesting new labels from the federal TTB database:

A label cleared for a 35 year old, sherry aged blended Scotch from independent bottler the Creative Whisky Co.

There are lots of private labels approved for use in individual bars and restaurants, both of which are pretty standard stuff, but here is an interesting one. It's a 41 year old Scotch blended grain whiskey made by Compass Box for Bern's Steak House in Tampa, Florida. According to the label, the whiskey is a blend of five 41 year old casks of Girvan and Strathclyde.

Note:  The fact that a label appears on the TTB database does not necessarily mean it will be produced.  In addition, some details on the label, such as proof, can change in the final product.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cognac's Single Malt: Brenne & Brenne 10

Brenne is the project of whiskey blogger Allison Patel who writes The Whisky Woman blog. A few years ago, she began marketing this French single malt distilled by a Cognac producer on a Cognac style Alembic still. It is aged in new French Limousin oak and finished in Cognac casks.

Brenne has no age statement but averages 7 years old. Patel recently extended the Brenne line with a ten year old expression. Thanks to Brenne for sending me these samples. 

Brenne, 40% abv ($55)

Brenne is a single cask whiskey, but there was no cask number on my sample.

The nose has massive fruit candy notes, like a Jolly Rancher. The palate is a weird fusion of Cognac and malt. It starts with strong fruit notes, almost like a Calvados, then transitions to dry notes with a touch of malt. The finish is lightly malty and, later on, a bit soapy. This is very unique stuff, unlike any single malt I've had before, but it doesn't work that well. The nose and early palate are aggressively fruity, but in a sort of artificial fruit flavor sort of way. The late palate and finish are dry but without much character.  

Brenne 10, 48% abv ($100-$120)

The new Brenne 10 is a marriage of four casks that have been aged in new oak, Cognac casks or a combination thereof.  Josh Feldman has a detailed interview with Patel about the new product on The Coopered Tot.

The nose on the ten year old has very light malty notes. The palate is lightly sweet with some brandy like earthiness which develops into a peppery finish. This one is nice and worth a try. It has more complexity and the flavors come together more cohesively.

Well, between the two of these, I definitely prefer the ten year old. However, I have heard there can be a lot of variation between different casks of the standard Brenne, so some may be better than others.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Benromach Imperial Proof

Speyside Distillery Benromach recently released a new bottling, Benromach Imperial Proof.  Bottled at 57% abv, the 10 year old Imperial Proof is the same as the Benromach 100 Proof sold overseas, but of course, 100 proof in Britain is 57% so they had to change the name for the US market.

The folks at Gordon & MacPhail, who own Benromach, sent me a sample of the new Imperial as well as the standard Benromach 10 to compare.

Benromach 10 years old, 43% abv ($50)

The nose has nice malty notes. Palate is similarly malty with sea air and coastal notes at the end and a slight soapiness on the finish. This is a solid if straightforward malt.

Benromach Imperial Proof, 10 years old, 57% abv ($80)

The nose on this one has a measure of peat and some sulfur. The palate is lightly peated with sweet, syrupy notes. The peat comes back on the finish.

The Imperial seems to be more than a higher proof version of the regular ten year old.  The regular is malt-forward whereas the ten has more peat and sulfur notes. Both are good, and it's nice to see a distillery put out a new high proof expression with an age statement.