Low Gap 2-Year-Old Wheat Whiskey Review

Distiller: Craft Distillers/Germain-Robin. ABV: 43.1%. Mashbill: 100% Malted Bavarian Hard Wheat. Price: $65-75.

Crispin Cain of the American Craft Whiskey Distillery has been distilling for 20 years, and producing a variety of Low Gap whiskeys for about the past five. The distillery itself is one of the oldest microdistillers in America, dating back to 1982.

My favorite Low Gap so far has been single barrel No. 1 of the Two-Year-Old Bavarian Hard Wheat–winner of 2012 Artisan Whiskey of the Year by Whiskey Advocate. It’s distilled on Germain-Robin’s renowned copper cognac still from a mashbill of 100% malted Bavarian wheat, and aged in a new oak barrel.

The nose is heavily spiced, but the taste is surprisingly smooth, with floral notes dancing above the expected wheat profile–a balance of honey and light tropical fruits. There is a silky, medium-long finish.

I’m looking forward to tasting the non-single barrel version of the four-year-old Bavarian Wheat for comparison–along with the other good things Crispin Cain keeps cooking up.

Cheers! – JTR

Highland Park Dark Origins Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highland/Islands. ABV: 46.8%. No age statement. Price: $80.

The Dark Origins is a velvety no-age-statement dram from Highland Park that doubles the sherry cask influence of the standard 12, and is meant to replace the 15-year-old in the near future.

The release is matured 80% in first-fill sherry casks, 20% refill sherry. Needless to say, the sherry is strong with this one.

There’s light honeyed smoke on the nose, plus stewed and candied fruits. The palate adds loads of bitter orange, plus more oak tannins than the Highland Park usually brings. Dark chocolate and lingering smoke on the finish.

It’s a more substantial and interesting dram than the 12-year-old Highland Park, but it struck me as a bit unbalanced overall. It’s not cheap for an NAS, but sherry fans will want to check it out. I’ll be revisiting this one myself, but in the meantime I’ll be pouring myself another A’Bunadh.

Sláinte, friends! -BO

Nikka Taketsuru 17 Review

Distiller: Nikka. ABV: 43%. Age: 17 years. Blended malt. Price: $180+.

The Nikka Taketsuru 17 is so silky, I want to call it a dessert dram–but what that often means is cloyingly sweet and unbalanced. This is anything but.

The Taketsuru line is Nikka’s homage to its founder Masataka Taketsuru, who traveled to Scotland in 1918 to learn the art of whisky distilling at the feet of the masters. He returned to Japan with a degree in organic chemistry from the University of Glasgow, world of knowledge from internships at Longmorn and Hazelburn, and a Scottish bride.

The Nikka Taketuru 12 was a brilliant staple Japanese malt–until it was discontinued in 2015. Fortunately the no-age-statement Taketsuru Pure Malt that replaced it is every bit a worthy (and well distributed) successor.

Which brings us to the Taketsuru 17. The older Japanese malts are harder to find than ever these days, and often prohibitively expensive when you can find them. But let’s say you get lucky and find a bar with a dram at a reasonable price (I’m looking at you, Morrison Pub LA). Is it worth the splurge?

Oh yeah.

The 17 is sweet, yes, in a custardy creme brulée way, but balanced with faint smoke, substantial malt, and roasted nuts. It unfolds slowly and beautifully, with new layers of dried fruits, baking spice, and frangrant oak emerging bit by bit.

The younger Taketsurus have a certain wildness–not a bad thing at all–but that’s been fully tamed here. The 17’s all luxurious refinement. It asks for a patient approach and rewards it.

Kanpai, friends! – BO

Copper & Kings Craftwerk Brandy Review

Producer: Copper & Kings. ABV: 55.5%. No age statement. Price: $50.

More magic from Copper & Kings, the Kentucky bourbon-lover’s Kentucky brandy maker. They’re already busy converting bourbon drinkers with their Butchertown barrel strength brandy. Now with their Craftwerk series, they’re about to be the craft beer-lover’s brandy maker too.

The series salutes the “balls to the wall creativity” of four craft brewers by finishing Copper & Kings’ powerful pot still brandy for 12 months in the brewers’ beer barrels: there’s a a Sierra Nevada Smoked Porter, a Three Floyds Brewing Russian Imperial Stout, an Against the Grain Brewery Smoked Scotch Ale, and an Oskar Blues IPA.

The whole line is insanely fun. They invoke Seven Stills‘ beer-finished (and beer-distilled) malt whiskies, but with extra body and ripe fruit from the brandy base.

The Sierra Nevada Smoked Porter finish takes the brandy’s fruit core in a distinctly chocolatey direction. With time and water, you’ll get toasty cookie-bottom notes, together with candied lemon and a slight beeriness on the finish.

The Against the Grain Scotch Ale finish starts with more barrel notes on the nose–oak and cedar–then Tootsie Roll. The smoke comes through on the palate, more pronouced than with the Smoked Porter finish. Very well intergrated. The finish is dark and raisiny, reminiscent of a port-finished bourbon–or even a rye! I found myself in the mind of High West’s excellent Midwinter Night’s Dram.

The Three Floyds Imperial Stout finish starts with a ton of chocolate, darker than the Smoked Porter’s, and drizzled over a Belgian waffle. The palate recalls the Seven Stills Chocasmoke, but with a more substantial body (little wonder at 55.5% ABV). There’s macerated apple peel and baking cocoa on the palate. The beeriness interacts with the cognac fruit in fascinating ways on the finish: is that smoked key lime pie?

The Oskar Blues IPA finish was my least favorite of the bunch, but that didn’t surprise me: overly hoppy IPAs aren’t my favorite in the beer world either. The hops come through here in a way that’ll be familiar if you’ve tried hop-finished whiskies like the Charbay: green and floral and bitter and sweet in a way that strikes me as soapy. If you like the Charbay, though, you’ll likely enjoy this too.

All in all, I’m as impressed by the Craftwerk series as by everything else I’ve tried from Copper & Kings so far. If it’s not in your area, check K&L Wines online–they ship, and they’ve got three of these in stock at the moment, together with the Butchertown and Small Batch American Brandy.

Here’s to the balls to the wall creativity of the good folks in Louisville. Cheers, friends! – BO

Copper & Kings graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Oban Distiller’s Edition Review

Distiller: Oban. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. Age: 14-15 years. Price: $90-120.

Oban is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, but a popular single malt in the U.S.–with the joke/not-joke reason being that people aren’t afraid to try to pronouce it.

It’s got plenty more going for it. The standard Oban 14 is an excellent example of richness, balance, and approachability, and easy one to recommend to just about anybody.

Oban’s annual Distiller’s Editions up the game in a great way. The standard 14-year-old is given a very welcome finish in Montilla Fino for an additiona 6-18 months.

I first had this excellent 2013 Edition at that year’s WhiskyFest Chicago, and greeted it like an old friend when I recently got to revisit it. The nose is hugely, bewitchingly aromatic, with hothouse flowers, ginger, and allspice. The palate has lots of buttery, biscuity malt, together with the spice from the palate. The finish brings dried fruit rinds and white pepper.

Lovely mouthfeel, and it holds its own at 43% ABV…though a cask strength of this would really be something.

Sláinte, friends! – BO

Whoop and Holler American Whisky Review

Producer: Orphan Barrel/Diageo. Distiller: George Dickel. ABV: 42%. Mashbill: 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley. Price: $175.

Diageo’s Orphan Barrel series has been hit or miss for me. For every terrific Rhetoric, there’s an underwhelming Forged Oak.

But there’s nothing remotely disappointing about the 28-year-old Whoop and Holler. Orphan Barrel has been unusually transparent about the provenance of this latest release–and given my adoration of all things Dickel, I was thrilled to see that the Whoop is actually a 28-year-old Dickel. And, man, what a Dickel.

There’s a ton of citric acid on the nose, and it almost overwhelms the more delicate vanilla and maple notes. The palate is just superb. Toffee and caramel corn tango for a bit, before being joined by cocoa, vanilla, fresh-baked bread, and maple. The finish is wonderfully sustained. The citrus comes back for an encore, along with the corn, vanilla, and pepper.

A terrific whiskey and one I may be hinting at come Christmas time. Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Orphan Barrel whisky online at Mash + Grape

An Orphan Barrel representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

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