Caol Ila 18 Review

Distiller: Caol Ila. Region: Islay. ABV: 43%. Age: 18 years. Price: $85-95.

Caol Ila is a connoisseur’s favorite, justly dubbed Islay’s “Mr. Consistent” by Whisky Advocate Magazine. We should be happy then that it still shows up all over: there are many excellent independent bottlings, it’s frequently a component in Compass Box’s brilliant blends, and it provides much of the peat in Johnnie Walker.

The flagship 12-year-old bottling has long been a staple for me, but the 18 doesn’t make it to the States, so I jumped at the opportunity to grab a bottle during a recent trip to Paris. Boy, am I glad I did.

The nose is an amazing balance of freshness and softness. Lime, grapefruit, vanilla custard. Saltwater taffy. Orange creamsicle. The sweetest, mildest peat smoke, and a distant hint of sea breeze.

Candied orange on the palate, then that orange creamsicle again. Later on, white chocolate with flecks of candied ginger. That same softness from the nose throughout.

The finish brings allspice and clove, Belgian waffle drizzled in orange syrup, and a fuzzy peaty warmth.

With the current Brexit pricing (as of February 2017), this and many other UK/EU-only releases are more accessible than ever at places like Master of Malt. I’ll be tempted to grab another when this one’s gone.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

AnCnoc Cutter Review

Distiller: Knockdhu. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $55-75.

For me, one of the marks of a first-class distillery is getting the basics right. AnCnoc (the brand of the Knockdhu distillery) is one that does. Their standard 12-year-old is one of the best buys out there for an everyday Highland.

That makes it all the more fun to see their experiments pay off. Cutter is part of anCnoc’s growing Peaty Line, which started with four no-age-statement releases and is now up to seven. All are relatively lightly peated (9-20.5 ppm, vs. 55-65 ppm for Ardbeg 10) and bourbon-matured. The Cutter rings in at 20.5 ppm.

Strong split vanilla bean on the nose. Then toasty malt–malt balls, malted milk. Fruit notes follow: first brandy-soaked poached pear, then shading toward tropical, particularly coconut.

The palate is fresh, on the young side, but substantial enough, no rawness. No brine. The peat is noticeable but gentle, with some of the sweetness and sophistication of Caol Ila, though less citrus. Chocolate cream with roasted peanuts and a sprinkling of toasted coconut. The finish is a warm caramelized pie crust bottom.

AnCnoc does it again. The Cutter should definitely be a part of the distillery’s permanent lineup. And I’ll definitely be trying the rest of the series.

Slàinte, friends! -BO

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Whisky Lovers

All right, guys and gals. It’s around the corner, and flowers and chocolates aren’t going to cut it.

For the whisky-lover in your life, we’ve got three can’t-miss gift picks. And if your beloved isn’t already a whisky-lover, these should make one out of them.

Bruichladdich Wee Laddie Tasting Collection

Three core offerings from one our favorite Islay distilleries, and one of our favorite distilleries, period. This tasting pack includes 200 ml bottles of Bruichladdich’s Classic Laddie, Islay Barley, and Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. A great introduction to the one of the most interesting distilleries out there, and a great preview for a row of exciting Spring 2017 releases coming from Bruichladdich’s new head distiller Adam Hannett. (More on both soon.)

Available at most well-stocked retailers who carry Bruichladdich, and online here.

Benromach Tripack Gift Set

Are you noticing a theme here? Benromach is a tiny Speyside distillery owned by Gordon & MacPhail, making “1960s style” (very lightly peated) malts that for me are old-school in all the best ways. This gift set has 200 ml bottles of their flagship 10-year-old single malt, their Peat Smoke, and their Organic bottling. (Our reviews here.)

This may be the trickiest of our picks to find, but if you happen to be in the L.A. area, they’re frequently carried by our friends at Bar Keeper in the Silverlake neighborhood.

Glenmorangie Collection Gift Pack

Last but not least, a fine introduction and/or refresher from a staple distillery for any single malt-lover: Glenmorangie. This pack has 100 ml bottles of four core offerings from the honeyed Highlander: the Original, the LaSanta, the Quinta Ruban, and the Nectar D’Or. For those who like the sweeter side.

Widely available at better liquor stores.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours, friends! Slàinte! – BO

 

Barrell Bourbon builds a distillery!

Friends of the Axis know about our enthusiasm for Barrell Bourbon, which began as a series of sourced whiskey releases by Mr. Joe Beatrice, first bourbon (see JTR’s fresh review of Bourbon Batch 9), then a non-bourbon whiskey, then a (really remarkable) rum.

We’re happy to share the news that Joe is taking the next step in what’s been a very impressive journey so far, building a distillery to be headed up by master distiller Tripp Stimson, former Brown-Foreman chemist and Kentucky Artisan Distillery master distiller.

Barrell’s full release (dated 2/6/17) is below:

Louisville, KY: Today, independent spirits producer Barrell Craft Spirits, LLC. (BCS), parent company of Barrell Bourbon, Barrell Whiskey and Barrell Rum, announced that it will be building a new distillery in Jefferson County, Louisville, KY. The facility will be located in the Gilmore Industrial area in greater Louisville. In addition, BCS named veteran distiller and distillery consultant Tripp Stimson as Master Distiller.

BCS is an independent bottler of unique batch, cask-strength, aged sourced whiskey and rum spirits.

Barrell Bourbon and Barrell Whiskey are both award-winning spirits. Over the past two years, eight different batch entries have won high praise in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and the San Francisco World Spirits competitions, earning scores between 92-98 and 4 Double Gold medals. Additionally, Barrell Bourbon and Barrell Whiskey have received high ratings and top recommendations in both the Whisky Advocate and the Wine Enthusiast.

Now in its fourth year of operation, BCS will begin producing whiskey and bourbon by the end of 2017, with the goal of producing 1,000 barrels in the first year of operation and 2,000 in the second year. When appropriately aged, the spirits will be included in the BCS product portfolio. Plans for additional expansion are currently under consideration.

Tripp Stimson, formerly a scientist at Brown Forman and Master Distiller at Kentucky Artisan Distillery, has consulted in the craft spirits industry for the past several years in areas ranging from fermentation to distillery design. Additionally, he built the first malting operation in Kentucky in 2016. He will be responsible for developing the product formulation for BCS as well as leading the BCS distillery building initiative.

Looking forward to good things from all involved!

Buy Barrell Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Barrell Bourbon Batch 9 Review

Producer: Barrell Bourbon. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 56.05%. Age: 13 years. Mash bill: 75% corn, 18% rye, 7% malted barley. Price: $70-80.

I’d love to know what Joe Beatrice’s secret is to picking barrels, because this Barrell Bourbon Batch 009 is absolutely stunning. I’ve enjoyed most of Barrell’s prior bourbon batches, but this one is my favorite thus far.

Joe is the founder and president of Barrell Bourbon, which we’ve been pleased to follow almost from the beginning. Barrell has released a series of very impressive sourced bourbons, whiskies, and even a rum under his brand. Joe’s also getting into the distilling game, about which more here.

Batch 9 of the bourbon is a 13-year-old bourbon that was distilled in Tennessee, matured in Tennessee and Kentucky, and bottled at a cask strength 56.05% ABV.

On the nose are warm caramel and deep oak. The palate adds butterscotch, vanilla, baking spices, and buttered toast with jam. The beautiful finish reminds me of Brach’s butterscotch candy. Overall, BB 009 has an excellent balance of rich oak and candied sweetness.

I strongly recommend seeking out this batch while it’s still available. Joe, whatever you’re doing to pick these, please keep it up! – JTR

Barrell Bourbon graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy Barrell Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Booker’s Bourbon Review

Distiller: Jim Beam. ABV: 63.9%. Age: 6 years, 10 months, 1 day. Price: $60 (and rising).

Got the 2016 Booker’s Noe Hard Times for Christmas and I’ve been ever so slowly savoring it.

It’s a monster at 63.90% ABV, aged a bit short of 7 years. The nose is a vanilla blast, with a subtle corn foundation, along with hints of ballgame peanuts, cooked sugar, and heavy wood smoke. The palate, once some water is added, is a thrilling combination of vanilla, corn, drying wood, and dark fruit. The finish, in true Booker’s fashion, goes on and on.

Beam ruffled a lot of feathers with the December 2016 announcement that they were hiking the price of Booker’s from $60 to $100. They claimed supply constraints, which convinced roughly no one. (Booker’s is one of the few bourbons of its quality and popularity that’s been consistently available in most parts of the country.) Some doomsayers blamed the success of the recent Booker’s Rye. After that (very limited) bottling flew off the shelves at $300 a pop, they said, it was natural that Beam would try to squeeze more profit out of the bourbon.

As of January 2017, at least, Beam had dialed back its plans, saying the price would creep up from $60 to $75 this year, and toward $100 after that. Even so, no one’s celebrating the move. But if the product is gonna remain like good, I’ll keep seeking it out.

Cheers, friends, and happy sipping! – TM

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