Great King Street Artist’s Blend Review

Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: undisclosed. Regions: Speyside & Highland. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $35-40.

The Great King Street Artist’s Blend was my first Compass Box whisky a few years back, and it opened my eyes to how good a blend can be. Founder and master blender John Glaser calls it “blended Scotch for whisky geeks,” which is just about the perfect description.

In line with Compass Box’s usual eye for quality, the Great King Street Artist’s Blend is just under 50% malt (an unusually high proportion), and matured in first-fill bourbon, sherry, and new heavily toasted French oak casks. It’s 43% ABV, not chill filtered, and priced at an exceedingly reasonable $35-40.

It has a gorgeous nose with strong wild honey. Sweet oak, new leather, vanilla tobacco, dried apple. The honey leads the palate too, but is beautifully integrated with the grain whisky backbone–sufficiently mature to add weight and heft. Canned peaches and pears. Surprisingly long finish with sweet leather and tobacco predominant.

A whisky geek’s blended Scotch, a blended Scotch skeptic’s blended Scotch…this one can win over just about anybody. Three cheers for Compass Box! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Vicomte Cask Strength Single Malt Review

Producer: Vicomte/Venturi Brands. Distiller: undisclosed. Region:Poitou-Charentes, France. ABV: 67.8%. Age: nine years.

Vicomte Single Malt’s standard 8-year-old release was a very pleasant surprise for me last year. It’s made in France’s Cognac region from organic local barley, and aged in first-fill cognac barrels. It was among the best French malts I’ve tried–my only quibble was with the somewhat underpowered 40% ABV.

Problem solved. Vicomte’s new Cask Strength adds another year of age and dials the intensity up to a massive 67.8% ABV. Naturally, that gives you all the room in the world to dial in your ideal strength, or serves as a very potent cocktail base.

The whisky is distilled from all-organic French barley from Poitou-Charentes. It’s a dram full of overripe fruit, chocolate-covered cherries, and old-school candy shop sweets, though the oak and spice balance them well. The nose also has hints of peppermint candy, pound cake, and young leather. The palate has strong cherry notes–maraschino cherries, sour cherries in syrup, even Cherry coke–but with the sweetness well under control, even at full strength. The spice emerges through the medium-long finish.

Vicomte Cash Strength is currently in 22 states, with more to come. If you’re cognac-minded or looking to explore more Continental single malts, check it out.

Cheers, friends! – BO

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

Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition Review

Distiller: Kilchoman. Region: Islay. ABV: 50%. Age: 6 years. Price: $75-85.

Happy to be expanding our Kilchoman coverage this sunny Thirsty Thursday with the 6th annual Kilchoman 100% Islay limited edition.

A yearly staple for the distillery since its first releases in 2010, the 100% Islay is true to its name, being a purely Islay-made product from barley to malt to maturation. This release spent six years in a mix of first-fill and refill bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace.

This Kilchoman 100% Islay opens with intriguing sweet notes on the nose: cherry wine, sweet hay, chocolate-covered vanilla meringue, lemony malt. Subtle peat.

The palate’s sweet and punctuated with tart berry flavors. The peat rears up here, but more peppery than smoky. There’s a very welcome sour/umami note late on, like a hit of wasabi. The medium-long finish has raspberry compote, lemon peels, beeriness, and cane sugar.

Kilchoman is only getting better with time, and this 100% Islay is no exception. As a limited edition from a distillery that’s approaching cult status, these usually don’t stay on shelves long. But if you get lucky enough to find one, it won’t disappoint.

Cheers, friends! -BO

Buy Kilchoman whisky online at Mash + Grape

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

Compass Box Peat Monster Review

Producer: Compass Box. Distiller: various (see below). Region: Islay/Islands/Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $55-65.

I have a special weakness with Compass Box whiskies. The Flaming Heart 2015 was my favorite whisky of that year, and I have yet to write a review. I went through an entire Christmas bottle of Compass Box Peat Monster without writing a review. The problem is that they’re so good, and in such a particular way–which I attribute to the blending genius of founder John Glaser–that I get too absorbed in them to take notes. I just want to enjoy.

But revisiting the Peat Monster, I managed to get my act together. This beauty is a blended malt (also known as a pure malt), meaning it’s a mix of single malts, with no grain whisky. The malts come from Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Ardmore, Ledaig, an unnamed Highland distiller.

The peat is intense, but there are many peatier whiskies on the market by far. The priority here is on balance and nuance.

Nose: lively, fresh, grassy, but with the density and richness that only come from a fair proportion of older malt in the mix. Minimal sweetness. Dark vanilla. Almond flour. Mesquite. Lemongrass. Dry vermouth herbaciousness. I could nose it all night.

Three kinds of peat intertwine on the palate: briny, toasty, and savory/BBQ. The Laphroaig brings the ashiness and brine; the Caol Ila light lemony fruits, tilting from lemon to lime to grapefruit. Charred pear and watermelon candy later on. The finish is very long, with grapefruit rind, grenadine, white ash, and salty sea spray.

The Compass Box Peat Monster should be a staple in any peat lover’s cabinet. Sure is in mine.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey Review

Distiller: Teeling. ABV: 46%. Age: five years. Price: $40.

As we’ve gone through this Axis of Whisky experience, I continue to be amazed by the stories behind the whiskies. Whether it’s a legend of a great uncle once removed who ran a moonshine still for Capone, or the rich history of Islay, most of my favorite pours have a great story behind them.

And it’s only fitting that the stories should be good, because whisk(e)y is meant to be sipped with friends while you debate the weighty issues of the day. Or at least bring those friends a little closer.

Dublin’s Teeling Distillery gets this as well as anyone. The story behind the distillery and its master distiller Alex Chasko is a ripping yarn, one that I’ll lay out in detail in a future full-length piece.

But the stories don’t matter if the drink doesn’t stand on its own.
And brother, does the Teeling line stand on it’s own. I’ve been drinking the Single Grain recently, and maybe it’s the American Oak and Cab Sav barrels they use to age the juice, but this and the Single Malt stand alongside Green Spot and Yellow Spot in my class photo of great Irish whiskies.

The Single Grain has a caramel-y nose that offers up vanilla, almonds, and spice around the edges. The palate is where this one really sings for me. There’s a nutty base to it, one that balances out lashes of toffee, vanilla, apricot, and loam. The finish is delightfully sustained. The caramel makes an encore appearance, along with dried apricots and dark cocoa.

These guys are doing some great stuff and I cannot wait to see what the future holds. Sláinte, friends! – TM

Redbreast Lustau & Redbreast 12 Review – side-by-side

Redbreast 12 – Distiller: Midleton. ABV: 40%. Age: 12 years. Mashbill: malted and unmalted barley. Price: $50-55

Redbreast Lustau – Distiller: Midleton. ABV: 46%. No age statement (about 10 years old). Mashbill: malted and unmalted barley. Price: $60-70

Redbreast is square in middle of the great Irish whiskey revival. Their whole core line is top-notch: 12, Cask Strength, 15, and 21. As single pot still Irish whiskies, they combine malted and unmalted barley, and Redbreast matures them in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.

The Redbreast Lustau is a no-age-statement (roughly 10-year-old) special edition–and a great one. What makes it special is and extra 6% ABV on top of the 12, plus a full year of finishing in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks from Spain’s Bodegas Lustau.

I had the pleasure of trying a tasting kit that included both the standard Redbreast 12 for comparison–and a sample of the Lustau itself. Rare and excellent way to track the exact influence of the finish.

Let’s start with the 12. It has a nose of green apple, candied pear, marzipan, brown sugar, and birch sap. Palate of pound cake drizzled with orange brandy and vanilla icing. A whiff of white smoke, followed by sweet oak and baking spice. Lemon pith and white pepper carry the sweeter notes to the finish.

On its own, the Lustau sherry is dry, nutty, sour, and mushroomy–but shows up in the Redbreast Lustau Special Edition quite differently. Added to the 12’s profile are buttered popcorn on the nose, plus the more usual plum, raisin, and fig notes, all with a kick from the higher ABV–though the sweetness is restrained. More toasted almond now than marzipan. The palate has raisin bars and toasted nuts, pecans and peanuts. The brown sugar notes shade toward maple.

In sum, the Lustau sherry profile makes for a brilliant compliment to the Redbreast core, adding depth, nuance, and dark fruits while reining in the sweetness just enough. Great stuff, and well worth the extra $10-15 over the 12.

Sláinte, friends! What are you sipping? – BO

Buy Redbreast whiskey online at Mash + Grape

A Midleton representative gracious provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Musings, Booze, Reviews