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Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2010 Review

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2010 – Distillery: Bruichladdich. Region: Islay. ABV: 50%. No age statement. Price: $60-65.

When I realized my whisky cabinet was in a rare Bruichladdich-free state, I jumped on this new (to California) Islay Barley release to fix that.

It’s a 2010 vintage from Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley series, bottled in 2017. The series is meant to be a prime expression of the Islay distillery’s focus on provenance: the idea that a whisky can and should express the region it comes from–down to the farm where the barley is grown.

Many distillers source barley from all around the UK–and even beyond. Bruichladdich bucks this trend. This release is made with unpeated malt from eight clearly identified Islay family farms. (For those keeping score at home, they are Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit, Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, and Sunderland.) The whisky was aged ex-bourbon casks and French wine casks for an undisclosed period (presumably 7 years).

Nose: super bright golden malt. Rice pudding dusted with cinnamon. Green banana, grilled pineapple. Touch of musty dry white wine cask, then white chocolate.

The palate is youthful but with admirable complexity. Fresh, grassy, coastal. Toasted rice in soy sauce. Smoky barrel char late on. The finish is long and peppery with lemon rind.

Very well made–an automatic daily dram for me. Bruichladdich, I’m glad to have you back.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Bruichladdich whisky online at Mash + Grape

Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel & Bourbon Batch 15 Reviews

Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel – Producer: Barrell Craft Spirits. ABV: 59.65%. No age statement. Price: $70-80.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 15 – Producer: Barrell Craft Spirits. ABV: 58.3%. Age: 5 years. Price: $70-80.

Every new Barrell Craft Spirits release is a cause for celebration around here. When it’s two at once, I have to pinch myself.

The company’s early single barrel releases showed founder Joe Beatrice‘s selection skills. These two latest releases show his blending prowess.

First, the Barrell Whiskey Infinite Barrel. It’s the inaugural release of what Joe calls the Infinite Barrel project, in which portions of previous Barrell releases (and a few wildcards) are blended into an ever-changing whole and periodically bottled.

barrell whiskey infinite barrel

This February 12, 2018 release has eight components, with everything from bourbon to Curacao-finished rye to Irish whiskey to single malt. It’s a hefty 59.65% ABV, and it’s really special. The nose is woody and pleasantly musty at first. Then come whiffs of ground ginger, candied grapefruit, mandarin peel, and Spanish peanuts. The palate is brighter than expected, with baking cocoa, espresso, cane sugar, and more ginger. The finish brings molasses and just the right hit of bitter birch bark.

Bewitching. And it’s going to be fascinating to see how it evolves in future releases.

Next is the Barrell Bourbon Batch 15, a blend of 9.5- to 11-year old bourbons from Tennessee and Kentucky, bottled at 53.8% ABV.

barrell bourbon batch 15

The nose is on the sweeter side, with green apple, cinnamon red hots, strong spice, and woodsy pine. The palate has dark sweets, cherry cola, a touch of varnish, and tons more spice. The restrained but satisfying finish follows the nose and palate. A great summer bourbon.

Keep the hits coming, Joe–and cheers, friends! – BO

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

Buy Barrell Craft Spirits online at Mash + Grape

Highland Park The Dark Review

Highland Park The Dark – Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 52.9%. Age: 17 years. Price: $300.

Whisky is more than a drink. It’s the land that produces it, the clash of terrain and season against those who wrest greatness from oft-unforgiving landscapes. Whisky is the stories swirling around the glass. The tales of those long gone, the shouts of current aspirations, the hushed reverie of future dreams. It’s working yourself to a nub, then wrapping your hand around the glass and luxuriating in the pleasure of a job well done.

This, as much as the flavor, is what I love about whisky–and there’s not a distillery out there that does a better job of drawing all thee strands together than the classic Orkney distillery, Highland Park.

In recent years, the distillery has sought to celebrate is heritage through special limited releases. This year, HP is releasing The Dark, which hints at the violent autumn and winters seasons on the Isle, and The Light (due to be released later this year) which will symbolize spring and summer.

For The Dark, they’ve matured their malt in first-fill, sherry-seasoned European oak for 17 years. The experience brings to mind the end of those long walks in late fall or early winter when the biting cold and cold, fading light seem to give an otherworldly hue to the woods.

There’s a truly autumnal nose. Dried cranberries, dark, rich plum are layered among sage, rosemary, and a very faint roasted pork loin. Rich leather and loam round it out.

The palate becomes more wintry. Dried sage mingles with sherried plums. Espresso and peat come in strongly, reminiscent of mornings on the North Sea. Faint pipe tobacco. The finish recalls the end of March, when winter refuses to go. Bittersweet chocolate and black currant tea arrive, alongside light pekoe. It’s not a long finish, but it leaves you smiling.

I was greatly anticipating this, and it’s superb. There will only be 4,500 of these released stateside. The price point is high, but if you’re in a position to splurge this year, this very well might be the one.

Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape

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

GlenDronach and BenRiach Chicago Tasting Events

February 6-7, 2018, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Come join the Axis of Whisky in Chicago at the upcoming The GlenDronach and BenRiach tasting events! Tastings will be led by Global Whisky Ambassador Stewart Buchanan, accompanied by Chicago local ambassador Max Heinemann.

On February 6 from 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm, The GlenDronach, renowned as a master of sherry cask maturation and distinguished for true Highland style single malt scotch whiskies, will host “Original By Design,” a tasting event at globally-inspired upscale cocktail lounge Arbella in River North downtown.

Guests will take part in an immersive evening featuring scheduled seatings where they’ll learn about the brand’s heritage as of one Scotland’s oldest distilleries, and taste a variety of expressions–including the new limited edition release–that showcase The GlenDronach’s rich experience of sublime depth, balanced complexity and long-lasting finish.

Click to RSVP for Feb. 6

 

The next evening, February 7 from 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm, the unconventional, Speyside single malt scotch whisky BenRiach will host “See Both Sides,” a celebration of the brand’s dual distilling heritage at The Barrelhouse Flat in Lincoln Park.

During small seated tastings, the event will educate guests on the brand’s unique flavors and new limited edition release, showcasing many elements that make BenRiach known as versatile daring and innovative, and pushing the boundaries of malt alchemy like no other.

Click to RSVP for Feb. 7

 

Join us on February 6 and 7!

Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend Review

Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend – Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: Cameronbridge, Benrinnes, Laphroaig, Clynelish, Miltonduff, undisclosed Highland distiller. ABV: 43%. Blend:66% malt, 34% grain. Price: $30-35.

I don’t buy whisky by the case, but if I did, this one would tempt me.

The Great King Street blended whiskies from Compass Box are the perfect encapsulation of everything I love about the blender. They combine quality, distinctiveness, and value in a way that virtually no one else in the business can.

The Artist’s Blend is the more delicate, honeyed, Speyside-oriented of the two. (Check out my very enthusiastic review of that one too.) The Glasgow Blend takes its name from the historical preference of Glaswegians–a robust clan themselves–for more robust whiskies. Accordingly, this blend is equally strong on the peat and the sherry.

With customary transparency, Compass Box discloses the exact percentages of the components in the Glasgow Blend. The core is 35% grain whisky from Cameronbridge and 34% malt from Benrinnes. They’re topped with a generous helping (17%) of Laphroaig, and splashes of Clynelish, Miltonduff, and an undisclosed Highland malt.

The nose lets you know you’re in for something good. The peat gets up close and personal right away. There are canned peaches, strawberry jam, and coconut custard pie. A certain waxiness from the grain component. Strong cedar, shading toward mesquite.

The palate has a Bowmore-esque mix of strawberry and watermelon with very distinct peat. Behind that, grilled peach, pear, raspberry, cinnamon, and ginger.

The finish is a pleasant ramp down from the palate. Long and drying, with blackberry and lingering campfire embers.

All that for under $40? Man. Since it’s a blend, you’ll hear loose talk about rocks and soda. For me, the Glasgow Blend is too good to mix.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Glenmorangie Tarlogan Review

Glenmorangie Tarlogan – Distiller: Glenmorangie. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $110.

And just like that, we’re into December. A month of joy, togetherness, and the first McDram family trip to Scotland. And it couldn’t come any sooner, as I’m down to the last dregs of my favorite whisky of 2017, the Glenmorangie Tarlogan.

Initially launched as part of the distillery’s travel retail market (which means I can only get it while traveling in that neck of the woods), the Glenmorangie Tarlogan is matured in a combination of virgin oak and ex-bourbon casks.

Given that it’s a no-age-statement whisky and bottled at only 43% ABV, skepticism at the high price tag is understandable. And to be honest, there are moments when I question my whisky judgment. But when I saw Brendan McCarron, GlenMo’s head of maturing whisky stocks, this past summer, he said his own favorite GlenMo of the year was the Tarlogan. When Dr. Bill’s heir apparent gives it that kind of stamp, I know I’m on to something.

To paraphrase the Sex Pistols, never mind the bollocks, here comes the review. There’s a lovely, creamy vanilla full on the nose, but so much more. A delicate caramel slow tangoes with honied almonds and a bit of marzipan. It’s the rare nose that has me dying to dive in.

The palate has chocolate and honey, which brings to mind the best Cadbury bars. There’s also spice and a peppery nutmeg, along with splashes of cinnamon.

Then there’s the finish. Dark cherry gelato, rich walnuts, and a lovely buttery caramel. I mean, thank the whisky gods I’m going back to the old country soon, because I can still taste the remnants.

I’m not usually one to pay more than a Ben Franklin for a whisky, but in a few weeks, I’ll gladly hand over the cash for another bottle of this gem. Happy Christmas, and cheers, friends! – TM