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Barrell Bourbon Batch 11 Review

Producer: Barrell Craft Spirits. Distiller: undisclosed Tennessee distiller. ABV: 57.4%. Age: 6 years. Mashbill: 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley.

You’ve all seen Baldo’s deep and deserved love for the terrific offerings from Barrell Craft Spirits (f.k.a. Barrell Bourbon), but it was only recently that I was able to review a bottle of this superb product.

The Barrell Bourbon Batch 11 is from barrels distilled and aged in Tennessee, then bottled in Kentucky, with a mash bill of 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley.

As you’d expect from a barrel strength bottling, this bourbon truly opens with a splash of water. I caught vanilla and caramel on the nose, along with summer county fair corn on the cob and a hint of cotton candy. The palate is a thing of complex and rich beauty. There’s a bit of brown butter sauce, subtle layers of spice over oat cakes, and a delightful hint of peanut brittle. The finish has all these flavors and more and is very nicely sustained. Very pleasingly to me, there was even a faint note of French press at the back end.

I was thrilled with my first Barrell experience and I can’t wait to see the next batch. Cheers, friends! – TM

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

Buy Barrell Craft Spirits online at Mash + Grape

Benromach 35 Review

Distiller: Benromach. Region: Speyside. ABV: 43%. Age: 35 years. Price: $500-700.

There’s a bit of a dilemma when you’ve got the chance to sample something truly special. On one hand, you’re itching to pour the day it arrives. On the other, you’re keep telling yourself you need to wait for the Perfect Moment™.

After a few weeks of staring longingly at the sample of Benromach 35 on the counter, I decided my perfect moment was a perfectly ordinary Wednesday. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and all.

Benromach has been doing wonderful things at its small, deliberately old-fashioned, far northern Speyside distillery since Gordon & MacPhail purchased and revitalized it in the 1990s. Their oldest standard release is a (very good) 15-year-old. This 35-year-old release, like a few 1970s vintage releases, comes from the old stocks that predate the revival.

The 35 is an all-first-fill-sherry blast from the past. Bewitching nose. Beautiful bourbon-soaked stone fruits–stewed cherries and prunes. Mature oak, chocolatey mahogany. Sweet old library must. Raspberry syrup. Wet cedar.

Palate has a subtle sourness behind the rich stewed fruits. Just the right bite. Mulled wine with heavy cinnamon and clove. Burnt apple pie. Beguiling finish with lighter fruit notes: lychee and fresh coconut.

Lesson learned: you can wait for the perfect moment, or you can make one by pouring something this good.

Cheers, friends! – BO

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

Macallan Edition 2 Review

Distiller: Macallan. Region: Highlands. ABV: 48.2%. No age statement. Price: $80-100.

I think I’ve got a new favorite Macallan. Got an overdue taste of the excellent Edition No. 2 with my friends at Jay’s Bar recently. I’d heard raves about this no-age-statement release from Mark  good folks at Scotch ‘n’ Sniff and Malt Review. Now I know why.

The Edition No. 2 is a collaboration between Macallan Whisky Maker Bob Dalgamo and Catalonia’s legendary El Cellar de Can Roca restaurant. In terms of profile, it’s square in Macallan’s sweet spot: dense sherried goodness balanced by just the right amount of darker, drier tannic notes.

On the nose there’s blood orange, marzipan, marshmallow, sweet old oak, and a whisper of mint. The palate adds sponge cake, toasted coconut macaroons, candied ginger, and fig. Full body. The finish has clove-studded Christmas orange with musty grapevine and more sweet oak.

BIG success, this one. Looking forward to adding a bottle to my collection–and trying it alongside the Edition 1.

Slàinte, whisky friends! – BO

Henry McKenna 10 Bourbon Review

Distiller: Heaven Hill. ABV: 50%. Age: 10 years. Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley. Price: $25-30.

The Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is an increasingly rarity: a high-quality, age-stated bourbon that comes at a very reasonable price.

As a single barrel, there’s always going to be a certain amount of variation, but the high quality of these has been very consistent. I found this particular bottle at the back of the shelf of a local store, and it turned out to be from a batch that was distilled in 2002. I was excited to check it out.

On the nose are notes of freshly cut wood with a very small hint of char (like laser-cut wood), mixed with warm new leather that’s been sitting out in the sun. The palate starts with medium sweetness, combined with herbal spices and cinnamon notes that provide a pleasant dose of heat. All of this is layered on top of a lovely base of dampened oak.

This was a good barrel indeed, and it reminds me why I always come back to this great bourbon, especially given its price point.

Cheers! – JTR

Craigellachie 31 Review

Distiller: Craigellachie. Region: Speyside. ABV: 52.2%. Age: 31 years. Price:  $800-1,000+

Hot damn. The Craigellachie 31 is in pretty rarefied territory. As Axis readers know, I’ve tried–and hugely enjoyed–every other distillery bottling: the 13 (one of the best buys in stores), the 17 (a welcome step up), the 19 (one of my favorites of 2016, sadly Duty Free-only), and the 23 (challengingly sulphuric, and damn pricey).

The 31, though, I doubted I’d get to try–at least any time soon. But there it was on offer at the end of the brilliant Dewars single malt dinner at Ink LA recently. I took full advantage.

Craigellachie is not for beginners, and they’re proud of it. The 31 is intense. Many other distillers release their oldest malts watered down, but this bottling is 52.2% ABV. It starts with a massive leathery note on the nose the younger Craigellachies don’t have. Dense strawberry and pineapple. Peppery vanilla bean. A little water, and the dram bursts open.

The palate explodes with spice-infused fruit: cinnamon, dried ginger, nutmeg. Bitter chocolate truffles. That characteristic Craigellachie meatiness. Toasted almonds. Old leather-bound library volumes. White smoke. Constant evolution in the glass, and a finish that goes on forever.

One of the more extraordinary drams I’ve tasted. The jury of Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards seems to agree: they named the Craigellachie 31 the best single malt in the world for 2017.

Here’s to the grails, whether we’re drinking them or dreaming of them. Slàinte, friends! – BO

Oban 14 Review

Distiller: Oban. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. Age: 14 years. Price: $60-70.

Oban is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts line, and is beloved in the U.S. for being rich, versatile, and approachable. And for being easy to pronounce.

Chicago’s weather calls for very specific whiskies in the spring, and I’d say the Oban 14 fits the bill perfectly. The nose has gentle heather, with hints of toffee, pine, and pear. The palate is more of this gentle wash, with an underlay of pan drippings. And the sustained finish is a minor miracle, one that grows in strength, only to ease away for a rolling delight. It’s one of my faves and fits our ever-changing weather beautifully.

If you’re looking to explore the distillery further, there’s an excellent annual Oban Distiller’s Edition, as well as a no-age-statement Little Bay, which has both fans and detractors. We’ll bring you a review of the latter soon.

Slàinte, friends! – TM