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Laphroaig 30 Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV 43%. Age: 30 years.

The 30-year-old Laphroaig. For a peat fanatic, this is a towering achievement. An absolute must if you can ever find it–not because it’s so peaty, but because the peat is so perfectly melded into the whole experience. What better way to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary in 2015?

The nose brings a glorious combination of fruit, oak, sherry, and peat. The palate is an unbelievably smooth peat, along with a subtle hint of spice. The finish is consistent with the whole; warming, inviting, confident.

Very glad to have sampled this now largely lost classic. Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

Seven Stills Chocasmoke Review

Distiller: Seven Stills. 47% ABV. Age: 6 months. Mashbill: undisclosed (from oatmeal stout with peated malt). Price: $35-45 for 375ml.

Seven Stills is the brainchild of San Franciscans Tim Olbert and Clint Potter, who’ve set out on the ingenious–and in retrospect, oddly obvious–mission of making great craft whiskies from great craft beers.

As of summer 2015, they’re released three out of a planned series of seven: Whipnose (from a double IPA), Fluxuate (from a coffee porter), and the above-mentioned Chocasmoke, from a chocolate oatmeal stout.

Call me crazy, but I loved this stuff. I’m not one for anything that can show up in the “Novelty Whiskey” part of the menu (LA’s Thirsty Crow Bar actually has one), but Chocasmoke won me over.

Full-blown chocolate oatmeal stout nose–no surprise there–but then…lemon! The palate’s unexpectedly bright. Youth is evident, as to be expected from a mere six months of aging, no matter how small your barrels, but it’s under control. Smoked honey. Bitter cocoa and mild peat.  Lovely alternation between the darker nose and brighter palate as you make your way through the dram. A little like a wild armagnac turned up to 11. Just imagine this with some age!

Yes, it’s mostly available in California. And yes, the price for a 375ml should give you pause. But if you’re at a whiskey bar adventurous enough to stock it, and especially if your taste in beer runs rich and chocolatey, don’t pass it up.

I’ll be following future Seven Stills releases with great interest. Lay up a few barrels for some serious aging, gents! – BO

Redemption High-Rye Bourbon Review

Distiller: MGP/LDI. Producer: Bardstown Barrel Selections. ABV 46%. Age: 2 years. Mashbill: 60% corn, 38.2% rye, 1.8% barley. Price: $30.

Redemption’s high-rye bourbon is the sister release to the more successful Redemption Rye — both being familiar sourced products from MGP/LDI, bottled in Bardstown, KY. Get ready to see them all over in the near future: the brand was bought in June 2015 by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, which includes brands like Yellow Tail, Georges Duboeuf, and Luksusowa Vodka.

Nothing to get excited about here. You can taste the MGP/LDI provenance in the simple corn base, followed by a burst of biting spice from the rye. (Wonderful things do come out of Lawrenceburg, of course, especially with a little age, but the 2-year mark doesn’t cut it here.) Lacks coherence and balance, with sweetness and spice spiking up unpredictably. Too sharp to sip.

I’d sooner spend my $30 on a dozen others, but if you find yourself with a bottle of it on hand, it will make for a fine Old Fashioned. – BO

Buy Redemption Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon Review

Distiller: undisclosed (Kentucky). Producer: Jefferson’s. ABV 45%. Mashbill: undisclosed, but 25-30% rye. Price: $80. Voyage 4 reviewed.

I promise I wasn’t waiting until the whiskey hit the waterline on the graphic — just a happy accident. But I didn’t want to jump out too quickly with a review on this given the controversy. Better to be sure what I thought.

This is v.4 of 5. The first I tried was v.2, which was a knockout — really special, and for me, a revelation (BreakingBourbon has a great review of multiple voyages, plus a good Q&A with Jefferson’s master blender Trey Zoeller). V.3, which I haven’t had, disappointed many.

So on to v.4. It’s both subtler and more complex than v.2, and, I think, more approachable. V.2 had a distinct and to my palate undeniable briny character, as you’d expect (or at least hope) from a bourbon that sloshed across the equator multiple times on a freighter.

V.4’s special touch is something closer to the pulpy bittersweet decay in the stacks of a university library. That leads the nose. Then clove. Dry vanilla. Wisps of rye and mint (the mashbill is a fairly high 25-30% rye). The palate has a blast of Christmas spice together with the brown sugar and raisins that so reminded me of Willett Pot Still Reserve, I had to try them side by side multiple times. Could they be from the same source, with the Ocean rounded out and given a touch more mature oak from the sloshing? I wouldn’t be surprised. Sweetish, medium finish.

I’m a big fan of this. The price is steep, but the finishing method is not only unique, it’s labor-intensive enough that there’s some justification for paying a premium. (Zoeller is justifiably touchy when people call it a “gimmick.”) If you’re looking for pure value, spending $80 on this may leave you grumbling. But if you’re looking for a bottle that offers a truly delicious pour with a great story to match — one not invented (at least purely) by the marketing team, have at it.

Looking forward to v.5 and the planned v.6. Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Jefferson’s Ocean Aged Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

George Dickel Barrel Select Review

Distiller: George Dickel. 43% ABV. Age: 10-12 years. Mashbill: 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley. Price: $35-40

The George Dickel Barrel Select was a Father’s Day gift from Mrs. McDram. The bar has been set high for next year.

The Barrel Select is a blend of 10 barrels chosen by Master Distiller John Lunn. Like all Dickel whisky, it’s charcoal filtered (one of the reasons it isn’t classified as bourbon), which is said to yield a smoother, mellower flavor. Because of the true small batch nature of it, there will be variations, but the one I got was a peach.

Though the ABV is only 43%, it feels much richer and more potent. The nose carries vanilla and toffee with maybe a tart fruit on the back end. There’s minerality, but restrained, unlike some of the chalkier Dickels I’ve had. The palate has more of the vanilla, along with rich notes of caramel and hints of rye and fennel. There’s a long warming finish that brings back the vanilla and caramel, plus plenty of bright spice.

For me, this is now a must-have on the shelf. – TM

Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Rye Review

Distiller: Alberta Distilling Co, Producer: 35 Maple St. 45% ABV. Mashbill: 100% rye. Price: $70-80.

When Mark Bylok — author of the excellent book The Whisky Cabinet and host of The Whisky Topic podcast — recommends you try a whisk(e)y, there’s going to be a good reason.

Masterson’s 10-year-old rye is sourced from Alberta Distillers, the same house that initially provided all of Whistlepig’s juice. Masterson’s is also bottled in the U.S. — in this case, by Sonoma, CA-based 35 Maple St. Between its $80 retail price and the rather silly marketing about buffalo hunter and wild man Bill “Bat” Masterson, I started out skeptical.

But as always, the proof is in the bottle. And it’s delicious.

Sweet honeyed nose along with a strong familiar rye note from the 100% rye recipe — but not biting. The age helped. Rounded palate that moderates the sweetness with citrus, tobacco, and a dry, somehow grown-up Chardonnay note at the end. I kept thinking, “This is what I want Canadian whisky to taste like!”

This would be an easy daily drinker for me — especially in the summer — were it not for the premium price. $80 is awfully steep given what else is on the market. I’ve heard rumors it can be found at Costco for $50, which seems more appropriate.

But if you’re a rye fan and see it out, definitely try a dram. Thanks for the tip, Mark! – BO

Buy Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Rye online at Mash + Grape