All posts by admin

Whiskey Acres Sweet Corn Bourbon Review

Distiller: Whiskey Acres. ABV: 43.5%. No age statement. Mashbill: 75% sweet corn, 15% wheat, 10% malted barley. Price: $30.

Distilleries come in all shapes and sizes, and that applies to their approach to distilling as well as their physical characteristics. Some, like my beloved Lagavulin, focus on a few core expressions. Others are more willing to play and see what works.

Take, for example, the DeKalb, Illinois-based Whiskey Acres. They could’ve easily sat on the laurels with their superb rye and bourbon. But they believe that the breadth and depth of corn varietals is equal to that of grapes, and they’re determined to show what the crop can do.

Well, after the Artisan Series Sweet Corn Bourbon Whiskey, I’m a believer. The whiskey’s mashbill (75% sweet corn, 15% wheat, 10% malted barley) is evident throughout the experience. It’s like a trip back to the fall harvests I remember from my uncle’s farm.

The nose sweeps me into memories of the corn casserole my grandmother made; not overly sweet, rich, slightly oaky. There’s vanilla as well, and a hint of baked apple. The palate continues with the baked apples, without being overly sweet. Buttered corn glides alongside streaks of vanilla. Ever so faint roasted chicken.

The finish achieves the near impossible for a young whisky. There’s no flameout into oblivion. Instead, all the elements come back to play. The apple is now a lovely pie, the corn a just-out-of-the-oven cornbread, and there’s leather and pipe tobacco for good measure.

I figured I’d like this distillery-only juice after my previous Whiskey Acres experience, but I didn’t expect to like it this much.

Here’s to those who dare. Cheers, friends! – TM

Glenmorangie Signet Review

Distiller: Glenmorangie. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $150-200.

My journey from Chicago to the Glenmorangie Distillery was of near-epic length, but man, was it worth it. The opening night of my trip to cover the British Open at Glenmorangie’s invitation offered tastings of the entire Glenmorangie range, more than a few Ardbegs, and a personal tasting of the Glenmorangie Signet.

If there’s anything I learned about Glenmorangie during this tip, it’s that the distillery thrives by balancing experimentation and persistence. The Glenmorangie Signet, the 2016 World Whisky of the Year, is a fine example. The no-age-statement whisky is based on the use of heavily roasted chocolate malt, which Master Distiller Dr. Bill Lumsden insisted GlenMo could make work. He was right.

It’s matured in casks made from Missouri oak that’s air dried for two years before the liquid ever touches the inside. The result is a whisky unlike any I’ve had.

There’s chocolate-covered ginger on the nose, along with barley, roasted coffee beans, and vanilla. It brings to mind walks I used to take through the fields at my uncle’s farm.

There’s more ginger in the palate, but it’s more akin to ginger snaps. It melds beautifully with a rich vanilla and caramel that brings to mind a creme brûlée. Whisks of coconut dance along as well, and there’s a lovely stout note that increases with a splash of water.

The finish is stunning. Long, sustained, rich. The stout remains at the forefront, but by the end, there’s a glorious caffè corretto experience that makes me laugh with joy.

These folks love the process and it shows in the result. Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Glenmorangie whisky online from Mash + Grape

Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend Review

Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend – Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: Cameronbridge, Clynelish, Linkwood, undisclosed Highland malt. Regions: Speyside & Highlands. ABV: 43%. No age statement.Blend: 54% malt, 46% grain. Price: $30-35.

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 over 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 $30-35. (Further details on the exact components are available on the Compass Box website, happily.)

The Artist’s Blend 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. And don’t overlook the companion to the Artist’s Blend in the Great King Street range: the rich and peaty Glasgow Blend.

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

Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Edition – 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

Compass Box Peat Monster – 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