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Boondocks American Whiskey & Cask Strength American Whiskey Review

Boondocks American Whiskey – Producer: Boondocks. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 47.5%. Age: 11 years. Mashbill: undisclosed (high corn, rye, malted barley). Price: $38.

Boondocks Cask Strength American Whiskey – Producer: Boondocks. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 63.5%. Age: 11 years. Mashbill: undisclosed (high corn, rye, malted barley). Price: $60.

One of the welcome side effects of the American craft whiskey boom is that veterans from the big distilleries can have exciting second careers consulting for start-ups or launching their own. Makers Mark veteran Dave Pickerell has done great work with Hillrock and Whistlepig. His former Makers’ colleague Steve Nally helped launch Wyoming Whiskey, which also drew on the expertise of Lincoln Henderson, previously at Angel’s Envy.

Which brings us to David Scheurich. As his Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award profile details, Scheurich got his start with Seagram’s in 1969. He worked at Wild Turkey, among other places, before moving to Brown-Forman in 1989. He launched the Labrot & Graham brand in 1994, which later became Woodford Reserve. He retired in 2011…but was lured back into business to run the Boondocks whiskey brand.

By a happy coincidence, Thane and I wound up with a chance to try Boondocks’ first releases almost simultaneously. He grabbed a bottle of the American Whiskey for his birthday just as I received samples of that and the Cask Strength direct from Boondocks.

The producers’ first offerings left us both equally pleased. They’re sourced from an undisclosed distillery, and use an unspecified “bourbon-like” mashbill of corn, rye, and malted barley. They’re aged a healthy 11 years old in refill bourbon casks–hence the designation “American whiskey” rather than bourbon, which would require maturation in new American oak. (The use of refill casks, along with several references on Boondocks’ FAQ page to “light whiskey,” made me wonder whether this is actually a light whiskey by the TTB definition, but I haven’t been able to get confirmation from company reps yet.)

They’re none the less delicious for it. The nose on the American Whiskey is pure S’mores. All the elements are there: graham crackers, marshmallow, milk chocolate, and a warm, toasty note. Delicate and robust at once. Later on, banana chips–a reminder of the Woodford-related provenance. (The actual source isn’t disclosed.) There’s sweet wood on the nose too, right between pine and oak. The palate is creamy, with honey and roasted nuts: pine and pistachio. Baklava! The finish is buttery and bright at once, without a hint of burn. Maraschino cherries toward the end.

The Cask Strength has all this, but the added strength brings out more tobacco and leather throughout. At 63.5% ABV, there’s lots of room for adding water to find your sweet spot.

Immensely drinkable whiskies from a truly distinguished industry veteran at a reasonable price. Well worth a try.

Cheers, friends! – BO & TM

Boondocks graciously provided samples for review (at the same time Thane bought his own bottle). As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Glencadam 15 Review

Distillery: Glencadam. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 15 years. Price: $80-85.

Interesting to get a taste over the holidays of this lesser-known Highland single malt: Glencadam. Once a major component in Ballantine’s and Teacher’s, it is now mixed into the blended whiskies of current owner Angus Dundee. Their single malt lineup includes a 10, a 15, and a 21-year-old. I tried the middle of the pack.

The nose has a nice balance of freshness and maturity, with strong apple, vanilla, caramel, and raisin. The sherry influence is clear but balanced. Recalls the Aberlour 12 Non-Chill Filtered. The sherry fruits are strong and sweet on the palate, offset by some mild oak spice. Strawberry syrup, caramel toward the end. The spice grows and diffuses on the medium-long finish, with a hint of golden raisin and barrel char.

Overall, a very pleasant Highland that fans of the milder Aberlours should enjoy. Won’t knock you out with power or complexity, and the price is a bit steeper than I’d like, but I’d welcome a dram any night of the week.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Copperworks American Single Malt Review

Distiller: Copperworks. ABV: 52% (Batch 1), 53% (Batch 2). Age: 30+ months. Price: $60.

Since the beginning of the current whiskey renaissance, I can’t think of a whiskey-producing region in the world that has done a better job carving out its own unique identity than the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This is partially due to the region’s long history of craft brewing, but the more recent whiskey distillers have also capitalized on the unique terroir the region has to offer. They also have a climate very similar to the Scottish Highlands. So it makes sense that distillers using locally sourced malted barley and warehouses for aging has resulted in more than a few exceptional American single malt whiskeys.

The first two releases of American Single Malt from Seattle’s Copperworks Distillery are a perfect example of what I love about this region. Their whiskey starts as a craft beer, using Washington pale malts brewed at Elysian Brewery. It is then twice-distilled in gorgeous copper pot stills made in the highlands of Scotland, and finally matured in full-sized 53-gallon new American Oak barrels from the Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, KY.

The two releases have similar aromas of sweet honey and dark molasses, but the second includes more herbal notes. On the palate, both have a mix of sweet fruit, toasted oak, pepper, and malt, with the malt and spice notes more pronounced in the second. The sweetness continues into the warm finish.

I’m really looking forward to comparing these to future Copperworks releases, along with others from this amazing region. Cheers! – JTR

Clynelish 14 Review

Distillery: Clynelish. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 14 years. Price: $55-65.

Where once there was Brora, now there is Clynelish (pron. KLINE-lish). The legendary heavily peated Brora came from an upper Highlands distillery known as Clynelish 1–right across the street from today’s Clynelish 2. C1 was supposed to be shuttered when the more modern C2 opened in 1968, but it got a new lease on life with the new name Brora, and the two ran side by side from 1969-83, when C1 was closed for good.

That ’69-83 Islay-style run at Brora was legendarily good, but the milder malt made at its sister distillery across the street is nothing to sneeze at.

Clynelish is peated at 30ppm, which for me is a real sweet spot.(Ardbeg 10 is 55-65ppm for comparison.) Most of Clynelish’s production is blended into Johnnie Walker Gold, but it’s in this distillery bottling (and the odd independent bottling) that it shines as a single malt.

Intriguing, supple mix of golden malt, strawberry roll, toasty baked goods, and candles on the nose. More and more interesting with time in the glass. The peat is just detectable on the palate–closer to the sweet mesquite end of the spectrum than the briny. Buttery char, without losing its brightness. The shortish finish brings you back for another sip quickly.

There’s something for everyone here, except the most incorrigible extremists. A fair 46% ABV, $55-65. Save one for later–you’ll be glad you did.

Cheers, friends! -BO

Highland Park Fire Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 45.2%. Age: 15 years. Price: $300.

I’m always a sucker for a good whisk(e)y story, especially when it comes from a distillery I’ve loved for pretty much my entire whisky drinking life. Highland Park, on the remote Orkney Islands of Scotland (long a bucket list destination), has delved fully into the Viking heritage of that part of the British Isles with a series of special bottlings.

Several months ago, I sampled their Ice, named after the mythical Viking Ice Giants. More recently, the distillery was gracious enough to send a sample of the next release in this vein, the Highland Park Fire Edition.

A limited release of 28,000 bottles, the Fire is intended to honor the Fire Giants, foremost of whom was Surtr, who, in mythology, destroyed the world in Ragnarok. So, the main question: is this whisky worthy of a world-destroying giant?

In two words: Hell. Yes. Unlike most of the distillery’s products, the 15-year-old Fire was barreled not in the traditional sherry casks, but in a 100% refill port wine-seasoned cask. Now, mind you, I’ve always enjoyed the Highland Park, but the port has opened worlds to me.

The nose has hints of cinnamon, as you’d expect from the bottle, but also lovely and nutty dark chocolate, a flowing and mellow vanilla, and something reminiscent of the tail end of a hog roast. The palate just sings. More pronounced vanilla, to be sure, but I adored the rich roasted coffee, along with orange rind, very slight plantain, and tobacco akin to a Cuban cigar I once enjoyed. The finish is perfectly sustained. It teeters on the brink of fiery, but never tilts harsh. Instead, what you get is an ending you’ll want to savor until the last elements are fully gone.

Now, at this price and limited availability, there’s no way that it can be a staple, but if you can find a bottle, grab it. It’s an infinitely rewarding whisky and one I plan to savor for years to come.

Slàinte, friends, and grab the sublime when you find it. – TM

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

Benromach Imperial Proof

Distiller: Benromach. Region: Speyside. ABV: 57%. Age: 10 years. Price: $100.

I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Benromach, a small-scale Speyside distillery owned by the great independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. That includes their 10-year-old standard bearer, several wine cask finishes, a 15-year-old, an all-organic release, and a heavily peated bottling. But the 57% ABV Imperial Proof may be my favorite yet.

The concept behind Benromach was to recreate a “pre-1960s” Speyside style, meaning lightly peated, on a deliberately small scale. It’s Speyside’s lowest-production distillery, run by just three staff, and the facility is not only computer-free, it doesn’t even have pressure gauges. Maturation is done exclusively in first-fill bourbon and sherry casks–a rarity, and a sign they don’t cut corners.

The Imperial Proof ups the ante on everything I like about the standard 10-year-old, but it doesn’t stop there. The nose is salty and pungent, with a little wet barn/boathouse funk. Organic. Alive. There’s sweetness here too, particularly with a few drops of water: Werther’s coffee-flavored caramels.

All these notes explode on the palate–with very little heat at full strength–along with the tarry smoke I love in other Benromachs. Takes water well. Chocolate syrup and bourbon fruits on the finish.

Even a taste of this is memorable. Now I’ve got to find myself a full bottle. Cheers, friends! – BO

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

Feature photo from Benromach via whiskey__in_the_jar.