Producer: High West. Distiller: LDI. ABV: 46%. Price: $30.
Been wanting to try the High West Double Rye for a long time and was overjoyed when Mrs. McDram’s father brought it home. We did a Manhattan with it then I sipped it as a nightcap and both were exceptional.
This blend of a 2-year-old high rye (95% rye) and an older, lower rye (53% – 35% corn) has a truly lovely nose with hint of cherry, rye spice, and pine. Great palate with the caramel, toffee and tobacco all playing well together. Warming, smooth finish.
My favorite of all recent tastes. – TM
Distiller: Lost Spirits. ABV: 65%(!) Age: 4 years. Price: $55
There are few distillers anywhere as wild and innovative as Lost Spirits’ Bryan Davis. The story, as I heard it, is that he and his wife Joanne were living in Spain and running a small absinthe distillery when they had their first taste of Bruichladdich’s Octomore. It was a revelation. Bryan had a thought: Why couldn’t there be an American Octomore? Not a copy, but something as wild, bold, and brawny, made with native ingredients on native soil — say that little scrap of family land they had waiting for them an hour south of San Francisco?
So goes the legend of the Mad Scientist of Monterey, CA.
Here’s one of his monsters. The Seacape may be, in its own way, the closest think I can imagine to an American Octomore. It’s a single malt from peated barley, aged four years in Lost Spirits’ own Navy Rum casks. An explosion of campfire, iodine, tons of salt — no surprise given the barley was fermented in Pacific Ocean water — and a certain patented Lost Spirits funk.
Best tried in small doses and side-by-side with others in their line. Even then, they’re only for the adventurous. But I’m awfully glad they’re out there. (When you can find them, that is — Lost Spirits has focused almost exclusively on making overproof rums in recent years, which are excellent in their own way.)
Hats off, Bryan. Please keep ’em coming! – BO
Distiller: Ardbeg. 60.1% ABV. NAS. Region: Islay.
Sweet sweet Supernova 2010. We hardly knew ye. Endearing to think this was the peatiest thing on Earth in those innocent pre-Octomore days.
Hadn’t tasted this in at least a year — really trying to make what’s left of the bottle last — but boy, does it hold up. That familiar phenolic blast up front, brine, but honeyed, and almost a delicacy to the flood of sweet smoke that follows, like a hookah with a pine-log campfire inside.
The follow-up 2014 edition was a letdown for many, but I’ll miss this one when it’s gone. – BO
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Distiller: FEW Spirits. 46.5% ABV. 3 years old. Mashbill: 70% corn, 20% rye, 10% barley.
A huge personal favorite of both Axis co-despots, this is one of the finest “craft” bourbons one the market, and it’s distilled right in Thane McDram’s backyard.
Started by an Evanston, IL, local, FEW Spirits uses local ingredients and distills onsite to make a terrific roster of gins, a superb rye and white whiskey, and this beauty.
It has a lovely caramel color and an initial nose of bourbon spice and cinnamon. Palate of corn, cinnamon with pepper sneaking up and a touch of juniper. You can taste the youth of this bourbon, but it’s not off-putting. Bright, brash, and a standout against the backdrop of the many fine but familiar Kentucky flavors.
As always, hats off to Paul Hletko and crew. – TM
Distiller: Aberlour. Age: 12 years. 48% ABV. Region: Highland. Price: $50.
One answer to an unseasonably chilly evening: the marvelous Aberlour 12 Non Chill-Filtered. First had this when I was a peat freak, turning my nose up at anything that wasn’t Octomorish. This changed it all.
The standard Aberlour 12 is too mild-mannered to stand out from the crowd, especially at a mere 40%, but the 48% NCF makes all kinds of things pop.
Beautifully perfumed nose. Malt, stewed pears, brown sugar, a wisp of peat, and allspice in such perfect harmony it’s a minor miracle. On tongue there’s rich oily sherry, baked apples, and cinnamon, with a long finish. Hints of the A’Bunadh character, but far milder and more refined. My shelf’s got room for them both.
Let’s hear it for the Highlands! – BO
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Distiller: Bruichladdich. ABV: 49.2%. Age: 23 years. Region: Islay. Price: $250-300.
The redoubtable but rather puzzling Black Art 4th Edition — the latest, and as it turned out, last mystery release by Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan before his 2015 retirement.
As with previous releases, McEwan kept the details on what went into this a secret. All we know is that v.4 was aged in American and French oak, and the juice came from the very limited remaining stocks the distiller has from before its 1994 closing. (Bruichladdich reopened in 2001.)
Tried the 3rd edition last year and it knocked me out–marvelously rich, with dry fruit and endless complexity. This one starts out lovely, then hits with a sour, funky finish I couldn’t get my head around. Tried, waited, tried again, but it wasn’t for me.
Love the distillery, the mystery, the image–just not the juice this time around. – BO
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