Lexington Kentucky Bourbon Review

Producer: Western Spirits. Distiller: Three Springs Bottling. 43% ABV.  NAS. Price: $28.

A most recent random selection and one that has pleased immensely. Seemingly well regarded — they tout their 95-point rating from The Tasting Panel Magazine, which is affiliated with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition — though online reviews seem to be mixed.

A subtle nose of molasses. Notes of caramel and vanilla, if you get though the initial burn and let it sit on the tongue. A slowly enveloping warmth at the finish. It starts young and impudently and finishes as a friend. – TM

Trader Joe’s Blended Scotch Whisky Review

Distiller/producer: Unknown. ABV: 40%. NAS/ Price: $10 for a liter.

We in the Axis are all about the democratization of the world’s finest spirit. The more people know and try, the better the product, says I.

So thanks must be given to Trader Joes. The grocery chain carries a host of affordable spirits ranging from local delights like FEW to their own starter versions of classic whiskies, such as their very drinkable Islay Storm single malt.

However, I insist they can do better with their house blended scotch whisky. A nose of butter and last week’s unwashed fry pan give way to an initial note of dishwater and the glass you meant to rinse yesterday. Thick on the tongue and viscous on the way down, this is one you’ll want to save for the holiday party guest who fails to pick up on your hints as to how late it’s gotten.

You can’t know what’s good if you don’t know what’s bad. – TM

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Distiller: Wild Turkey. ABV 55%, No age statement (estimated 8-9 years). Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley. Price: $35-50.

The Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon rounded out the night (bottle 9 out of 10) at our inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest in Chicago. Being a big Wild Turkey fan, I was glad the Russell’s was represented–seeing as it’s some of the best of what WT makes.

The Russell’s Reserve focuses on small batch releases like the excellent 10-year-old, and single barrels like these. Naturally there’s variation barrel to barrel, but you can count on them all for a quality pour.

This particular batch was extraordinarily close to the excellent Henry McKenna 10 from Heaven Hill. (Not such a surprise, perhaps, as the two share an identical mashbill.) Dark, leathery, and sweet, with burnt sugar and vanilla on the nose. The palate adds dark molasses–then the rye turns up as a spike of mint. The finish has dark oak and spice. It’s a pour that takes water well, given the relatively high bottling proof–a few drops will bring out more spice.

If you’re in the mood for a dense, dark, leathery bourbon from Wild Turkey, the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel won’t let you down.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Russell’s Reserve Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Highland Park Harald Review

Distiller: Highland Park. ABV 40%. No age statement. Region: Islands. Price: $90-100.

Highland Park’s a first-rate distiller, Scotland’s northernmost, and one of just two distilleries on the Orkney Islands. Their 12-year-old is an excellent introduction to single malt for the uninitiated, and 18-year-old is the nectar of the gods.

Then there’s the Harald. This Duty Free-only release from their Warrior Series struck me as thin, raw, underpowered, and muddled. There are hints of familiar Highland Park flavors–baked apple, baking spice, and light peat–but they’re barely detectable at such a low ABV (40%). Which, at this price point, I find a bit baffling.

It’s the mixed blessing of the no-age-statement trend. You get home runs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh, then dribblers that go foul of the third base line.

When it comes to HIghland Park, at least, I’ll be sticking to the standard age-statement releases. – BO

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape

Michel Couvreur Peaty Overaged Malt Whisky Review

2015 Axis of WhiskyFest Tasting no. 7. Michel Couvreur Peaty Overaged Malt Whisky. 43% ABV. 12 years old.

If there was a standout at inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest, this was it.  A sherried blend by recently departed Belgian legend Michel Couvreur,  who took new make spirit from top Scottish single malt distillers,  then aged them in his hand-picked sherry casks in caves he dug in Burgundy.

They might have been lost with his untimely passing in 20014, had his protege not taken up the task and started releasing them to selected sellers — including the unsurpassable K&L Wines.

Huge sweet creamy unfiltered mix of peat and sherry. The latter, from fresh Jerez casks Couvreur picked himself in Spain, takes the lead. Like a sherried pre-closing Bruichladdich? A peated ultrarich Macallan? Whatever it is, it’s damn good.

Hats off to Couvreur and K&L — in this and all things. -BO

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