Tag Archives: nas

Koval Four Grain Single Barrel Whiskey Review

Distillery: Koval. ABV: 47%. No age statement. Mashbill: oats, malted barley, rye, wheat (proportions unspecified). Price: $50

Chicago, to me, remains the quintessential American city. Diverse, insular, innovative, slow to respond. Chicago can be everything at once. Many faults, to be sure. But there’s greatness in its neighborhoods and the people and creations that stem from them. Chicago gave us the greatest newspaper columnist of all time in Mike Royko and it’s given us a damn fine and innovative distiller in Koval.

Like Royko, who blended high satire with gritty reporting , the Koval Four Grain Single Barrel Whiskey is a wonderfully singular expression. Jim Murray thought so as well, having named it as a runner up for U.S. Micro Whisky of the Year in his 2017 Whisky Bible. (See our Koval Millet Whiskey review for another intriguing release.)

The nose of the Koval Four Grain reminds me of a great cookout where cornbread, amber beer, and honied ham take a place of honor. There’s a faint medicinal waft to the back of the nose that balances out the sweetness.

The palate is earthy and light at once. An initial viscous mouth feel gives way to sensations of the whiskey literally popping on your tongue. There’s roasted yam, tart orange, and a hint of pig roasted on a spit. At the end, dark cherry, wood chips, and lovely dark, dark cocoa.

If I have any quibble with the Koval Four Grain, it’s the finish, where the medicinal note predominates and overwhelms. But this is a superb expression of a new-classic distillery, one that I’m proud to have in my home town.

Here’s to home and the drink and food that makes it one. – TM

Buy Koval Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

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

Feature photo from http://www.noblespirits.com.au

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

Great King Street Artist’s Blend Review

Producer: Compass Box. Distillers: undisclosed. Regions: Speyside & Highland. ABV: 43%. No age statement. Price: $35-40.

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 just under 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 $35-40.

It 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. Three cheers for Compass Box! – BO

Buy Compass Box whisky online from Mash + Grape

Compass Box Peat Monster Review

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

Kilchoman Sanaig Review

Distiller: Kilchoman. Region: Islay. ABV: 46%. No age statement (about 4-5 years). Price: $55-70.

Kilchoman is Islay’s youngest distillery. It opened in 2005, and quickly began winning converts with its young but surprisingly rich and supple single malts. The flagship is the excellent Machir Bay, which is mostly first-fill bourbon-matured, with a little sherry finish thrown in at the end.

The Sanaig, a new release in 2016, ups the sherry-matured component to 50%. No age statement, though it’s around 4-5 years old, and it’s bottled at a healthy 46% ABV.

The nose on the Sanaig is a mix of tart, sweet, and salty notes. Sea
breeze. Blackberry crumble. Salted caramel. The peat keeps itself fairly well concealed. The palate is sweet and buttery: blueberry pie filling, burnt butter crust. Blackberry cordial. Very mild clove. Peanut brittle. Mild toasty peat emerges bit by bit. The finish recalls the end of an old fashioned: the echo of the sweet bourbon intertwines with bitter oak and aromatics.

Beautiful compliment to the Machir Bay, and for me, a clear success. If you’re looking for a new Islay, the Sanaig’s a great place to look.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Buy Kilchoman whisky online at Mash + Grape

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