Saturday, January 25, 2014

Safari Whisky

This is a real gem of a whisky my sister brought home for me while studying abroad in Kenya. No price sticker, but I seem to recall her stating she did not spend more than a few American dollars on it (it’s 250 mL) I’m going to note a few more things about this product than my usual review.

Label: A feat of marketing. “A REAL FRAGRANCE OF OAK” “Rare Premium Blend” “A blend of RARE OAK and matured whiskies.” The icing on the cake is the proofing. Hidden under the tax stamp it states the product is 40% V/V, 70 proof. Sounds legit.

Color: Light straw, like an Islay product. I swear there’s a tinge of green in there too, but maybe it’s my brain warning me of what’s to come.

Nose: Perfumed oak. Acetone and a smell that smells a lot like oak, but you can tell it’s something synthetic. It’s reminiscent of cheap pancake syrup that smells and tastes like maple, but you know it’s not really maple. There’s no barley, I’d guess this is a grain whiskey; or even more likely a GNS that has been rectified to taste like whiskey.  Really digging into the nose you can pull out some grain notes, but the more you smell it the more it smells like brown vodka.

Taste: Oh boy here we go. My first thought was that this is probably 70 proof (not 40% V/V). The taste is hard to describe. Its mouthfeel is not too bad, very light. All the flavors in there are foreign to me as a spirits drinker. Notes of flat coke, cough syrup, musty cinnamon, orange rind, and the slightest hint of pepper. It should be noted that all these flavors have a weird underlying chemical tinge.

Finish: Well, as you may imagine, something that probably has never been in the same room with a barrel (and if it has that barrel has been devoid of any tannis and vanillins for years), the finish is pretty light. Gentle sweet notes linger.  

Balance: This can be viewed one of two ways: a depressing introduction to cheap “whiskies” available in some markets, or a historical lesson of what the term rectifiers really meant. Either way it’s a gross Frankenstein’s monster of whisky and the best travel souvenir I’ve ever received.  

Stupid letter grade: F

Would I buy again: I would happily welcome another souvenir like this in the future.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 137 Proof (68.5%)

Nose: Intense Heaven Hill style cherry/pepper/oak must followed by a complement of a floral, dry rye. Hints of saline and iodine are followed by a wave of alcohol astringency. The complement of a well aged corn body allows the nose of this product to develop. It’s not nearly as overpowering as it could be because of the matured corn found in the bottle; but that’s a statement that needs to be taken in context. The nose is still very strong.

Taste: ECBP is all about concentrated, intense barrel sugars and oils. The entire HH portfolio seems to offer a musty, barrel-forward vanallin profile and this bottling captures more of the brighter elements of a barrel. Some of the more murky, bitter-sour elements of HH bottlings I have recently experienced in Ezra Brooks 12 and to a lesser extent Henry McKenna 10 (and to an outrageous extent Parker’s Heritage 1st)  aren’t here. Pepper notes are big towards the back of this one, and there is a pretty neat bitter/sweet interaction that happens as the spirit makes its way to the back of your mouth. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light for such a strong, aged product.

Finish: Let’s face it, at 67% you’re lucky you still have a sense of taste when it’s over. The barrel sugars give way to an intense black pepper and clove spice that quickly transforms into a strong ethyl alcohol astringency that quickly numbs whatever you were tasting into submission. On the plus side it’s hard to catch any off flavors when you can’t taste anything

Balance: First of all, big points for both and age statement (back label) and barrel proof. The price point is reasonable and the product does exactly what it says it should -- a barrel-strength offering of a Elijah Craig 12 product. So in that regard there’s not a lot more to add on the thoughts. If you like EC12 and you would like to try a higher proofed expression of EC12, ECBP is exactly what you should be looking for.

Stupid Letter Grade: B+/B

Would I buy again: Yes, in time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Thomas H Handy Sazarac Straight Rye 64.3% 2011 Release

Stock Photos strike again
Nose: Gently musty oak layered below an intense floral rye layer. Clean mineral water. Bright, rich white oak elements. Rye notes are not as dry as some of the offerings from MGP such as Bulleit Rye or Willett 4 Year Rye; nor are the quite as sweet as Jefferson’s Rye or Alberta Premium. Instead THH brings balance. And Cinnamon, anise, and other earthy spices.

Taste: Rich rye sharpness that has been barely just brought out of immaturity. Rich, oily tones match up perfectly with the floral clove notes and herbal honey. Oak influence has been really relegated to the sweet spectrum. This again aligns perfectly to highlight the burly profile of the young, barrel proof spirit.

Finish: Peppery, oily, hints of wood (although this is the bottom of the bottle and I can see barrel particulate in the whiskey at this point, a visceral reminder to mix unfiltered whiskeys before pouring). Light pepper flavors sweep toward the edge of your tongue followed by some of that astringency that usually complements a barrel proof whiskey.

Balance: Thomas H Handy Sazarac Straight Rye Whiskey offers a youthful, bright balance that forcefully captures the elements of rye that I really enjoy. Young, but by no means immature. Balanced, with the corn and new wood interaction sitting at the back instead of the front. A stunning example of exactly what a younger straight American spirit can offer that no other spirit can.

Stupid Letter Grade: A. Up to this point this has been the best bottle of whiskey I have ever drunk.

Would I buy again: Yes.

See all those black specks? Mix the bottle!