Reviews #264-266: SMWS Global Gathering 2020

The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society moved their Global Gather to a virtual event this year and sold the bottles that would have been released there online instead. That worked for me and I went ahead and grabbed all 3. I’m a fan of most IB Longmorn and Highland Park bottlings I’ve had and I’d never had an IB Clynelish before so I was curious.

 

Reviews #264-266 SMWS Global Gathering 2020

SMWS Cask 7.244 Abracadabra

Distillery: Longmorn

Age: 15 years

Abv: 118.8 proof

Neat

Nose: The PX influence is very clear with sticky sweet dark fruit and a little spice.

Taste: Butterscotch, dark cherries, holiday spices, nutty notes toward the end. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with warm spice and sticky sweet notes. Almost like a figgy pudding.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

SMWS Cask 26.144 Herbal Reveries

Distillery: Clynelish

Age: 16 years

Abv: 108.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Vanilla, baking spices, malt

Taste: Honey then clove then spices. A bit of ethanol burn despite the reasonable proof.

Finish: Long and hot with black pepper and cinnamon notes.

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

SMWS Cask 4.255 When Pineapple Met Pigeon

Distillery: Highland Park

Age: 17 years

Abv: 113.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Charred oak, slight brine, something almost cloyingly sweet cotton candy maybe?

Taste: Smoke, oak, caramel, warm spices and a bit of funky rum notes. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with smoke and oak notes balanced by sweet vanilla and caramel.

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed all 3 of these though the Clynelish was easily the most mundane of the bunch. The PX Longmorn was delicious and would be a great dessert dram while the Highland Park was also tasty and very unique, at least for my experiences with that distillery. The PX Longmorn was the definite highlight for me.

As far the the SMWS tasting notes go I can see where they were coming from on the Herbal Reveries and the Abracadabra but the only thing I got in common with them on the When Pineapple Met Pigeon was the smoke!

Overall while I enjoyed these I was hoping for a bit more from a sort of special release by SMWS at the price point of $450 for all 3. Some of that is certainly the tariffs’ fault and while I am aware that SMWS has made some tradeoffs on quality for quantity I was hoping this release would hold a higher bar.

 

TL;DR: The Longmorn and Highland Park were great and had something unique about them compared to OB offerings. The Clynelish not so much. All 3 were good whiskies and I’ll certainly enjoy them

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Review #263: Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon 'Highway Kind'

In the last few years Willett has moved from primarily sourcing whiskey to mostly bottling their own distillate. This has a naturally led to folks bemoaning the loss of the older sourced whiskies and to others becoming fans of the new releases despite their high price points. I definitely fall into the latter category especially when it comes to the wheated bourbons and ryes.

 

Review #263: Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon ‘Highway Kind’

Age: 6 years

Abv: 117.2 proof

Price: $130

Neat

Nose: Sweet with brown sugar and dark fruit notes with hints of spice.

Taste: Four Roses style sweet dark fruit notes with brown sugar, warm spices and a bit of oak. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long but sort of softer finish with a lingering sweetness.

Conclusion

That was fantastic. It fell just short of a perfect score for me and I think and 8-10 year old version that had a little more complexity especially on the finish would put it over the top. I’ve blinded this against other wheated Willetts) and other tater wheaters) multiple times and it always come out on top for me. The dark fruit and brown sugar notes are some of my favorite in the bourbon world though so it’s not surprising I’m a fan here.

Overall the ~$20 a year is a little tough on the price point front but for me this one was worth it and I’m very glad I bought 2.

 

TL;DR: I’m a fan of these wheaters from Willett and this is the best one I’ve had

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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RTD Cocktail Review #1: Whistle Pig Ginger Fashioned

I recently received a bottle of Whistle Pig’s Barrel Aged Ginger Old Fashioned. This is a 70 proof ready to drink cocktail made with Whistle Pig Piggyback Rye, their Runamok maple syrup and infused with raw ginger. In my experience these premixed cocktails have a lot of variance and are often too sweet for me so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I drank it over my last @realsonaice ice sphere.

 

RTD Cocktail Review #1: Whistle Pig Ginger Fashioned

Abv: 70 proof

Price: Received for free

Neat

Nose: Herbal and ginger notes with a faint sweetness

Taste: Rich maple, herbs, present but not overwhelming ginger, subtle spices

Finish: Medium length with sweet maple and ginger notes

Conclusion

The nose was not nearly as sweet as I feared instead having a nice balance of herbal and ginger notes with fainter maple sweetness. The taste starts with rich maple, more herbs and a present but not overwhelming ginger. The finish was medium length with sweet maple and ginger notes.

Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this cocktail. I think the ginger and real maple syrup go a long way in making it taste great without making it too sweet. If I was hosting and didn’t want to make all the cocktails by hand I’d definitely grab a bottle of this to help out.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

 

TL;DR: Well balanced, the maple and ginger compliment the herbal notes from the rye

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Reviews #261-262: High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select NASA and Distillery

For part 26 of the finished whiskey series we are back in Utah with High West tasting two of their American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Selects. This first is from NASA Liquor in Houston and is finished in a Madeira cask and the second is from the distillery and is finished in Muscat. I’m not a huge fan of American Prairie Bourbon but I’m hoping a good barrel select will overcome the weaker base spirit.

High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select NASA Liquor

Age: NAS finished for 1 year

Abv: 99.4 proof

Price: $45.99

Barrel: #9613

Finish: Madeira

Neat

Nose: Rich red fruits, oak, warm spice, floral honey

Taste: Syrupy mouthfeel with strong caramel and cherry notes

Finish: Long sweet and warm finish as caramel and cherry give way to baking spices and oak

8 - an excellent bottle I’ll buy from time to time

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again

High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select Distillery

Age: NAS finished for 1 year 2 months

Abv: 100.8 proof

Price: $49.99

Barrel: #12852

Finish: Muscat

Neat

Nose: Chocolate, mineral notes, white sugar, faint fruit.

Taste: Vanilla icing, minerality, chocolate, faint oak. Decent mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium finish with lingering mineral and vaguely sweet notes

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Conclusion

With a lot of these High West Barrel Selects I don’t feel like I need to track down another one but I definitely want to try the next one. The NASA pick fell neatly into that category. On the other hand the distillery bottle is the worst High West Barrel Select I’ve tasted. We know High West started blending Dickel into APB a few years back and some folks, my self included, suspect the ratio is only going up. This bottle tasted like younger Dickel finished in Muscat which didn’t do it any favors. Well I guess I didn’t try the unfinished version but I doubt this helped.

Overall I think sticking with the ryes from High West is the way to go. I’ve tasted through a number of their barrel selects now and none of the ryes disappointed were the bourbons were very hit of miss.

TL;DR: NASA pick was great, the distillery one was very Dickely

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Reviews #258-260: Old Fitz 13, 15 and 16 year

I’ve had a sample of Old Fitz 16 year sitting in an empty Blood Oath Pact 3 box on my desk for some time now so it’s time for a review. I’d also been wanting to review the 13 and 15 year for at least as long so here we are with a triple Old Fitz decanter tasting. I tasted these blind, the video is on Instagram, and then sat down to write more detailed tasting notes.

 

Reviews #258-260: Old Fitzgerald 13, 15 and 16

Old Fitzgerald 13

Age: 13 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Soft nose with peanut butter, oak and vanilla frosting

Taste: Creamy peanut butter, vanilla, rich oak, faint spice especially toward the end.

Finish: Long warm finish with slightly dry oak and spices with a touch of sweetness for balance.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Old Fitzgerald 15

Age: 15 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Rich oak, peanut, vanilla.

Taste: Peanut brittle, caramel, slightly bitter oak.

Finish:

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Old Fitzgerald 16

Age: 16 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Vanilla, peanut brittle, rich oak, faint spice.

Taste: Rich oak, butterscotch, fainter nuttiness.

Finish: Long dry finish with oak and a quickly fading sweetness.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Conclusion

I’ve really enjoyed all of these Old Fitz decanters. The 11 and now the 16 were a bit of a step down from the others but not too much. I really enjoy the sweet, nutty and oaky combination. I can only hope we will one day get Larceny BP that is close to the age of these decanters once the Old Fitz BiB run is done. I’m definitely going to need another one as my 13 is getting perilously low.

 

TL;DR: The 13 and 15 are awesome, the 16 is very good but a step down for me

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Reviews #255-257: Finished MGP Trio

For part 25 of 30 in the finished whiskey series were taking a look at samples of 3 pretty different finished MGP whiskies. From an MGP light whiskey finished in Pinot Noir casks by Bull Run to a crazy one off Boone County pick to the legendary batch 1 of Belle Meade Honey!

For this sample set I did a blind tasting of all 3 and then sat down to write more detailed notes.

 

Reviews #255-257: Finished MGP Trio

Bull Run 12 year Pinot Noir Finish

Age: 12 years

Abv: Unfortunately not sure

Neat

Nose: Sweet but also harsh with artificial sweetener(Splenda?), ethanol and fainter dark fruit notes.

Taste: Sweet dark fruit and caramel, vanilla, warm spice, a touch of cinnamon. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long cloyingly sweet finish with red fruit, honey, and a bit of oak.

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws

Boone County 10 Year Sauternes Finish Local Vine Pick

Age: 10 years

Abv: 90.8 proof

Neat

Nose: White wine notes with honey and grape followed by vanilla and hints of wood

Taste: Sweet with more honey, apple, caramel, rich oak and grape notes. Decent mouthfeel, especially for the proof.

Finish: Long finish with baking spices and sweet honey

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Belle Meade Honey Cask

Age: 8-11 years

Abv: 113.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Honey, rich oak, brown sugar, vanilla, more honey.

Taste: Rich and sweet with honey, oak, caramel, warm spices.

Finish: Medium length with warm spices, honey, oak and caramel.

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Conclusion

First off the Belle Meade Honey lived up to the hype! That was fantastic. If I could buy a bottle for an even semi reasonable price I would jump on it. The Boone County was also a surprise as I thought the low proof would really hold it back but it did not. The Boone County is a special release from back in 2017 and before this I didn’t realize Boone County had ever done a finished bourbon. The Bull Run was a definitely a let down and I’m not that surprised as MGP light whiskey tends not to be my thing.

 

TL;DR: Belle Meade Honey > Boone County Sauternes >> Bull Run Pinot

I’ve finally figured out how I am going to wrap this series up. We’ve got 3 more review style posts, a post on home finishing and then something I am excited for as the series wrap up.

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Tasting Notes: George Remus Single Barrel Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick

George Remus is MGP’s in house brand and I’ve been a fan of several of their releases so far so I was excited to get the chance to help with a barrel pick earlier this year. Since I was part of the group that picked the barrel I’m a little biased but I think it’s a great pick. No review/score but here are my tasting notes:

 

George Remus Single Barrel Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick

Age: 6 years

Abv: 123.7 proof

Price: $60

Neat

Nose: Sweet with vanilla, caramel and honey notes with a bit of spice underneath

Taste: Sweet fruit, more vanilla, caramel, warm spice and slightly tannic oak towards the end.

Finish: Long and lingering with cinnamon, oak and vanilla notes.

Conclusion

I think this was better than most of the recent 5 year SAOS picks and I’m very much looking forward to some older single barrels coming out of George Remus!

 

TL;DR: Younger MGP that’s on the sweet side and drinks well below it’s proof

 

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Review #255: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3

For part 24 of the finished whiskey series I’m wrapping up the Murray Hill Club Special Releases and Magnus in general for this series with the Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3. The 3rd release was a pretty significant from the first two using a combination of Virginia single malt whiskey and apple cider casks. To be honest I was a little hesitant about the change given how much I liked the previous two releases.

 

Review #255: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 3

Age: NAS

Abv: 110 proof

Price: $200

Neat

Nose: Malted barely, pear, caramel and vanilla.

Taste: Sweet apples, warm spice, vanilla and something sweet I couldn’t place. Nice mouthfeel, about what I would expect at this proof.

Finish: Long with apple and warm spice notes and subtler oak.

Conclusion

The apple cider finish really came through! I enjoyed this but the previous two releases set a high bar that this one didn’t quite meet for me. Apart from the nose I didn’t get much of the malt whiskey influence and I didn’t get a lot of the base MGP notes I tend to like. That said I don’t feel bad about this one as it was really unique though I did pass on a second bottle at a similar price.

Since this post wraps up the Magnus portion of the finished whiskey series I wanted to offer my final thoughts on the brand’s finished releases. Overall they put out consistently high quality product but they are often at hard price points, especially considering the shelf product has gotten a younger over the years. The Cigar Blend release is definitely my favorite thing coming out of Magnus and despite me expressing some concerns earlier I was very wrong the last two releases have been excellent! For more price/value conscious bourbon drinkers I wouldn’t recommend Magnus but if you have the bourbon budget for it and want something good that’s a departure from the usual Kentucky offerings then you can’t go wrong here.

 

TL;DR: Good and unique but not up to the first two releases

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

Also there is a blind tasting of all 3 Murray Hill Club Special Releases on my Instagram.

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Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick #2

The latest Oak Liquor Cabinet Elijah Craig pick dropped this week. I was part of the group that picked the barrel so I’m a little biased but I think it’s a great pick. No review but here’s my notes:

 

Elijah Craig Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick #2

Age: 10 years

Abv: 94 proof

Price: $30

Barrel No: 5594647

Rickhouse: V

Floor: 5

Neat

Nose: Oak, nuts and vanilla extract notes.

Taste: Vanilla, caramel and nuts with warm spice and leather towards the end. Nice mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Long slightly dry finish with oak, baking spice and vanilla

Conclusion

Overall these 10+ year old Elijah Craig picks for $30-35 are a great buy and come pretty close to filling the gap left by McKenna 10 year albeit with 6 fewer proof points. I’ve got 5 different picks on hand so a blind tasting is definitely needed.

 

TL;DR: A more refined take on Elijah Craig Small Batch with a great finish

 

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Review #254: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 1

For part 23 of the finished whiskey series we’re unsurprisingly back to Joseph Magnus with their first Murray Hill Club Special release. After a lucky find of the Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 2 and loving it I decided to track down a bottle of the initial release. Let’s see if it holds up.

 

Review #254: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 1

Age: NAS on the label, blend of 9-18 years

Abv: 112 proof

Finish: Pineau Des Charentes

Neat

Nose: Brown sugar, caramel, charred oak and hints of warm spice.

Taste: Dark fruit, warm spice, rich oak and vanilla. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with sweet dark fruit and warm, rich oak notes. It get’s a little dry toward the end.

Conclusion

Well that was great. It didn’t stand out as significantly better than the second release but still had a great balance of the bourbon and pineau des charentes notes. The long finish was really enjoyable on this one as were the fruit notes. In general I’d give the Cigar Blend from Magnus the nod over the Murray Hill Special Releases. I do want to know what these blends taste like before they go into the finishing cask though.

 

TL;DR: Great release, neck and neck with batch 2, I need to try some

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

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