Category Archives: Whiskey reviews

60 Second Whiskey Review — Tullamore DEW Caribbean Rum Cask Finish

A few quick thoughts on the Tullamore DEW Caribbean Rum Cask Finish XO Irish Whiskey.

The Geekery

This expression of Tullamore DEW is a blend of triple distilled malt, grain and pot-still whiskeys that have been finished in first-filled Demerara rum casks from Guyana. Compared to other Caribbean rum, Demerea rum tends to be more full-bodied in flavor with more savory and smokey characteristics.

There is only one distillery in Guyana, the Diamond Distillery of Demerara Distillers Limited, which makes rums under numerous labels they own or in partnership with other companies such as Pyrat and El Dorado. Pusser’s uses Demerara rum and blends it with other Caribbean rums for many of their bottlings.

First released by Tullamore DEW in October 2017, this whiskey was inspired by the more than 50,000 Irish immigrants who settled in the West Indies during the 16th and 17th centuries and participated in the Caribbean rum trade.

The Whiskey

High intensity nose. This really smells like an El Dorado rum–and startlingly so. Big tropical fruits (particularly banana), honey, vanilla and spice.

The rum character in this whiskey dominates the profile.

On the palate, those same rum notes carry through but underneath you can finally make out some of the typical caramel, toffee and apple notes of regular Tullamore DEW whiskey. It holds it 43% ABV well with the vanilla contributing to a smooth mouthfeel. It finishes much drier than you would expect from how sweet the nose is.

The Verdict

The temptation is to compare this to Balvenie’s 14 year Caribbean Cask but they couldn’t be more different. For one, the “rum character” of the Balvenie plays more of a secondary, rather than dominating role as it does with the Tullamore DEW. Part of that could be attributed to the aging with Tullamore giving no indication of how long it has been aged at all.

At around $30, you’re only paying about a $5-7 premium over the regular expression but this is definitely a whiskey I would recommend more for rum drinkers wanting to branch out than whiskey drinkers.

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60 Second Whiskey Review — Pappy Van Winkle 20yr

Some quick thoughts on the 20 year Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.

The Geekery

Made in partnership with Buffalo Trace since 2002, Pappy Van Winkle traces its origins to 1874 when Julian Van Winkle moved to Frankfurt, Kentucky. Van Winkle began working as a salesman for W. L. Weller in 1893 before eventually becoming president of the Stitzel-Weller distillery. The Van Winkles continued distilling at Stitzel-Weller for several decades until Julian’s son sold it–with the distillery shuttering its door in 1992.

In his book, Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, Fred Minnick notes that the “Pappy Craze” really didn’t start until the mid-1990s when Pappy Van Winkle received 99 points from the Beverage Tasting Institute and was named by Food & Wine as “American Whiskey of the Year”.

To build demand, Julian Van Winkle III instituted a policy of making fewer bottles than what he knew he could sell. Even today only around 6 to 7 thousand cases across the entire Van Winkle line is released each year.

While the exact mash bill is unknown, it is a wheated bourbon.

The Whiskey

High intensity nose. Huge mix of dried fruit–figs, black cherries, raisins. Then comes the spice and floral notes with a little chocolate malt ball action.

On the palate, the dried fruit carries through and brings a butterscotch richness that adds to a creamy mouthfeel. The whiskey holds its 45.2% ABV very well and doesn’t need any water or ice. The one glaring negative is how short the finish is. After around 20 seconds or so it’s gone.

The Verdict

By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia - Moroccan Dried Fruit and Nuts, CC BY 2.0, on Wikimedia Commons

Beautiful mix of dried fruit in the bouquet of this whiskey.

Like the Sam Adams’ Utopias and the cult wines of Napa Valley, this is one of those trophy bottles that you have to hunt down and pony up for. Was it worth it?

For the most part, yes. But also no. I’m glad I got to try this and the nose is incredible. While the smoothness and mouthfeel is enjoyable, the whiskey does literally leave you hanging with the abysmally short finish.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews — Jameson Caskmates IPA edition

A few quick thoughts on the Jameson Caskmates IPA edition Irish Whiskey.

The Geekery

Jameson is a brand of whiskey produced by Irish Distillers which is a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard. The whiskies are distilled at the massive Midleton Distillery along with Paddys, Midleton, Powers, Redbreast and contract distillation for Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Tullamore Dew.

The Caskmates IPA edition follows the 2013 release of the Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition and continues the distillery’s “barrel exchange” program with Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork.

Barrels that initially held new make Jameson are sent to the brewery where they are used to barrel age their Irish Pale Ale. After emptying, the barrels are sent back to Midleton where a new batch of Jameson is aged in them.

The Whiskey

Medium plus intensity nose with lots of citrus and floral hops notes. It really does smell like an IPA. Underneath you get some of the tell-tale Jameson apple notes.

On the palate I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t anywhere as sweet as Jameson normally is. In fact, it was actually salty and mouthwatering. The citrus, particularly grapefruit, carries through but it doesn’t taste hoppy or piney at all.

The Verdict

By Will Shenton - https://bevvy.co/cocktail/moscow-mule/gsp, CC BY-SA 3.0, on Wikimedia Commons

I’m intrigued at how the saltiness of the Jameson Caskmates IPA would play with an Irish Mule but not enough to keep a bottle regularly in the bar.

Not enough complexity to be a sipping whiskey but it certainly has a lot more going for it than your typical Jameson. I always look to Jameson as a mixing “well whiskey” that works great in things like Irish Mules where the ginger beer and lime balance the sweet apply notes. The saltiness of the Jameson Caskmates IPA really stands out and may give those mules an interesting twist.

With this Caskmates edition being around $30, its about $10 more than regular Jameson. Its worth trying for the curious. But if you’re like me and just use Jameson as a mixer than it might not be worth it if you are looking for a sipper.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews – Hakushu 12

Some quick thoughts on the Hakushu 12 Single Malt Whiskey.

The Geekery

According to Dave Broom’s The World Atlas of Whisky, Hakushu was built in 1973 in the Japanese Southern Alps among the forests that surround Mt. Kaikomagatake.

The distillery is owned by Beam Suntory where it is part of a portfolio that includes the Japanese whiskey brands of Hibiki and Yamazaki as well as Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek bourbon, Bowmore and Laphroaig Scotches and Courvoisier cognac among many other liquor brands.

Additionally, Suntory owns the management rights to the 3rd Growth St. Julien estate of Château Lagrange and 4th Growth St. Julien estate of Château Beychevelle as well as the German estate of Weingut Robert Weil in Rheingau.

Hakushu production emphasizes variety with the distillery using 4 different types of barley, both brewer’s and distiller’s yeast as well as six pairs of different sized stills with various lyne arm angles. The distillery uses mostly ex-bourbon American oak barrels with some Japanese barrels and French wine casks. All this variety gives Hakushu’s blenders a wide palette of flavors to work with.

The Whiskey

Medium plus intensity. Very grassy but with a sweetness to it. It’s almost like someone sprinkled sugar on freshly cut wet grass. There is some subtle almond smokiness that rounds out the bouquet.

By Copyright © National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Attribution, on Wikimedia commons

Aerial shot of the large Hakushu Distillery

On the palate, the almond smokiness comes to the forefront but it is surprisingly less sweet than what the nose would have you expect. It still has some sweetness with an apple fruit note but no where as sweet as the Glenfiddich 18 that I recently reviewed or many Glenmorangie and Balvenie offerings.

The Verdict

This whiskey has a fair amount of complexity and a lot to offer. At around $80-85, you are paying a premium but this is one of the better values in Japanese whiskeys (compare to say the Yamakazi 12 at $120+) so if you want to dip your toes in this area, it’s worth checking out.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews — Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold

Some quick thoughts on the Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold Single Malt.

The Geekery
According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskypedia, Dalwhinnie is the coldest distillery in Scotland with an average annual temperature of 42.8 °F (6 °C).

Founded in 1897, Dalwhinnie was sold in 1905 to American distiller Cook & Bernheimer, making it the first Scottish distillery under foreign ownership. The advent of US Prohibition in 1919 ushered its return to Scottish hands. Through mergers and acquisitions, the distillery changed owners multiple times over the years with it eventually ending up in the Diego stable where it is part of the Classic Malts series representing the Highlands.

The Winter’s Gold is a non-age statement bottling sourced from spirit distilled during the heart of winter between October and March. Like others in the Dalwhinnie line, it is crafted with lightly peated malt from Roseisle and water sourced from Lochan Doire Uaine in the Drumochter Hills. The whiskey is aged in mostly ex-bourbon barrels.

A unique expression, the distillery recommends enjoying the whiskey straight from the freezer.

The Whiskey
(Room temperature) Fruity nose, like candied citrus and honey. Some subtle oak spice. No note of peat.

(Freezer) Still very fruity but instead of citrus there is a mix of apple and tropical fruit. The spice completely disappears.

By Andrew Wood, CC BY-SA 2.0 on Wikimedia commons

The Dalwhinnie distillery is often snowbound during the winter.

The palate at room temperature is sweet with the honey and fruit being very prevalent. The peat appears finally but is slight. Very light in body at 43% ABV.

From the freezer, everything gets more muted except, paradoxically, the peat which becomes more of a floral heather peat like a very lightly peated Highland Park.

The Verdict

An interesting dram but I’m not sold on the “enjoy from the freezer” marketing angle and preferred it at room temp. It follows the typical light & sweet Dalwhinnie style and would be a good “Breakfast Scotch”.

At around $45-50, it offers a decent value but, personally, I think the jump to their 15 year in the $70-75 range delivers a lot more depth.

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews – Glenfiddich 18

Some quick thoughts on the Glenfiddich 18 Single Malt Scotch.

The Geekery

Founded in 1886 by William Grant, then manager of Mortlach, with distilling equipment purchased from Elizabeth Cummings of Cardhu, Glenfiddich made history in 1963 with the first commercial release of a single malt bottling. Prior to this, Scotch was almost universally sold as blended whiskeys.

Still owned by the Grant family, the fifth generation of William Grant & Sons manages an extensive portfolio that, along with Glenfiddich, includes–Balvenie, Grangestone, Tullamore D.E.W., Grant’s, Drambuie, Monkey Shoulder, Sailor Jerry’s, Hendricks, Milagro, Reyka, Solerno, Clan MacGregor and Flor de Caña.

Glenfiddich uses water sourced from Robbie Dubh springs (as does its sister distilleries of Balvenie and Grangestone) outside of Dufftown in the Speyside region with the whiskeys aged in a mix of ex-bourbon (majority) and sherry casks.

The Whiskey

Lots of caramel toffee on the nose. Little butterscotch too. Makes me think of a Werther’s Original. Some star anise spice and apple peel but the sweeter notes dominant.

On the palate the mouthfeel is very smooth with a slight oiliness—but very slight. All the sweet notes on the palate carry through but the spice apple comes more out. There is a bit more back-end heat than what I would typically expect from only 40% ABV. Rather than neat, this whiskey could use a few rocks for balance.

Photo by Paul Hurst released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-By-SA-2.5, 2.0

This whiskey takes me back to Grandma’s house and these treats.


The Verdict

Definitely a whiskey on the light-bodied and sweet side. A “breakfast Scotch”.

Overall it is pleasant and quaint but nothing really wows me to make the $110+ price tag worth it. Especially when I can get much of the same pleasant quaintness from the Glenfiddich 15 year for around $50 and a bit more complexity with Glenfiddich’s sister distileries’ Balvenie 17 year Double Wood ($160) and Grangestone 18 ($70).

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60 Second Whiskey Reviews – Balblair 1999

A few quick thoughts on the 2nd release of the Balblair 1999 that was bottled in 2016.

The Geekery

According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, Balblair is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries with a history dating back to 1790. Originally owned and managed for over a century by the Ross family (who also leased Brora in the 1830s), the distillery went through a succession of owners including Robert Cumming (of Old Pulteney fame), Hiram Walker and Allied Domecq.

Since 1996, Balblair has been a part of the Inver House Distillers portfolio which includes Old Pulteney, AnCnoc, Balmenach, Knockdhu and Speyburn.

Located in the Highlands in the village of Edderton, water is sourced 5 miles away from the Struie Hills. The distillery uses unpeated malt from Portgordon Maltings and ages its whiskey in mostly ex-bourbon casks with the 1999 seeing some time in ex-Sherry casks as well.

The Whiskey

A very spicy nose with the Sherry notes quite evident. There is some meatiness but nothing like a Mortlach or Glenfarclas. I also found a little cereal note which makes me think of savory crepes.

On the palate is a very intriguing note of celery salt that contributes to the spicy and savory profile. Mouthwatering with a silky oilness. Very nice balance with the Scotch holding it’s 46% ABV well. This is a whiskey to enjoy neat.

By Alan Jamieson, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54197146

The Balblair Distillery


The Verdict

A very impressive dram that is almost a meal in itself. Lots of layers that you want to spend time savoring and unfurling around your tongue.

At around $70, it is a fantastic value for essentially a 17 year single malt and would still be well worth the price up to the $100 range.

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60 Second Whiskey Review – Glenfarclas 30 year

Some quick thoughts on the Glenfarclas 30 year Single Malt.

The Geekery
Owned by J. & G. Grant, this Speyside distillery has a long history dating back to 1787 as illicit still in Ballindalloch. It came into the Grant family’s possession in 1865 when John Grant bought it and hired John Smith, formerly of Glenlivet, to manage it. Today it is ran by the sixth generation of the Grant family.

The name “Glenfarclas” means “the valley of the green grass”, refering to its location in the valley at the foot of Ben Rinnes with the mountain’s snowmelt being the key water source of the distillery.

According to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, the distillery is noted for having the largest stills in Speyside that are fueled by direct fire as opposed to gas. In 1968, it was the first to release a cask strength single malt. It was awarded Distiller of the Year in 2006 by the Icons of Whiskey Awards.

The whiskey is aged in majority ex-Oloroso Sherry casks with about third aged in ex-bourbon cask.

Smelling this whiskey reminded me of the coffee houses in Kuşadası, Turkey


The Whiskey

Beautiful dark color. Hugely aromatic nose with lots of spice and brown sugar. It makes me think of cooking gingerbread cookies at Christmas time. The sherry wine notes are present but they smell richer and deeper than typical sherries–more PX than Oloroso–with dried raisin and Turkish coffee aromas.

The palate is delightfully seductive. Creamy and silky with lots of weight. The spices carry through to the palate but the brown sugar and Turkish coffee aromas seemed to have morphed more into a rich, dark chocolate note that is far less sweet than what the nose suggested. The long finish delivers a load of freshness like freshly brewed herbal tea that was unexpected and entrancing.

The Verdict

A bloody fantastic dram! It’s a bit pricey at around $437 on Master of Malt but it is simply exquisite. I would say the cost is justifiable if you think of the years of pleasure you can get nursing it but it is so utterly scrumptious with its combination of power, depth and freshness that I fret the bottle wouldn’t last long in anyone’s house.

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60 Second Whiskey Review – Alexander Murray

Some quick thoughts on a few Scotch whiskeys from independent bottler Alexander Murray.

The Geekery

Founded by Scottish native Steve Lipp in 2004, Alexander Murray is a notable source behind many of the private label Scotches found at Costco (Kirkland Signature) and Total Wine & More (Ainsley Brae).


The whiskeys

The 20 yr Glentauchers is a really light and elegant, floral “breakfast Scotch”. Something between a Glen Moray and Glenfiddich style. Around $150 a bottle which is a bit high for this light style, in my opinion.

The 23 yr Allt-a-Bhaine (used by Chivas in their high end blends) has a good balance of malt with light peat–sort of a more powerful Oban. A lot of layers and complexity with a long smooth finished. Around $150 a bottle which is an outstanding value for a 23 year that easily outclasses many 21 yr whiskeys in the $200+ range.

The 21 year Braes of Glenlivet is a bit shy on the nose but had good weight on the palate. Nothing like regular Glenlivet. Rather more like a Fine Oak Macallan. Around $180 a bottle which is a little too much for my taste.

The 19 year Cask Strength Linkwood is a much spicier and more powerful driven Scotch then typical Linkwood. I strongly suspect Sherry casks. This is like a Macallan 18 yr but with way more depth and power. It holds it proof really well for a smooth finish that doesn’t need to be watered down. Around $150 a bottle which is an outstanding value especially considered the Macallan 18 is around $230.

The 26 yr Bunnahabhain is very savory and meaty. More in a Mortlach or Glenfarclas style than anything I tasted from Bunnahabhain. Something to contemplate over while rolling it around your tongue. Around $290 a bottle which is a bit steep but I can’t deny the uniqueness of this expression of Bunnahabhain.

The 28 yr Cask Strength Bunnahabhain is classic Old School Bunnahabhain before they started adding more peat. A touch of peat but it’s all about the beautiful dried fruit, fresh cereals and long, subtle spice on the finish. Very smooth for a cask strength. Around $320 a bottle which is certainly because of its age. It’s a very tasty whiskey that delivers a lot of pleasure but you’re going to pay a premium for it.

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