Category Archives: Whiskey

60 Second Whiskey Review — Game of Thrones Cardhu

A few quick thoughts on Diageo’s Game of Thrones Limited Edition Cardhu representing the House Targaryen.

The Geekery

Diageo Game of Thrones Cardhu bottling for the House Targaryen

The House Targaryen Cardhu is the latest release in Diageo’s Game of Throne Scotches. The first release was the Johnnie Walker “White Walker” that came out this past October.

In my review here on the White Walker, I talk about this series as well as some geekery about Cardhu.

The Whiskey

High intensity nose. It smells like freshly baked apple pie with cinnamon and nutmeg. More toasted pastry than smoke. Around the edges are some white floral notes like lillies.

On the palate, those baking notes come through with the spice and vanilla complimenting the malty weight. Noticeably fruity, it is not as sweet on the palate as the nose would’ve suggested. Creamy mouthfeel is well balanced with no back-end heat. It actually feels heavier in the mouth than what you would expect with its low 40% ABV. No peat. Long finish ends on the baked apple notes with a little bit of lingering salinity.

The Verdict

Photo by Dan Parsons. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-2.0

This Cardhu smells and tastes like Thanksgiving apple pie.

Regular readers know that I’m not a big fan of marketing gimmicks. I accept them as a reality of the beverage industry and do my best to explore them with an open mind–whether they be coffee-infused wine, bourbon barrel-aged beers and wine, IPA cask whiskeys, sparkling mango and sangria crazes, etc.

But, gimmicks aside, this GoT Cardhu is actually a really good whiskey that is worth buying on its own merit.

At $40-50, it is a little less than the Cardhu 12 year that’s usually around $53-60. While I would still give the nod of more complexity towards the 12 yr, this Scotch isn’t that far off.

Like its big brother, the GoT Cardhu carries the banner of beautiful floral and fruit notes. It also expertly walks a tight rope of being fruity but not sweet. It’s an immensely drinkable dram that I will certainly be getting another bottle of.

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60 Second Whiskey Review — Ardbeg Perpetuum

A few quick thoughts on the Ardbeg Perpetuum Scotch single malt whisky.

The Geekery

In Whisky Classified David Wishart notes that Ardbeg was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall on the southeast coast of Islay at the site of a popular landing spot for smugglers.

The source of the distilleries soft water is the nearby Loch Uigeadail. The water flows over peat bogs on the way to the distillery giving Ardbeg peaty water to go with the peated malt.

Today Ardbeg is owned by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) where it is part of a portfolio that includes fellow distillery Glenmorangie as well as Belevedere Vodka and Champagne houses Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Ruinart.

The Perpetuum was a special limited edition bottling released in 2015 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Ardbeg’s founding. A non-age statement (NAS) whisky, the Perpetuum is a blend of batches that have been aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and Sherry casks.

The Whiskey

Photo by FotoosVanRobin. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

The combination of sweet and savory smoke in this whiskey reminds me of bacon-wrapped bananas.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Distinctly iodine and bandages with some earthy forest floor.

On the palate, those medicinal elements give way to a savory meatiness that is very intriguing–like cured salume. Noticeable sweetness on the tip of the tongue suggest some tropical fruit character like bananas. A little on the light side at 47.4% ABV but well balanced with no need to add water or ice.

The Verdict

Full disclosure–I’m not a smokey-peaty whiskey fan in the slightest. I greatly prefer more malt driven whiskies where cereal, fruit and spice notes take center-stage like those of Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie and Balblair–though I can appreciate some elements of salinity and subtle smoke from island whiskies like Talisker and Oban.

That said, while the Ardbeg Perpetuum is too peaty for me, it is a well made whiskey. It certainly has complexity which would merit its $90-100 price for those who appreciate this style more.

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60 Second Whiskey Review — Yamazaki 18

A few quick thoughts on the Yamazaki 18 Japanese Whisky.

The Geekery

If you want to understand Japanese whisky, I can’t recommend enough Dave Broom’s The World Atlas of Whisky. While it’s tempting to make comparisons to Scotch, Japanese whiskies are so fundamentally different that it’s like comparing oil paintings to digital art.

One huge difference is how frequently Japanese producers are willing to completely refit and renovate their distilleries with new stills and modern technology–something that ultra-traditional Scotch producers are often loathed to do. Broom notes that since its 1923 founding that Yamazaki has been completely renovated 3 times with the last renovation coming in 2005.

With 2 mashtuns, wooden and steel washbacks, multiple yeast strains, 6 pairs of stills of various sizes/shapes and aging in 5 different types of barrels, Suntory’s Yamakazi produces multiple expressions of new make whisky even within the same line-up. This makes the difference between their 18 vs their 10 or 12 year not just extended aging–they’re all 3 completely different whiskies to begin with.

The Whiskey

Photo by 7'o'7. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-user

Lovely orange citrus peel notes in this whisky.

High intensity nose–a mix of orange citrus peel and cedar cigar box.

On the palate the mouthfeel is very oily and gives deceptive weight to the relatively light flavors. The citrus notes come through but are not as intense as the nose. The sweet cedar gives way to more earthier tobacco and wood spice with some subtle peat smoke. The moderate length finish bring back the citrus and adds a slightly sweet vanilla note.

The Verdict

Overall this is an enjoyable and easy drinking whiskey but it’s not “knock-your-socks-off” crazy good to merit the $250-300 premium–especially when I can get something like the NAS Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt for around $90 or even the Hakushu 12 from Suntory at $80.

It’s worth trying if a bar has it by the shot to see what the hype is about. But if you spring for a whole bottle, you should know that it is the hype you’re paying for.

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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.

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

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Whiskey and Wine Revisited

In 2016, I dipped my toes into exploring the strange trend of wine aged in whiskey barrels with my original Whiskey and Wine post.

In that post I did a blind tasting featuring 3 barrel aged wines and one regular red wine ringer thrown in. While I thought this fad would quickly fade, it looks like it has only picked up steam with new entries on the market.

I decided to investigate a little more with another blind tasting of as many different barrel aged wines that I could find. (Results below)

I got bottles of the Apothic Inferno, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and Barrelhouse Red featured in the last blind tasting as well as new bottlings from Mondavi of a bourbon barrel aged Chardonnay (I’m not kidding) and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Barrelhouse. I found new examples from Cooper & Thief, 1000 Stories, Big Six Wines, Stave & Steel and Paso Ranches. For a twist, I also added the 19 Crimes The Uprising that was actually aged in rum barrels.

I tried to find bottles of The Federalist’s Bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel, Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and 1000 Stories “half batch” Petite Sirah but to no avail.

So What’s The Deal?

Why are so many producers jumping on this bandwagon?

On Twitter, wine and lifestyle blogger Duane Pemberton (@Winefoot) had an interesting take.

A similar sentiment was shared on Facebook from one of my winemaking friends, Alan, who noted that the charcoal from the heavy toast of the bourbon barrels could function as a fining agent for wines with quality issues like bad odors.

Now considering that many of the mega-corporations behind these wines like Gallo (Apothic), Constellation Brands (Mondavi & Cooper & Thief), The Wine Group (Stave & Steel) and Concha y Toro/Fetzer (1000 Stories) process millions of tons of grapes for huge portfolios of brands, this actually makes brilliant business sense.

Even in the very best of vintages, you are always going to have some fruit that is less than stellar–often from massively over-cropped vineyards that aren’t planted in the most ideal terroir. Rather than funnel that fruit to some of your discount brands like Gallo’s Barefoot, Constellation’s Vendange and The Wine Group’s Almaden, you can put these wines in a whiskey barrel for a couple months and charge a $5-10 premium–or in the case of Cooper & Thief, $30 a bottle!

Trying to Keep An Open Mind

Bourbon Standards

In this tasting, I wanted to explore how much of the whiskey barrel influence is noticeable in the wine. In the last blind tasting, one of things that jumped out for me is that the Mondavi Cab and Barrelhouse red didn’t really come across as “Whiskey-like” and were drinkable just fine as bold red wines. Meanwhile the Apothic Inferno did scream WHISKEY but it came across more like a painful screech.

To facilitate that exploration, I poured some examples of “Bourbon Standards” that the tasting panel could smell for reference (and drink after the tasting if needed!). My Bourbon Standards were:

Larceny — From Heaven Hill Distillery. A “fruity sweet” Bourbon with noticeable oak spice.

Jim Beam — Old standard from Beam-Suntory. A light Bourbon with floral and spice notes.

Two Stars — A wheated Bourbon from Sazerac. It’s kind of like if Buffalo Trace and Maker’s Mark had a baby, this would be it. Caramel and spice with honey and fruit.

Bulleit — Made now at Four Roses Distillery. Sweet vanilla and citrus.

The Wines

Apothic Inferno & Cooper & Thief

Apothic Inferno — ($13) Made by Gallo. Unknown red blend. This wine is unique in that it only spent 60 days in whiskey barrels (as opposed to bourbon barrels) while most of the other reds spent 90 days. 15.9% ABV

Cooper & Thief — ($30) Made by Constellation under the helm of Jeff Kasavan, the former director of winemaking for Vendange. I did appreciate that this was the only red blend that gave its blend composition with 38% Merlot, 37% Syrah, 11% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% “other red grapes”. The wine was aged for 90 days and had the highest ABV of all the wines tasted with 17%. This wine was also unique in that it was from the 2014 vintage while all the other reds (with the exception of the 19 Crimes) were from the 2015 vintage.

Barrelhouse — ($13-14) Made by Bruce and Kim Cunningham of AW Direct. A Cabernet Sauvignon and unknown Red Blend aged 90 days in bourbon barrels. Both of these wines were unique in that they had the lowest alcohol levels in the tasting with only 13.2% while most of the other wines were over 15%.

Big Six — ($15 each) Made by god knows who. The back label says it is from King City, California which means that it could be a Constellation brand or it could be made at a custom crush facility like The Monterey Wine Company. They offer a Cabernet Sauvignon, unknown Red Blend and Zinfandel aged 90 days in bourbon barrels with ABVs ranging from 15.1% (Red blend) to 15.5% (Zinfandel).

Paso Ranches Zinfandel — ($20) Made by Ginnie Lambrix at Truett Hurst. While most wines were labeled as multi-regional “California”, this wine is sourced from the more limited Paso Robles AVA. Aged 90 days with a 16.8% ABV.

Robert Mondavi — ($12 each) Made by Constellation Brands. A Cabernet Sauvignon aged 90 days and a Chardonnay aged for 60 days with both wines having an ABV of 14.5%. Like the Paso Ranches, these wines were sourced from the more limited Monterrey County region.

Stave & Steel Cabernet Sauvignon — ($17) Made by The Wine Group. This wine was unique in that it was aged the longest of all the wines with 4 months. Like the Barrelhouse, this wine had a more moderate alcohol of 13.5%

Got only crickets from them on Twitter as well.


1000 Stories Zinfandel — ($17) Made by Fetzer which is owned by Concha y Toro. This was one of the first wineries in the US to release a bourbon barrel aged wine back in 2014 with winemaker Bob Blue claiming that he’s been aging wine in old whiskey barrels since the 1980s. This was the only wine that I could not figure out how long it was aged with the bottle or website giving no indication. The ABV was 15.6%

19 Crimes — ($8) Made by Treasury Estates with wine sourced from SE Australia. Unknown red blend that was aged 30 days in rum barrels with 15% ABV. This was the youngest wine featured in the tasting coming from the 2016 vintage.

The Blind Tasting

To be as objective as possible, especially with some of the wines like the Cooper & Thief having very distinctive bottles, I brown bagged the wines and had my wife pour the wines in another room. We also “splash decanted” all the wines (with the exception of the Chardonnay) to clear off any reductive notes.

After trying the Chardonnay non-blind, my wife would randomly select an unmarked bag, label it A through L and poured the wines in 6 flights of 2 wines each. We then evaluated the wines and gave each a score on a scale of 1-10. Below is a summary of some of our notes, scores and rankings with the reveal to follow. My friend Pete contributed the colorful “personification” of the wines in his tasting notes. The wine price ranges are from my own notes.

To keep our palates as fresh as possible we had plenty of water and crackers throughout the tasting. And boy did our poor little spit bucket get a work out, needing to be emptied after every other flight. But even with spitting, it was clear that we were absorbing some of the high alcohol levels. After 6 reds, we also paused for a break to refresh our palates with some sparkling wine.

Mondavi Chardonnay (Scores 4, 7, 6, 5.5, 4 = 26.5 for 7th place) Vanilla, butterscotch, canned cream corn & tropical fruit like warm pinneapple. More rum barrel influence than bourbon. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range

Wine A (Scores 6, 7.5, 6, 7, 6 = 32.5 for 3rd place) Baby powder and baking spice. Noticeable Mega-Purple influence. Maybe a Zin or Petite Sirah. Minimal oak influence. Some burnt char. Kind of like the girl you met at the carnival, take for a ride but don’t buy her cotton candy. Drinks like something in the $10-12 range.

Many wines were very dark and opaque.


Wine B (Scores 2, 3, 4, 2, 2 = 13 for 11th place) Very sweet. Lots of vanilla. Noticeable oak spice and barrel influence. Little rubber. More rye whiskey than bourbon. Taste like oxidize plum wine. Very bitter and diesel fuelish. Reminds me of a Neil Diamond groupie. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range.

Wine C (Scores 7, 7, 7, 7, 3 = 31 for 5th place) Smells like a ruby port or Valpolicella ripasso. Some wintergreen mint and spice. Cherry and toasted marshmellow. Noticeable barrel influence. Reminds me of Karen from Mean Girls. Drinks like something in the $10-12 range.

Wine D (Scores 3, 4.5, 5, 2, 2 = 16.5 for 10th place) Very sweet, almost syrup. Burnt creme brulee. Burnt rubber. Toasted coconut. Rum soaked cherries. The color is like Hot Topic purple hair dye. Super short finish which is actually a godsend. If this wine was a person, her name would be Chauncey. Drinks like something in the $5-6 range.

Wine E (Scores 6, 7, 6, 8, 7 = 34 for 2nd place) Raspberry and vanilla. Graham cracker crust. Not as sweet as others. Very potpourri and floral. Really nice nose! Smells like the Jim Beam. Little Shetland pony earthiness. High heat and noticeable alcohol. Reminds me of the guy who is really ugly but you like him anyways. Drinks like something in the $14-16 range.

Wine F (Scores 3.5, 5.5, 4, 5, 5 = 22 for 8th place) Toasted marshmellows. Noticeably tannic like a Cab. Raspberry and black currants. Not much barrel influence. This wine seems very robotic. Drinks like something in the $12-14 range.

That spit bucket rarely left my side during this tasting.

Wine G (Scores 6.5, 7, 3, 6.5, 6 = 27 for 6th place) Tons of baking spice. Very noticeable oak. Reminds me of a Paso Zin. Lots of black pepper–makes my nose itch. Slightly sweet vanilla. Most complex nose so far. Would be a really good wine if it wasn’t so sweet. Reminds me of a Great Depression era dad. Drinks like a $14-16 wine.

Wine H (Scores 2, 3, 3, 1, 2 = 11 for 13th last place) Burnt rubber tires. Smells very boozy. Fuel. Taste like really bad Seagram’s 7. Cheap plastic and char like someone set knockoff Crocs shoes on fire. Reminds me of Peter Griffin. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range.

Wine I (Scores 7.5, 6.5, 7, 8, 7 = 36 for 1st place) Dark fruit and pepper spice. Turkish fig. Juicy acidity. Not as sweet. Round mouthfeel and very smooth. Creamy like butterscotch. Not much barrel influence. Reminds me of a sociopath that you don’t know if they want to cuddle with you or cut your throat. Drinks like something in the $14-16 range.

Wine J (Scores 4, 4, 3, 4, 3 = 19 for 9th place) Marshmellow fluff. Caramel. Very sweet. Smells like a crappy Manhattan with cherry. Seems like a boozy Zin. Not horrible but still bad. Not much barrel influence at all. Reminds me of children. Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

The tasting sheets.

Wine K (Scores 7, 6.5, 8, 4, 6 = 31.5 for 4th place) Big & rich. Juicy cherries. Sweet but not overly so. Little pepper spice. Very easy drinking. Something I would actually drink. Not much barrel influence. Makes me think of the “I’ve got a Moon Ma” guy. (author’s note: I have no idea what Pete is referring to here. This is my best guess.) Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

Wine L (Scores 1, 4, 2, 4, 1 = 12 for 12th place) Stewed plums and burnt rubber. Lots of tannins and acid. The worst thing I’ve had in my mouth all week. Pretty horrible. Long unpleasant finish. Reminds me of Sloth from The Goonies. Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

The Reveal

After tallying up the scores, we revealed the wines. In order from best tasting to worst tasting of the barrel aged wines:

The closeness in style and rankings of the 3 Big Six wines were surprising.

1st Place: Barrelhouse Red (Bag I)
2nd Place: Stave & Steel Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag E)
3rd Place: Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag A)
Big Six Zinfandel (Bag K)
Big Six Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag C)
Big Six Red Blend (Bag G)
Mondavi Chardonnay (non-blind)
Barrelhouse Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag F)
19 Crimes The Uprising (Bag J)
Cooper & Thief (Bag D)
Paso Ranches Zinfandel (Bag B)
1000 Stories Zinfandel (Bag L)
Last Place: Apothic Inferno (Bag H)

Final Thoughts

One clear trend that jumped out was that the top three wines had moderate alcohol (13.2% with the Barrelhouse to 14.5% with the Mondavi). Overall these wines tasted better balance and had the least amount of the off-putting burnt rubber and diesel fuel note which tended to come out in the worst performing wines like the Apothic Inferno (15.9%), Cooper & Thief (17%), 1000 Stories Zin (15.6%) and Paso Ranches Zin (16.8%).

Another trend that emerged that was similar to the previous tasting (which had the Barrelhouse Red and Mondavi Cab also doing very well) is that the most enjoyable wines were the ones with the least overt whiskey barrel influence. This was true even with the 2nd place finish of the Stave & Steel that was the wine that spent the most time in barrel at 4 months. That is a testament to the skill of the winemaker where the whiskey barrel is used as a supporting character to add some nuance of spice and vanilla instead of taking over the show.

Comparing the 4 month aged Stave & Steel to the 2 month aged Apothic Inferno is rather startling because even with a shorter amount of barrel time the Apothic seemed to absorb the worst characteristics from the whiskey barrel with the burnt rubber and plastic. The 19 Crimes that only spent 30 days in rum barrels didn’t show much barrel influence at all.

It also appears that, in general, Cabernet Sauvignon takes better to the barrel aging compared to Zinfandel though the Big Six Zinfandel did fairly well to earn a 4th place finish. The most difficult task for winemakers is to try and reign in the sweetness. Several of these wines had notes like Wine G (the Big Six red blend that is probably Zin dominant) that they would actually be decent wines if they were just a bit less sweet.

One last take away (which is true of most wines) is that price is not an indicator of quality. Three of the worst performing wines were among the 4 most expensive with the $17 1000 Stories Zin, $20 Paso Ranches Zin and the $30 Cooper & Thief. In fact, the Cooper & Thief tasted so cheap that I pegged it as a $5-6 wine. It is very clear that you are paying for the unique bottle and fancy website with this wine.

Only the $17 Stave & Steel that came in 2nd held its own in the tasting to merit its price though the Barrelhouse Red at $13 and Mondavi Cab at $12 offer better value.

It’s clear that this trend is not going away anytime soon. If you’re curious, these wines are worth exploring but be aware that they vary considerably in style, alcohol and sweetness. Grab a few bottles and form your own opinion.

But take my advice and have some good ole fashion real whiskey on standby. Those “bourbon standards” certainly came in handy after the tasting.

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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.

This whiskey doesn’t have enough complexity to be a sipping whiskey. Howver, 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. If you’re like me and use Jameson as a mixer, this is not worth it for a sipper.

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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 Cumming 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 Reviews – Edradour 10 year

A few quick thoughts on the Edradour 10 year Single Malt Scotch.

The Geekery

Located in Milton of Edradour in the Highlands region of Perthshire, the distillery has a very colorful history according to Charles MacLean’s Whiskeypedia, beginning with its founding in 1825 as GlenForres and continuing through its time as part of J.G. Turney & Sons where it was featured in the blends of House of Lords and King’s Ransom.

During this time, the whiskey was frequently smuggled into the US during Prohibition by “sales consultant” and known mafioso Frank Costello who is rumored to be one of Mario Puzo’s inspirations for Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

It was first release as a single malt in 1986 by Campbell Distillers (owned by Pernord Ricard) and in 2002 was purchased by current owner Andrew Symington of Signatory Vintage Scotch Whiskey.

The whiskey is aged in a blend of Sherry and Bourbon casks before bottling at 40% ABV.

The Whiskey

Medium plus intensity aromatics. Extremely honeyed. You feel like Winnie the Pooh breaking into the honey jar. There are some Sherry wine notes but it is more like honey toasted almonds than the usual “Sherry-bomb” style of Macallan or Glenfarclas.

From Wikimedia Commons by Sylvia Berger released under  CC-BY-SA-4.0

Barrels in the Edradour warehouse


The palate is smooth and noticeably sweet. More vanilla comes in but the honey is still dominant. This isn’t as sweet as something like the Glenmorangie Nector d’Or, Balvenie Caribbean Cask or the Ainsley Brae Sauternes Finish but its not far off. Thankfully some spice comes out on the long finish to add balance to the sweetness. It’s a tad light at 40% ABV and I find myself craving a bit more weight.

The Verdict

It’s a sweet Scotch, no doubt, but it is very well made. At around $68 for a bottle, it falls inline with the Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or ($70) and Balvenie Caribbean Cask ($75) but is a bit higher than the non-age statement (NAS) Ainsley Brae ($35) made by Alexander Murray. The spice is a bonus in the complexity department but this is definitely a whiskey for when you are craving something smooth, light and sweet.

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