The Exclusive Malts 13 year old 2002 (cask #20021), 54.2%
Irish | $135
This 13 year old malt from central Ireland is an uncommon foray into the Irish whiskey space for the Exclusive Malts Collection. Pure malt is the focus of the nose which supports that malt with tart green apple. On the palate this whiskey is a stunning mix of lush, sweet honey, salt, malt, green apple, and ginger spice. The balance and integration are nothing short of perfect. A long malty finish caps off one of the best Irish whiskeys I’ve had. (U.S. only)
Compass Box The Peat Monster 10th Anniversary Special Cask Strength Bottling, 54.7%
Blended Scotch Whisky | $120
As you’d expect, solid peat is the first thing out of the glass, but this isn’t just a peat beast. Underneath are honey, dried fruit, and malt. The palate is all about balance, with honeyed malt, raisin, and oak spice all complementing smoky peat. A lush mouthfeel makes you forget it’s cask strength. A pure love note in a glass from Compass Box to Park Avenue Liquor. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Hunting Hound on Holiday 4.180 24 year old 1989, 51.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $225
From the nose you can tell this is a special whisky, with old, dark, lacquered wood, dusty cigar box, and sea salt combined with dark sweet cherry and a hint of rancio. On the palate it gets even better, with lush, dark cherry perfectly balanced and integrated with oak spice, salt, and peat smoke. There’s clear rancio in the center of it all that's utterly delicious. This stunner finishes with a long, slightly spicy, and entirely lovely finish. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
Exclusive Malts Speyside 25 year old 1989 Cask #3,942, 48.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $200
Exclusive Malts doesn't disclose the source distillery, which doesn't matter when you’ve got a whisky that’s a gem. Apple cider defines the nose and is complemented by ginger and iris. On the palate this whisky is lush but well balanced, with honeyed apple cider, gingerbread cookie, and baked apple. In the center of all this is rancio. Ginger spice and baked apple define the finish, which is long and flavorful. Great balance, integration, and flavor. What more can you ask for? (U.S. only)
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pigs in Plaster 14 year old (#4.1980), 59.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
This single cask, distilled at Highland Park, is an excellent example of why distilleries sell off certain casks. On the nose it’s Highland Park's signature sherry and peat, but on the palate it's a beast. Monster peat smoke surfs on a lush layer of berry and malt. This builds to a peak with smoke, salt, and oak spice, bolstered by the high proof. A smoky, dry finish rounds off a monster whisky, different from Highland Park's style, but very interesting. (Julio’s Liquors only)
Compass Box takes a fresh approach to flavored whisky by infusing Navalino oranges and spices into a blend of Highland single malt and single grain whisky. Bright and slightly bitter orange peel combines with vanilla, honey, and malt. The grain whisky gives nice support and structure along with black pepper, cinnamon, and clove spice. Great balance between the whisky and flavoring in a flavored whisky that is much more dry than sweet. Finally, a flavored whisky to get really excited about.
This select bottling of Bernheim Original comes from Warehouse Y on the 4th floor, and is non-chill filtered. Without the filtering, the nose is notably more expressive and becomes a real showcase for wheat grain, oak spice, caramel, and citrus. On the palate, this whiskey maintains a firm balance between soft and strong, with supple wheat grain entwined with caramel, oak, and cinnamon spice. A long, flavorful finish caps off a well-curated selection of an excellent whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)
Not what you’d expect from a malt at this age. Instead of oak dominating the nose, it's citrus in focus, with orange marmalade, candied orange, and even orange blossom. On the palate this whisky is light and delicate, leading with the citrus notes from the nose. This symphony of orange is followed with toffee, ginger, oak, and rancio in a combination that's well balanced and integrated. Unique for its age, a definite treat for those who prefer lighter and more delicate whiskies. (U.S. only, 600 bottles)
Finally, an unimpeachable counterpoint to the rally cry against no age statement whisky. Oban Little Bay is everything that Oban 14 is, and more. A rich, fruity, malty nose showcases dried apricot, dark chocolate, and salt. On the palate, Little Bay explodes with flavor, combining malt with orange, chocolate, and blackberry. Clove and oak spice join the party in the mid-palate, which shows superb balance and integration. A long, slightly dry, citrusy spice finish caps off a stunning whisky.
Although the Prichard distillery is located in Lincoln County, it has a special exemption from using the Lincoln County Process and isn’t charcoal filtered. The nose reflects that with bright aromas including caramel, cinnamon, and oak. The entry is sweet caramel corn followed by soft cinnamon and black pepper with a boost from some oak. A medium, slightly dry finish completes a very flavorful but still extremely easy-drinking Tennessee whiskey. This is the crown jewel of the Prichard distillery line.
A single barrel bottling from Warehouse N, rick number 1, bottled at the proof that Wild Turkey was designed to be. A deeply-woody spiced nose featuring cinnamon and caramel advertises a power punch whiskey, but on the palate there's no punch. Instead, it’s lush, round, and affable, with deep caramel and cinnamon co-mingling with peanut. The lush, sweet start is well-balanced by cinnamon spice, which ramps up and drives a long spicy finish. This is delicious whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)
Many distilleries have released bourbon finished in a second barrel, but it’s Prichard’s who was savvy enough to copyright the term “double barreled.” As you’d expect, the nose is big oak, blending darker, more seasoned oak with lighter, new oak. The palate is unexpectedly balanced, with lush, sweet caramel in perfect sync with spicy oak, black pepper, clove, and cinnamon. That wonderful balance follows through to a medium finish that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve been chewing on a barrel.
A malted rye whiskey, aged in new, bourbon, and Germain-Robin cognac barrels. Cereal grains are the star of this nose, which supports the rye grain with oak and cinnamon spice. The palate follows the grain-focused nose and is a carefully crafted love note to rye grain, featuring multi-grain cereal, cinnamon, ginger, sawdust, and a touch of oak. The finish is all dark chocolate, rye grain, and cinnamon spice; a delicious, close to expertly-crafted whiskey.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 year old (cask #4535811), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $32
At 10 years old and 50% ABV, you’d expect this whiskey to pack a power punch, and while it does present solid oak and beautiful cinnamon spice, it does so with great finesse. This barrel of Henry McKenna is a great showcase of many classic bourbon notes: caramel, cinnamon, oak, orange, clove, and kettle corn. The flavors are well integrated, balanced, and backed by a wonderfully lush undertone. A solid finish that cools slightly caps off a textbook affable whiskey. (Drink Up New York only)
Rock Town 5th Anniversary Arkansas Straight Bourbon, 50%
Craft Whiskey | $50
Aged for 4 years and bottled in bond, this bourbon has a mash of Arkansas grown grains, including 73% corn, 9% wheat, and 18% barley. Dark amber in color, a robust nose spotlights cinnamon, oak, and black pepper. The palate is an enjoyable journey from sweet caramel corn to spicy cinnamon and oak. Cinnamon is the star in the mid-palate, where it’s well supported by the underlying alcohol. A long and slightly dry finish caps off a craft whiskey done right.
Irish whiskey and rum aren't a common combination, but Bushmills makes a strong case for it with a 19 year old whiskey finished in a rum cask. The rum's influence is clearly present on the nose, with brown sugar that supports Bushmills’ toasted malt. On the palate the rum's dark molasses complements Bushmills’ chocolate malty goodness. Everything balances out in the mid-palate with the addition of oak, which carries through to a semi-dry finish. Superb integration of unlikely cask mates. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Glen Garioch) 20 year old 1994 (cask #15), 56.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
An old-style whisky that harkens back to a time when Scotland wasn’t sliced and diced by region, but defined by style. This is meaty with a capital M, with a rich, oily, deep character. On the palate it’s big and beautiful, with salt, oyster shell, honey, roasted green pepper, smoke, dried fruit, beef jerky, leather, and oak. Earthy peat smoke dances throughout, giving support but never stealing focus. This is about as masculine as Highland whisky gets. (U.S. only)
An American single malt whiskey that brings together the sensibilities of American craft with traditional Scottish and Irish styles with great result. Hogshead’s nose is bright and acidic, with pear, apple, maple, cinnamon, and malted grain. The palate is much spicier than expected, but enjoyably so, with black pepper, oak, cinnamon, and clove mixing well with honeyed malt and pear. The finish is long and slightly dry with a dash of heat. An impressive entry in the craft category.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Berber Whiskey With a Hint of Smoke 53.199 12 year old, 57.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Much of Caol Ila’s malt goes into Johnnie Walker blends, so it’s a rare treat to see a cask strength offering. This release is Caol Ila on steroids, featuring a deeply smoky and meaty nose with bacon, campfire, leather, sea salt, and iodine. On the palate, the smoky fire continues to burn with intense smoke and salt combined with sweet honey malt. An extremely long finish will have you exhaling smoke long after the dram is gone. (Julio’s Liquors only)
This Kickstarter-funded blend is a very savvy and seamless mix of 40% malt and 60% grain whiskies. Pale gold in color, the nose is inviting, with dried apricot, honey, tangerine, and salt. Everything from the nose comes together on the palate, which is soft and sweet with the right amount of oak and smoke to balance everything out. There's a dash of heat and a solid finish. Who'd ever expect such a smart and affable whisky to come from Kickstarter? (U.S. only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Invergordon) 30 year old 1984 (cask #8005), 52.3%
Single Grain Whisky | $220
A rare old single grain whisky from Scotland’s most northern grain distillery. The nose brings together varnished oak, clove, dried orange peel, and molasses. On the palate, an unexpectedly lush mouthfeel supports a flavorful combination of citrus, molasses, and varnished oak. This single grain has depth and character that’s completely uncommon to the category, tasting a lot more like an aged rum. A long, acidic, slightly sour, dry, and spicy finish rounds out a unique and intriguing whisky. (U.S. only)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Linkwood) 14 year old 1999 Cask # 978, 55.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $105
From a Speyside distillery whose malt is more commonly found in blends. An enticing and complex nose balances sweet honey, acidic dried orange, rich walnut, and light smoke. On the palate these elements come together well with complexity and balance. Things get spicy in the mid-palate, with black pepper, salt, ginger, and a bump in smoke. A long finish rounds everything off, showcasing smoke and orange. Lots of character and flavor for an uncommon malt. (U.S. only)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Ardmore) 14 year old 2000 Cask #233, 54.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
If you needed proof that Scotch whiskies don’t fit neatly into established categories, look no further than this marine style, peated Highland malt. Sea salt, oyster shells, and light smoke lead the nose, with hay and apricot underneath. In the entry, the flavors burst on the palate with sea salt, honey, malt, oak, and smoke. Peat smoke really builds in the mid-palate but manages not to lose the supporting flavors, although it becomes the real star of a long finish. (U.S. only)
The debut release from Don Sutcliffe's Sutcliffe & Sons, this small-batch blend of grain whiskies comes from several different distilleries including Loch Lomond, North British, and a 30 year old whisky from Carsebridge. The blend is married in first-fill sherry casks, which brings bright fruit to a fairly light whisky with notes of blackberry, vanilla, honey, light oak, and iris. Quite good for a grain whisky blend, but falls just short of being exceptional. (U.S. only)
It’s hard to stand out in a sea of fairly bland moonshine, but Manhattan Moonshine manages to by moving beyond corn in their mashbill, with oat, rye, spelt, and malt. The result is an unaged whiskey that’s light, slightly sweet, and a symphony of cereal grains. The addition of the honey note from the oats is spot on and helps unite the grain flavors. A dash of spice creates balance and drives a dry finish. This is a wonderfully crafted and unique whiskey.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Bunnahabhain) 26 year old 1987 Cask # 2784, 47.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $230
Peated whiskies definitely have a dropping off point where they become too old and tired, and the nose for this one would indicate it’s past its prime, with gravel, rubbery smoke, and raisin. On the palate it’s a different story, as ashy smoke combines with raisin and rancio, turning the peat age detriment into an asset. Strangely alluring, it’s like sitting on a park bench next to a weathered old man who ends up having a real tale to tell. (U.S. only)
Masterson’s 10 year old Straight Rye (barrel #A2-052), 45%
Canadian | $60
A single barrel release, selected by Julio’s Loch & K(e)y society, focused very much on wood. An oak-forward nose features old split wood, pencil lead, and rye spice. On the palate the balance with oak improves slightly from the addition of brown sugar, vanilla, and cherry. Oak intensifies in the mid-palate, keeping some semblance of balance with the sweet undertones, but oak is clearly the star. A dry oak finish is the exclamation point at the end of this riff on wood. Sourced whiskey. (Julio’s Liquors only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Ben Nevis) 15 year old Highland 1998 (cask #1589), 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
A 15 year old port cask-matured Ben Nevis that is as genre-defying as it gets. Deep port notes combine with strong iodine, honey, and malt in an inviting nose. This whisky simply roars on the palate, with big jammy fruit combined with salt, iodine, and a dash of smoke. Everything comes together in the mid-palate, with an alluring core of ginger, honey, and malt. A long, flavorful finish wraps up a whisky with unique character and unmistakable appeal. (U.S. only)
This bourbon is a blend of whiskeys aged a minimum of 5 years, with part of that time spent in California's Central Coastal hills. Breaker leads with a strong oak nose supported by cinnamon and caramel. On the palate, the maritime impact is there: it’s softer and less oaky, with a good balance of cinnamon, caramel, and a touch of clove. Breaker is a very restrained and understated bourbon, but that’s also what makes it so damn likable. Sourced whiskey.
Ginger may not be the first flavor that leaps to mind when you think flavored whiskey, but then you realize how common the combination is: Jack and Ginger, Jameson and Ginger, and now Virgil Kaine. Fresh ginger is unmistakable on the nose and the secret to this whiskey’s success. On the palate, fresh ginger seamlessly integrates with oak, black pepper, and clove spice. Underneath is sweet vanilla that helps keep everything in balance. A well-executed and savvy flavored whiskey.
Bernheim Original Single Barrel 7 year old (barrel #5132718), 45%
Wheat Whiskey | $33
In a market myopically focused on big, old, and oaky, this Bernheim Original single barrel is an uncommon, subtle whiskey that invites you to lean in and listen closer. If you do, you’ll be treated to soft wheat intertwined with caramel, cinnamon, and subtle cherry. Oak gets added to the mix in the mid-palate, without dropping any of the other flavors established. The real star of this whiskey is the finish: long, dry, ice-cube cool, and extremely impressive. (Drink Up New York only)
Exclusive Malts North Highland 17 year old 1996 Cask # 7025, 56.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $120
From an undisclosed North Highland distillery, aged in a refill sherry hogshead. The impact of the sherry is clear, with ripe blackberry and peach. A floral, sweet, clover honey note rounds out a deliciously lush mouthfeel. This lushness is well balanced by a spicy mid-palate that features black pepper, ginger, and strong salinity that help provide some real depth. A long and slightly dry finish wraps up a solid whisky. (U.S. only)
This cask strength, port cask-aged whisky comes from an undisclosed distillery near Aberlour. The impact of the port cask is unmistakable, with a nose that is deeply fruity with dried apricot, blackberry jam, honey, and malt. On the palate these rich sweet fruit notes are well balanced by black pepper, clove, salt, honey, and a touch of dark chocolate. The underlying proof also helps counterbalance the sweet fruit and drives a medium length and slightly dry finish. (U.S. only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at BenRiach) 17 year old 1997 (cask #144744), 54.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $140
BenRiach releases of this age are often peated or in a special barrel; here, we have an unpeated, non-barrel finish release. The nose is inviting, with Honeycrisp apple, toffee, malt, and a touch of oak. A very flavorful entry presents lush toffee, apple, malt, and ginger. The spice increases in the mid-palate, as well as the heat, but we don’t get much added complexity. A long, flavorful, and slightly dry finish round out a very tasty but ultimately simplistic whisky. (U.S. only)
The Exclusive Malts Islay 7 year old 2007 (cask #904), 54.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $145
An Islay single malt of unknown origin aged in a bourbon barrel showcases many of the classic notes of a peated malt of this age with smoke, iodine, paste, and oak. On the palate the smoky peat unfolds nicely, as it’s exquisitely balanced by honey, salt, and caramel. The smoke intensifies in the mid-palate but never loses its balance with the sweeter undertones. A dry, long, smoky finish caps off a well-integrated and very enjoyable mystery malt. (U.S. only)
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Glentauchers) 11 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $60
A rare bottling from a distillery that is more commonly released as a part of whisky blends. Light fruit and sweet malt define the nose, with apple, apricot, and honey. The entry is bursting with flavor, centered around malt, along with honey, salt, and apricot. The mid-palate adds a touch of oak, smoke, and spice, and is extremely well integrated and balanced. A medium-length finish ends abruptly and a little too dry, the only left turn in an otherwise superb whisky. (Julio’s Liquors only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Laphroaig) 2005 10 year old (cask #468), 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Extreme peat smoke explodes out of the glass. It’s diesely, burnt tire smoke more than campfire. Past the peat, there's salt, paste, and honey. On the palate it's another blast of smoke. This nearly chokingly strong smoke dissipates slightly to reveal oyster shells, malt, paste, and honey. Make no mistake, the smoke is the star and will remind you of that fact hours after you finish your last sip. An uber-peated whisky that hardcore peatheads will surely adore. (U.S. only)
A.D. Rattray (distilled at Littlemill) 22 year old Cask #558, 49.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $160
A non-chill filtered, cask strength single malt from Littlemill, vintage 1991. Littlemill’s sweet nose is inviting, with butter toffee, milk chocolate, dried apricot, and straw. On the palate, these notes are joined by a nice maltiness as well as a touch of salt. In the mid-palate we get a touch of spice (black pepper and cinnamon) and some citrus. The finish is medium-length and slightly acidic, a departure for an otherwise affable cask strength whisky. (Park Avenue Liquor only)
Made from malted Bavarian hard wheat and aged over 2 years in new and used American oak barrels, the nose is chocolate-covered pretzels and a dash of pepper spice with a slight edge. The entry is much softer than expected at this proof, driven by toasted wheat and dark chocolate, with vanilla and black pepper. A strong pepper kick at the end of the mid-palate drives a long, spicy finish. A surprisingly well-balanced and actualized young craft whiskey.
An unabashedly spicy rye nose backed by cinnamon, marzipan, Bartlett pear, and oak. The rye spice is right there on the palate and immediately joined by cinnamon, clove, black pepper, solid oak, and a lingering pear note on the fringe. The finish is long, dry, and spicy with a hint of black licorice candy. Pritchard’s rye is a perfect example of how you can have strong spice without a lot of fire, and create balance without adding a lot of sweetness.
With some powerhouse whiskies in the blend (including an '87 Bunnahabhain), it’s a surprise that the nose is so reserved, with citrus, ginger, and honey. On the palate you need your flavor shovel to unearth a core of typically strong flavors, including leather, oak, salt, dark chocolate, and even rancio. It’s delicious but highly elusive. The finish is medium and quite dry. What an odd blend. I haven’t had to work this hard for a blend in a long time. (U.S. only)
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Dalmore) 18 year old 1996 Cask # 2097, 52.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $150
This cask strength whisky is malty in the nose, along with peach, nectarine, and subtle oak. The entry is all malt, the kind of flavor that evokes "malt reverence." In the mid-palate it’s cereal grains spiced with allspice and black pepper. The finish is long and slightly salty, with a fair amount of heat from the alcohol, and a touch of oak. If you love the singular flavor of malt, this one may be for you. (U.S. only)
383 Wink & Nod (distilled at Grandten Distilling), 52.5%
Craft Whiskey | $50
Single barrel releases aren’t uncommon at craft bars, but a whiskey distilled by the bar’s proprietor is rare. Dark amber color suggests high barrel impact, but the wood is actually well balanced by caramel, milk chocolate, and honey-nut cereal. The opening is much softer, lusher than you’d expect at this proof, and balances in the mid-palate with oak, salt, cinnamon, and a little heat. A dry finish rounds out a unique and flavorful whiskey. (less than 50 bottles; Grandten Distilling’s South Boston store only)
Most flavored whiskeys start with an existing whiskey and add flavoring, but Bushel & Barrel comes at it from the other end, mixing Berentzen’s apple liqueur with a Kentucky bourbon. Bright, crisp apple cider defines the opening, while in the mid-palate subtle bourbon notes emerge with vanilla, honey, cinnamon, and light oak. The bourbon notes complement the sweet apple cider and help keep things from getting too sweet. Bourbon and cider have always been buddies, and they do quite well together here.
A rare barrel strength 100% rye release from a craft distiller. (Dark Horse, Lenexa, Kan.) No age statement on this other than “less than four years.” Young wood leads things off with pencil, graphite, and sawdust. Once you get past the sharp wood, there’s lush maple, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rye spice. At 113 proof it’s still soft, supple, and lush but slightly tannic. The finish is spicy but not overly hot or dry. Great distilling hampered by small barrels, but still something special.
A 15 year malt selected by the Loch & K(e)y Society. Hard apple cider leads the nose and is backed by honeyed malt and cinnamon-baked pear. The entry is lush caramel apple, but quickly transitions as the sheer power and spice of the mid-palate comes crashing in with oak, ginger, and pine. The finish is long, dry, and spicy with lingering heat. This is the kind of big, bold, dry whisky that American whiskey drinkers might enjoy. (Julio’s Liquors only)
High West Double Rye Single Barrel (cask #1097-2), 50%
Craft Whiskey | $47
Traditionally, this release has been a showcase for the raw power and spice of both young and old rye. In this single barrel release, the spice and fire have been considerably tamed by deep caramel, vanilla, and sweet corn. The spice is still there, with oak, rye, and cinnamon, but is no longer the star. The proof shows up in the finish, which is long and quite dry. An understated expression of one of High West’s flagship releases. Sourced whiskey. (Drink Up New York only)
True to its name, the nose is exactly Red Hots candy along with a touch of corn underneath. The entry is soft cinnamon, but it quickly ramps up to fiery Red Hots candy. The proofing here matches the flavor precisely, for a pleasantly spicy but not overly fiery mid-palate. The finish is short and cleans up well with light lingering cinnamon left behind. A good balance of sweet and spicy, and a solid offering for the genre.
Big Bottom has made their name finishing sourced whiskeys. Now they’re experimenting with a blend of undisclosed whiskeys in a bourbon base. The result is a riff on Canadian-style whisky. Dark gold in color, the nose is light oak, caramel, cinnamon, and cherry. On the palate it’s a pleasant mix of creamy vanilla, oak, and cinnamon. A medium finish features light charred oak and black pepper spice. A unique approach to the style, one that manages to really work.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Auchroisk) 11 year old 2003 (cask #9), 56.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $110
Most of Auchroisk's malt goes into Diageo’s J&B blended, so a single malt release is an uncommon treat. Aged in refill sherry casks, this whisky has a nutty, roasted malt nose. On the palate it’s soft and lush, with honeyed roasted malt, walnut, ginger, and salt. A spicy mid-palate leads to a dry finish that abandons a lot of the flavors established. A solid mix of flavors, but the finish shows why it's often used for blending. (U.S. only)
An uncommon exclusive bottling of a 6 year old cask strength malt. Light gold in color, the nose is vegetal, more peat bog than peat smoke, with an undercurrent of pastry cream and rose. It’s an odd combination of aromas. The entry is flavorful and inviting with smoked pineapple, clove, and rose. Peak smoke arrives in full force in the mid-palate, which drops the sweet and becomes spicy. The finish is mostly smoke, but with a pleasant minty coolness. (Wyoming only)
Benjamin Prichard's Sweet Lucy Bourbon Cream Liqueur, 17.5%
Flavored Whisky & Liqueurs | $25
More widely available than Buffalo Trace’s adored Bourbon Cream, Prichard’s takes premium cream from Wisconsin and adds it to their Sweet Lucy liqueur. The nose is sweet but not overly so, with orange creamsicle and just a hint of whiskey with oak spice. On the palate it’s creamy confection bliss, with ladyfingers covered in heavy cream and candied orange topped with a drizzle of bourbon. Rich, creamy, but not too heavy; file this one as a dangerously delicious guilty pleasure.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Strathclyde) 26 year old 1988 (cask #62016), 55.1%
Single Grain Whisky | $180
An uncommon 26 year Lowland single grain whisky made from wheat and aged in refill bourbon casks. Oak is quite present on the nose, but it's not alone: there's also bright citrus, pine, and white cake. The opening is softer with vanilla and apricot, but it's only a brief respite before a very spicy mid-palate focused around oak and white pepper. There is a fair amount of fire from the alcohol, which drives a very spicy and dry finish. (U.S. only)
You wouldn’t believe from the nose on this white whiskey that it’s nearly 50% alcohol. Sweet, fresh-milled cornmeal combines with slightly acidic and floral pear, with just a dash of yeast to form an inviting and approachable nose. On the palate it’s equally affable and well-balanced, with sweet corn, crisp pear, and white pepper spice. A nice long finish with a touch of cooling rounds off an expertly-crafted and enjoyable moonshine.
An odd non-age stated blend that uses a solera system to get a drop of the original 1958 blend into the mix. The blend is then finished for four years in oloroso casks. It's a bit of blending gymnastics. Very sherry influenced, with marionberry jam, malt, salt, and oak. The integration and flavors are nice, but it all feels a bit muted. A medium length and dry finish shows off some of the younger spirit in the mix. (U.S. only)
Exclusive Malts Speyside 10 year old 2003 Cask #1781, 56.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $90
From an undisclosed Speyside distillery. The nose is extraordinarily yeasty, with distinct apple cider backed by light caramel. The palate is more integrated than the nose with oak and cinnamon spice, apple, honey, and malt. At first these flavors are well balanced, but a spice and heat blast in the mid-palate throws things off. The finish reflects this and is quite dry. The parts are better than the whole in an interesting and strong whisky. (U.S. only)
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Tomatin) 10 year old 2004 (cask #2645), 57.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $95
Matured solely in refill sherry casks, this whisky has a light, fruit-forward nose with nectarine, honey, malt, and a touch of spice. The entry is softer than you’d expect for the proof and it presents the fruit at the nose, along with salt and a dash of black pepper. The spice takes over in the mid-palate along with some heat, really throwing off the balance established in the entry. A light finish closes out a slightly disjointed taste experience. (U.S. only)
Located in the heart of Vermont’s syrup belt, Saxtons River distillery makes both a Vermont maple-flavored rye and a maple-flavored bourbon whiskey. The rye is the better of the two and does a solid job of mixing oak, cinnamon, black pepper, and rye spice notes with vanilla and rich maple syrup. The rye whiskey is a little young, but the maple syrup complements it well and is more companion than cover.
The nose features strong rye spice accompanied by sharp, young oak along with black pepper, graphite, and a touch of green apple. The entry is much heavier and sweeter than you’d expect from such a young whiskey. Things quickly change in the mid-palate with a spice blast of cinnamon, black pepper, rye, and oak. A solid dash of heat gives the mid-palate some kick and drives a short, dry finish. Some nice ideas hampered by the reality of youth.
A non-age stated single malt from Washington State. Light amber in color, there’s more oak on the nose than you’d expect, along with baked apple, chocolate, cinnamon, and clove. Chocolate leads the entry, followed by clove, cinnamon, baked apple, and salt. A spicy mid-palate picks up some ginger and a dash of heat. The finish is fairly short and dry. This feels a bit young and lacks depth. An interesting start; let's see where it goes from here.
Exclusive Malts (distilled at Dalmore) 13 year old 2000 Cask #6952, 53.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
Remarkably pale in color, this Exclusive Malt is a rare peated Dalmore. Peat reads more funky barnyard than smoke on the nose, with just a touch of sweetness behind it. The taste is much better than the smell, with the addition of smoke to the peat, intertwined with honey, salt, citrus, and ginger spice. The finish is slightly acidic and dry, far less satisfying than the mid-palate. There’s a reason why Dalmore doesn’t peat, but this release is still fascinating. (U.S. only)
Of all the flavors you’d expect to see in the moonshine space, coconut is probably the last. Stillhouse’s Coconut Moonshine has a coconut cream nose with a touch of milk chocolate that’s actually inviting. On the palate it’s creamy, chocolatey coconut with just a hint of corn whiskey. The mid-palate lacks some structure, with only a touch of spice. The finish is also a little muted, but damn if they didn’t make a coconut moonshine that isn’t horrid.
The Exclusive Malts Blend of Malts 20 year old 1994, 50%
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky | $100
Whiskies from undisclosed Speyside and Highland distilleries are blended together in first-fill sherry butts. On the nose it’s an alluring blend of orange, cherry, toffee, salt, and ginger. The entry follows the nose with toffee, orange, ginger, and malt. Things begin to drop off in the mid-palate, which is very focused on salt and ginger, with strong alcohol undertones. The alcohol drives and defines a dry finish that's absent of much of what's so alluring about this whisky. (U.S. only)
Following in the footsteps of Bushmills Irish Honey, Castle Brands tries their hand at a light and sweet Irish whiskey-based liqueur. Strong clover honey dominates with caramel, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and a little ginger spice. Hard to get to the base whiskey through all the sweet notes, but that seems to be the point. Just short of cloying, this is a whiskey-based liqueur for those more interested in the liqueur than the whiskey.
William Grant’s answer to Drambuie is a much less sweet and higher proof Irish whiskey-based liqueur. Monster caramel leaps out of the glass with an undercurrent of cola. Caramel leads to chocolate on the palate before malt and grain whiskey undertones emerge. Mid-palate is a little hot, but it helps cut through the underlying sweetness and also features some botanicals like juniper and black pepper. Clearly a mixing spirit and probably best thrown into a cola or ginger ale.
The Exclusive Malts (distilled at Bowmore) 15 year old 1999 (cask #350), 54.2%
Single Malt Scotch | $155
Nosing this whisky, you'd never guess just how fruity it is, with barnyard hay, dry malt, honey, and light smoke. On the palate, however, the fruit is unmistakable with giant mango and apple. The mid-palate takes a sharp left turn into smoke and salt, but the mango just won't let go. A very dry, smoky finish is too dry, making the case against release at this ABV. An oddball whisky that will probably only appeal to a very narrow audience. (U.S. only)
A blend of 94% rye-mash whiskey and Virgil Kane's High-Rye Bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley). Floral rye grain spice bursts from the nose along with cedar plank and graphite. The entry is thick and sweet, with maple syrup, young oak, and rye spice. Things don't heat up until the end of the mid-palate where a dash of heat drives a long, spicy finish. An interesting mix of flavors that could benefit from a little more complexity.
The American craft whiskey movement has produced some unique riffs on classic spirits. Here we get a classic Irish-type whiskey made in Tennessee and aged in small, 15-gallon barrels. It’s all lush Irish on the nose, with caramel, green apple, dark chocolate, oak. On the palate the oak from the small barrel overtakes caramel apple with its smoky barrel char, sawdust, and clove spice. An interesting idea, but perhaps better realized in larger or used barrels.
The bottle states “Aged less than four years” but the nose says probably less than two. Unseasoned oak and sawdust dominate the nose. If you can get through the oak you’ll find honey, corn, cinnamon, and beef jerky. On the palate it’s dry cornmeal, caramel, and a hefty portion of abrasive oak. The mid-palate is big spice with cinnamon, black pepper, clove, and oak. A short dry finish puts a bow on a whiskey that’s overly tannic, dry, and oaky.
Kilchoman Single Cask Sherry Cask (Cask #85), 57.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Distilled at the start of 2009, this special edition was bottled mid-2014, making it a 5 ½ year old whisky. The nose is ashy paste with a good measure of barnyard funk along with sherry, oak, and clove spice. The entry is all ashtray, a late night of sweet wine and cigarettes. Sherry notes fight the smoke to emerge, but the smoke simply dominates. A smoky, ashy, spicy, and dry finish round out a face-slapper of a whisky. (U.S. only)
Big Bottom finishes their light-style Barlow Trail whiskey in 10 year old tawny port casks. On the nose it's promising, with oak, blackberry jam, orange, vanilla, and rye spice. The entry is soft and light with vanilla and berry, but it shifts dramatically in the mid-palate, which is exceptionally spicy and dry. Big Bottom’s previous port cask finishes have been blockbusters, but the light-style Barlow Trail whiskey doesn't have the same level of balance and integration to prevail.
Prichard’s Double Barreled Bourbon is flavored with artisan chocolate. This dark chocolate is clear on the nose but not singular, as it's accompanied by strong oak, maple syrup, and cherry. On the palate, chocolate becomes more a supporting flavor for classic bourbon notes of oak, maple, caramel, and clove spice. The mid-palate is a little acidic and the chocolate adds a slight bitterness to the equation. The finish is a little too dry, but in all, an intriguing combination of flavors.
Even though it has more alcohol than Southern Shine’s straight ‘moonshine,’ the nose is fairly evasive, with subtle cinnamon apple. The entry is much sweeter than expected, with caramel, cinnamon, and apple, but manages to be well-balanced by the base spirit, which adds pepper spice and enhances the cinnamon. The apple notes flirt with artificiality but end up reading as dried apple. The finish is long and maintains the cinnamon-apple spice well, but is a tad hot.
Lots of green notes in the nose of this mason jar variety of moonshine, including green apple, green bean, and wheat grass. Strong brewer’s yeast and cornmeal round things out in a highly aromatic nose. For the proof, the entry is remarkably soft and sweet, tasting like buttered cornbread. Fire and spice aren’t far behind, with black pepper, white pepper, and charred Cracker Jack. Long, dry, and slightly hot finish with a hint of popcorn and green bean.
This young peated malt, aged at least 24 months, has a nice, dry peat smoke nose, backed by honey and oak. On the palate it’s disjointed: the young peat malt argues with the heavy char barrel, a struggle that needs more time to be worked out. Honeyed malt tries to lend support but everything topples in the mid-palate, where things turn dry, spicy, and slightly acidic. A medium finish wraps up a whiskey that simply needs more time.
Adirondack Distilling 1,000 Stills White Whisky, 40%
Craft Whiskey | $33
Buttered popcorn combines with wet pavement, vanilla, and black pepper for an interesting but edgy nose. The entry is light and sweet with vanilla and buttered corn, and a silky smooth mouthfeel. The mid-palate thins things out a bit and shifts focus to strong black pepper. This black pepper drives a spicy and dry finish. Many white whiskies straddle the line between whisky and vodka, and this one edges a little too close to the vodka space.
Pale gold in color, this whiskey is noticeably cloudy, even in a warm room. Swift's nose is pleasant, with malt, honey, and butterscotch. The entry is exceptionally thin, with a hint of malt and honey, but there's not much to it. In the mid-palate, it’s all about the bourbon barrel, so much so that the overall character shifts toward corn whiskey. A short finish with chocolate notes wraps up a whiskey that just doesn’t have much to say.
Although this moonshine may look down-home in a mason jar, it was produced using the highly technical TerrePure process, designed to remove most congeners. The result is a corn neutral spirit that doesn’t smell or taste much like corn. Instead, it’s soft vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and a dash of salt. A little heat and white pepper round things out for a long, peppery-dry finish. It’s pretty good for a vodka, but is it really moonshine or white whiskey? Probably not.
Hudson Valley Distillers Chancellor’s Raw Bourbon, 40%
Craft Whiskey | $30
Aged one day in new American oak, this white dog ekes out the very minimum requirements for bourbon. The nose is heavy barnyard, complete with hay, horse, and manure. Beyond the funk is cornmeal, cashew, and apple blossom. The palate is light and what you'd expect, with yeasty cornbread, sour apple, apple blossom, and black pepper. The funk is still there but not as intense as on the nose. Interesting overall character with aging potential, but for now it’s unbaked.
Wood tannins are an interesting thing; used correctly, they can help create spice, depth, and complexity, as well as define a spirit's character. Unrestrained, tannins can wreak havoc. That’s what’s happened with this whiskey. Sharp, unfinished wood defines a nose that is raw in every sense. A thin entry struggles to present maple and caramel before a heavy blast of oak tannins decimates them. Those tannins define the rest of the taste experience, including a sour and bitter finish.
With a mash featuring no less than six different kinds of malt and aged in four different barrels (two sherry, a bourbon, and heavy-char new American oak), there are lot of moving parts with this whiskey. A jammy, inviting nose features blackberry jam, raisin, apricot, and ginger. On the palate it’s a cacophonic mess: chocolate and peated malt clash and do battle to grab focus. Add some heavy char and sherry to the mix and it's a bloodbath.
A non-age statement Spanish malt whisky. Whereas Scotch whisky is often a showcase of the grain, this Spanish malt is all about spotlighting the unique Palo Cortado sherry cask. Monster raisin leads things off and is followed by apricot jam, honey, ginger, and grape blossom. The impact of sherry is so great, it borders on tasting like an interesting young Spanish brandy. A very spicy mid-palate, which is a little hot, drives a very dry finish. (U.S. only)
An oddball whiskey by all accounts, with a very high 72.2% of wheat in the mashbill, distillation on an old farmhouse cognac still, and aging in a little Oregon barn in 63-gallon new oak barrels. The result is a strange, disjointed whiskey that starts out pillow-soft with wheat and caramel, and then dramatically shifts to raw oak, nougat, and cinnamon stick. The flavors in Billy don’t integrate well: they're like a jazz band severely out of step.
The nose on this whiskey is like smelling a wet empty barrel; it's all oak, char, and cinnamon spice. The entry is thin, watery, and understated with light caramel and cinnamon. In the mid-palate, the oak tannins completely take over. It's not just oak spice, but the puckeringly dry, sour, and bitter tannins. This all leads to a bitter, bone dry finish. Good whiskey is a conversation between spirit and wood, but here the wood is doing all the talking.
Many moonshine products are centered around corn, but Freedom Moonshine mixes it up with a mashbill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. Yeasty rye bread defines the nose with an undercurrent of white grape. The entry is soft, with yeasty rye, vanilla, and bran flakes. There’s some structure in the mid-palate with rye spice and black pepper but it needs more. The finish is a little flat, all pointing to the need for a slightly higher proof.
Aged for “at least” one month, this bourbon is a collaboration with the band Fierce Dead Rabbit. Better Days is pale gold and noticeably cloudy. On the nose it’s paste, yeasty bread dough, and wet pavement. On the palate it is all over the place with raw oak, cinnamon, almond, and black pepper. There's no balance and no integration. The finish is short, hot, and dry. As whiskey ages, it goes through odd, awkward phases, and that's where this one is.
Navazos-Palazzi Grain Single Palo Cortado Cask, 53.5%
Spanish Whisky | $100
No age statement on this grain whisky made from Spanish corn and aged in Palo Cortado sherry casks. Whereas the Navazos-Palazzi malt captured the richness of the sherry, the grain seems to pull the more acidic and dry qualities. Here it's dry sherry, coffee bean, brown sugar, and white pepper. Much hotter and drier than the Navazos-Palazzi malt, it explodes with heat and spice. This grain whisky was probably never meant to be consumed unblended, and it shows. (U.S. only)
Peaden Brothers Genuine Corn Whiskey Moonshine Fox 382 Special Edition, 50%
Craft Whiskey | $30
The nose starts with sweet corn, cornmeal, yeasty bread, and black pepper, with wet dog and a slight varnishy note right behind. The entry is soft and round, with dry cornmeal, bran flakes, and yeasty bread. Unfortunately, the varnish note from the nose returns pretty clearly in the mid-palate along with black pepper. Everything wraps up with a shorter than expected finish. The heart of this whiskey is interesting, but it could benefit from a much tighter cut. (distillery store only)
Spiced apple cider on the nose is a little more spice than cider, with strong cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Baked apple is there on the opening, but it doesn’t take long for the spices to take over, especially the cinnamon, which dominates. The cinnamon here leans more toward Red Hots than cinnamon stick, and by the time we get to the finish, it has completely conquered this spirit. May have been better labeled Spicy Cinnamon Apple Pie Moonshine.
All of the elements that work with Southern Shine’s Apple Pie bottling don’t work with their Blueberry. An extremely evasive nose leads to an artificially-flavored palate. Here the blueberry tastes more like flavored bubblegum than fruit. The white pepper from the base spirit clashes with the berry like a multi-car pileup. The finish is hot, too dry, and a little sour. There’s just nothing about this that’s pleasant or enjoyable.
The aromas from the base rye moonshine complement the apple much better here than in Freedom’s other flavored offerings. Baked apple mixes with cinnamon and is supported by a bread undertone. The apple note comes off as just a little too artificial. Like the other Freedom Moonshine products, the entry is too soft and flat. The biggest problem here clearly is the proof. There’s just not enough structure to do anything with this moonshine: mix, ice, or otherwise enjoy.
This flavored moonshine smells like a mass of wet, used tea bags. Underneath is some faint lemon, honey, and black pepper, but it’s hard to get to it through the tea. Entry is strong, oversteeped tea, which only gets stronger, more tannic, and more bitter in the mid-palate. Syrupy lemon honey tries and fails to balance this oversteeped mess. Finish is long, bitter, slightly hot, and unpleasant. Do not attempt to drink without copious amounts of crushed ice.
An unaged whiskey from Carroll County, Iowa, with rye grain and sugar mash. The nose is all kinds of barnyard funk: hay, horse, and manure. Underneath is a bite of sugar and vanilla. On the palate it’s less funky, with sugar, strawberry, and a grappa-like note. The rye spice emerges mid-palate, but it’s fleeting and leads to an edgy and fractured finish. Time in oak might help, but there are issues here that wood won’t resolve.