Archive for February, 2022


Starward: Ginger Beer Cask #6 (Australia Single Malt Whisky: 4 Years?: 48% ABV)

Visual: Dark copper to bronze, with reddish touches. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Ginger. Menthol. Peppermint. Dessert wine. Toffee touch. Rose wine touch. Dried apricot. Rose petals. Water adds more menthol, more ginger and burnt brown sugar.

Body: Smooth front into a lightly burning strength. Sour red wine. Tannins. Butterscotch, Ginger. Vanilla. Fatty butter. Dried apricot. Apple. Water makes slightly waxy, but smoother. More ginger. Even more water brings out a strawberry touch.

Finish: Fiery ginger bread. Sweet ginger beer. Grassy. Dry oak. Tannins. Bitter red wine. A waxy remaining air. Water adds lots of ginger and fatty butter comes out. Sulphur candles air. More water makes peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get it out of the way quickly. This is, obviously, heresy, but is it tasty tasty heresy?

Well, it answer that I will first examine nearly everything else I can, because I am an evil shit. Like a lot of warmer country aged whisky this is thick and chewy, with an unusual texture, that reminds me of whisky that has been directly gas heated (from the few times I have had a chance to try whisky described as such anyway) . Anyway, this has a distinct feel that I can best describe as slightly like the fluffy feel of a steam beer, but not. I am good at this words lark honest. Despite the higher abv and being younger whisky it is fairly smooth initially, the alcohol does become noticeable fast, but never painful and easily dealt with by adding some water.

The base whisky has a rose wine air to it, with more red wine like notes around edges. Early on it feels more towards the red wine, but even a few drops of water soothes it towards the more rose style. That lighter wine touch seems to allow a lot of room for lighter, menthol like notes to roam around over everything.

A lot of the evident character is in the feel, as well as that lightly gassy fluffy touch mentioned before, there is a waxy sheen at the end and a sulphurous candle touch in the air and feel, heck even a kind of fatty butter touch. The quicker ageing in a hot climate really gives it some feel. On that is a lightly sweet, red and rose wine touched whisky, with some more traditional sweet vanilla and such notes as well, but a lot is in that mouthfeel.

So, ginger beer finish eh? The ginger is very evident, as you can probably tell from the main notes above. The ginger thankfully doesn’t overpower the whisky but I is very clear indeed. Lots of spicy ginger early on, with sweeter ginger beer touches mixing into that vanilla style as it integrates into the whisky, then out into a peppery spice dryness in the finish. While the ginger is clear it feels like the edges fade nicely into the whisky making it feel like a coherent whole. It doesn’t feel out of place, it stands out as a dominant element, not an alien one. It is worth noting that it is far more integrated with a drop of water, being a tad more fiery neat, but still never an issue.

So, conclusion, tasty heresy. Now I will admit I hope, tasty though it is, this doesn’t become a popular trend in whisky – a craze that the bigger distilleries copy – as I am enjoying very much here as the exception, not the norm, and also as I feel a lot of the less heavy whiskies would not cope half as well as this does with it.

As is, while I am not as crazy about it as a lot of its fans, this is definitely tasty heresy.

Background: Starward has been on my radar for a while, then Independent Spirit did a comparatively recent Starward tasting, where I got to enjoy a good chunk of their line up, It was a very good night. There, lots of people were raving about a whisky that was not in the line up though. A Starward that had been finished in Ginger Beer casks. Now that sounded like a horrible mess to me, but everyone was so enthused about it I decided, when it turned up, to give it a go and see if it was worth the hype. First thing I noticed is that it is in 50CL bottles, which is an odd choice and always makes the bottle look like it is slightly further away than it really is. The whisky was distilled 2017 and bottled 2021, so is somewhere around 3 or 4 years in age. Whisky in hot countries always seems to age very differently, and requires less time to become quality, if very different, whisky so I was confident this would not taste as young as that sounds. It is a mix of Apera (Australian Fortified wine) and red wine aged whisky, that then,as the name suggests was finished in ginger beer casks – the distilleries own ginger beer casks in fact. So lots of very different elements from a Scotch or Irish whisky there. I went with Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero as backing music, the fact this concept album was initially set in 2022 seems far too accurate these days.

Holy Goat: Blood Eagle (Scotland: Fruit Flemish Red: 6.66% ABV)

Visual: Hazy cherry-aid red to black cherry centre. Reddened off white medium sized head.

Nose: Cherry yogurt. Wheat flecks. Sour red wine. Black currant and crushed red grape skin. Thick. Strawberry. Brown bread.

Body: Tart. Sweet plum. Sweet red wine. Sour cherry fizzy sweets. Sticky gummed brown paper. Lightly fizzy. Fizzy lemon sherbet. Peppery bitterness. Rye crackers. Black cherry.

Finish: Sour cherry fizzy sweets. Sweet plums. Light tart raspberry. Gummy – Gelatine sweets in general. Brown bread. Bourbon air.

Conclusion: This is very rewarding, with thick gummy brown paper style take on the sticky, sour red Flemish ale at the base but has been filled in every inch with some twist and turn that makes it stand out.

The fruit is the most obvious twist, as you might expect, sweet plums are there, but the sour notes and tart fruit notes are more evident. There is a raspberry freshness and sour black cherry, often in a slightly artificial style that calls to the sour gelatine fizzy sweets that exists. It is gummy in its thickness and the flavours really vinous with lots of red wine and red grape notes hanging around even as the main fruitiness is waning.

Around that is a peppery, slightly bitter character into a brown bread grounding. Savoury in general, slightly spicy, and slightly spirity in a bourbon to rye style. It is a mix of lower grounding notes that bring you down from that tarter flavours, and tells of the alcohol still present there.

So much to examine as you can probably tell, and while the flavours are wide ranging they never clash. If I had to criticise it I would say that the gumminess builds up over time to become very sticky at the end, and a bit too present, but this only becomes an issue at the very end when the more savoury gumminess tends to dominate and the fruitiness lightens.

Overall a very impressive and fun to examine sour beer.

Background: Oh, Holy Goat, I have had a few of these before and have been blown away by them, so I really needed to pull my thumb out and actually do notes on one of them. This one is, ok deep breath, based on a Flanders Red and a British stock ale, fermented with wild yeast, blended with an amber sour that had been aged in rye whisky barrels, then added in blackcurrant and redcurrant that had been used in a prior Flanders red, then a mix of smoked and unsmoked plums – with the smoked plums done on red wine staves – were added in. Follow all that? Because I think I got lost somewhere. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers: Bought To Rot.

Ridgeway: Good Elf (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear yellow gold. Some small bubbled carbonation in the body. A centimetre of tight bubbled white head.

Nose: Kiwi to lime. Slightly crusty bread hop character. Light vanilla. Light bitterness. Fresh bread dough.

Body: Soft lime. Vanilla. Hop prickle. Thin custard. Sweet grapes. Slight sulphur feel.

Finish: Sour dough. Prickly into fluffy hops. Lime and grapes. Vanilla. Icing sugar dusting.

Conclusion: This is the opposite of what you tend to expect from a Christmas beer. It is light in colour, low in abv, golden ale like in hop use with a fresh hop prickle and green fruit flavours. I don’t think it goes the traditional Christmas route at even a single point.

I mean I’m not saying it isn’t nice, it is just unexpected.

The body is crisp and clean at the base, but with a slight real ale like sulphur touch that gives it a bit more weight and grip than you would expect. While not a heavy beer it definitely doesn’t have any watery elements that shout low abv, and that bit more grip means that it can give a nice solid prickle of hop bitterness without having to resort to an all out assault of hops to overcome the drawbacks of a thinner beer.

The fruitiness is sweet green grapes, with brighter lime takes and heavier kiwi touches under. It isn’t anything super fancy but matches the golden ale style well and gives some sweet release from the impressively but not overpoweringly bitter hops.

Overall it is a really good low abv beer that feels like it should be around all year rather than hidden away fro Christmas.

Background: So, we are into February, time for me to start doing Christmas beer notes. In my defence I didn’t do much at all around Christmas, sorry for that. Will try and get things going again. This is a low alcohol beer grabbed from Independent Spirit. Ridgeway also do a Bad Elf beer, which is higher abv but also seems not much like a traditional Christmas ale in style. This is its low abv cousin. Went with The Royal They: Foreign Being as backing music.

Buffalo Trace: Blanton’s: Single Barrel Gold Edition (USA: Bourbon Single Cask: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Visual: Deep, slightly bronzed, gold. Slow, thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Rye crackers. Peppery. Alcohol tingle evident. Warm orange creme. Subtle menthol. Warm custard. Red grapes. Water makes smoother and brings out more rye crackers.

Body: Warming. Honey. Peppery. Very mild aniseed. Peach syrup. Slightly astringent. Water adds apricot. Red grapes. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Juicy grapes. Custard. Wholemeal crackers. Drying. Peppery. Water adds menthol. Vanilla. Slight savoury cream touch.

Conclusion: This is so rewarding, so recognisably bourbon but with tons of elements I would not normally associate with the style and the mix makes it stand out as something special.

At its base it is a slightly rye crackers tasted peppery thing. So I am guessing that there is a moderate amount of rye in the mash bill – but I could be wrong. Along with that there is some of the traditional bourbon style vanilla backing it but less so than you would imagine. It is slightly drying and astringent from the alcohol weight when taken neat, but not especially so, especially considering the over 50% abv.

Above that is a honey sweetness, along with a slight strange more custard like sweetness that seems to be there in place of the more traditional vanilla in most areas. This is still in the ballpark of bourbon expectations, it just feels like higher abv and care taken in its selection has given it a weightier, bigger expression of which the custard replacing the vanilla is the most obvious element.

What makes it really stand out is a slight sweet peach syrup note, and a sweet grapes touch – in a red grapes style that I really would not have expected considering that, with this being bourbon, it will have been aged in virgin oak, and so I cannot attribute to subtle use of sherry oak ageing like I normally would. Even more there is subtle green grapes and menthol touches that are wonderful and unexpected extra flourishes over the bourbon base. These elements are noticeable neat, but become super evident with a touch of water smoothing out the more astringent alcohol notes.

These all combine to give it a subtle, but impressive variety of flavour, while still delivering the expected bourbon notes very well as a base that everything else works from. It is covering a complex range, but without sacrificing what bourbon is known for best and that combination makes it probably the best bourbon I have tried. Very impressive.

Background: I’ve missed a chance to pick up some Blantons a few times before, it has a great reputation as a single cask bourbon and always vanished while I was umming and ahhing in on if I should grab a bottle. So this time when some came into Independent Spirit I grabbed a bottle right away, the Gold Edition in fact. There is a lot of information on the, very pretty indeed, bottle – everything from barrel number, rack number, warehouse and date dumped. Most of it doesn’t tell me anything as I don’t know where those places are, but it is a nice touch. Really brings out the individuality of this single barrel expression. There wasn’t a new Miracle Sound release for 2021, so for music I picked up his earlier album – Level 6 – and went with that as backing music.

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