Tag Archive: Whiskey


Bushmills: 2000 The Causeway Collection – Port Cask (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 20 Years: 54.1% ABV)

Visual: A deep heavy gold with fast, thick streaks that come from the spirit.

Nose: Summer fruit gateaux. Raspberry and strawberry. Smooth but recognisable alcohol. Plums. Pencil shavings. Lightly citrus fresh behind that – jiff lemon. Honey cakes. Crunchy nut cornflakes. Water makes very smooth. Clearer honey. More wood notes.

Body: Slightly drying alcohol. Sticky, yet smooth in how it delivers the alcohol character. Plums. Honey. Treacle. Fig rolls. Strawberry. Clean feeling sheen. Red cherry and black cherry. Water makes super smooth. Toffee. Spotted dick. More strawberry. Light greenery.

Finish: Fig rolls. Sherry. Golden syrup sponge cake. Lightly peppery. Soft citrus sheen. Water adds much more red fruit, especially strawberry. Light butter note. Thin sulphur candles air. Light charring.

Conclusion: Ok this is so port dominated – shocking I know for something that has spent 20 years in port wood – but what is actually surprising is somehow that base Bushmills character is still just about there underneath it all. This is so very unusual for a Bushmills but you can still recognise it as one.

Neat it is especially unusual, the 20 years age and triple distillation keeps the alcohol smooth despite an over 50% abv, but it is drying and sticky in a way that I have never encountered in Bushmills or even Irish whiskey before. It is pleasant, somehow managing to not be harsh even it indulges in this very unusual mouthfeel.

Here it leans towards darker fruit, with figs and plums and such like, with some lighter red fruit notes darting around that. It is quite heavy flavour, yet there is still a clean, lightly citrus note that is a recognisably Bushmills feel and flavour. It isn’t super obvious, just a light sheen under the far heavier notes. There is honey sweetness to treacle under everything, holding it all together which makes for a very different and sticky dram.

Water adds a much more recognisable smooth Bushmills character and really helps the red fruit notes shine out. Even more water, as this can take a lot, brings out a light sulphur note in the finish. There is so much room to play with the water here, you can keep neat or just with a few drops and keep the dry stickiness, or go deep with water and get super smooth and still rewarding.

Genuinely a great example of a whiskey, great use of the cask strength for mouthfeel and range of flavour, great use of the unusual barrel ageing to unlock huge flavours and somehow still got notes that marks it as a Bushmills even if that part is not the most obvious, it is still impressive it has not been utterly overwhelmed by the port ageing.

I am so very impressed indeed.

Background: Ok, I have been a Bushmills fan for a long while, but the odder releases tend to be very hard to get. Then I saw this in the Whisky Shop in Bath – 20 years old (Well possibly 21, it says bottled 2021 so hypothetically it could have an extra year but as it is distilled right at the end of 2000 it seems unlikely), aged solely in Port wood – first fill at that – and at cask strength – all very unusual elements for a Bushmills. I was a tad nervous at first fill unusual casks for such a long time in case it utterly dominated the character, but after much thinking – as this was a pricey one – I succumbed and bought it and hoped. Like many Irish whiskeys this is triple distilled which tends to lean towards a lighter smoother character, again something that should be interesting to see how it interacts with the high abv and unusual wood. Music wise I went with Pure Hell: Noise Addiction – I had just been watching Wendell and Wild and noticed a Pure Hell sticker on a cassette player in it, so had the urge to listen to them again. Also that is a great movie with a great soundtrack.

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Midleton: Red Spot (Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey: 15 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep, rich gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smooth toffee and honey. Touch of cherries. Vanilla. Grain fields. Barley cakes. Light fish oil. Water adds fudge cakes and apples.

Body: Apricot. Smooth. Honey. Apples to apple pie fillings. Raisins and sultanas into Madeira notes. Cherries. Light oak. Slightly drying. Water adds more apples and makes very smooth. A touch of liquorice comes out along with shortbread and rice crackers.

Finish: Madeira. Light oak. Plums. A gin air. Slightly drying. Water adds apples, honey sponge and a light menthol touch.

Conclusion: This is so smooth and yet such a rewarding whisky. 46% abv so a tad above the norm and yet still even neat it is super smooth and just two drops of water brings out everything perfectly

It mixes between the smooth honey and toffee backbone and the other notes that then dance over that backbone. Initially light apple notes … dominate seems the wrong word considering how they are nicely subtle … are most prominent is probably the best way to put it. It is a refreshing, easy drinking dram but over time the red fruit and heavier dark fruit notes show their way through to make this a really rich and rewarding experience.

It is like you get the best bits from a fruity speyside, a rich highland and the smooth as silk Irish whiskey all in one glass, with a bit of unusual barrel ageing love on top. Water adds both a fresh menthol touch at the end, but also a more shortbread like slightly more robust middle which makes for a more substantial whiskey overall.

On the down side water also adds a slight rice to rice crackers like character mid body. Nothing too bad, a light not quite right touch, but that is the worst I can say about it. The rest of the whiskey is fantastic.

This is genuinely one of the greatest Irish whiskeys I have tried – all of the smoothness you would expect and with the extra age and barrel ageing bringing such depth of character an already great spirit.

I am so very impressed.

Background: During a short trip with the family around Ireland we ended up with some time in Arklow and not much to do so we poked our heads into a pub called The Old Ship. I asked what irish whiskeys that they had that tended not to leave Ireland and they showed me a delectable set that included this Red Spot and 21 year Red Breast. After much umming and ahhing I went for the Red Spot. It was close. The person pouring accidentally put ice in when I had asked for no ice, and so removed the ice and gave me extra Red Spot to make up for it. I have zero complaints about this at all. Top notch. I was not going to do notes on this as I had no paper, but my parents both supplied paper, and picked up the cost of the whisky. Far too kind. Many thanks. Anyway the whisky, this is single pot still whiskey that has been aged in a mix of the usual Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, but also Marsala fortified wine.

Waterford: Hook Head 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 50% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened grain to gold spirit with medium speed and thickness streaks coming from it.

Nose: Oily, slightly nutty. Clay. Lime touch. Peppery. Lightly earthy – turmeric. Water adds light grassy and menthol notes.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Oily nuttiness. Earthy – turmeric. Light lime touch. Light apricot. Moderate thickness body. Water makes even smoother, a more oily nut character. Touch of strawberry.

Finish: Grit air. Light smoke wisp. Peppery. Dry white wine. Water makes smoother oily character and adds a peach air.

Conclusion: As only the second Waterford whiskey I have had, it fell to this to really show how much difference a single farm origin, a terroir as they say, can have on a whiskey. I already knew that I very much enjoyed Waterford whiskey from my first encounter with it – it was so high quality, especially considering how youthful it is – but I had yet to work out if it could live up to its base conceit of showing how much difference an environment could make to a whiskey.

Anyway, short answer to that. Yes. Yes it does.

It has similarities to the Ballymorgan 1.1 which I first tried – For one it is still far smoother than a 50% abv 3-4 year old whiskey has any right to be. It also still shows some nice fruity bright elements, though admittedly the fruit is more muted here so expresses itself differently.

So, with the similarities out of the way, how is it different? How does this show the influence of the barley? Well it is pretty darn striking. It is more oily, with a savoury oily nuttiness, and in general it has a more grounded, less bright character. There is a light earthy, peppery character than came across in a way I can’t help but think of as “clay” like after I read up on the soil where the barley was grown. Darn my easily influenced mind.

On a personal level I prefer the brighter character of Ballymorgan but this is very high quality with such a different style to play with, even a wisp of non peat related smoke there. So lovely to examine.

Waterford again proves itself as one the THE distilleries to watch at the moment.

Background: Been meaning to do notes on this for a while. I had my first Waterford a while back, and grabbed this a few months back as well. Waterford’s raison d’etre is that each release is made with barley from a single named farm, to explore the terroir of whiskey. Awesome idea and awesome whisky – the quality is so high, especially considering the age is no more than 4 years odd for each release. Initially each bottling was aged, etc the same way to keep them as similar in production as possible, but now each is aged and blended to best show off the influence of the barley. If you go to the website using the code on the bottle you can get the full detail on exactly how it was aged and mixed and details on the farm – up to an including the sounds of the farms in some cases. Anyway, I settled on this as my second bottle of Waterford as it had won ISW Gold, which seems a good start. I finally got around to doing notes on this after Independent Spirit did a horizontal tasting of six of their whiskies – and trust me, it gave me a new appreciation of exactly how different each bottle could be – it helped that several members o the Waterford team where there to answer many many questions. So, with new energy from that I finally sat down and did these notes.

Clonakilty: Single Batch (Irish Blended Whiskey: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain colour, with fairly slow puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Crumpets and butter. Light wholemeal bread. Lime in a zesty fashion. Light menthol. Water makes a tad more neutral and a touch of grain spirit style.

Body: Smooth and light. Strawberry. Vanilla fudge. Orange crème sheen. Lightly oily. Toasted teacakes. Toasted marshmallows. Light cooked grains. Light lime. Water makes cleaner, more citrus notes and more buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Cream. Cooked rice. Toasted marshmallow. Water makes for a similar experience, with a touch more gentle menthol.

Conclusion: This is a very easy going, very smooth, take as is and don’t add water whiskey. Trust me, there is no need for water here, all it does is make the flavours kind of lighter. I mean even with water it isn’t bad, it is still very drinkable, but it is a better whiskey neat.

Neat it is just thick enough, it is smooth, very smooth and quite light and easy going but managing to avoid coming across as empty feeling.

It has got a gentle sweetness of toffee and vanilla, with some citrus notes laid over, but they are matched with a kind of toasted bready and toasted marshmallow character that managed to make it feel, well not heavy, but more substantial that the deliciously smooth character would otherwise.

Nicely complementing the bready notes is a light buttery character, subtle neat and works well – but it becomes more evident with water to a degree that I feel it hurts it slightly. I much prefer the subtle character it adds neat.

Overall this is a lovely, easy drinking, Irish whisky. Nothing quite makes it a top end must have, but it is very satisfying to drink as is and a nice one to relax with.

Background: Independent Spirit did a Clonakilty tasting a while back, and very nice it was too. I was a bit burnt out at the time so didn’t do any notes at the event, but they did also give us a mini to take home. Which is what this is for me. So I decided to do notes on it, so I had a least some record of the event. So here it is. I have to admit I can’t remember much of the info picked up at the tasting, mainly that is was tasty, so not much to put here. This is listed as double oak so most likely aged in both bourbon and sherry casks. Was still listening to the same UK Subs album as in the last tasting – there were a lot of tracks to appreciate on that album so I had to give it a good few spins.

Barton Distillery: 1792 Small Batch (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 46.85% ABV)

Visual: Darkened, slightly browned gold. Mainly slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Cereals. Wisp of smoke. Shreddies. Quite dry. Slight butter. Peppery. Vanilla. Slightly dusty.

Body: Slick. Honey. Vanilla. Slight peach. Lightly waxy. Vanilla yogurt. Flower petals. Light strawberry. Toffee. Water lightens and makes more generic.

Finish: Butter. Peppery to rye crackers. Dried apricot touch. Brown bread. Slight chives. Vanilla yogurt. Water adds slight sulphur and general cereals quality.

Conclusion: This reminds me a bit of Maker’s Mark, just bigger. That is a good thing though, Makers Mark was my go to bourbon for many a year and bigger is generally welcome.

It has the same slightly rustic, peppery and cereal led character but here with extra touches that really pushes it up a notch. The mouthfeel is slick, but a bit waxy, a bit buttery, which makes everything a bit more interesting behind the more traditional vanilla and toffee flavours. There is even a wisp of sulphur adding a touch of weight. Not peat smoke, just a slightly sulphur touched dry air to the whole thing.

There are hints at fruit notes at the edge which is unusual for a bourbon. Nothing showing through strongly, just calls to rounding apricot or strawberry that adds a faint sweetness to what is a dry, cereal led whiskey.

A lot of those flavours are enhanced by the bigger mouthfeel. The slightly waxy, touch really gives grip to a slick bourbon. Despite the touch higher abv it only shows in grip and flavour, no real extra harshness. In fact, on that note, don’t add water to this, it only mutes what is an already good bourbon. In my opinion obviously, I’m not going to slap the whiskey out of your hands if you think differently.

It isn’t a must have bourbon, but feels like a posh Makers Mark and that is no bad thing. Definitely better, but still an easy drinking bourbon and worth the extra pounds it costs. I enjoy it very much.

Background: Fairly simple story for this one. I had a bourbon shaped gap in my whisky selection at the time, was perusing the whiskey selection in Waitrose and noticed this one. Was not silly money, seemed to have a good reputation, and so I grabbed a bottle. Simple. Didn’t know much about it at the time so not much else to add. Had seen IDLES live recently, my first gig for years due to the darn plague going around, so went with IDLES: Crawler as backing music. Enjoyed the gig but was a tad worried that I was pretty much the only darn person masked up. Sigh.

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.

Buffalo Trace: Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye (USA: Straight Rye Whiskey: 64.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Very peppery and rye crackers touched. Stewed apple touches. Vanilla. Sour dough.

Body: Honey. Peppery. Rye spiciness. Quickly becomes tingling. Pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Oily. Water adds a strawberry touch. Slight grapes. Lots of oily charring. Orange cream touch.

Finish: Dried mango. Oily character. Smoke touch. Tobacco. Chewy. Pumpkin. Water adds tropical fruit.

Conclusion: Another very, very strong whiskey, but this handles the abv so much better than the George T Stagg before it. There is still the spice and the rye, even more so with this being a straight rye, but it manages to make room for more evident fruit notes to round it out. The mix of the spice and fruit manages to come together in a lovely synergy of pumpkin and pumpkin spice among the heavier charring and peppery notes.

Even though it does work as a whiskey neat, I will say a drop of water, and just a drop is needed, and really brings out the character. This big oily charring character comes out, with the oiliness really helping to balance the charred style, and under this thick heavy character you find more subtle notes poking their way through.

It is dark, oily, and while stealing the word dank from beer notes would be the wrong term, it calls a similar set of imagery to mind. The oiliness can however express itself as oily grape notes or even occasionally adding an oily strawberry character into the mix.

Later on an orange cream note comes out – while this is not part of the Van Winkle mash bill set it seems that orange character is still hard to avoid. Not that I am complaining. While this is very impressive, the abv of this still numbs things for me. I just don’t have a system that can handle this abv and still notice the subtleties that this may hold even with a drop or so of water to help break it up. However, even taking it as is, I’m feeling so many hints around the dark, spicy core that I feel that people who can handle the abv will appreciate more. If it wasn’t for the nature of the tasting, I would have experimented with water more but I wasn’t confident I could use the available water and not drown it.

Another utterly fascinating one, still not 100% for me as that abv is punishing but there is so much going on I very much enjoyed its massive weight of character despite that.

Background: One more time – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the sixth and final whisky of the evening. This, a straight rye, was the first non bourbon of the evening and with its huge abv the second that I had to add water to in order to manage to appreciated. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info on the naming background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. Thomas H Handy was the creator of a famous rye cocktail in New Orleans called the Sazerac and this is named after him basically.

Buffalo Trace: George T Stagg (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 65.2% ABV)

Visual: A darker bronzed gold, with more orange gold hints. Thin slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy. Rye crackers. Wisp of smoke. Dry. Dry treacle. Touch. Chilli seed. Paprika. Burnt brown sugar.

Body: Thick, Oily. Gets fiery quickly. Strawberry touch. Very drying. Water adds a tiny touch more of the strawberry, Quite oily. Almost a hop oil feel but not flavour. Brown bread.

Finish: Oily. Charred touch. Spicy. Chilli seeds. Nutmeg. Mulled spice. Touch of greenery. A touch of water adds tannins and fatty notes.

Conclusion: Unsurprisingly for the abv, this is freaking massive. It has a fiery touch, which, again is not unexpected, but there is a lot more than that. When you sip it rapidly evaporates, drying and desiccating your mouth, and leaves behind a real chilli seed spicy tingling character that fires up that now sensitive tongue.

Neat it is so very harsh, with a treacle character that still comes across as very dry and spicy. So, for the first time in this tasting session’s notes I added water, and boy did it make it a lot more manageable. Now it has an oily thick feel that allows it to very mildly sooth your mouth to manage the heavy spice and burning, and so you can finally appreciate that wide spice expression more fully.

With this just a drop of water this still has really heavy, dark and charred notes, but no longer harshly so. It has as more neutral, savoury bready character at the base to work from, oiliness for the grip and the spice doing the main show. There is even an almost smoke touch, but not in a traditional peaty way, just an edge note from the spice. There are now even hints of softer notes at the edges, nothing I could quite get a grip on though. Possibly they would develop with more water, or if I had a better handle on the high abv but as it was they were just hints of more that may be there but I could not really describe.

It is formidable and challenging. In a way it feels like the Islay of bourbons. Not in direct flavour, peat or Island character but in that it has those challenging, heavy flavours that take time to get used to and are definitely an acquired taste.

More intriguing than enjoyable for me, but I can see the appeal for others.

Background: So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the fifth whisky of the evening. While not a straight rye, this apparently has a moderate amount of rye to it, making it the first bourbon to have a different mash load of the evening – with the various Van Winkles and the Weller all starting from the same mash load out. While most of the bourbons I had neat as bourbon often doesn’t take water well, this was the first one where I had to add a drop as it was too massive for me neat. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info on the naming background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. Basically George T Stagg was a big name, so the whiskey is named after him.

Buffalo Trace: Old Rip Van Winkle: 10 Year (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold, in an almost lucozade style in the light. Fast thick steaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Touch of smoke. Lots of varied breakfast cereals. Shreddies. Maize cereals. Moderate rye crackers and peppery character. Brown bread. Crushed leaves. Brown sugar. Thick and slightly musty.

Body: Thick and warming. Oily. Vanilla. Dry oak. Treacle touch. Heavy. Buttery. Fudge. Brown bread. Orange cream.

Finish; Tannins and astringent. Peppery. Toffee and vanilla. Dry fudge. Buttery and slightly fatty.

Conclusion: This is heavy. Now the alcohol is doing a lot of the work in making it so, with a more dry character up front, but then allowing the fattier, oilier notes to come through after. There is a lot about the mouthfeel and texture that it doing the heavy lifting here to make seem very different to the other Van Winkles.

It is still slightly peppery, but initially it has none of those orange notes I usually associate with the Van Winkles. Instead, behind the fatty character is a mix of brown bread and lots of breakfast cereals into a sturdy toffee and fudge character. Still quite dry in how it is delivered, thick of body and very heavy.

Like this it is very much about the feel for me rather than the flavour. The oils, the thickness, the fatty character that is all what makes it interesting. The flavours are not unusual, but that feel really works what can be done with the abv.

Finally, late on after some time to air, the orange cream notes do finally make an appearance. It seems no amount of abv can fully hide this Van Winkle note for too long.

Not a favourite of mine, but a stand out for being different from the usual Van Winkle fare.

Background: So, writing this for the second time, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the third whisky of the evening and the only Van Winkle of the set I had not tried yet. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and each of the Van Winkles use the same mash load. After trying this I had Pappy Van Winkle 15 again for the first time in years – this time I found a softness of mushy cooked apples and pear notes, and some tropical fruit I had not found before, making it a smoother thing than I remembered before.

Buffalo Trace: W L Weller Special Reserve (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very bright gold, almost lucozade bright. Very fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Peppery spice. Rye crackers. Orange sorbet. Honey. Cream. Light milk.

Body: Honey. Honey nut cornflakes. Wheaty thickness. Lightly peppery. Smooth, but with a grip. Toffee to toffee liqueur. Cream. Orange cream. Oily. Sap. Apple notes over time.

Finish: Slight sulphur. Honey nut cornflakes. Touch of smoke. Wheat flakes. Peppery. Vanilla. Charred oak. Toffee liqueur. Grapes. Menthol and sap mix.

Conclusion: The first impressions I got from this was of a lot of spice – mainly a mix of peppery character and a touch of rye crackers. Which is more what I would have expected from a rye heavy whisky than a wheated bourbon like this. It reminds me of the Van Winkle range (for a reason that turned out not to be a coincidence as I note in the background below), even having that slight orange note to it.

That spice I mentioned is there for the whole whiskey, but it is far from the whole story. It is smooth, yet with a slightly fluffy grip that in some ways reminds me of the soft grip you get from a weissebier. I would say it makes sense but I have not encountered this in any other wheated bourbon, so I think it is just a coincidence.

Flavour wise it has a soft toffee to toffee liqueur set of notes underneath, a gentle slightly milky feel and sweeter flavours under the spice front notes. The ahem wheaty feel and pepper character makes it never completely smooth, but the toffee cream touch to the core does make it a lot smoother than most of its similar contemporaries and calls to the impressions of a far smoother whiskey.

Now, as discussed in the background, it has a lot of reason for tasting kind of similar to the Van Winkles, especially in that orange touch, but it has a lot of differences apart from that smoother character. It has a slight menthol touch that makes it fresh, and lots of honey assisting the sweetness. While it starts spice and rye, the longer you take to sip it the smoother and smoother it will get, with more vanilla, honey and finally even apple coming out for a more soothing end to the dram.

It is basically a smoother, slightly more toffee take on the Van Winkle style, but that description doesn’t do it justice. There are touches from grapes, to that creamy note. I actually mildly prefer it to a good chunk of the Winkle range. It is not as forthright, but smoother and with that character of its own that makes it distinctive.

Background: I’m going to be copy pasting the bulk of this over the next few notes, so apologies if it becomes repetitive but a lot of the info will be the same – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the first and allegedly easiest to find whisky of the evening. Well I guess it is easier, just that does not mean easy. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and uses the same mash load as the three Van Winkles that came after it. Apparently the main difference is that each barrel is sampled and select ones chosen for the Van Winkle range, the rest for this cheaper but still expensive on the aftermarket bottling.

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