Tag Archives: Cask-strength

Amrut Single Cask PX (SAQ)

Third in my series of sherried single cask Amruts is a bottle exclusively released for the SAQ in Quebec, Canada.

Bottled at 62.8% ABV, the label indicates that unpeated Indian malt entered into a PX Sherry cask (cask 3516) in August 2010. It was bottled in July 2014, so just under 4 years old. Only 90 bottles were ever available for sale – which is even less than the LCBO version. Now long gone, of course.

Here is how it compares to other cask-strength Amruts in my Meta-Critic database:

Amrut Bengal Tiger PX Single Cask (Canada): 8.67 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.74 ± 0.31 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Double Cask: 9.04 ± 0.19 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Greedy Angels (8yo and 10yo): 9.19 ± 0.23 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.95 ± 0.37 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.91 ± 0.25 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.55 ± 0.63 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.14 ± 0.18 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.98 ± 0.30 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.76 ± 0.39 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask (all casks): 8.79 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2696 (LCBO): 8.94 ± 0.24 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2701: 8.52 ± 0.68 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2702: 7.95 ± 0.87 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 3516 (SAQ): 8.86 ± 0.17 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum (Batch 001): 9.16 ± 0.20 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)

This is again a good score for a single cask PX Amrut. And again sampled blind to previous reviews or scores. My sample came from the Redditor Throzen.

Colour: Medium gold, light brown – a touch lighter than the LCBO PX cask.

Nose: Very sweet, with honey and golden brown sugar. Sultanas, golden raisins and some apple and plums (more stewed than fresh). Citrus (orange peel). Caramel and butterscotch. Oak char, with cinnamon and nutmeg. Definitely PX notes. Surprising lack of ethanol fumes for 62.8% ABV. Mild antiseptic off notes, however (Lisol). Water brings up the citrus notes and sweetness, and seems to help with the off notes – highly recommend you give it a splash.

Palate: On first sip an odd mix of sweet and bitter up-front, turning sweeter in the mouth. Brown sugar and caramel initially, turning more to vanilla and liquefied white sugar over time. Similar fruit notes as the nose (stewed again, but not particularly fruity in the mouth). Chocolate. Tons of pepper added to the cinnamon from the oak, plus anise and a fragrant herbal component (Ricola cough candies). Reasonable amount of heat, although still not as much as I expected for 62.8%. Some mouth-puckering astringency on the way out, but mild. Water really helps here, turning the mouthfeel thick and syrupy. It also seems to diminish the drying effect – highly recommend you add a fair amount.

Finish: Medium-long. Cinnamon and pepper last the longest, with lingering dried fruits. Reminds me of a spiced rum. The sweetness is balanced by a slight bitterness, in consistent measure over time (actually a pretty good balance). Water doesn’t affect the finish much.

A solid PX cask offering from Amrut for the SAQ in Quebec. Although my initial impression was not quite as favourable as the LCBO bottling that I recently reviewed, I’ve revised that opinion with a bit of water here. While it may not be quite as complex on the nose or body, it has better balance and integration – especially on the finish, which is lovely.  Honestly, I think this is just a case of bottling it at a little too high an absolute proof – it does better if you take it to the mid-50s (or potentially lower) ABV.

Again, the PX effect is unmistakable here, but it is different from the LCBO cask. This SAQ casks seems fresher and more vibrant, while the other was older and more complex. PX casks seem to be an interesting fit for Amrut, as it keeps the fruitiness in check while adding some sherry spice and sugary sweetness. Based on these two experiences, I’d certainly say it’s worth picking up a PX aged Amrut if given the chance.

This SAQ specific bottling got very good scores from Devoz, Throzen, and xile_ on reddit, as well as Martin from Quebec Whisky. Personally, my own assessment is closer to the moderately positive scores from Andre and Patrick at Quebec Whisky.

Please see my additional reviews of the Canada and LCBO single cask bottlings.

Amrut Single Cask PX (LCBO)

The second is my series of single cask sherried Amruts is a bottle exclusively released for the LCBO here in Ontario, Canada. This follows my review the Canada-specific cask, commonly known as Begal Tiger.

Bottled at 56.5% ABV, the label indicates that upeated Indian single malt entered into a PX Sherry Cask (cask 2696) in June 2009. It was bottled in January 2014, making it 5 years and 2 months old. It must have been a pretty small cask, as the out-turn was only 120 bottles (either that, or the angels were particularly greedy for their share).

Introduced into the LCBO in 2014, it originally sold for $145 CAD. It didn’t seem to sell well, and was eventually drastically reduced in price to clear. It has been sold out for some time.

Amrut Bengal Tiger PX Single Cask (Canada): 8.67 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.74 ± 0.31 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Double Cask: 9.04 ± 0.19 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Greedy Angels (8yo and 10yo): 9.19 ± 0.23 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.95 ± 0.37 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.91 ± 0.25 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.55 ± 0.63 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.14 ± 0.18 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.98 ± 0.30 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.76 ± 0.39 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask (all casks): 8.79 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2696 (LCBO): 8.94 ± 0.24 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2701: 8.52 ± 0.68 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2702: 7.95 ± 0.87 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 3516 (SAQ): 8.86 ± 0.17 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum (Batch 001): 9.16 ± 0.20 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)

This is one of the highest scoring single cask Amrut expressions that I track in my database. But note again that I did not specifically look up reviews of this particular single cask before sampling (i.e., like Bengal Tiger, I approached this sample blind to its ratings and reviews). My sample comes from Redditor Lasidar.

Colour: Medium gold, light brown – a touch darker than the Bangalore Tiger single cask.

Nose: Dark brown sugar and molasses, almost fudge-like. Dark fruits with sultanas, raisins, figs – and cherries in particular. But fruit is a bit hidden beneath the caramel, vanilla, chocolate and barley sugar. Cinnamon and cloves, with anise. Very rich nose, moist and earthy. No real off notes. Water brings up the fruits further, and exposes a slightly dry glue note that was masked by the ethanol at stock ABV (frankly doesn’t need water).

Palate: Very sweet and creamy on the palate. Dark brown sugar (Demerara sugar), caramel and honey notes mainly. Dark fruits again (dried), with some pear and plums added. Dark chocolate. Cinnamon, cloves, and a bit of black pepper. Leather. But still not quite as sherried as I was expecting for full PX cask maturation. Easily drinkable neat at the 56.6% ABV. With water, creaminess becomes more syrupy. The fruit and spices seemed to be amplified further.

Finish: Medium-long. Dark fruits initially, with a strong mint cooling sensation (Vicks vapo-rub?). A bit drying at the end, but not bad. Water doesn’t have much effect here.

Very nice presentation of a single cask Amrut. This seems more aged than most Amruts I’ve had – with lots of spice, and that cool (literally) mint sensation at the end. Still not quite what I was expecting for a fully PX-aged Amrut though (fruit is more dried and less stewed here) – but a great combination nonetheless. I’m guessing the cask wasn’t all that active any more (or perhaps a refill?). Still, a real fudge-like concoction, with a good amount of spice. If you are a fan of aged single malt casks (or even aged bourbons for that matter), this might be your cup of tea.

Most Reddit reviewers seem to love this LCBO exclusive single cask bottling, giving it top scores – including Boyd86DevozEthanized, Lasidar, and LetThereBeR0ck. TOModera is more moderately positive, as are Andre and Patrick of Quebec Whisky. I’m in-between these two groups – but all agree this is a good single cask expression.

Please see my additional reviews of the Canada and SAQ single cask bottlings.

Amrut Single Cask Bengal Tiger (Canada)

Amrut is a major Indian whisky maker and exporter. Like many world whisky enthusiasts, I have previously enjoyed their batched expressions of cask-strength Sherry and Port-matured whiskies (e.g. Intermediate Sherry and Portonova). I am therefore naturally curious to see what their single cask offerings are like.

Starting off a series of three reviews is a single cask Amrut known as “Bengal Tiger” (or “Bangalore Tiger”), due to the distinctive label. This single cask whisky was specifically chosen by the distillery’s Brand Ambassador for the Canadian market. It was matured in an ex-bourbon cask before finishing in a Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry cask. Exclusively bottled for Canada, I’ve only seen this for sale in Alberta and B.C, where it ranges between $120 and $195 CAD. There are still some bottles around for sale at the higher price.

The bottle label identifies that unpeated Indian malt went into cask (presumably the ex-bourbon cask) in June 2009. It was bottled in April 2015, in 540 bottles at 56.5% ABV. The label identifies the final cask as PX Sherry, cask 2701 (presumably the finishing cask). So that makes this whisky 5 years and 10 months old – but it is not reported how long it was held in each cask.

But a bit of online sleuthing can help us narrow it down. It turns out that cask 2701 was previously released in 2013 as a single cask PX Sherry expression (see for example reviews by My Annoying Opinions and Michael of Diving for Pearls). Bottled at 62.8%, the label for that expression indicates it was also filled in June 2009 – but bottled in August 2013 (making it 4 years 2 months old). So assuming they immediately refilled it with the whisky from the Bengal Tiger ex-bourbon cask, the most it could have spent in the second-fill (or later) PX Sherry cask 2701 is 1 year and 8 months. Of course, that is an upper limit – that 2701 cask could been used to “finish” other whiskies before getting Bengal Tiger (i.e., it may be a later refill, with even less time in the barrel).

The point is that this is clearly a second-fill (or later) PX cask, with limited time in contact with the whisky. As such, you are not likely to find as heavy a sherry presence in this whisky as other pure PX cask-aged Amruts.

Here are how the various cask-strength Amrut whiskies compare in my Meta-Critic Database:

Amrut Bengal Tiger PX Single Cask (Canada): 8.67 ± 0.23 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.74 ± 0.31 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Double Cask: 9.04 ± 0.19 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Greedy Angels (8yo and 10yo): 9.19 ± 0.23 on 8 reviews ($$$$$+)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.95 ± 0.37 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.91 ± 0.25 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.55 ± 0.63 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.14 ± 0.18 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.98 ± 0.30 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask (all casks): 8.76 ± 0.39 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask (all casks): 8.79 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2696 (LCBO): 8.94 ± 0.24 on 6 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2701: 8.52 ± 0.68 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 2702: 7.95 ± 0.87 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask 3516 (SAQ): 8.86 ± 0.17 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum (Batch 001): 9.16 ± 0.20 on 10 reviews ($$$$$)

With the caveat that there are few reviews so far, the Amrut Bengal Tiger gets a respectable score for a single cask expression.

My sample of Bengal Tiger came from Redditor Devoz. Note that for this review I had not looked up the above information beforehand – I sampled this whisky blind to previous reviews and scores, and have only added it to my database after the fact.

Colour: Medium gold, light brown.

Nose: Honey. Caramel and chocolate (plus cocoa powder). Touch of darker fruits (sultanas, some cherry), but dried, and not very fruity overall. Light wood spices, nutmeg mainly, and some more exotic Indian spices (cumin?). Doesn’t seem like it was a very long finishing in PX (and it is a bit shy overall). There are some mixed solvent smells (a little bit of old sweatsock, specifically). Sweeter with water, as you might expect (less dried, more candied fruits).

Palate: Very hot – even more than I expected for the ABV. Chocolate and caramel from the nose follow through, as does the honey. A particularly syrupy mouthfeel, which is nice. Leather, with some anise and cinnamon joining the spices from the nose. This “earthiness” reminds me a bit of the Kavalan sherry casks, and may be a sign of the PX finishing – although again, I am not getting a lot of overt PX here. Noticeable bitterness on the the way out, which detracts. Water is a must, which lightens the mouthfeel, tones down the heat, and brings up the caramel and honey. Doesn’t help with the bitterness though.

Finish: Medium. Dark chocolate. Anise. Bitter notes persist to the end. Astringent. With water, I get a touch of the dark fruits making a resurgence.

Yowza, this is a hot one – much more so than most Amruts I’ve tried, even Portonova. Water is a must, but it only does so much. It feels to me like this needed to be aged in a first-fill PX cask. A bit disappointing actually, given all the other cask-strength Amruts I’ve tried to date (e.g., Spectrum batch 1 is outstanding).

Having now looked up the other reviews of this whisky, I find my tasting notes are very consistent. On Reddit, Devoz similarly noted the heat (although he still gave it a very good score). More moderately positive were TOModera and Boyd86, with overall average scores. My own assessment is less positive, and I would score this whisky as slightly below average.

Please see my subsequent reviews of the LCBO and SAQ single cask bottlings.

Arran Malt 12 Year Old Cask Strength

The Arran Malt distillery makes a number of very popular single malts in the light flavour class (i.e., supercluster G-H), as well as a large number of wine cask-finished malts.  As discussed in my recent review of their 10 year old expression, while the distillery itself is relatively young, there is a long history and tradition of whisky making on the isle of Arran.

While I found their standard 10 yo expression decent enough, there wasn’t really much for me to recommend it over other entry-level examples of this class.  I almost picked up the 12 year old cask-strength edition last year (on a recommendation from a LCBO employee), but let it pass in favour of a wine-cask finished expression (review to come soon). Fortunately, I had the chance to try this 12 yo malt recently in a restaurant in Norway.

Note that there have been a number of different batches of the Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength over the last few years. I know the LCBO version was 54.0% ABV, but I’ve seen other strengths reported online for the earlier batches.  The bottle I sampled from appears to have been from the same stock as the LCBO (i.e., 54%).

Let’s see how the relevant Arran Malts do in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database, compared to the competition for similar price, flavour and strength camps:

Arran Malt Lochranza Reserve: 7.93 ± 0.67 on 3 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt Robert Burns: 8.29 ± 0.61 on 7 reviews ($$)
Arran Malt 10yo: 8.50 ± 0.30 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Arran Malt 12yo Cask Strength: 8.65 ± 0.39 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Arran Malt 14yo: 8.67 ± 0.28 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
AnCnoc 12yo: 8.62 ± 0.35 on 17 reviews ($$$)
BenRiach 12yo: 8.41 ± 0.27 on 13 reviews ($$$)
BenRiach Cask Strength: 8.86 ± 0.10 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Benromach 10yo Cask Strength (100 proof): 9.05 ± 0.13 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Craigellachie 13yo: 8.39 ± 0.44 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Dalwhinnie 15yo: 8.67 ± 0.35 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Glenkinchie 12yo: 8.25 ± 0.17 on 14 reviews ($$$)
Tomatin Cask Strength: 8.35 ± 0.48 on 9 reviews ($$$$)

And now let’s see what I find in the glass for this 12 yo cask strength sample:

Nose: Very sweet up front, with honey, simple sugar, and maybe even a little light brown sugar. Apple juice, with a wide range of lighter fruits peaking though – including apple, pear, peaches and plums. A bit of anise. Spicy, in the direction of cloves and all spice. Grassy character. Vanilla.  No off notes. Very nice, and a great improvement over the 10 yo.

Palate: Pears and green apple are the dominant fruit notes (and apple juice again). Butterscotch comes on strong now, and adds to the vanilla. Marshmallows. Texture is thick and creamy, giving it a great mouthfeel. Surprisingly easy to drink, and not very hot, despite the 54% ABV. With a little water, there isn’t much change in flavour, but it gains a slightly grainier texture (i.e., less malty, more raw barley). There’s is also a eucalyptus note now and graham crackers. With even more water, pepper and the spices pick up – but the other flavours dull.

Arran12Finish‎: Medium. Longer than the 10 yo, but it would be nice if it were even longer here. Some slight astringent bitterness, but mild. Water may increase this bitterness though, and bring in some artificial sweetener notes, so go easy on it. Frankly the finish (while decent) is the weakest part of this expression.

Wow, this was a pleasant surprise. Personally, I would put this on par with Dalwhinnie 15 as among the best of the light G-H flavour supercluster. Certainly far surpasses the Arran Malt 10 yo, or AnCnoc 12 yo. I regret not picking a bottle up when it was available at the LCBO.

Among reviewers, Josh the Whiskey Jug is a fan, as are Andre, Martin and Patrick of Quebec Whisky. Ralfy and and Gavin of Whisky Advocate gives it a more moderate score. The only truly negative score I’ve seen comes from Jim Murray.

Amrut Portonova Single Malt

Amrut is the biggest name in Indian whiskies. And like Japan and Taiwan before it, they are now garnering all sorts of awards and enthusiast interest. For this review, I am looking at their cask-strength, port-finished single malt – Portonova.

I’m long been a fan of port-finished whiskies. I find it adds a distinctive grape-like fruitiness to most whiskies, that differs from the more common sherry fortified wine-finished ones.

I previously reviewed the Amrut Intermediate Sherry – which is a bit of a misnomer (check out that review for my comments). Let’s see how Portonova compares to it and other recent Amrut whiskies, as well as other port-finished malts, in my Meta-Critic whisky database:

Amrut Bourbon Single Cask: 8.73 ± 0.32 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Fusion: 8.90 ± 0.24 on 23 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.90 ± 0.42 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Kadhambam: 8.97 ± 0.24 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Naarangi: 8.63 ± 0.39 on 7 reviews ($$$$$)
Amrut Peated Single Malt Cask Strength: 9.13 ± 0.21 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portonova: 8.97 ± 0.30 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Portpipe Peated Single Cask: 8.82 ± 0.35 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut PX Sherry Single Cask: 8.79 ± 0.47 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Amrut Spectrum: 9.15 ± 0.22 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)

Arran Malt Port Cask Finish: 8.58 ± 0.40 on 11 reviews ($$$)
Balvenie 21yo Port Wood: 8.74 ± 0.40 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
BenRiach 15yo Tawny Port Finish: 8.50 ± 0.21 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach 17yo Solstice Peated Port: 8.92 ± 0.28 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask: 8.27 ± 0.55 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2013 Port Wood: 8.82 ± 0.46 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Longrow Red 11yo Port Cask: 8.70 ± 0.37 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Penderyn Portwood: 8.59 ± 0.41 on 5 reviews ($$$)
Talisker Port Ruighe: 8.49 ± 0.41 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Tomatin 14yo Portwood: 8.56 ± 0.37 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Tyrconnell 10yo Port Cask Finish: 8.55 ± 0.38 on 10 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, Portonova is one of the more popular Amrut whiskies – and one that out-scores the other port-finished malts in my database. A very impressive start.

My sample came from Redditor Devoz. It is bottled at a very high 62.1% ABV, cask-strength. Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Very fruity, with grape, raisins and berries. Dark chocolate. Pancake syrup. Toasted coconut. Dry malt. Definite nose-hair burn from the high ABV. Water dulls the nose, best to smell this one neat (carefully).

Palate: Intense flavour rush. Same dark chocolate and dark fruits from the nose, with new flavours like red currants, papaya, kiwi. Very luscious mouthfeel, like a melted Mackintosh toffee bar. Spicy kick, mainly allspice and cinnamon. Alcohol burn from the high ABV.  Unless you want to take ridiculous small sips, water is a definite must here. A tiny bit of water seems to bring up the spicy notes the most, without affecting the other flavours. Further dilution kills the mouthfeel though, and quickly starts to sap the flavours, so go sparingly here.Amrut.Portonova

Finish: Long finish, with creamy toffee throughout. Slow fade-out of the fruity notes, leaving just a touch of bitter coffee at the very end. Too much water oddly enhances the bitterness of the finish, so I again suggest you go easy on the H2O.

Not exactly your every day dram, given its incredibly rich flavour profile and mouthfeel.  It is also a lot spicier than most port-finished whiskies I’ve tried (e.g., the Kavalan Concertmaster is a tame affair, in comparison). And with its high ABV, this one demands a little water – but I find getting the dilution just right is pretty finicky.  Definitely a whisky for slow contemplation, and very careful dilution.

Among the highest reviews I’ve seen for this whisky come from the guys on Reddit (check out their Community Review). My Annoying Opinions and Serge of Whisky Fun are also really big fans. Nathan the ScotchNoob is moderately positive. The guys at Quebec Whisky are mixed on this one though, with high, moderate and low scores.

Old Weller Antique Original 107 Bourbon

The Weller line of wheated bourbons are extremely popular these days, thanks in part to their close relation to the infamous Van Winkle family of bourbons.

Bourbon is mandated by law to be at least 51% corn in the mashbill. Rye grain is the most common secondary ingredient in most bourbons, for flavouring. But Weller and the Van Winkles are examples of “wheaters”, where wheat is used as the main flavouring component. This tends to bring in a softer, more creamy sweetness and fruitness, compared to the “spicier” rye flavours.

Both the Weller and Van Winkle brands were originally owned by Stitzel-Weller, and both are currently owned Sazerac (produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery). There are four varieties of Weller: Special Reserve, Antique 107, 12 Year Old, and William Larue Weller. I’ll talk more about the Van Winkles in an upcoming review, but I thought I would start off this series with a review of Old Weller Antique Original 107 Proof.

Old Weller Antique (OWA) is essentially the same thing as their entry-level Special Reserve – except that it is bottled at a higher proof (107, or 53.5% ABV). Both of these bourbons used to carry an age statement – they no longer do, but they are still believed to be ~6-7 years old. OWA is not quite as widely available as Special Reserve, but it is not as hard to find as the rest of the line (a discussion for another review).

While on the topic, OWA should be pretty comparable in style to the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 yo. The only difference is the age and barrel selection – otherwise, it is the same mashbill, distilled and aged in the same manner (and location), and cut to the same 107 proof. I’ll be reviewing that Van Winkle in an upcoming review.

Let’s see how OWA compares to other Wellers (and younger Van Winkles) in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database:

W.L. Weller Special Reserve: 8.49 0.36 10 reviews ($)
Old Weller Antique 107: 8.67 ± 0.45 on 9 reviews ($$)
W.L. Weller 12yo: 8.87 ± 0.25 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
William Larue Weller: 9.18 ± 0.26 on 10 reviews ($$$$$+)
Old Rip Van Winkle 10yo: 9.04 ± 0.21 on 6 reviews ($$$$$+)
Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yo Lot B: 8.77 ± 0.16 on 4 reviews ($$$$$+)

It gets a respectable score for this family, intermediate to the Weller Special Reserve and 12 yo, as you might expect.

Now, let’s see how OWA compares to other entry-level bourbons:

Ancient Age: 7.64 ± 0.64 on 6 reviews ($)
Buffalo Trace: 8.57 ± 0.42 on 19 reviews ($$)
Bulleit Bourbon: 8.37 ± 0.40 on 18 reviews ($$)
Evan Williams (Black Label): 8.15 ± 0.44 on 14 reviews ($)
Four Roses (Yellow Label): 8.21 ± 0.35 on 10 reviews ($)
Four Roses Small Batch: 8.49 ± 0.45 on 13 reviews ($$)
Jim Beam Black Label: 8.22 ± 0.43 on 15 reviews ($)
Jim Beam White Label: 7.62 ± 0.51 on 17 reviews ($)
Knob Creek Small Batch 9yo: 8.60 ± 0.41 on 20 reviews ($$)
Maker’s Mark: 8.24 ± 0.43 on 22 reviews ($$)
Old Weller Antique 107: 8.67 ± 0.45 on 9 reviews ($$)
Rebel Yell: 7.44 ± 0.47 on 9 reviews ($)
Very Old Barton: 8.44 ± 0.40 on 6 reviews ($)
Wild Turkey 81: 8.12 ± 0.40 on 13 reviews ($)
Wild Turkey 101: 8.48 ± 0.39 on 16 reviews ($$)
Wild Turkey Rare Breed: 8.74 ± 0.34 on 15 reviews ($$)

OWA gets one of the best scores for its price class. If you can find it at the standard price, it would seem to be an excellent choice.

Let’s see what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, like vanilla icing on a caramel cake.  Light honey with hints of marzipan and whipped cream. Cherry. A bit of nutmeg. Unfortunately, it also has a general solvent smell which detracts for me. This likely reflects its young age.

Palate: Caramel comes first, followed by an extreme honey sweetness, which then fades back to that caramel after a few seconds. Fruits come next, mainly dark berries and some prunes and plums. Oak is in the background here. Has a silky texture (I’d say almost velvety). This is a hot one (ethanol heat), consistent with its 53.5% ABV – although it can still be drunk neat easily enough.

Finish: Medium. Oak comes through now, as well as some slow, lingering fruit. Brown sugar sweetness shows up now too.

owa-107Consistent with its reported 6-7 years, this is not a particularly complex bourbon. You are not getting a lot of oak here (beyond the usual caramel/vanilla), nor are you getting much in the way of the typical rye baking spices (as expected).

But for a fairly standard profile, it is done well. I often find wheaters a bit too sweet for me, with an almost artificial tinge. But there is at least none of that here – the sweetness is like all-natural honey, sprinkled with brown sugar.

It seems like an excellent value for the price. And given the higher proof, would likely be great in mixed drinks. For me personally, the solvent aromas bring it down a peg, and so I would score it just a bit lower than the Meta-Critic average.

For reviews of this bourbon, Josh of the Whiskey Jug is a big fan, as is Jim Murray. Most of the bourbon reviewers on the Reddit Whisky Network are similarly very positive (see for example Texacer and LetThereBeR0ck). There is also Eric of Breaking Bourbon. You don’t come across many negative reviews of this bourbon, but guys at Quebec Whisky are bit more moderate than those above.

Glengoyne Cask Strength – Batch 4

Glengoyne is a Scottish distillery that straddles the traditional border between Highland and Lowland regions. Technically, I believe their stills are located north of the imaginary line, and their maturing facilities are to the south. They don’t use any peat for drying their barley, and are thus probably closer stylistically to the typical lowland producers.

They are also known for their reliance on sherry casks for maturation.  That is not to say all their expressions are “sherry bombs”, but you can typically detect a consistent sherry flavour motif running across their lines.

They used to produce a 12 year old cask strength single malt, but this was replaced a few years ago with a no-age-statement version, prepared in defined batches. As with the GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 4/5 recently reviewed, you can expect some variability from batch to batch. For this review, I have a sample from a recently acquired batch 4 bottle – brought back from the distillery by a colleague of mine.

Glengoyne reports that the composition of this whisky is 20% first-fill European oak sherry casks, 10% first-fill American oak sherry casks, and 70% oak refill casks. It is not chill-filtered, no colouring is added, and is bottled at cask strength (58.8% ABV in the case of batch 4).

Here is how it compares to other Glengoynes, and similar cask-strength whiskies in the Meta-Critic Database:

Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 1): 8.74 ± 0.47 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 2): 8.69 ± 0.40 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 3): 8.49 ± 0.81 on 5 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.58 ± 0.15 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne Cask Strength (all batches): 8.61 ± 0.48 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 10yo: 8.22 ± 0.34 on 12 reviews ($$$)
Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength: 8.57 ± 0.40 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 12yo: 8.50 ± 0.40 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Glengoyne 15yo: 8.47 ± 0.54 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 17yo: 8.44 ± 0.21 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)

Amrut Intermediate Sherry: 8.99 ± 0.31 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach Cask Strength: 8.85 ± 0.11 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
Benromach 10yo Cask Strength (100 proof): 9.09 ± 0.12 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 1): 9.06 ± 0.28 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 2): 9.05 ± 0.09 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 3): 9.02 ± 0.36 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.91 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 5): 8.87 ± 0.10 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.14 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan Cask Strength: 8.89 ± 0.40 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)
Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength: 9.02 ± 0.32 on 14 reviews ($$$$)

There is an unusually high variance in scores across most batches of the Glengoyne Cask Strength. The number of reviews are low across batches, but it seems like there are higher differences of opinion than usual. There also seems to be a trend toward lower scores over subsequent batches, but that is hard to tell for certain – the numbers are low, and I have few examples of repeated batch testing by individual reviewers.

Here is what I find in the glass, for batch 4:

Nose: Intense dark brown sugar, almost Demerara level.  Maple sugar too – so sweet, I can imagine the crunchy sugar crystals. A bit of cream thrown in. Mixed berry compote, with a pastry note (berry crumble). Figs and raisins, but not very pronounced. Oat cakes. A bit of alcohol singe (which water oddly doesn’t help). A nose for baked fruit lovers!

Palate: More fruit shows up now – apple, pear, and peaches – none of which I detected on the nose. And even more raisins and sultanas, very ripe and juicy. Cinnamon toast. Peppery kick. Rich mouthfeel, somewhat buttery. You can feel the higher ABV, but it doesn’t need much water to tame it – I recommend just a few drops.

glengoyne-caskstrengthFinish:  Medium long. The buttery oak flavours linger a good while, along with cinnamon and a stronger white pepper presence. Pancake syrup sweetness initially, but bitterness comes in over time, and builds over sips, which detracts for me personally.

A real dessert dram, with all its sweet fruit, brown sugar, and baked-goods notes. As an aside, I checked the producer’s tasting notes after finishing my own above, and was pleasantly surprised to find such a close concurrence. Didn’t notice any banana initially, but I can kind of see that too.

I initially thought I would rank this one higher than some of the equivalent age-statement Glengoynes, as the Cask Strength benefits from the higher ABV. But I don’t like the lingering bitterness in the finish, which increasingly detracts for me as I sip it. In the end, I think the Meta-Critic average score for batch 4 (and all batches overall) is fair.

But I can see why reviews of this whisky would be so variable – while some might like the punch it packs, it is likely going to be too sweet for others. Nathan the Scotch Noob has just posted a review of batch 4. Although of the previous batch 3, André and Patrick of Quebec Whisky neatly encapsulate the widely differing opinions of this whisky. Otherwise, Serge of Whisky Fun was very enthusiastic for batch 1, and only slightly less so for batch 2. Thomas of Whisky Saga gives a typical score for batch 2. Redditor xile_ gives a low-normal score for batch 4.

 

Kavalan Sherry Oak

I’ve covered a few Kavalan single malts now, including one of their higher-end single cask offerings, the Solist Sherry Cask.

Kavalan also offers both the Solist Bourbon Cask and Solist Sherry Cask in a vatted format, known as the Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Oak and Sherry Oak, respectively.  Interestingly, these batch versions are available at both cask-strength (typically ~54-59%, like the single casks Solists) and at a reduced 46% ABV.

Supposedly, these two “oak” brands are vatted from the exact same type of casks used for the Solist series. But it stands to reason that they probably cherry-pick the best casks for the single cask offerings, and vat the rest. Note that all the “oak” series variants are hard to come by outside of Asia.

Here is how the various Kavalan bottlings compare in my Whisky Database.

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.14 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Cask: 9.08 ± 0.27 on 9 reviews ($$$$$+)
Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique: 8.94 ± 0.36 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Sherry Oak: 8.72 ± 0.32 on 4 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Concertmaster: 8.32 ± 0.59 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Bourbon: 8.87 ± 0.25 on 16 reviews ($$$$$)
Kavalan Single Malt: 8.42 ± 0.54 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan King Car Conductor: 8.39 ± 0.37 on 8 reviews ($$$$)

The single cask offerings consistently outperform the vatted malts. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough reviews of the ex-Bourbon Oak to compare here. But to give you an idea for the sherried malts, here are how some of the GlenDronach single casks compare to vatted bottlings:

GlenDronach vintage 20yo Single Cask: 9.05 ± 0.44 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach vintage 19yo Single Cask: 8.97 ± 0.39 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach 18yo Allardice: 8.70 ± 0.40 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach 21yo Parliament: 8.68 ± 0.39 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.92 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 5): 8.88 ± 0.11 on 5 reviews ($$$$)

You can see a similar pattern, whereby the single cask offerings typically out-perform the vatted age expressions, or NAS cask-strength batches.

For this review, I have a 50mL sample bottle of the 46% Kavalan Sherry Oak that I picked up during my travels. Bottling code is 2015.01.31 15:50. The bottle came in a cardboard box, and so was protected from light.

In terms of appearance, the Sherry Oak is not as dark as my Solist Sherry Cask (as you might expect due the additional water). But it still has a rich reddish gold colour.

Nose: Typical sweet sherry bomb opening, with classic figs, raisins, prunes, and a few red fruits (including strawberry). Also shows more pronounced tropical fruit notes than I usually get from Kavalan (like kiwis and papayas). Cocoa powder and black licorice. The vegetal notes – present on many Kavalan whiskies – are pronounced here. There is a distinct solvent smell that detracts for me personally. A touch of alcohol singe as well (oddly, more than I detected on my cask-strength Sherry Solist).

Palate: Oily, but not as thick as the almost resinous Solist. Definitely fruity, with the tropical notes being most prominent (which I like). A fair amount of vanilla now, as well as the classic pancake syrup noted in my previous review. The vegetal notes run more toward autumn leaves on the ground than the moist earth I detected on the Solist. Sweet cinnamon. A bit of bitterness comes in at the end.

Finish: Medium length. The sweetness continues the longest, but there is a slight artificial tinge to it. Some cinnamon still. The bitterness from the end of the palate also continues as well (not uncommon on many sherry bombs).  Decent, but disappointing compared to my Solist cask.

Kavalan.Sherry.OakThis whisky tastes like I would expect – a slightly watered-down version of the Solist Sherry Cask (and likely from an inferior selection of casks).  That is not to say it is bad. Indeed, this strikes me as a fairly “typical” sherry bomb in many ways. If I had a sample at cask-strength, I would probably put it on par with the Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 4/5 that I reviewed recently. If you have the option between the two, I recommend picking up the Sherry Oak at cask-strength (typically only available in Asia, though).

While this is a good introduction to the Kavalan sherry character, you may want to jump right to the Solist if you can find it at a reasonable price.  When you have sampled outstanding single cask expressions from Glendronach or Kavalan, the vatted whiskies don’t quite compare.

Reviews of this whisky are hard to come by, but do check out Dominic at Whisky Advocate, and Serge of Whisky Fun. Serge in particular seems to have lucked out with a particularly excellent batch.

 

GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 4 and Batch 5

GlenDronach traditionally used sherry casks to mature its malts, and has thus long been known as “sherry bomb” maker.  As discussed in my commentary of their 12 year old expression, the distillery was shut down between 1996 and early 2002. When production re-started with new owners, the focus was on aging in more typical ex-bourbon casks.

Over time though, GlenDronach re-discovered its sherry mojo, and now emphasizes this aspect in most of their new releases.  As an aside, I find some of their vintage single casks expressions to be among the best heavily-sherried single malts that I have tried.

For those on more of a budget, a good option to consider are the batch releases of the GlenDronach Cask Strength.  Lacking an age statement, these releases (now up to five) combine whiskies aged in different sherry barrels, bottled at cask-strength. They are also reasonably well priced (although this has been going up on recent batches).

I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the early ones, but I do have on hand a sample of Batch 4 from Redditor xile_, and a recent bottle of Batch 5 that I purchased at the SAQ in Quebec (regularly $150 CAD, got it on sale for $128).

Here is how they compare in the Meta-Critic Whisky Database, relative to other Glendronachs, and to other cask-strength sherry-bombs.

GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 1): 9.06 ± 0.28 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 2): 9.05 ± 0.09 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 3): 9.05 ± 0.33 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 4): 8.92 ± 0.31 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach Cask Strength (batch 5): 8.92 ± 0.08 on 4 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 12yo Original: 8.57 ± 0.22 on 20 reviews ($$$)
GlenDronach 15yo Revival: 8.91 ± 0.29 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 18yo Allardice: 8.70 ± 0.40 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach 21yo Parliament: 8.68 ± 0.39 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach vintage 20yo Single Cask (all vintages): 9.05 ± 0.44 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach vintage 19yo Single Cask (all vintages): 8.96 ± 0.38 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)

Aberlour A’Bunadh (all batches): 8.97 ± 0.20 on 22 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfarclas 105: 8.78 ± 0.37 on 20 reviews ($$$$)
Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask: 9.14 ± 0.35 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan Cask Strength: 8.89 ± 0.40 on 12 reviews ($$$$$+)

And now my tasting notes:


Batch 4

Batch 4 consists of 17,806 bottles released in early-mid 2014, bottled at 54.7% ABV. The whisky was drawn from a mix of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks.  While you would normally expect a dark sherry appearance, I note the colour is more of a light golden brown (suggesting a sweeter and fruitier ride is in store). Note that GlenDronach does not artificially alter the colour of these whiskies.

Nose: Syrupy, like stewed fruits. Main fruit notes are pear, peaches, plums and some raisins. Baking spices, like cinnamon. Very sweet overall, makes me think of rum-raisin ice cream on top of a moist dessert cake. Some nose hair singe due to the high ABV. Water brings up the cereal/cakey notes more.

Palate: Thick, luxurious mouthfeel – like a good cask-strength sherried whisky should be. Very fruity, getting more of the classic prunes, raisins and plums now from the sherry. Cereal again. The rum-like flavours only intensify on the palate. A touch of bitterness creeps in too over time. Water really brings up the baking spices, cinnamon and nutmeg especially.  Doesn’t need much to tame the burn.

Finish: Sweetness dies down a little, reminding me more of dried fruits now (still raisins and prunes mainly). Pretty good balance of sweet and bitter (although perhaps a bit too much of both, if that is possible?).

I don’t know the exact mix of sherry casks that went into this, but I’m going to guess it is biased toward the sweeter PX.  Indeed, it is so sweet that it actually reminds of some rum-finished malts, like the Glenfiddich 21 year old Gran Reserva.  Certainly a decent malt, but the sticky sweetness seems a bit out of character for GlenDronach.


Batch 5

Batch 5 is again from a mix of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks, bottled at 55.3%. Released at the end of 2015, this batch has just shown up here in Canada. Colour is quite a bit darker now, more of the expected medium red gold.

Nose: Less fragrant than Batch 4. Definitely dryer, not as overtly sweet (think dried fruits instead of stewed ones). Lighter fruits dominate again, mainly pear, apple and apricot this time, and a bit of orange. Also getting some cocoa now, and a slightly nutty aroma (almonds?). No real nose hair singe, but a touch of glue is present unfortunately. Time in the glass helps with the solvent note (as does water, which also brings up the sweetness). I recommend adding a few drops of water, for the improved effect.

Palate: Rich, with dark berries join the other fruits now. Citrus picks up further, with some lemon. Silky and syrupy in texture, without being overly sweet – very nice. Milder baking spices, like nutmeg, mixed with some brown sugar. Not bitter, and the glue note from the nose turns into a dry cardboard sensation in the mouth. Malty.  Surprisingly drinkable at this ABV. Water lightens the mouthfeel slightly, and raises the sweet fruit factor.  Enjoyable either way, frankly.

Finish: Medium long finish. The lingering fruit notes are mainly raisins and sultanas (but not too sweet). Some oak comes in at the end – but this is again more drying than bitter.

Personally, I find this to be closer to the Glendronach core style than Batch 4 (although perhaps somewhat fruitier here).  It seems like a good selection of the drier Oloroso sherry casks went into this.  If it weren’t for the glue note, this would get an unreservedly high score in my books.


Glendronach.Cask.5Ranking these two whiskies is difficult. On initial tasting, I was inclined to give Batch 5 a higher score – but that was mainly because the sweeter Batch 4 wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  On re-tasting the next day, I’ve revised my opinion, and would give Batch 4 a very slight edge. It is interesting that the current Meta-Critic has the same average score for the two of them.

In the end, it really comes down to how much sweetness you like.  If you are a fan of Pedro Ximenez, I suggest you try to hunt down an old bottle of the Batch 4. Drier Oloroso fans should stick with the new Batch 5.

For reviews of Batch 4, I recommend you check out the guys at Quebec Whisky, Serge of Whisky Fun, and Ruben of Whisky Notes. For Batch 5, I suggest you check out Thomas of Whisky Saga, along again with Serge of Whisky Fun and Ruben of Whisky Notes.

 

Stagg Jr Bourbon

Stagg Jr is the name given to a younger version of the infamous George T. Stagg, a high-end offering of the Buffalo Trace distillery. George T. Stagg is part of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) release, and very hard to come by in the wild. Stagg Jr was apparently developed to increase the availability of this amped-up style of cask-strength bourbon.

Sharing a common mashbill with its big brother, Stagg Jr does not have an official age statement – although it believed to be aged for ~8-9 years (instead of the >15 years of George T. Stagg). Unfiltered and bottled at cask strength, Stagg Jr is released in small batches with some variability in final proof (so far, all within ~128-135 proof, or ~64-67.5% ABV). Typically, there have been two releases a year since its launch in the Fall of 2013.

My sample is from batch 3, released in the Fall of 2014, and is bottled at 66.05% ABV. This batch is often pointed to as the start of the better batches – the initial two releases were widely panned by reviewers, and dismissed as being too “alcohol forward.” See the the recent community review on Reddit for a range of opinions on how the various batches measure up (now up to batch 6).

While I track all batches on my Meta-Critic Database, I don’t report on them individually due to insufficient data on most releases. But since reviewer scores turned decidedly more positive on batch 3 (and have remained so), I have grouped them into batches 1-2 and batches 3-6 for the database. Here’s how Stagg Jr compares to some of the other Buffalo Trace offerings:

Buffalo Trace: 8.56 ± 0.42 on 19 reviews ($$)
Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10yo: 8.55 ± 0.34 on 18 reviews ($$)
Eagle Rare 17yo: 8.81 ± 0.38 on 11 reviews ($$$$$+)
George T Stagg: 9.21 ± 0.27 on 18 reviews ($$$$$+)
Stagg Jr (batches 1-2): 8.44 ± 0.39 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Stagg Jr (batches 3-6): 8.85 ± 0.20 on 6 reviews ($$$$)

An interesting finding here is that the original batches of Stagg Jr actually got lower scores than the standard Eagle Rare 10 or entry-level Buffalo Trace. Ouch!  The later batches are more in line with Eagle Rare 17 yo (which is a premium BTAC release, like George T. Stagg), although keep in mind there are relatively few reviews.  Unfortunately, it seems like the early batches so turned off reviewers that few of them have come back to sample newer batches produced in the last two years.

Here is how the Stagg Jr batches compare to other similarly priced bourbons, including other cask-strength offerings:

Baker’s 7yo: 8.79 ± 0.31 on 15 reviews ($$$)
Booker’s Small Batch: 8.92 ± 0.25 on 14 reviews ($$$)
Colonel EH Taylor Barrel Proof: 8.80 ± 0.24 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Elijah Craig 12yo Barrel Proof: 8.86 ± 0.26 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Four Roses Single Barrel: 8.72 ± 0.36 on 18 reviews ($$$)
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve: 8.80 ± 0.35 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength: 8.71 ± 0.39 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel: 8.77 ± 0.47 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Stagg Jr (batches 1-2): 8.44 ± 0.39 on 13 reviews ($$$$)
Stagg Jr (batches 3-6): 8.85 ± 0.20 on 6 reviews ($$$$)

The average scores for recent batches of Stagg Jr are certainly well in keeping with other cask-strength bourbons of comparable price.

My batch 3 sample of Stagg Jr was obtained from the Redditor Jolarbear.  When these bottles show up at the LCBO (a rarity), they currently go for ~$85 CAN.

Here is what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet with dark fruits, like raisins and prunes. Woodsy and earthy, think rich and moist black earth. Herbal quality (pine? cedar?), that turns into black licorice over time. Chocolatey. Reminds me of amped-up Eagle Rare/Buffalo Trace juice (which of course, it is). Singes the nose hairs a bit, consistent with the high ABV. Water just dampens everything though – I prefer to sniff it neat (best to let it sit in the glass for awhile first, though).

Palate: The dark earth and fruit odyssey leads off, with leather, tobacco, prunes, raisins, cherries and chocolate. Also vanilla and a bit of caramel. The cinnamon and allspice soon kick in, along with a bit of pepper and some woody bitterness – but it is not that spicy overall. Somewhat syrupy in texture, I recommend you hold it awhile in you mouth (to let it mix with your saliva before swallowing). You really feel the burn of the ~66% ABV here. Frankly, a bit too hot to drink neat, even with small sips, as there is a lingering ethanol burn.  A bit of water really helps tame the burn, and brings up a touch more fruitiness. But don’t go crazy with the water – very quickly, it can start to feel dulled.

Stagg.JrFinish: Very long, with lots of oaky bitterness and vanilla carrying you through. Hints of the dark fruits persist, along with that cinnamon. Small amounts of water have no effect here that I can discern. This a powerful finish – much more so than the regular Buffalo Trace/Eagle Rare.

Although I am not a big bourbon guy, I do like the relative composition of the Buffalo Trace Juice. If I were to have a “table bourbon”, it would be Eagle Rare 10 yo.  So I quite enjoyed my batch 3 of Stagg Jr, with its amped set of familiar flavours.  I don’t have a lot of experience of cask-strength bourbons, but I’m looking forward to trying more out after this one.

For generally unfavourable (or at least, lukewarm) reviews of batch 1, check out John of Whisky Advocate, Serge of Whisky Fun, and Ruben of Whisky Notes. For examples of the more positive reviews of batch 3, please see Josh of the Whiskey Jug and Jason of In Search of Elegance. And of course, there is the community review on Reddit for a wide range of batches.

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