Review: Beach Whiskey Original and Island Coconut

beach whiskey

I say coconut-flavored spirit. You say… whiskey?

It’s hard to believe, particularly with a name like “Beach” and pastel-colored bottles, but this really is a corn-based product. A pure corn, white whiskey is the one in white. Red is a cinnamon spirit (not reviewed here) and blue is the coconut whiskey. Coconut whiskey. Still can’t get used to saying that.

Anyway, let’s give this Florida-born product a shot, if we can stop thinking about pina coladas for a minute.

Beach Whiskey Original – An unflavored moonshine. Fairly restrained on the nose, with a touch of kettle corn character — it’s both corny and lightly sweet. On the palate, the whiskey is surprisingly watery, with little more flavor than your typical shot of vodka. A slightly medicinal astringency only compounds that impression, though those corn chip notes come along more powerfully on the finish. A surprisingly harmless moonshine, this is a definitive white whiskey for anyone who’s been afraid to dip a toe in the category. 80 proof. B / $NA

Beach Whiskey Island Coconut – Coconut-flavored and watered down, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is Malibu based on the nose. Hints of pineapple add a touch of something different on the tongue, but it isn’t until the finish that a touch of that popcorn and brown butter character comes along to remind you that there’s whiskey at the core of this. At 26% abv, maybe not much whiskey, but enough to keep things from sliding into the rum world completely. 52 proof. B- / $NA

beachwhiskey.com

Review: Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey – Blended and Single Malt 10 Years Old

kinahans

The rise of Irish continues with the relaunch of Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey, a brand that dates back to 1779 and was called for by none other than Jerry Thomas in some of his iconic cocktail recipes from the 1800s.

Kinahan’s went under in the early 1900s but was revived in 2014, and for obvious reasons: Irish whiskey is riding high, and new brands are popping up right and left to jump on the trend.

While Kinahan’s clearly isn’t making its own stock yet — sourcing for these bottlings is undisclosed — it’s out the door with two quite different releases. Both are worth a taste if you see them. Thoughts follow.

Kinahan’s Blended Irish Whiskey – A blend of grains; aged at least 6 years. A fairly standard Irish, this light-bodied whiskey features notes of rich honey, coconut, and banana, plus overtones of walnuts. Gentle baking spices emerge with time, but so does a bit of acetone influence. The finish offers a touch of red pepper on the tongue — thanks in part to the slightly higher proof — but otherwise makes a callback to those initial honey notes. Works well enough. 92 proof. B+ / $40

Kinahan’s Single Malt Irish Whiskey 10 Years Old – Bolder, as one would expect, but with remarkably different character. Distinctly tropical on the nose with a pronounced tangerine note, the whiskey kicks things off with a fruit bomb. On the palate, the traditional honey notes come on after the citrus character fades a bit, with the finish offering curious notes of graham crackers and brewed tea. Considerably more interesting than the blend. 92 proof. A- / $69

kinahanswhiskey.com

What To Do with Leftover Whisky? Blend Your Own Bottle

null whiskey blends

Whiskey samples are a way of life at Drinkhacker HQ, and when you’re in this business for awhile (we’re approaching 9 years and 5000 posts), those samples start to stack up.

Sometimes samples come as full 750ml bottles. Often they arrive in the form of 50ml or 100ml minis. I give away more mostly-full bottles of hooch in a year than you will probably drink in your lifetime. But what do I do with the miniatures that are largely empty, but not quite gone? The mediocre stuff gets thrown out, sure, but with 20-plus year old spirits that cost four figures, I feel bad pouring the leftovers — even if it’s just half an ounce — down the drain. The result: I have had hundreds and hundreds of largely empty vials of whiskey sitting around, though I know I’ll never consume them. When would I ever have the chance to do so?

A few months ago storage space was becoming an issue so I made a decision I wish I’d made at the start of Drinkhacker: To make my own bespoke blends, drawn from the best of the best of my leftover stock, just for kicks.

It didn’t take long to fill a bottle, to the point where I now have three of them going, in various stages of fullness — two vattings of single malts and one bourbon blend. I did not keep track of what went into each bottle; that would ruin the fun.

These have all been marinating and marrying for awhile, with each bottle having room for 30 to 40 whiskies in it. Today, I finally decided I’d give them all a semi-formal review as if they were actual releases.

Without further ado, let’s see how good various blends of a bunch of random — yet all very good — whiskies can be. Most of the whiskies in these blends are cask strength releases, but I have no formal proof data, of course. All, of course, will continue to evolve as new samples find their way into the mix.

Drinkhacker Single Malt Blend #1 – This contains lots of SMWS castoffs, Diageo Special Releases, Exclusive Malts leftovers, and other high-end single malts. The malts are heavy on the Highlands, but there’s a bit of everything in here, including a significant amount of Islay malt. I didn’t think there was that much peated whisky here, but the solid smoke and iodine on the nose showcases how just a bit of Islay can go a long way. The palate offers honey and caramel notes, but it’s hidden beneath considerable peat. The finish folds sherry and chocolate with a bit of maraschino cherry character, but ends up squarely on the smoke. Water helps coax out more of the fruit, and while it’s not a bad dram, on the whole the blend is a relatively unbalanced disappointment. Hopefully as old whisky goes out and new whiskies go in it may find its footing. B

Drinkhacker Single Malt Blend #2 – Similar to blend #1, except there’s almost no peat in this one (save for incidental peat in Highland whiskies) — and going forward this will be my “non-peated” blend. This is a younger vatting of only about 20 whiskies to date, but it is already drinking better, likely thanks to the closer homogeneity of the components therein. Lots of honey and nougat give this blend structure, but it’s also quite restrained — with sweet vanilla and some lightly savory spices offering nuance. Baking spice and citrus notes hit on the back end. I’d say it was a classic, sherry-finished Highland malt, if I didn’t know better. By far a better blend, it isn’t entirely complex, but it offers balance, exuberance, and drinkability. I’d put this up against almost any 16 to 18 year old Speyside bottling. A-

Drinkhacker Bourbon Blend #1 – Mostly composed of various Buffalo Trace experiments (only really good ones) and Antique Collection leftovers, which means there’s a bit of rye in this. Immediately odd: Lots of licorice up front, plus cloves and barrel char (though not so much lumberyard/sawdust). As the body opens up (water isn’t wrong here), it showcases more of a salted caramel character with the dense wood notes underpinning it. The ultimate impression is one of surprisingly old bourbon — which goes to show how a splash of very well-aged stuff like the George T. Stagg in this blend can go a long way. That said, it’s still worthwhile and fun to sip on. In fact, it’s especially fun because I keep it in a novelty decanter that Jim Beam sent me with my name and photo on it. Nutty Kentuckians. B+

Review: Chieftain’s Batch #9 – Linkwood 1997, Mortlach 1997, Braeval 1996, Fettercairn 1996, Glen Grant 1995

chieftains

Don’t look now! It’s our biggest single review of indie bottler Chieftain’s yet — five new releases of well-aged single malts, all distilled in the late 1990s, all but one hailing from Speyside.

Let’s dig in to these morsels and have a taste.

Chieftain’s Linkwood 1997 17 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Finish – Speyside. Exotic and nutty with notes of old sherry on the nose, with a touch of mothball — though not in a bad way. The sherry pushes through to the palate, almost bruisingly so, bringing on notes of baking spices, roasted grains, stewed fruit, and more nuts on the finish. Everything is delightfully well integrated, with a lengthy, warming finish. 92 proof. A / $90

Chieftain’s Mortlach 1997 18 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Finish – Speyside. Mortlach is one of my favorite distilleries, but here things are blown out by the overwhelming PX sherry notes, which kick things off with notes of malted milk, carob, and burnt almonds. The body has a slightly bitter, acrid tone to it, again with notes of burnt — burnt nuts, burnt grain, burnt wood. Touches of classically honeyed Mortlach sweetness offer plenty to enjoy, but the sherry finish is just a bit too far off to make this the knockout it should be. 92 proof. B / $90

Chieftain’s Braeval 1996 19 Years Old Beaune Cask Finish – Speyside, with a red Burgundy wine cask finish. A quaint operation in central Speyside that’s part of Chivas Bros., dating back to only 1973. The red wine finish runs the show here, starting with a nose that mingles toasty grain with raisin and cherry notes. The nougat-laden body is loaded with fruit, more of that raisin-cherry compote with a touch of lingering cinnamon and clove. Fun and unexpected. 92 proof. A- / $110

Chieftain’s Fettercairn 1996 19 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Finish – Eastern Highlands. A classic, big, and burly whisky, heady on the nose with florals, fresh cut apple, and caramel sauce. The body is unctuous and creamy, offering hot and nutty marzipan notes plus a vegetal character. The finish layers on the slightest touch of smoke. 114.8 proof. B+ / $121

Chieftain’s Glen Grant 1995 20 Years Old Bourbon Finish – Speyside. I’m unclear if this is finished in a second bourbon cask or if it just spends the full 20 years in one, but this is a bit off the beaten path of your typical Speyside single malt. Zippy and spicy on the nose, it offers notes of gunpowder and matches, plus well-torched caramel and hints of licorice. On the palate, again it showcases red and black pepper, creme brulee notes, and crispy caramel — with a touch of mint. It’s a relatively straightforward whiskey, but one that is well-balanced and enjoyable throughout. 110.2 proof. A- / $143

ianmacleod.com

Review: Kirkland Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky 16 Years Old Bourbon Cask Matured

kirkland 16 years old single maltEvery time Costco’s Kirkland brand releases a single malt Scotch whisky without revealing the distillery that made it, tongues start to wag. Prices are generally well below retail — though today’s 16 year old is higher than the mystery 20 year old released just three years ago — so whisky enthusiasts often grab a bottle to see if something wonderful has been sleeping in the stacks and stacks of pallets.

A departure from recent whiskies that have generally seen some time in sherry casks, this latest Kirkland release is a 16 year old matured exclusively in bourbon casks. It’s a Highland malt — which basically means it could be from almost anywhere — and the use of bourbon casks, which are ubiquitous in Scotland, offers no guidance, either. Producer Alexander Murray has a long history of releasing whiskies like this.

Let’s give it a taste.

Malty on the nose, there are aromas of honey, toffee, vanilla, and coconut, plus a touch of menthol. The body is traditional and wholly expected for a bourbon-cask aged malt whisky of this age and provenance. Chewy nougat, more toasted coconut, and lightly leathery notes endure for a while. The mouthfeel is rather flat and restrained, though that may largely be a product of it being bottled at just 80 proof. The whisky kicks up a slight sweetness on the finish that hints at fresh green apples, a touch of lemon (think hot tea with a slice of citrus), and caramel sauce — adding a little nuance. It’s pleasant and fairly clean — and improves with time in the glass — but on the whole it’s largely an uneventful dram.

So, what is it?

While Costco has had a lengthy relationship with Macallan, this doesn’t much resemble it. The whole affair is just a bit too flabby for Speyside, I think, leaving me to wonder if this doesn’t hail from somewhere a bit further afield and without a ton of notoriety — Glen Garioch, Glencadam, or Deanston, even — although it’s worth noting that Murray did produce a 16 year old Dailuaine for Costco last year.

80 proof.

B / $49 / costco.com

Review: Amador Whiskey Double Barreled Bourbon

Trinchero is a major force in California winemaking — and it’s on the rise as an artisan spirits producer, too, with its Amador Whiskey Co. label.

Amador County is a sleepy Northern California region best known for its production of zinfandel wines. For its first whiskey release, Amador produced their own hop-flavored whiskey in conjunction with our friends at Charbay. With this second release, Amador has looked to the east: Kentucky, where it sourced some straight bourbon and shipped it back to California. After maturing in new oak, the whiskey is finished in used Napa (not Amador) wine barrels, though the type of wine that was in those barrels is not disclosed.

The release is technically a No Age Statement bottling, but the company says the 280 barrels it sourced from Kentucky were variously between three and ten years old and the finishing regimen adds another six months to that.

Let’s give it a taste!

Double Barrel’s nose evokes classic, wood-driven bourbon notes. Barrel char and sawdust find secondary notes in modest vanilla and a cinnamon-raisin character, almost like a toasted slice of buttered raisin bread. The body plays up some of this, with fruity notes coming on strong up front. Notes of rum raisin, vanilla ice cream, baking spice, and classically toasty, burnt caramel-focused bourbon character come together to make for a relatively straightforward spirit with just a touch of variety. The finish is sweet, returning to that raisiny-fruity character for a relatively quick denouement.

All told, it’s not far off the beaten path of what you’ll typically find out of Kentucky, but it’s engaging enough to merit a glass or two.

86.8 proof.

B+ / $38 / amadorwhiskeycompany.com

Review: Booker’s Bourbon “Booker’s Bluegrass” 2016-01

Batch-Sticker124-Y007_FDBooker’s Bourbon is on a tear of small batch releases, with six limited editions arriving in 2015. The first release in this line for 2016 is here: Booker’s Bluegrass batch.

Says Beam’s Fred Noe: “The first batch of Bookers [sic] for 2016 is made up of barrels that were stored in 7 different rack houses. 61% of the barrels were stored in 9 story houses, 34% were stored in 7 story houses, and remaining 5% were stored in a 5 story rack house. The ages of the barrels in the batch range from 6 years 11 months old to 7 years 11 months old. The deep amber color reflects the complex aroma and flavor of the batch to be bottled. The nose is pleasant with the vanilla and toasted nuts that is inviting and makes you eager to sip this great bourbon. The flavor of this batch is smooth and well balanced with a finish that I enjoyed neat without adding any water.”

That’s a bold statement about a bourbon that’s almost 65% alcohol, but the nose indeed feels mild — offering notes of barrel char, citrus, some menthol, and significant vanilla — though it’s all kept in check with only modest levels of alcohol impacting it.

The body’s another story, a massive blazer as expected, given that proof. Without water, scorching alcohol notes are the most prominent character, with caramel, orange, and cocoa powder heavy influences. Water is a big help here, coaxing out some smoky notes — nothing you can’t handle, though — that are backed up well with sweet marzipan, clove-heavy baking spice, and cocoa powder, with a gentle, easy finish.

Supple and deep, this is an expression of Booker’s that exemplifies this whiskey’s extreme power while peeling back the covers to show off what lies beneath the surface.

127.9 proof.

A- / $60 / bookersbourbon.com