Review: James Eadie’s Trade Mark “X” Blended Scotch Whisky

Scotland has no shortage of lost brands and silent stills, and it’s always fun when one re-emerges. The latest is James Eadie, a self-styled “ancient Scotch mixture” (read: blended Scotch) that is returning to the market after 70 years.

James Eadie’s Trade Mark “X” first retailed in 1854 and was trademarked 1877. Today’s expression includes stock from the silent stills of Cambus and Littlemill, among others. If you’d like to more, check out “The Spirit of James Eadie” on YouTube, which tells the story of the revival of Trade Mark “X.”

We got a small sample to play with. Let’s check it out.

The nose is unremarkable, heavy with granary notes, some light peat, and creosote, but also a somewhat green, weedy character. The palate shows more promise, with a sharp lemon and orange citrus note giving way to a more savory cereal note, some hints of honey, and a moderate spice element — cloves and some nutmeg. The finish is on the heavy side, but reasonably clean, with sweet cereal notes enduring alongside some of that sharper, grassy note.

While its charms grow with some air and some time, all told it ends up as a rather typical example of a lightly peated blended Scotch whisky. Nothing wrong with that of course, and it’s definitely worth a sip or two, should you come across it in your whisky adventures, just to see whether the X marks the spot.

90.2 proof.

B / $52 /

Review: Wines of Barefoot, 2018 Releases

Hardly the first name in high-end wine, Barefoot has made a major name for itself in the world of wines served exclusively at baby showers.

But seriously, the number of wines this mass producer is churning out is incredible, and today we look at no fewer than six of them, none priced above $9.99, including six “Champagnes,” a term used very loosely here.

NV Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee Champagne – Approachable with notes of fresh fruit, including lemon and figs, all whipped up with a bit of bready brioche. I get an interesting cherry kick late in the game, but the finish is otherwise quite clean and refreshing. Altogether a pleasant surprise from a winery that’s mainly known for churning out ultra-sweet monsters. B+ / $10

NV Barefoot Bubbly Brut Rose Champagne – The pink version of the above is markedly sweeter and full of fruit — think maraschino cherries and strawberries, all infused into whipped cream. Heavily perfumed on the back end, it drinks a little like a fizzy version of Hawaiian Punch. C- / $10

NV Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato Champagne – Super sweet, and super pink — it’s moscato, plus fizz! Initially peachy, overtones of strawberry pie quickly overtake the any potential subtleties in the wine, culminating in a marshmallow sweet finish. It’s blunt and straightforward with its sugar bomb sweetness but, for what it’s worth, it’s nonetheless surprisingly approachable as an aperitif. C+ / $10

NV Barefoot Bubbly Sweet Red Champagne – Daunting in its redness, this tastes a lot like moscato, only filtered through strawberry syrup. That’s not inherently a bad thing — who doesn’t like strawberries? — but the wine does tend to suffer from the same Hawaiian Punch problem as the Brut Rose, relying too much on fruit and sugar to do the heavy lifting. C / $10

NV Barefoot Pinot Noir California – A bit of a bacony mess, sweetened to within an inch of its life. There’s no real essence of pinot noir here, just a super-fruity strawberry bomb that could be anything. D / $7

NV Barefoot Merlot California – A mild improvement, if only because some tannin gives this wine a touch of much-needed structure. Otherwise, it still carries a ton of that intense roasted meat character, dusted with brown sugar and a bit of dried cherry. D+ / $7

Review: Sunshine Reserve American Whiskey

Remember Manhattan Moonshine? These folks, based in New York, have now turned their attention to real (aged) whiskey. There’s a certain family resemblance here, of course: Sunshine Reserve uses the exact same bottle.

If you think this is another MGP bourbon or another young single malt, think again. Sunshine Reserve is primarily made from oats, with rye, spelt, and malted barley rounding out the four-grain mash. It is aged at a low proof (how low is unclear, but they say it’s “a lower proof than almost any other American Whiskey on the market”), then aged in baked oak rather than charred barrels. Literally: “Sunshine Reserve primarily uses oak that is baked in a convection oven, instead of the traditional charred oak.” Aging time is not disclosed, and the spirit has no age statement.

To set you up, here are Sunshine’s own tasting notes: “Carefully crafted to be a soft, complex Whiskey … Sunshine Reserve has the dominant caramel and vanilla flavors of a Bourbon, but instead of having Bourbon’s heavier oak and smoke flavors, Sunshine Reserve has the soft smoothness and light fruit notes of an Irish Whisky.”

I don’t know who came up with those tasting notes, but in my tasting, they couldn’t be further from reality.

The nose is quite overwhelming with nothing but wood of various sorts — fresh-cut lumber, charred staves, and fireplace embers. The palate follows suit, but here at least we find some additional flavors folded in, including cloves, charred meat, and some considerable, astringent hospital notes. None of those, except the cloves, maybe, are particularly exciting flavors to look for in a whiskey, but they are at least a break from the lumberyard, which fills the room as soon as the glass is poured, and doesn’t let up until you eventually break down and do the dishes.

85 proof.

C- / $50 /

Tasting the Wines of Smith Story, 2018 Releases

Smith Story has a fun claim to fame: It’s the first winery in the U.S. to be successfully crowdfunding, a Kickstarter success story that is now celebrating its fifth year in business. Operated by married couple Eric Story and Ali Smith-Story, the Sonoma-based operation has a surprisingly robust portfolio, and in a live tasting a group of writers pored over a quartet of new releases, all from the Sonoma area.

Without further ado, let’s dig into this (tiny) operation’s 2018 releases.

2016 Smith Story Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc – Big and juicy, this sauvignon blanc is heavy with both lemon and tropical notes but also showcases some grassier elements that evolve in the glass. Clean and bright, there are hints of melon and spice on the finish. A / $25

2015 Smith Story Sonoma Coast Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir – Berry-forward, the cherries and blackberries here have a slightly spicy, cola-infused character to them, a real Cherry Coke character that builds to a fever as the finish comes on. There’s lots of acid here, but no shortage of flavor to give it some body. A- / $75

2015 Smith Story Sonoma Valley Cabernet Franc – A dense wine with some tobacco notes on the nose, this is immediately recognizable as cabernet franc. It’s also a plump and overwhelmingly juicy wine, with a ton of blueberry character to it. Hints of vanilla, eastern spices, and a lightly earthy note give this cab franc a surprising complexity. A- / $40

2015 Smith Story Sonoma Valley Pickberry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Perhaps the most straightforward wine in this collection, this cab is bold and fruit-forward, with a restrained wood profile but plenty of tannins giving it a ton of grip. Lots of vanilla and chocolate notes provide some immediate drinkability, but my inclination would be to let this one cellar for at least a few years. B+ / $60

Review: Bruichladdich Octomore 8.1, 8.2, and 8.3

Don’t get confused — Octomore 10 may have arrived in early 2017, but this series in the Octomore line, called Octomore 8 (technically “Masterclass_08”) is actually the most recent set of whiskies in Bruichladdich’s continuing exploration into just how much peat a distiller can jam into a spirit.

There are four releases in the Octomore 8 line, and today we look at the first three. 8.1 and 8.2 are close siblings, both eight years old and distilled in 2008, while 8.3 is quite a different spirit altogether, part of Bruichladdich’s investigation into Islay-grown barley, distilled in 2011, and peated far beyond anything else it’s ever released to date.

Let’s dig in!

Bruichladdich Octomore 8.1 – 100% aged for 8 years in American (ex-bourbon) casks. Intense smoke immediately hits the nose, fresh and peaty. There’s a hint of flamed orange peel in the mix, and, given time exposed to air, some nutty notes and chocolate aromas. The palate is fiery, pungent with peat smoke and wood embers, but water tames the beast appropriately, coaxing out a vanilla and caramel character that is otherwise elusive. The finish sees a squeeze of lemon atop that core of intense and lingering peat smoke. 118.6 proof. 167ppm. B+ / $140

Bruichladdich Octomore 8.2 – Aged 8 years in three different types of European oak wine barrels: French mourvedre, Austrian sweet wines, and French Sauternes. It’s a much darker whisky in color, and darker in spirit, too. While 8.1 is relatively light on its feet, 8.2 is well weighted with aromatic notes of camphor, sea spray, and dried fruit. On the palate, again water is a necessity, as it helps to showcase ample citrus notes, sweet custard, and fruits in syrup. The finish is much less smoky, with a clear citrus thread running through it. Intense, but really quite lovely. 116.8 proof. 167 ppm. A- / $200

Bruichladdich Octomore 8.3 – Made completely from local barley, aged 5 years, 56% in bourbon casks, 44% in a mix of European oak wine casks of various ilk. Peated to a reportedly unprecedented level, you wouldn’t know it from the nose, which offers a soft, cottony smoke profile and hints of candied nuts, vanilla, and a little bitter cocoa powder. The body — at full proof and full phenol — is hard to get your head around, but water again tames the beast and pushes a delightful agenda of spiced nuts, wine-soaked berries, baked apples, and a long, lingering savory spice character. Surprisingly, 8.3 finds more of a sense of balance than either of its forebears, though the powerful peat element can of course at some times be a challenge. 122.4 proof. 309 ppm. A- / $220

Review: Talbott 2015 Chardonnay Kali Hart and 2016 Pinot Noir Kali Hart

Two new releases from Talbott, which can be found in California’s Carmel Valley. These Kali Hart bottlings hail from vineyards in Monterey.

2015 Talbott Chardonnay Kali Hart – A bit gamy, but notes of kiwi, banana, and some melon give this otherwise straightforward chardonnay a lift. The finish offers some minerals amidst the bacon notes, with a brisk and clean fade-out. B / $20

2016 Talbott Pinot Noir Kali Hart – Note that this is a 2016 vintage vs. the chardonnay’s 2015, and the wine is indeed showing as quite young. A savory, beefy flavor is most immediately telling, but there’s a clearly youthful expression of fruit here, too, plump and plum-flavored, with notes of tea leaf and cola. That said, it really lacks some of that backbone and structure, stuff that will only come with time. B- / $21

Get 20% Off at WhiskyLIVE DC 2018, March 2

I said this in 2017 (it’s maybe even truer a year later), but I’m pretty sure anyone within a 100-mile radius of the White House could use a drink or seven right about now. Why not join me, and hundreds of other DC-area whisk(e)y fans, at WhiskyLIVE DC this Friday, March 2?

This annual, internationally renowned whiskey tasting event will take place in our nation’s capital at the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown, 2401 M St. NW, on March 2 from 6:00 to 9:30 PM. The show continues a 15 year tradition of sharing unlimited samples of hundreds of the world’s best whiskeys, along with the stories behind them as told by master distillers, brand ambassadors, and industry experts. They’ll be pouring internationally recognized brands such as Michter’s, Elijah Craig, Russell’s Reserve, Glenmorangie, Talisker, Yamazaki, and Highland Park along with dozens of spirits from craft distilleries, including Barrell Craft Spirits, Westland Distillery, WhistlePig and the region’s own Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. Products from non-traditional whiskey producing countries like India, Spain, and Australia will also be available for sipping. If straight whiskey isn’t quite your thing (or your date’s), the legendary Jack Rose Dining Saloon will be on hand to pour their favorite whiskey-inspired cocktails.

As with previous years, WhiskyLIVE is not just a chance to drink a lot of different whiskey. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about a lot of different whiskey with some of the industry’s most well known distillers, brand ambassadors, and journalists. For those looking to really brush up on their whiskey knowledge, you can attend an hour-long master class on non-age statement whiskeys or an hour-long guided tasting of select single malts from around the world.

Use promo code WLDC20 for 20% off WhiskyLIVE DC tickets (only valid on new purchases through the website link above)! I think I just gave you an excuse to splurge on the VIP ticket. See you there!