Review: Nachtmann Highland Tumbler

Seeing green? Check out this new tumbler from Nachtmann. The Nachtmann Highland Tumbler, cast in “Reseda” green, which is “named for the eponymous spring-green plant.”

It’s a nice little old fashioned glass, its carved base making for easy handling while looking sophisticated. The lip is gently rounded, which is comfortable for drinking, and the glass has amble weight without feeling over-heavy.

The green color is perhaps divisive, but if you’re looking for a statement glass to serve your home cocktails in, this is a solid choice.

A- / $18 each / [BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON]

Review: The Spirits of Sugarlands Shine

Don’t look now, but one of the busiest distilleries in the country — based on tourism visits — is Sugarlands Distilling, in the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. A connection with the popular show Moonshiners doesn’t hurt, nor does the vast product lineup, which includes 21 varieties of moonshine, rum, and liqueurs, which range from a straight white rye to a peanut butter and jelly moonshine, all bottled in (incredibly messy) mason jars. Candy- and dessert-flavored ‘shines are a particularly specialty of the operation.

It’s impossible to keep on top of all of these flavors — there will be more by the time you read this — so consider this a representative sampling of what Sugarlands is up to. Thoughts follow.

Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Moonshine – This corn and cane sugar moonshine is the starting point for much of what Sugarlands makes, and it’s a fair enough ‘shine to get you going. Plenty popcorny at the start, particularly on the nose, the spirit offers hints of vanilla and cinnamon but otherwise drinks relatively flatly but cleanly, with a jet fuel-soaked finish — that classic moonshine pungency. 100 proof. B / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Unaged Rye – Billed as a rye, though no mashbill information is available. This is a more classic white whiskey, loaded with popcorn and roasted grains, with a subtle undercoat of baking spice. Lacking the sugar of the moonshine, the finish is rougher and more rustic, with a mushroom and tobacco note, plus some hints of baked bread. 100 proof. B- / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Appalachian Apple Pie Moonshine – Less sweet than many an apple pie moonshine, the raw cereal character of the spirit comes through more clearly. The fruit takes on an apple cider character, somewhat oxidized with a kind of butterscotch note that isn’t completely on the pie spectrum. The finish is reminscent not of apples but of cherries, particularly the cough syrup variety. 50 proof. C / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum – Nicely nutty on the nose, those hazelnuts roll over anything that’s particularly rummy in the mix. Some brown sugar notes and cloves at least offer a nod toward a spiced rum, with a touch of that funky petrol layering itself in underneath. The finish is a sustained nuttiness, with notes of toasted marshmallow. Hazelnuts are a smart choice to give this spirit a strong and unique flavor, but it drinks almost like a liqueur rather than a rum. 80 proof. B+ / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Shine Root Beer Moonshine – Spot-on root beer aromas kick the nose off on this heavily flavored (and nearly opaque) ‘shine, which is heavy on the sassafras and baking spices. Alongside a healthy slug of sweet vanilla, the body sees more peppermint coming to the fore than I would like or expect, with surprisingly heavy clove character. These cloves endure for quite some time, eventually mellowing as the finish fades into a sort of charred wood character, which erases some of the excitement and nostalgia of what’s come before. 70 proof. B / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Appalachian Sippin’ Cream Butter Pecan Cream Liqueur – Not dark brown as the bottle would indicate, but rather a gentle, creamy tan. Extremely sweet on the nose, with light brown sugar the clearest component. The buttery, nutty pecan notes are a bit slightly clearer on the palate, but there’s so much sugar that it overwhelms just about all of it, leading to a milky finish akin to melted vanilla ice cream. 40 proof. B- / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Sugarlands Appalachian Sippin’ Cream Dark Chocolate Coffee Cream Liqueur – The color of milk chocolate, with a nose that is a heavier blend of coffee with some chocolate syrup swirled in. Ample vanilla kicks off the palate, along with some butterscotch sweetness, before the relatively gentle coffee character arrives. There’s nothing really “dark” about the chocolate in this liqueur. As far as the cocoa goes, it’s about as milky as it gets. Nevertheless, it works fairly well. 40 proof. B+ / $25  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

sugarlandsdistilling.com

Review: Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten (2017), Port Charlotte 10 Years Old (2017), Octomore 10 (2017), and Black Art 5.1

With Jim McEwan out and Adam Hannett in as master distiller, Bruichladdich hasn’t taken its foot off the gas even for a second. This summer the company hits the ground with three new ten year old whiskies — all revivals of earlier limited editions — plus a new release of Black Art, Hannett’s first stab at this mysterious (intentionally) vatting of very rare whiskies.

Thoughts on the quartet follow.

Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten Second Limited Edition 10 Years Old (2017) – The Laddie Ten is becoming a classic of younger single malts, and now a second limited edition is arriving. Distilled in 2006, this release is a 10 year old just like the first, and is made again from unpeated barley, and the whisky is aged in a mixture of bourbon, sherry, and French wine casks. Departures from the first edition are evident from the start. The second edition is quite a bit more cereal-focused on the nose than the original, with orange-scented barley and light mushroom notes wafting in and out. The palate is a bit sweeter than the nose would cue you off to, with a distinct chocolate character and notes of Honeycomb cereal. The finish is lively and sherry-heavy, with a nagging echo of dried mushrooms. It’s not as essential a whisky as the original Laddie Ten, but it remains worthwhile and is still not a bad value. 100 proof. B+ / $58

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Second Limited Edition 10 Years Old (2017) – Another round with the 10 year old Port Charlotte. Made from 100% Scottish barley, and aged in a mix of first-fill bourbon, sherry, tempranillo, and French wine casks. Peated to a moderately heavy 40ppm. Sweet orange and some strawberry interplay nicely with the smoky, salty nose. This leads to a palate of dried fruit, sultry smoked bacon notes, and hints of camphor. It’s a fine dram, but as Islay goes, it’s not overwhelmingly well balanced and not all that special. Not my favorite whisky in this batch, but nothing I’d spit out, of course. 100 proof. B / $62

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Years Old (2017) – You’ll need to look at the fine print to determine that this is from the 2017 edition, but no matter. This release is a 100% Scottish barley edition, aged in full-term bourbon casks (60%) and full-term grenache blanc casks (40%). Peating level is 167ppm. Fans of the Octomores of yesteryear will find this a familiar old friend. The extra age (typical Octomore is about 5 or 6 years old) doesn’t really change this spirit much at all; though perhaps it does serve to better integrate the raw peat with more interesting aromatics, including roasted meats, camphor, and Asian spices. On the palate, the smokiness and sweet notes are integrated well, giving the whisky the impression of a smoky rendition of sweet Sauternes, studded with orange zest and the essence of honey-baked ham. As always, this is fun stuff, though I think some of the younger Octomores are more interesting. 114.6 proof. B+ / $200

Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1 – 24 years old, unpeated. Hannett’s stab at Black Art, per Bruichladdich, plays down the wine barrel influence, which was always a big thing with McEwan and which was effective at keeping drinkers guessing about each whisky’s makeup. I’ve always felt Black Art was a mixed bag, and despite the change in leadership this expression is no different, though the distillery is right that the wine influence is played down. In its stead, the nose offers austerity in the form of wood oil, walnut shells, roasted game, and some dried cherry fruit. The palate offers a respite from some of the wood and meat with light notes of white flowers (I’d wager dry white wine casks play some role here), dried pineapple, plum, golden raisins, and some gentle baking spice notes. The finish is surprisingly malty, with some briny elements. It’s a departure for Black Art, to be sure, and yet it still manages to be weird and, at times, hard to embrace. 96.8 proof. B / $350 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

bruichladdich.com

Review: Aberlour a’bunadh Highland Single Malt Batch 54

Aberlour’s cask strength a’bunadh release is a special one among single malts, as it is released in serialized batches — now at least on #58. The construction is always the same — again, cask strength whisky, 100% ex-oloroso sherry barrel aged — but each batch varies in proof and, apparently, in flavor. Notably, there’s no age statement on this whisky, so the actual time in cask may vary from batch to batch, and batches are said to be blended from whiskies aged anywhere from 5 to 25 years old. No information about the number of bottles from each batch of a’bunadh is released.

We reviewed batch #26 some years ago. Today we turn our attention to batch #54, which features an updated label and, notably, at the time of its release, it was the second highest abv of a’bunadh ever released. (Proof levels are going nowhere but up since then.) Back during my review of #26, I had some reservations about the whisky. Let’s see how things have evolved in the last eight years.

The beautiful copper color, driven by all that sherry cask time, hasn’t gone anywhere. On the nose, the whisky is outrageously complex, loaded with notes of spiced nuts, reduced/concentrated orange oil, and oiled wood. There’s a green note that’s hard to place, something akin to lemongrass and green banana — which adds even more complexity to the experience. On the palate, the whisky is bold and rich and full of flavors, including all of the above, plus some lingering red berries, black tea leaf, ginger, and cinnamon. It’s a hot whisky, and water helps to round out the edges, revealing notes of black pepper and a stronger raspberry/blackberry component — which takes things out with some light but welcome sweetness.

Freshly comparing this batch to batch 26, batch 54 is a clear leader, though today I feel perhaps I was overly harsh with my earlier assessment of #26. Today I find the whisky on the muted side, but enchanting in its own way with notes of tangerine, sandalwood, fresh tobacco leaf, and some lingering phenols. Either way, I’ll keep checking out a’bunadh as I encounter it — and you should too.

121.4 proof.

A- / $100 / aberlour.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: WhistlePig Farmstock Rye Whiskey Crop 001

Like many craft distilleries, WhistlePig has been selling other people’s whiskey while it gets its own operation up to snuff. In fact, WhistlePig isn’t just making its own spirit, it’s growing its own grain and even making its own barrels from trees grown on its own land. Even the water is from WhistlePig’s own well.

The company’s first rye harvest took place last year, and WhistlePig used that grain to distill whiskey that has been aging since then. About 100 barrels spent a year aging before WhistlePig took those casks and blended them with older stock to produce Farmstock Crop 001, a one-time-only release designed to showcase a little bit of the Vermont terroir.

The blend looks like this:

20% 1 year old rye (from WhistlePig’s Vermont operation)
49% 5 year old rye from Canada
31% 12 year old rye from Indiana

And here’s what it tastes like.

To start with, the color of the whisky is quite light — a pale gold that is a clear indicator of how much young whiskey is in the mix here. There’s youth on the nose as well — an overlay that filters notes of butterscotch and simple vanilla through a moderate but evident breakfast cereal character. On the palate, the whiskey is softer than the nose would indicate, though barrel notes pick up the slack of astringency and ensure a quite youthful-leaning experience. The body offers some barrel char, some bacon, some baking spices… plus hints on the back end of raisin, menthol, and heavier clove elements.

All of this mingles on a palate that shows off plenty of promise, but which still squarely lands in the “work in progress” category. Ultimately I’m intrigued by what I’m tasting so far, but given the composition of the whiskey it’s difficult to see exactly where this might end up. For now, it remains a curiosity that will largely be of interest to WhistlePig completionists.

86 proof.

B- / $90 / whistlepigwhiskey.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Lock Stock & Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey 16 Years Old

R. J. Cooper and Son is the company behind St. Germain, Creme Yvette, and Lock Stock & Barrel whiskey, a 16 year old whiskey sourced from Alberta Distillery and crafted from a mashbill of 100% rye that is pot-distilled. This is actually the second release of Lock Stock & Barrel, following a 13 year old release of the same mash that is no longer in production but which is still reasonably available.

While we haven’t ever covered the 13 year old, we received the new 16 year old for review. Thoughts follow.

On the nose, the rye is fragrant and rich, detectable from across the room with its telltale notes of baking spice, citrus peel, butterscotch, and well-mellowed barrel char. Some light menthol (perhaps lightly medicinal) notes emerge given a half hour or so in the glass. Immediately sweeter than many ryes, particularly 100% ryes, the palate keeps its focus on the cinnamon and allspice notes, offering a relatively traditional backbone that showcases some typical notes of burnt brown sugar, toasted marshmallow, and an oak-heavy finish. Add water and the citrus comes out a little more clearly on the palate, along with some muted tropical notes.

All told, there’s nothing particularly surprising here — the fruit notes are perhaps the most unusual aspect of this whiskey, and that’s hardly a rarity — though that may not be such a bad thing. Surely there’s a place in the world for a well-aged 100% rye that doesn’t break the mold, that goes down easy and that tastes, basically, just like it should.

107 proof.

B+ / $140 / lockstockandbarrelspirits.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Anchor Distilling Junipero Gin San Francisco Strength

Craft gin arguably got its start with Junipero, one of the earlier products to come out of San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling. Made in the London Dry style, it was the first post-Prohibition craft gin to be distilled in the United States, and it’s still going strong.

Now 20 years old, Anchor Distilling’s Junipero Gin brand has long kept its botanical bill close to the vest. Well, two decades of sales have finally convinced someone to open the books. At last, Junipero’s botanical ingredients have been revealed, and they are: juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, dried lemon peel, sweet orange peel, seville orange peel, cubeb, cassia bark, cardamom, anise seed, and grains of paradise. Nothing too surprising in there, but the real secret with Junipero is not what’s inside the bottle, but rather what proportions are used to so deftly balance this spirit.

The nose is equal parts juniper and citrus — a rarity in a time when gins tend to swing wildly one way or the other — with smoldering, peppery aromas lingering underneath. The palate is bold, thanks to a near-50% “San Francisco Strength” abv, again with a bold juniper character that really defines the experience. The peppery cubeb and coriander come on strong after that, leading to a finish that is modestly bitter with citrus peel notes and savory herbs.

All told, it’s a definitive craft gin worth stocking on the back bar — and it comes at a completely reasonable price.

98.6 proof.

A- / $27 / anchordistilling.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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