Review: Tullibardine The Murray

To date, Tullibardine has been largely known for its relatively forgettable collection of single malts, many of which are perfectly palatable but a bit lackluster despite exotic cask finishes.

That changes with the release of The Murray, a cask strength malt that easily stands as the best whisky I’ve had from this distillery, despite a youthful age of just 12 years. Some details:

The Murray was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2016 after maturing entirely in first-fill bourbon casks at the Perthshire distillery. Released as the first whisky in Tullibardine’s Marquess Collection, The Murray is named after Sir William Murray, the 2nd Marquess of Tullibardine, and offers a new flavour profile that draws upon the local lands and waters from around the Ochil Hills. Says Keith Geddes, Master Blender at the distillery, “This is the first release in our Marquess Collection, and also the first of our range to be entirely distilled and matured at cask strength this century.”

Let’s give ol’ Murray a spin.

The nose of The Murray is fantastically engaging, a melange of oily wood, cloves, burnt sugar, cayenne, fresh sugar cookies, and — atop it all — plenty of burly malt. A grassy character emerges with some time in glass, eventually evolving into a sort of lemongrass character. At cask strength of over 56% abv, the palate is on the hot side, though it’s still (mostly) approachable with notes of ripe banana, apricots, and sharp orange peel, the fruit fading a bit as notes of walnuts, toasted bread, and fresh wood take hold.

The whisky can stand up to a ton of water, so don’t be shy. Brought down in heat a bit, it reveals notes of licorice, some petrol, a bit of slate, and more of those cloves, which linger on the finish alongside echoes of the barley.

It’s quite a high-grade whisky at a great price, and The Murray drinks well above its mere 12 years of age.

112.2 proof.

A- / $51 / tullibardine.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]

Review: Tito’s Handmade Vodka (2017)

We last reviewed Tito’s Vodka a full ten years ago — when Tito’s didn’t have anywhere near the mindshare that it does today. This was before Tito’s showed up on every cocktail menu. Before the company got sued over the use of “handmade” on its label, the plaintiff arguing that TIto’s is just as industrial as everything else on the liquor aisle.

Well, as it’s been a whopping ten years, we figured a fresh look was in order. Sadly, I’ve no vintage Tito’s (to which I famously gave an A+ rating back in the day) to use for comparison, so consider these notes on this essential vodka — still pot-distilled from a corn mash — all fresh and unfiltered.

Today, the nose is a bit sweeter than I recall, showing some marshmallow notes and a slightly floral character, with overtones of chamomile. The palate is a bit more traditionally medicinal and Old World in style, with a touch of rubbery hospital character followed by hints of lemon peel, grapefruit peel, and powdered ginger. The finish is clean, but sharp on the tongue.

Given the current state of premium vodka and its evolution over the last 10 years, it’s hard to say that Tito’s is still an exemplary vodka worthy of that A+, but it’s still hard to ignore the killer price tag. All told, it’s definitely one to keep on the shelf at home.

80 proof.

A- / $20 / titos-vodka.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM DRINKUPNY]

Review: 2016 Chateau Souverain Sauvignon Blanc California

This is a credible, drinkable sauvignon blanc, despite its lack of provenance, a light and steely wine with ample notes of tropical fruit, peaches, and lemon on the nose. The palate sees a grassier character, with plenty of fruit and flinty minerals to temper any rougher elements present in the mix.

B+ / $13 / souverain.com

Review: One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey and Untitled Whiskey No. 3

Several distilleries have opened in the nation’s capital in recent years, but only One Eight Distilling can claim to have in their Rock Creek Rye the first grain to glass whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in the District since prohibition. Also in their sizable portfolio are several quality non-barrel-aged spirits, including Ivy City Gin, and a host of sourced whiskeys released through their Untitled series that showcase various experiments with different finishes and proofs.

As the first distillery to bring whiskey back to DC, you wouldn’t expect One Eight to be satisfied with just a rye. Later this fall, they’ll release their own bourbon with plans to introduce single malt into their line-up in the near future. Drinkhacker got its hands on a sample of Rock Creek Rye along with a sample of one of the more unique whiskeys in the Untitled series. Thoughts follow.

One Eight Distilling Rock Creek Rye Whiskey – The nose on this whiskey has a fair amount of toasted cereal owing probably to the high amount of malted rye in the mashbill. There’s a little spearmint in there, as well, and notes of lemony floor polish and honeydew melon. There’s minimal spice or heat on the nose and none of the grassiness typical of younger rye whiskey. It drinks almost like a bourbon, and a nicely balanced one at that. There’s a little raw honey on the front palate followed by some spice, more lemon, and savory baked grain notes — almost like banana bread with a bit of walnut in it. The spice shows up more on the tail end, and cinnamon and vanilla bean round out a gentle, warming finish. In the increasingly crowded world of craft rye whiskey, this one has a lot going for it. 94 proof. A- / $50

One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No. 3 – This whiskey is one of the more interesting in the growing Untitled line-up, and it displays some real creativity. It’s a product of collaboration with DC-based coffee roasters Vigilante Coffee who provided the roasted coffee beans to fill the finishing barrel for an undisclosed amount of time before a sourced six year-old, wheated bourbon was aged in it. The resulting whiskey has a powerful nose of dark chocolate-covered caramel and freshly ground coffee with a little molasses and cardamom lingering in it, too. The palate has great heat on it with bold notes of dark roast coffee and baking cocoa, along with traces of caramel and butterscotch. The finish is surprisingly long — perhaps this is a bourbon best paired with dessert. Still, if One Eight can make a coffee-finished whiskey this good, I’d love to see what they can do with more traditional wine casks. Batch 3, 92 proof. A- / $78

Oneeightdistilling.com

Tasting Greek Wines: 2015 Roya and 2013 Markovitis Xinomavro

Turns out there’s more to Greek wine than assyrtiko. But is any of it worth drinking?

Let’s find out…

2015 Roya – 100% muscat. This is a much drier expression of muscat, which lets some of the more perfumed and floral notes come forward — jasmine, lemongrass, and some grassy notes — leading to a finish that is surprisingly dry for the ordinarily ultra-sweet muscat. That said, it’s not all that interesting as a table wine, and it pairs in rather lackluster fashion with food. C+ / $10

2013 Markovitis Xinomavro – A red from the Naoussa region in northern Greece, this unique wine offers a nose of raspberry and rhubarb, sweet and fragrant. The palate unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to the nose, leading to a bone dry palate that is missing almost any semblance of fruit. The dusty, slightly sour finish reminds more of a dry sherry than anything else, which is decidedly bizarre for a red wine. C / $27

Review: Kimo Sabe Mezcal – Joven and Reposado

Kimo Sabe got started as a brand in 2014, and this affordable mezcal line is finally hitting the U.S. in stride. The company produces three mezcals, two of which are barrel aged in line with standard tequila styles, at present.

We sampled the younger two in the lineup, a joven (aka albedo) and reposado (aka rubedo).

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven : Albedo – A classically unaged expression. Quite sweet and lightly smoky on the nose, this is a lighter style of mezcal punctuated with notes of salted caramel, fresh hay, and oily lemon and orange. The palate keeps things largely in line with the nose, though it’s a bit fruitier than expected, with more lemon/lemongrass notes, a slightly malty note to the chipotle-laden smoke as the palate develops, leading to a gently caramel-laced finish. Very easygoing, suitable for any mezcal novice. 86 proof. B+ / $28

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado : Rubedo – Lightly yellow-hued, though no aging information is provided. Quite a different experience, with a comparably closed nose, the focus here is on wood-driven vanilla, butterscotch, and a very light touch of smoke underneath it. The palate is reminiscent of reposado tequila, with virtually no smokiness at all, loaded instead with notes of toasted marshmallow, roasted agaves, and a vanilla-caramel-chocolate note that lingers as the finish quickly develops. Said finish lingers with a dessert-like sweetness, washing away any semblance of smoke, and fading out with a character reminiscent of Christmas, with a vague ginger spice character. 83 proof. A- / $33

kimosabemezcal.com

Review: NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition

Port fanatics may recall that three years ago, Graham’s released a special edition of its Six Grapes flagship bottling, Six Grapes Special Old Vines Edition. Now owner Symington is out with a follow-up, Six Grapes Reserve Porto Special River Quintas Edition, which is sourced from two river estates close to the Douro: Tua and Malvedos. As the company says, “Tradition dictates that the finest properties of the Douro are those that hear the murmur of the river flowing by.”

Only 1000 cases of this release were produced. Let’s see how it stands up to the claim that it is “Vintage Port quality but ready for immediate consumption.”

Unfortunately, I found this expression to be surprisingly, slightly green on the palate, with notes of dark chocolate and prune filtered through vegetal notes of fresh rosemary and sage. The finish lands with a bit of a thud, plenty sweet but gummy around the edges, hinting at orange and grapefruit peel. It’s fair enough for a glass, but it won’t hold a candle to a solid Vintage Port.

B- / $42 / grahams-port.com

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