Review: New Belgium La Folie 2017 and Juicy Watermelon

Something old, something new from New Belgium. One is a reprise of its annual sour release, the other a fruit-flavored ale. Let’s try both!

New Belgium La Folie Sour Ale 2017 – New Belgium’s annual release of La Folie — a sour brown ales matured in oversized French oak wine barrels for up to three years — is here. No surprises for those familiar with the beer. It’s intensely sour, with a heavy focus on fruit notes — apple and lime, especially — that are mouth-puckeringly tart. At the same time, it lacks that heavy acidity and pungency that can make so many sours overblown and undrinkable. While this is undoubtedly a powerhouse, it guides that power into something with balance and grace. 7% abv. A- / $16 per 22 oz bottle

New Belgium Juicy Watermelon – Watermelon lime ale? Sounds like something from which I’d run away screaming (and perhaps a reprise/rebrand of last year’s Heavy Melon), but much to my surprise, this fruit-heavy ale is quite approachable. You don’t even notice the fruit at first, which drinks more like a lager, malty and lightly sweet, with some Christmas spice elements. As the beer warms up, the watermelon becomes more evident, but it’s kept in check, never spiraling (quite) into Jolly Rancher territory. Summery, for sure, so hold out for a hot day. 5% abv. B / $9 per six pack

newbelgium.com

Review: 2 Greek Wines from Cava Spiliadis – Tselepos Santorini and Gerovassiliou Malagousia

The estates of Cava Spiliadis are the home of both of these Greek wines — Tselepos and Gerovassiliou — both of which serve as excellent introductions to the essential white wine styles of Greece. Thoughts follow on these highly approachable wines.

2015 Canava Chrissou Tselepos Santorini Assyrtiko – Fresh aromatics and a touch of honey give this white a lively character, slightly sweet with a bit of an herbal overtone and notes of lime zest, lingering on the back end along with hints of white pepper. An ample body adds substance to the experience. B+ / $30

2015 Ktima Gerovassiliou Malagousia – Malagousia is a recently revived grape varietal making a comeback thanks to Gerovassiliou, which produces a wine that is highly acidic, with notes of peach and apricot and plenty of florals to keep things interesting. It’s a bit like a cross between viognier and riesling… with some honey on the finish that works to smooth out the experience. A- / $16

cavaspiliadis.com

Review: Glen Moray Elgin Classic, 12 Years Old, 15 Years Old, and 18 Years Old

Speyside’s Glen Moray bills itself as offering “affordable luxury,” marketing a range of single malt whiskeys in a variety of styles. The new Elgin Heritage Range comprises three malts — and they all have age statements, clocking in at 12, 15, and 18 years old. Today we look at all three of these, plus one NAS release known as the Elgin Classic. Thoughts follow.

Glen Moray Elgin Classic – Indeed, a “classic” NAS single malt (entirely bourbon cask aged), lightly grainy but imbued with plenty of caramel (lightly salted) and some nougat aromas. The palate is lightly sweet, milk chocolatey with some orange and lemon peel overtones. It’s got ample youth — Glen Moray says the whisky here is an average of seven years old — but Glen Moray makes the most of a relatively simple spirit that melds salt, grain, and cocoa powder into a decent whole that comes at a highly attractive price. (Note that there are a number of specialty finished versions of Elgin Classic, but those aren’t reviewed here.) 80 proof. B- / $22

Glen Moray 12 Years Old – Like the Elgin Classic, this is aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. This is an instant upgrade to the Elgin Classic, a malty but rounded experience that offers a nose of supple grains and a touch of cinnamon raisin character. The palate can be a touch sweaty at times, but on the whole it’s got a body that offers a beautifully integrated combination of roasted grain, walnuts, raisins, and caramel sauce. The finish integrates the cinnamon with some chocolate notes, a touch of dried plum, and a hint of gingerbread. A really fine experience and, again, a pretty good bargain. 80 proof. A- / $37

Glen Moray 15 Years Old – This 15 year old expression is a blend of whisky matured in bourbon casks and sherry casks, making for a much different impression right from the start. The nose has that oily citrus character driven by the sherry casks, but this tends to come across as quite youthful, almost underdeveloped at times, though some white florals and elderberry notes peek through at times. The palate is more of a success, with lots of fruit, a creme brulee-like vanilla note, and a twist of orange peel, though the finish is a touch on the harsh side, with some lingering acetone notes. All told this drinks like a younger sherried whisky (younger than it is, anyway). Some time with air opens things up nicely. 80 proof. B / $58

Glen Moray 18 Years Old – We’re back to straight bourbon barrels for this 18 year old release, which has no sherry influence. Bold butterscotch, vanilla syrup, pine needles, and menthol all dance on the nose. The palate is hot — this is considerably higher proof — with notes of roasted nuts and brown sugar. Some chocolate notes evolve in time, alongside a cinnamon punch and a dusting of powdered ginger. What’s missing is much of a sense of fruit — aside from some hints of dried peaches and apricots, the whisky falls a bit flat, particularly on the relatively grain-laden finish. Note that this one is quite hard to find at present. 94.4 proof. B / $100

glenmoray.com

Review: Cadee Distillery Complete Lineup – Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Rye, Deceptivus, and Cascadia

Based on the Isle of Whidbey, north of Seattle, Cadee (Gaelic for “pure”) is operated by a family of Scottish ex-pats with a passion for distilling. The distillery offers a wide range of spirits, from vodka to gin to a selection of whiskeys — clearly the focus here, considering the pride it takes in its oak barrel program.

We tasted, well, everything that Cadee makes. Thoughts on the complete lineup follow.

All bottles are individually numbered.

Cadee Distillery No. 4 Vodka – Distilled four times (hence the name) from unspecified grain. This is a prototypical modern vodka, a little mushroomy on the nose but balanced out with marshmallow-like sweetness that is particularly present on the creamy, versatile body. Hints of lemon and milk chocolate give the vodka some nuance, but otherwise it’s a straightforward and simply sweet vodka with mixing on its mind. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #2. B+ / $29

Cadee Distillery Gin – Juniper-focused, but botanicals are not disclosed. Reportedly made from an 18th century recipe. This London dry style gin is indeed heavily perfumed with evergreen notes and a touch of forest floor funkiness, but the body offers more interest, with those juniper notes slowly fading to reveal a complex array of flavors that include marzipan, lemongrass, and mandarin oranges. It’s those distinct mandarins that linger on the finish for the long haul, giving this gin a particular uniqueness that merits exploration. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $36

Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin – This is a distinct and separate gin expression, “full of character and botanicals, with a subtle citrus focus.” The mandarin notes from the standard gin are stronger here, particularly on the nose, which ride along with grapefruit and banana notes, plus some lime. That lime paints the way to the palate, which continues the heavily citrus (not at all “subtle”) theme, with more grapefruit and lemon notes, along with a healthy grind of black pepper and a touch of mint. For fans of fruit-forward vodka, this is a pretty and aromatic gin worth picking up. 88 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A / $36

Cadee Distillery Bourbon Whiskey – Aged in new, charred American oak barrels for a minimum of just eight months, but you could’ve fooled me. This is young whiskey, but it has a depth and maturity that I never see in craft bourbons. While the up-front speaks of buttered popcorn and salted caramel, what follows is a character that would indicate much more seriousness: ample vanilla, chocolate malt, some match-head barrel char, and hints of roasted meats, cloves, and a soothing, rye-like baking spice character on the finish. The up-front, grain-heavy character makes a subtle showing on said finish, alongside some notes of hemp rope and, at the very end, hints of sweet Sauternes wine. Kooky fun. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #4. B+ / $43

Cadee Distillery Rye Whiskey – Same aging regimen as the bourbon, but with a rye mash. This one’s not as successful as the bourbon, with much less maturity — which is understandable given that, well, it’s not terribly mature. Sugary cereal plays with some weedy and mushroomy notes on the nose, with a slight undercurrent of lemon peel. On the palate, it’s quite sweet but otherwise similar, with a continued focus on grain and earthier elements. The finish is on the tough side, though a lot of brown sugar sweetness hangs on well after the granary notes fade. 84 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. C+ / $39

Cadee Distillery Deceptivus – This is essentially Cadee’s bourbon, finished (for an unstated amount of time) in first-fill Port barrels. (Real Port from Portugal, not some weird Washington “Port.”) The nose has that telltale winey fruitiness, all plums, prunes, and raisins, with a smattering of Christmas spices behind it, plus a hint of caramel corn. The palate is sweetish without being overblown, fruity without tasting like jam. It’s hard to go wrong with Port finishing, and here the wine and whiskey notes come together to create a dessert-like spirit that balance one another with notes of brown sugar, rum raisin ice cream, cinnamon sticks, roasted almonds, cocoa nibs, and lingering dark chocolate notes. One to pick up, for sure. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #6. A- / $49

Cadee Distillery Cascadia – The Port-finished version of the standard rye. The whiskey has a lovely, pinkish hue to it. Even the Port can’t tamp down the grain here, which is just as cereal-focused as the unfinished version, a bit leaden with notes of hemp and wet earth, plus overtones of menthol. The palate is more of a success, layering in fruit atop the cereal, here showcasing lighter notes of strawberry and grape jelly, some orange oil, and a slightly sour rhubarb edge. Again, the finish is boldly sweet, though not so overpowering as to make one grimace. 87 proof. Reviewed: Batch #3. B / $50

cadeedistillery.com

Review: Chieftain’s Batch #10 – Linkwood 1991, Glenrothes 1997, Glenturret 1990, Bowmore 2002

A new batch of whiskies from indie bottlers Chieftain’s has turned out six new releases. Today we look at four of them. Thoughts follow.

Chieftain’s Linkwood 1991 24 Years Old – When I think of great, beautiful Speyside whisky, this is what it tastes like. Aged 24 years in (ex-bourbon) hogsheads, this whisky is soft and sweet, with notes of brown sugar, light toffee, subdued oak, and almonds on the nose. The malty but soothing body kicks up some spice notes, with strong secondary notes of Christmassy roasted nuts, and a sharp citrus character on the back end. The finish is surprisingly briny, echoing the malty, nutty notes that roll over the tongue on first blush. It’s a relatively simple whisky, but its just-perfect maturity proves to be quite enchanting. 92 proof. Cask #10369. A / $160

Chieftain’s The Glenrothes 1997 19 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – This PX whisky is a monumental bruiser, and right from the get-go it offers aromas of wood oil, raisins, Port reduction, well-roasted chestnuts, and old, old wood. This is all just a comparatively restrained prelude to the body, which is overwhelming with that PX sherry, which is drying and pungent with notes of dried flowers, jasmine, dried figs, bitter roots, and more of that heady furniture polish character. The finish is lasting but tight, raisiny, and full of funk. Not your father’s Glenrothes, for sure. 106.4 proof. Cask #91822. B / $150

Chieftain’s Glenturret 1990 25 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish – Compare the Speyside Glenrothes to the Highland Glenturret, located considerably further to the south. This is a better balanced expression of a PX finished malt, though it is still loaded to the hilt with that PX character. On the nose, it’s thick with spice and oily nuts, raisins and Port wine — but balanced, lacking the astringency of the Glenrothes bottling. The palate is bold and expressive but, again, finding a better balance among notes of chocolate, toasty oak, toffee, and some brown sugar. That racy finish is heady and lengthy, but settles down into a groovy fireside character that keeps you coming back. Cask #91812. A- / $170

Chieftain’s Bowmore 2002 13 Years Old – Saving the peat for last, this a classic Bowmore aged in bourbon hogsheads. The nose is mild, just hinting at smokiness while keeping its focus more on notes of nuts, roasted grains, dark chocolate, and maple. The palate kicks off the peat character in earnest, with notes of fresh peat, lightly sweet smoke, and a slug of salty iodine, but the finish takes things back to fruit — mainly apples, plus perhaps some white peach notes. This is a rather laid back Bowmore expression that peat freaks may find undercooked — but perhaps is more approachable to the rest of the whisky world. 92 proof. Cask #2096-2097. B+ / $120

ianmacleod.com

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel, Outryder, and Double Cask Limited Edition

Since the 2015 launch of their first whiskey, Small Batch Bourbon, Kirby-based Wyoming Whiskey has made a name for itself in the craft distilling world with a steady release of high-quality offerings that manage to showcase creativity and pack in a lot of complex flavor despite their youth (all are around five years old). A Single Barrel release followed quickly behind the Small Batch, and then in late 2016 the distillery shook things up with a bottled-in-bond, straight American whiskey called Outryder. Most recently, in February 2017, Wyoming Whiskey introduced its first wine cask-finished bourbon, Double Cask Limited Edition.

Thoughts follow on all three of these releases.

Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel Bourbon – Wyoming Whiskey’s (wheated) Single Barrel Bourbon is naturally chosen from the best of the barrels which are excluded from the Small Batch blend and reportedly yield only about 220 bottles each. At only five years old, each Single Barrel will exhibit different qualities, so variation is to be expected among different bottlings. This bottle has a light copper color. The nose is sweet with hints of brown butter, ginger, and cocoa nibs. The palate is rock candy sweet and a little thin, but layers of chocolate, citrus, and cloves appear in due course with black pepper and candied ginger rounding out a generous finish. 88 proof. B+ / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Outryder Straight American Whiskey – A departure from the wheated mash of Small Batch and Single Barrel, this bottle is a blend of two different whiskeys, each with a large winter rye component in the mashbill (one is a whopping 48% rye). It also carries the bottled-in-bond label, something rarely seen in the craft whiskey world, which means, among other things, it is at least 4 years old and bottled at 100 proof. The color on Outryder is pale amber. On the nose, there’s sweet toasted coconut and vanilla bean. The palate showcases a gentle rye spice with layers of maple syrup, nutmeg, and raisins along with a surprising and enjoyable pineapple note. The long finish is where most of the spice emerges along with some subtle orange zest. For their first foray into rye-forward whiskey, this one is a true winner from the folks in Kirby. 100 proof. A- / $60

Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition – The latest addition to the Wyoming Whiskey line-up is probably its best yet. For Double Cask Limited Edition, the same five year wheated bourbon in the Small Batch and Single Barrel is given a healthy dose of finishing in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks and bottled at 100 proof. The result is a surprisingly rich and flavorful spirit that begins with its beautiful mahogany color (imparted largely from the wine cask). The nose explodes with dried fruit, fig, and candied apricot. The palate is like a rich, sweet breakfast of pancakes covered in dark berries and buttery, vanilla syrup with hints of black raisins and candied orange peel. The finish is long and warming with fading notes of fresh-ground cinnamon. 100 proof. A / $60

wyomingwhiskey.com

Review: The Exclusive Malts Batch #12 – Glen Moray 2007, Balmenach 2003, Benrinnes 1995, Invergordon 1972

It’s been a couple of years — and far too long — since we’ve checked in with the independent bottlers at The Exclusive Malts, which are now on release #12 of their series of generally exceptional outturns. Today we look at four of the selections from this periodic release.

Thoughts follow.

The Exclusive Malts Glen Moray 2007 9 Years Old – A young Speyside ages in first-fill bourbon barrels. Quite sweet on the nose, the bourbon barrel carries the experience with notes of vanilla, sugar cookies, baked bread, and some mint. On the palate, the relative youth is clear, with notes of red hots and burnt sugar both heavy, but finding some room for notes of jasmine and nutmeg. Enjoyable in its youth, but a simple experience that is perhaps priced above its fighting weight. 111.4 proof. B+ / $85

The Exclusive Malts Balmenach 2003 13 Years Old – Balmenach is a little-known Speyside distillery, and this 13 year old is aged in first-fill bourbon barrels. Exotic nose, with notes of tropical fruit, incense, and some caramel and chocolate character to back it up. On the palate, more of those incense notes and spiced wood notes mingle with notes of cherry, some citrus, more tropical character, and a hint of menthol on the finish. It comes across as closer to a sherry-finished whiskey than a strictly ex-bourbon barrel one, but one that’s wholly worthwhile. 115.6 proof. A- / $125

The Exclusive Malts Benrinnes 1995 20 Years Old – 20 year old Speyside whisky, aged in a refill sherry hogshead. What a strange experience this whisky is, offering complex aromas of fresh tangerines, burnt rubber, Eastern spices, and dense florals. These are heady, spice bazaar-like notes that lead to a body that showcases somewhat more traditional flavors, including notes of banana and green apple, backed up with lots of camphor. I can safely say I’ve never experienced a Scotch whisky that approaches this flavor profile. I can’t say whether or not that is a good thing. 105.4 proof. B / $170

The Exclusive Malts Invergordon 1972 43 Years Old – This single grain whisky spent 43 years in refill barrels before bottling. As with many single grain spirits, it is rather pastoral in nature, offering florals and fresh granary notes on the nose, with just wispy hints of raspberry. The palate is slightly (black) peppery, with more cereal character and notes of black tea and a hint of apricot jam. The finish is a melange of all of the above, which merits considerable reflection. 96.4 proof. B+ / $260

impexbev.com

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