Review: Patron Extra Anejo Tequila

Patron has added its first new addition to the core tequila lineup in 25 years: at long last, an extra anejo bottling.

This isn’t Patron’s first dance with extra anejo. Patron Extra Anejo 7 Anos hit as a limited edition in 2015, and the infamous Guillermo del Toro Extra Anejo dropped earlier this year. The catch: Both of those were very limited editions. This is a permanent extension to the lineup.

Some details:

Aged for more than three years, Patrón Extra Añejo is the first new addition to Patrón’s core range of tequilas in 25 years, expanding an iconic line that includes Patrón Silver, Patrón Reposado (aged at least two months), and Patrón Añejo (aged for more than 12 months).  Extra añejo tequila, a classification that the Consejo Regulador de Tequila (Mexico’s governing body for tequila) created in 2006, represents the fastest-growing category in aged tequila today.

Patrón Extra Añejo tequila is crafted from the highest-quality 100 percent Weber Blue Agave and distilled using the ancient tahona process and the more modern roller mill method. It is then aged for more than three years in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels…. Patrón Extra Añejo is packaged in the same iconic bottle as Patrón’s other core tequilas, hand-numbered and hand-labeled.

Say what you will about the recent, wacky Guillermo del Toro bottling, this is a classic extra anejo tequila, with a nose of deep vanilla and caramel, backed by a very gentle herbal character driven by the agave. The creamy palate gives the immediate impression of vanilla ice cream, drizzled perhaps with a bit of chocolate syrup and plenty of caramel sauce. The sweeter components find foils in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg notes and, over time, the emergence of some hints of black cherry, rhubarb, and lemon peel. Amazing from start to finish, it’s a balanced tequila that doesn’t reinvent the extra anejo formula, but which guides it oh so subtly with a careful hand to someplace excelente.

80 proof.

A / $90 / patrontequila.com

Review: J Vineyards Cuvee 20 and 2016 Pinot Gris

Two new releases from Sonoma’s J Vineyards (now part of Gallo) have arrived — a sparkler and its always crowd-pleasing pinot gris. Let’s dive in.

NV J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut Russian River Valley – This dry sparkler is nonetheless quite fruit forward, with tons of apple and pear notes leading the way to a palate that dazzles with creme brulee, sharp lime notes, and a chewy, brioche-infused body. Bold and acidic on the finish, with just the right amount of fizzy pop. A / $38

2016 J Vineyards Pinot Gris California – A creamy ‘gris, this wine blends lemon notes with custardy flan, some cinnamon, and hints of white flowers. The semi-sweet attack leads to a relatively dry finish, with some steely acidity lingering on the palate. B+ / $20

jwine.com

Review: Kilchoman 100% Islay Seventh Release and Loch Gorm 2017

Two 2017 updates from Kilchoman have hit our desk. Let’s dig in!

Kilchoman 100% Islay Seventh Release – Kilchoman’s 2017 version of its annual 100% Islay release — grown, malted, distilled, matured and bottled on Islay — is here. At seven years old, it’s once again the oldest expression of 100% Islay released to date. As always, the 100% Islay line is more lightly peated than the rest of the Kilchoman range. As is typical, this year’s is completely matured in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. Fresh and lively, 100% Islay is always a crowd-pleaser, and the 2017 release is no exception. The nose offers notes of fresh cut grass, sharp lemon, and a smattering of herbs, all filtered through a layer of peat smoke. The palate stays on target, citrus and grassy notes melding with a hint of vanilla, some coffee bean grit, and a reprise of that smoky finish, dusted with a hint of cloves. It’s quite lovely from start to finish (though water is an improvement) and, as always, a top pick if you’re considering anything from Kilchoman. 100 proof. A / $77

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2017 – This is the sixth edition of Loch Gorm, which is Kilchoman’s annual, sherry cask matured edition. This release has been matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry butts filled in 2009, the longest Loch Gorm maturation to date. This year’s edition is one of the better expressions of Loch Gorm, the sherry maturation really hitting its stride and revealing some interesting nuances in the whisky. The peat is dialed way back vs. prior years’ releases, letting aromas of orange blossoms, lemon peel, and sandalwood peek through. The palate is quite sweet and seductive, with notes of camphor, spearmint, and a hint of licorice adding intrigue to the base notes of citrus and peat smoke. The 2017 Loch Gorm is a whisky that really comes together with a surprisingly deft balance. Though it’s a much different whisky than the 100% Islay, it’s definitively worth checking out. 92 proof. A / $73

kilchomandistillery.com

Review: Arome True Rum 28 Years Old

When you’re sipping on a 7 year old rum, you’re feeling pretty good. 14 years? 21? Fuggedaboudit.

Now comes Arome: A limited edition rum that’s 28 years old, just 500 unique bottles produced by yacht broker cum spirits maven Andrew Troyer.

How about some details about Arome:

The ARÔME 28 Founder’s Reserve is a limited production, 28 year aged sipping rum.  ARÔME 28 was created in the traditional Cuban orthodox style of rum making by a rum mastero with over 50 years of experience producing, studying, and perfecting rum. ARÔME 28 is a Panamanian produced rum which has been aged for no less than 28 years in white oak casks formerly used to age Kentucky bourbon.   ARÔME 28 is produced from estate grown sugar cane, where the rum is distilled at the source, barreled, aged, blended, and bottled.

This rum is as a well-aged and austere as you would expect from a spirit a whopping 28 years old. On the nose, notes of coffee hit first, then leather, cloves, tobacco leaf, and salted caramel. The vanilla comes across more as pure extract than, say, cake frosting — almost as savory in its intensity as it is sweet.

The palate is milder than expected, surprisingly light caramel, butterscotch, and milk chocolate notes leading the way to a flood of more intense vanilla, some orange peel, and, as the finish develops, more of those lighter chocolate notes. For a rum this old, it’s surprisingly light on its feet, with tons of butterscotch and gingerbread on the finish, along with a bit of coffee and some Madeira notes. Sure, 28 years of aging time may sound like overkill for any rum, but Arome is definitively far from “over-aged” — in fact, it’s hard to imagine a rum of any age drinking more spot-on than this.

80 proof. Reviewed: Batch #001, bottle #183 of 500 produced.

A / $600 / rumarome.com

Review: The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old, Peated Triple Cask 14 Years Old, and Peat Week 14 Years Old 2002

The Balvenie is getting peaty. In a rare move for a Speyside distillery, The Balvenie is introducing not one but two peated expressions, both of which use locally sourced peat from the Highlands. The Peated Triple Cask 14 Years Old is headed only to duty free, while the new Peat Week 14 Years Old is going into general release. (The short version: Peat Week is the one to get.)

Peat Week? Is that like Shark Week but way better? Let’s start with some details on what may sound a bit like an oddity.

A product of trials and experimentation, The Balvenie Peat Week was conceptualized by The Balvenie’s Malt Master David Stewart MBE and Ian Millar, former distillery manager and current Prestige Whiskies Specialist at William Grant & Sons.

In 2002 –  a time when very few Speyside distilleries were using peat in production – The Balvenie distilled a batch of heavily peated malt, which was laid down to mature at the distillery in Dufftown, Scotland under the watchful eye of the industry’s longest-serving Malt Master. Since this pioneering moment, the distillery has dedicated one week each year, aptly named Peat Week, to using only peated barley in its production, to craft a different style of The Balvenie liquid with enhanced smoky notes.

Commenting on the release, David Stewart MBE said, “Being able to experiment with different elements of whisky making and stock management is one of the most exciting and important parts of my job. The new Peat Week bottling is a result of our continued efforts to innovate and trial flavors not typically associated with The Balvenie. The expression is testament to the freedom we enjoy as a family company, and shows The Balvenie in an unexpected way, yet still remaining true to the distillery style our drinkers enjoy.”

The new release pays special homage to a time when peated whiskies were commonly produced by distilleries across Speyside, including The Balvenie, who utilised locally sourced peat throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s to dry barley processed at the distillery’s traditional malt floor, which is still in use today.

Additionally, Ian Millar noted, “When we first started the experiments it was an incredibly exciting time as very few Speyside distilleries were using peated malt in production. Along with cask type, there’s nothing quite like peat to change the flavor profile of a whisky, so it was great to have the chance to undertake these experiments.”

There are a few differences between Peat Week and the Peated Triple Cask, though both care a 14 year old age statement. First, Peat Week is a single-vintage bottling, while PTC does not carry that designation, so it may include older whiskies as well. If Peat Week 2002 is a success, I suspect we’ll see additional vintages of it down the line, while PTC will likely remain relatively static. From a production standpoint, note that PTC, as the name suggests, uses three types of wood in the aging process, whereas Peat Week is a 100% bourbon casked release.

More on how these differ (which is a lot) as we dig into the details, but first let’s start with the basics to ground ourselves before jumping into the new stuff…

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old – The classic, essential expression from The Balvenie’s core range, DoubleWood 12 sees 12 years of total maturation split between bourbon casks and sherry cask. The sherry is bold on the nose but tempered by walnut, ground ginger, and some lingering cereal notes — evidence that even at 12 years old, DoubleWood is still quite young. The palate pushes all these flavors aggressively, a nougat-like backbone folding in almonds, pumpkin, and some cinnamon. The finish is a bit coarse, a tad gummy, and in today’s market nothing all that fancy… but it’s good enough to tipple on in a pinch. 80 proof. B / $55

The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask 14 Years Old – As notes, this is a peated whisky aged in first-fill bourbon, refill bourbon, and sherry casks for a total of 14 years. If you recall Balvenie’s old Peated Cask Finish 17 Years Old expression and are expecting something akin to it that’s very lightly smoky, rest assured that the peat’s not subtle here — this is an entirely different whisky that’s made with peated malt, not finished in a cask that once had peated whisky in it. The smoke isn’t Islay-dense, but it’s hefty enough, offering some fresh coal embers on the nose, sweet tobacco notes, and some flamed orange peel character. On the palate, the smoke really does dominate, though brown sugar notes give it ample sweetness. The finish runs to baking spices, clove-studded oranges, and some hints of figs. The sweetness and brightness is interesting — distinguishing it to a degree from what you find in Islay — but otherwise I find the peat can at times be a little overwhelming given the erstwhile delicacy of the underlying spirit. 96.6 proof. Travel retail exclusive. B+ / $100

The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old 2002 Vintage – A single-vintage bottling, with a limited (but general retail) release. Aged 100% in bourbon casks. This is a really special and unique whisky, and I’m going to tell you right now to grab it if you’re even a modest fan of peat. The nose is very sweet — strangely fruity, with notes of honey and spice — with smoky (but not overwhelming) overtones. The palate is where things really get interesting: The smoke and honey meld together to become this dense, rich dessert-like thing, adding layers to the experience the way a bunch of brandy-coated bananas become far more interesting when whipped up tableside and set ablaze by a man in a white tuxedo. It’s much lighter on the smoke than Peated Triple Cask, and that works to this whisky’s advantage. As notes of toasted marshmallow, white peaches, and, yes, flambed banana come to the fore, the finish of golden syrup, sultanas, and a whiff of pipe smoke starts to make its case. The denouement is lengthy and lasting… and incredibly memorable. If you’re looking for a successor to the Peated Cask Finish 17 — in fact, one that outdoes it — look no further. 96.6 proof. A / $99

thebalvenie.com

Review: Parker’s Heritage Collection Single Barrel Bourbon 11 Years Old (2017)

For the latest installment in the always engaging Parker’s Heritage Collection (which now spans 11 releases), Heaven Hill is making a return to the basics. For 2017, the special release whiskey is an 11 year old single barrel bourbon, aged in the late Parker Beam’s favorite rickhouse location in Deatsville, Kentucky. The bourbon is non-chill filtered, of course, and bottled at a whopping 61% abv.

As has become tradition with these releases, a portion of proceeds ($10 per bottle) go to ALS research, the disease from which Beam passed away earlier this year.

This is a classic cask strength bourbon expression, blazing hot at full proof with a spice-heavy nose that hints at butterscotch and gingerbread atop its vanilla-caramel core. Even though I commonly deal with overproof spirits, this one is barely manageable at full strength, alcohol overwhelming everything. At full proof you do get hits of dark caramel which subtly takes on a dark chocolate tone, albeit it’s one dosed with plenty of fire.

Water and plenty of it is your friend here, as it coaxes out all manner of flavors and aromas, ranging from apple and Bit-O-Honey on the nose to white pepper, rhubarb, and more of a salted caramel note on the tongue. The finish is long and sultry, with enduring notes of baking spice and a lasting taste of Nutella, everything coming together quite beautifully.

All told, this is a knockout bourbon that’s clearly been selected from the very best barrels that Heaven Hill has to offer. This may not have the exotic provenance of, say, the Golden Anniversary bottling, but it’s a bourbon that absolutely shines. Nothing wrong with that!

122 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #5027255, OED 4/10/2006.

A / $130 / heavenhill.com

Review: Monday Night Brewing Serrano Eye Patch Ale

We haven’t heard much from Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing in a few years, but at last the company is out with a new release: Serrano Eye Patch Ale, and IPA brewed with serrano peppers.

The brew is actually a reissue of a beer that went off the market in 2015, and the company is finally bringing it back after fans clamored for it. How its made is fairly self explanatory: An English-style IPA (its Eye Patch Ale) is infused with fresh cut serrano peppers to give it some heat. Well, in theory: I found the beer quite approachable, with only a touch of burn to it as the finish fades. If I didn’t know there were serrano peppers in the mix, I might never have thought this was anything other than a well-crafted IPA — well balanced between loads of chocolaty, caramel-laden malt and bitter hops, leading to a rustic, nutty finish.

Super stuff, though come to think of it, it might taste just fine with some fire in its belly…

6.2% abv.

A / $9 per six-pack / mondaynightbrewing.com

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