Review: Tipperary Irish Whiskey – Knockmealdowns and Watershed

Tipperary is a county in Ireland — just east of Limerick, northeast of Cork — and it’s also an Irish whiskey brand, one which our friends at ImpEx recently added to their stable of imports. Tipperary, like many American craft distilleries, is currently releasing limited editions of sourced whiskey while it gets its own production up and running — with the spin of cutting it to proof with water from its own family farm. These two releases — the first Tipperarys to be available in the U.S. — are both sourced from a tiny number of casks.

We tasted both; thoughts follow. Both are 94 proof.

Tipperary Boutique Selection Knockmealdowns 10 Years Old – “The first of our Limited Edition Mountain Range, “The Knockmealdowns” is created from only six casks, matured in Ireland for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels. The whiskey is cut to 47% with water from Ballindoney farm in Tipperary, owned by our co-founding family, the Ahearns.” Gentle on the nose, with delightful notes of ginger and cinnamon atop a simple, caramel-heavy aroma. On the palate, the whiskey keeps things straightforward, folding some red pepper into the mainstream notes of brown sugar, caramel sauce, and toasted marshmallow. A bit of heat creeps up on the back end — along with some herbal and heather notes. A solid sipper that is at once classically Irish while also a bit elevated above the usual fare from Eire. A- / $90

Tipperary Boutique Selection Watershed – “Only six first-fill bourbon casks are chosen for each batch of Watershed, carefully selected for quality by our Malt Master, Stuart Nickerson. After being cut to 47% with our Ballindoney water, we number every bottle individually, so each one is special.” No age statement on this one. Much more grain heavy, with notes of wheat crackers and coal dust on the nose. The palate doesn’t stray far from this construct, with notes of cracked barley and lumberyard leading the way to a finish that is spicy but relatively devoid of fruit. B- / $63

tipperarydistillery.ie

Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Blended Rye

Woodford Reserve’s latest entry into its Distillery Series — so-called because it is only sold at the distillery — is called Blended Rye. As the name suggests, it’s a blend of rye whiskeys:

Woodford Reserve announces the latest Distillery Series expression as a unique blend of aged rye whiskey. The Woodford Reserve Distillery first made a whiskey from rye mash for the Masters Collection in 2004.  The recipe was 100% rye.  The following year in 2005, the production of rye whiskey for the Distiller’s Select line began.  This was a 53% rye, 33% corn and 14% malted barley recipe. The Distillery Series highlights Woodford Reserve’s creative line of complex offerings showcasing the brand’s commitment to innovation and premium craftsmanship.

The original rye mash distillate used in the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Aged Cask Rye expression [from 2004] had matured in used Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels. Select quantities of this quality rye were held back to continue maturing until 2017 when it was blended with the last of the original Distiller’s Select Straight Rye barrels to create this unique Rye Whiskey flavor profile.

Of special note, this is the first of three ryes that will be released in the Distillery Series this year.

The nose is on point — racy with black pepper, cloves, and ample barrel char. It’s light on the sweeter baking spices but offers a pungency that is enticing and a bit exotic. Things go a little sideways once you actually start drinking it. Here that ultra-savory char character overpowers everything, attacking the palate with notes of charcoal, well-done meat, and gnawed-on tree roots. What sweetness, fruit, and vanilla notes are here are so well buried that it’s hard to make much sense of them. A bit of stone fruit teases the palate at first, but it’s washed away almost immediately, leaving behind a mouth-coating blend of pepper and sawdust on the finish.

Altogether it’s an intriguing experiment, but this one just never really gets fully off the ground, done in by some whiskey that’s simply seen too much barrel time.

90.4 proof.

B- / $46 (375ml) / woodfordreserve.com

Review: The Beers of MadTree Brewing Company

MadTree Brewing Company opened in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2013 and has seen rapid growth ever since. They recently expanded their operation and partnered with Cavalier Distributing to bring their beers to the rest of Ohio as well as Kentucky. With their beers set to reach a broader audience and a promising track record, it was time for a review of their core line of beers.

MadTree Lift Kölsch – Lift is a pleasant surprise. Despite having the lowest alcohol of MadTree’s year-round offerings, it is real beer with real beer flavor. It is light and refreshing, presenting the welcoming smells of wheat and lemon. The palate shows the cereal flavor of toasted malt along with a gentle hop crispness at the end. Perfect for a hot summer day. 4.7% abv. B

MadTree Psychopathy India Pale Ale – The can describes this beer well, noting its “floral, grassy, and citrus hop flavors.” The citrus comes forward more on the nose and the floral and grassy notes come to the fore in the palate. There are lots of different IPAs on the market these days, and MadTree has created one that stakes a claim and does not try to please everyone. It is surprisingly and pleasantly bitter considering that it clocks in at only 60 IBU. 6.9% abv. A-

MadTree Happy Amber Ale – Happy Amber was the first beer MadTree brewed, and it is a very enjoyable amber ale, showing a nice malt presence along with 30 IBU, which is high for the style. The result is a well-balanced beer that exhibits bready notes and caramel in both the nose and the taste. It finishes with a bitter, hoppy crispness I really enjoyed. I rather wish the beer was a bit more assertive in its use of malt and hops, but if it was, I might not look forward to a second can so soon after I finished the first. A dangerously drinkable amber. 6.0% abv. B+

MadTree PSA Pale Ale – PSA (Proper Session Ale) has a lot of character for a session beer. The nose presents orange and notes of pineapple. The flavors are a mix of pine and citrus coupled with a crisp, hoppy bitterness. The carbonation, as is common with session beers, is a bit high. This is a fine session beer, and one that deserves serious attention, particularly from IPA fans who steer clear of overwhelming DIPAs. 4.5% abv. B+

MadTree Sol Drifter Blonde Ale – Sol Drifter is a summer-season session beer brewed with strawberries. The nose is light and presents strawberry as well as slight notes of malt. The same subdued notes of strawberry and malt appear again in the palate, along with a little lemon, and the beer finishes quickly and cleanly. This is a refreshing beer, but not really an exciting one. 4.3% abv. B-

madtreebrewing.com

Review: West Cork Irish Whiskey Black Reserve and Barrel Proof

West Cork, still a new distilling operation in Ireland, is already out with two limited releases, both of which we were excited to put to the test. These whiskeys mark the rollout of new labels for West Cork, as well, so don’t get too confused…

West Cork Irish Whiskey Black Reserve – Indeed, quite dark in color. This is a blend of grain and malt whiskey, finished in “double charred first fill bourbon casks” for six months. This is a burly Irish, with a slightly sweet but woodsy, nutty, and floral nose. The body takes things elsewhere, with lots of barrel char and coal dust right at the start, giving the whiskey a coarse and throat-scratching character. This whisks away the bulk of the sweetness, mopping it up with burnt wood and match heads, and leaving on the back of the throat a very dry character reminiscent of licorice and the essence of a burning leaf pile. A curiosity, and a study in what happens when delicate Irish whiskey gets punched around by the barrel. 86 proof. B- / $37

West Cork Irish Whiskey Barrel Proof – Here, two whiskeys — a grain whiskey and a malt whiskey — are aged, blended (2:1 grain to malt), and further married in bourbon barrels. It is bottled at cask strength. This is, again, a bit of a rough and tumble whiskey. The nose is scorching — dark brown/almost blackened sugar notes with a vegetal backbone. On the palate, notes of liquid coal, wood embers, mushroom, and tar all come together in, much like the Black Reserve, a very non-Irish fashion. What lingers on the finish is molasses, some hints of blackberry jam, black tea, pepper, and a quickly vanishing essence of dried flowers. Weird stuff. 124 proof. B / $57

westcorkdistillers.com

Review: American Born Bourbon, Peach Whiskey, and Apple Whiskey

American Born is a new line of bourbon and flavored whiskey from Milestone Brands, an Austin-based company founded by the minds behind Deep Eddy Vodka. These new whiskeys are sourced spirits bottled at 83 proof, which “pays homage to the recognition of the country’s independence in 1783.” Hmmm.

Note that the spirits are all bottled in Nashville, but they are not considered (or labeled) Tennessee Whiskey.

Thoughts on the full lineup follow.

American Born Bourbon Whiskey – Made from a “corn and rye” mash, but otherwise details are scant, including where it is distilled, and how long it is aged. Clearly it’s not young. The whiskey has the hallmarks of youth on the nose, namely plenty of lumberyard character that gives it a considerable pungency. The palate finds that wood melding with buttery popcorn and taking on some smoky notes, alongside almond, clove, and a burnt rubber character that lingers on the finish. A simple bourbon that is all about youth, worn straight on its sleeve. 83 proof. B- / $20

American Born Peach Whiskey – Made with natural peach juice and natural flavors. This is a capable way to doctor the rough-and-tumble Bourbon, giving a good amount of sweetness to a whiskey that’s desperately in need of it. And at first blush, the peach is juicy, authentic, and sweet — but this degrades surprisingly quickly, devolving into a chemical note that comes across as acrid, shades of (the old) Southern Comfort. 70 proof. C / $19

American Born Apple Whiskey – Again, made with real apple juice and natural flavors. Sharp apple candy on the nose leads to an incredibly sweet and syrupy body, stuffed with apple and watermelon candy notes. The finish is unbearably saccharine, off-putting with harshly astringent overtones. D- / $19

americanbornwhiskey.com

Review: No. 209 Barrel Reserve Gin – Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay Finished

No. 209, based in San Francisco, is going on a tear with its gin. Not only is it still producing standard and Kosher versions of its straight gin, it’s also out with three barrel-finished expressions, each spending time in a different type of California wine barrel. Today we look at two of those — gin finished in sauvignon blanc barrels and gin finished in chardonnay casks. Thoughts follow.

Both are bottled at 92 proof.

No. 209 Barrel Reserve Gin Finished in Sauvignon Blanc Barrels – Immediately a little curious, because sauvignon blanc is uncommonly barreled in the U.S. — but this spends 134 days in barrel nonetheless. Powerfully aromatic, with a nose that’s hard to place — eucalyptus, menthol, and a sweet citrus I usually associate with moscato wine. The palate initially packs less of a punch, offering quick citrus, grapefruit, and lemon peel notes — then sharpens up quickly with a reprise of menthol, camphor, and some slightly smoky and deeply earthy herbal character lingering on the finish. There’s a lot going on in this gin, but it works quite well on the whole, evoking some even more exotic notes, like violets and rhubarb, as you explore it in greater depth. None of that really has anything in common with sauvignon blanc, but hey, that’s the magic of the barrel. Reviewed: Batch #4. A- / $60

No. 209 Barrel Reserve Gin Finished in Chardonnay Barrels – 119 days in barrel. This is a radically different gin than the sauvignon blanc bottling, and a less assured one. The nose is greener, with a malty underpinning and moderately oaky — as you’d expect from a chardonnay. The palate is considerably more creamy and rounded than the sauvignon blanc bottling, with initial notes of Indian spices, more malt, and some funkier mushroom notes. The finish is where it starts to fall apart, those mushroom characteristics picking up steam and dominating the rest of the experience, taking the finish to an overwhelmingly earthy (and oak-driven) place that is devoid of fruit or spice. Offhand, chardonnay doesn’t sound like a bad match for gin, but in this release it just seems like they may have spent too long together. Reviewed: Batch #1. B- / $60

distillery209.com

Review: Cooper River Petty’s Island Rums and Cooper & Vine Brandy

Cooper River Distillers is the first legal distillery in Camden, NJ — ever! This outfit produced its first product, a rum, in 2014, and since then it’s been adding more rum expressions, brandy, and whiskey. We received a variety pack from the company — three rums and its brandy — and put them all to the test in the writeups that follow.

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum – Pot-distilled white rum (unaged) made from a “custom blend of molasses.” Funky and pungent, but with a distinct sweetness underneath the initial notes of leather and burlap. It’s not the usual tropical fruit character but rather a floral-driven note that evokes notes of hibiscus, grapefruit peel, and cinnamon-scented tapioca. Lots going on, with a somewhat muddy direction. 90 proof. B- / $25

Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum – Take the Petty’s Island white rum base, “then we age it on toasted applewood for a month, add all-natural cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, ginger, coffee, and allspice before finally sweetening Driftwood Dream just a tad with the same molasses we use as the base for all of our rums.” Incredibly dark color, and the molasses added comes through immediately. This, and some ginger notes, overwhelm all the other flavors, though a hint of coffee on the finish is both fun and quite unique spiced rum. Gingersnap in a bottle — that’s the gist — with a boozy edge. The more I sip on this, the more I fall in love with it. 80 proof. A / $32

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum Rye Oak Reserve – Here’s the white rum aged for 13 to 16 months in charred, white oak barrels previously used for Cooper’s rye whiskey. Though amber in color, it’s still quite brash. Butterscotch notes hit the nose, along with hints of coconut and plenty of ethanol heat. On the palate, the raw alcohol notes tend to dominate, incompletely covering up the funky underpinnings of the white rum, thick with raw forest floor notes, pungent tobacco, and just a hint of spice — the only real indication of the rye whiskey barrel. 90 proof. B- / $39

Cooper River Cooper & Vine Garden State Brandy – Lastly, this is a brandy (made from New Jersey-sourced pinot grigio wine) that is aged for about 18 months in 15 gallon barrels — some new oak, some previously used for Cooper’s rum and rye — all blended together in the end. This is a rustic, very young brandy that is loaded with simplistic granary notes, raw alcohol, and blunt fruit notes, the finish offering heat and plenty of vegetal overtones. Nothing much to see at this young age. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1. C- / $37

cooperriverdistillers.com

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