Review: Woodford Reserve Distillery Series Double Double Oaked (2018)

Back in 2015, Woodford Reserve launched its Distillery Series, one-off whiskeys that were (and are) only available at the distillery. One of the first whiskeys in this collection was the Woodford Reserve Distillery Series Double Double Oaked, which starts with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and finishes it for an additional year in a second, heavily toasted lightly charred new oak barrel.

The original was so popular that Woodford decided to bring it back, so today we look at this second release of Double Double Oaked.

As expected, the nose remains extremely wood-heavy, a burly, oaky lumberyard note that manages to find balance in notes of cloves, menthol, and a hint of dark chocolate. The palate is surprisingly lighter than the nose would indicate, with stronger chocolate notes, some cinnamon, and butterscotch. On the finish, it’s a bit racy, but baking spice and brown sugar notes temper it well.

All told, my tasting notes are similar to the 2015 edition, as is my rating. Definitely one to pick up if your travels take you to Kentucky!

90.4 proof.

A- / $50 (375ml) /

Review: Copper Fox Peachwood American Single Malt

Many craft distillers today are producing good (if young) whiskey. Unfortunately, too many are bringing nothing that’s really new to the market and asking a hefty premium over quality bottles from the bigger distilleries. It’s perhaps the biggest challenge of America’s craft whiskey movement: to create not just good whiskey but good whiskey that’s also unique.

Creativity is something not lacking at Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. As an early East Coast pioneer of American single malt, its founder, Rick Wasmund, took lessons from Scottish tradition (they’re the first distillery in North America to install a malt floor and kiln) and combined them with completely original techniques like the use of different fruitwood smoke in their malt. The latest addition to their line-up, Peachwood American Single Malt, is perhaps their most unique endeavor to date, relying on peachwood as both a smoking medium during kiln drying and as a maturing catalyst inside the barrels. Surprisingly, much of the process behind the single malt is spelled out on the label, from the type of still used to the barrel entry proof to the ppm (parts per million) of Virginia peachwood smoke used in the malting. It’s clearly something different, but how does it taste?

On the nose, Peachwood American Single Malt is like a candied campfire. It’s sweet with a blend of toasted grain, ripe peach, and mesquite aromas. On the palate, the whisky showcases a great balance of sweet and savory with vanilla, clove, and citrus complemented by toasted oak, a briny smokiness, and gentle heat. The peachwood is less of a factor on the palate than on the nose, which is probably for the best, but it seems to have created some welcome, honeyed citrus notes not found in the distillery’s standard single malt offering. The finish is slightly drying, but still manages to carry those complex initial flavors for a decent length until they erode into smoke and caramel sweetness. It’s a well-made and extremely interesting single malt — and it’s just what the craft whiskey world could use a little more of.

96 proof.

A / $54 /

Review: Not Your Father’s Bourbon

After giving alcoholic root beer, ginger ale, and cream soda a spin, the “Not Your Father’s” brand has moved on up to hard spirits. Its first product in the category is an obvious one: Not Your Father’s Bourbon, a flavored bourbon which claims “a touch of vanilla” as its only adulterant.

Let’s give it a shot.

The nose is plenty sweet, with notes of sugar cookies, ample vanilla, and hints of cinnamon red hot candies. It’s whiskey, to be sure, but particularly bourbonish notes are elusive; though the hint of caramel corn and some rustic burlap notes at least nod in that direction.

The palate is well-sweetened although, perhaps, it is indeed “not too sweet” as the label indicates. For those with a distinct sugar fixation, NYFB will hit the spot with a candylike vanilla hit, a light note of milk chocolate, cinnamon, and a more evident popcorn note. The finish is on the racy side, again calling back more to cinnamon than vanilla, though both linger on the tongue.

It’s perfectly acceptable for a flavored whiskey, nothing to write home about but harmless, at least as a mixer, though one has to wonder: What was wrong with your father’s bourbon? It wasn’t sweet enough? Hands down I prefer my bourbon with less sweetness than this, as sugar tends to overpower the more delicate flavors that the whiskey might possess.

The back label of the bottle asks, “Why do flavored whiskeys always taste more like the flavor than the actual whiskey?”

To which I reply, “Why flavor the whiskey at all?”

86 proof.

B- / $25 /

Review: Flaviar Son of a Peat Blended Malt

Our pals at Flaviar, which operate a cool spirits subscription service as well as owning our affiliate retail partner Caskers, have released their first ever private label whisky: Son of a Peat.

The inaugural Son of a Peat (this is technically Batch 01) is a blended malt Scotch comprised of eight single malts from three regions in Scotland: Islay, the Islands, and Speyside. “Through member feedback and market insights, Flaviar co-founder Grisa Soba combined his passion for distilling and blending with data from Flaviar club enthusiasts to create a peated malt blend members would be sure to love. Son of a Peat is blended with the flavor profile top of mind, rather than being focused on an age statement.”

The initial run is 1500 bottles in size, with a three bottle limit per customer.

Let’s give it a taste.

Of those three regions mentioned above, Islay (as expected) really dominates. In fact, as the name implies, this is a quite straightforward expression of a heavily-peated whisky, extremely maritime on the nose with ample salt and seaweed notes and a strong current of smoke running throughout. The palate offers few surprises, a racy and powerful take on ultra-peat, pungent with a reprise of notes of seaweed, salt spray, and waves of peat smoke wafting over everything. It’s a fair enough complaint that Son of a Peat offers few surprises. But did I mention the peat? Just checking.

96.6 proof.

B / $60 /

Review: The Maltman Springbank 24 Years Old from Whisky Foundation

Ever wonder why the price of whisky doesn’t fluctuate with supply and demand like the price of gasoline? Well, now it does — sort of — thanks to The Whisky Foundation Reserve, which is launching the idea of whisky priced based on market demand.

Take a look at the listing page (link at the bottom of this review) and you’ll see what we mean. Basically, The Whisky Foundation Reserve acquired a cask of Springbank 24 year old, distilled in 1992, aged in sherry casks, and bottled by The Maltman in 2017 at cask strength. 244 bottles were produced, and as they sell, the price rises and falls. The first bottle sold for a mere $1. Prices have topped out at $551 before settling, as I write this, at $270. That may go up, it may go down. Depends on if you go buy one.

Neat idea, and we were lucky enough to be able to actually sample the whisky. If you’re thinking about jumping into the malt market, here’s what you can expect.

The nose has that immediate punch of Springbank funk, slightly earthy and meaty with hints of camphor, Stilton cheese, and simmering bacon. The palate is racier than expected, finally showcasing the sherry-driven fruit character of citrus oils mixed with hints of walnut. A gunpowder character and a powerful artichoke note carry things to a lingering finish that is sharp and citrusy, with some of those mushroom and vegetal notes mixed in. Green pepper isn’t normally something I like to see in anything I drink, but in this well-aged Springbank, it works well as just one part of a curious but compelling whole.

94.2 proof.

A- / $270 (subject to change) /

Review: The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Ready for a new Irish that isn’t a special release of something from Jameson? Read on!

The Sexton is a made in the North Coast of Ireland (at Bushmills, surely, as the two brands have the same ownership, the company Proximo), and is made from a 100% malted barley mash that is triple distilled in copper pots and aged for four years in first, second and third fill Oloroso sherry butts. The master blender is Alex Thomas, one of few females employed in the whiskey world that are masters of anything (i.e. distilling or blending).

The bottle itself is also worth special note: It’s a squat, black hexagonal decanter (“sexton,” get it?) that is quite striking. Whoever gives out awards for booze packaging should take immediate notice of The Sexton.

As for what’s inside, perhaps owing to some of its unconventional production, this is indeed a rather unusual expression of Irish whiskey, even for a single malt. The nose is immediately a bit weedy, quite green and vegetal, but undercut with notes of savory spices — think rosemary, not cloves — and a slightly nutty, winey character. Give it some time, and the green character will fade a bit.

On the palate, the whiskey is more straightforward and quite charming. Bold nougat and spice notes round out a palate rich with nutty almond, toasty malt, and hints of cocoa powder, which linger far longer than expected. The finish sees some more of that winey character hanging about, which, along with the nutty elements, is the only real indication that this has been aged in sherry casks.

All told, this is an Irish that drinks more like a young single malt Scotch than almost any other Irish whiskey I can think of. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, well, is up to you.

By the way, that bottle may look cool, but it splashes pretty badly when you pour from it. Use caution.

80 proof.

B+ / $28 /

Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare

The latest installment in Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Scotch line isn’t a new color but rather a special version of an existing one. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare, as it awkwardly notes on the bottle, is a “Special Blend with Brora & Rare; 8 Legendary Whiskies.” The key to that is a single word: Brora, a long-dead distillery whose few remaining casks appear regularly in Diageo’s annual Special Release series. Brora single malt is now a highly coveted (and highly expensive) whisky, and its appearance here in this blend should raise eyebrows, considering it’s available at a price well below the four figures the single malt commands.

So what is Ghost and Rare, really? More completely, it’s “the first in a series of special releases crafted using irreplaceable whiskies from ‘ghost’ distilleries that have long since closed, together with other rare malt and grain scotch.”

All eight distilleries are outlined on the bottle (with a handy map). The three ghosts are Cambus, Pittyvaich, and the aforementioned Brora. The five “rare whiskies” include Royal Lochnagar, Clynelish, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, and Cameronbridge. Some of those are rarer than others, but clearly some less expensive juice is needed to keep the price down.

As for the tasting, put simply, this is what Blue Label should taste like.

The nose is fresh and lively, not at all hoary and old, showcasing bright notes of fresh apple, figs, orangey sherry, and vanilla-scented, well-rounded malt. That’s all just prologue for the palate, a seductive blend that kicks off with loads of chocolate — both milk and dark — plus top notes of ripe banana, apricots, and lilac. As the lushly rounded and rich body develops, it leads to more sultry notes of sandalwood, fresh tobacco leaf, and some savory hints akin to lamb chops. The finish is dry and a bit tannic, but satisfying with notes of old wood and wet leather. All told, it’s a whisky that tells a story, one that starts with a bright sunrise and concludes with the dying of the light.

To answer the most obvious question that any Johnnie Walker fan must be thinking, this is nothing like standard Blue Label, not just because it lacks a peated element, but because it offers a far richer and more developed depth of character and flavor. Even if you think you don’t like blends, even if you think you don’t like Johnnie Walker, I highly recommend checking it out.

92 proof.

A / $300 /