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: 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

Review: Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel Bourbon

25 years ago Booker Noe created the Knob Creek brand. Today we’ve seen KC undergo a few changes (most notably dropping its longtime age statement), but it’s still sticking with its “pre-Prohibition style” under the auspices of current master distiller Fred Noe. For this limited edition 25th anniversary release, Knob Creek is bottling its spirit at cask strength for the first time ever — and, as a single barrel release, it’s unblended, too.

Compared side by side with the original (with 9 year old age statement) Knob Creek, a few things immediately spring to the fore. There’s more orange peel and a stronger allspice element on the nose in the 25th Anniversary bottling. The wood influence is aromatically stronger, too, though it’s never overpowering on the nose.

The palate’s heat is immediately evident: At over 61% abv, it’s got way more alcohol than rack Knob Creek at 50%. The bitter orange peel is even more noticeable here, along with notes of well-aged wine, red pepper, and intense, ginger-heavy baking spice. Water is a great add: It tempers the hefty alcoholic core and allows more of the wood-driven vanilla, caramel, and chocolate to spring forward. The finish is lasting, complex, and keeps the focus on pepper and wood, with just a touch of toasted marshmallow.

Ready to sip like you’re on the frontier, but considerably upscale? This is probably what those fatcats get to drink in Westworld.

122.1 proof. Barrel date 2/28/2004.

A- / $129 / knobcreek.com

Review: Motörhead Whisky

R.I.P. Lemmy.

The man behind Motörhead may be gone, but this whisky produced in honor of the 40th anniversary of the band he created (1975-2015, when Lemmy Kilmister passed away) — or rather “40 years of eardrum crushing” — is still with us. Produced by Sweden’s Mackmyra, it is a Swedish single malt aged in bourbon barrels for five years. A portion of the whisky is finished in oloroso sherry barrels for six months before blending back into the finished product and bottling. Lemmy reportedly helped choose the casks himself.

Such a strange nose on this one: breakfast cereal, potpourri, bacon, and almond paste, all wrapped up into a pastry of sorts, baked up and served piping hot. The palate is exotic and evocative of Eastern spices, with coriander and anise notes, dried plums, and a smoky character that is tough to place — closer to mesquite than anything I can otherwise identify. At the core is a milder mashup of grain and caramel — standard stuff, but filtered through this lightly smoky haze.

The finish lingers, offering a raisiny character that’s driven by that oloroso cask, a bit gummy at times but again evoking an experience atypical of single malt from Sweden or anywhere else. I don’t listen to much Motörhead these days, but I figure if I did, the experience would be just as jarring as sipping on this whisky.

80 proof. Purchased in Vastervik, Sweden.

B+ / $77 / mackmyra.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]

Review: Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon Single Barrel Private Selection from SF Wine Trading

San Francisco Wine Trading Company recently sent us its Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection offering, and while it was a knockout, the truth is that private selections of Four Roses Single Barrel are a dime a dozen — sometimes it seems like every liquor store has one.

No SF Wine Trading is out with another private selection bourbon, this one much more unusual: Wathen’s, which is made by the Charles Medley Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky from a mash of 77% corn, 10% rye, and 13% malted barley. (Wathen’s carries a giant number 8 on the front label, but that’s not an age statement: Wathen’s is officially a NAS whiskey.)

Wathen’s isn’t generally regarded as an outstanding bourbon (and that’s reflected in a price that can run as low as $30), and this private selection (with a 50% premium) isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, either. That said, it has enough charm to merit some attention.

The nose is a bit unusual, with notes of raisin, prune juice, and a bit of petrol atop otherwise straightforward notes of toasted wood and somewhat scorched caramel. The palate is a bit more interesting, taking some of those more exotic notes and flipping the script such that vanilla and caramel take more of a center stage, with dried fruit and some new chocolate notes stepping back into the background a bit. The petrol appears again on the relatively hot finish alongside some new wood notes, but neither is overwhelming, and together they manage to end the experience with a semblance of balance.

94 proof. Barrel #0094.

B / $45 / sfwtc.com

Review: Westland Garryana Native Oak Series 2017 Edition 2|1

Westland’s single malt “Garry Oak” series continues with this second edition, a follow up to the inaugural 2016 release. I won’t rehash what a Garryana oak is, but will instead focus on how this release differs from the first. The main thing: No peat.

Like its predecessor, Edition 2|1 features Garry Oak as the lead note in a broader composition that brings together a variety of distillates and cask types. The most noteworthy change from last year to this is the absence of a peated component. This is an intentional inquiry. Garry Oak contains a relatively high amount of natural phenols, and so we felt compelled to see how its particular brand of smoke expresses itself when it doesn’t share the stage with the peaty kind. If Garryana 1|1 was a grand gesture; this edition portrays an expression of subtle depth.

Garryana 2|1 is also bottled at a somewhat lower proof (50% abv)… and is on shelves with a somewhat higher price. As with the first release, there’s no age statement.

Let’s move on to the tasting…

The nose is a touch odd — a bit sweaty, with notes of roasted vegetables, fresh-cut lumber, and dusky cloves. The palate however has more in common with a typical American single malt. Grain-forward, but not overly so, the wood influence is powerful, giving the body ample tannin plus notes of burnt sugar and roasted hazelnuts — the latter a common thread from the first edition of the whiskey. The finish sees the emergence of additional spicier elements — nutmeg and cinnamon, dried red berries, and a lightly sweet, milk chocolate note. The wood grips at the back of the throat as the finish fades, providing a curiously saccharine note to the conclusion.

It’s a strange whiskey — and one that’s quite different than its predecessor.

100 proof. 2600 bottles produced.

B / $150 / westlandgarryana.com

Review: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon, Cigar Blend Bourbon, and J. A. Magnus Reserve

DC-based Joseph Magnus Distillery seems to have a lot at its disposal when it comes to crafting its whiskey. Besides the list of industry icons that have formed its distilling team, it is sparing no expense in sourcing the very best aged whiskeys as well as the finest used European oak casks in which to finish them. The distillery’s initial offering, Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon Whiskey, showcased the fine fruits of this investment. The folks at Magnus, however, have looked recently to improve an already quality brand by introducing older and even more rare sourced whiskies into their line-up. You’ll pay even more to enjoy some of these new releases (in one particular case, a LOT more), but you can’t deny the skill and quality that’s going into these bottles.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Blended Bourbon – This bourbon takes its name from the pre-prohibition Magnus flagship brand. It’s a blend of 18 and 11-year-old sourced bourbon, as well as a 9-year-old sourced light whiskey (high-proof whiskey aged in used or uncharred new oak containers). Murray Hill Club has a soft nose with subtle butterscotch and citrus notes and just a little black pepper. The palate is honeyed with ground cinnamon, clove, and buttery caramel. The heat arrives in a perfect wave on the very back end and extends through a medium finish with warming notes of black pepper and vanilla. I’ve only encountered a few blends using light whiskey, most of which ran too hot for my liking. This one hits the mark on heat but leaves me wanting just a little more flavor, particularly at this price. 103 proof. B+ / $92

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon – This whiskey is the result of Master Blender Nancy Fraley’s desire to create a sipper that would pair well with a cigar. It is also comprised of 11 and 18-year-old sourced bourbon along with about 25% of the Joseph Magnus Straight Bourbon, a 9-year-old bourbon finished in PX, Oloroso, and cognac casks. The final blend is then finished in Armagnac casks, which is unique in the bourbon world. The nose on Cigar Blend is sultry, with sweet tobacco smoke, dark fruit, and vanilla frosting. I’m tempted to just inhale this one instead of drink it. On the palate, it’s all kinds of southern dessert: toasted pecan, vanilla bean, and butter brickle perfectly layered with sweet fig jam and dark berry cobbler. It’s got a thick, oily mouthfeel that leaves all of those flavors hanging well into a generous finish that, like Magnus’s other offerings, has the perfect amount of heat. 100.7 proof. A / $150

Joseph Magnus J. A. Magnus Reserve – What I said earlier about paying a LOT more was in reference to this bottle, in particular. The J. A. Magnus Reserve is a marriage of 16 and 18-year-old MGP “honey” barrels, yielding only 192 bottles. On the nose, there’s orange zest, cinnamon, buttered toffee, and a little candy apple all mingled with a great warehouse note that gets stronger as it opens up in the glass. On the palate, it’s candy sweet but not cloying with a buttery mouthfeel and flavors of chocolate covered orange peel, marmalade, and stewed cherry with a very gentle, peppery heat. The finish is a mile long with slightly drying notes of sweet oak and lingering citrus candy. The balance of flavor is simply remarkable. Master Blender Nancy Fraley said that her goal with this bourbon was to create “liquid poetry.” I’m not sure what that would taste like, but I think this is close. And at this price, it should be. 92 proof. A / $1,000

josephmagnus.com

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