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

Review: NV Haute Couture French Bubbles Blanc and Rose

Our friends at Boisset are out with two new sparkling wines from France… but don’t call them Champagne. These are denoted as “French sparkling wine” and both are bottled dry and nonvintage. A blanc and a rose version are both available.

Haute Couture French Bubbles, the newest sparkling wine from the Boisset Collection unites the two quintessentially French worlds of fine wine and high fashion. Haute Couture is the ultimate expression of style, with grapes sourced from the finest terroirs throughout France. It is a sophisticated expression of time-honored French sparkling winemaking expertise in a bottle with a refreshingly modern, textured design that evokes the iconic world of the most unique fashion houses.

“Our newest wine embodies how style influences our winemaking vision,” said Jean-Charles Boisset, proprietor of Boisset Collection. “Haute Couture is a composition of the best of France has to offer, tailor made into a beautiful elixir with a taste that is voluptuous, decadent and provocative!”

The sparkler comes in both Blanc and Rosé versions and in standard 750 ml-sized bottles as well as in 187 ml bottles (two-pack pictured above) — a petite Haute Couture moment ideal for inviting celebration and ensuring indulgence on any occasion.

NV Haute Couture French Bubbles Blanc – It may say “dry” on the label, but this wine has more sweetness than you’d expect, its creamy palate carrying loads of citrus, banana, quince, and hints of vanilla. Lots of lime on the finish. The body is moderately fizzy — nothing anywhere close to Champagne’s yeasty, overbearing character — and quite crowd-pleasing on the whole. That said, it manages to avoid pushing the sugar too far and remains refreshing and fun — a lot like a Prosecco. B+

NV Haute Couture French Bubbles Rose – Very similar to the Blanc, this pink expression is perhaps slightly sweeter, with a slight bent toward strawberries and cream over citrus. The finish, however, offers a clear marzipan/almond note. The berry-laden fruitiness might just be suggested by the pinkish hue, but either way, the wine is a straightforward experience, just as crowd-pleasing as the blanc. B+

each $30 ($25 for two-pack of 187ml bottles) /

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) /

Review: New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Mandarina IPA and French Oak Saison

It’s a duo of new beers from New Belgium, both appearing in oversized 22 oz. bottles. Let’s dig in!

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Mandarina IPA – A new entry into the Voodoo Ranger series from New Belgium, this beer isn’t dosed with mandarin oranges but rather features bitterness courtesy of German Mandarina Bavaria and Australian Galaxy hops. The Mandarina does work to give a slight citrus edge to the beer, as well as notes of lime zest — plus, oddly, a bit of dark chocolate character that comes along later in the game. Otherwise, the bracing bitterness gives this a classic IPA structure — though it drinks at a comparably low 6.5% abv. B+ / $7 per 22 oz bottle

New Belgium French Oak Saison – A lightly sour barrel-aged farmhouse ale, this brew packs lots of cherry flavor, a smattering of citrus, and some vanilla before the sourness kicks in with more gusto. Lightly woody on the finish, the beer is chewy and mouth-filling, with sour cherry lingering for the long haul — but going out crisp and clean, more so than expected. A bit one-note for a sour, but otherwise it’s a nice archetype of the style. 7.5% abv. B+ / $14 per 22 oz bottle

Review: Tomintoul 16 Years Old

My dad recently asked me if I’d had Tomintoul before. I knew I had, but had none in my stash (and nothing fresh in my mind), so I went digging around in my archives. Turns out I’ve reviewed Tomintoul on several occasions — all of them at whisky shows, never on their own.

Tomintoul is a Speyside whisky with the tagline, “The Gentle Dram,” and the name is more than fitting. This approach is clear from the get-go: It’s a 16 year that is aged fully in bourbon casks, with no finishing.

The nose is initially a little hot, with notes of sweet cereal and fresh brioche — with hints of vanilla. On the palate: toasty grain, gentle caramel, a hint of licorice and cloves, and a drying finish. It’s almost vegetal at times, but not in a bad way — the whisky goes into a world of carrots and eggplant(?) — before coming out the other side with the essence of a corn meal fish fry.

It’s nothing fancy — at all — but all I can say is I sure did drink a lot of it trying to figure that out.

80 proof.

B / $50 /

Review: 2016 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco

White Rioja isn’t terribly common in the States, but Lopez de Haro’s Blanco is reasonably available. This blend of Viura and other grapes is decidedly innocuous, a chewy wine with notes of lemon and figs, with a slightly buttery character thanks to the wine’s three months spent in French oak. The finish adds a touch of astringency, with a finish echoing lemon and lime peel, with just the slightest hint of milk chocolate.

B / $10 /

Review: Rebel Yell Single Barrel Bourbon 10 Years Old 2017

Last year, Luxco released a small collection of 10 year old Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to significant acclaim. At the time this was thought to be a one-off, but now a second expression of Rebel Yell 10 Year Old is arriving for 2017. As with the 2016, the 2017 edition of Rebel Yell 10 is a wheated bourbon bottled at 100 proof. As a single barrel bottling, the whiskey will vary from bottle to bottle.

For 2017, the whiskey offers a racy nose of gingerbread cookies, tobacco, and smoky campfire ashes. The palate is toasty and heavy with notes of anise, dark toast, cloves, and barrel char. Sweeter notes are elusive, driven to the sides by hot red pepper and plenty of wood-heavy barrel influence. The finish is drying but not dusty, showcasing a punchy spirit with quite a bit of character, though it’s one that leans a bit too heavily this time out on the more raw characteristics of the barrel for its power.

100 proof. Reviewed: Barrel $5043515. 2000 cases produced.

B+ / $100 /