Maker’s Mark “Meet Your Maker Part I”

Yes another multi-part review…What can you do?

Some months back I was graciously offered a trio of Maker’s Mark Samples by a friend, I am a sucker for this kind of comparison flight of whiskys also the judge has often claimed the Standard Maker’s to be among his favorites. I have fond memories of drinking Maker’s in the early stages of my whisky appreciation, I know I preferred it over Jim Beam white or Old No7 which we’re the other easily attainable bourbons at the time but can’t for the life of me remember why I was steered towards it.

Ok we are starting with the standard Maker’s Mark, it’s probably the most commercially sold wheated bourbon but doesn’t stir up the frenzy that Weller does. The sample was decanted from a bottle open about 9 months.

Nose: Caramel corn, freshly cut oak plank, custard, fresh brioche with lemon sugar and studded with maraschino cherries. Apple fritters with a touch of nutmeg. This is a beautiful nose, inviting, delicate but sitting on a robust base of sweet corn and oak.

Palate: watermelon rind, sharp oak, lemon pith, cherry lozenges, apricot, caramel loaded with butter. It then veers into a dusty grain, a slight vegetal note mid palate note and a bitter exit. It has a soft entry but that sharp grain and astringent oak attack loses you

Finish: The finish fades fast, leaving astringent oak and a bit of lingering caramel sweetness. There’s a feeling of dried leaves & flowers and toasted bread and a few flecks of tobacco remaining in a tin.

Notes: The nose of this thing is a beauty, I am unsure if this is from the effect of a long opened bottle or a good batch…I have to say I wasn’t expecting this at all. Unfortunately the palate doesn’t reach the same level, it is kind of abrupt and brittle, the texture doesn’t help any of the rich notes to stick around.

That said this has convinced me to pick up a half bottle to play around with or just enjoy when kicking back this summer.

Maker’s Mark

45% ABV

83/100

Stalk & Barrel #Canada 150 “The Shape of Canadian Whisky to Come

Stalk & Barrel whisky is made at the Still Waters Distillery in Concord Ontario. Started back in 2008 what might seem like the dark ages now that there so called “craft” distilleries are opening in every nook and cranny. The founders set out on opening a distillery at a time when the Canadian Federal government treated anyone with the idea of opening a distillery as depraved drunks & sinners who are out to incite underage drinking.

Thankfully times have changed and now the government has eased its view of would be distillers seeing them as entrepreneurs and happily taking their money through hefty excise taxes. It only continues to view them as crooks and sinners when trying to sell their spirit to the masses and so makes it a difficult as possible for them to actually turn a profit while doing so.

This particular blend was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Canada. Based on a parcel of 5 yr old corn whisky distilled in house (they usually outsource their corn component) it also includes a portion of their rye and malt. It caught my attention because it’s bottled at 50% abv and that it wasn’t based on any sourced components.

I nosed this in both a standard & Canadian Glencairn

Nose: Vanilla frosting, apple, peach and powdered sugar donuts. Lemon curd, pine oil it’s rich and sweet but not cloying. As it develops you get grain, toasted bread a malty core, then the spices start to bloom…clove, cinnamon, apple & raisin bread.

In the Canadian Glencairn – less focused, more sweet corn, caramel, glycerin and oak. Cardboardy malt, tea and toast. You get more alcohol in this version. With time, A carpenter’s workshop, sanded oak and glue, then the sweet rye spice, candied apple, fresh whole grain bread with honey

Palate: The malt hits you first, then a bit of caraway, slightly bitter & astringent. Then it’s sweet baked apple, with a vanilla bean and coconut oil, a bit of pine resin, toasted oak, porridge. The mouth feel is long & silky, sweet and full, lemon pith and buttered bread, clove/allspice, a dash of bay rum cologne.

Finish: Grippy over brewed tea, honey lozenge and toffee apple, rye bread. then a touch of that tobacco and talcum. There is a tingle on the tongue at first from the alcohol but then that tannic feeling sets in.

The Blab: This has been open a while and the palate is all the better for it. If you’ve ever made a sourdough with whole rye flour you get those notes in here. There’s a freshness on the palate as you first sip it that is addictive.

This isn’t completely revolutionary, it’s still Canadian whisky but it’s taken off it’s usual path and because of this stands out. It’s something the category could use more of.

Still Waters Stalk & Barrel #Canada 150 Blend

50% ABV

85/100

Canadian Club 100% Rye – “More Than Meets the Rye”

This whisky was released a few years back and was surprising for a couple of reasons. One it’s the first time the Canadian Club brand has released a 100% rye grain whisky. The other reason is that this whisky wasn’t distilled a the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor which is the home of CC.

The whisky actually comes from Alberta Distillers Limited. This might seem strange at first until you look closely and see that Canadian Club is owned by Beam Suntory, while Hiram Walker Distillery is owned by Pernod Ricard/Corby.

I then makes sense that with the success of its own 100% rye brand (Lot 40) that Corby is very close fisted with its rye stocks. Suntory though has it’s own delicious 100% rye juice through ADL, with which it has been supplying the US market with rye for many years.

Banking on a known formula the whisky is aged in virgin oak casks, the first batches were purported to be about 7yrs old. Since then it’s hard to say exactly what the formula is but it’s been met with no small measure of success, the price point is good and it performs well in cocktails.

My girlfriend had an old bottle kicking around for mixing and I had never bothered to try it straight.

Nose: Vanilla, mint. Cedar, rye bread, wet oak and a touch of char. The second wave brings apples, a smidge of pine resin & a floral side, rosewater, Turkish delight?

Palate: Mild arrival, rye bread, lots of sweet oak and orange peel. The development adds brown sugar with a few drops of molasses, black pepper and coriander seeds (steak spice?). The abv shows here as its quite thin bodied, you’ve got to work it around.

Finish: Short, old cigar humidor, whole-wheat raisin bread, the kind with a cinnamon swirl. It’s quickly gone leaving only a trace of lemon pith and bread.

The Blab: All told this isn’t bad actually, if you start a flight with this whisky and let it air put a good 15+ minutes, it performs quite well. That said it’s watered down quite a bit, the virgin oak helps bring some richness otherwise it would be kind of lacking.

If you’ve had whistlepig 10yr old single barrels then you know how good this distillate can be if presented right.

Canadian Club 100% Rye

40% ABV

82/100

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1 “Arcane Rambler”

Black Arts has become the oldest regular expression of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It is basically composed of 20± year old pre-closure stock that had been matured or finished in various types of casks with a heavy emphasis on wine/sherry/fortified wines. It is then vatted into a secret recipe know only to the head distiller.

This is the second edition that has been crafted by Adam Hannet since he’s taken over the role of master distiller.

Nose: Old books, slight sulfur and dried berries, as it opens up you get grape syrup, fresh oak a bit of pickled ginger & waxed orange rind. There’s an interesting note like a cross between sour cherry and marzipan also present is this background freshness and something akin to peated rosewater?

This edition seems to start off not quite as tight and funky than past ones I’ve tried, there is some sulfur but it’s balanced with a touch of sea spray, it almost feels like that’s the element bringing the freshness.

Palate : Oily, bitter herbs, sweet cured ham & cold coffee. musky fruits like melon, grape skins, fresh pastry, a slight sherry vinegar sharpness and then that aged sherry barrel funk. A Musty Concrete Basement collides with broken jars of mustard fruits and grape jam.

Finish: Sweet, Water biscuits, marinated stone fruits and blackberries with saltwater and a trace of smoke. Cooked jam, a tinge of paraffin and cologne. Loads of yeast and tobacco in finish a good amount of oak and a trace of incense.

Blab: This is big whisky and yet it feels fun, unlike the 4.1 which I reviewed recently which was kind of heavy sulfury and messy. 6.1 has those heavy low end notes but all that is pulled up by this freshness on the nose that other versions don’t exhibit. There is an interplay between the sharp acidic wine elements and the fruit, It’s rather pleasant and prevents the whole affair from becoming too stodgy.

Expensive but I feel like this one is actually worth paying for, great blending a fairly unique profile as well that sticks with you.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1

46.9% ABV
88/100

Glenrothes 18 – “Bazooka Joe Needs a Personality Test”

Part of the re-vamp of the Glenrothes line, it was recently sold back to Edrington group by Berry Brothers & Rudd. They have decided to move from using vintages to age statements.

Although if we follow Edrington’s Modus Operandi, a flood of NAS releases will follow they just need to find the right angle or hook. Pretentious fuckboys and overuse of the word luxury are already taken by Macallan. Viking porn and the raping of mythology is the domain of Highland Park.

I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, age statements are a good thing in this current era of whisky marketing and this current range could provide Glenrothes with a bit of needed sex appeal.

Nose: Grape gum, paraffin, faint spices, cloves and nutmeg, creamy vanilla and a bit of mint. Grapes on the stems, marshmallows, bazooka Joe gum including the waxed joke attached to it.

Palate: Spicy oak, sharp, full & sweet arrival. Canned peaches, dried figs, raisins, sticky toffee pudding, oranges, a bit of pepper and cocoa.

Finish: Quick, the texture is very light, very grapey, ginger, jasmine tea and creamy vanilla.

The Blab: It’s a pretty good whisky, it doesn’t have any major missteps, the flavors tend towards bright sherry, lots of almost grape juice concentrate. You will find none of that dark, savory, leathery sherry here, it felt like it was a bit sherry by the numbers, very muted, it doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Despite it being 18 yrs old you would be just as well served by any number of 12-15 year old expressions from Glengoyne, Tomatin or Glendronach for example. which have more dynamics and vigor.

The Glenrothes 18

43% ABV

83/100

Glenglassaugh Port Wood Finish – “Drinker’s Discretion Is Advised”

Glenglassaugh is a Highland distillery with a spotty history of closures. The last time was in 1986 back when it was owned by Eddington group who was using it as blend fodder.

It was re-opened by a private group in 2008 and then acquired by Benriach under Billy walker’s tenure in 2011.

So basically what this means is you’ll either find really old 30+ yrs old limited, deluxe releases or NAS releases that are bound to be < 10yrs of age.

Now that it’s owned by Brown Foreman, I am unsure they know how to market it exactly as it doesn’t have the cachet of Glendronach let’s say but in turn it does have the advantage of being malleable as no one yet knows what to expect from them, plus it is said to churn out about 1,000,000L /yr, so they’re bound to do something with it.

OK so this one is NAS and finished in Port Casks.

Nose: Funky, improbable, olives brined in strawberry juice. Then an intense wave of dunnage warehouse & damp basement funk. Lanolin, weird herbs, a bit of ointment, then plums and blackberries.

I like dunnage notes but the weird medicinal fruits clawing their way to top are not very pleasant.

Palate: Berry cough syrup, sweet malty porridge, a good dose of sulfured cask funk, it almost feels like a sherrried malt in the middle of the development. It goes on into dried fruits, astringent mouthfeel, celery leaves,marzipan covered in milk chocolate. A slight melted plastic note also.

Finish: Dry, mouth puckering, overripe Camembert & lingering dried fruit note

Blab: Wow they released this? It’s all over the place unbalanced AF, I thought perhaps I was being harsh but there was a dude there at the tasting who refused a pour saying “Le pink color one, I’ve had it already, non merci”

It feels like a young malt full of asperities, that would become characterful if left alone to do it’s thing for 12+yrs but instead was dumped too early into very wet port casks.

Glenglassaugh Port Cask Finish

46% ABV

66/100

Deveron 12 – Light on the Palate, Soft on the Hands.

The Deveron line of whisky were created as part of a re-vamped single malts portfolio of Bacardi (Dewar’s) as part of a larger umbrella, including Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy, Craigellachie & Aultmore they dubbed “The last great malts of Scotland”…I am working hard not to make light of this ostentatious title. If you don’t know these whiskys well it is because most of them we’re locked in Cinderella like servitude to their master’s blends.

Either way I quite like the packaging the green frosted glass bottles inject just enough of a retro dosage and the simple yet colorful label keep it vibrant and modern. It is designed by firm Stranger & Stranger who also handle all Compass box products.

The crowd at the tasting.

As to the contents…

Nose: Juicy fruit gum, fresh cut apples, peaches and cream oatmeal, and almost sulfurous, phenolic side. Fresh buttercups, light green tea and something I can’t put my finger on, aloe?? Then the scent finally hits me, skin lotion! It’s not bad, almost waxy in a way.

What a pleasant fresh and fun nose, I wasn’t expecting this at all.

Palate: It has a bit of bite when it first hits your tongue but then it’s quickly gone. Dry oak, old papers, definitely a kind mineral edge, it’s a bit like the Craigellachie 13 I tried the week prior. It shifts to vanilla pudding, still a bit if fruits but much less than present than on the nose, a bit of candied lemon peel as well.

Finish: There’s not much to talk about, it quickly loses steam, leaving a whisp of oak, lemon and barley.

The Blab: I think this whisky has great character, the nose in particular was fresh and yet wasn’t trying to play it easy, there was a pleasant tension there.

Sadly the palate is where things go poorly, it begins with things of interest but then loses momentum. Sure not everything should be served cask strength but this whisky really loses out by being cut to 40% ABV, maybe it’s teeth are too sharp when this is dialed up but I think it’s more of a cost/ target audience choice since the whole line-up is dished out at the same strength.

I had a hard time scoring this because I didn’t hate it but it wasn’t great

The Deveron 12

40% ABV

Let’s say a B-/C 79/100 if you must