Maker’s Mark Private Select “Meet Your Maker Part III”

Last part of this Maker’s trio.

If we believe the marketing, while attempting to find the perfect formula for Maker’s 46 the distillery went through all kinds of permutations of oak types, char & toast levels before settling on the one that worked for them.

They decided to bring the same spirit of experimentation to their private barrel purchase program, where clients are able to choose a few options for the 10 staves that will be added to their barrel of Maker’s. One is a Maker’s 46 stave, the other nine are chosen from the following types: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvee, Roasted French Mocha and Toasted French Spice.

Photo credit Sara Havens

What’s interesting about this process is that it allows a level of customization that is personal to the client’s taste but that you’re also unlikely to see exactly the same exact profile when buying different store picks as well.

This one is a store pick by the Liquor Locker in Hagerstown MD. I unfortunately do not have the details of the stave selections.

Nose: It starts with a bit of varnished oak, pepper, mocha/cafe au lait, cinnamon red hots and a touch of chili peppers. With time I get ginger, chewy toffee, lightly toasted bread. Coconut cakes with candied cherry. Orange zest & a touch of bacon fat or is that barrel char perhaps?

Palate: Sharp and full, candied fruit, cinnamon candy, cloves, green pepper, menthol,candied peanuts, buttered raisin toast with cinnamon. _There’s a lot happening with this one on the palate, all great flavours but it can be a bit relentless.

Finish: A bit of leather, green oak, ginger and pepper, and those toasted peanuts with Sichuan peppercorns

The blab: You can feel the oak pulling tannins over your teeth at first but somehow that’s not the most dominant note like in some bourbons. There’s an oily, waxy character that is pleasant, a solid bourbon with some interesting twists.

Much thanks to @paddockjudge for the samples, this trio was a great lesson.

Maker’s Mark Private Select – Liquor Locker, Hagerstown MD

55.7% ABV

88/100

Maker’s 46 “Meet Your Maker Part II”

Ok round two in this Maker’s Mark match-up.

Maker’s 46 was released sometime around 2010, it has the distinction of being the second products to be released by the distillery since it’s inception. It uses the same mash bill as standard Maker’s 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley but the whisky is put back into barrels that contain seared french oak staves and re-racked for an additional period (the exact amount of time is unclear). This is a fairly unique process not unlike what Compass Box initially did with it’s Spice Tree blend. I am surprised more distilleries are not doing this, unless they are and aren’t mentioning it. I know MGP offer’s something similar to it’s contract distilling clients.

Nose: Chestnut purée, ginger, green oak, a bit of tobacco and menthol, it’s all very discreet. It’s as if these notes are a kind of film on top of the usual sweet caramel and oak of a bourbon nose. It then gets Peppery, freshly stained wood, sugar glazed cereal and cherry ice cream. It needs lots of air, but it’s very rich

Palate: Sweet soft oak at first, fresh bread. A feeling of glycerin, wine gums, caramel corn, Turkish delight & lime. It’s got a peppery astringency and a ginger zing, it’s fairly oily and smooth for the ABV.

Finish: Medium length you’re left with with over brewed black tea and milk, lemon pith and a bit of cherry cola and ginger.

The Blab: The nose took forever to come out, initially it felt like two layers but became more homogeneous with air. The finishing does add richness especially on the palate, it’s a neat formula and one I believe that is quite successful for the company.

Maker’s 46

47% ABV

84/100

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

J.P. Wiser’s – 35 2017 “A Bushel Full of Treats”

Alright, so I’m prepping for Spirit of Toronto and a dapper guy in a blazer hands me a box with my name on it and then scribbles a few notes with instructions to follow, I’m like awww shit…cue the Lalo Schifrin score I accept the mission!

Well close enough…the sample is courtesy of @paddockjudge, he did give me instructions on the order in which I should proceed with a trio of samples he provided. These we’re mystery samples I tasted blind #1 was Danfield’s 21 reviewed here the Wiser’s 35 was my second one.

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Said mysterious box

 

Nose: Vanilla, mackintosh toffee, apple skin, a hint of buttered popcorn, soft rye spices, lots of sweet oak, really well balanced.

Palate: Honey, a good amount of oak, the rye contributes cloves, orange flower water, a slight peppery bitterness, the vanilla is present but not overbearing, a good richness.

Finish : Green bell peppers, waxed apples, fresh bread and a little lemon slices. Lots of cloves and oak.

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Subtle but full the nose is much bolder than Canadian Club 40 which was a bit of a snooze. I’m not sure if this is only due to the addition of a bit of rye in the blend, or how the bonds of aged corn whisky are handled. From what I gather they tend to consolidate barrels in the Pike Creek warehouse so there isn’t as much effects of evaporation.

This 35 yr old is another whisky I would be curious to taste blind along with some older bourbon to see how it would fare.

Wiser’s 35

50% ABV

89/100

Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion

50% ABV.

72/100

amrut distillery

I believe at this point we are long past the era where the belief that good single malt whisky is the exclusive domain of the Scottish, the passion and craft of distilling this type of whisky has spread worldwide.

That said, there are still only a small number of distilleries who are producing malt of the caliber experienced consumers are expecting, thankfully those numbers are also growing.

One of the brands that was a catalyst for this movement is Amrut, while the company has a rich history of distilling spirits for their home market in India since 1948. Their jump to releasing their single malt whisky as a separate category was only done in 2004.

While the provenance of their whisky might once have been a barrier, imagine trying to convince hardcore Scotch drinkers to try Indian single malt, eventually it became their biggest asset. Since they have no SWA or equivalent governing body to deal with, they have been unrelenting in their experimentation.

The special releases came flooding in, Intermediate sherry, the Frankenstein cask experiment that is Spectrum, vatting malts from two different climates, adding oranges to sherry casks before refilling them with whisky, the list goes on.

Ashok
C’mon you can’t say these folks aren’t having fun. Here’s the brand ambassador Ashok announcing a new batch of Spectrum

This is without mentioning the effect of aging spirits in such a punishing climate. I dislike repeating the overused mantra of making the whisky age faster, as time is a factor unaffected by weather. It does indeed create an environnement with very active cask interaction and evaporation, which leads to young spirits with a profile and seeming maturity unlike that of their equivalent aged Scottish counterparts. You can compare the similar effect with island aged rum versus those matured on the mainland.

Most of whiskys I have tried from Amrut have left an imprint on me (I have vivid memories of a particular peated cask strength that balanced overripe tropical fruits and heavy smoke) it is why this particular bottle of Fusion has left me perplexed.

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Is that the only photo of our bottle? You betcha

Fusion is the one Amrut whisky that seems easily available in most markets, it is a mix of whisky from unpeated Himalayan malted barley and peated Scottish barley, no info is available on the actual proportion or age.

Nose: Dried ginger, spices (all spice, cardamom), dark fruits and the ethyl notes are very sharp. I’m not getting much on the nose, even with water and time it remains very closed.

Palate: Shellac, sandalwood, blood orange, a kind of dark bass note, tinned fruits and the oak is rather prominent. Water does it no favours, that dark peat thing becomes acrid and the sweet oak takes over.

I get the sensation that this weird dark note is perhaps the peat, like a feeling of burnt jam, also the alcohol is rather strong on the tail end.

Even after months being opened, the nose remains very shy, the palate hot and fussy, especially with water. If I had no experience with the excellent whiskys of Amrut I might have wondered what the fuss was all about. Batch variation is most likely to blame but without another reference sample I can’t say how much it accounts for. I recently shared a bottle of the standard issue Amrut Single malt at 46% abv with a friend and preferred it’s singular nose to this bottle of Fusion.

Franck

*Distillery  building photo and Ashok as 007 are credited to Amrut Distillery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kavalan Whisky review part two: Solist Bourbon & Sherry

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Let’s return to part two of last Thursday’s SAQ tasting session. We move on to the big guns, the muscle if you will.

I will spare you a regurgitation of the Kavalan history or their press kit materials, I would rather give you food for thought.

Two points are of particular interest to me, the fact that Kavalan has been bombarding spirit competitions with their single cask releases and the massive expansion they’ve underdone. The former while not a concern for most malt geeks (maniacs, anoraks…no term is great) since they tend to put little weight in those type of awards is mostly about the kind of misleading marketing it can cause with the average consumer.

I’ll explain, all whisky is subject to variances, even with the best quality control lab and intentions. The Solist series are all single cask releases, therefore it allows Kavalan to cherry pick their best casks when sending them to competitions. Again, no one would be against the producer choosing their best product in order to enter a competition. The problem is unless the consumer is able to get the exact same barrel as the prize winning malt or the one you read that awesome review about, what you will end up buying is a veritable Russian roulette, a small matter but nonetheless a concern.

The latter is interesting because King Car Group (makers of Kavalan) is a family owned business, generally a good thing in this era of conglomerates, ostensibly it means a company with the right spirit (no pun intended) can focus on quality and not only the bottom line. They have just undergone a massive expansion bringing their output to somewhere in the vicinity of 9 million liters. That’s massive, Diageo huge, putting them in the big leagues, I don’t mean to say big is bad. What I’m concerned about is how are they going to get their hands on the volume of first fill ex-whatever casks required to cope with that without resorting to some sort of tomfoolery (see MAO’s Glendronach single casks issues for example). I wonder with that gigantic volume how much longer will they be able to resort to their scarcity/luxury pricing scheme, I know, they will do whatever the market will support and the whisky sphere certainly has a hard-on for Kavalan right now.

Nuff’ talk

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Kavalan Solist Bourbon: 58.6% abv. Cask#B111209009A

Nose: the nose is hot and pointy right from the gate. Apples, I get that weird copper note like on Glenfiddich. Pears, honey, sponge cake, creamy vanilla, a touch of bubblegum and gummy candies.

With water the sharpness of the nose becomes rounder, more honey and pastries.

Palate: Hot, creamy and sweet at once, the attack is pleasant. Coconut, beeswax, there are herbal touches floating in the middle, like fresh cut grass or plants then it extends into jujubes & grape gummies.

With water, sweet, kind of flat, honey, vanilla and more caramel, loads of waxyness

Grade: B+ This is pretty solid, I liked the Palate more than the nose

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Kavalan Solist Sherry cask: 59.4% abv. Cask# S081224022

Nose: Coffee, dates, burnt chicory, Alpine bitters. Grape reduction, slight balsamic edge, all things umami and it’s sharp. This isn’t a Christmas spice type sherry, it’s a dirty big bodied sherry. After a while there is dry cured ham and pepper.

Water brings sulfur forward on the nose, more coffee, wet wool. Lots of meatyness, the nose is big and really pleasant.

Palate: Oh! Sweetened coffee left out on counter overnight, date purée, ginger, gunpowder, an almost metallic, plastic note. It’s very much on tannic, oversteeped tea, stewed prunes. There is more traditional spices in the mouth, nutmeg and allspice. Very dark and extractive.

Palate with water is very thin, dates, plasticine, light roast coffees. Really all on chewy dates, spices and cake batter, you get more or that oxydized sherry nuttyness

The sherry lingers a long time. It’s big stuff, maybe even a little tiring in a way.

Grade: A The cask strength along with the extractive nature of high temperature maturing certainly creates a potent delivery

The Blab: Clearly the Solist editions are the ones to look out for. While that sherry cask haunted me for a couple of days, I’m not sure what I think about these whiskies, it seems that the casks (or the previous contents) are perhaps doing most of the heavy lifting. Oh and yes the price…just saying.

Franck

Kavalan Whisky reviews, SAQ tastings return Part 1: Podium & bourbon oak

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SAQ Tasting session are back! I missed these Thursday rendez-vous. They were on summer hiatus and I’m not sure when they resumed. Our monopoly received a lot of interesting whiskys lately among them some good single cask shit, Kilchoman, Benromach, Edradour and then it appeared Kavalan…the first mention of it (that I’m aware of) in our stores. The line-up is somewhat limited considering the range of cask types the distillery offers. The options are Podium, Ex-Bourbon oak and two Solist CS releases, a bourbon and sherry cask respectively.

I have no experience trying any kavalan and I was mentally preparing to cajole a store clerk in order to get a small taste of whatever bottle they must have open in the back when low and behold this week’s in store tasting was all of them!

I’ll break up the reviews over two posts to avoid dragging it out. We’ll cover the standard line-up fist.

podium coffin
He was a good friend, may he rest in peace.

 

Kavalan Podium: NAS 46% abv.  virgin American oak and in-house refill casks

Nose: Sweet, bubble-gummy, definitely wine cask influences, you feel the dark berries, tree buds and the oak. The alcohol is a bit sharp at first, it opens up after time, floral, slight sulfur, a bit of ripe creamy tropical fruits, apple skins, milk chocolate and nuts, plum wine.

Palate: It is indeed sweet, ginger, the oak is present and there is a touch of worn leather, the texture is nice & viscous. Vanilla, cocoa powder a kind of sweet oak and green fruits, none of the jujube/tropical fruits from the nose.

The finish is mid length very drying with a fair amount of pepper, ginger and bitterness

Grade: B

It’s good but not earth shattering, the nose is beautiful just not very malt whisky like. In hindsight the cask play is an interesting way to provide some of what makes the Solist series so intriguing. At a fair price I would be tempted to have some of this around the house at 200$ no way.

love the glare, very pro

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Oak: NAS 46% abv. The name says it all.

Nose: It is kind of mute at first, coconut, a fair amount of varnish. jujubes, carnuba wax. I have to stick my nose in it to get something, creamy, rising pastries…not much else.

Palate: Bitter sweet, all on oaky vanilla, coconut & toffee. Sharp on the attack, it has a bit of charred wood, it’s that pleasant bourbon barrel thing, sweet and woody, liquid toffee.

The finish is light, more jujubes, wine gums a bit of creamy butter and coconut oils.

Grade B-

The nose was practically non existant and rather uninspiring, the palate had a sharpness that was off-putting and then it was all like T&A with not much content.

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The boring opinions bit

In a quick browse of reviews of the lower strength offerings of Kavalan, they generally get pretty lukewarm reviews, the bourbon vatting is extremely disappointing. I would be tempted to say it shows the limitations of the hot climate/young whisky scheme but I am really smitten with the basic Amrut single malt which functions on similar principals but is in every way superior to this.

Franck