Whisky Review: Tullamore Dew 12 y.o. Sherry Cask Finish

Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Finish

The Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish is a Limited Edition whisky sold only in Heinemann airport duty free shops in Germany, Austria, Norway, Hungary, and Slovakia. Speaking about the release in the duty free shops, William Grant & Sons Europe Regional Director Andre De Almeida said, “The combination of highly trained, consumer-focused staff and the attraction of outstanding visual display and a commitment to consumer interaction makes us very confident that Heinemann is the perfect partner in this case.”

Of course, the exclusive release makes this whisky a bit hard to get a hold of if you’re not located near one of Heinemann’s shops. The whisky runs around $50.00 a bottle. Brewed at Bushmills distillery, this particular version of the 12 Year Old spent six months maturing in sherry casks in the Tullamore Dew warehouse located in Clonmel. The 12 Year Old Special Reserve has won a number of awards, including two Gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I finally got my chance to try the 12 Year Old, and I was not disappointed.

The whisky is a rich amber gold in the bottle. When I open the cap, I am greeted with a delicious nutty aroma with hints of toasted wood, vanilla, and something that reminds me of pastry or cake. There is also just a trace of citrus, possibly lemon or orange. Spices come through as well, adding a pleasant edge to the rest of the notes.

On the first sip, I get toasted wood with almonds. Vanilla rounds out the flavor, along with that taste of cake and orange or lemon. There may be a couple of other fruity notes present as well, but it the whisky is so well blended that it is a challenge to distinguish them. Spices layered across the top add a little something extra. And of course the wood notes from the aging in the sherry cask come through beautifully. This is a very smooth whisky with a rich, lingering, elegant finish. Sweetness balances out the spices nicely, and the lemon note hangs on at the end, a satisfying concluding note to a beautiful symphony of flavors. The aroma of the whisky is a solid preview of the flavors.

I am sure that the Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish would be great mixed into other beverages, but it seems almost a shame to water it down in any way. It is a very delicious whisky, entirely deserving of the merits it has received, and I enjoy it very much on its own. If you get a chance to pick up one of these, go for it. Fifty bucks is not cheap, but the experience is well worth every penny. This is one to enjoy on special occasions and make last as long as you can—though that may be a challenge!

Summary

Color: Medium amber.

Nose: Almond, toasted wood, vanilla, cake, citrus, spice.

Taste: Almond, toasted wood, vanilla, cake, orange, lemon, spice. Sweet, smooth, lingering taste.

Whisky Review: Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition

Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition

The Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition is a premium single malt Scotch whisky produced by the Lagavulin distillery in Islay. The history of the distillery opens up in the year 1816, and at that time there were actually two distilleries on the site, operated by John Jonston and Archibald Campbell. The 1995 Distillers Edition is one of the best-known drams produced by the Lagavulin distillery. In this case, “Distillers Edition” means something special; it refers to the special Pedro Ximénez sherry casks in which the whisky is distilled.

The liquid inside the bottle is a rich amber brown in colour and has a thick, syrupy quality. Opening the bottle, I can tell right from the start this is going to be a perfect dram for dessert. I smell peat, as expected, but also something sweet, possibly caramel. This is probably the result of the sherry casks. There is something fruity in here too, possibly raisins. There are also woody notes.

Peat is the most prominent flavor, but it is nicely balanced out by the sweet notes of raisin and caramel mentioned earlier. It is thick, syrupy, and quite decadent. The finish on the palate has the richness of cocoa. I can easily see why this dram has received so many accolades, and why the price tag was as high as it was.

A bottle of Lagavulin 1995 Distillers Edition is likely to run you around $100, but it is definitely worth the purchase if you ever get the opportunity. This whiskey sells out fast, and for good reason. I recommend taking your time with it and savoring every drop though. It’s excellent for pairing with chocolates or a fine cigar. If you really want to treat yourself, then this is the whisky to purchase. It’d also make a wonderful gift.

Whisky Review: Caol Ila 18 Year Old

Caol Ila 18 Year Old

The Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a smooth, warm, well-balanced Islay single malt. The Caol Ila distillery is located near Port Askaig and was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson. Initially the Caol Ila struggled, and changed hands a couple of times before it was acquired by Bulloch Lade & Co. By the late 19th century, Caol Ila’s fortunes had changed, and the distillery was producing more than a hundred thousand gallons of whisky every year. The Caol Ila 18 Year Old is evocative of the scenic cove where the distillery is located, overlooking the water, with beautiful green hills in the backdrop.

In the bottle, the Caol Ila 18 Year Old is warm gold in colour. When I uncapped the bottle, I was greeted by a nicely blended, warm aroma of peat, flowers, lemon, and apricot, with overtones of burnt oak. There’s something herbal in here too, or maybe that comes from those floral notes I can detect.

The Caol Ila 18 Year Old tastes as smooth as it looks, and despite the presence of peat, it is very well balanced and quite mellow. Beginning whisky drinkers sometimes have difficulty with peat (in fact, some veteran whisky drinkers find it overpowering). Personally, I enjoy peat, but I also like when it doesn’t take over a dram. I can also taste that burnt wood, but I don’t taste the flowers and fruits very clearly. They are probably part of what is balancing out the peat, but they are so well blended it is hard to detect individual notes. There is a sea-like saltiness adding even more flavour.

It’s a very balanced dram featuring a lot of different elements which interact to form a delicious, warm, comforting whole. I think the Caol Ila 18 y.o. would appeal to a lot of different palates, including those who love peat and those who enjoy it, but in moderation only. A great drink for new or veteran whisky connoisseurs. The only drawback is the price, which can range around $100.

Summary

Colour: Warm gold.

Nose: Burnt wood, flowers, lemon, apricot, peat.

Palate: Burnt wood, peat, salt, subdued notes of flowers and fruits.

Whisky Review: Talisker 10 Year Old

Talisker 10 Year Old

The Talisker 10 Year Old is a classic Scotch whisky with a peaty flavour; if you do some research, you’ll find a ton of excellent reviews for it online. It isn’t cheap — expect to shell out around $50.00 for a bottle. But it’s worth every penny. The Talisker Distillery is based in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, and specializes in premium single malt whisky. The distillery has quite a history, going back to 1830. The original distillery was lost in a fire and was rebuilt in 1960. If you enjoy something bold and flavorful with a lot of distinction, then you will probably enjoy the Talisker 10 Year Old.

In the bottle, the Talisker 10 y.o. has a rich, warm golden hue. The aroma from the whisky smells of brine, seaweed, smoky peat, and fresh fruit — probably apples, pears, and some kind of citrus, maybe orange. There is also something spicy going on as well. The flavours are very smoky and briny, immediately bringing to mind the Isle of Skye where the distillery is located, classic Scotland. Pepper and cinnamon add some spice, while the fruit flavours add in a hint of sweetness, balancing everything out. There is also some kind of wood flavour here as well, possibly oak.

All in all, the Talisker 10 Year Old is a wonderful dram with a rich, complex range of flavours and aromas, and makes for a memorable and delightful experience—one I hope to repeat often. I can see why this is a favorite for so many whisky fans. One word of warning, however; if you are new to whisky, you may find this one a bit overpowering. And if you don’t like peat, you’ll probably want to steer clear. Otherwise, if you love the flavour of classic Scotch whisky, enhanced by rich, delicious fruits and spices, you will love the Talisker 10 Year Old.

Summary

Colour: Warm, bright gold.

Nose: Smoke, peat, seaweed, cinnamon, fruit.

Palate: Smoke, peat, seaweed, orange, apple, pear, cinnamon, pepper, oak.

Whisky Review: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

Stranahans Colorado WhiskeyStranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is a distillery named after one of its founders, George Stranahan, who founded it together with (then) volunteer fire fighter Jess Graber, and Jake Graber – who still serves as production manager and Head distiller today, though the company has been sold to Proximo Beverage Corporation. According to the company history available on their website, George and Jess met when the Jess was one of the firemen to respond to a fire in George’s barn. The two got talking, and as it turned out they both had a passion for the Colorado nature and a tipple of fine whiskey – and that’s where it all started.
 
 
Interesting, George Stranahan also owns the Flying Dog brewery – which just happens to be one of my favourite American breweries. If you haven’t tried their Gonzo Imperial Porter or Double Dog Double Pale Ale yet, I would highly recommend them both. Needless to say, then, my hopes are once again set high! Now, let’s get back to Stranahan’s Colorado Malt, which (to my knowledge, at least) is the only whiskey they make.

It pours a beautifully dark, mahogany-gold, which is very inviting indeed. The nose is thick, warm, and packed with fresh vanilla – when it comes to getting vanilla right, trust the Americans to know how. Regular readers will perhaps have noticed that there is one particular note that will always increase my liking of a whiskey markedly: banana. In the case of Stranahan’s, there’s a fair bit of it, and it’s joined by another favourite of my – cinnamon. They go together absolutely beautifully, and add complexity to the sweetness of the vanilla. There is also a definite bit of fresh fruit crisp that breaks off the thick syrupiness beautifully, consisting of apples and just a touch citrus. A true stunner, this one.

The palate starts out where the nose ended, with a bit of apple, but this is soon replaced by a very healthy serving of vanilla – once again very thick, creamy and lovingly warm – and that seductive banana from the nose. The citrus is slightly more pronounced and a bit less sweet, sugared grapefruit perhaps? All of it is balanced out by a pinch of spice that does nothing if not make you long for your next sip.

Priced around £60 in the UK it’s not a cheap whiskey, but if you ask me it’s worth every single penny. A true masterpiece, I would warmly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Oh and I nearly forgot- as some of you will know already, I’m a sucker for a well-designed bottle, and by god this one’s a beaut! From the shape of the bottle to the thin, hand-written wrap-around label, to the quirky cap, it’s one for the bar globe.

Summary

Colour: Mahogany/Gold.

Nose: Warm, thick, fresh vanilla, banana, cinnamon, apple and a touch of citrus.

Palate: Apple, lots of vanilla, banana, sweet grapefruit, pinch of spice.

Bourbon Review: Corner Creek Reserve

Corner Creek Reserve

Here is a guest bourbon review, written by Martin from WhiskyCritic.com. Enjoy!

Corner Creek is a small Kentucky-based distillery that makes only the one expression: Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much information on the distillery itself, which means we will just have to jump straight into the tasting. Well, I say straight, but before we move on to contents of the bottle I’d like to say a quick word about the bottle itself: I’m not a fan. It has deeply sloped shoulders and were it not for the label telling you that it’s bourbon, I would’ve thought it was a bottle of white wine I was holding in my hands. The label does save it a bit, though, as it’s a really nice design.

I won’t go on about the bottle any more, though. The nose is quite sweet and presents vanilla along with caramel and honey. There’s also a spicy rye note, and perhaps a touch of dried fruits? No great complexity to be found here, and the wheat that is supposed to be present in the mix isn’t very convincing, I caught an occasional whiff but I couldn’t swear that this wasn’t simply down to knowing that it was supposed to be there.

The palate once again starts out sweet with caramel and a fair bit of vanilla, the fruit is a bit more pronounced here than on the nose and brings to mind fried plantain, which is nice, and there’s a bit of oak in there as well. The spicy rye note from the nose is also considerably more pronounced on the palate, and any hope the wheat stood of making an entrance is firmly rejected by its dominance.

By no means a bad drink, and at around £20-25 quid I suppose it offers fair value – especially if you take into account the fact that it’s fairly unusual, at least in the UK – but there are far better, more balanced and more interesting whiskeys around in the same price range. It sort of feels like it’s about to get started, accelerating towards something, but fails to get there on account of a lack of horsepower.

Colour: Light honey.

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, honey, faint wheat (perhaps?), rye spiciness.

Palate: Caramel, vanilla, fried plantain, some oak, a good ole serving of spicy rye.

Whisky Review: Benromach Traditional

Benromach Traditional

Here is another guest whisky review, written by Martin from WhiskyCritic.com. Enjoy!

Bored stiff with the drudgery of day to day life, I realized, just the other day, that I hadn’t actually been in central Edinburgh – Old Town and the Royal Mile in particular – for at least a month, maybe two. It’s a realization that tends to dawn on me a couple of times a year as I rarely have any real reason to go there, yet every time I do go I swear to myself that I must make the 15 minute bus journey more often. The more cynical reader may think that this post has been sponsored by VisitScotland, which unfortunately it hasn’t, but I honest to God don’t think I have ever been in a more picturesque city. It’s absolutely beautiful.

It was during this visit to old town that I found myself in the tourist mecca of whisky which is the Edinburgh Whisky Experience. I didn’t do the full tour, mind, just browsed the shop for a bit, and while doing so I overheard a tourist – southern European of some description – asking for a good “spyside whisky”. I sniggered with the undeserved smugness of someone who speaks only the one language, whilst continuing to listen in to the conversation to see what the shop assistant would recommend – much to my surprise they didn’t go for Aberlour, Dalwhinnie or even Glenfiddich, but Benromach! Specifically Benromach Traditional – which, at that time, I had never actually tried. This was a situation which needed to be rectified swiftly.

And rectified it was, that very same day. A bottle of Benromach Traditional will set you back about £25, making it rather affordable. For anyone interested in finding out just a little bit more about the distillery, and reading about another expression of theirs, let me direct you attention towards my previous review of their 10 year old bottling. Now let’s take a sniff: this is definitely a light whisky, that much is obvious from the start, and every single element of its aroma is light as well – light smoke, light peat, a small pinch of peppery spice, a shy bit of vanilla and fruity citrus sweetness. Nothing stands out, and I find myself wanting just a bit more of everything.

The palate, again, is light – very light. That same light peat and smoke is there, as is the shy bit of vanilla, though the spice is a bit more pronounced than on the nose. Very similar to the nose indeed, and unfortunately it suffers – in my opinion – from the same issues as well. It just leaves you wanting a little bit more. What is there is far from bad, don’t get me wrong, and that’s precisely why you want a bit more of it. Regardless, I would definitely recommend that you splash out an extra £5-6 and get yourself a bottle of the Benromach 10 instead. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an interesting bottle and don’t want to spend more than £25, I’d recommend you consider Old Pulteney; not because they’re all that similar, mind, but because it’s interesting.

Colour: Light gold.

Nose: Light smoke, peat, pinch of peppery spice, shy vanilla, some fruity citrus sweetness.

Taste: Similar to nose, light peat and smoke, shy vanilla, a bit more spice.

Whisky Review: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

Jack Daniels Single Barrel

Here is another guest whisky review, written by Martin from WhiskyCritic.com. Enjoy!

Jack Daniel’s is a distillery that causes a lot of emotion; particularly their standard expression. Due to their heavy marketing, pricing strategy and what not, they have become one of the (I would even say the) world’s most famous whiskeys. There are those who would drink nothing else, and who swear by its outstanding quality; and there are those who turn their nose up at it, stating that it’s 90% marketing and 10% utter rubbish. Me, I have to say that I like it – rather unexpected for some, I’m sure.

Fact of the matter is, I think it makes for an excellent mixer – I wouldn’t choose to drink Old No. 7 straight, however. What a lot of people tend to forget is that Jack Daniel’s offer a range of other expressions as well, and I shall be looking at one of them – the Single Barrel – today. Going for around £40-50, it’s considerably more expensive than their standard expression, and not something you would readily dilute with coke or ginger beer. Nor do you need to.

Starting, as ever, with the nose, it is sweet and spicy; there’s warm apples, maple syrup, corn and a bit of leather in there. In a way, it is actually quite similar to the standard expression, but fuller and better-rounded; it seems more mature. Then there’s the palate, which is even better. It starts out with dried fruits and maple syrup, and fades into cinnamon, coal, and rye – all the while there’s a firm undertone of oak and spice, which keeps it all together. The body is quite rich, especially when compared to their standard expression, and a bit dry.

I wouldn’t say that this is the best whiskey you can get for the money – I would choose Elijah Craig 18 over this – but it does show that Jack Daniel’s aren’t just a brand, and that they do know how to make a good whiskey. Would I recommend buying it? Well, yes and no. I wouldn’t recommend anyone not to buy it if they’re curious and like the sound of it, and I would actively recommend anyone who likes the standard Jack Daniel’s to branch out a bit and try this, should they be keen to try a neat whiskey but not want to wander too far from what they’re used to and like.

Colour: Dark caramel.

Nose: Sweet and spicy, warm apple, maple syrup, corn, a bit of leather.

Palate: Dried fruits, maple syrup, cinnamon, coal, rye, oak, spice.

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