Michter's 10 Year Rye (2017)

Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey
10 Years Old
46.4% ABV (92.8 proof)
from barrel No #17A35
~$150 (sample provided)

Michter's limited edition 10 year rye is scheduled to be released in the coming month. Very excited to dig in here!

Color: light brown, orange/ruddy tint

Smell: Coming in on the spicy/hot side of rye in terms of aroma. There is a faint caramel sweetness, but it's more driven by mint/herbs and even some evergreen/pine notes for me. I'm also definitely getting some pumpernickel bread. Very interesting.

Taste: Soft caramel sweetness on entry, quickly joined by oak spice and a full complement of the funky herbal notes (in a good way). I get a lot of mint, some of that pumpernickel bread from the nose, and black pepper. The finish has a big, spicy rye kick along with some leather.

Overall: I like this quite a bit. For me, it's straddling B+/A- territory. There is no mistaking that this is a rye in terms of both aroma and mouthfeel. The only knock is that it's not quite as whisper smooth as I was expecting. Last year's release was much different stylistically and, while I slightly preferred its smooth sweetness, this year's punchy release is more characteristically "rye" in its delivery and very impressive in its own right. Recommended if you can get your hands on it!

Oban 14

West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% ABV (86 proof)
~$70 (sample provided)

Excited to dig into this one...I've heard nothing but good things. Can someone confirm that this is actually 14 years old? The packaging and label remind me (cynically) of the bourbon trickery with Ancient Age 10 Star and the like. Anyway...

Color: medium golden brown

Smell: very nice, balanced, and fruity nose. Lots of malted grain, honey, and golden raisins for me, with a bit of orchard fruit (pears?) and nuttiness in the background.

Taste: whisper smooth and very approachable. Upfront there is some malty grain sweetness and honey (as expected). The midpalate brings in an interesting fruitiness, but it's more apple/pear core and skin than fleshy fruit - slightly bitter and intriguing. I also get some faint nuttiness, especially on the medium finish.

Overall: this is very nice whisky. Super smooth and dangerously drinkable, but not the most complex dram of all time. My only gripe is with the retail price!

Lagavulin 8 Year Limited Edition

Limited Edition: 200th Anniversary
Aged 8 Years
Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
48% ABV (96 proof)
~$65 (sample provided)

Color: very pale yellow

Smell: unmistakeable Islay character shining through from the get-go: iodine, seaweed, and wet rope. There's also quite a bit of malty sweetness mixed in with some nuttiness, lemon rind, and a salty/ashy element. In short, it smells delicious and well-balanced.

Taste: mild honey sweetness at first, and then the midpalate is all about the peat and toasted nuts. The finish brings in some salty ash flavor (not a bad thing), and there is also a bit of herbal citrus bitterness.

Overall: this is a different peaty beast than the flagship Lagavulin 16 offering, and I have to say I'm impressed. There doesn't seem to be much (if any) sherried influence, so the peat reek really shines through. Even though this is a much stronger ABV than the 16, it drinks very smooth. Extremely enjoyable, and a great change-up from the standard bottling. "A-" for me.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 009

Barrell Bourbon
Batch 009
Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Cask Strength
Age 13 years
56.05% ABV (112.1 proof)
~$80 (sample provided)

Batch 010 was amazing, so now it's time to turn attention to Batch 009. According to Barrell, it was distilled and aged in Tennessee and Kentucky for 13 years. Mash bill is a relatively standard 74 corn/18 rye/12 malted barley - but no word on the extra 1% ;). That's a long time to age a bourbon, so definitely interested to see if this is an oak bomb.

Color: medium/dark brown with a ruddy tint.

Smell: very fresh, sweet, and fruity aroma. It's much more approachable - and even delicate - than I expected given the proof. I do get some barrel-driven cinnamon spice and vanilla, as well as a hint of furniture polish and peanuts, but overwhelmingly this is driven by whiffs of dark caramel and red fruit.

Taste: slight caramel sweetness (and muted fruitiness) on entry, then the barrel influence quickly arrives in the form of tingly cinnamon spice, roasted peanuts, and charred vanilla on the midpalate. The finish is big and chewy, with a slight hint of charred oak bitterness that I'm actually kind of digging.

Overall: this is unimpeachably solid bourbon that wears its age gracefully. The 13 years in oak mercifully haven't thrown the flavors off-balance - the slightly bitter oak backbone provides an interesting complement to the sweetness and fruitiness on the nose and entry. It lacks a bit of depth and interesting secondary/tertiary flavors, but that's just nit-picking. "A-" for me.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 010

Barrell Bourbon
Batch # 010
Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Cask Strength
Age 8 Years
61% ABV (122 proof)
$90-100? (guessing based on previous releases - sample provided)

Very excited to dig in with Barrell's new "Batch 010." As far as I can tell, Barrell doesn't have the details up on their website. I previously reviewed their Batch 008 Bourbon and Batch 003 Whiskey, both of which were very solid. On the back label, it says "distilled in Indiana," so given the age statement I'm guessing they sourced this from MGP.

Color: burnt orange

Smell: this smells delicious. Brown butter, dark caramel, slightly herbal/minty, and smooth - you'd never guess the proof from the nose. There's a little bit of cinnamon and vanilla spice, but not much overt oakiness. Very vibrant and fresh-smelling, if that makes any sense.

Taste: very solid. This is as smooth-sipping as any bourbon I've had, and there is no need for water. It's quite restrained on entry, with mild creamy caramel sweetness and the slight herbal/minty tinge from the nose. But then things come alive big time on the midpalate with an oaky tingling that ushers in a huge rush of very cohesive barrel-driven flavors. I get loads of vanilla bean and cinnamon spice, along with roasted peanuts and tobacco on a long, oily finish.

Overall: this is unimpeachably great bourbon - easy "A." Remarkably smooth for 60% ABV at cask strength, but packing plenty of interesting flavor, particularly on the midpalate and finish. I don't know how Barrell scored this allotment (or if they've been sitting on it for a while now), but this is legitimately one of the best bourbons I've had all year. As far as analogs go, this is a "finesse" bourbon in the style of most Four Roses LE bottlings as opposed to a "power" bourbon like Booker's or George T. Stagg. In my opinion, this distinction is driven by the degree of oak influence: "power" bourbons are extremely tannic, bitter, and woody (not necessarily a knock- some are wonderful), whereas "finesse" bourbons have less overt woodiness and generally present as fruitier, softer, and more rounded. I gravitate toward the latter, though I try to appreciate all comers!

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Old Grand-Dad
Bonded Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
"High Rye Mash Bill"
50% ABV (100 proof)
paid $20

From the bottle: "OGD Bonded Bourbon is the product of one distillery and one distiller in a single season, barreled for at least 4 years and bottled at exactly 100 proof."

Color: borderline light/medium brown with an orange tint

Smell: very nice, and definitely on the "spicy" side of bourbon. Reminds me immediately of Four Roses. Slight caramel sweetness is offset with some oak spice, mint, dill, latex paint, and peanuts. It's not a profoundly deep nose, but it's rock-solid.

Taste: smooth - even a little thin - on entry. Slight caramel sweetness upfront and then the oak spice builds on the midpalate. The interesting secondary notes (mint and dill especially) show up in the medium-short finish, along with latex paint, a hint of peanuts, and some alcohol heat.

Overall: this is a "B" for me. The flavors are all there, but it's both a little thin/watery (on entry) and a little hot (finish), which holds it back slightly. That said, great use of $20. This is excellent to sip neat or on ice, and a great bourbon for cocktails. This is the type of bottle that would make me very nervous to be a micro-distiller...I can't imagine this is easy to match!

Orphan Barrel "Whoop & Holler"

Orphan Barrel
"Whoop & Holler"
American Whisky
Aged 28 Years
42% ABV (84 proof)
~$175 (sample provided)

Color: light golden brown

Smell: really nice bouquet. Roasted corn is the main note, but there's also a bit of creamy red berry sweetness and a great complement of muted oak spice that comes across as tobacco-ish. It's a funky and musty nose, as far as whisky is concerned, and I dig it.

Taste: it's pretty unremarkable at first - just mild corn and caramel sweetness with some of the floral berries. But then the midpalate brings in some old dusty leather and tobacco. This continues into the finish, which is long and marked by drying oak spice.

Overall: this certainly isn't the flavor profile I was expecting from a 28 year old whisky (i.e., massively woody, bitter, and burnt). Although this was distilled at Dickel using Dickel's mashbill, I'd venture to guess that it aged in far different circumstances, perhaps not in freshly charred new oak barrels - Dickel's offerings are all much more wood-driven in terms of flavor. That said, the whisky in the bottle is good. Very good, even. It's vibrant and fresh, with some very interesting secondary flavors and - particularly - an impressively lingering and complex finish. For me, this is an "A-" and it comes closest to matching the BTAC Eagle Rare 17 flavor profile in terms of an analog.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength

"105 Cask Strength"
Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
60% ABV (120 proof)
~$85 (sample provided)

Interesting beast here. No age statement and - unlike, say, Wild Turkey 101 - the "105" isn't the proof...it's actually 120!

Color: medium gold...similar to the other offerings in the Glenfarclas lineup

Smell: bigger on the nose than its brethren, with a great depth of flavors. Floral honey sweetness is matched by hazelnuts and some oxidized wine notes that bring in a slightly bitter component. It's very interesting to smell - there's also something musty about it that I can't place, as well as a bit of lemon peel.

Taste: quite sweet upfront before the alcohol heat kicks in. Roasted cereal grains and honey at the fore, and then the midpalate brings in big waves of nuts and oak spice. The finish features a warming alcohol punch and a parting note of lemon peel and oxidized wine, as well as lingering cheek-puckering bitterness (in a good way).

Overall: I like this quite a bit - it's right up there with the Glenfarclas 12 for me at a "B+," although quite a different drinking experience. This is a bruiser, and with its high proof point and outsized oak influence, it drinks almost like a bourbon. After diluting with water, things mellow considerably. While the nose remains impressive, the palate becomes too muted - watery, honeyed grainy sweetness. Stick with it at full proof, and bring your big-boy pants.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head
120 Minute IPA
"The Imperial India Pale Ale"
18% ABV (36 proof)
~$8 per bottle

A quick non-whiskey review. Living in Delaware has a few perks (tax-free shopping, Joe Biden, ...), but none better than a full complement of Dogfish Head beer at pretty much every liquor store. Their 120 Minute IPA is very well-hyped (along with their World Wide Stout), so I picked up a 4-pack to age in my basement. Figure I'll do the same with the stout next month, and then taste again in a year or so to compare as they age.

Color: very whiskey-like. Ruddy light brown, hazy with a creamy head that settles down into a sticky film.

Smell: Hoppy (obviously), but really not anywhere close to as hoppy as I expected. Quite sweet on the nose - lots of tropical fruit (pineapple, mango) and even bubblegum over a malty core. It's similar to some really big Belgian beers (Chimay et al.) to me.

Taste: damn, this is nice. Mild carbonation hits upfront, along with loads of tropical fruit sweetness. The hops bring in a slight (but only a slight!) bitterness on the midpalate, and the finish imparts relatively mild malty sweetness.

Overall: this is a fun beer to drink. It's well-balanced and, frankly, much sweeter than I anticipated - I was bracing for the most bitter, pine coney IPA imaginable. If anything, it's a little overwhelmingly sweet on the finish...similar to a dessert wine in that sense. Anyhow, I highly recommend trying some if you get an opportunity. It's fantastic stuff, and unlike almost any other beer I've ever tried.

Glenfarclas 17

HIghland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Aged 17 Years
43% ABV (86 proof)
~$100 (sample provided)

Color: Straw gold - if my eyes aren't playing tricks on me, it looks a little lighter in color than the 12 year expression.

Smell: very desserty and delicious-smelling. Big, sultry almond pastry and rum raisin ice cream aromas come through for me, as well as something slightly citrusy like orange zest. That said, very approachable and not overbearingly sweet. There is also a kick of licorice in there.

Taste: honeyed raisin sweetness upfront before the nuttiness kicks in on the midpalate. There is definitely some toasty wood influence that builds along with it, drying out your cheeks and adding something akin to a mild cigar aftertaste (for me, this is a pleasant component) on the finish. It's not as big of a wood punch as bourbon, but it's definitely the main note of the finish.

Overall: this is pretty solid, though I slightly prefer the 12 year expression. "B/B+" for me. The lovely nose promises sweetness. While this sweetness is the first taste on the palate, it quickly gets dry, woody, and nutty. Nothing objectionable, but not as harmonious as I had hoped. Would be a very interesting whisky for a cigar pairing.