Sunday, July 31, 2011

Exam-o-dram - High West 12 year Rye

As a lover of whiskey that would also include Rye. As I mentioned here in the pages of this blog, I have a penchant for wheated bourbons like Old Weller Antique (the age stated one), Pappy Van Winkle and Stitzel Weller Old Fitzgerald Bonded. There are times though that I like a good rye whiskey. There are two predominant rye offerings; American and Canadian. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm focused on good 'ole American Rye.

For American rye the mashbill must be at least 51% rye. The remaining percentage will be corn and malted barley and distilled to not more than 160pf and put into a new charred oak barrel at not more than 125pf. To be called Straight Rye, it must be aged at least two years. Prior to prohibition, rye whiskey was abundant in the Northeast U.S. as there were distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland but after Prohibition, those distillery disappeared. Today, rye whiskey is made by the large distillers that includes Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill and various micro distilleries scattered throughout the U.S. Another large producer of rye whiskey that's far off the radar and one you've probably never heard of is Lawrenceburg Distillery Indiana (LDI) who also produces many other spirits such as bourbon, gin and grain neutral spirits (GNS).

Rye whiskey for many years was the dominant whiskey consumed in the U.S. but then dropped off significantly over time but more recently it's been making a comeback and as a result, we've seen many new labels showing up on the shelves. One such producer is High West Distillery based out of Park City Utah which is where the High West 12 Year Rye comes from. High West offers other whiskies and what's exciting is the variation and quality of the whiskey being distributed.

The 12 Year Rye was tasted blind by 13 participants and they were asked to rate the whiskey based on a 100 point scale and provide tasting comments. My feedback on this particular whiskey is as follows:

Color: Moderate golden hue, medium depth
Nose: More floral profile on this one. Mild yet appealing
Entry: Nice combination of sweet/spice. Reasonably balanced showing a bit of age. Spice kicks in about mid palate. Mouthfeel a little on the thin side.
Finish: Moderately long with spice dominating most of the way and then subsiding giving way to a little sweet rye flavor.
Rating: Compelling and appealing. I like this one. This one gets a 87.

The group ratings were:

95-100 A Classic Whiskey - 1

90-94 Excellent Whiskey - 2

85-89 Very Good, Above Average Whiskey - 7

80-84 Average Whiskey - 4

There were no scores below 80

Additional group comments included:

"A well-balanced rye, probably 5-8yo. The original spirit is still hanging on with the barrel notes add to the experience. Needs a bit more depth though"

"both sweet and bitter, a good combo finish...falls off a little at the end"

"The mint is in check on this one and this strikes me as a good rye, but the taste just falls flat for me and really knocks this one down"

"Hmm… rye and menthol. There is some spice, but it is hidden behind the menthol touches. Not bad juice, just not something I would reach for"

"Nice transition to a long, dry finish. Begs for another sip"

This rye may not be found in many markets but I would at least call your local liquor store or ABC manager and ask them about availability. Bottle is 750ml and priced about $35.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A break in the heat.....

Two things happened this week that made living a little unbearable. Washington DC heat was hitting some pretty high temps and with the addition of humidity, the heat index was surpassing 100 degrees. The second thing that happened, my AC decided to stop working. Oh joy.

A call to my AC company got me a scheduled appointment for this Friday, the 29th. A call yesterday begging them to come earlier yielded an appointment for this evening. Low coolant was the culprit and since the unit is new in the last two years, the service call was free.

This evening, the heat isn't overbearing and it's actually very comfortable outside. In celebration of a working AC and a pleasant evening, I poured a 1981 Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond. This particular bourbon I believe is a byproduct of glut whiskey since it's 9 years old (according to the dated tax strip). This particular bourbon is one of those bottles I never want to see empty.

The nose is all brown sugar, vanilla and mild oak. The entry is a burst of bourbon perfection with toasted wood, caramel, and burnt cream. To me, perfection that is not found in many other bottles. I've written extensively about dusty hunting so for those of you that hunt, look for older OGD BIB's that are bottled around 1992 and before as they will contain juice from National Distiller vice Jim Beam who purchased the OGD label in 1989.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Arran, not Bourbon

I've liked bourbon for a very long time but in the last number of years, I've become distracted by other whiskies and as such, I've begun to dabble in the dark side; Scotch! My bourbon buddies rib me on a regular basis about it but the truth is, whisk(e)y is so diverse that I love to explore new and different selections. A recent acquisition is The Arran Malt, a Single Island Scotch that is finished in cream sherry casks. What's interesting is this bottle is cask strength at 114.8pf. There are only 756 bottles and I managed to snag four of them.

The Arran comes from Isle of Arran Distillery which began production on June 29, 1995. Relatively speaking, this is a very, very young distillery compared to say Bowmore that's been pumping out whisky goodness since 1779. From what I can tell, this particular bottling is from 2006. That may not be exact as there's not much information floating around about these limited edition bottles. What I can tell you is that I think it tastes pretty darn good.

This is not a scotch from Islay filled with heavy doses of peat and smoke but from Island; very honeyed and loaded with ripe red fruits, balance of sherry influence with the "cream" cask coming though at the end of mid palate. A very pleasing toastiness comes through with a buttery taste as it flows to the back of the palate. On the finish, the fruit and honey sweetness diminishes and I'm left with a pleasant oak, sherry and burnt sugar aftertaste.

The Arran Single Malt LE can still be found in some stores and internet vendors, you'll just have to hunt for it. I got a fantastic deal on my bottle paying $30 with free shipping but it typically retails for about $80 a 750ml.

Single Barrel Tasting

Just wanted to alert you bourbon lovers out there that my buddy Don over at Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog is doing a single barrel tasting. First up in the bracket is Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit vs. Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond. Don does a good job setting this up and providing his thoughts on the bourbons. Check it's a fun read.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cruisin and Boozin

Just returned from a week long cruise. Internet access was a ridiculous $35/hour so I bypassed getting online which was good anyway as it felt nice being disconnected for that week. I hunted for some export bourbons but came up dry. It wasn't a total bust as I picked up some other goodies in the whiskey family

1989 Balblair SMSW
Glenmorangie Sonnalta (non chill filtered) SMSW
Aberlour a'bunadh batch 22 SMSW (barrel strength)
Crown Royal XR (a very nice Canadian)
Jack Daniels Silver Select (excellent export JD single barrel at 100pf)

I'm still vacationing in Orlando so will post some thoughts on these purchase sometime in the near future. Pool time......