C12= Canadian Club Classic 12
Distiller: Hiram Walker (and possibly elsewhere), Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Beam)
CCR: 9 y/o
C12: 12 y/o
ABV: 40% (both)
Michigan State Minimum
Appearance: Burnt orange (both).
CCR: Burnt almonds, cedar, roasted corn, habanero
C12: Leather, caramel corn.
CCR: Full bodied, caramel, cayenne, a touch of oak.
C12: Thinner and milder. Light brown sugar, vanilla and some oak.
CCR: Maple syrup, alcohol,
C12: Fades quickly. A little more oak and a light, warm sweetness.
Parting words: Before I say anything else, I want to say that I don’t like the newly revamped Canadian Club label designs. The different expressions look too much alike on the shelf.
That out of the way, CC Reserve recently got knocked back a year from 10 y/o to 9 y/o. The 10 was one of my favorite Canadian whiskies and I was pretty annoyed when the change was made. It doesn’t seem to have changed the flavor of what’s inside. It’s still spicy and bold and a pleasure to drink. The price is impossible to beat for a Canadian with this much character. It’s recommended, and a few proof points more would probably push it into highly recommended territory.
The Classic 12 is good too, especially for the money, but it’s held back by its low proof. It works as a first pour of the night sipper whisky, but that’s about it. Classic 12 is mildly recommended.
Style: Dry stout aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels.
Price: $10 (Binny’s)/22 oz bottle
Appearance: Chocolate bown with a big tan head.
Nose: Roasted malt, soy sauce.
Palate: Mildly sweet and bitter with some butterscotch and salted caramel.
Finish: Mildly sweet and a little fruity, then a touch of bitterness.
Parting words: My first encounter with an Anderson Valley beer was not a very positive one. This is much better. It’s not particularly ambitious or edgy. It’s just a stout that has spent some time in a bourbon barrel. But it’s tasty. The barrel contributes some very nice sweet butterscotch flavors without making it too boozy or sappy. One might even call this a session bourbon barrel stout. Maybe.
The price isn’t too bad for a product like this, but it is near the upper limit of what I would be willing to pay. Knowing the origin of the barrel is a nice bonus too. Anderson Valley Bourbon Barrel Stout is recommended.
Age: 6 y/o
Proof: 103 (51.5% ABV)
Michigan State Minimum: $18.50
Appearance: Dark copper with long thick legs.
Nose: Alcohol, oak, jalapeno, caramel. Water brings out butterscotch and basil.
Palate: Hot and sweet with a touch of oak. Softer with water but still spicy. Caramel and cayenne.
Finish: Hot and spicy with caramel and a hit of oak. Finish is basically the same with water, but a little less hot.
Mixed: Does very well in all applications I tried. Stands up to Coke and does well with Benedictine. Shines in a Manhattan and an old fashioned. Gets a little lost in a boulevardier but almost everything does. Performs nicely on the rocks.
Parting words: Like most chickens Fighting Cock is delicious but flies under the radar. It’s Heaven Hill’s answer to Wild Turkey. It has a high, odd numbered proof (mine goes to 11!), a bird on the label and a spicy, aggressive taste and aroma. It originally was aged stated at 8 y/o too, just like Wild Turkey used to be.
I like it better than Wild Turkey. It’s hard to find an age stated bourbon at that proof for under $20 these days. The closest cousin to FC is Old Ezra at 101 proof and 7 y/o. It’s probably also distilled by Heaven Hill and it’s a little cheaper. It tends to be grassy which can be off putting to some. I’d probably rank FC above Old Ezra but both are very good. If you like bold, spicy flavors in your bourbon and the name doesn’t make you blush, Fighting Cock is recommended.
Place of origin: Michigan (60% Leelanau Co., 40% Grand Traverse Co.), USA
ABV: 12% ABV
Price: $22.50 (website)
Appearance: Ruby red,
Nose: Lightly toasted oak, white pepper, strawberry jam.
Palate: Medium bodied and medium dry. Black raspberries, very ripe blueberries, pinch of pink peppercorns.
Finish: Light oak with a bit of fruit. Fades slowly.
Parting words: I was originally planning to let this one sit for longer but after tasting a 2010 Pinot Noir from a neighboring winery that had fallen apart last week I panicked and decided that now was the time to open my 2011 Michigan Pinots. I’m glad I did. This one was very tasty. It was fruity but the oak rounds it off nicely. There could have been more depth and integration of flavor but there’s nothing to complain about. Does fine with food or on its own. 2011 Arcturos Pinot Noir is recommended.
I received a press release from Diageo in my mailbox this morning and as I don’t receive many of these so I thought I’d pass the highlights along to you. It’s about the latest new release in Diageo’s orphan barrel series of premium, very old bourbons.
TULLAHOMA, Tenn., April 1, 2014 – From Tennessee to Kentucky to Ireland, stories of old whiskies forgotten in the back of rickhouses and warehouses drift among distillers the world over. From lunch breaks to happy hours, their debates over which whiskey would taste best has become the stuff of legend. To offer resolution and expand a new line of rare spirits to a growing base of whiskey aficionados, DIAGEO (NYSE: DEO) today announced the latest project of the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, Very Old Beaver Straight Bourbon Whiskey to be joining Old Blowhard and Barterhouse Bourbons this spring.Very Old Beaver is expected to begin appearing on select shelves throughout the U.S. in April 2014 under strict allocation due to limited supply of approximately 1,000,000 cases worldwide. Very Old Beaver won’t disclose her age but enthusiasts will be able to tell that she’s been around the block a few times.
Very Old Beaver stocks were discovered in old warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller facility in Louisville, Ky. Rumor has it warehouse workers have already begun lining up for a taste of Very Old Beaver with a soft aroma reminiscent of buttercream and smoked halibut. The whiskey’s mellow taste includes notes of old leather box, salt cod, and aged gorgonzola cheese. Very Old Beaver is filled in Tullahoma, Tenn. and will be expected to sell for a suggested retail price of $50,000.
Like the rickhouse and warehouse workers who uncover them and the consumers who drink them, Orphan Barrel Whiskies have distinctive personalities in taste and packaging. Very Old Beaver packaging nods to the inspiration behind the whiskey’s name. A vintage pink and brown label features a furry beaver after she’s been lightly groomed and stuffed. Because when you’re tired of youth and immaturity, nothing is better than the warm comfort of Very Old Beaver.
Region: Speyside, although the label describes it as “Highland”
Michigan State Minimum: $52
Appearance: Light gold (natural color) with long thin legs.
Nose: Sherry, barley bread, dried flowers, crème brûlée.
Palate: Medium bodied and desserty. Butterscotch, French lavender, oak, mace (the spice not the chemical weapon).
Finish: Fairly hot but sweet. Lingers on the lips for a short time.
Parting Words: Glenfarclas is one of the few truely independent malt distilleries left in Scotland. The Grant family (not to be confused with many other Grants making Scotch whisky) has owned Glenfarclas since the nineteenth century and they have continued to do things their own old fashioned way. They refer to their whisky as Highland on the label although most would refer to them as Speyside these days given their proximity to the Spey river. Their labels are simple, their bottles are butch and their range of malts is based primarily on age. In the U.S. a 10, 12, 17, 21, 25, 40 and a 105 proof cask strength NAS version. Also available (but very expensive) are the Family Cask series of vintage bottlings.
The 12 y/o Glenfarclas is a very good whisky.The packaging and marketing may be spartan, but the whisky is not. The distinctive earthy aromas of the older expressions are muted in the 12 , but are still there faintly in the sherry and oak. The result is a classic sherried Speyside profile of the heavier sort, like Balvenie or Mortlach. It’s an excellent after dinner sipper well suited to books and back porches. I don’t smoke cigars, but I have been told that it goes well with them as well.
$52 is a steal for a mature, quality single malt from anywhere these days. Nothing not to like about Glenfarclas 12. It is recommended.
Notes: Made from wheat and apples. No. 1316, Batch 3
Michigan State Minimum: $40/1 liter
Nose: Juniper, cedar, lime zest, bourbon “white dog”.
On the palate: Full bodied. Unaged whiskey, cedar, maybe a little citrus. Unbalanced and crude.
Finish: A bitter note, then nothing but alcohol.
Mixed: The strong raw spirit flavors overwhelm and ruin tonic, dry martinis and white ladies. It’s adequate to good in drinks using red vermouth like perfect martinis (made using equal parts dry and red vermouth), Negronis and Princetons.
Parting words: This is an unusual gin. It seems to be something of an experiment based upon the question of what a gin would be like if its flavor was driven by what the spirit was made from instead of the botanicals infused into it. St. George’s Dry Rye gin seems to be a similar experiment, one which I think also fails miserably. St. George luckily has two other excellent botantical-driven gins for it to fall back on. Tuthilltown does not have that luxury, unfortunately. They also have a vodka made from apples which I have not tried. Given my “no vodka reviews” rule and my distaste for Half Moon, don’t expect a notes on that any time soon.
One of the many puzzling aspects of Tuthilltown’s operation is why they have a gin and a vodka made from apples but no apple brandy. Maybe they don’t have access to cider made with the proper varieties of apples for brandy or there’s some other good reason. It could be that they have already made some and are waiting for it to age but given Tuthilltown’s love for small barrels and underaged whiskey that seems unlikely.
Half Moon comes only in liter bottles, at least in Michigan, which would be nice if the product were better. If it were $10-$20 cheaper I might be more inclined to be more generous, but at $40 I expect something much better than this half baked gin. Half Moon is not recommended.
Age: 7 y/o
Proof: 107 (53.5% ABV)
Michigan State Minimum: $47
Appearance: Dark Copper with thick legs.
Nose: Leather, alcohol, caramel. Water brings out a weird rotten vegetable smell.
Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Cotton candy, plum, oak, oregano, clove. Goes down a little easier with water and brings butterscotch into the mix.
Finish: Hot and sweet. Peppermint cotton candy. I don’t know if such a thing exists but if it does, it tastes like this. Milder and sweeter with H2O.
Parting words: Baker’s is named after Baker Beam, grandson of Jim’s brother “Park” Beam (not to be confused with Parker Beam, Heaven Hill master distiller) and thus second cousin to Booker Noe. For further confusion, consult the interactive Beam family tree here.
It’s is a part of Beam’s Small Batch collection. The other members are Knob Creek, Booker’s and Basil Hayden. Basil is the whipping boy of the group, being no more than Old Grand Dad in a fancier bottle. Knob Creek is very popular and rightly so. It’s the oldest and the only one with line extensions (Rye, Single Barrel, Smoked Maple). Booker’s is barrel strength and is the sort of flagship of the group, with a 25th anniversary, 10 y/o edition being released soon. Baker’s is 7 y/o and 107 proof and unfortunately occupies the “ignored middle child” spot in the Small Batch family.
I bought this bottle when I learned that Baker’s price was going up substantially in Michigan. I hadn’t had it in a very long time and I was pleasantly surprised. I reviewed the now dusty Beam Distiller’s Series last year. It was also 7 y/o and tasty, but Baker’s has a depth of flavor and weight that the DS lacked. This is probably because of the lower barrel entry proof used for Baker’s and Booker’s. It also fares well compared to Booker’s. Booker’s is higher proof but its age has been creeping down as its price has been creeping up. Booker’s currently sells for close to $60 in Michigan, which in my opinion is absurdly expensive for a 6 y/o bourbon, barrel strength or not. Baker’s price has risen in tandem with Booker’s, but it has stayed 7 y/o which gives it the edge over its cousin.
The only flaw is the inexplicable rotten garbage smell that came out with water. That problem is easily solved by not adding water or using it very sparingly. Overall Baker’s is a very good bourbon at a decent price. That earns it a recommendation.
Purchased for $9
Appearance: Black with a foamy chocolate head
Nose: Dark toast, molasses, malt.
On the palate: Medium bodied, dry and effervescent. Dark roasted malt and a little sourness. A little sweetness at the end.
Finish: More dark toast and bubbles. Fades fairly quickly.
Parting words: It doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to figure out what brand of beer a craft “Irish Stout” is aimed at. If you like Guinness, you’ll like this. It’s a bit of an improvement on Guinness, but not enough to make it a repeat buy for me since I’m not a fan of that style of stout in the first place. I prefer my stouts more flavorful and chocolaty. Uncle Steve’s Irish Stout is mildly recommended.