Head to Head: Wine Cask Finished Glenmorangie

LS: LasantaGlenmorangie 3 way

QR: Quinta Ruban

NO: Nectar D’Or

Maker: Glenmorangie, Ross-Shire, Scotland, UK (LVMH)

Age: 12 y/o


LS: Sherry cask finish.

QR: Port cask finish.

NO: Sauternes cask finish.

Michigan State Minimum

ABV: 46%

LS: $52

QR: $53

NO: $62


LS: Bright copper with thin sticky legs.

QR: Light auburn with thick legs.

NO: Pale copper with long thick legs.


LS: Roasting nuts, almond paste, alcohol. With water: Less alcohol.

QR: Alcohol, stewed prunes, oak. With water: A hint of fruit comes out but very little changes.

NO: Alcohol, golden apples. With water: Turns more grapey with light honey.


LS: Full bodied and soft. Hard caramel candy, toffee, then burn. With water: Brings out more sweetness. Apple sauce, butterscotch

QR: Heavy but light on flavor. Golden raisins, burn. With water: Velvety with mulberries, white currants.

NO: Medium bodied and sweet. Dried apricot, cane sugar, burn. With water: Clover honey, overripe peaches.


LS: Butterscotch, cashew brittle then burn. Lingers for a while. With water: Slightly rubbery, roasted almonds.s

QR: Raisins, oak, burn. With water: Dried figs, oak.

NO: Oak, sweetness, burn. With water: Tingles all around, angel food cake, golden raisins.

Parting words: This three-way was born out of a fun little four pack of 100 ml bottles of different Glenmorangie expressions. It includes the 10 y/o and these three expressions and sells for $32 in Michigan.

I wanted to do this tasting because I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore the influence of wine casks on malts because these are all the same age and from the same distillery. What was the most remarkable to me was how similar they actually were. The sherry cask in the Lasanta seems to have had the most influence on the final product. It had a clear, classic, nutty profile that screamed sherry. Nectar D’or also reflected its cask well, albeit subtly. The Sauternes showed up as a light, sweet grapey aroma and taste. Both were good and are recommended.

The only disappointment was the Qunita Ruban. Not to say that it wasn’t good. I liked it, but the port finish was much too subtle. If the bottle didn’t tell me it was finished in a port cask (or pipe, or whatever it’s called), I would never have guessed. I appreciate that they didn’t want to make it a strawberry bomb, and made sure that the malt character comes through, but when I see that a whisky is finished in a port cask, I go in expecting big fruit. This did not deliver. So why bother? Still, it tastes good and is not too expensive, and that’s more than one can say for a lot of single malts. Quinta Ruban is mildly recommended.

A Visit to the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room

MBTBTR1Address: 45645 Hayes, Shelby Township, Michigan, USA

Web: http://www.mbtbtasting.com, @MBTBTasting, https://www.facebook.com/mbtbtasting, http://instagram.com/mbtbtasting

Hours: Sun- noon- 6 p.m., Mon & Tues- Closed for special events, Wed & Thurs noon- 9 p.m., Fri- noon – 10 p.m., Sat- noon – 10 p.m.

Appearance/atmosphere: Although MBTB Tasting Room was voted best wine bar for 2014 in Hour Detroit Magazine, it doesn’t feel like a wine bar at all. It really does feel like a tasting room at a winery. The difference is that it is a tasting room for six different Michigan wineries at once!

The outside isn’t much to look at, just a store front in a suburban strip mall. The inside is a bit warmer, but still not fancy by any stretch. It’s bright and airy feeling with nice, ample seating and decorated in the MBTB color scheme. The bar isn’t anything fancy either but feels very much like the bar at a winery tasting room. It’s perfectly up to its task, though.

MBTBTR2Service: The service was excellent. We sat at the bar and our server Krystal was quick and attentive. I recognized Shannon from the Michigan by the Bottle blog and I introduced myself. He seemed to remember me from our online interactions (or at least faked it very well) and made us feel very welcome in spite of being busy. Cortney briefly appeared but disappeared into the back before I could introduce myself to her. Maybe next time. Both Krystal and Shannon answered all our questions clearly and politely.

The tastings work as follows: The server places a paper placemat in front of each taster with circles numbered 1-6 for a full flight (mini-flights of three wines are also available). For the standard flight, each taster circles five regular selections on the menu. Glasses are poured in traditional tasting order (starting with dry whites, ending with dry reds). When a “tour” is purchased, two special pours (and bonus cashews) are included. These are usually dessert wines or at least they were when we were there.

Menu/Prices/Selection: The full menu is here. A full flight is $10 or $15 after six (with the extra $5 being applied toward a bottle purchase) with tasty Michigan-made snacks (cheese and chocolate) included. A mini flight is $5/$10. A tour is $17/$22 and a tour for two is double that. If you’re a fan of dessert wines like I am, I would recommend the tour, but if you don’t enjoy them, I would stick to the flight.

They partner with six Michigan wineries from around the state. Those wineries are Chateau Aeronautique, Sandhill Crane (both Pioneer Wine Trail), Chateau de Leelanau, Gill’s Pier (both Leelanau Peninsula AVA), Domaine Berrien (Lake Michigan Shore AVA) and Peninsula Cellars (Old Mission Peninsula AVA).  I expected a broader selection of wines, but I think how they’ve done it works better than carrying something from everybody. They astutely included two wineries known for reds, Domaine Berrien and Chateau Aeronautique, to complement the fine whites Northern Michigan is known for. Cider and fruit wines are also included.

I didn’t love every wine I tried but that’s not really the point. I got to taste some things I would have had to drive several hours to taste and that’s great in itself. The best wines I had that afternoon were the 2012 Dry Riesling from Peninsula Cellars (not surprising given what an Old Mission fanboy I am) and the 2010 Domaine Berrien Pinot Noir. The most surprising selection was DB’s 2011 Marsanne. Michigan is not where one might expect to run into a grape from the northern Rhone valley but it was quite good. All the selections are also available by the bottle, and those prices are helpfully included on the tasting menu.

The prices for bottles are about standard and the tasting prices are reasonable considering the number of pours included and the quality and abundance of the snacks.

It should also be noted that, also like an actual winery, they have their own wine club. Information on that is here.

Transportation/Parking: Unless you’re up for a mile walk or bike ride from the nearest SMART stop on unfriendly roads, public transit isn’t really an option. There is a large parking lot at the shopping center where the tasting room is located, so parking is not a problem, and it’s close to Hall Road/M-59 so getting there is fairly easy. That said, it’s quite a hike out there unless you live in Macomb county. Google maps estimates a 30 minute drive from Sipology HQ and that’s just with good traffic which is a rare thing on Hall Road. Luckily for me and others living in Oakland Co. or Detroit, a Royal Oak location will be opening up on Woodward soon.

Parting Words: Overall a great experience was had. We went home with abundant leftover snacks and a few bottles of wine. Can’t wait for the Royal Oak location! It promises to be good for my tummy but probably bad for my bank account and limited cellar space. Michigan By the Bottle Tasting Room is recommended.

Lot No. 40, 2012 Release

Maker: Corby, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)Lot No. 40

Style: Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: $60 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Auburn, with long thick legs.

Nose: Wintergreen, cotton candy, pine, leather.

Palate: Light mouthfeel, but spicy and hot. Butterscotch, oak, clove, curry powder, cayenne.

Finish: Hard candy, more evergreen and potpourri then heat. A little oak and tobacco rounds it off.

Parting words: This whisky is a reboot of a reboot, sort of. The original lot no. 40 was the farm plot of early Canadian and distiller Joshua Booth on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. His descendant Michael D. Booth created Lot No. 40 the whisky as a tribute to his ancestor as a part of Corby’s ill-fated Canadian Whisky Guild line in the 1990s. It was revived in 2012 and that’s the edition currently on store shelves.

If there’s a knock on Canadian whisky as a category, it’s that it’s dull. The overwhelming majority of them are blends built to provide lots of  “smoothness” for little money. As more flavorful styles of whisky like bourbon, rye and single malt Scotch have become more popular, Canadian distillers have begun to release bolder and even unblended whiskies to chase consumers who are tired of bland spirits.

Lot No. 40 is one of the greatest examples of these bolder offerings. It packs a wallop of flavor to rival ea bourbon or single malt Scotch. A lot of that is down to the 100% rye (10% malted and 90% unmalted)

recipe. Many Canadian distilleries make a whisky like this but it almost always gets blended away to add flavor to bland grain whisky in cheap blends. I’m very glad this made it into a bottle as is, and I can’t wait for the next edition.

The price is high for a Canadian whisky but it’s worth every penny. It may actually be cheaper in Canada, so make a run for the border if you can sometime soon. Lot No. 40 is highly recommended.

Dickel 9 y/o Single Barrel Head to Head: Spec’s vs. Red Wagon

Maker: George Dickel, Tullhoma, Tennessee, USA (Diageo)Dickel vs Dickel

Style: Tennessee Whiskey

Proof: 103
(51.5% ABV)

Spc= Selected by Spec’s, Houston, Texas, USA

RW= Selected by Red Wagon, Troy/Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA


Spc: Dark copper, long, well developed legs.

RW: Brighter copper, similar legginess.


Spc: Alcohol, leather, lavender, char.

RW: Less alcohol, oak, peanut butter candy.


Spc: Well balanced with peanut brittle, a bit of maple.

RW: Sweet and bold with lots of maple and wood. A bit of peanut butter in the background.


Spc: Fairly hot finish that tingles for a long time with the signature George Dickel vitamin finish.

RW: Huge Dickel finish. Chewable vitamins, maple sugar candy and alcohol.

Parting words: Dickel’s single barrel program got kicked off a few months ago with a series of 9 y/o and 14 y/o retailer selections. The early reports had the 9 y/o barrels being superior to the 14 so I decided to invest in two of the 9s. In fact, I had been inquiring at Red Wagon about whether or not they would be participating in the program for weeks when I decided to just acquire one from an out of state store. The day after my Spec’s bottle arrived, I happened to be in Red Wagon and, lo and behold, theirs was sitting right there on the shelf. So, of course, I bought one of theirs too.

I was pleasantly surprised at the differences between these two bottles/barrels. Both were good but I give Spec’s the edge. Red Wagon’s tasted like an amped up version of Dickel #12. Lots of sweet peanut butter and maple with a touch of that famous vitamin note. I enjoy the #12 so I didn’t mind that, although anymore of that vitamin taste would have been unpleasant.

Spec’s had those signature Dickel flavors and aromas but they were more subtle and had a sweet leathery quality that reminded me of Elmer T. Lee and similar Buffalo Trace bourbons. It was surprising and showed how subtle and elegant George Dickel has the potential to be. Let’s hope it’s a sign of good things to come from Tullahoma.


Red Wagon’s 9 y/o Dickel Single Barrel is recommended and Spec’s is highly recommended.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc

Maker: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Hammondsport, New York, USADr Frank Cab Franc

Place of origin: Finger Lakes AVA, New York, USA

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 12%

Price: $20 on website (2011 vintage)

Thanks to Amy for use of her cellar for this bottle.

Appearance: Brick red with long broad legs.

Nose: Rich and structured. Blackberry jam, vanilla, oak, a slight herbaceous note.

Palate: Medium bodied, dry and slightly chewy. Fruity at first, a little tartness, then a little sweet red pepper followed by hit of oak and tannin on the back end.

Finish: Slightly bitter, but balanced out by fruit and ends in a big hit of oak.

Parting words: I got this wine many years ago. It may have been during our trip to the Finger Lakes (Keuka and Seneca lakes, specifically) but I think that was 2006, so it would not have been possible for us to purchase this bottle then. Anyway, my patience has been greatly rewarded.

Cabernet Franc is one of the few Bordeaux red wine grapes that does consistently well in the Eastern  U.S. The knock on Cab Franc, as we heard repeatedly in California, was that it can produce a bitter, vegetal “green pepper” taste. One winery we visited even apologized for a blend they poured for us that contained Cab Franc. “It’s mostly Cab Franc, but it’s pretty good.”

This is all Cab Franc and it’s pretty good. It is firm and dry with a slight bell pepper note but more sweet than green, as I noted above. It is kept well in check by tannin, fruit and acid. It drinks like Merlot or a mid-level red Bordeaux with some good age on it. Even approaching seven years old, this wine is still going strong.

We had it with flat iron steak tacos and it paired very well. Hamburgers, steaks or lamb chops would work nicely too. This wine is proof that the northeastern quadrant of the US can make very good red wines. Dr. Konstantin Frank 2007 Cabernet Franc is highly recommended.

Vanilla Java Porter

Maker: Atwater, Detroit, Michigan, USAVJ Porter

Style: Porter with coffee and vanilla extracts added.

ABV: 6%

Appearance: Very dark brown, like coffee. Moderate head.

Nose: Vanilla syrup, coffee.

Palate: Medium bodied, semi-sweet and effervescent. Gas station vanilla “cappuccino”, a little bitterness and slightly sour.

Finish: Coffee and hint of fruit. Lingers for a while.

Parting words: This beer delivers on its promise. I taste vanilla, I taste coffee, I taste porter. I expected something a bit more intense than this, but I can’t complain that it tastes exactly how it is described on the label. It could have used more bitterness and a fuller mouth feel but it’s fine as a change of pace. Vanilla Java Porter doesn’t pair very well with food. It’s best as an after meal dessert pour. Vanilla Java Porter is mildly recommended.

Highland Park 18 y/o

Maker: Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Edrington Group)HP 18

Region: Islands.

ABV: 43%

Michigan State Minimum: $120

Appearance: Light copper with long thin legs. No added coloring (to my knowledge)

Nose: Vanilla butter cream icing, oak, sherry, alcohol, a whiff of peat and a splash of sea spray. Water brings out more brine and peat.

Palate: Medium dry, full-bodied and well balanced. Some sweet malt and vanilla, apricot, followed by sherry and maritime notes. Opens up with a little water. Licorice and oak join the party and the mouthfeel becomes velvety soft.

Finish: Some vanilla and fruit, then burn and peat. Water gives the finish a big burst of peat, toffee and chocolate. Fades more quickly though.

Parting words: I’m fond of saying “nobody doesn’t like Highland Park”, and with HP 18, it’s easy to see why that is the case. Everything that can be in a single malt is here: Fruit, Vanilla, oak, peat, the sea, sherry, burn. It has something for everybody but doesn’t go off one end (smoke and peat) or the other (fruit and sherry). The 12 year old edition is a balance of all those elements. The 18 tilts the seesaw more in the direction of the barrel, which is not surprising considering it has spent six years longer in said barrel than its sibling. This is accomplished without diminishing sweetness or pungent peat, which is brilliant. It is the epitome of the style associated with the Isles, although it is made in a different set of isles (the Orkneys) than Jura, Talisker, Tobermory and the rest.

The hurdle for me is the price. At $120, it’s not bad for a Single Malt of its age and quality, but it’s a big bite for my budget to take. If it were even $20 cheaper it would be highly recommended but at its current price it is still recommended.

If you want don’t want to pay that much to taste HP 18, do what I did. Look for one of the HP 12 bottles with the special bonus 50 ml bottle of 18 attached. That should only set you back a total of $50. You’re welcome, world.

L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs

Maker: L. Mawby, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USAMawby B de B

Grape: Chardonnay

Place of origin: Leelenau Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA

Style: Brut sparkling wine.

ABV: 11%

Purchased for $21.

Notes: Whole cluster pressed. Méthode traditionnelle. Cuvee 206. More information on label.

Appearance: Pale gold and very effervescent.

Nose: Dry apple cider, limestone, dried flowers.

Palate: Bubbly and light. Ripe golden apple and Bosc pear, with a hint of meyer lemon and mineral water.

Finish: Quite dry with more mineral notes and a tiny tang on the back end.

Parting words: All L. Mawby does is sparkling wine, and they do it well. The flagship L. Mawby wines are made using the méthode traditionnelle used for Champagne.

I have virtually no knowledge of Champagne but from the few tastes I’ve had of the real stuff, this wine fits the profile of brut Champagne. Most Michigan sparklers are backyard quaffing material, which is just fine, but if you’re looking for a step up, the Mawby Blanc de Blanc is a good option. It’s just fine with traditional white wine fare, but it works best as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres or as the first round of a celebration (before the cheap stuff comes out). L. Mawby Blanc de Blancs is recommended.


Milkshake Stout

Maker: Rochester Mills, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA

Style: Milk stout brewed with cocoa nibs.RM Milkshake

ABV: 5%

Price: $8 for 4 pint cans

Appearance: Chocolate brown with a light tan head.

Nose: Chocolate milk, roasted malt.

Palate: Medium bodied. Chocolate egg cream, but with enough bitterness to hold the sweetness in check and bring the two together seamlessly.

Finish: Rich dark hot chocolate. A little sticky on the lips like a good milkshake, but not gooey. Fades slowly.

Parting words: I was surprised to see that I hadn’t reviewed this beer before, but I hadn’t. It’s one of Michigan’s best milk stouts but not, to my knowledge, distributed outside the state. It’s well worth seeking out, though. It’s creamy, chocolaty and delicious without being cloying or tasting too much like a flavored beer. The chocolate and lactose integrate perfectly into the flavors of the stout. The price is fair for such a tasty beer and I’m a big fan of pint cans. According to the internet it’s even better on tap. Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout is recommended.

Barterhouse Kentucky Bourbon

Maker: Diageo, London, UKBarterhouse

Distilled: Bernheim Distillery, Louisville, Kentucky, USA (Now owned by Heaven Hill, then owned by United Distillers, a precursor to Diageo)

Bottled: George Dickel, Tullahoma, Tennessee, USA

Style: High corn bourbon

Age: 20 y/o

Proof: 90.2 (45.1% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $70

Appearance: Dark auburn with long slow legs.

Nose: Oak, walnut, caramel.

Palate: Full bodied and mild. A tiny bit of alcohol burn, hint of caramel, a little licorice. Very subtle.

Finish: Short and mild. Dry oak, black walnut, burn.

Parting words: Barterhouse is one of the first two releases in Diageo’s new Orphan Barrel series of overaged stuff they had sitting around their Louisville warehouses. The other is the 26 year old Old Blowhard (actual name) that was likely distilled at a distillery called at the site of what’s now Bernheim Distillery in Louisville. Bernheim and its predecessor were home to the I.W. Harper and Old Charter brands. Barterhouse and its older sibling were probably intended for one of those two brands when they were distilled.

I usually don’t go in for bourbons this old. I find them one-dimensional and flat. They’re all wood and very little else. I bought this one because of its pedigree. One of my favorite out-of-production bourbons was the Bernheim-distilled version of Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve (distinguished from the other version by its slope-shouldered bottle). I was willing to pay the rather high price for Barterhous because I hoped it would bear a resemblance to that sweet, butterscotchy old favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bear much resemblance at all.

Barterhouse bears a resemblance to just about every other bourbon over 16 years old I have tasted. It’s woody.  A little sweetness and spice manage to keep it drinkable but barely. It’s not bad by any means, but I expect more complexity out of something this expensive. Most bourbons at half the price have twice the flavor. Barterhouse is interesting as a piece of history, but I can’t help but get a little melancholy when I think about how great this might have tasted at 12-16 y/o. Barterhouse is mildly recommended.