Pikesville Rye

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA2016-01-29-16.52.04.jpg.jpeg

Style: Kentucky straight rye whiskey

Age: 6 y/o

Proof: 110 (55% ABV)

Michgan state minimum: $50

Appearance: Dark auburn

Nose: Cut grass, oak, alcohol grape soda, caramel.

Palate: Full bodied. Spicy and hot. Caramel, root beer. Water brings out sweet cinnamon and chili powder.

Finish: Oak, and then habanero. With water: a splash of caramel corn, then a low ancho burn.

Parting words: Pikesville is a fairly old Maryland brand that ended up being the last rye distilled in the state. The distillery stopped distilling in 1972 but kept going using old stock until 1982 in a testament to how bad sales were. Heaven Hill bought the brand then and it served as their bottom shelf, 80 proof rye for the next 30+ years. In 2015 they decided to reboot Pikesville as a 110 proof upper-shelfer. Judging by this bottle, the reboot is a success.

There seems to be a large proportion of pretty old (12 y/o or older) stock in the mix. I have never had an young Kentucky style rye with this much oak showing. It’s remarkable and well worth the price. This a is well balanced with loads of character that drinks pretty easy for 110 proof. If you enjoy Heaven Hill’s other rye, Rittenhouse, you’ll love this. It even stands up to the hallowed Van Winkle Family Reserve rye well. I hope they don’t let the high quality slip over the next few years. Highly recommended.

The Exclusive Malts- Cambus, 1988

Maker: Cambus, Cambus, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Style: Grain whisky

Age: 26 y/o

ABV: 48.1%

Price: $180 (K & L)

Thanks to Marshall for this sample.

Appearance: Old gold with thick, very slow legs.

Nose: Old oak, butterscotch pudding, serrano chili, alcohol

Palate: Banana pudding, then burn. With water the burn and banana fades into creamy vanilla custard.

Finish: Sweet and custardy, banana cream pie. Similar with water but with oak on the back end.

Parting words: Cambus was one of the first grain whisky distilleries in Scotland, and possibly the first to use a column (aka Coffey or patent) still. Its early history is fuzzy, but it may have been founded in 1806. What is known for certain is that it began at its current site in 1836 and was one of the founding members of Distiller’s Company Limited (DCL) a corporate ancestor of Diageo. When UDV (one of Diageo’s parents) was formed in 1993, Cambus was shuttered. This being Scotch, Cambus-distilled grain whisky has hung around for a long time.

A little ironically, The Exclusive Malts bottled this grain (not malt) whisky as a part of a big batch of vintage single cask Scotches they released last year. This one is the oldest. The others are all mid 1990s vintage. They include casks from nearby Deanston, Ben Nevis, Glen Keith, Glen Garioch, and Allt-A-Bhainne (no, that last one isn’t made up).

I love Twitter. One of the reasons is that it enables me to meet whiskey enthusiasts from all over the world and chat with them. One of the persons I’ve met that way is Marshall. We met in person back around Christmas (or was it Thanksgiving?) and he generously gave me a sample of this at that time. Earlier this week I was thinking of a special Scotch to review for the Friday before Burns Night and this one seemed perfect. It is delicious. It’s also surprisingly bourbon-like, specifically it’s like old bottles of Old Taylor, Very Old Barton or Old Charter Proprietor’s reserve (slope-shoulder Louisville version) that I’ve had. Big butterscotch and tropical fruit flavors, but perfectly balanced with wood, sweetness and vanilla. $180 isn’t chump change but it’s not unreasonable for a whisky of this quality and age from a closed distillery. Cambus 1988 is recommended.

Blake’s Flannel Mouth Hard Cider

Maker: Blake’s, Armada, Michigan, USA2016-01-19-10.54.28.jpg.jpeg

Style: Semi-sweet apple cider

ABV: 6.5%

Price: $10/6 pack of cans

Appearance: Pale gold with a fizzy but short-lived head.

Nose: Apple juice, fresh off the tree apples, gravel, citrus blossom.

Palate: Semi-sweet and slightly effervescent. Light and easy drinking with good apple flavor and some structure-providing tannin.

Finish: Sweetness with some minerals in the background.

Parting words: Blake’s, like Uncle John’s, is an cidery and an agricultural attraction like Uncle John’s. Blake’s is closer to Detroit, though, just twenty-five miles north of Sterling Heights, Michigan in Macomb county, one of the three counties in the metro area. They produce a line of ciders including the dry Beard Bender, spiced El Chavo, hopped Catawampus, farmhouse Cider Dayze and sweet Flannel Mouth. They also produce a line of seasonal ciders and limited editions.

Flannel Mouth is a pretty good entry-level cider. It’s pretty sweet, so it may not be one to serve to those who think cider is too sweet, but for the casual cider drinkers or the ci-curious it’s a good choice. Acessible, but with depth. $10 for a six pack isn’t cheap but it isn’t bananas either. Flannel Mouth is recommended.

Kentucky Tavern, Bottled-in-Bond

Maker: Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA2016-01-15-16.21.13.jpg.jpeg

Age: NAS (At least four years old)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Price: Unknown ($12? Possibly discontinued)

Appearance: Medium copper with a thin necklace

Nose: Alcohol, toasted pecans, sage, butterscotch.

Palate: Soft and mild on the palate. Shifts to hot on the back end. Caramel, a little oak.

Finish: Warming, caramel candies, butterscotch.

Mixed: Subtle, but excellent in a Manhattan, Boulevardier, sour, Old Fashioned and with Coke and Ginger Ale. OK on the rocks.

Parting words: Kentucky Tavern is a pretty old brand, dating back to 1903. Its original parent company folded shortly thereafter and the brand was sold to brothers James and Francis P. Thompson. Their company was called Glenmore and it owned the brand for most of its history. It was made at the Glenmore distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky but may have also been made at Glenmore’s Louisville distillery which was best known as the home of Yellowstone bourbon. Kentucky Tavern was a rye-recipe bourbon then and served as Glenmore’s flagship brand. In 1991, Glenmore was purchased by Guinness and became a part of United Distillers. KT was actually a wheat bourbon during this brief period. The Louisville distillery was closed at that time and four years later Kentucky Tavern and the Owensboro distillery were sold to Barton Brands (later Constellation). The Glenmore facility was then used only as a bottling and warehousing center, as it still is today. Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery, purchased the Barton distillery in Bardstown, the old Glenmore facility and Kentucky Tavern (among other things) in 2009. Kentucky Gentleman bourbon was begun as something of a knockoff of Kentucky Tavern, but ironically is now also owned by Sazerac and produced at Barton.

The word on the street is that Kentucky Tavern is the same mashbill as 1792 Ridgemont Reserve bourbon, which has been described as either high rye or high malt bourbon. It could actually be both, as long as it’s still 51% corn. Notoriously tight-lipped Sazerac has never released any information on the mashbill for KT or any other products produced at Barton, though.

The 80 proof Kentucky Tavern is available here and there, popping up at The Party Source, Binny’s and a few other large retailers in the Midwest and Kentucky. The bonded is much harder to find, and may actually have been discontinued, judging by how none of the retailers I consulted have it in stock. I bought this bottle at Liquor World in Bardstown, Kentucky the last time I was there. I called them earlier today and they said they did not have any in stock. Online reports of recent finds are non-existent too.

If it has been discontinued, it’s a shame because this is a very good bourbon for the money and a very good mixer. If you can find it, Kentucky Tavern Bottled in Bond is recommended.

Aviatrix Rouge 2010

Maker: Chateau Aeronautique, Jackson, Michigan, USA2016-01-07-11.13.04.jpg.jpeg

Grapes: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Syrah, 10% Merlot (acc. to website)

Place of origin: Michigan, USA

Style: Left bank-ish red Bordeaux blend

ABV: Unknown (14%-ish)

Price: $35 (Michigan by the Bottle)

Appearance: Dark burgundy with a brownish hue.

Nose: Black currant jam, blueberry, wild blackberry, vanilla.

Palate: Understated. Blueberry juice, black cherry, wine cap mushrooms, vanilla.

Finish: Oaky, then fades into chewy berries. Slight tang at the end.

Parting words: I was very impressed with this wine. I expected a smoky beast like its cousin and successor, Aviatrix Crimson, but what I got was a multifaceted gem of a wine. The fruit, oak, earthy and other elements are in perfect harmony here. Rereading my notes, they seem to give the impression that this is a very fruity, sweet wine. It’s not. The fruit notes are all fairly muted and balanced out with flavors I can’t quite name.

$35 is hell of a lot of money for a Michigan red. I think this one lives up to the price tag, though. Paired great with a steak and with pork roast. Drinking great now (especially after breathing for a while) but will probably be as good or better for the next two to three years or longer. Aviatrix Rouge 2010 is recommended.

Camus VS Elegance

Maker: Camus, Cognac, Charente, France2016-01-06-14.57.54.jpg.jpeg

Age category: VS (at least 2 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Price: $26 (The Party Source)

Appearance: Bright copper with thick, slow moving legs

Nose: Raisins, old oak, fig, alcohol.

Palate: Soft and mild. Oatmeal raisin cookies.

Finish: Dried fig, dates, alcohol, vanilla.

Parting words: The Camus Cognac house dates back to 1863. Unlike its much bigger competitors it is family and French owned, and always has been. The current president is Cyril Camus (b. 1971), a descendent of founder Jean-Baptiste Camus (b. 1835). They also share similar facial hair. Cyril created the Elegance line of entry level, age category cognacs, and the Borderies XO, made with grapes from the family vineyards in the Borderies sub-region of Cognac. He also began a line of cognacs made entirely with grapes from Île de Ré, a small island (33 square miles or so) off the coast of western France. Frankly, Camus produces a bewildering number of products for such a small company.

The Elegance line, as mentioned above, seems to be intended as an entry level product line. It also includes Elegance VSOP, XO and Extra (in ascending order of age). The VS is the least expensive but the VSOP is affordable as well. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan does not carry the VS, but the VSOP retails for $39, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. Michigan also carries Elegance XO ($157), Borderies XO ($177), Extra Elegance ($500) and Cuvee 5.150 ($14,000).

I expected this brandy to be mixing quality at best. I was pleasantly shocked. The fruity quality of the distillate clearly takes the lead here, but it’s very good on its own and is balanced with enough cask character to keep it from tasting like an unaged eau de vie. I tasted from a 50 ml bottle so I didn’t quite have enough to try it mixed, but I can see the assertive fruit getting in the way of some mixers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. What I can say with certainty is that Camus Elegance VS is very good. Recommended.

El Rojo Red Ale

Maker: Griffin Claw, Birmingham, Michigan, USA2016-01-04-15.00.40.jpg.jpeg

Style: Red ale

ABV: 6.5%

Price: $8/4 pint cans (Holiday Market)

Nose: Roasted malt, caramel, dried fig.

Palate: Medium bodied and semi-sweet. Toasty on the back end.

Finish: Toasty and slightly bittEl Rojo Red Aleer, with a little sweetness for balance.

Parting words: Griffin Claw is a relatively new (2013) brewery in metro Detroit. Dan Rogers, seasoned craft beer veteran, is the master brewer. They have a limited portfolio but all of it is good. Their Raggedy Ass IPA is probably their best known beer, but they also make Screamin’ Pumpkin Ale, Grind Line Pale, Grand Trunk Pilsner and El Rojo.

Griffin Claw’s website says that they’ve entered El Rojo into contests as an English-style brown ale and I can see why. It’s closer to that style in flavor than it is to what I expect in something called a red ale. Whatever one calls it, it’s good. Pairs well with food. I’m not sure what the story behind the bandito caricature is though. Anyway, El Rojo is recommended.

The Sipology Whiskey Blog Name Generator

Ever thought of starting your own whiskey or whisky blog? You’re not alone! Thousands of people start their own whiskey blogs every day. Anybody can do it, not just unemployed, rich and/or crazy people (although all those help). The first thing you need is a good name. Sipology Blog is here to help with that. To pick the first part of your nom de blog, find your birth month below:

January- Whiskey

February- Whisky

March- Bourbon

April- Scotch

May- Sip

June- Booze

July- Coopered

August- [Your first name]’s

September- [Your full name]

October- Sku’s

November- Dram

December- Red, White &

Now, for the second part, pick the date of your birthday.

  1. Blog
  2. Manifesto
  3. Tot
  4. And Ice Cream
  5. Whisky Whisky
  6. Guy
  7. Dude
  8. Bloke
  9. n’ Corn
  10. Bruh
  11. Woman
  12. Lady
  13. Lassie
  14. Mistress
  15. Girl
  16. Witch
  17. Recent Eats
  18. Opinions
  19. Truth
  20. Tot
  21. Reviewerer
  22. Jug
  23. Jugs
  24. Drinker
  25. -ator
  26. -ology
  27. -r
  28. -ing
  29. Fellow
  30. Republic
  31. Bourbon
  32. Whisky Whisky
  33. Whisk(e)y

If the name you picked already exists, just roll six dice and subtract three from the total. Then find the number above. Add that onto the name you already had.

Now pick a blog hosting site, get a twitter handle, pick a fight with a well-known blogger or distiller and then sit back and watch the samples come rolling in! Best of luck!