Nose: Sweet malt, a little sherry, leather, woodruff, anise.
Palate: Full bodied and soft. Caramel, butterscotch candy with a little bit on the back end.
Finish: Vanilla custard, white pepper, nutmeg, alcohol.
Parting words: Like 2 Gingers, this is another Irish whiskey from Minnesota (?!) but this one comes with a story about someone in a gang in New York or something. I don’t care about NDP marketing bullshit, so I’m not going to get into that.
I’m a big fan of the Cooley Distillery, and Hell-Cat Maggie is in the classic Cooley style, so it has that going for it. It’s not as elegant as Tyrconnell or Knappogue Castle but it’s a little more refined than 2 Gingers (which one would expect at $8 more). It mixes well too. My only criticism is that this Hell-Cat lacks claws and teeth. She would benefit from 2%- 6% higher ABV. Still, I like her. Hell-Cat Maggie is recommended.
Parting words: This is the older sibling of the NAS Quiet Man I reviewed back in January of 2019. I didn’t really care for it at first. I thought it was overoaked and hard to drink. It’s opened up a lot since then and gotten fruitier and more complex. I like it a lot now and $38 isn’t too bad for a good Irish malt these days. The Quiet Man, 8 y/o Single Malt is recommended.
Distiller: Not disclosed (likely Irish Distillers, Dublin, Ireland [Pernod-Ricard])
Style: Triple distilled Irish blend
Age: 4 y/o
Michigan state minimum: $40/1750 ml (comes out to about $17 for 750 ml)
Appearance: Dark straw.
Nose: Cream soda, dried flowers.
Palate: Mild, but pleasant. Lemon meringue pie, alcohol.
Finish: Vanilla, malt, toffee.
Mixed: I tried Kirkland Irish Whiskey with ginger ale, in a Blackthorn and a Paddy cocktail. I didn’t care much for the Blackthorn, but the other two were very good.
Parting words: Kirkland Irish Whiskey only comes around my local Costco in the month of March, but I wish it was available year round. It’s simple and relatively young, but still elegant. It tastes a little like Jameson, but the floral aromas are balanced with a sweet creaminess that is lacking in the world’s best-selling Irish whiskey. Not much else to say, but I’m enjoying Kirkland a lot more than the last Irish whiskey I bought, which was twice the age, incidentally. Kirkland Irish Whiskey is highly recommended.
Maker: Niche Brands, Derry, Northern Ireland, UK (Luxco)
Style: Blended Irish whiskey
Price: $30 (Binny’s)
Appearance: Bright gold.
Nose: Malt, bourbon barrel, Riesling.
Palate: More sweet malt, touch of oak, alcohol, apricot, vanilla custard.
Finish: More apricot, custard, burn.
Parting words: There are a lot of sourced, blended Irish whiskeys on the market right now, and like The Quiet Man, most of their producers are in the process of building a distillery. Whether these distilleries will ever be able to fully supply the brands they’re associated with is an open question (see also Lux Row).
As it stands, though, The Quiet Man is a good, entry-level/tumbler blend. The bourbon barrels used for finishing give it warm, dessert flavors and aromas which complement the fruity sweetness of the malt spirit. $30 is a solid price for this solid whiskey. The Quiet Man is recommended.
Palate: Full-bodied and mellow. Grape soda, oak, sweet bourbon.
Finish: Fruity and long with a little burn.
Mixed: Did well with coffee and with classic cocktails with sweet vermouth. Clashed with dry vermouth and similar mixers.
Parting words: Red Bush is intended to be a gateway Irish whiskey for bourbon drinkers. Unlike the standard “white bush” expression and the more expensive Black Bush that both use a mix of bourbon and sherry casks, Red Bush is made using first (re)fill bourbon barrels exclusively. That gives it a fruity sweetness that makes it an easy drinker and mixer for American palates that aren’t accoustomed to sherry flavors.
Along with stablemate Black Bush and Scotch blend Highland Queen, Red Bush’s name lends itself to cheap, vulgar puns. I’m not the sort of person to engage in such things, but I will say that Red Bush is a fun change of pace for St. Patrick’s day with a good mouthfeel and pleasant aroma. Red Bush is recommended.
Distillery: New Midleton, Midleton, County Cork, Ireland (Pernod Ricard)
Style: Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Cooperage: Bourbon with a little Oloroso sherry
Age: 12 y/o
Michigan State Minimum: $70
Appearance: Burnt orange.
Nose: Oak, leather.
Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Toffee, overaged bourbon, maybe a tiny bit of plum.
Finish: New oak, burn.
Parting words: Powers John’s Lane release was created as a tribute to the old John’s Lane Distillery in Dublin where Powers was originally distilled. It has received many accolades over the years, including a whiskey of the year designation from pennenial internet punching bag Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
After writing up my notes, I consulted a couple other blogs (My Annoying Opinions and Diving for Pearls) to make sure I wasn’t completely off base. I wasn’t. I love Powers (though maybe not as much as Mr. Kravitz) but I don’t love this whiskey. It’s unbalanced with an overbearing raw oak note similar to the small barrel flavors in Tuthilltown’s dreck. Aside from a hit of toffee in the front of the palate that’s all I can really taste and it’s bad. I don’t know what the hell happened here but $70 is $65 too much. Powers John’s Lane is not reccomended.
Parting words: The concept behind this whiskey is identical to the New Holland Beer Barrel bourbon I reviewed here, back in 2013. The only difference is that the whiskey producer is issuing this rather than the brewer. The brewer in this case is Franciscan Well brewery in County Cork. The beer that formerly occupied the barrels was their Jameson Aged Stout.
This is a much more successful whiskey than Beer Barrel Bourbon was. Like BBB, contact with the beer barrel has brought out fruity aromas and flavors that aren’t present in the whiskey normally. That fruit complements the floral aromas in Jameson where it clashed with the caramel and spice of the MGP bourbon used in BBB.
I’m not a big fan of the standard Jameson, so I like the idea of using finishes to flesh out its normally thin profile. I hope more editions of Caskmates are planned for the future (and are at this reasonable price). Jameson Caskmates, Stout edition is recommended.
Palate: Medium bodied. Green apple on entry, buttercream, persimmon pudding.
Finish: Big and creamy. Oakm then pineapple upsidedown cake.
Parting words: Long time readers will remember that Knappogue Castle was one of the first Irish whiskeys I really fell in love with. The love affair continues with this beauty.
A & L did a great job selecting this barrel. It’s creamy, fruity and complex, with power rare for Irish Whiskeys. In 2013 I wrote the following about the standard Knappogue 12: “My only quibble is the low proof. I would love to be able to taste this at cask strength, or at least 46% ABV.” I’m glad they took my words to heart.
These Knappogue selections are rare, but if you find one, I highly recommend that you buy it!
Maker: Tullamore, Tullamore, Offalay, Ireland (Wm Grant & Sons)
Distiller: New Midleton, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)
Style: Blended Irish whiskey
Michigan state minimum: $56
Appearance: Bright caramel with thin crooked legs.
Nose: Velvet, alcohol, oak, lavender, grape soda, serrano chiles. Water brings out a lot more oak.
Palate: Sweet and mild at first, then warms up. Alcohol, sherry, plum, golden raisins, oak. With water, shows butterscotch, mostly.
Finish: Alcohol, old sherry, almond paste. Not too different with water. Just milder.
Parting words: Phoenix is named in memory of what the label claims was the world’s first aerospace disaster in 1785. It seems like an odd thing to name a whiskey for, but I’m guessing that it’s also supposed to symbolize the brand’s rebirth with its purchase by Wm. Grant & Sons (owners of Grant’s blended Scotch, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Hendrick’s Gin among others) and the opening of a new distillery in the village of Tullamore. The original distillery there closed in 1954. The Phoenix itself appears on the crest for the village and symbolizes the rebuilding of the town after the tragedy.
Recently I’ve posted a couple twitter rants or snarky photos involving Tullamore Dew, err, D.E.W. I’ve done this in the past and the usual thrust of the rants is how boring Tullamore is. It’s probably the mildest major Irish brand on the market and that’s saying something. It makes Jameson taste like Four Roses Single Barrel. One of the reasons Tullamore is so dull is that all their expressions (except this) are bottled at 40%. When your product is already mild compared to its competitors, bottling it at the lowest ABV allowed by law doesn’t do it any favors.
Phoenix is bottled at a stout 55% and finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The old sherry comes through in a pleasant way, never getting rubbery as in some sherried Irish and Scotch whiskeys. Fruit, oak, spice, this whiskey has it all and is one of my top five Irish currently. The price is not bonkers either. This is how good Tullamore can be when Grant gives it some damn guts. Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix is highly recommended.
My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores but others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself called the price book. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.
This post is a look at the new items for February 28, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.
HOTEL TANGO MIKE MOONSHINE 90, 750, $23.12 Listed under alcohol for some reason. See Hotel Tango Golf Gin below.
EZRA BROOKS BBN 90, 1000, $14.96
REBEL YELL BBN 80, 1000, $21.96 Two of the crummiest bourbons available in the state are now available in liter bottles. What a time to be alive. Both Rebel Yell and Ezra Brooks are from Luxco.
JEFFERSON’S OCEAN AGED CASK STRENGTH 112.0, 750, $99.99 “I’M ON A BOAT”. Jeff’s famous boat bourbon is now available in cask strength, although I would have called it naval strength. Seems like a missed opportunity. From Castle brands (Gosling’s, Knappogue).
1792 SINGLE BARREL 98.6, 750, $41.99 The latest in the flurry of 1792 line extensions spit out since Sazerac bought the brand. Hopefully, I will able to find and buy one of these, since the Sweet Wheat and Port finish seem to have been vacuumed off shelves instantaneously. Distilled in Bardstown at Barton-1792, of course.
Blended American Whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
TINCUP 84, 1750, $57.99 The sourced blend of straights from the former Stranahan’s guy is now available in handles in the Mitten State.
JACK DANIELS SINGLE BARREL RYE 94, 750, $54.99 At long last, JD has released a mature (on paper anyway) rye whiskey. The unaged and “rested” versions got mixed reviews, but hopefully this is better.
Straight Rye Whiskey
WOODFORD RESERVE RYE 90, 750, $42.96 WRR is finally making it to Michigan. The consensus was that Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection ryes were bad, but I liked them, despite the dumb price. Unlike those, WR Rye is made both at the historic Woodford Reserve distillery on the big copper pot stills and at the distillery in Louisville. [corrected]
KNOB CREEK RYE 100, 1750, $74.99 One of my favorite Kentucky style ryes is now available in a family size bottle. Whoot!
CROWN ROYAL W/BEANIE 80, 750, $27.99 Let the world know your questionable taste in whisky all winter with this gift pack that features a one-size-fits-all black CR beanie. Or make your own.
HUNTER RYE PLASTIC 90, 100, $1.89 Imported by Sazerac, this line extension to the old Seagram’s Canadian Hunter brand is now available in small 100 ml bottles. 50 ml bottles are also available hanging off the necks of bottles of Canadian Hunter blended. Canadian Hunter is sometimes called “the poor man’s Crown Royal” which makes me sad.
BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE EDITION: 07.1 119, 750, $164.99 This is the latest release from Bruichladdich’s super duper peated Octomore series.
BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE EDITION: 07.3 126, 750, $174.99 7.3 is the 100% Islay barley version of Octomore 7. Owned by Rémy Cointreau.
KIRKLAND BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKY 80, 1750, $25.99 Sourced through Alexander Murray & Co. It’s good the state has finally allowed Kirkland/Costco brands in.
Irish Whiskey (listed under miscellaneous whiskey)
KNAPPOGUE CASTLE-12 YR 92, 750 $47.99 One of my favorite Irish Whiskeys is back, although it never really left the shelves. From Castle brands (Gosling’s, Jefferson’s).
TULLAMORE DEW (IRISH)-15 YR 80, 750, $79.99 The knock on Tullamore has always been that it’s boring. I doubt this 40% ABV expression is going to help that perception. If tiny Castle Brands can release the 12 y/o Knappogue at 46% ABV for $48, then why can’t big boys like Wm. Grant release Tullamore 15 y/o at a higher ABV when asking $80? The mismanagement of this brand continues.
ST.GEORGE APPLE BRANDY 86, 750, $50.28 This is the (formerly?) limited release apple
brandy from Alameda California’s St. George microdistillery. Their fruit brandies were originally released under the Aqua Perfecta label, but have now thankfully been reissued as St. George fruit brandies. I’m always excited when a new apple brandy comes to Michigan, but a 3-4 y/o apple brandy selling for $50 does give me pause.
HOTEL TANGO ROMEO RUM 90, 750, $27.72 See Hotel Tango Victor Vodka below.
BAYOU RUM SILVER 80, 750, $19.99
BAYOU RUM SPICED 80, 750, $19.99 Bayou rum is a product of Louisiana Spirits, located about twenty miles east of Lake Charles. According to their website, they use all Louisiana sugar cane and a proprietary cane yeast strain for their line of rums. In addition to the silver, spiced (see above) and the Satsuma orange liqueur(see below), they also make Bayou Select, an aged, pot still rum. How long is it aged? They don’t say. Anyway, I’m glad to see a microdistiller focus on rum instead of hopping on the bourbon bandwagon. We need more rum.
PELICAN HARBOR RUM 80, 750, $18.99 See XIII Kings below.
ESPOLON EXTRA ANEJO 82, 750, $99.99 Elderly line extension for Campari’s Espolon comes in a little on the rich side.
HERRADURA ULTRA ANEJO 80, 750, $54.99 Brown-Forman jumps into the weird trend of crystal clear añejo tequilas with this item. At least it’s not $100.
PURA VIDA ANEJO 80, 750, $43.46
PURA VIDA REPOSADO 80, 750, $38.94
PURA VIDA SILVER 80, 750, $33.66 The line of tequilas jointed owned by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and a man named Stewart Skloss has come to Michigan with the three standard variations. Distilled by Feliciano Vivanco & Associates who also make the Siembra Azul tequila line and the ArteNOM 1414 selection, among others.
ANDREW JOHN’S 80, 750, $19.99 There’s no information about this product online at all. It’s distributed by General Wine & Liquor. I’m guessing it’s either a gin named for the rugby player Andrew Johns or it’s something the BuzzBallz people are responsible for. Either way, the total lack of information doesn’t bode well.
SIPSMITH LONDON DRY GIN 83.2, 750, $39.99
SIPSMITH V.J.O.P. 115.4, 750, $59.99 Sipsmith is a gin microdistillery in Chiswick in western Greater London. Three new products from them are on the list, two gins and a sloe gin. The London Dry is their entry level offering. This is their higher end, higher proof gin, which the website describes as a “symphony in J major” (oof). V.J.O.P.= Very Junipery Over Proof Gin. The sloe gin (see below) is made by infusing their London Dry with sloe (blackthorn) berries. Most commercial sloe gin is made with GNS, so good on them for using the traditional method. The website is cheesy but the products sound intriguing.
GRAY SKIES BARREL FINISHED GIN 80, 750, $29.99 Hopped and barrel-finished gin from the Grand Rapids microdistiller of the same chipper name. They also make Gray Skies Utility Vodka below. Coming soon: Rum. Not coming soon (they want to age it): Bourbon & Rye.
HOTEL TANGO GOLF GIN 90, 750, $27.72
HOTEL TANGO VICTOR VODKA 90, 750, $23.12 Hotel Tango is a newish microdistillery in Indianapolis in the historic Fletcher Place neighborhood. Their whiskey is aging (of what type the website doesn’t say), but they also offer gin, rum (above) and limoncello (below). Their focus seems to be cocktails. I’ve never been there or tried any of their stuff but it’s nice to have more craft spirits (especially rum) available in Michigan, assuming they’re not awful of course.
XIII KINGS VODKA 80, 750, $19.99 The BuzzBallz (actual name) unspillable/unbreakable premade cocktail people are releasing their own vodka and rum (see Pelican Bay rum above). I imagine that it’s the same liquor they use in their cocktails so it’s bound to be top quality stuff.
HOTEL TANGO LIMA CHARLIE LIMONCELLO 70, 750, $27.72 See Hotel Tango Victor Vodka above.
BAYOU SATSUMA ORANGE RUM LIQUEUR 60, 750, $19.99 Erroneously listed under rum. See Bayou Spiced rum above.
SIPSMITH SPECIAL EDITION 2013 SLOE GIN 58, 750, $49.96 See Sipsmith VJOP above.