Kirkland Small Batch: Barton 1792

Maker: Barton 1792, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Style: Standard recipe straight bourbon.

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $28/1 liter. Comes out to $21/750 ml

Appearance: Shiny copper.

Nose: Pretty hot for a 92 proofer. Cinnamon imperials, baking spice.

Palate: Cinnamon disks, cayenne pepper, oak.

Finish: More candy notes, but some oaky tannin and caramel.

Parting words: When Costco announced that they were going to be releasing a new line of Kirkland bourbons, all distilled at Barton 1792, I was excited, even though there were some who shrugged their shoulders. As you know, dear readers, I love Very Old Barton. Unfortunately, it’s highly allocated in the Great Lakes State where I live. As much as I love it, I find it hard to motivate myself to drive all over the metro area looking for a $14 bourbon. Kirkland Small Batch is slightly easier to find, but at least it comes in bigger bottles.

The question on my mind when this line was announced was which recipe was going to be used for it, Barton or the high malt 1792 recipe. After spending a couple months with this bottle, I can firmly say that I have no idea. If pressed on the matter, I would say Barton, given the sweetness and spice.

Either way, this is pretty much what I expect in a $21 bourbon. Some oak and spice, but a little thin. Strangely enough, I actually like this bourbon better on the rocks. Everything seems to be much more harmonious and integrated.

At any rate, Kirkland Small Batch: Barton 1792 is recommended! I really hope my local Costco gets some of the Bottled-in-Bond, or Single Barrel in soon!

Kirkland Signature Islay Single Maly Scotch Whisky

Source: Alexander Murray & Co, Calabasas, California, USA.

Distillery: Undisclosed (Bruichladdich?)

Region: Islay.

Age: NAS

ABV: 50%

Michigan state minimum: $57

Appearance: Light gold.

Nose: Smoldering peat. Smells like a smoky custard with water.

Palate: Full and silky. Smoke, dark chocolate covered cherries, caramel. Water brings out buttery toffee.

Finish: Cigarette smoke up the nose, ash, peat, lip tingles. Very buttery with water.

Parting words: Alexander Murray & Co is an US based independent bottler that provides store branded spirits for Costco, Trader Joe’s, Total Wine, and other US retailers. I’ve really enjoyed many of their Kirkland Signature (Costco) bottlings, especially the blended Scotch and Irish Whiskey.

The Islay Single Malt is relatively new, at least at my local store. The online scuttlebutt is that it’s from Bruichladdie, but there’s been no confirmation of that. Having tasted this bottle next to a Port Charlotte bottling, there is definitely a family resemblance, but the PC is a little more rounded and sweet.

The biggest difference between Kirkland Signature Islay and whiskies put out under the Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte labels is the price. $57 is a very nice price for a Single Malt of this quality. If you’re looking for a smoky malt to put into your Burns’ Night lineup, this is an excellent choice. Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is recommended.

Kirkland Signature Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey

Maker: Tennessee Distilling, ltd, Columbia, Tennessee, USA

Distiller: Undisclosed (almost certainly George Dickel)

Style: (Straight?) Tennessee Whiskey.

Age: 4 y/o.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $37/1.75 l

Appearance: Light Copper.

Nose: Caramel, leather, walnuts, maple.

Palate: Medium bodied and medium dry. Oak, maple syrup.

Finish: Oak, alcohol.

Mixed: Good in Old Fashioneds, OK in Manhattans. Lacks the power needed to stand up to stronger mixers like Benedictine or cola.

Parting words: I bought this as a “well” whiskey for my home bar. I thought it would make a change of pace from the usual mid-range bourbons that I use for that purpose. I was pleasantly surprised at how dry it was, but disappointed at the low proof. I guess when a product is aimed at Jack Daniels drinkers in 2021, 80 proof makes sense, but mixing bourbons need either a higher proof or younger age to distinguish themselves in this drunk’s opinion.

As a weeknight sipper or in an Old Fashioned (or something similar) it does fine, though, and its hard to complain about something this cheap (it would work out to about $16 for a standard 750 ml bottle) that tastes this mature. So Kirkland Signature Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is recommended.

A brief word about this whiskey’s label. The word “straight” does not appear anywhere, but unless something hinky is going on, a 4 y/o TN whiskey should qualify as straight. There is no indication that this whiskey was made at Diageo’s Cascade Hollow/George Dickel distillery either, but given the sheer amount of Dickel whiskey that Diageo has been selling to bottlers in the past few years, I would be truly shocked if this was from anywhere else. Jack Daniels sells everything makes, and I doubt any small distillery in Tennessee could make a whiskey of this quality at this price.

West Coast vs North Coast: A Pinot Noir Head to Head blind tasting

Four wines: A, B, C & D. Four tasters: Josh, Liz, Amy & Pete. Notes are a combination of mine and those of the other tasters.

Makers: Revealed at the end.

Grape: Pinot Noir

Places of origin (in no particular order): Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon, Russian River Valley AVA, California.

Vintage: 2016

ABV

A: 14.5%, B: 11.6%, C: 13.1%, D:  14.3%

Price

A: $23, B: $18, C: $15, D: $14

Appearance

A: Dark ruby.

B: Light. Translucent.

C: Medium dark red.

D: Darkest. Brick red.

Nose

A: Cherry jam, plum, cedar.

B: Wild blackberry, hint of brett (fades quickly), wet earth, black pepper, cedar.

C: Mild compared to the others. Crushed strawberry, a little oak.

D: Crushed mulberry, oak, coffee, pepper.

Palate

A: Cherry juice, black pepper, smoke, almost no acid.

B: Light mouthfeel. Broken grape stem, tangy. Raspberry, toasted oak.

C: Light bodied. Strawberry, red currant, lightly acidic.

D: Black current jam, blackberry, lemon, earth.

Finish

A: A little oak, black cherry.

B: Chewy. One taster noted an unpleasant aftertaste.

C: Toasted French oak, a little fruit.

D: Light. Fruity  with a little oak and leather.

20190322_172719.jpgTHE REVEAL

A: De Loach PN, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County, California.

B: Domaine Berrien PN, Martha’s & Katherine’s Vineyards, DB estate, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Michigan.

C: Chateau Chantal PN, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Traverse City, Michigan.

D: Kirkland Signature PN, Willamette Valley AVA, Oregon.

Parting words: I got idea for this head to head after I noticed that I had purchased a lot of 2016 Pinot Noir in the past couple months. I thought comparing an LMS Pinot to an OMP Pinot and comparing both of them to ones from Oregon and Sonoma might be a fun and educational excercise. They had to be around the same price, too, to keep us from tasting the price differences rather than the terroir and technique of the wine makers.

I know this is a Michigan wine blog, but I will say that my personal favorite was the Kirkland. It was the most balanced and was a delight to drink from beginning to end. My least was the De Loach. It tasted overripe and was nothing but sweet fruit. Of the two Michigan wines, the Chateau Chantal Pinot was the most balanced and drinkable, but it was very mild compared to the others. I’ve complained about this before. Domaine Berrien was good, but tasted a little green and unrefined compared to the others. I know from experience, though, the Wally’s wines can take a while to blossom, even in a warm vintage like 2016. Another year or two in the bottle is recommended for DB PN.

The other tasters varied in their choices, but the differences were all a matter of taste not of disagreement of quality or flaws. One taster liked the fruity sweetness of De Loach, but disliked Domaine Barrien strongly. Another found Chateau Chantal delightful, but Kirkland overbearing.

These are all good value wines. Kirkland and Chateau Chantal are recommended. Domaine Berrien is recommended with further cellaring and De Loach is mildly recommended.

 

 

Kirkland Irish Whiskey

Distiller: Not disclosed (likely Irish Distillers, Dublin, Ireland [Pernod-Ricard])20190313_214454.jpg

Style: Triple distilled Irish blend

Age: 4 y/o

ABV: 40%

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.

 

Kirkland Premium Small Batch Bourbon

Maker: Costco, Issaquah, Washington, USAwpid-20150326_121209.jpg

Distilled by: Beam, Clemont, Kentucky, USA (Beam-Suntory)

Age: 7 y/o

Proof: 103 (51.5% ABV)

Batch B-5183

Purchased for around $20/1 liter (Not available in Michigan)

Appearance: Dark copper with thin legs and a lot of necklacing.

Nose: Sweet peanut butter, lavender, alcohol, cut grass.

Palate: Caramel, toffee, alcohol, milk chocolate.

Finish: Dry and herbaceous with a touch of toffee.

Parting words: Costco’s Kirkland brand has appeared on everything from bottled water to dog food and beyond, including booze. There’s Kirkland beer, wine, vodka, rum, tequila, bourbon, Canadian whisky and even a 40 year old single malt Scotch distilled by Glenlivet.

All are good values but the bourbon is a standout. On paper, it’s hard to do better. Where else can one get a liter of 103 proof, 7 y/o bourbon for around $20? Nowhere, unless you have a time machine. It’s almost as good in the glass as it is on paper. The label’s statement that it was distilled and bottled by a company with facilities in Clermont & Frankfort, Kentucky reveals that this is a Jim Beam product.

The Beam product that is closest to this is the 7 y/o, 107 proof Baker’s bourbon, a sleeper bourbon if there ever was one. While this is similar, it’s a bit milder (4 proof points will do that) but the lower price more than makes up for that. Kirkland is a little harsh at first pour, but opens up beautifully the longer it sits, bringing out chocolate-covered toffee.

I’m a sucker for a cheap, high proof bourbon in the 6-10 year range. The 6 y/o Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond is about the only one that tops this in that category. Kirkland Premium Small Batch is highly recommended.