Signatory Vintage Glenlossie 2009, Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Vine & Table selection.

Bottler: Signatory, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland, UK (Symington)

Distiller: Glenlossie, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Region: Speyside.

Style: Single Cask, cask strength, unpeated, single malt Scotch whisky.

Cask: 3376

Age: 11 y/o (distilled April 2009, bottled July 2020).

ABV: 53.2%

Purchased for $100.

Appearance: Medium pale straw.

Nose: Dusty oak, apricot, orange cream hard candy.

Palate: Medium full body. Creamy with mandarin orange, then big burn. Milder with water, but still creamy and fruity.

Finish: Malty and fresh with a little stone fruit.

Parting words: Glenlossie is one of the few twin distilleries left in Scotland. Its sibling is Mannochmore, which flies even farther under the Radar than ‘Lossie does. Both are owned by Diageo and are used more for blending than bottling as single malts, though the occasional independent bottling, like this one, does crop up from time to time.

I’m very glad this one did crop up. I wouldn’t characterize it as complex, but what it does, it does very well. Even at eleven years old, this is an elegant example of unpeated Speyside malt. Once the high ABV is tamed, there’s no rough edges to be found anywhere. Just highly polished sweet malt and fruit.

$100 is above my usual price range, but I don’t regret the purchase at all. When one factors in the cask strength, and skill that went into selecting this whisky, $100 is a fair price. Not a bargain, mind you, but fair. I’m really glad I picked this bottle up. Signatory Vintage Glenlossie 2009, Un-Chillfiltered Collection. (Vine & Table selection) is recommended.

Rye World

Maker: Krogman’s, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Distiller: Ross & Squibb (formerly MGPI), Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: Single Barrel Indiana High Rye Rye Whiskey.

Age: 4 y/o

Proof: 112 (56% ABV)

Notes: 95% Rye, 5% malt, #4 barrel char.

Price: $25 (Vine & Table)

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Bold. Tarragon and leather.

Palate: Full-bodied and semi-sweet. Wintergreen, burn. More bitter with water. Char and peppermint.

Finish: Extra-minty toothpaste, apricot. With water, a little fruit but mostly faded starlight mint.

Parting words: As you may have guessed, Rye World is the Rye equivalent of the Bourbon World Vine & Table single barrel selections. That said, it’s a little less distinct than those two, since it’s basically just the standard high rye rye whiskey recipe from Ross & Squibb. That’s fine, though, since it’s a good example of that recipe, high proof, and cheap. If you like Bulleit Rye (apparently the best selling rye in the US at the moment!), you’ll love this. It’s aggressively herbaceous and minty, but take it easy with the water. It wasn’t able to withstand as much as I thought it would.

If you like Indiana Rye, Bourbon World is recommended.

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.

Head to head tasting: Bourbon World vs Bourbon World.

Sourced by: Krogman’s, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. For Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana.

Distilled by Ross & Squibb (MGPI), Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Pi= Pink label, Pu= Purple label

Style

Pi: High rye bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt)

Pu: Single barrel, standard recipe bourbon (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malt)

Age: 5 y/o

Proof: 112 (56% ABV)

Purchased for $40 (Vine & Table)

Appearance

Pi: Light copper.

Pu: Slightly darker.

Nose

Pi: Bubble gum, alcohol.

Pu: Grape juice, spiced plum.

Palate

Pi: Full-bodied and fruity, with nutmeg and burn. Spicier and dryer with water.

Pu: Lighter with caramel and char. Water brings out cherry pie.

Finish

Pi: Allspice, clove

Pu: plums and burn.

Parting words: Bourbon World is the relatively new line of V & T selections of Ross & Squib (formerly MGPI), single barrel, barrel proof (or close to it) bourbons. The person I talked to at the store said they were “very similar” mash bills, but as you can see, they are not. The Pink Label is high rye, and the purple is lower in rye and higher in corn, though it doesn’t quite qualify as high corn, like the Buffalo Trace rye bourbon recipes. Interestingly (but not surprisingly given R & S’s and Four Roses’ shared Seagram’s heritage), Pink Label is very close to the mash bill of Four Roses’ B recipe bourbons and Purple is very close to the E recipe.

Vine & Table is one of the retailers that I will always buy a selection from. They very rarely, if ever, miss. One of the reasons for that is their spirits buyer, Dave Helt. I don’t know Dave especially well, but I was friends with his father, Tom (and I’m still friends with his mother Barb). Tom Helt was the embodiment of the spirit of the pre-boom bourbon enthusiast community. He was relatively tall, had a bushy beard before it was cool, and was legendarily generous. His palate was amazing, and his basement was a magical land of bourbons and Scotches that most people can only dream about now. In these days of the still-overheated bourbon secondary market, the value of his collection would be easily in the millions of dollars, maybe even higher. He, of course didn’t PAY millions of dollars for it, given when he started collecting. Tom was also well known for dry sense of humor and for making George T. Stagg Bananas Foster for the bourbon pilgrims who used to gather at the General Nelson motel in Bardstown, Kentucky twice a year. Sadly, Tom died of cancer in 2018.

Like I said, Tom’s palate and generosity were legendary and those qualities were passed down to his son Dave. These bourbons are both excellent examples of the R & S style , one that is very similar to that of my beloved Four Roses. If you don’t believe me, you can always try a little at V & T’s in-store tasting bar. You could even do your own head to head. I know Tom would be very proud of the bourbons Dave is bringing to V & T. At $40, these are easy buys. Bourbon World Purple label is recommended and the Pink label is highly 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.

Wyoming Whiskey Private Stock, Red Wagon selection

Maker: Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming, USA.

Style: Wheat recipe bourbon.

Age: 5 y/o (according to paragraph on back label)

Proof: 107.72 (53.86% ABV)

Selected for Red Wagon stores, Troy & Rochester, Michigan, USA.

Barrel #4743

Michigan state minimum: $60

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Oak, alcohol, custard.

Palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Caramel, brown sugar, candy cake decorations, then burn. With water: Even sweeter with more oak, but with less burn, obviously.

Finish: Clean and hot. With water: blondies, oak.

Mixed: Outstanding in classic cocktails, Kentucky mule, and even with cola or ginger ale.

Parting words: During the first wave of micro-distillers there were a lot of distilleries making bourbon who were trying to find shortcuts to get product on the market as soon as possible. They resorted to gimmicks like weird grains, small barrels, magical cave water, historical fiction, overpowering finishes, ill-conceived technologies (eg TerrePure®) and flat-out lies to try to ride the bourbon wave to profitability. I grew very tired of these cheesy “craft” distilleries very quickly.

There were a few micro-distilleries that seemed to be committed to doing things the “right” way, though. They used full-sized barrels, planned on aging the whiskey properly, used unique but not gimmicky recipes, and, most importantly, they hired people who knew that they were doing. It was clear from the beginning that Wyoming Whiskey is in that second category, so I made a mental note to watch for their bourbon on shelves. A few months ago, I was perusing Red Wagon’s Rochester location and to my delight I saw a Wyoming Whiskey selection in an in-store display! I grabbed it and brought it home.

I have to admit that I was disappointed at first sip. There was a strong wood varnish note that was very off-putting neat, so I laid off the bottle for a while after that. The next time I poured from it I used it in a Manhattan and it was great. Next I tried an Old Fashioned and it was even better. By the time I tried it neat again, it had blossomed into a beautiful, classic, but still distinctive, wheater. Now I can’t wait to try some more selections and I’m fantasizing about possible future releases with ages in the double digits.

Anyway, I like this bourbon a lot, obviously. I’m less of a fan of the price, but factoring in the high proof, wheat recipe, age and the usual micro-mark-up, I think $60 is a fair, though more than that might be pushing it. Wyoming Whiskey Private Stock, Red Wagon selection is recommended.

Yellowstone Select: Holiday Market single barrel selection

Maker: Limestone Branch, Lebanon, Kentucky, USA (Luxco)

Distiller(s): Undisclosed

Style: Standard recipe, single barrel bourbon.

Selected: June 14, 2019

Barrel 7166842

Age: 4 y/o

Proof: 93 (46.5% ABV

Michigan State Minimum: $40

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Roasted peanuts, Caribbean chilies, sawdust.

Palate: Full bodied. Dark chocolate peanut butter cups, burn.

Finish: Peanut brittle, alcohol.

Parting words: Yellowstone is an old brand with an interesting history. If you’re interested in that history, I would recommend entering Yellowstone Bourbon into a search engine it or buying a bourbon book that talks about it.

What matters for our purposes is that the Yellowstone brand is now owned by Luxco and made by their microdistillery, Limestone Branch. Limestone Branch was founded and is still run by Stephen Beam, a man with equally long and interesting roots in the distilling families of Kentucky.

Although the plan (I think) is for Yellowstone to eventually be made entirely at Limestone Branch and recreate the taste of old Yellowstone bourbon, it is currently selected from sourced Kentucky bourbon. And it’s selected well.

Holiday Market’s Yellowstone Select is much richer that most four year old bourbons. It is pretty peanutty, but I like peanuts so that’s a good thing to me. It coats the tongue and makes a bold sipper, and also serves as a good mixer for classic cocktails.

I really like this bourbon and I’m very excited for its future. Holiday Market’s Yellowstone Select is recommended.

Kirkland Blended Scotch

Maker: Alexander Murray & Co, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK20181109_201041.jpg

Distillers: Unknown

Age: NAS (at 3 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $23/1.75 liter (~$10/750 ml; only available at Costco)

Appearance: Medium copper (caramel color likely added)

Nose: Vanilla custard, lemon zest, butterscotch.

Palate: Full-bodied, mild and dry. Toffee, oak, alcohol, touch of smoke.

Finish: Alcohol, butterscotch, oak.

Parting words: Costco sources its basic blended Scotch from Alexander Murray & Co, an independent bottler out of Aberdeen. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this blend. It has two things going for it: it’s pretty good and it’s very cheap. I like it best in hot toddies (great for sipping out of a travel mug while the kids trick-or-treat) but it does well in other cocktails, with soda or neat in a tumbler. Kirkland Blended Scotch is recommended.