Maker: Jim Beam, Claremont/Boston, Kentucky, USA (Beam Suntory)
Style: Standard recipe, bonded bourbon.
Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Michigan State Minimum: Not listed but available in the state. $30ish?
Appearance: Medium copper.
Nose: That mixed peanut butter and jelly stuff.
Palate: Alcohol, burnt peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Finish: burnt peanut brittle.
Mixed: Fine mixed, but plenty of better, cheaper, options for mixers.
Parting words: Beam was on a hot streak for a while but that streak seems to have ended here with Old Tub. The name was the original name of what’s now Jim Beam bourbon. It was first produced in 1880 by David Beam’s distillery, and became the flagship bourbon of the new Jim Beam distillery after prohibition. The name was changed to Jim Beam in 1943 to honor Jim, who passed away a few years later.
I think I get what they’re going for here, and I like the idea, but I don’t think it ends up being something worth buying, other than as an objet d’art. I like Bonded Beam, but I don’t like this. Old Tub is not recommended.
Parting words: Highland Park has been my favorite single malt distillery every since I started seriously exploring Scotch back in my 30s. I love its elegance and balance and relative affordability compared to malts I love (Springbank).
So when Liz and I were planning a trip to Scotland, I had thought it might be fun to add a side trip to Orkney. Not just for the distillery, of course, but for the food, the old buildings and the archaeological sites. They were out of scallops when I was there, but everything else was magical. If you don’t mind the weather (50° in the winter, 55° in the summer and wind wind wind), it’s a highly recommended.
When I said old buildings, I meant old buildings. Buildings that were already old when the pyramids were built. Some of them are not quite that old, but the main island (called Mainland) seems like it’s full of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Medieval, Early Modern and later structures. The sexiest are the standing stone circles, the largest of which is the Ring of Brodgar. It’s a wide circle composed of stones that were brought from different locations around the island.
To the southeast of of the ring is the Ness of Brodgar. It’s an archaeological site that is
about six acres in size (so far). The dig has been going on since 2003 and there are still many buildings that haven’t been excavated yet. That made it the perfect candidate for Highland Park’s annual charity bottle. For every one of the five thousand bottles produced, Highland Park’s parent company donates to the Ness of Bodgar Trust, which funds the dig. Bottles are only available at the distillery.
As for the whisky itself, it’s a more peated version of the classic twelve year old Highland Park expression. It’s well-made like everything Highland Park produces. If you find yourself in Orkney this year, pick up a bottle! Highland Park Ness of Brodgar’s Legacy is highly recommended!
Maker: Chateau Chantal, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Place of origin: Chateau Chantal estate, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, Michigan, USA
Style: Oaked Chardonnay
Purchased for $30 (Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room, Auburn Hills).
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose: Oak, roux.
Palate: Buttered toast with marmalade and a slice of melon on the side.
Finish: Sage, lemon zest. Fruit fades, but butter lingers.
Parting words: Last week I reviewed Chateau Chantal’s 30 Year Vineyard Anniversary Reserve Riesling, so this week it’s the Chard’s turn. I usually like to review wines that have spent more time in the bottle than these, but since they’re special releases that will likely sell out quickly, I thought I should go ahead and review both.
It helps that they’re both very good! The Riesling, while good now, is a year or more away from its peak as I said in my review last week. This Chardonnay is firing on all cylinders right now. I’m sure it would hold up fine with another year or two in a cellar, but why wait? It’s already delicious. For me to enjoy an oaked Chard, there have to be other things going on besides oak and butter. Oak and malo flavors are in the foreground here without question, but there is enough fruit and acid to round things out. More than that, this is one of the best examples of this style in Michigan.
Like the Riesling, the only place to get this wine is at the Chateau or at the Auburn Hills location of Michigan by the Bottle. Unlike the Riesling, the 30 year Chard is on the menu, so I would guess that more of it was produced, but why wait? Go out and buy some now. Chateau Chantal 30 Year Anniversary Reserve Chardonnay is highly recommended.
Parting words: Chateau Chantal is one of the oldest estates on the Old Mission Peninsula and in Northern Michigan wine country. Founded in 1983 by Nadine and Robert Begin (a former nun and former priest respectively) as Begin Orchards, it was incorporated as a winery in 1991 and named after their daughter Marie-Chantal (now the winery CEO).
The vineyard this wine and its sister wine the 30 Year Vineyard Anniversary Reserve Chardonnay, come from a vineyard on the estate planted in 1986. Luckily for the Chateau, the 2016 vintage was a stellar one, so the anniversary can be celebrated properly with two (or more?) wonderful wines.
Thirty-year-old vines are pretty old for Michigan, due to the climate and youth of the wine industry in the state. This wine shows the characteristics one would hope for in an old vine selection. It has complexity, depth and a surprising intensity. It tastes great now, especially with food, but with another year or two in the cellar the flavors should intergrate a little better to make a truly great wine.
So drink now or cellar? Yes. Head up to Chateau Chantal or to the Michigan by the Bottle Tasting Room in Auburn Hills (the only two places to find this wine) and grab yourself two or more bottles. Hurry though, this wine was produced in very limited quantities! Chateau Chantal 30 Year Vineyard Anniversary Reserve Riesling is recommended.
Look for a review of the Chardonnay in the near future.
Parting words: Long time readers will know that I never buy whiskey this expensive and that I whine about value even for bourbons as cheap as $20. So why did I buy this one? I don’t know. It was available for one, and I love Knob Creek for another. It had also been a couple months since I had purchased any spirits so I figured it was in the budget.
Let me start off by saying that Knob Creek 2001 is a good bourbon. It’s certainly the best Knob Creek I’ve every had. It has the big velvety tannins one would expect from a bourbon of this age. It’s firmly within the standard KC profile with pleasant spicy and herbal aromas and flavors. If this were a bottle of the old 9 y/o or of the single barrel KC, I would be very impressed. As a $130 limited edition, I’m underwhelmed. For that kind of cash, there needs to be more going on. More candy, more fruit, more of something. It certainly needs more proof. I’m not sure why this wasn’t released at barrel proof (to enable a broader release, maybe?) but one hundred proof isn’t good enough for a $130 limited edition when the same line has a single barrel at 120 proof at $50. If you have the room in your budget to blow $130 on a good bourbon that isn’t great, then you might like this. If you’re a normal human being and not a tater like me, then you might want to skip this. Reports are that batches 2 & 3 may be better, but this batch isn’t close enough to a fair price for even a mild recommendation. Knob Creek Limited Edition, 2001 (batch 1) is not recommended.
Thanks to Andrew for helping me acquire this bottle!
Appearance: Medium copper with long clingy legs.
Nose: Sharp young oak, black walnut, old oak, grape soda, alcohol.
Palate: Full bodied and silky. Dark chocolate covered caramels, caramel corn, bubble gum.
Finish: Plum juice, chopped walnuts, alcohol
Parting words: This whisky is weird. It’s made from a bourbon-like recipe of 80% corn , 11% rye and 9% malt (similar proportions to Early Times or Buffalo Trace) all mixed together before fermentation (unusual for a Canadian). Unlike most Canadian whiskies, it was also made with a sour mash like bourbon, but it was soured in an unconventional way. According to Canadian whisky sage Davin de Kergommeaux, master distiller Jim Stanski placed a carton of milk on the counter in the lab at Hiram Walker and allowed it it to sour. He then poured it into the mash to lower the Ph. The idea seems insane but it’s hard to argue with the results.
This limited run (2,000 cases) whisky is called Last Barrels because it made up of the last barrels filled at Hiram Walker during Jim Stanski’s tenure as master distiller. Fear not, Jim didn’t leave the distillery, he just moved up the corporate ladder. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) was looking for a special release for Father’s Day 2016 and the folks at Corby thought Jim’s wacky last batch would be a perfect fit.
I was not a fan of the nose at first, but it has mellowed since I first opened (that or my nose got used to it). It is too sharply woody, like craft bourbons aged in small barrels. It’s wonderful on the palate, though. Full bodied and lucious, it’s like cuddling up in a soft blanket with a soft friend on a warm winter night. It’s stupid cheap too, probably too cheap for how few barrels there are. I’m not complaining, though. There are a few still kicking around the LCBO system, but with the limited number of bottles and a strike looming, act fast. Wiser’s Last Barrels is highly recommended.
Nose: Crushed walnut, bubblegum, caramel, allspice, dried Cayenne. With water the Cayenne turns to sweet cinnamon.
Palate: Medium bodied. Caramel on entry, then burn. Turns chewy and spicy with water.
Finish: Grape bubblegum, alcohol. Water brings out the oak, but doesn’t turn down the heat.
Parting words: Old Forester 1920 is the third installment in the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series. The first, Old Forester 1870 (in honor of the founding of the company), was released in 2014, 1897 (in honor of the Bottled-in-Bond act) was released in 2015. This one, released in 2016, was named in honor of the fact that Brown-Forman was one of the handful of Kentucky distillers that received a license from the US government to distill spirits for medicinal purposes. So it was actually possible to get Old Forester during Prohibition, with a prescription. It is 115 proof, not because that was the proof at which OF was sold in those days but because that was a common proof at which Old Forester came out of the barrel at the time.
All three Old Forester Whiskey Row bourbons have been good. This one is the best. It is what we OF fans have been waiting for. It does an excellent job of balancing the spice and oak of older OF with the fruity roundness of younger OF. It does this without falling into the weird plastic aromas and unbalanced oak that can come into some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon vintages. 1920 is both elegantly balanced and powerful, like a JS Bach organ composition or a Brahms symphony. This is the Old Forester I had hoped B-F was capable of producing all these years but thought I would never see. Now all I can think about is the next installment. Single barrel? True barrel proof? Distillate of DSP KY 414, the old Old Forester plant? I can hardly wait. Old Forester 1920 is highly recommended.
Parting words: Is there better way to end 2016 than with a review of a whisky that was released in 2015? Yes, many better ways. I decided to review this anyway, since I picked it up late this year.
Perpetuum was released in 2015 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Ardbeg distillery. Many distilleries in Scotland were “founded” around 200 years ago. This is no coincidence. Beginning in 1816 and culminating in the excise act of 1823, the UK government passed a series of laws creating a level playing field for distillers in Scotland vs those in Ireland and England. Many illegal distillers went straight, refounding their operations and many new distilleries started up.
Perpetuum is a very good whisky. It’s classic Ardbeg: smoky, spicy, but still complex.Problem is, I’m not sure it’s good enough to justify the $20 markup over Uigeadail which is very similar. The well-reviewed and higher ABV Corryvreckan is $10 cheaper, too. So while Perpetuum is very good, it’s not a very good value. Ardbeg Perpetuum is mildly recommended.
On the palate: Full-bodied and rich. Burn, purple Kool-Aid, oak, ginger, mace, brown sugar.
Finish: Fruity in the cheeks, dry on the tongue and the actual palate.
Parting words: This is Wild Turkey at its finest, complex but still powerful. It strikes a lovely balance between fruity sweetness, spice, alcohol and oak, even without water. Compared to its siblings, I would rank Tradition above American Spirit (some of my friends might reverse that ranking), but not as good as Tribute. It’s a perfect holiday or special occasion sipping bourbon.
The packaging is absurdly complex with a display stand covered by a chestnut colored cover, but the bottle itself is simple and elegant. The over the top packaging does mean that it travels and ships well, so that’s something.
Tradition was released in 2009, but I was still seeing them on shelves as late as a year ago. The price is steep for a bourbon but these limited edition Turkeys rarely disappoint, and it is officially a dusty now so if you see it for $150 or less, buy it. Wild Turkey Tradition is recommended.