Spirit Review: Nikka Taketsuru 21yr

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While most people equate single malt or single barrel whisky with being the cream of the crop, blended whisky is actually the most common as well as most consumed whisky in the world. And to taste some of the finest in blended malt whisky, look no further than the Japanese whisky distillers. Today were taking a look at the 21yr bottling.

The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co is one of the premier distillers in Japan and has a superb line of blended malts named after the founder Masataka Taketsuru. The Taketsuru blends come from distillates from both the Yoichi Distillery (located on the northern island of Hokkaido), and the Miyagikyo Distillery (located in the north of the main island Honshu).

Nose: Plenty of oak influence with notes of prunes, dates and apricots. Definitely some sweetness, anise,

Palate: Spices, black pepper, bitter orange, loads of tangy sherry. Gives way to some ginger, honey, and hints of marmalade.

Finish: Long, oak and spice, balanced with a hint of peat.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Spirit Review: Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr

vanwinkle10yr107 If you are a diehard bourbon fan, no doubt you are familiar with the Van Winkle name. Probably some of the hardest to find bourbons on the market today, the Van Winkle distillery (owned by the Sazerac Company) releases their products only once a year, and has bourbons labeled at 10yr, 12yr, 15yr, 20yr and 23yr, as well as a rye whiskey.

The Van Winkle line of bourbons with the exception of the 23yr features a high wheat mashbill produced by Buffalo Trace, similiar to (or exactly the same) as the W.L. Weller line of bourbons. So how do the legendary van winkle bourbons actually stand up to the hype? Well, I will say that they are delicious. Whether or not they are worth seeking out and paying through the nose for is a matter of personal taste, but they are excellent bourbons. Here we are going to be tasting the Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr iteration.

Nose: The nose of Old Rip is strong. It has a great sweet smell, like some vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce on top, banana pudding, and some oaky spice. Definitely strong hit of alcohol.

Palate: Silk and Velvet intertwine with butterscotch, dry cinnamon spice, oak and vanilla custard.

Finish: The wheat in the mashbill is really highlighted in the finish, where spice are met oak, toffee, creamy vanilla and a slight bitter char from the barrel. The finish is long and smooth.

Overall a very solid bourbon. If compared on its own, without the hype of the name, I would recommend it based upon its price point and quality. Would I stand in line for hours waiting for a bottle, or pay for it on the second hand market, probably not.

Rating: ★★★★½

Spirit Review: Hakushu Heavily Peated Whisky

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If the question is “What do the Japanese not do well?”, the answer is for sure not whisky. Every single malt spirit that I have tried from this country has been unique and of the utmost quality. One of the newest releases out there is the Hakushu Heavily Peated Whisky (2013 bottling), which hails from the Hakushu Distillery, located deep in the forests of the Southern Japanese Alps, where it seeks to take advantage of the clear air and cool, humid climate of Hakushu’s vast forests.

Nose: Gentle smokiness, a slight brininess mixed with pepper and sweet lemon.

Palate: An understated but bold hit of wood smoke, with a brown-sugar sweetness. Salt and pepper, sweet grain and roasted pear. Really clean and dry flavors.

Finish: Salted barley with just a really gently smoked flavor that is super subtle and expertly balanced.

Limited to just 3000 bottles, this is a whisky worth seeking out for fans of Japanese Whisky, as well as scotch lovers.

Rating: ★★★★½

Spirit Review: Angels Envy Rye

Angels_Envy_Rye If you don’t know who Lincoln Henderson was, you’re soon going to find out. Formerly the Master Distiller for Brown-Forman and responsible for the creation of the Jack Daniels Single Barrel, Gentleman Jack, and Woodford Reserve Bourbons, Mr Henderson retired from the profession in 2004, only to reemerge in 2010 with Angels Envy Bourbon.

Now, with the release of the Angels Envy Rye, Mr Henderson has created an altogether unique spirit out of something otherwise ordinary. Starting out with a MGP sourced 95% rye whiskey, (Bulleit Rye, Dickel Rye, Templeton, High West, James E. Pepper, etc) Angels Envy manages to create something altogether delicious by finishing their rye whiskey in small-batch French cognac barrels formerly used to finish Plantation XO Rum. This uncommon finishing process yields a whiskey that has huge notes of maple, vanilla, caramel and spice.

Unfortunately Lincoln Henderson passed away this past fall, but his legacy will be remembered through his contributions to the distilling world, and the unique products that he envisioned and brought to life.

Nose: Huge nose of sweet vanilla, brown sugar, deep caramel, caribbean spices, honey.

Palate: Nice and creamy mouthfeel with clove spiced honey, raisins, cinnamon. The intensely sweet opening notes fade to a really rich and warming flavor with notes of pepper, allspice and cloves.

Finish: The finish is long, drawn out with hints of coconut, grapefruit, and a lingering dry spice that is really pleasant.

All in all, if you can find it, and bite the bullet on the higher price tag ($75-$85) you will not be sorry to invest in a great whiskey to sip neat and enjoy in the company of friends. Cheers!

Rating: ★★★★★

Spirit Review: William Larue Weller

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Hailing from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, this unfiltered, barrel proof, wheated whiskey clocks in at an amazing 68.1% ABV. And while Buffalo Trace produces a whole lineup of Weller branded wheated bourbons, this once a year release is widely considered to be the best of them all.

Nose: Sweet, complex, and almost subdued. Caramel sweetness mingled with scents of toffee, tobacco and cinnamon. Despite the ridiculous strength of this whiskey, it is remarkably gentle on the nose.

Palate: Taken with just two drops of water, there are nice oak and leather flavors balanced out by vanilla and notes of figs and dates. A slight hint of pepper, with a really pleasant burn. Not harsh or medicinal in any way, but a nice rich grassy flavor.

Finish: Long, warm and dry, with just a hint of lingering burn. Very pleasant.

Due to the limited production of this bourbon, it may be little harder to find, but it is worth snatching up if you come across it.

Rating: ★★★★★