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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

January 7, 2016


A few great American whiskeys

A few carefully selected American whiskies/whiskeys, tasted more or less ‘at random’, not taking anything into consideration, apart from the fact that they all come from the good United States of America – and that they’re supposed to be very good according to some good friends. All that is good.

Cut Spike 2 yo 'Batch 001' (43%, OB, single malt, USA, Nebraska, +/-2014)

Cut Spike 2 yo 'Batch 001' (43%, OB, single malt, USA, Nebraska, +/-2014) Four stars First time I’ve got Cut Spike on the tasting desk. In truth I had never heard of Cut Spike, but it seems that many American whisky enthusiasts are already saying great things about this baby single malt. Let’s see… Colour: bronze-ish. Nails? Nose: we’re between brandy and whisky, I’d say, at least at first nosing, because of these ‘grapy raisins’ (well done S.) But the maltiness is soon to get the upper hand, and comes with hints of the richest IPA beers, a discreet musty minerality (garden peat?), and them more chocolate, praline, toffee, and more chocolate. It’s really unusual that this would reek of sherry-like notes, while it’s fully matured in new American oak, but that’s not the first time I come across such a funny – and lovely, say, hybrid? Mouth: hold on, American, you say? It’s not totally ‘Scotch’, but it’s hardly ‘bourbony’. Chestnut purée, chocolate, rich sweet bread (pumpernickel – do they have that in Nebraska?), muscovado sugar… The mouth feel is quite rich and textured, with some oiliness. Very, very cool. Finish: medium, again with a small brandy-like feeling, but also a touch of salt and mint. As if they had added a little mezcal from ‘down there’. I really enjoy this finish. More liquorice wood and perhaps a little thyme in the aftertaste. Sweet oak. Comments: very impressive. And I find it cool that they would proudly display this baby’s very young age. Great, great job! SGP:652 - 87 points.

Elijah Craig 12 yo 'Small Batch' (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Elijah Craig 12 yo 'Small Batch' (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Four stars I’ve had a fondness for the ‘Barrel Proof’ version (WF 85). It seems that this bottle is very fairly priced, around US$30-35. Colour: red amber. Nose: typical bourbon – as far as I can tell – starting a bit solventy and varnishy, then bursting with vanilla, toasted oak, fudge, maple syrup, sawdust, and just hints of geranium flowers. A little cough syrup as well, more towards eucalyptus than mint. Mouth: exactly what you’d expect. A little simple, perhaps, but otherwise great, with tinned pineapples, coconut oil, sultanas, white chocolate, and maple syrup again. The strength is just perfect. Finish: rather long, pleasantly oily, on vanilla cake and grated coconut. So that would be grated coconut on some vanilla cake. Only the aftertaste is a little woody as such. Comments: there’s everything to like in this, and I guess whisky lovers who only need one or two bourbons in their bars ‘just in case’ may well rather choose this one. BFYB. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Coppersea 'Green Malt Rye' (45%, OB, USA, New York, +/-2015)

Coppersea 'Green Malt Rye' (45%, OB, USA, New York, +/-2015) Four stars and a half This is well green malt, that is to say malt that’s not kilned/dried after floor-malting. It’s distilled in small pot stills, and aged for only 7 months. Sounds strange, but since a very knowledgeable American enthusiast and blogger mailed it to me, well, there must be a reason. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: exactly the opposite of the Elijah Craig. This is shock-full of honeydew, gingerbread, lime tree blossom, fresh baguette, leaven, quince jelly, and damson plum jam. Emphasize on the damson plum jam. I’m simply finding this exceptional as a spirit – perhaps less so as a whisky, but who cares. Mouth: what? Rye and… say barbecued melons? Slightly burnt brownies and crème caramel? Toasted brioche and walnut wine? There’s something very caramely as well – and that would burnt caramel – but this works in this context. Oh forgot to mention damson plum pie or tarte. Unusual and spectacular. Finish: medium, a tad earthy, and even more on damson plums. Or zwetschke, or quetsches. Comments: as we sometimes say, aged spirits can be either oak-driven (meh) or spirit-driven (my favourite). Well this one’s one of the very rare spirits that are both. Very, and I mean very impressed. SGP:761 - 88 points.

Corti Brothers 7 yo ‘Exquisite Whiskey’ (45.2%, OB, USA, 2014)

Corti Brothers 7 yo ‘Exquisite Whiskey’ (45.2%, OB, USA, 2014) Three stars and a half Oh yeah Corti Bros.! Most of the old Scotches they used to select from Cadenhead’s/Duthie’s or Avery’s in the olden days have been hits at WF Towers, so it’s so great to see that they’re into whisky again! Although this pedigree is a little strange. Imagine, young bourbon finished (they say enhanced) in Amador County Mission del Sol wine casks. No need to tell you that I’ve never tried Amador County Mission del Sol wine. Anyway… Colour: red amber. Nose: we’re a bit in the same territories as with Cut Spike, with a rather lovely raisiny side and something slightly brandy-like, but there’s also some Demerara rum, perhaps some Malmsey, and perhaps some slightly minty Banyuls. Behind that, touches of ham and beef jerky, as well as a wee cup of beef bouillon. Which works extremely well, you’d never guess there’s bourbon behind this ‘wall of aromas’ (unless your nose is better trained than mine at detecting bourbon). Mouth: okay, okay, bourbon. I find the palate a little more difficult, not sure about which wood was used for the wine, but it may have been spicy European oak, if not French. A little green pepper and ginger. The good news is that that doesn’t last, and that some great notes of pies, jams, and jellies do appear after two seconds. Plums, mandarins, guavas… But there’s always this spicy bitterness in the background. Blackcurrant buds. Finish: long, maybe a tad dichotomous – or do you say trichotomous? (Is he proud of that one!) Bourbon wood, spicy oak, rich fruit jams. Comments: I think I was a little fonder of the nose, but it’s quite an experience. SGP:661 - 83 points.

Westland 4 yo 2011/2015 (55.4%, OB, USA, single malt, Hungarian oak Port cask, cask #16, 246 bottles, 2015)

Westland 4 yo 2011/2015 (55.4%, OB, USA, single malt, Hungarian oak Port cask, cask #16, 246 bottles, 2015) Four starsWestland is one the names everybody’s talking about. While some distillers in other countries will now just disclose a funny name (possibly in Gaelic, if you’re lucky), Westland tell you everything. For example, the ‘grain bill’ (Washington Select Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Extra Special Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt, Brown Malt), or the kind of yeast (Belgian brewer's yeast). Colour: red amber. Nose: ah yes. No heavy Port, that’s done. Some fresh malt, that’s done as well. Then rather jams – an American thing, perhaps – and pastries, with various plums, apricots, a bit of spicy chocolate, a drop of PX, and in the background, this earthiness that I cherish. I find the whole rather elegant and delicate, I must say. With water: the oak comes out. Damp sawdust, new magazine, a little custard. Mouth (neat): they avoided the trap! I do not find any dominant Port flavours – but some Port there is, obviously. It’s rather all on plums and chocolate, with perhaps black cherries and a little marzipan. Perhaps a small bit of any oriental pastries, such as baklavas. It’s the balance that’s impressive here, with such a ‘story’, it could have gone astray. With water: excellent. Praline, praline, and praline. Does Rudolf Lindt – or his descendants - own Westland? Finish: medium, really all on good milk chocolate, malt, and a little toffee. Comments: that they managed to tame a first fill Port cask just baffles me. Another one that’s extremely good. SGP:541 - 85 points.

I’ve got several more Westlands to taste, but let’s have only one more today, because I’d like to do a ‘grand finale’ after the next one. And this is already becoming ‘a proper session’. Don’t you agree? Let’s find one Westland that’s ‘all American’… Like this one…

Westland 3 yo 2011/2015 (55 %, OB, USA, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #50, 173 bottles, 2015)

Westland 3 yo 2011/2015 (55 %, OB, USA, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #50, 173 bottles, 2015) Three stars This baby was bottled in June last year. Grain bill and yeast were the same as above. Colour: amber. Nose: yessss… A Mars bar straight from the plant, a tri-pack of Lindt’s creamiest milk chocolate, a handful of Werther’s Originals, and the most natural vanillin… I mean, vanilla. BTW, isn’t it funny that the island where you find the best vanilla, now called La Réunion, used to be called the Bourbon Island? (l’Île Bourbon). That was the cultural minute. With water: caramel and fudge. Perhaps a notch simple. Mouth (neat): it’s some very good young bourbon, but there’s less ‘dumb’ coconut in this, and more chicory, cappuccino, and toasted brioche. It’s perhaps not the most complex whisky ever, but everything’s at the right place. Easy and, in some ways, a tad ‘Japanese’ (very young ex-bourbon Yamazaki). With water: the oak comes out, that’s a little too much. Finish: medium. Very good when undiluted, but I think water let’s the tannins come out – a little too much. A little marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine, for sure, but perhaps a little too one-dimensional for my taste. Or too young. SGP:451 - 80 points.

As I said, we’ll have more Westland soon. But in the meantime, the grand finale! Drum roll please…

Hannisville Rye Whiskey 1863/1913 (US, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 24 bottles, 2015)

Hannisville Rye Whiskey 1863/1913 (USA, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 24 bottles, 2015) Five stars Well, it is believed to be from 1863 (but I’ve seen some controversy online), which was, according to some trustworthy sources, the first year of operation at Hannis Distillery in Philadelphia. Right during the American Civil War! The cask was put into carboys in 1913, which would make it a 50 years old, more or less, then bought and bottled very recently by the famous Auld Alliane bar in Singapore. This old glory should have come from the estate of John Welsh of Philadelphia, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1870's. It is the oldest whisky I’ve ever tried, the only even older spirits I could try having been brandies. You’ll find more information there.

Colour: gold. Nose: still vibrant, still fruity, still quite amazing, even if it’s probably lost a part of its rye-ness. What it’s kept is this superb mentholated profile that may suggest it had been kept in (rather inactive) oak for a long time indeed, as well as a honeyed combination that’s just amazing. All honeys are there, from the lightest acacia to the strongest chestnut and fir honeydew. Sure it’s not the most powerful whisky ever, but it’s certainly not weak. Because as we’ve seen in Cognac, for example, carboys and demijohns excel at keeping spirit for a long, long time. Mouth: whaaaattt!? The arrival is stunning, on caramel cream, crème de menthe, and the purest artisan maple syrup from Quebec (hi cousins!), while the development is just amazing, with crème brûlée, light gentiany drinks (Suze), and a touch of earthy tea. Having said that it does not quite feel like some 50 years old whiskey on the palate, rather like a younger spirit that’s beautifully aged in glass for a very long time, which would be even better in my opinion. What’s sure is that this whiskey’s absolutely fresh and fantastic. Finish: medium – so not even short – and adorably herbal and mentholated. Peaches in syrup, and some, wait, yes, some rye coming out, with even a bready side. That, I’m very fond of.

Comments: whatever this is, whatever the vintage, and whichever the age, it is/was some very exceptional pre-prohibition rye whiskey. Whether it was, indeed, distilled in 1863 under Abraham Lincoln, or if it’s rather Al Capone himself who distilled it ;-). Great spirits never die! SGP:541 - 92 points.

The original carboys ->

(with heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Scott, and Steve from






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