Review: Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

New to the Knob Creek limited edition family is this beauty – a cask strength, unfiltered, 9-year-old rye whiskey. In this case, cask strength means 119.6 proof. The one off (?) expression was barreled in 2009. Though there is no explicit age statement on the label, press materials stated this is 9-years-old.

A sharp eyed viewer mentioned not seeing the word “straight” on the label. I reached out to Beam, and they informed me this is in fact a straight rye whiskey, just not labeled as such.

On the nose, hints of dark caramel and toasted rye bread are joined by baking spice, orange peel, and leather notes. The palate sees more of the same. The rye grain isn’t as prominent as other high rye whiskies due to the seemingly smaller amount of rye in the mash bill, though it is at least 51%. It’s here in the form of a pleasing buttered rye toast, so no sharpness or dill note. Dark caramel and dark brown sugar add sweetness and richness, while the familiar Jim Beam roasted peanut is ever present, as is a generous sprinkling of baking spices. A touch of orange peel and some leather on the backend add more complexity. Finally some astringent old oak leads us into the finish, which is long, bittersweet and somewhat spicy. Compared to Knob Creek Small Batch Rye, this expression comes across as less sweet with a richer, more complex flavor.

The best part here is the price. In a world that sees a large percentage of limited edition releases introduced at the $100+ price point, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye comes in at $69.99. Kudos to whoever made that decision. Older rye whiskies are becoming more and more expensive.

My conclusion – this is a no-brainer purchase. It’s that simple. 9/10

Knobcreek.com

Thanks to Knob Creek for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Crown Royal Blenders’ Mash Blended Canadian Whisky

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Crown Royal’s latest release, Blenders’ Mash, might be its most controversial. Here’s the short version of the story: When it first hit shelves, the name on the label was Crown Royal Bourbon Mash. The name stemmed from what Crown Royal distillers and blenders internally called the bourbon-like mash bill of this whisky. Apparently that’s a big no-no here in the United States, where a whisky made outside of the country cannot use the word ‘bourbon’ on its label to describe it. The “Bourbon Mash” label was already TTB approved, but the government agency reversed its decision, causing Diageo, Crown Royal’s owner, to change the name to Blenders’ Mash.

Don’t let the label controversy detract from what’s inside the bottle.

This release kicks off the Crown Royal Blenders’ Series, which focuses on, er, blending. Produced at the Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Blenders’ Mash features a blend of bourbon-like, corn-heavy whiskies aged in new and used oak barrels. It’s bottled at 40% ABV and available on shelves for about $28.

The nose is a bit subdued but nonetheless quite nice, featuring hints of vanilla pod, kettle corn, cinnamon toast, and a touch of toasted oak. The entry here is smooth, for lack of a better word. That rich and sweet profile Crown Royal is known for can be found here in spades, with hints of maple syrup and creamy vanilla leading the way. A bit of spiced green apples and sandalwood soon follows. The finish is rather clean, with notes of sweet caramel corn.

In terms of flavor, Blenders’ Mash sits perfectly in a world between Crown Royal and a standard bourbon, carrying over the “smoothness” the Canadian whisky is famous for. In other words, folks who like their bourbon without the bite would enjoy this whisky. However, don’t conflate “smooth” with “lack of character.” Blenders’ Mash is an enjoyable pour, one I don’t have to think too much about while drinking it. Recommended! 8/10

Crownroyal.com

Thanks to Crown Royal for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release Single Malt Whisky

Ardbeg’s Grooves is the company’s limited edition release for 2018.  Though the 60’s flower power is in full effect in name and label, Grooves is named after the grooves left in the barrels staves after heavy charring.  Those barrels, ex-wine casks, only make up a portion of this expression.  The rest, I’m assuming, is made up of ex-bourbon casks.

We’re looking at the Committee Release, which is a higher proof version available in much smaller numbers compared to the general release.  In this case, Grooves comes in at 51.6% ABV and is available in very limited numbers for about $120.

On the nose, familiar Ardbeg characteristics are here in full force: smoked meat, earthiness, and some iodine.  Notes from the wine casks join in the melody, providing a sweet and fruity counterbalance.  The palate follows the nose, with sun-baked tobacco leaf and campfire smoke hitting your tongue first, followed by a wave of sweet berries, stewed apricots, spice and a slightly savory character.  Every now and then I can pick out a tinge of vanilla.  A bit more spice and toasted oak appear on the back palate and into the long, warming finish.  Hints of coal, candied ginger, fruity sweetness and burnt orange peel linger.

Fruit and smoke is one of my favorite flavor combinations in whisky, and Ardbeg Grooves fits right in. Though I really enjoy it, my wife didn’t, and prefers the more straightforward profile of Ardbeg 10-year-old. The standard release of Grooves should be hitting shelves soon. While I’d suggest scooping up that expression, if you happen to see the Committee Release, don’t hesitate. You’ll certainly be taken on a groovy journey. 9/10

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