Reviews

Dewar’s 25-year-old blended whisky review

Photo courtesy of Dewar’s


Age statements are of some importance to Dewar’s.  The blended whisky giant has made a major change to their core lineup.  Replacing their non-age statement luxury blend Dewar’s Signature is a new 25-year-old expression.   This comes at a time when many major brands are consistently removing age statements.

Dewar’s 25 is finished in freshly-dumped casks that were used to age Royal Brackla, a malt found in Dewar’s.  At 40% abv, Dewar’s 25-year-old doesn’t have as robust a nose as I’d like, but what’s offered is nice.  There’s some fruitiness on display in the form of spiced apple and pear.  A bit of toffee, vanilla and leather become more apparent with a little airtime.  The palate is similar to the nose in many ways.  Initial waves of honey and vanilla cake are met with crisp red apple and brown pear, sweet malt, lemon peel and oak spice.  Hints of leather and oak show up mid-palate and continue into the finish, where sweet toffee and spice regain their traction.  

Where this whisky slightly disappoints is its thin mouthfeel.  I know that Dewar’s is appealing to the mass market by bottling the whisky at 40% abv.   After all, the majority of blended Scotch whisky is bottled at 40%.  I think that a very slight increase to 43% would have improved this whisky exponentially while still maintaining the smoothness generally associated with Dewar’s.  

Nitpicking aside, I really like what I taste in Dewar’s 25.  It is a wonderfully matured, carefully blended whisky.  I just wish the whisky had a little more structure to further showcase those aromas and flavors.  8/10

Dewars.com
Thanks to Dewar’s for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Review


Easily among the most sought after whiskies year after year, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is just beginning to hit store shelves.  Okay, these whiskies don’t make it to the shelf.  It is rare when they do, especially close to the suggested retail price of $90.  They generally represent some of the finest whiskies made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery.  Let’s break down this year’s releases.

SAZERAC 18

The oldest whiskey in the collection, Sazerac 18-year-old rye whiskey generally represents all I love about an old rye.  This year’s release was distilled in spring 1998, and, according to Buffalo Trace, was put into a stainless steel tank to prevent further aging.  The barrels here are most likely from the same batch as last year’s release.  

The whiskey is stately and sumptuous.  There is a cornucopia of baking spices on the nose, along with brown sugar, dark fruit, leather, and oak.  The palate closely follows the aromas – dark brown sugar, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon.  The leather and oak remind me of a small wood panel-lined room full of old books.  A tannic grasp on the back palate is welcomed after what comes before it.  The long finish features notes of oak spice and caramel.

Sazerac 18 has always been a delicious whiskey, and I’m happy to say the 2017 release is no different.  From memory, this release is similar or slightly better than last year’s.  A stellar whiskey worthy of your time and attention.  Please, savour this one slowly.  9/10

GEORGE T. STAGG

Barrel proof?  Check.  Fifteen years old? Check.  A powerhouse of the Antique Collection?  You bet.  This year’s Stagg release comes in at a modest 129.2 proof.  The whiskies of this collection are generally extremely hard to find in stores, much less at or close to the suggested retail price.  Good news – 2017 is going to see a generous increase in the number of bottles of George Stagg released.  Does that mean it is going to be easier to find one?  I’d like to hope so, but the reality will likely prove otherwise.

The nose here is full and rich.  There’s lots of oak spice (though not oaky, per se), dark brown sugar, cigar box, dark fruit and burnt orange peel.  Big, bold, chewy flavors of slightly burnt sugars, spice cake, sun-baked tobacco, dark chocolate and barrel char.  This release of George Stagg isn’t overtly sweet, but does carry a nice complimentary earthiness to balance things.  One thing to note is the oak.  While an important element of Stagg’s flavor profile, this whiskey is not over-oaked whiskey this year.  Balance is key this year.  The finish is long and bittersweet, leaving hints of dark chocolate, oak spice, and dark toffee.

It’s good.  Great even.  I liked last year’s bottling of George Stagg, but this 2017 edition is a moderate improvement.  The big and bold flavors Stagg fans crave are here in a very balanced presentation.  Wow.  9/10

EAGLE RARE 17

I generally consider Eagle Rare 17 the sleeper of the collection.  It is the oldest of the three bourbons at 17-years-old.  Often overlooked by whiskey fans for some of the barrel strength offerings, Eagle Rare 17 is bottled at a modest 90 proof.  This year’s release is more limited than usual.  Thirty six barrels were selected, but there was a high evaporation loss of 89.5%.  That means only a little more than 10% of the original whiskey remained in barrels.  The angels were especially greedy.

The whiskey itself offers complex aromas of oak, dark caramel, freshly rolled cigar, vanilla and spice.  There is burnt sugar and oak spice on entry, followed by leather and firm but not dominating oak tannins.  A bit of vanilla and cloves help temper the oaky note.  The finish is dry with sweet oak and tobacco.

Eagle Rare 17 is the oakiest whiskey of the bunch, but this year’s bottling shows some restraint compared to previous releases. It is not a complete oak fest.  Balance seems to be a theme across the entire 2017 collection.  An elegant and dry ultra-aged whiskey from Buffalo Trace.  8.5/10

WILLIAM LARUE WELLER

The popular barrel strength 12-year-old bourbon is a “tame” 128.2 proof this year.  Distilled from Buffalo Trace’s wheated mash bill, William Larue Weller is usually the most balanced whiskey in the collection.  It’s also sweeter than the rest.

The rich nose shows hints of toffee, vanilla creme brûlée, cinnamon stick, dried apricots and a touch of lavender.  On the palate, brown sugar and nougat kick things off.  Waves of vanilla are contrasted by oak spice and leather.  The long, warm finish is a bit oakier than expected.

The 2017 edition of William Larue Weller is solid, but not phenomenal.  I didn’t this year’s release as complex as the last few bottlings.  The nose is fantastic, but it falls a bit short on the palate.  That said, I am not dissuaded to buy a bottle.  I would pick one up in a heartbeat if given the chance (at retail price).  8/10

THOMAS H. HANDY

This 6-year-old rye whiskey’s inclusion in the Antique Collection still baffles me.  The next youngest whiskey is double the age of this one.  There’s nothing “antique” about Thomas H. Handy Rye.  Okay, venting over.  Uncut and unfiltered, the 2017 edition of Handy is bottled at 127.2 proof. What you’re looking at is basically is select barrels of Sazerac Rye at cask strength. Nothing wrong with that, in and of itself.

The nose is hot at first.  A little airtime reveals rye spice, vanilla, toffee and dill.  Taste-wise, the vibrant whiskey features hints of buttered rye toast, cinnamon, cloves, and maple syrup.  There is a slightly sharp note here I find in a lot of young rye whiskies.  The finish definitely warms the chest, leaving behind sweet and spicy notes.

On its own, Thomas H. Handy is fine as a barrel strength version of Sazerac Rye.  As part of the Antique Collection, Handy is definitely the weakest entry.  The 2013 release still sets the standard, and the 2017 bottling falls a bit short.  Though it’s tasty, there isn’t a lot of complexity here.  Otherwise, it does make a helluva Sazerac cocktail.  7/10

Thanks to Buffalo Trace for the samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 1 Cognac Review

I thought it would be a great idea to follow up a review of the 2017 release with a look at the first one.  Released in 2016, Hennessy’s Master Blender’s Selection No.1 was the initial release on the new experimental line. Each year’s blend is designed to only be made once, so once it is gone, it’s gone for good.  Former Master Blender Yann Fillioux crafted this blend from 80 to 100 eaux-de-vie aged in both young and old French oak casks.  He had the freedom to create a cognac without worrying about availability of stocks necessary for a continuous mass market product.  This means Fillioux could work with low volume stocks of eaux-de-vie if he so desired.  No limits except for his imagination.

The aromatic nose features hints of vanilla, toffee, orange peel and floral top notes.  Taste-wise, the cognac is both bold and elegant, with toffee, sweet fruits, oak spice and a slight nuttiness.  At a “cask strength” of 43% abv, this blend delivers a rather rich tasting experience.  The finish leaves notes of sweet fruits and some oak spice.

Having tasted both blends in this US-exclusive line from Hennessy, I quite enjoyed what they’re doing.  It’s a thrill to taste what skilled blenders can create when unrestrained.  This is a one-time blend worthy of your attention, much like the 2017 release.  Nicely done.  8/10

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