Reviews

Review: Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker

Let’s end Women’s History Month 2021 with a look at Jane Walker, a limited edition bottling part of the Johnnie Walker family. This particular blend came from the mind of Johnnie Walker Master Blender Emma Walker, who was responsible for the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series a couple of years ago. I absolutely loved those blends.

Jane Walker starts with single malt from Cardhu, which is fitting considering that distillery was owned and operated with great success by Elizabeth Cumming. It was this success that led to the distillery being sold to the Johnnie Walker family and to this day remains at the heart of several Johnnie Walker blends. The other prominent malt included in this blended malt is Clynelish – one of my favorite distilleries. Walker decided when creating this blend that a peaty characteristic didn’t quite fit, so don’t expect any smoky notes here. This 10-year-old blended malt is bottled at 41.9% abv and available for $38.

Jane Walker is ripe with orchard fruit on the nose, thanks to the malt from Cardhu. That distillery’s influence is certainly felt here. Additionally, a touch of white chocolate and baking spice add to the aromatics. Taste-wise, baked spiced apples kicks things off, with toffee and vanilla cream adding some richness. A bit of lemon peel and berries give Jane Walker a bit of vibrancy. Waves of cinnamon bark and dark chocolate make for a very pleasing finish.

Emma Walker has created a very enjoyable and balanced whisky with Jane Walker. The fruit notes could have easily slipped into something too sweet, but not here. Lemon, vanilla cream, and dark chocolate keep the whisky from becoming overly sweet or overly fruity. Again, the headline here is balance. I can’t recommend this blend enough.

Thanks to Johnnie Walker for the review sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 026 & 27

I’m always excited to sample new batches of Barrell Bourbon. For this post, we’re looking at two recent batches – 026 and 027. Both whiskies are presented at the batch’s respective cask strength, and contain no added color or flavoring.

BATCH 026

Batch 026 comes in at 9 years old, though it contains barrels as old as 15 years in its blend. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 56.32% abv, or 112.64 proof. Barrels were distilled and aged in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.

The nose is classic bourbon, with hints of burnt sugar, vanilla, and spice. There’s a bit of red fruit and a minerality here as well. This whiskey is heavenly on the palate. Things kick off with waves of sweet, creamy caramel. As it coats the palate, earthy and spicy notes emerge, developing into a sun-dried tobacco. The sweetness found at the front of the palate is now fruit-laden. Oak tannins lead us into the medium-long finish.

With so many solid batches of whiskey under their belt, it’s hard for a batch of Barrell Bourbon to stand out. They certainly achieve here. Want a wonderfully aged “classic” bourbon with some complexity? Look no further…

BATCH 027

Moving onto a younger blend. Batch 027 features 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, and 15-year-old barrels from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. It comes in at 115.7 proof, or 57.85% abv.

There’s a nice grain-centric vibrancy here. Grilled corn and light caramel are featured on the nose alongside hints of cherries and cinnamon. A little airtime lets the fruity characteristic become a bit more prominent. On the palate, the cherry note comes through as Robitussin at first. A little off-putting at first, but tasty once the rest of the flavors emerge. Buttered popcorn and rye spice lend sweet and spicy notes. That cough medicine now becomes more like a ripe black cherry. Wow. The backend sees a bit of coconut and lavender, while the finish remains rather clean.

I’ve tasted cherry notes in a whiskey before, but never one as transformative as featured in Batch 027. Had it remained reminiscent of that ever-so-familiar cough syrup, I would have marked this batch as the first Barrell Bourbon I didn’t care for. However… it’s the Barrel blending team we’re talking about. They simply wouldn’t let something like that through. Batch 027 is yet another example of the level of finesse Barrel Craft Spirits employs when creating a blend. The way the notes transform and develop, especially that cherry note, is stunning. Well done.

barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the review samples. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Westward Whiskey “Women of Westward” Benefit Barrel

To help celebrate Women’s History Month, Westward Whiskey recently release two single barrel offerings benefitting charities. The Oregon-based distillery is donating 100% of the proceeds of the two “Women of Westward” releases to Al Otro Lado and Black Mamas Matter Alliance. The extremely limited edition bottlings are available to purchase at the distillery and select Oregon retailers.

The barrels were selected by Westward’s all-woman tasting panel consisting of women in the spirits industry, including:

Alexis Belton-Tinoco (she/her): Bar Director, The Aviary
Charity Selection: Al Otro Lado
 
Ashtin Berry (she/her): Bartender, Educator, Equity Worker
Charity Selection: Black Mamas Matter Alliance
 
Emily Mistell (she/her): Owner/Beverage Director, Hey Love
Charity Selection: Black Mamas Matter Alliance
 
Lauren Paylor (she/her): Owner + Co-Founder Focus on Health
Charity Selection: Black Mamas Matter Alliance
 
Natasha David (she/her): Co-Owner, You & Me Cocktails
Charity Selection: Al Otro Lado
 
Tiffanie Barriere (she/her): Bartender, Educator, Innovator
Charity Selection: Al Otro Lado

Of the two available barrels, I was sent a sample of Barrel #2 – the one available nationally (barrel #1 is only available in Oregon). The whiskey was distilled on 1/27/16 from a mash bill made up of 100% two row pale malted barley. The resulting whiskey was proofed to 45% abv for bottling.

The nose is filled with hints of ripe banana and toffee, and a touch of cardamon and oak spice. On the palate, the distillery’s official tasting notes hit home with mention of banana bread topped with crushed walnuts. There’s a creaminess that’s reminiscent of vanilla-flavored coffee cream as well. After the initial wave washes over the palate, a nice spiciness emerges, as well as a fresh ginger note that all but cleanses the palate. The medium finish carries lingering notes of sweet malt, stewed fruit, and oak spice.

This is a great example of what a single barrel can bring to the table. While it features flavors from the standard Westward Whiskey bottling, banana bread and vanilla notes are brought to the forefront. It’s a fantastic $99 American malt whiskey that benefits charity. Do you really need another reason to pick up this bottle?

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