Review: Oban Distiller’s Edition

Diageo’s Distiller’s Edition takes some of the Classic Malts series and adds a secondary maturation period in fortified wine casks. Included in the series are Talisker, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, and the subject of this review, Oban.

The finishing casks used in this series are recharred American oak casks with heavily charred virgin oak ends. The casks are then filled with fortified Spanish wine. After a month, the wine is disgorged and the casks are filled with matured malt. The finishing period lasts up to six months.

Oban is paired with Montilla Fino casks, which pairs well with the character of the western Highland malt. The combination brings hints of dried fruit and soft peat on the nose, as well as orange peel and seaweed. On the palate, a salted caramel base is complemented by layers of dried fruit and fresh citrus juice. There’s a touch of peat that creeps up on the mid-palate, and it melds together really well with the fruit notes. At 43% ABV, Oban Distiller’s Edition coats the palate really well. The medium-length finish sees a little dark chocolate, dried fruit, and toffee.

The added fruit and slight dryness the secondary maturation period adds works beautifully with Oban’s slightly peaty distillery character. Fans of Oban shouldn’t hesitate to reach for this. It’s really good. REALLY good. Pricing at $94.99 is about $15 higher than Oban 14, but it’s a worthy-enough upgrade.

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

Review: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

Sometimes, against every inclination, I tend to pre-judge a whisky. Well, that’s not entirely correct. It’s more sometimes I think I have an idea what a whisky will taste like before I actually taste it. It doesn’t happen very often, but most times I’m right. At least in my own head. But every now and then I’m totally off base. My first sip of Alberta Premium Cask Strength showed me how wrong I was.

Nestled in Calgary, Alberta, birthplace of the greatest wrester ever – Bret Hart, Alberta Distillers has been cranking out whisky since 1946. This Cask Strength is their latest big release, and it seems lots of folks have been taking notice. Apparently it’s been sold out for months in Canada. Made from a 100% rye mash bill, Alberta Premium Cask Strength comes in at a hearty 66% ABV. Of note, my sample is from a Canadian batch bottled at 65.1% ABV. With any batched whisky, there might be slight variances in flavor, though the overall profile remains the same.

And what a profile.

On the nose, hints of aromatic vanilla meet with honey, sweet oak, and a touch of spice. Nutty toffee and caramel candy kick off the palate. Hints of vanilla, fruit, and rye spice develop mid-palate, with a slight espresso note coming in right before the finish. The rye spice isn’t sharp or “green,” which is what I find in some younger rye whiskies. For what it’s worth, there’s no age statement here. It’s rarity that a whisky this strong is enjoyable at its bottling proof. No water needed here, but a splash helps widen the flavor landscape a touch. The finish is long and warming, with hints of maple syrup, black pepper, and toasted rye bread.

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye is hands down one of the most memorable rye whiskies I’ve tasted in a while. It checks all the boxes for what I look for in a good rye whisky – high proof, a balance of sweet and spicy, and some complexity. This whisky has these in spades. Best part – the price. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye has an SRP of $69.95, quite the bargain for what you get. It’s a limited edition, so I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle or two if you see it on the shelf.

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

Review: Barrell Armida

The folks at Barrell Craft Spirits aren’t content with a simple secondary finish in one cask type. Their Armida release is a blend of three bourbons finished separately in pear brandy, rum, and Sicilian amaro casks. Armida comes from Barrell founder Joe Beatrice’s mother’s formal name. Memories of her family’s farm in the northeast US inspired the creation of this release. I love when there’s a real nostalgic drive behind a release.

Bottled at a cask strength of 112.10 proof, Armida is crisp on the nose, with hints of freshly picked pear, citrus, and aromatic vanilla. There’s a bit of licorice thanks to the Amaro casks. Underneath are more familiar bourbon notes of caramel and spice. The palate kicks off with a rich rum character, which was somewhat missing on the nose. We’re talking big hints of molasses and herbs as well as orchard fruit. Anise and tannins develop in the mid-palate alongside vibrant citrus. A touch of nuttiness leads into the long, warming finish.

There are good whiskies and there are the ones you really want to kick back and experience slowly. Armida is the latter. There is so much going on in the glass. I especially enjoyed the playfulness between the crisp orchard fruit and the herbal and rum-like qualities. Though its sum is greater than the individual parts, like any great blend, Armida also excels in its development of flavors. Every sip reveals something new. We all know I’m a Barrell fanboy, but still – this whiskey is damn enjoyable on all levels.

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