whisky review

Son of a Peat Whisky Review

Online spirits club Flaviar has released their first ever private label whisky, Son of a Peat. The blended malt is comprised of eight malt whiskies from Islay, Island, and Speyside distilleries. Bottled at 48.3% abv, the NAS Son of a Peat is a 1,500 bottle run available only to Flaviar members for $60. Bonus points for no caramel coloring and non-chill filtering.

The nose is ripe with aromas of bonfire smoke, lemon zest, orchard fruits and cinnamon toast. The higher-than-standard proof provides a bold tasting experience featuring initial hints of toffee, lemon cake and crisp apples, as a meaty smoke note builds to a crescendo. A bit of spice ramps up on the backend towards the finish, which is long, smoky and slightly sweet.

I came in with no expectations and left pretty impressed. Son of a Peat is a relatively complex peated blended malt that would work equally as a sipper and a mixer. There is a slightly youngish quality about it, but that works in this whisky’s favor. More of those lovely peat notes we love are beefed up as a result. Bottom line: Son of a Peat is a steal at $60. If you’re not already a Flaviar member, you may want to quickly reconsider. 7.5/10

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

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Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

Mmm… Laphroaig.  It’s one of those whiskies that divides the masses.  One either loves or hates the whisky’s trademark heavily peated character.  There generally isn’t an in-between.  In fact, the brand has embraced the public’s honest assessment of their whisky with their hilarious #OpinionsWelcome campaign.  Here’s the latest spot, entitled “A First for Friends.”

Every year, Laphroaig releases a different expression under their Cairdeas (gaelic for friendship) umbrella.  The 2017 edition is a cask strength version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  The 57.2% abv whisky started with a 5-year plus maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels, followed by a six month secondary maturation in quarter casks.  The resulting whisky features no added color and is not chill filtered.

The nose is full of that signature Laphroaig funky Islay peat, as well as vanilla and tropical fruit.  It’s a touch more closed off at cask strength, but opens up with a splash of water, which brings about more of the fruity notes.  On the palate, it’s slighlty less sweet than the standard Quarter Cask, but packed with flavor.  Toffee, brine, and tropical fruits, especially mangos, define the whisky as much as the whallop of ashy smoke in the background.  Some young oak and herbal notes appear on the backend.  The finish is long and complex, featuring notes of vanilla cream, spice and smoke.

At a reasonable price increase compared to the standard Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 ($80) is firing on all cylinders.  It’s younish for sure, but that allows for a larger peaty punch compared to older Laphroaig expressions.  Only 177 casks were emptied for this release, so those who want a bottle should act fast.  Recommended! 8.5/10

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

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.