whisky

Review: Maker’s Mark Private Select (Maker’s Mark Tasting Panel)

Lots of distilleries offer a single barrel program. Customers either travel to the distillery to choose a barrel or have barrel samples sent to them. Either way, they are usually choosing from a selection of three barrels. Maker’s Mark offers a much more immersive, personalized program, called Private Select.

Instead of just picking a barrel, customers choose how their whisky is finished by selecting a combination of five different oak staves:

  1. Baked American Pure 2 – American Oak toasted low and slow in a convection oven. Yields a light, bright sweet style.
  2. Seared French Cuvee – French Oak that’s been cut with ridges to increase surface area and varying degrees of char. Adds brown sugar subtle spice.
  3. Maker’s 46 – French Oak produced with infrared toasting, this is the stave that’s used to create the Maker’s 46 expression, which was the inspiration for this program.
  4. Roasted French Mocha – French Oak cooked at high heat in a convection oven. Adds a dark coffee richness.
  5. Toasted French Spice – Another French Oak cooked at both high and low levels in a convection oven. As the name suggests, this one adds a spiciness to your bourbon, and beefs up the finish.

Customers taste whiskies finished with each stave, and begin creating a flavor profile by blending these whiskies in different portions. The resulting combination of 10 staves is then added to a barrel of Maker’s Mark whisky and stored in the distillery’s new cellar for about nine weeks.

Bottled at 111.0 proof, this Private Select boasts a rich, fruity nose featuring hints of dark brown sugar, baked apples, and some baking spice.  On the palate, an initial wave of soft spice peppers the tongue but is cushioned by decadent vanilla cream and vibrant orange zest that soon follows.  Cocoa dusted apples and a touch of astringent oak show up on the back of the palate.  The long finish is a tad spicy with a lingering dark roasted coffee note.

After having attended a selection for the New Orleans Bourbon Festival earlier this year (more on that later), I have to say it was one of the most immersive tasting selections I’ve experienced.  That pick, which I tasted recently and will review in full soon, was a completely different whisky than the whisky tasted here.

Speaking of immersive, the brand’s new ad that just launched on Youtube is pretty cool.  Make sure to use your mobile device for the best result.  I don’t know of any other VR ads out there right now.

Back to the whisky, I find the Maker’s Mark soft, sweet profile acts as a strong base in which to showcase the flavors brought about by the unique oak stave finish.  I’ve only tasted two of these whiskies, and both were outstanding.  In this case, the Roasted French Mocha staves add just the right amount of rich, dark notes that play with the caramel notes brought about by the Seared French Cuvee staves.  Nicely done here.  If you haven’t tasted a Maker’s Mark Private Select, you’re really missing out on something special.  8.5/10

Thanks to Maker’s Mark for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Highland Park Valnut

HP-2018-Valknut-Hero-Bottle+Carton-750ml-CMYKHighland Park has just released Valknut, the sequel to last year’s Valkyrie.  The distillery has partnered with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild to design the packaging.

As for the whisky itself, it’s said to be a “bolder, more intense style of Highland Park,” according to press materials.  The whisky was mostly matured in American  sherry seasoned casks.  Additionally, this expression features a slightly higher phenolic level than Valknut and was partially made from Orkney-grown tartan barley.  Valknut has been bottled at 46.8% ABV and is available for $80.

Love the nose here.  It’s vibrant and aromatic, with hints of toffee, toasted almonds, vanilla, herbs, and heather.  Taste-wise, Valknut is sweet, herbal, and a touch spicy.  A small wave of vanilla pod develops into cloves and spice, which becomes a bit dry and slightly leathery.  A nice smokiness becomes a bit bolder, especially towards the long finish.  In fact, those spice and heather notes ramp us as well.

I like it, but tend to prefer Highland Park Valkyrie.  I think that expression is a bit more sherry cask-driven and balanced than Valknut.  It simply has more going on.  The nose is fantastic, but it falls a bit short on the palate compared to Valkyrie.  That said, Valknut is a great choice for those looking for an aromatic and spicy whisky. 7.5/10

highlandparkwhisky.com

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

Review: Laphroaig 28-Year-Old

Ultra-aged expressions of Laphroaig can be some mighty fine whisky.  For 2018, the distillery has released a 28-year-old expression.  The whiskies that make up this expression have matured in different sized casks, from quarter casks to butts.  For the last year, they’ve been married together in sherry casks. Peated whisky in sherry casks? I’m sold.

Bottled at 44.4% ABV, Laphroaig 28-year-old has a fantastically interesting nose with hints of toffee, dried herbs, tropical fruit, anise, and cloves.  On the palate, fresh fruit juice and stewed pears are matched with toasted cedar staves, peppercorns, brine and grilled mushrooms.  The finish is long with sweet peat, grilled tropical fruit, and spice.

The Islay-based distillery has done it again. It’s released a carefully matured whisky showcasing some of its best qualities. This expensive ($799) bottle is a treasure trove of classic Laphroaig aromas and flavors delivered in droves. The tropical fruit and spice notes are prominent, as the famous medicinal-like notes come across in a more laid back fashion. Delicious. Yes. Expensive? Definitely. Worth it? If you can afford it. 9/10

www.laphroaig.com

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