Well I return from the dead, apologies for not posting this sooner but it's been a jam packed month. The pickings are slim for the May releases from the LCBO, but as the Spirit of Toronto show also followed suit, there are many hidden gems on the shelves. Only 2 bottles publicly noted for the Vintages magazine, one for each release. Let's take a gander at what was offered.
May 12,2012 Vintages Release:
Irishman distillery group; the second released by the LCBO (last month their Single Malt was premiered). The Irishman 70 is a blended Irish whiskey, matured in bourbon barrels and blended at 40% ABV. This is a difficult one to write about as this is the domain of the world largest whiskey brand (quick hint... think yellow label/green bottle...... yeah green... real original for Ireland). All that aside, flavor & quality will prevail; and this blend beats the pants off the National Brand. The nose shows hot pepper and spices, with hints of toasted grains and nuts. In the mouth is where this shines. Very, very smooth with notes of dried peaches, more grains (toasted, with hints of rye prevailing), aromatic wood (like cedar or hemlock), and wet slate (not a bad thing, but a very nice mineral contrast to the sweetness). The finish is smooth and creamy with hints of wood, raisins and pepper. The balance across the dram as a whole is fantastic, very well built with a great harmony of heat, sweet and finite details (like the fruits and minerals). Check your local LCBO for Sku #135186, and priced at $41.95, this won't be around too long when word gets out.
May 26,2012 Vintage Release:
Bernheim small batch straight wheat whisky. Made from 51% soft winter wheat, with the remainder being mostly corn, and aged about 5 years (that's what my sources tell me). Incredible mouth-feel dominates this treasure, and backs up an excellent flavour profile. Initial nose shows floral notes backed up with toffee, pepper and hints of vanilla and cloves. There is a lot going on in this glass (a lot of it being subtle and muted), further swirls give off notes of more vanilla (extract this time), hints of floral wildflower honey, wheat crackers, and white pepper. In the mouth incredible balance of wood, wood smoke, sweet grain wheaty-ness, spice blends (like for spice cake), and more wildflowers in the background. With water it almost becomes creamy and smooth, losing the spicy notes and hot pepper tartness and gaining a rounded more floral and sweet palate. The finish is long, warming and very satisfying. Subtle hints of wood smoke intersperse with the honey, spice and oak notes. This is a fantastic bottle, and the LCBO seems to think that you should pay heavily for its delicious contents. At $75/bottle and 45% ABV, I think it's still a great choice for a premium American whisky. Get your bottle at your local LCBO for $75/bottle [Sku #278077]. Served at 45% ABV, this is a hell of a whisky to add to your collection! This is a very light whisky, and would be excellent on those hot summer days coming to your neighborhood soon.
Well that sums up the Vintages releases, but there are a few others to report on. The first coming to us, announced in shining letters via eMail from the LCBO. This came via pre-order only. Kavalan Soloist Sherry cask. This interesting dram hails from Taiwan from the King Car distillery. It deserves commendation as they proudly display the unchillfiltered and no colour added banners on ALL of their whiskies from the Kavalan range. But the thing that held me back was the price! The LCBO wants you to chance your hard earned cash (actually $214/bottle), on an untested and UN-tasteable Taiwanese whisky. Now that aside, this is a multiple award-winning, Whisky Bible commended, and much heralded Taiwanese whisky. I'll be the first to say, that I don't do what the books tell me and neither should you. I gladly tried the Kavalan 'Concertmaster' Single Malt whisky at the Spirit of Toronto show, in hopes that the main attraction coming would blow me over. Instead what I got really rubbed me the wrong way. The way the LCBO employees were pimping out this spirit; like it was a Macallan 1955 single cask, made me frustrated. "Oh sir you would love this, it's a limited production... blah blah blah... (he now proceeds to pour slightly less that than 1/8 of an ounce into my Glencairn) ..... blah blah, made from the tears of orphans struck down by Chuck Norris himself (continues rambling on).... and finished in only the best port pipes from the 14th century hand sealed by King Louis the 573rd himself that money can buy. Seriously. This is good whisky at best, but if your trying to use this to sell me a $215 of single cask CS Taiwanese whisky, boy have you got another life lesson coming. The concertmaster was alright whisky, simple, well balanced, good nose and generally a good International bottling. But if you're trying to sell me a Maybach by showing me your mom's 1995 Chevy Cavalier with a fresh coat of paint on it, yeah I'm gonna be a little ticked off. I did enjoy it and found myself asking for a triple pour so I could actually taste something (which after some judging looks and sour faces, I finally got). I'll level with you though, I found this no more appealing than say a Glenfiddich 15 Solera (if it were at Cask Strength). It's a great whisky, but it shouldn't come with strings attached. That aside, $214 for a Cask Strength single malt is a bit out of reach even for the most eager whisky drinker. There are many better offerings from better known distilleries that I adore (eg: Isle of Arran Single Cask, Springbank 12 CS to name a couple). All my petty bitching aside, I am informed that the standard bottling (I think it's the Concertmaster one), will arrive sometime this fall. We'll keep an eye out and review it as it comes up.
Rogue brewery. The Rogue Oregon Single Malt 'whiskey' (not sure why the 'E' in whisky, that is a debate for another day), comes from the illustrious Rogue brewery. Makers of such odd named brews as Brutal IPA, Dead Guy Ale, Mogul Madness ale and few other comical names, I can assure you these are all serious beers. This spirit is built from 100% first growth Oregon Malt on their own 257 acre farm. 12% of the final product is hand-smoked, by a 40 year veteran of Rogue Brewery, with local Maple and Alder chips to give it a hint of wood smoke. 40% ABV, no mention of filtration or colour added, the clear bottle reveals rich copper highlights and an interesting haze when cooled. I'd like to think there's nothing added or removed, but I'm honestly not sure. The nose on this was fantastic, rich and fruity with notes of wood smoke, caramel, ripe apricots, hints of peaches, and coffee. In the mouth the fruity notes continue and bring caramel overtones, with notes of toasted oak, roasted grains, malt syrup and hints of red fruits. The finish is fairly short, but rewards the tongue. Notes of oak and caramel are peppered with hints of fruit, hot pepper and vanilla mixed throughout. It's on the expensive side at $89/bottle and a bit thin, being on the low end of the proof scale, but I think this is a very good single malt from the US with great potential. I also don't believe that this is whiskey either... you do actually have to age it slightly longer than a couple of months (again another debate for another day). Check your local LBCO for Sku #272302, and grab yourself one before they're gone, and while you're there you might want to grab yourself an Orange Honey Ale or Brutal IPA to go along with it.
Well that's about it for this update. I've got the working proofs of June's listings too and some more information from the Spirit of Toronto to write up. Also a couple more tasting note reviews are coming down the pipe and hopefully a special event coming up will net some nice notes. So for the time being, keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.