No theme today, just a few whiskeys that I've put aside for this first round of reviews.
Here's how I'm going to do this. Unless otherwise noted, these are all samples provided by the distiller/importer/bottler. I'll be sampling them from a Glencairn glass.
Maker's 46 Cask Strength, 54.45%
I've been drinking more Maker's lately; never really took to it much in earlier days, but I have found that I really do like it in an Old Fashioned. I liked the Maker's Cask Strength, as did a lot of folks, which I suppose led to the decision to release a cask strength version of the stave-soaked Maker's 46. Overproof bourbons have more punch, but not just in alcohol strength; there's more flavor, too. Most times that's good, and there aren't many 80 proof whiskeys I'm really nuts about. Let's see how it works here.
Lots of caramel, corn pudding, and sweet orange/candy in the nose, and plenty of heat, too. It's not crisping my nose hairs, but you know it's got some crack to it. The heat's there on the tongue, too, spreading tree-wise across the surface and waking up the flesh as it goes. The extra alcohol is doing weird things with the soaked-up stave content, though: it's emphasizing it, giving it the mike, amping it up. As the whiskey warms, the extra wood hammers at the roof of my mouth. The finish is hot, and a bit bitter, almost astringent. The wood's won, and it's not a great victory. This doesn't taste like the big wood in a nicely aged 18 year old bourbon; it's like an over-oaked 7 year old. Tain't right, tain't fitting.
I like this one much better as Maker's 46. This is unbalanced, and at $40 for 375 ml, overpriced.
I reviewed Collingwood about five years ago, when it first came out. Since then I've learned a lot about Canadian whisky, and I've honed my tasting skills, so I thought I'd give it another run.
The nose is brightly sweet, with strawberries, red raspberries, taffy, and — with some vigorous swirling — caramel and some maple. Interesting flip of the switch as it enters my mouth: there's definitely a caramel sticky richness here, but then flick I'm getting those berry and candy notes. It all dances around, then swirls together in the finish, where it finally gets a bit woody. The bright bits lift this up out of the ordinary, but there's so much berry, I'm almost suspicious.
Canadian that's clearly worth sipping. Not mired in sweet glop, not begging for ginger ale, and cheerfully bright. But am I going to reach for it? Well...if it's poured for me, sure. But if I have to reach past a whole bunch of other whiskeys I can think of? Not really.
Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock & Rye (Limited Release), 50%
Now that caught my eye right away: 100 proof, 8 year old Rock & Rye. Straight rye, honey and orange peel, "and a pinch of rock candy." Now...speaking as a Pennsylvanian, "Rock & Rye" means that glass-brick Jacquin's bottle, with the sugar-encrusted fruit slices inside and a plastic pouring spout inside the neck. North Philly Cough Syrup, and almost all of us have seen Uncle Jimmy working that spout with a knife, trying to get the fruit out and suck the last sweet drops of questionable booze from it. Well, one of the neat little things about the craft distilling and cocktail movements is that little niche bottlings like rock & rye are getting a serious look, and let me tell you: 100 proof and 8 years old is serious!
Let's give it a try. The nose seems to be all honeyed orange, until you realize that the bitterness isn't orange pith, it's rye oil. Keep in mind that Hochstadter's also released a "vatted" rye whiskey, with good stuff from all over (including, maybe...some rye from Jacquin's), and I suspect some of that wound up in here. Mmm...sweet, but not syrupy, and that 100 proof kick grabs your attention. It's all honey and orange and grain sweetness up front, pretty much tamed only by the alcohol, but the rye starts to have a say toward the back of the mouth, and by the time we're sliding into home, it's standing bitter rye and orange, like somehow someone mixed a cocktail in your mouth while you were taking a swallow.
Flavored whiskey: let's not mince any words. But exceptional flavors, and pretty damned good whiskey. I'm already thinking about how good this would be while shoveling out my drive (body-warm from the flask, warming my cold nose), or with a cube of ice and a pipe, or the next time I have a sore throat and Nyquil just sounds yucky. I'm going to be reaching for this solid, square bottle.