Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #1

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.

Verdict: Flawed. 

Collingwood, 40%
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.

Verdict: Okay.

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.

Verdict: Good.


Sam Komlenic said...

In order:

Maker's 46: I've read similar reviews elsewhere, so thanks for the corroboration.

Collingwood: One number may hold the answer, and you know what it is 'cause it creeps the hell out of me...9.09.

Hochstadter's: You sampled an obsolete bottling, as the new version is proofed at 84. I find the 100 proofer much too sweet for my taste, even after I diluted it with about 1/4 Pikesville, though the flavors within are great.

Carry on!

Lew Bryson said...

"New" version? They just sent this to me in December! You really think that's too sweet? I like R&R sweet!

I don't think the Collingwood is anything but whisky...but I'm not sure.

Lew Bryson said...

Well, I do see that their website shows 84 proof. And says 84 proof isn't pussyfooting around. What the hell does that make 100 proof?!

Sam Komlenic said...

Oh, and that very sketchy unconfirmed claim to Jacquin's-distilled rye whiskey? I call total bullshit until someone comes up with proof.

Lew Bryson said...

Where else are you getting 8 year old rye in Pennsylvania? That's what I want to know. Besides...I love the idea of Jacquin's actually making some rye and no one knowing about it. Tickles me. It's like Santa, Sam: I wanna believe!

Sam Komlenic said...

The quote I've read from them seems extremely cagey, and therefore I remain skeptical (like this would be the first time a liquor producer has lied to their consumers...ha!) If they're not afraid of full disclosure, then let's have it!

Did they have stills registered for use 8 or more years ago? Should be fairly easy to find out, I'd think.

tanstaafl2 said...

I have a bottle of the original 98 proof 6yo R&R as well as the newer 84 proof NAS R&R. Not sure why they would send you what sounds like an entirely new bottle either but that is not what is on the shelf currently. The rye in the original I seem to recall was supposed to be a blend of ryes including MGP and the same Alberta source as the other 100% rye mashbills out there at various times, in particular the rye from that musical ground hog based on an post in 2013 from the company VP of marketing. I don't recall a PA based rye being mentioned as being used in that one.

As for PA made rye another post in 2015 on who said they were in charge of marketing for the company (perhaps there was a change in the staff?) reported that for the recently released Hochstadter Vatted Rye from the same company that there was some young 4yo rye in it from Jacquin (the owners of the two companies are related, father and son I believe). Whether it also applies to the R&R I can't say. Here is that recent post:

Hello all - First time posting here. I saw this thread and wanted to address your questions. In full disclosure, I handle marketing for The Cooper Spirits Company.

Our Hochstadter's Vatted Rye does include rye made in Pennsylvania. We have made a select number of small quantities of rye ferments and distillates at Charles Jacquin's et Cie, in the heart of Kensington, Philadelphia since 2010. Can’t wait to hear what you all think of Hochstadter’s Vatted Rye once you’ve have a chance to try it. It's hitting store shelves right now.

Unknown said...

They have a limited release 100 proof out at the moment though I have not been able to find this in stores.

Lew Bryson said...

This is a review of the 100 proof R&R. The Vatted is out, and excellent. May be gone already. said...

I'd not had the 6 year or vatted S&L mentioned above but the 84 proof has been available here in CO for a few years. The 100 proof just came around, so it's a new release and probably why you just received it. The 84 proof has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a while now. It is sweet, but balanced, and tends to go over great with groups, including women and folks who don't normally go to whiskey. I have the 100 proof in my hand now and look forward to giving it a go. I've never seen info regarding where the whiskey itself is coming from, but in a case like this I'm not even sure it matters? It is labeled as "Produced and Bottled", not "distilled". On something like this, I'd say enjoyment is the only requirement and digging too deep defeats that purpose. Not everything needs to be traced to its roots to be enjoyed. Relax, drink. I wonder how "limited" the 8 year actually is?