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Friday, February 26, 2016

Beer Friday #6

I wasn't sure what music I wanted to go with this week. But after I tasted the Boon Mariage Parfait Gueuze, a beer I hadn't tasted in years...nothing less would do. Enjoy Dimitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture.

I love that stuff.

Boon Mariage Parfait Geuze, 8.0%
I still remember my first Boon Mariage Parfait. It split my nose open like a well-used outhouse; raunchy farmhouse assault, swelling bacterial aromas, brutal. And yet...I kept going back for more, like with a truly great raw milk cheese. I never forgot that, even when Boon tamed down a bit.

Then I got this sample from the Rare Beer Club, and I wanted to see if it still had that power, if it still gave up that funk. The cork popped sharply, the beer fizzed mightily, the dark gold color and bright white head were beautiful. Nosing time.

Well, it doesn't smell like a shithouse. What I do smell are classic geuze markers: blood, old iron, horse blanket, deeply tart grapefruit, soursop, and finally, some malt in behind. There's a sweetness to it that makes me a bit suspect, but let's get it over the lips.

A blend of sour, bitter, oaky tannin, and dry brett. The fizz is great, but the main body is so blended, it's almost too well-blended. Don't get me wrong: this is good, very good, and I intend to finish the entire 750, falls short of the true greatness it used to possess. I've seen people ding Boon for not being "as sour as Cantillon." I don't think they get it. I'm not a lambic expert, but I've had far more than my share, and the truth is, "lambic" doesn't mean one thing, one type of beer. There are differences among them: piercingly sour, crisply astringent, raunchily funky, dryly woody with brett. This actually reaches across several categories and brings them together. To be fair, the finish is spectacular, the beer's best aspect, where the full range of complexity catches fire and lights up your mouth.

Welcome back, old friend. You're not what you were, but what you are is worthy, and loved, and a great way to fill a glass.

Verdict: Good

Innis & Gunn White Oak Wheat Beer, 6.4%
This is where I get confused, by the confusion over wheat beers. The front label of this one says "Wheat beer with bergamot, orange peel, and orange oil added." Which sounds more like a witbier, right? Then the back calls it a "German-style wheat beer," aged 46 days over oak and finished with the bergamot and orange. So what the hell is it? Style considerations aside, let's find out.

It sure doesn't smell German-style (or look it; no huge head): mostly it's the bergamot (think Earl Grey tea) and the oak — mostly vanilla — in the nose. So let's have a sip.

Very creamy (almost feels nitro), like many of the Innis & Gunn beers, and not a trace of the German weissbier character. The orange and bergamot and oak are all there, though, and they come together in a weirdly pleasant way. It's beguiling, truly. I like about 1 in 3 of these Innis & Gunns, and I never thought this would be one of them from the description, but even though it tastes kind of sweet, weird sweet, the oak and the bergamot balances it. I like this one, and it's bewitchingly different.

"Different" is good, these long as it isn't disgusting.

Verdict: Good

Søle Clink, 4.9%
(I'm just going to type Sole, without the fancy ø every time. Had this on draft at a place that shall remain nameless.)
Is the pale ale coming back? Mebbe? Please? A new "gypsy" brewery in our area, Sole Artisan Ales created Clink as their "anytime" beer, a heavily dry-hopped pale ale without a ton of bitterness (though -- spoiler -- it does show up in the finish). I haven't seen it a lot of places, despite having some connection to the people who make it (as in, I've met them and they stay in touch), so when I saw it today I grabbed one.

Clean and clear, light yellow, white head. Good aroma -- pine and citrus, the American classics -- and the hop and malt are beautifully balanced in the beer. There's a bit of minerality that I'm not sure is the beer (might be the lines), and then the hops really kick in at the finish. A solid beer, not a great beer, but solid.

This, or another decent solid beer? Love the one you're with, baby.

Verdict: Okay

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #6

Yes, I'm aware I didn't do any tastings last week. Makes me wonder if anyone noticed. I didn't until Thursday. But I've got some whiskeys I want to write about, so we're going to keep this up, at least for a while longer.

Brenne Estate Cask French Single Malt Whisky, 40%
Allison Patel
I have two samples: the Brenne Estate Cask, and the Brenne Ten. I first tried Brenne several years ago at St. Andrews in Manhattan, at a table with a bunch of other whisky writers and bloggers, and Brenne founder Allison Patel. The whiskey is made from malt grown and distilled in Cognac, aged in new Limousin oak barrels, and finished in Cognac barrels. Each bottling is a single cask bottling, no blending. Neat idea. Nice packaging.

I wasn't impressed; I found it very sweet, almost gaggy sweet, but Allison was clearly very excited to be there and I didn't want to be the poop at the table. So I had a beer and kept my opinion to myself. I haven't had Brenne since, and when I was offered a sample of the two whiskeys, I thought it was time to do it properly.

The aroma is rich: fully ripe banana and root beer, but a really, really good root beer made with cane sugar, with a light but trenchant backing of soberly dry oak. Tasting it reminds me of that day at St. Andrews. Sweet tastes in a fairly heavy-bodied whiskey, with banana taffy and King syrup. There's malt there in the middle, but the banana engulfs it.. The finish is oddly hot for 40%, but the banana finally goes away, thank God.

I was right three years ago. This is really, really sweet. Too damned sweet.

Verdict: Flawed

Brenne Ten, 48%
The Brenne website says about the Estate Cask bottling: "NO AGE STATEMENT -- Because Brenne Estate Cask is bottled individually by barrel, the aging for each cask differs as it depends on how long the Cognac was in the barrel before. On average, the whisky ages for a total of about 7 years." This, on the other hand, goes to 10. And this is what I came for. These two little sample bottles have been sitting on my desk for over a month (sorry...), and now's the time. Pour the Ten.

Still banana, but nowhere near as sticky ripe, and there are other fruits -- cantaloupe, stewed apple -- and some oak. Nosed side-by-side, the difference is striking; the Estate Cask is sticky-sweet, young, almost silly, and the Ten is getting there, building a wooden framework. Wow, yeah, quite a bit more wood there, some quite pleasant floral notes, doughy malt, and the banana's much more in check on the palate. Quite hot, still, but the finish isn't burning, in fact there's a good roll of malt there with the oak.

Age helps, what a shocker! It's getting there, but I can think of better whiskies for $100.

Verdict: Okay

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 Year Old (Barrel 4090), 45%
This one's been sitting on my desk for a while too. I wanted to give it the attention it deserved. Given that it's selling on the shelf for anywhere between $250 and $350, I figure I owe it to you to give you my read on whether it's worth it.

Here's the thing: if you've read my writing, my reviews, and heard what I've said on a number of occasions, you know that this is a bit past my "best-by" date. I'm really a fan of younger bourbons, 12 years and under, and while I love Heaven Hill's whiskeys, generally it's the ones between 6 and 12 years old. That said, I know what you woody guys are looking for, so let's see if this baby's got it.

Oh, it's woody all right. The nose is oaky, like walking into a wall made of barrel. There's hair oil, cinnamon, maple, caramel, graham cracker, and, er, oak. The sweetness of the maple and graham makes me hopeful, so let's take a sip. That's pretty tasty, actually, with the sweet stuff all curling around: maple candy, caramel candy, cinnamon and dried mint, without the burning hot oak I was concerned about. The oak's there, but it provides structure, and balance, not palate death. The finish is civilized and pulls everything together. Nicely done.

But God above: $300? I can get two and a half cases of Heaven Hill Bonded 6 Year Old for that, and me, I'll probably like it more. This is rare, I get it. So if you really like older bourbon, you might pay that. I won't.

Verdict: Good...but pricey

Friday, February 12, 2016

Beer Friday #5

Getting ready to leave for the weekend, and this was always one of my favorite road songs.

So let's have some beers, woowoo!

Victory Anniversary 20 Experimental IPA, 5.5%
A 5.5% "refreshing session ale"? No, guys, it damned well isn't. I really thought Victory of all people got this; they have sub-4.5% beers on tap at the brewery all the time. This is the kind of bullshit I expect from breweries that don't give a shit about anything but sales, not a brewery that has always cared more about the beer, and about truth. I'm concerned about this, and yeah, it's pissing me off. We can do better. If "session" doesn't really mean anything to you, stop using it. If "session" just means "we hope you drink a lot of this here beer," stop using it. If it means "great-tasting beer with significantly lower ABV than average," by all means, use it. I have no trademark, no enforcement authority, just my small bully pulpit. I intend to use it.
REFRESHING SESSION ALE...5.5% ABV -- What kind of bullshit is that?
But I'm a professional, so let's give it a fair taste. Nose is pretty shy; all I'm getting is some faint sweet lemon, despite a very vigorous pour and plenty of fluffy white head. It's a gorgeous beer, but the aroma's a bit like a Wet-nap from a barbecue joint. Well, damn. The taste isn't much more electrifying. There's good bitterness at the end with some of that lemon lift, and a decent malt float, but otherwise, this is pretty tame stuff. What the hell?

I really expected a lot more for a 20th anniversary beer from Victory, after the awesome 10th Anniversary Alt, and even the recent Vital IPA, which I found damned tasty. This one just isn't doing much for me, and that's the beer talking, not the label with its "Session/5.5%" crap. Middle of the road, and the least exciting Victory beer I've had in quite a while. I'm hoping for more from the (official?) XX Anniversary Imperial Pilsner.

Verdict: Okay

Coronado Imperial Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, 8.0%
Expectations are high here: I like Coronado beers, and I love coffee beers, so I couldn't wait to get this in the glass. This is a bumped up version of Coronado's Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, celebrating the landmark San Diego/Coronado "Blue Bridge," which I have to admit has figured prominently in a series of nightmares I've had in which I'm driving across it...and it suddenly ends, leaving me flying through the air like Henry Gibson the Illinois Nazi. I'll try to muscle past that.

Pours very dark indeed, no surprise. Huge, no-nonsense coffee nose: mocha, bright acidity, some cocoa and unripe apricot. Very promising indeed. Whoa. I was going to start typing in flavors, had even started, when the totality hit me. That's one beautiful beer in toto, as the entirety, as a well-sculpted integral sensation: seamless. I appreciate that kind of thing a lot more since learning about whiskey. Nothing sticks out, but it's not because it's not big; it's a whopper. But everything is in place, the balloon expands evenly. I could drink this entire 22 oz. beer way WAY too quickly and easily. The Cafe Moto coffee and malts meld beautifully. The only nitpicky little flaw I find, and I hesitate to even call it a flaw, is that there's a touch of stickiness at the end. But to point it out is to quibble. That's a damned good beer.

Verdict: Good

Now...I promised to try to get a draft in, but I'm going to ask you to wait for it. I'm going to a brewpub (Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, PA) tonight, with my wife, and I'll take notes, and post it up here as an update tomorrow.

Elton's ESB, 7.0%

Nitro pour at Elk Creek Café and Ale Works. 20 oz. pour, $5: good value! Great buffed leather color, moussed foam, and a nose full of juicy Brit malt and earthy, herbal British hops. So smooth and full, slippery and supple with malt, and fully hopped with those tricksy Brit cones: so unfamiliar to American drinkers in these days of super-citrus and power-pine that many think a beer like this is underhopped. Not so, and this is firmly bitter, but balanced. Drank several of these Friday night, had some more last night, and it's a good brunch beer today.

Verdict: Good

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Lone Political Post, Having Nothing To Do With Beer Or Whiskey

He's got my vote.

We now return to beer and whiskey.

Yes, I know it's a parody account. I'm just having some fun.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #5: Part 2

Completely different whiskey for the second one of the day:

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye, 47% 
I just got this yesterday, with a note tagging it as Jack Daniel's "first fully mature rye whiskey." It is a single barrel bottling (bottled 12/10/15 from barrel 15-7487) at 47%, and made from a mashbill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley.

How old is it? They aren't saying. Now...the unaged JD Rye first went out for sampling in October of 2012, so, no way this is less than 4 years old. Let's have a sniff and sip.

Sweet vanilla, a bit of blackstrap molasses, fruitcake, and dry mint, all wrapped up in a basket of hot oak, Damn, it's like JD Single Barrel without the corn! Which makes it a head-turner on the tongue: you get the vanilla, and the sweet, and the little bit of woody/maple flavor, and you expect that corn, but instead you get grassy/minty rye, with a mouth-coating sweet creaminess that goes into the finish and catches with a light oak fire over the back of the throat.

Sweet rye. Weird idea, and I don't want to like it because rye's supposed to be spicy and savory, but it's growing on me. Tennessee rye is a real thing, I guess. Price is about the same as the regular Single Barrel Jack at around $50. You're going to want to try this and make up your own mind, but I really want to try this with some good ginger ale. That's gonna rock.

Verdict: Good

Whiskey Wednesday #5: Part 1

I'm going to split things today; not to boost my post count, but because I've got two new whiskeys that deserve my full attention, and the one's got a lot more story to it. That comes first.

Glenmorangie Milsean, 46%
There's a group near me that calls themselves Whisky Blasphemy. They're a good bunch of folks who don't take whisky too seriously; which is to say, they understand that it's to be enjoyed...anyway you want. So if that means Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old in Manhattans, or a Macallan Rare Cask Old Fashioned, well, that's what you do! With that kind of attitude, it's not very surprising that they have quickly become a large and surprisingly influential group. So much so that they managed to convince Glenmorangie let them host one of three simultaneous American telepresence events (along with ones in Chicago and San Francisco; yay, Philly for stealing that from New York!) for the prelaunch of the new Private Edition bottling, Milsean, Gaelic for "Sweet Things," we were told.

The guys at Whisky Blasphemy were good enough to extend an invitation to me to join them (thanks, Jun; thanks, Judd!), so I did, about three weeks ago. It was at Holt's Cigars in far Northeast Philadelphia, where Whisky Blasphemy has their regular Thursday night meet-ups. I got there to find that the bar had been transformed with red-and-white decorations and candy everywhere. Glenmorangie's whisky creator Dr. Bill Lumsden's stated goal with Milsean had been to create the aromas of an old-time candy store, with the red-and-white striped sacks the candies came in. Cute.

We all got stuck into some drams (Glenmorangie Original for me, never turn it down), had a cigar, and talked. Glenmorangie brand ambassador David Blackmore was there, always a fun guy to chat with (and a big fan of Tasting Whiskey, I'm happy to say; 'the one whisky book I actually use,' he told me). So we ate salmon and talked whisky, and had a great time.

The simulcast came about 45 minutes after I got there. It was Dr. Bill and his likely successor (not for a while yet!), Brendan McCarron, the "head of maturing whisky stocks," in the tasting lab at Glenmorangie. Here's what I got in my notes.

The Private Editions are experiments in methods and flavors in small production runs. And since they all start with the same light, Glenmo spirit, we were poured a sample of Original, the 10 year old, the first Glenmorangie Dr. Bill ever tasted, back in 1984. He tasted with us, and I grabbed some of it: 'Meadow freshness, rose, geranium. Vanilla reminds me of carnations. Creamy texture, apple, pear, vanilla, and honey. The finish: almond, coconut.' That's what he has to start with. "It is a fast-maturing spirit," he cautioned, so they "have to be careful with the finishes; it will pick up flavors quickly."

When he designed Milsean, he had that old-style candy shop profile in mind, and of course, he couldn't just add those flavors. Where to find them? Had to be from the cask, so he consulted with the wood wizard, Dr. Jim Swan, who's done such fantastic work at Kavalan, among others. What they came up with is nothing less than revolutionary. They took freshly dumped wine casks, wet casks and re-toasted the oak (radiant heat; open flame would have burnt the sugars) without any "de-charring" of the wood, as the careful scraping of the inner layer is called. Heat on the fresh, wet wine caramelized the sugars in the wine, giving a whole new range of flavors and aromas to the finish. Brilliant idea, really.

The wine? Nothing famous, plain Douro Valley Portuguese table wine, and that was selected because the cooperage that agreed to do the work on the casks was nearby. They originally planned to have the whisky in the casks for 5 years, but after a year and a half, "it was picking up flavors fast." Brendan made the decision to dump the 269 barriques after 2 and a half years, after which they were 'married' in a vat for six months.

Then we tasted it...which I'm not going to write about, because I'd been smoking and almost everyone in the room had a cigar of some type going. I just drank the whisky, and enjoyed it...and requested a small sample bottle, which I'm now going to try in my quiet, clean tasting area. Ah...I had thought that this was a 'shy' whisky without much aroma, and now I see that's the cigar talking. This is not shy, it's almost chatty! And yes, there's candy there: nougat, circus peanuts, some lemon drop, butter mints, and orange slices, pretty mouthwatering altogether. Taste, though, and it becomes clear that this is for adults. The candy flavors are all there, but there's also a firm malt base and some no-nonsense alcohol heat, with black pepper and bright floral notes. The longer it's in the mouth, the more the wood emerges until it's a pretty full grip on the finish. The finish is surprisingly firm, actually, after all this candy stuff. Some water opens things up: the heat's gone, and the candies come through more clearly, and it's more oily.

Now...yes, it's another No Age Statement (NAS) whisky, and I gather I'm supposed to 'tut tut' disapprovingly and note how this is just another way the whisky companies are cheating us out of value.'s approximately 12 to 13 years old, and they're getting just shy of $100 for it. Tut tut. Here's my "tut tut." Only one person knows if this whisky is "worth" its price, and that's you. After a certain point, the label can only tell you so much, you have to open it up and taste it and make up your own mind. I think this is pretty good, and what's more, it's pretty interesting. And I'd add something Dr. Bill said, which is a variation of something I've been saying for a while (namely, that NAS whiskies have been around forever, and the only ones people complain about are the ones that aren't that good): "It's not anything new to us. We released (Ardbeg) Uigeadail back in the early 2000s, and no one ever asks about the age because it's so good. This is a trend that's here to stay." Tut tutting complete.

Verdict: Good

Come back later for another new whiskey!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Beer Friday #4

Okay, back to the music. I sang Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine a few years ago with the chamber group at St. Andrew's in Newtown, Penn., and lately it's been running through my head. I asked my choir director for a recording, and he pointed me to the Cambridge Singers. Quite peaceful, but at the same time energizing. One of my favorite bass parts, so well-matched to the words.

Relaxing, right? On to the beer!

Hijinx Pitch Penny ESB, 4.7%
My draft for the week, sampled yesterday afternoon at Isaac Newton's in Newtown. I've been to HiJinx and think it's one of the better examples of the recent new crop of breweries in eastern Pennsylvania...but I rarely see their beers. When I spotted this one — on the heels of a discussion with someone about how few ESBs there were available lately — it made what was looking like a tough decision (Isaac's usually sports a pretty great tap list) into a slam dunk.

Nice color; perfect copper penny look of an ESB with a coffe crema head. Not a ton of aroma; what's there is mostly malt. Mmm, and so it is on the palate. Not as fully malt-tilted as Fullers, and that's maybe a style issue (not as big a one as the jackass next to me, who smells like he's a Lebanon bologna that was smoked over Marlboros. Going outside is not enough, fella, try standing upwind of yourself next time!)

Okay, back to the beer. ABV is about dead-on, that's an up-check, the color nails it, another up-check, and if it's a bit too bitter,'s America. I'll tell ya...throw a different yeast in here, give her a touch more malt, maybe tweak the hops a bit, and you'd have a kick-ass altbier. Something to think about. In the meantime, I'd go back for more, and I think it's the best HiJinx beer I've had. Not enough ESBs, as we said to each other in that discussion I mentioned.

Verdict: Good

Starr Hill Reviver Red IPA, 6.2%
I remember when Starr Hill was a little storefront juke joint in Charlottesville, running an old, old JV NorthWest system, with Mark Thompson's energetic good-beer vibes flashing wildly around the place. They had a weirdly grand plan for blending good beer and indie music, and I know I thought, yeah, whatever, good luck with that.

Well, the joke's on me. Starr Hill's been pretty successful with that plan (didn't hurt that Mark won a damned sack-full of GABF medals over the years; good beer deserves success), and the label of Reviver — an octave of piano keys — is a reminder. Good for them! They still put out pretty damned good beer, though, as was the case before, it tends to get overlooked by the geekerie. Let's see if they're right or wrong.

Very aromatic, with pine and juicy citrus singing over it, but not like the Fauré, more like a gospel choir getting real busy...but when I take that first sip...almost all that lively is gone, smacked down in a double shot of bitterness and overdone specialty malt. The happy hops try to break through, like a couple rays of sunlight in the dark blood-red gloom, It's a big enough beer, but it's big like a mean sonofabitch in black overalls. I may not have been as hard on this if the hops hadn't smelled so damned good, and I wanted it to be that way, I wanted that piano to ring out "The Old Landmark" and get Jake to see the light. I'm just not feeling it. If they could have kept this lively and still big, I think I'd have loved it. But I'm left wanting it to be something it's not.

Verdict: Flawed

Deschutes Hop Henge IPA, 8.9%
Hop Henge is a new set of hops every year. Hop research is getting so advanced that this year, two of the three hops in Hop Henge don't even have names yet. That's the kind of shit you can do when you're Deschutes and you're so close to the green gold of hop country. The third hop is Mandarina Bavaria, which is supposed to "lend hits of orange, mandarin, and tangerine." Somebody wake the druids, it's time to try this.

Smells like the non-alcoholic fruit punches my grandmother used to make. She was a genius at combining fresh fruit, canned and frozen juices, and a little bit of soda to make some really delicious drinks. Fresh, fruity, and no pine there a-tall. Nice.

Like drinking sunlight, boys and girls. Honestly, I took a glass, and I had this memory of walking through the woods behind my aunt's house 45 years, sunlight streaming through the trees. Light bright stuff this is, and the fruits are subtle in the mouth, the bitterness is trenchant but balanced (at 90 frickin' IBUs, it's balanced), and the finish does not put the pliers to my tongue, instead there's a lingering sticky resin pull and a nice undertow of those fruits. Sure doesn't drink like 8.9%, either, more like 5.9%. This is dangerously, drinkably delicious.

Look, you get it. I could go on, but to tell the's about 5:15, I'm done for the day, and I'm gonna go drink the rest of this. Cheers.

Verdict: Good

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Scientists Invent Helium Beer! Munchkins Rejoice!

Every couple of years, it seems, something gets loose on the Internet about Helium beer; you know, beer that's been gassed up with helium instead of carbon dioxide or nitrogen, and so it makes you talk all squeaky, ho-ho-ho, that's a gas! And then the dreary science nerds come out and say, no, that's impossible, because helium isn't soluble in beer, stupids.

The FUN science nerds at Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society, took that as a challenge. After all, as one of them says in the following video, "We've heard nothing is insoluble; everything has some degree of solubility." They then prove the point by 'heliumating' a beer (a stout, looks like), and describing the results (less fizzy, but also less acidic due to helium's inert nature). Sadly, though, drinking it doesn't make you sound like a member of the Lollipop Guild.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #4

Feeling better, but pressed for time, so no music this time. Just two recent Canadians.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch, 45%
A couple things to note right away. First, 45%. This steps up for Canadian, which was mired in an 80 proof/40% swamp for years. That's how you got Canadian, son, and if you wanted something stronger, you had to go searching. The higher proof proves that the Canadians are taking cocktails — not highballs, cocktails — seriously. Second, this whisky takes the curious 9.09% law (which says that one part in eleven (9.09%) of Canadian whisky can be...other) and uses it to a flavor advantage, rather than as a tax advantage, or a flavor stretcher, by adding 8% bourbon and 1% oloroso sherry to aged, 100% rye whisky.

To clarify, Alberta Distillers are old hands at making whisky from 100% rye grain, it's their thing (they use enzymes for conversion, not malt). The Canadian rye in this is about half "flavoring whisky" — distilled to relatively low ABV in a pot still, aged about 6 years in new barrels — and about half of it is "blending whisky" — distilled to relatively high ABV in a column still and aged 12 years in used barrels. Davin de Kergommeaux explains it in more detail in this Whisky Advocate blog post. But the key is that this is 91% Canadian whisky, 8% bourbon (guess where it comes from...Alberta Distillers is owned by Beam Suntory), and only 1% sherry. Is that weird? A little? Is it interesting? Yes. But does it work? Let's see.

The nose has wads of dried fruits — apricots, raisins, "craisins" — and a paneled woodiness of cedar and oak; very Canadian, that, as is the underlying sweetness. The whole thing smells like an enchanted forest. The 45% strides strongly into the mouth, carrying armloads of wood, baskets of fruit, and big trenchers of warm, sweet cereal, wreathed happily with the spiciness of all that rye. That's the dominant feature of the finish, too, that spiciness.

I can tell you this: pleasant as it is to sip this stuff (which it is, despite what I'll be telling you next month...wait for it!), it's also the basis for a Manhattan variant that has been my go-to for the past few months. This has been the darling of Canadian mixologists since it came out (it's labeled "Dark Horse" in Canada, and whether that's the only difference or not depends on who you ask, but the bottle of Dark Horse I have sure smells and tastes a LOT like this one).

Seriously Canadian, but in a way that takes advantage of everything the Canadian whisky category offers...including the very reasonable price. Get a bottle and start playing around with it and some cocktail ingredients. You'll find it's quite fun.

Verdict: Good

Canadian Club Chairman's Select 100% Rye, 40%
I've been drinking a lot more Canadian Club recently. Mainly because I've been going to a lot more dive bars, and cash bars at events. When you're at places like that, the beer selection often sucks, and the whiskey selection ain't much better. But you can almost always count on a bottle of CC, and a supply of club soda, and that's my dive bar go-to.

But this is a big change for CC, going 100% rye. Is it worth it? Let's find out. Nose is sweet, spicy, minty, with a hint of cedar/pencil in the background. Smells like a good young craft-distilled rye: sweet, spicy, simple, not overwhelmed by wood. Hmmm...not goopy sweet at all. Balance of rye and sweet grain, some of that rye oiliness, but a nice light finish that hangs on and flavors things. I'd take that in my club soda, and it's nice...but I think I'd rather have the Crown Royal Northern Harvest.

Verdict: Okay