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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


Steven said...

I noticed -- just not gonna razz you this early in your return, don't want you runnin' away again. ;-)

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks. I just need to sit down and write.

tanstaafl2 said...

I don't doubt it is on some shelves for $250-300 and more power to those who want to spend that for it. But it won't be me. I have had ample opportunity to try it and it just is not my particular cup of bourbon, at least not at that price. In fact I have seen this reincarnation of EC18 locally for the approximate "MSRP" of $130 or so and even that is too much. I know that is the new reality we are facing but it is not my reality!

Bill said...

So the good news is, your review has convinced me to pick up a bottle of Heaven Hill Bonded 6 Yr Old -- thanks!

Lew Bryson said...

Well, then my work here is done, Bill!

Steven said...

Now convince me to buy some new beer... it is Friday, after all. ;-)

Lew Bryson said...

Working on that now, Steven, and it's an old classic with a young upstart. Soon.

Steven said...

I'm in the mood for a good, old classic today!

Bill said...

Hmmm... the Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond no longer seems to exist? At least not in Illinois -- if you can still get it, maybe the PLCB isn't a bad thing after all? (Kidding! Please don't ban me!) HH has an Evan Williams bond version that I can find, will try that.