Review: Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

four+Roses+Small+Batch+2.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Blend of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK Recipes
Distiller Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

Four Roses distillery uses 5 proprietary yeast strains, and two mashbills (recipes), to produce 10 different bourbons which it produces and ages separately and then blends into their bourbons. This whiskey, Small Batch, is created from 4 of these recipes. These are the OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK. The first two -“OB” recipes – utilize a high-rye mashbill: 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. The second two – “OE” recipes – utilize a lower-rye mashbill: 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley.

The flavour impact of yeast – a fundamental ingredient for any sort of alcohol production isdemonstrated clearly in the different bourbon offerings by Four Roses. As for the yeasts, the two used in Small Batch are the Four Roses “O” (OBSO,OESO) and “K” yeasts (OBSK,OESK). The “O” yeast, according to Four Roses, contributes “delicate fruitiness” to the whiskey, while the “K” yeast contributes “slight spice” to the whiskey.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Some very nice honey plays into this one, and it is one of the first things I notice. Dried corn also seems to be quite present at the front of the nose, and there’s a slight background creaminess as well. Caramel, rich vanilla, and fruit – cherries, pears, – with a slight rose-y floral edge too! As for spice, there’s some fennel and black pepper. Some of the earthiness comes out in both the oak and the corn – as you can read, this is nicely complex and all the elements play very well together, and there’s loads of wonderful subtlety. Very enjoyable.

Taste: Sweet, with some dried corn coming through front and center along with some light fruitiness -cherry particularly, and a bit of grapefruit – and a tinge of a yeasty flavour as well. Some nice, lightly earthy oak toward the end as well. There’s some nice spice too – some cinnamon, sweet star anise, and some other light baking spices. There’s also a bit of an almost vegetal note to this – or perhaps herbal – mint, I suppose, but with a qutie vegetal characteristic beyond the lighter, menthol note. The grains are brilliant, too – you can taste the corn, and the candied nature of the rye is there very nicely. And a bit of a background cola note too. The movement and balance work well – sometimes the grassiness of the rye is a bit out of place, but it is minimal.

Finish: Light oak, dried corn, apple, cherry juice, caramel, cinnamon, …with the lightest bitter tinge which is ever-so-slightly detracting. The finish is quite full in terms of feel, and slowly fades and unpacks – and it is still fairly sweet. The oak also has a freshly charred and smoky quality which I very much enjoy. Also, overall, quite rich.

I find this whiskey very easy to drink, and it slips down without much of an issue. It’s light, fresh, fruity, with some light spice too. The oak, the soft fruit, and the floral nature of this bourbon – very very nice, and most definitely recommended. It also tends to get better the more you drink it....

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $40.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

The nose has coconut, dried fruit, potpourri, and slightly smoky and oaky. The palate is slightly spicy, with a nice dried fruit character and a rich corn core. The finish is full of baking spice, fruit, tobacco, and oak which eventually dominates. It’s a rather short review, but I really wanted to have another go at this to see if I still liked it as much as last time – and I do.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $50 CAD - even better in the USA where you can find this for around $30 USD.


Review: Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Willet Pot still 1.jpg
ABV
47%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller N/A (Produced By Willett)

This whiskey was the flagship Willett brand before the distillery started to distill in 2012, and, thus, it was based on sourced product. Now, it may be their own product - but they could well be still sourcing the whisky so I left the Distiller as “N/A”.

The bottle for this product is extremely unique - it is in the shape of a pot still, and it certainly stands out. The picture above is of a mini bottle, which are also in the pot still shape!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 16G09

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is very fruity and unusual for a bourbon – plums, red mulberries, white gooseberry, dried pineapple – but we also have oak and a bit of dry, sweet oak and maple. There are some nice floral touches and a bit of vegetal rye – a hit with me, always. The palate continues with the fruit notes but it has a really nice touch of earthiness and fruity rye, and some caramel – but it’s a lighter sugar caramel rather than a really rich one. Quite herbal - the finish has apple, sweet corn, light herbal notes, and a rich woodiness. Quite a nice bourbon!

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at around the $40 USD mark, at least against the Canadian market. Much higher than that, it falls more into the average value category.


Review: Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Photo courtesy of Hochstadter’s Whiskey.

Photo courtesy of Hochstadter’s Whiskey.

ABV
50%
Aging
4-15 Yrs; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Various
Distiller Various

Now here is something rather interesting! This is a mixture of 4-15 year old straight rye whiskies from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and Alberta. It’s quite rare to see mixtures of vatted straight ryes from different distilleries - this is the only one that comes to mind. Moreover, this is another Canadian-American blend which is rare, but present in some premium examples like Little Book. I love the Hochstadter’s 16 year old, and the Lock,Stock and Barrel whiskies all from Cooper Spirits - so I have high expectations here.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A gorgeous nose, with a lot of depth. Oak, caramel, a farmy grain character, dried fruit, a light medicinal characteristic, orange, baking spice, and dark potting soil. Amazing! It really blends together well the traditional styles of American and Canadian rye. The palate is slightly sweet, but rich and juicy with loads of spices, oak, citrus, and dried fruit. There is a really nice tannic structures on the palate, and a slight touch of acidity – making this very drinkable. The finish has some pomegranate, oak, clove, and cherry. Oak dominates at the end, with rich woody and vanilla notes.

The empty glass is glorious. Loads of spices, dried fruit, but it’s still slightly yeasty and farmy in a good way.

This is terrific! If I lived in a place where I could buy this, it would be my everyday rye.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. It’s not often that you can find something this good for prices like this.


Review: Bowmore 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bowmore 12.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
12 years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bowmore (Bowmore, Scotland)

Bowmore is on the island of Islay, renown for its quality and often smoky and peaty malts. It is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been around since 1779. They also contain a malting floor which they use – one of only a handful to do so. It's a nice bottling because it is one of the cheaper good Islays.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Smoke! There’s a nice edge of vanilla and apples, with even a bit of orange peel and a slight floral nature. The smoke has much the character of ash, and the peaty note is a slight bit medicinal as well. The smoke is a bit dry on the nose, and at times seems to have either too much or too little dominance, being not perfectly integrated. There’s a slight spicy edge too of red chillies and black pepper. There’s even a bit of dried apricot in the mix, too.

Taste: Comes in with a moderate citrus and light vanilla pudding and caramel background before giving way to smoke and some black pepper. There’s a bit of smoked meat in the smoke, as well. I hope for just a bit more body to balance out the smoke in this one, and perhaps just a touch more sugar to balance out the salty tinge.

Finish: Smoke, mixed with a light fruity character, including even some pomegranates, and some light vanilla and caramel. At this point, the smoke seems to separate a bit too much from the rest for my liking. I get some artichokes and some of the medicinal and iodine-like character of the Islay peat. I find more apples and slightly more sweetness comes through as the finish starts to break down and develop. I find the finish improves as it changes in the mouth.

Quite a nice dram, though in this tasting less impressive than I remember. I wish for a bit more of a full-bodied nature in the body surrounding the smoke, and a touch more sweetness. However, still a nice introduction to the smoky Islay malts.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light, grassy aromas – dried fruit – and lightly medicinal peat. Rich tobacco drifts through – very nice. The palate is lightly smoky, but full of lots of fruit – raisins, currants – and red pepper jelly. The finish is lightly smoky, but with a nice nuttiness (hazelnut skins) and dried chickpeas. This is a classic Islay whisky – probably the best peater you can get cheaper than a Laphroaig, if Laphroaig is your thing or perhaps Caol Ila 12. Too bad this doesn’t sit at 43% or 46% – this is more watery than I would like.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


Review: Benriach 12 Year Old Sherry Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benriach+12+Sherry+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Sherry; 12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benriach (Moray, Scotland)

Here, a heavily sherried single malt. I quite like Benriach, a speysider with a nice line of peated whisky (see my review for Curiositas here).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2012/06/18 10:46 LF30548

  • Bottling Date: 2012

This definitely has a “sherry matured” as opposed to “sherry finished” (or “flavoured”?) – there is a certain richness that the sherry finishes don’t capture. Brilliant dried fruit, dates, cinnamon, clove, , red pepper jelly, and a light sherry roughness. There is some nice sweetness and jamminess on the nose too, I assume from the PX. The palate is rich, lightly sweet, and dry – with a spicy, oaky finish. Slight tingly spice on the finish. A really nice finish - full, rich, and lightly dry – with raisins, more spice, tannic oak, and apple seeds.

A nice, sherry forward single malt.

Recommended.

Value: Average. It’s not pricy for a single malt, and it is nice in the category. But nothing special on the value scale.


Review: Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenmorangie+18+2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
18 years; Bourbon and Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky spends 15 years in ex-bourbon casks before about 30% of the liquid is finished for the final 3 years in Oloroso Sherry Barrels, while the remaining 70% remains in the bourbon barrels.

It is named “Extremely Rare”….a bit of a stretch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L69970 28/02/2018 18001517 10:53

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nice rich, oaky nose! Lots of orchard fruit, coconut, browned butter, nutmeg, blackberry tea, and a light ethereal nature to it. Very much softened from the 10 year old, but richer and more subtle. Rich dried tropical fruits, mixed toasted nuts, a light grassiness, and, as it sits, more dried fruit and floral notes – orange blossom water in particular.

The palate has a rich mouthfeel, with lots of dried fruit and spices coming to the forefront. Lots of orange still, and a flash of tropical fruit – but a hit of spice and maple come at the end. The finish dries out, and finishes with lots of citrus peel and a bit of white pepper. The barley emerges, after time, on the finish.

Highly Recommended. A very nice, light-medium bodied whisky. Quite complex, and evolves with time – nice stuff!

Value: Low. This is on the higher end of Scotch prices, and you can do better to get something of comparable complexity and excellence (like the 10 year old!).


Review: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Finished in Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

Like the other core finished whiskies at Glenmorangie, a 10 year old whisky is dumped into a finishing cask for 2 years – in this case a port pipe. Quinta refers to wine houses, and Ruban is the gaelic word for “ruby”.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: That is some sweet goodness! Fruitcake, caramel, cinnamon, clove, vanilla – still holding that key Glenmorangie light barley characteristic, and the port you can actually smell lightly here too. Dried fruits come out as well with a decent kick of dryness too. I can smell the light bourbon influence as well…

Taste: It’s not quite as fruity as the nose let on, but it still has a good kick of fruitiness around it. Quite dark – fruitcake, cherry, raisin, cinnamon, cacao…There’s a bit of a port-fruit and oak explosion towards the end as well. Cinnamon – a very nice whisky in fact. I think it’s very enjoyable – it is quite a bit heavier than the Original or Lasanta as well.

Finish: Light oak, cinnamon, clove, and some other light vegetal notes like sundried tomatoes and some malty notes after some time. Drying, with a reasonable amount of tannin. Long, and not unpleasant, but more mediocre in flavour than intriguing or delicious.

This is quite nice – a very nice twist on the classic Original Glenmorangie, though I like it less. It’s heavier, with a different showing of fruit – more on the fruitcake side. A bit less complexity from the original because of how the port shifts to take over some of the flavour.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A sharp fruitiness here, almost phenolic in its effect – dense dried fruit (currants, prunes) and nuts, alongside a light sulphur note which contributes some hot spice. The nose still has a rich barley characteristic underneath it all. The palate is oaky, lightly spicy, and full of more rich red fruit – cherry and red grape – and red wine gums. The finish is spicy, but with a nice hit of malt.

I’m not quite as hot on this one now as I was last time. Not a bad whisky, but there are better ways to explore port finishes. The 46% is nice, and suits Glenmorangie pretty well.

Value: Low. You can do better in the category of port finished single malts, and I’m not too hot about this one anyway.


Review: Glenmorangie Lasanta Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Sherry Cask Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky is aged for 10 years before being put in sherry casks for the final 2 yeras, resulting in a 12 year old finished whisky. Glenmorangie pioneered cask finishes, among the first to do so. Lasanta means “warmth and passion” in gaelic. This review, it should be noted, is from the 46% version – Glenmorangie has since dropped the abv on this whisky and the recipe is now slightly different too.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date:~2012

Nose: Malt, raisins, a struck match, vanilla, green apple skins – apple juice is still there as well. A bit of sherry rancio, with some earthy touches too. Ever so lightly astringent.

Taste: Quite sweet and raisin-y, with the whisky taking some time to develop. The sherry definitely controls too much of the beginning of this one…halfway through the palate it starts to resemble Glenmorangie Original. Light oaky earthiness and slight nuttiness too.

Finish: Fairly sweet, once again, with raisins, and a bit of oak and some fruity sherry notes as well. lightly spicy. A bit too much sherry and rancio in the finish, I think, for balancing purposes.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots of light dried fruit – oranges, apricots- and baking spice and some rich barley. There is a nice oaky richness here, and the nose has a nice set of spices and a dense custard-like characteristic. The palate is lightly malty, with light threads of sherry and even a touch of leather! We have a wave of malt, light rancio/oxidized wine, dried fruit, nuts, orange peel, and dense baking spice. The finish is oaky and lightly spicy, with a touch of sulphur.

A “lightly sherried” whisky, which isn’t bad, but I still find the Original 10 year old outshines this, in my opinion.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. A good whisky, but you can do better for the price.


Review: Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glenmorangie 10.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
10 years; First and Second fill Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

Glenmorangie certainly cares a lot care a lot about wood – they were the first single malt brand to use cask finishes (when a mature whisky is put into a “flavoured cask”, i.e. sherry, wine, bourbon, etc.) and even have bought an area in Missouri’s Ozark mountains to source oak, and they only use their casks twice. Glenmorangie also has the tallest stills in Scotland, which are based on design of ex-gin stills from London, installed when the distillery was founded – taller stills lend to more copper contact and only the lightest aromas getting out of the still – resulting in a light spirit. The tall elegant bottle is perhaps reminiscent of their stills.

The brand, frankly, puts out some great malts and is the 2nd best selling single malt in scotland after Glenfiddich, occupying the 5th position globally. The quality (and price) of this whisky understandably lends it to be one of the most common “everyday drams”. This particular whisky is made from 100% american oak barrels, both first-fill and aged second fill barrels.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Applesauce, filtered apple juice, fruity barley, a rich butteryness seemingly from the grain, light oak, caramel, stewed fruits, dried apricots, and creme brulee. Other dried fruits start to richly develop as it sits too. It’s very pleasant and nicely put together.

Taste: Vanilla, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour that develops slowly for some time. It almost has a white wine-type feel to it in its fruitiness and light grape qualities. It’s no wonder that they thought to stick this in Sauternes casks…The barley, itself, shines through so wonderfully in this one.

Finish: The barley comes in on the finish too and it is quite bright and fresh, with the nuttiness still in the mix.. Quite decent length and finish. Fruity, too, with a sort of floral feel to it as well. Malty, also, and good length and flavour. One of the great finishes, particularly for a 40% standard bottling.

Pleasant and well balanced. The more I spend time with this, the more it seems to offer. Well done. At first it felt a bit flat, but not so!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $75. Especially for Scotch.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L69871 12/03/2018 18001740 14:56

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do quite love this single malt – crisp barley, stone fruits, light baking spices, pear, coconut, vanilla, light sweet corn nuances (as if a touch of bourbon), a light farmy character, and dried peach. The palate is light and clean, with light sweet grain nuances offset by stone fruit and vanilla-laden wood. The finish is lightly spicy and a touch oaky, with rich grain coming out too. It’s quite sharp, and the distillate character is clear – and good. A nice zestiness on the end, too. Excellent!

Despite being so ubiquitous, this is a favourite lighter Scottish malt of mine to enjoy.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I think this is a great single malt, and a personal go-to for light-medium bodied Scotch whiskies.

Value: Decent. High, as far as Scotch whiskies go (i.e., one of the better Scotch whiskies for value) but it’s hard for Scotch to compete with Bourbon or Canadian where the really good stuff starts a lot cheaper than 70 CAD. However, if you can find it for less in the UK (or the US, where I got this for 30$) this becomes a great value buy.


Review: Ploughman's Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ploughman%27s+Rye.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
First fill ex-bourbon and sherry hogsheads; 3-4 years old
Recipe
100% Alberta Malted Barley
Distiller Eau Claire (Turner Valley, Alberta)

Eau Claire recently released a very nice single malt whisky - one of my favourites in Canada - so (of course) I was curious how the rye would turn out. This is horse farmed, notably - a distillery that really has done seed to glass. Neat. A limited edition.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 01

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Off the bat, I’m reminded how much I do really like rye, and off the bat this has nods similar to Eau Claire’s very nice single malt. Quite fruity – cherries, plums, dried cherries, dried blueberries – but also nice spice notes – fennel, clove, nutmeg, star anise – and spruce tips, fresh spinach, vanilla, oak. The palate is oaky, with loads of almond. We also have steel cut oats, toasted grain, and a really nice set of orchard fruit and stewed stone fruit. The finish is nicely spicy, with oak, mixed baking spices, toasted clove, mixed grain oatmeal, apricot crumble, cacao, and pear.

It does taste young, but this is very good as is. I’m really looking forward to future releases. I’m quite excited about what Eau Claire is doing.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.