Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

You know, the more I drink bourbon, the more I like bourbon…

How’s that for a philosophical opening statement?  It’s funny though, because I can remember a time, not so long ago, when I thought bourbon was really inferior stuff. No longer, however! I now find myself perusing the American whiskey aisles in my local bottle shops as often as I visit the scotch sections. And, while it’s kind of a chicken-egg thing, I have realized that I prefer bourbon-barrelled scotch whiskies over other finishing regimes. The thing I am enjoying the most about my growing infatuation with bourbon, though, is that it has opened an entire new category of taste experiences for me to enjoy. 

This brings me to my most recent purchase: a bottle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This dram is aged for 9 years before being bottled at 100 proof (50% abv). This whiskey cost me $50 CDN. 

To the Eye

I’ve said it before, I love the colour of a proper bourbon! Deep amber, almost coppery-orange with flashes of brighter gold. Very appealing… A swirl of my Glencairn reveals a crest that eventually releases extreeeeeeemely stubborn, thick legs!

In the Nose

Brown sugar, burnt sugars and cinnamon are the first aromas to greet me. What really strikes me is an absence of alcohol burn. Some rye spiciness, more distinct cinnamon and some oak soon join the party.  Time in the glass eventually allows a ginger-bread quality to develop, along with a pine note and maybe a touch of marshmallow. 

On the Tongue

Nicely balanced. Caramel popcorn and oak form the backbone of this dram but there is also a fruitiness about it… apricot jam continually comes to mind. The are more subtle qualities woven amongst the more dominant flavours too: that rye spice is lurking in the background, along with a charred flavour that is not quite smoky, but more like something off the grill – barbequed corn-on-the-cob?  It’s not as sweet as I fear I’m making it sound. A little bit of cocoa powder and some vanilla are also evident. 

The finish is long. Actually, what’s longer than long? Seriously, the flavours linger on and on, several minutes after each sip. Oak for sure, but those sweet, ripe apricots return as well and almost gain strength before fading to something cherry-like (more like cherry wood than the actual fruit) and a smack of hazelnut at the end.

Final Thoughts

Delicious stuff! I still don’t know if I know enough about bourbon to make a statement like this, but Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon just seems to be an honest, well-crafted whiskey. It tastes like good bourbon! I have had whiskies that knocked my socks off more than this dram… Yet, those apricots! But for my money, this bottle is a very good value. I’m sure it won’t be a one-off in my cabinet!


A Wee Dram… Glenfarclas 15 and 25

Last night, I had the pleasure of a night out with my buddy Richard and our wives at a craft-beer event hosted by a local watering hole that is managed by one of our friends. Well, it’s certainly good to know people in high places… Our friend knows that I love a good whisky and, soon enough, generous drams of Glenfarclas 15 were sent over to our table. Shortly thereafter, we were also surprised with a second whisky to sample, the Glenfarclas 25, which gave me the perfect opportunity to compare the two whiskies side-by-side.  So this is actually two wee drams!

Glenfarclas 15

A soon as my glass was placed in front of me, I received a nose full of sherry. Grapey, wine-soaked oak, along with some nice citrus notes that eventually made way for vanilla. On the palate, I was surprised by how dominant the wood notes were but this was balanced quite nicely by a toasty malt-sweetness and a thread of smoke. The finish was medium, with a return of jammy berries from the sherry casks, more oak and a herbal-mint flourish at the end. Very nice, but maybe a little young-tasting compared to what I was expecting. This whisky is bottled at 46%abv. (Richard preferred this dram over the 25, stating that he loved the bold sherry and heavy oak character of this whisky.)

Glenfarclas 25

This whisky was a slightly lower 43% abv which was certainly enough to deliver an abundance of aroma and flavour. The nose was similar to the 15 but, in my opinion, more well-rounded with the addition of a floral, heathery quality. On the palate, the 25 restrains the wood notes better than the younger expression, allowing that floral character to come through as an interesting, almost-willowy note. There is also a sense of mint-chocolate, coupled with that same toasted malt-sweetness that might have a touch of honey about it this time. The 25 has a slightly longer finish, with the same big, sherried flavours and dry oakiness. This whisky, however, left me with lingering sensations of rose water and marmalade that I didn’t detect on the 15. (Obviously, I preferred the balance and nuance of 25 but both were fine whiskies!)

The Glenrothes 1995 (Review 2.0)

Okay, Review 2.0 is not exactly a fair statement… My earlier review of the Glenrothes 1995 Vintage was of the 2015 bottling. This review is of the same vintage, but the 2016 bottling – a year longer in the wood and a 21 year old whisky, overall!

As It was not that terribly long ago that I reviewed the 2015 bottling, I won’t dally on the backstory and all the little details. Rather, I’ll get right into the review, with a focus on any differences that I can discern between the two. 

The Glenrothes 1995 Vintage, bottled in 2016, is once again a 43% abv whiskey. This time the price was closer to $80 CDN. 

To the Eye

An extra year in the casks has not added much to the visual presentation of the whisky, at least as far as I can tell. It remains a brilliantly clear, honey-coloured dram. The skinny legs are back too, although not as reluctant as I thought they were last year. 

In the Nose

I still find the sweet, malty aromas that I enjoyed previously although I am getting less toasted coconut and far more of the juicy red fruits. There is a definite sweet, toasty quality about this nose but, today, it carries more cinnamon and baking spices. The aromas are all classic bourbon-seasoned Speyside, a delicious combination of orchard fruits and caramel-vanilla goodness. I still can’t shake the idea of apple crisp!

On the Tongue

Again classic Spey flavours are delivered, with all the juicy pear and ripe red apples you can handle. There is also something interestingly complex going on in the background… Floral, herbaceous, delicious!  It is sweet but not overly so. There might be a touch more oak than I remember in the 20yr version and there is less pepper heat – today it’s a bit more like chilli-flavoured dark chocolate. The finish is longish, with more of a mineral character that combines with the oak to create a strong sensation of pencil shavings, which is joined by citrus pith and a bit of licoricey anise seed or fennel seed, I can’t quite decide!

Final Thoughts

I don’t know that there should be much difference between a 20yr and 21yr bottling of the same vintage whisky. And, to be honest, I don’t know whether I have found much difference between the two. My tasting notes for this bottle don’t quite match those from last year’s younger bottling but I can’t decide whether the differences are legitimate or just due to timing and circumstance. But let me tell you what matters here – The Glenrothes 1995, 21 yr old is an insanely good whiskey and a ridiculously good value! I hope there will be a 2017 bottling out next year!

Bruichladdich – The Classic Laddie (Scottish Barley)

I can’t claim to be overly familiar with Bruichladdich malts but I can tell you that, from what I have tried, I have been fairly well impressed. Although I was initially a little underwhelmed with the Port Charlotte Peat Project, I have enjoyed some fine drams from this distillery, with the Octomore being downright fantastic!

Bruichladdich, however, intrigues me more and more these days. As I have grown to love the robust, peated Islay and West Coast styles of whiskies, the idea of completely unpeated Islay drams seem to be an interestingly dichotomous idea. The Classic Laddie is a NAS whisky bottled at 50% abv and costs about $60 in my local liquor stores. 

To the Eye

This is as good a time as any to sing the praises of Bruichladdich’s bottle presentations – I have yet to see one of this distillery’s offerings that I have not appreciated. From modern-looking cool factor to downright sexy looking, Bruichladdich is, in my opinion, at the top of the presentation game. This particular bottle is no different, with a squat, powder-blue bottle that stands out in a crowd. 

As for the whisky itself, this dram is un-chill filtered and colouring free, which are both plus factors, in my book. Slightly hazy straw-gold, with thick, extremely stubborn legs – this is, for me, an enticing looking dram

In the Nose

I will hesitate to call the aromas above my glass complex, but there seems to be a subtle sophistication about what I am experiencing. Floral heather blossoms, a soft smokiness and an interesting, slate-like mineral quality are the first characteristics that I notice. The smokiness surprises me since this is an unpeated whisky, and I assume it must come from the char in the casks. With time, dusty cereal grains become more prominent, along with a bit of honey and vanillins join the party. It is a gentle but balanced and well-composed nose!

On the Tongue

Most of the aromas are also present on the palate… Oak tannins, subtle smoke, along with a bit of bourbony caramel and vanilla are most  prominent. That floral-mineral character is also very noticeable, along with some cinnamon and cardamom. In and amongst these identifiable flavours, there is also an underlying malty graininess as well. It is quite delicious!

The finish at first seems a little on the short side but I eventually realize that this assessment is because of my impatient tendency to reach for another sip too soon. I would actually characterize the finish of The Classic Laddie as medium-long. An oaky, mineral, pencil shaving flavour arrives first but quickly makes way for a warm, peppery herbal-like sensation that reminds me of arugula. If you can exercise enough patience, this fades into a nutty, peppery, honey-drenched flourish. 

Final Thoughts

I think the highest compliment I can pay this whisky is that “NAS” didn’t cross my mind once during any of my tasting sessions. There really was nothing young about this whisky. It’s not harsh, it’s not hot, and there’s way more going on than I expected. This is not to claim Bruichladdich’s The Classic Laddie to be a very complex dram, because it’s not. But this whisky is exceedingly well-composed and very delicious. The Classic Laddie reminds me, more than a little, of Highland Park 12, which is high praise, in my opinion. This whisky is drinkable and inviting but also interesting enough to be appreciated by those with more sophisticated palates.