It’s been almost six months since I was able to write anything for Malt.
The main reasons are twofold. The first reason is creative: I decided, when I started writing for the website, that I would try to avoid “straight” reviews. I’d find new angles to talk about whisky in context, because context affects consumption: where we are, who we are with and even our mood can have a direct bearing on our opinion, our tastes, and how we feel about the drink in our hands overall.
Such an approach produces interesting articles. Some of the pieces I’ve enjoyed over the years, in any field, are longform looks at a subject within some context. That context enriches the thoughts about the specific subject, placing it within the spectrum of the wider world.
However, the problem with the approach is that it’s also incredibly time consuming… which brings us to the second reason for my absence: time. Autumn is my busiest period and, combined with my desire to write epic whisky reviews, found me failing time and time again.
It’s at this point that, thinking to myself, I realised the best way was not to admonish myself — which would only result in further negative feedback – but to start simply, slowly, and small. So, here I am writing a trio of reviews for three bottles I obtained recently, each one very new to me, each one very different, and each with a small story behind it.
First up is George Dickel Bourbon Whiskey Aged 8 Years. I picked up this bottle in a BevMo! near Santa Monica where I was hunting for a four pack of the Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Broken Skull IPA for a friend. Often in American off-licences (or “liquor stores,” as Americans refer to them) I find myself overwhelmed with choice, especially when it comes to Bourbon and Rye. Often, my approach is to find a reasonably priced bottle that I can’t get in the UK.
George Dickel represented one such bottle; it was priced at $29.99 but with a BevMo! discount became a very reasonable $23.99.
It’s an interesting offering from Dickel because, until the summer of 2021, all their whiskies were labelled Tennessee Whisky. This is the first to be labelled “bourbon.” According to the brand, this was the first blend that they felt deserved the title of bourbon, and that their intention is to continue deciding the labelling on their particular bottles based on the liquid inside. It’s an admirable choice… on paper, at least.
I’ve had Dickel before and it felt pleasant but unremarkable to me, especially considering that, in the UK, if you’re able to find any bottles they are in £44 to £49 range, which is almost double in dollars!
Anyway, enough of the background. What of the liquid in the bottle?
George Dickel Bourbon Aged 8 Years – Review
Colour: Beautiful sunset, lavish and rich.
On the nose: Sweet Vanilla and sugar but also cinnamon and a touch of apple; think morning in a bakery, with a richness that never feels sickening.
In the mouth: Pepper and heat lead on the tip of the tongue first, but are quickly replaced by lots of vanilla and caramelized sugar. The finish is beautifully long; it lingers long after, with a whisper of an oak note appearing at the end.
I have to say I’m surprised – especially at this price range – to find such an enjoyable and excellent bottle! Let’s hope it lasts and is widely available, because this represents exactly the kind of everyday bourbon I’d love to see more of.
Returning from the US after a long 6 weeks found me trawling the auction sites for anything interesting to try.
I know that whisky auctions have produced ridiculous prices for whiskies, especially unicorn bottles, which is truly unacceptable. However, there’s still gems to be found and bargains to be had, especially if you’re looking for something outside the norm. I often find myself buying old blends (I’m always curious about discovering the changing nuances in blends over the years) and one-off odd bottles of which I’ve usually heard nothing.
This one fits neatly into the second category: a bottle which no one else seemed interested in bidding for, and definitely caught my interest as soon as I spotted it.
There’s very little information – online or otherwise – to discover about the bottle. The whisky was distilled, aged, and bottled by Benson Winery, which is located in Erlin, Central Taiwan. It was bottled exclusively for the members of International Connoisseur Society of Taiwan. It was aged five years, spending a good portion of that time in cognac barrels before being finished in the aforementioned Pomace Brandy Guava Cask for an unspecified time. It’s bottled at a whopping 53% ABV. Unfortunately no information about the original price is available.
The label (and box) drawing represents The Babuza (one of the Taiwanese Indigenous cultures) and is apparently a part of a set the Society did starting with this one. This bottle was one of 555, where “one” denotes just a random number, as opposed to being the first one.
Benson Winery Taiwan Indigenous Series Pomace Brandy Cask – Review
Colour: Light gold, maybe ruby… but not deep enough to classify it as ruby.
On the nose: Nail varnish and alcohol overwhelm at first, but are quickly replaced by fruits: orchard apples, lemon, and grapefruit. There’s also a very distant touch of farmyard funk, especially recognisable to those who like wild yeast ales.
In the mouth: Light and young, it hits with a sweet tone coating your mouth overall, but is very more-ish, those fruits continue to develop in the mouth. The finish is very sharp and sudden, perhaps owing to its age.
Overall, a very light and pleasant whisky that’d make an excellent pre-dinner sipper. Wish it was available more widely!
After my brief stint in London, I found myself travelling to Dublin to reconnect with some friends and to drink in the city that does pubs better than anywhere else I’ve had the fortune of visiting.
On my way back, as per tradition, I browsed the Duty Free to find any unusual bottles. Alongside a bottle of Guinness Imperial Stout finished in Bourbon Barrels (brewed at 9.5% ABV), I found myself torn between two bottles: Jameson Black Barrel Proof (at 50% ABV) and this one. In the end, Crested won because with a discount the price was €26, almost half what it was available for online at whiskey retailers (around £39).
Jameson Crested was launched as a tribute to the first whiskies distilled at Bow Street Distillery and replaced the Crested Ten for the brand. It’s a mixture of older whiskeys with pot-still distilled whiskey, some of which has been finished in sherry casks to ramp up the sweet and spicy notes.
This edition is a collaboration with Eight Degrees Brewing, who released the titular stout which was finished in Jameson Barrels. In turn, Jameson filled the same barrels with Crested whisky for an unspecified finish time.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Crested; I tried it on upon its release and found it lacking in anything interesting. It was fine but I saw no reason for its existence. Maybe this bottle could change my opinion?
Jameson Crested Black Ball Metric Stout Barrels – Review
Colour: Light sunshine
On the nose: Touch of chocolate and sweet sherry mingle. The stout almost comes in the back notes. There’s also fruits lingering; a very inviting nose, much better than I remember.
In the mouth: Smooth, sweet with a dark roast note of malt. Lovely finish that lingers around; less fruit but still very pleasant.
I much prefer this to the original Crested though I still don’t think it’s a brilliant whisky. It lacks that pizzazz, that sense of something exciting. Having said that: at the price I paid for it, there’s no reason not to enjoy it, especially paired with some heavy stouts for the winter.
So, there’s my trio, my return to writing, and a brief glimpse at my last four months. Whilst I can never guarantee I can stop myself from going into a tailspin, I know I’ll always try to come back to talking about whisky, a topic that I love as a way of engaging with the world in the general.